“Our Good Laundryman:” Harry Lum

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Harry Lum, probable friend to all, but close to no one, was a man that lived on the edges of the Newton community, providing a much needed service as “our good laundry man” for close to 30 years. He also had the distinction of being Newton’s first, and for many years, only person from China.

In 1880, 26 year old Harry was a miner in Humboldt, California.  At the time, he was living in the household of Po Bar with a group of six other men, all from China. Harry must not have enjoyed mining as within three years he was living in Newton, Kansas. He married 22 year old Beckie Swader on May 29.

 

Chinese Laundry: Harry Lum, Prop.

Newton Daily Republican, 22 August 1888

In January 1884, the Lums opened a “new Chinese laundry” in Newton at their home at 116 W 4th. The Weekly Democrat noted that he “comes well recommended, and guarantees satisfaction.”

Tired of ‘Wedded Bliss.”

Shortly after their marriage, the Lums began to have trouble. The Newton Daily Republican reported that “Harry Lum, the celestial who presides over the washee [sic] house on West Fifth street, has commenced suit for a divorce.” Rebecca “Beckie” Lum, described as a “lady of color,” was accused of “infidelity, abuse, gross neglect of wifely duties, frequent absences from home and finally abandonment” when she went to Sterling and had not returned “to his knowledge.”

By December 1886, the marriage was over and Lum put a notice in the Newton Daily Republican indicating that Beckie Lum had deserted him and “not to trust her on my account.”

Newton Daily Republican, 9 November 1886

A year later, Lum married Alice (or Alize) Plice. Alice, a colored woman born in Kentucky in 1853, was also divorced from her first husband, Abraham Taylor, of Sedgwick County.

The Newton Kansan described the marriage ceremony:

Harry Lum, a Chinaman without a queue and Alice Plice, a colored woman with out bangs, were licensed to marry to-day.”

Newton Kansan, 1 December 1887

There are brief mentions of Harry in the late 1880s. On November 10, 1887, the Newton Kansan reported that a drunken soldier went to Lum’s laundry and “raised ‘peculia hellee’ to use the language of the excited Chinaman” [sic] when reporting the crime. He was also mentioned in the obituary of Mrs. Lucy Russell, who was “dearly loved and greatly respected by those of her race,” and the mother of his second wife Alice.

“Renounced Allegiance to Chinese Empire”

The Newton Daily Republican reported in February 1889 that Harry Lum “our good laundry man . . .who was born and reared in the Celestial Empire . . renounced allegiance to Chinese Empire” and became an American citizen. The editor noted that Mr. Lum “has always borne a good reputation and will not abuse the privilege this day conferred upon him.”

Even though Lum became a US citizen, he was still subject to the anti-immigration laws focused on the Chinese in the 1880s and 1890s. The Weekly Republican reported in the November 18, 1892 issue that “Revenue Collector McCanse . . . was here to secure a photograph of Harry Lum, our sole Chinese resident.” 

 In 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act  was enacted, however it was only valid for 10 years. The Geary Act in 1892  extended the exclusion of Chinese laborers for another decade. The Act required Chinese residents in the U.S. to carry special documentation—certificates of residence—from the Internal Revenue Service. Those who were caught not carrying the certificates were sentenced to hard labor and deportation, and bail was only an option if the accused were vouched for by a “credible white witness.”

An example of the required Certificate of Residence. Although this is not Harry Lum, it is an example of the document he would have carried.

In the spring of 1892, Harry suffered a painful accident. While ironing clothes for the Clark Hotel, two of his fingers got caught between the rollers causing a severe injury. The Evening Kansan noted “it will be some time before he is able to resume work.”

“All old scores are blotted out and friendships renewed”

A reporter from the Newton Daily Republican took some time in February 1894 to interview Lum about the Chinese New Year. During the holiday, “all old scores are blotted out and friendships renewed.”  According to Lum, “the Chinaman who does not forgive a fellow countryman during these two weeks is a black sheep and all other Chinamen turn their backs up on him.”  Lum noted that “like white men, many Chinamen get hilariously full on New Years and paint the town a bright crimson hue.”

Lum, however, celebrated the holiday like Christmas and had “dispensed with the insignia of all devout heathen . . . and follows the custom of his brother Kansans and is strictly temperate.”  The editor closed with this description of Lum; “he has an idea that it is a capital offense to drown one’s senses in Kansas bug juice and he will neither drink whisky nor hit the opium pipe.” (Newton Daily Republican, 6 February 1894)

“A Little Gambling”

 Lum apparently enjoyed  gambling.  The Wichita Star, August 1888, noted that Lum, “the christainized celestial from Newton was taking in the races to-day and betting his money allee samee like white man.” [sic]

Gambling also brought trouble to Harry. This was the case in August 1900, when Lum reported a robbery.

“Frank Weston, a gentleman of color, had procured a sum of money from him in a manner not prescribed by law. It seems there was a little gambling device operated in a shed back of the laundry.” At the end of the evening. Lum was counting his winnings when “Weston grabbed a handful of silver, alleged to be $20 and forthwith made his escape.” Weston was arrested. (Newton Kansan, 3 August 1900)

Of Some Notoriety”

Harry’s wife, Mrs. Alice Lum, was more notorious in the Newton community.  In 1892, she was found guilty of keeping a bawdy house and fined $50. Fights at the Lums  were not uncommon. Abe Weston, also a Black man, was frequently involved.  On March 26, 1892, the Evening Kansan Republican reported that Mrs. Harry Lum had issued a complaint against Abe Weston, who was arrested for assault. In return, Weston reported that Mrs. Lum kept a bawdy house and as a result she was arrested.

In 1907, Lum’s was the site of a shooting. John Allen shot Frank Jordan, both Black men, in  the home of Lum. This gained statewide attention.

The Lum’s home was again the site of a drunken brawl in 1909 during which “Joe Rickman stuck his stiletto into Arthur Childs.”  The reporter observed that “it had to be said to the credit of Harry that he does not seem to have participated to any great extent, if at all.” (Evening Kansan Republican, March 11, 1909)

What happened to Harry Lum?

In 1902, Lum sold his Newton business to another Chinese man, Shung Lee, and worked at Peabody during the week and spent Sundays in Newton. This business arrangement apparently did not last long.  Shung Lee was not mentioned again and Lum returned to Newton to oversee the business.

Harry Lum’s exit from Newton seems to have passed without notice or comment. On December 28, 1910, Harry Lum and wife sold Lot 20, block 13, in Newton to Mary O. Grant for $1300. Shortly after that an announcement in the paper noted that Mrs. Harry Lum was moving to California, where she likely lived for the rest of her life.

Evening Kansan Republican, 23 May 1911.

A Mrs. Alice Lum died March 17, 1915, and was  buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Oakland, Alameda Co, CA.  She was 62. It is possible that this was Harry Lum’s wife.

Evergreen Cemetery
Oakland, Alameda County, California.
PLOT Garden of Serenity

Harry Lum, born in China in 1852 to Ward Lang Lum and Lara Lum, Newton’s “good laundry man, ” disappeared  from the record after 1910-1911. A notification of Harry Lum’s death, or a place of burial has not been found.

 

Joan Beatrice Fletcher Comes Home

Introduction

Our post this week was researched and written by  Jane Jones, guest blogger and HCHM Archivist. The post links our February focus on Black History and March’s Women’s History.  The collection of documents and photos are a recent addition to HCHM Archives.
This is part 1 of a three part blog series featuring the Collection of Joan B. Fletcher.

Joan Beatrice Fletcher Comes Home

by Jane Jones, HCHM Archivist

Her scrapbook, family pictures and a well-worn original land abstract (N1/2 NE1/4 Sec 33 Newton Township) arrived at the Museum in December, 2018 from David W. Jackson, a family historian and archives consultant living in Jackson County, Missouri.  Mr. Jackson contacted us after looking at our website asking if we would accept Joan’s materials that had been kept by her friend. Fletcher was a 1943 graduate of Newton High School. She died in Kansas City, Missouri in 2011 at the age of 85.

Joan’s picture in 1943 NHS Senior Edition

 

Joan’s Scrapbook 1938-1945

Joan’s scrapbook contains news clippings about her piano performances, speeches she gave as a high school student in a local contest for the American Legion and a speech on Temperance Sunday. Senior and  junior high play programs, musical programs, and critiques of piano performances are also found in the Scrapbook.

She received a Certificate from the Guild of Piano Teachers, a national group to which her teacher Anna Tellin belonged. In 1940 for the National Piano Playing Auditions District Honor Roll Joan received a Good + Rating.  In 1941 she competed in the State Junior Competitive Festival at Arkansas City under the auspices of the National Federation of Music Clubs receiving an Excellent Rating. In 1942, Joan performed for the Association of Colored Women Wichita District held at Newton’s C.M.E. Church April 17 and 18. Fourteen in 1940, Joan had been studying piano for 6 years. Her piano teacher, Anna Tellin, was an exacting and well-respected instructor in Newton and Hutchinson.

This is a program from a recital Joan performed on November 25, 1941 at the Newton Junior High School Auditorium (the school is no longer standing).  She played Bach, Chopin, Clementi and Brahms. Antoinette Blanchard was a voice student of Miss Tellin’s.

Joan’s high school activities included musicals, Glee Club, Orchestra and Girl Reserves.  She received a Scholarship Pin her Sophomore year. With her piano and school activities she was an active young lady no doubt encouraged by her mother. In 1943 Joan was accepted into Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita.

See Addendum below for new details on Joan’s involvement during this time.

This was a portion of the letter she received.

“My dear Miss Fletcher,

We are pleased to notify you that you have qualified for a Scholarship at Sacred Heart Junior College for the scholastic year 1943-44.”

After graduating from Sacred Heart in 1945,  Joan received another  scholarship of $225 to further her education. She finished at Bethel College in North Newton receiving her B.A. in Chemistry in 1947.  Below is Joan’s graduation picture in the 1947 Bethel College annual.

See Addendum below for new details on Joan’s involvement at Sacred Heart.

A form from Bethel keeps track of each student and their post-graduation work experience. Joan’s was in the medical field.  In 1948 she was working as a lab assistant in bacteriology at Winter General Hospital in Topeka. She received her Med Tech degree and worked at Minneapolis General Hospital in 1949. Joan was a Blood Bank Supervisor for the United States VA Hospital.  I was told she spent time in Washington, D.C. working for the VA. The Junction City City Directory shows her as a Blood Bank Supervisor there in 1961. She may have been working at Fort Riley. Joan’s mother died in 1961 in Kansas City. In 1967 Joan joined her Uncle Fred Banks as a Joint Tenant for the family property in Newton Twp Section 33–2 miles south of 1st St on Hwy 81, ½ mile east. Her address at that time was 419 W. 13th St, Junction City.  And then there was Kansas City living on East Linwood Blvd. By 1990, Joan would have been 65 and able to retire. I don’t know if she continued her obvious interest in and talent for the piano. Nor do I know for sure where she worked in Kansas City– for the VA or a hospital. After retirement she had more time to pursue her interest in her family’s history.

A rather short obituary in the Kansas City Star stated Joan died in the Armour Oaks Nursing Home on April 4, 2011. She never married.  Funeral services were held at St. Monica Catholic Church in Kansas City. Saint Monica was founded in 1909 to serve Black Catholics in Kansas City. The church is located at 1616 The Paseo  in the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District near downtown Kansas City. Joan was a Black Catholic having been baptized in the Catholic Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Burial was in Greenwood Cemetery in Newton with her family.  She was home.

Addendum

 Jane found this additional info on Joan B. Fletcher during her years at Sacred Heart.

                        Joan Fletcher competed with 17 others in a scholarship examination given on May 8, 1943 covering mathematics, physical science, social science and literature at Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita.  She was one of the winners.  In 1944 while a student at Sacred Heart Joan showed interest and leadership in the newly formed National Federation of Catholic College Students and was one of the students attending the first regional conference at Marymount in Salina.  One of the conference commissions was “inter-racial relations” which Joan probably attended.  She was chairman of the Apostolic committee at Sacred Heart in December, 1944 which assumed the role of “Santa Claus” to provide presents for St. Joseph’s Home in El Dorado.  March 16, 1945 it was reported that the members of the interracial commission held a panel discussion to mark the nation-wide observance of the first national Inter-racial Justice week. “The panel presented the various problems of the Negro in war-time America.  As chairman of the Inter-racial Commission Joan participated in that panel discussion.

While attending Sacred Heart Joan showed her interest in and provided leadership on the discussion of racial issues facing Black people during World War II.

Sources:

  1. Joan’s Scrapbook 1938-1945.
  2. Newton High School Senior Edition 1943 of the Weekly Newtonian
  3. Obituary from Kansas City Star Archives published April 8 2011.
  4. Letter from Sacred Heart Junior College in Wichita. Dated 1943.
  5. Bethel College Yearbook for 1947
  6. Bethel College alumni information for Joan Fletcher
  7. Saint Monica Catholic Church, Kansas City, MO website.
  8. Thanks to Karen Wall and Sylvia Kelly for finding and providing information.
  9. Harvey County Register of Deeds, Margaret Hermstein
  10. David W. Jackson, Archives Consultant.  www.orderlypackrat.com
  11. Joan’s Baptismal record  (David W. Jackson)
  12. Junction City, Kansas City Directory 1960 (www.Ancestry.com)
  13. Kansas City City Directory 1960 (www.Ancestry.com)
  14. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) May 14, 1943 p 3
  15. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) April 14, 1944 p. 1
  16. The Catholic Advance (Wichita, Kansas) Mar 16, 1945 p. 6

Worshiping for 144 years in Harvey County!

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Harvey County is home to many faith communities.  Some congregations are relatively new, while others have provided community and support for much longer.  Hall’s Chapel is one of the oldest congregations in the county.

One cornerstone of the Black community in Harvey County is the church – specifically Hall’s Chapel. The congregation has deep roots with beginnings in 1875 when the Methodist Church organized the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wichita with a circuit to Emporia and Newton.

In 1901, Hall’s Chapel was formed.

Hall’s Chapel, new building, 1921.

Charter member George Hall purchased a building from the Brethren Church in Newton.  The structure was moved to land he donated for a church at 200 E. 11th, Newton, Ks and the congregation became known as “Hall’s Chapel.” In 1921, a new building was constructed.

A second African American congregation, known as the Holsey Chapel CME, was form in 1882. In 1968, membership was in decline and members decided to join with Hall’s Chapel.

In 2005, Hall’s Chapel  built a new church at 711 E. 11th, Newton, Ks where members continue to worship. For over 100 years, Hall’s Chapel has provided a place to worship and served as a central part of Harvey County’s Black community.