That's really something.
It will be very interesting to see what information and history emerges. How good will the sources be? If there are no extant first-person accounts from actual users, accounts that may not be in English, it will be difficult to say very much about it. Retrieving the history from anglo sources is tricky, or even impossible. At best we will have a dim, second-order approximation; at worst, an anglo fabrication or stereotype.
|Lee Way, May 9th, 1913|
DRIVE AWAY DEVIL WHEN LEE WAY IS BURIEDIn addition to the lack of real detail, note also the tone. It is detached amusement about a strange foreigner who does not have to be taken very seriously or with close attention, and who is not regarded as very important.
Lee Way, Chinese, was buried in Odd Fellows cemetery yesterday afternoon. Incense was burned and fireworks displayed, following the usual Chinese custom. Lee died in poverty and a collection was taken to give him the proper burial. His little effects were placed in the cemetery furnace and burned, after the burial services.
Apparently knowledge of the shrine was lost for a couple of generations, then "rediscovered" in 1953 and 1963, and lost again. Now another two generations later, there is a third or four round of rediscovery.
This history is important and very much worth celebrating, documenting, and mourning.
It's also worth considering the disregard that led to the repeated cycles of loss and "rediscovery." It must be said that it takes a certain amount of effort to repeatedly "forget" about things like this. The neglect has to be more than a little intentional. Even if it is more by omission than commission, it remains a deliberate act of erasure.
In the winter of 1903, Council condemned Chinatown as a "nuisance" and reports even used the word "exterminate" to describe the slum-clearing. There is a horrible rhetoric of vermin here.
|Desire to Erase Chinatown, Jan 21st, 1903|
|Nuisance, January 28th, 1903|
|Update, February 4th, 1903|
I'm not sure we take seriously enough the direct or indirect government action here to erase a community, however ramshackle or blighted or unsanitary it might have seemed.
This is an important ingredient in the cycle of forgetting and memory on the shrine.
More personally, death notices and obituaries in the paper tell us more about the possible nature of the shrine, but also disclose more of the characteristic racism. Though all are brief, some accounts dismiss or erase any interiority and subjectivity of survivors and the person who died. (I don't know how useful it would be to transcribe these, but you can see for yourself in several death notices over the years.)
|Infant Sun, May 29th, 1893|
|Chung, June 5th, 1894|
|Yick Way, October 12th, 1896|
|Toy Sam, November 22nd, 1898|
|Ah Lum, January 24th, 1910|