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Gong Bow Gwun, later known as Hew Din, emigrated from China as Ow Luen in 1912 on the SS Manchuria, which docked in San Francisco on August 15, 1912. He received his Certificate of Identity on September 7, 1912 after three weeks on Angel Island. Like many Chinese immigrants trying to come over during the Chinese Exclusion Acts, he came over as a son of a native born American citizen, which if true would mean he was immigrating legally. His paper father was from Namhoi, in Guangdong Province; in reality, Gong was from a village called Lok Cheung in the Fah Yuen district, now known as Huadu district in Guangzhou.
Seven years later his brother Gong Bow John came over with the papers of Doon Ho, arriving in San Francisco on July 27, 1919 on the S.S. China. He received his Certificate of Identity on August 29, 1919. His certificate said he was a farmer, in Isleton, California (in the Sacramento River Delta). He also said he was the son of a native.
Ow Luen (Gong Bow Gwun) testified on behalf of his brother, Gong Bow John. Since they had bought papers of unrelated people, they had to pretend they were not related, and Ow Luen said he knew Doon Ho from school, meeting when they were sixteen years old.
For unknown reasons, Doon Ho brought Ow Luen’s wife, Lock Shee, as his wife over on a later ship. She arrived on the ship Persia Maru on November 22, 1921, and got her Certificate of Identity only eight days later. It is fortunate that she came then, because after July 1, 1924, more restrictive legislation against Asians barred wives of even legally immigrated Asians from arriving in the United States.
Hew Din and his wife Lock Shee lived in Merced, in California’s Central Valley, then owned and operated the Tai Lee Laundry in Woodland, northwest of Sacramento, from the late 1920s to the early 1940s, and brought up two daughters and six sons. The photo below shows Hew Din, Lock Shee, and six of their children. Later, they moved to Sacramento, where most of their children remained. In the 2000s, Woodland historians featured the site of the laundry as part of a series of plaques in Dead Cat Alley. You can find out more by visiting this website.
Hew Din’s son Jack spoke about Gong Bow Gwun’s second paper name.
“Pop came under the name Ow Luen – it was strictly a fictitious name or somebody else’s papers. And he came over as a single person, and really, supposedly there’s no tie-in between us and him. And his brother came under the papers of Doon Ho. And he [his brother] somehow managed to bring Dad’s wife, our mother, over as his wife, to bring her over for our pop. So that’s where Din came, D-o-o-n H-a-w. [After his brother died] Pop started to use that name because Mom was living with him as his wife, although that was supposed to be his brother’s wife. So he in effect started to use his brother’s [paper] name. And then somehow the name got changed to Din, probably because as he started to write it, his English wasn’t very good, or else somebody asked him about it.”
Grant Din is the community relations director at Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation and grandson of Hew Din and Lock Shee.
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