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Editors Note: Twenty-one year old Hazara Singh Janda arrived at the Angel Island Immigration Station in 1913. He told immigration inspectors that he had worked as an accountant in India and was now coming to the United States to study mechanical engineering at a university in Berkeley. He brought $90 in gold and assured inspectors that his father would be able to support him in his studies. The inspectors were impressed by Singh’s appearance, and he was admitted into the country as a student after nine days in detention on Angel Island. Some of that time was spent at the hospital under observation for trachoma. Nearly ninety years after Hazara Singh arrived on Angel Island, his great-grandnieces, sisters Harjit K. and Hardeep K. Gosal, researched and wrote the following family history. They found that while Singh was ultimately successful in getting admitted into the country, his time on Angel Island, and specifically the harsh treatment that immigrants received at the hospital, left a strong impression on him.
Hazara Singh “Janda” arrived at Angel Island’s immigration station on September 1, 1913, on the ship Manchuria. He left his mother country of India, his two sons, and his wife with the dream of creating a better life for them in America. The voyage lasted about three months, and they encountered many relentless storms. Many people regretted leaving their homelands and others tried to remain hopeful despite the poor conditions on a ship with virtually no medical assistance.
While he was still living, he told our father and some of his family about the hardships of his voyage. He often described the barracks where he and his fellow counterparts were kept when they first arrived as “horse stable-like.” Their treatment was severe. These immigrants went through full medical examinations, and if they had any contagious ailment that could not be cured at that time, such as trachoma, they were actually turned away. If it was a problem that was easily treatable, they were kept at the hospital for longer periods of time until they recovered.
Once admitted into the United States, Hazara Singh settled in Biggs, California, just north of Yuba City, which was a major settling point for immigrants from the Punjab. He worked hard to make a living and send money to his family in India. He labored on the railroads and farms, hoping to own land one day, but racial prejudice against South Asians was intense in those days. Hazara missed his family and looked forward to bringing them to the United States, but tragedy struck in India when his wife and two sons died. He remained alone in the United States for nearly two more decades.
In the early 1940s, Hazara Singh married Gloria Melendez whom he had met in Gridley, California. He also saved enough money to buy his first ranch in Gridley from a Japanese immigrant during World War II who was likely being forced to an internment camp. Over many years, Hazara gradually acquired almost 400 acres of land. He also assisted many of his relatives who arrived in the United States in the 1960s. Gloria and Hazara had eleven children and are survived by a large family that settled in Yuba City.
Harjit K. Gosal and Hardeep K. Gosal, “An Individual’s Story: Hazara Singh ‘Janda,’” San Francisco Chronicle, April 30, 2003, p. B4.
Hazara Singh, File 12884/9-2, RG 85, National Archives, San Bruno.
Erika Lee and Judy Yung, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.
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