When the Chinese in Seattle, as in many other west coast cities, were literally driven out of town in the late 19th century, they were lucky to escape with their lives and had to abandon their businesses and belongings. So what happened to the property of the fleeing Chinese?
Documentation of one case from Seattle might not be applicable to every instance, but is suggestive of what may have happened in many cases.
An interview in 1938 of Mrs. H. Scoville, born in England in 1863, captured her memories of the riots against the Chinese in Seattle in 1886 and her description of the lucrative windfall her husband and she received when they bought a Chinese laundry at a bargain price.
A CHINESE LAUNDRY AT A BARGAIN SALE “What I remember best about the early days in Seattle in the Chinese riots in 1886.
“My husband came home one Sunday morning and told me an officer from the Home Guards had come into the church and commanded all the men to report for duty at once.
“There were a number of Chinese in Seattle then, some running laundries, others having cigar stores, and so on. The people of the town had become incensed at the idea of Orientals being allowed to carry on business when Americans needed work
“The Committee of Fifteen had told the Chinese that they must go, get out of town, by a certain date. A steamer from San Francisco would be in the harbor on that date, and they must go aboard.
“The Chinese began selling off their goods and equipment. My husband and I decided to buy a laundry. We knew nothing about the laundry business but we thought we could learn.
“We bought the laundry and all the equipment for almost nothing, and opened for business. We prospered, the business grew fast, and we never regretted buying a laundry at a bargain sale.”