WASHINGTON COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY (Washington County, Utah)
YEE SAM WING (aka SAM WING)
(laundry owner, druggist, mayor of "Chinatown" in Silver Reef)
BIOGRAPHYYee Sam Wing was born about 1844 in China. He immigrated to the United States about 1867-1869. In 1870, he was running a laundry business in Corinne City, Box Elder County, Utah.
By 1877, Sam had settled in Silver Reef. There was quite a population of Chinese in Silver Reef. They came to this and other mining camps after completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. They ran businesses including laundries, meat shops, drug stores, and maybe even sold some opium. Sam Wing ran a laundry, "The First Wash-house" on Bonanza (lower Main Street) and was a druggist practicing Chinese herbal medicine in Silver Reef's Chinatown.
The Chinese were not well accepted by the townsfolk and they congregated in the south end of town. Sam Wing was the Mayor of this "Chinatown".
When the mines closed, Sam Wing, the former Mayor of the Chinese community, called upon the conscientiousness that conceivably got him elected. Using his own personal funds, he built new caskets and paid the freight costs to ship all of his dearly departed countrymen back to their homeland.
By 1890, Sam Wing had moved to Salt Lake City where he had drug store on Commercial Street. Later, he moved to Mercur (Tooele County) and was known as "Doc Chinaman" to his fellow townspeople. Besides practicing Chinese herbal medicine, he was the proprietor of a laundry. By 1914, Sam was back in Salt Lake City and living on South Temple Street. He had a Chinese herbal medicine store near the Salt Lake railroad terminal.
In his declining years, Sam longed to see his native land, but did not have the means to gratify his desire. It was a neighbor, Enos A. Wall, a copper mining millionaire, who gave Sam the money to make the trip to China and return. Toward the end of his life, Sam lived at 166 Plum Alley in Salt Lake City. Plum Alley ran north-south dividing the city block between Main and State streets, between First and Second South. It was a Chinese community with grocery and merchandise stores, laundries and restaurants
Yee Sam Wing died on February 20, 1927 at age 84 in the Salt Lake City Hospital after surgery for a strangulated hernia with general peritonitis. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. There is a handwritten note on the death certificate that says “moved to China October 1936” so it appears his body was eventually returned to his homeland.
FAMILYSam Wing's wife, Mary (also known as Maile and Molly) was born April 1860 in China and immigrated about 1870. It was reported that they married about 1871, but it is not clear when or where it actually happened.
Yee Sam Wing about 1885
REFERENCESYee Sam Wing
A research report by Elaine Young, PhD.
Silver, Sinners & Saints: A History of Old Silver Reef, Utah
by Paul Dean Proctor and Morris A. Shirts
History to Go article on the Pioneer Chinese of Utah