A life through letters: Book looks at Chinese experience in Montana

Phil Drake

De Quan’s family was convinced he was quite wealthy, even though he was working in a low-paying job in Butte, likely as a laundry worker.

His relatives in Southern China, through letters more than 100 years old, implore him to send more money home and to return to China and get married.

A letter to De Quan.

Montana Historical Society

There is a 1908 letter from his mom that is particularly heartbreaking, as she wants him to work hard, forsake inappropriate socializing and to help her financially.

“Last month I was very sick, but luckily, the illness is cured,” she wrote. “However, I’m not completely recovered yet, thus money would be helpful. . . . I only wish for your health, but please work hard. Don’t waste your time wandering around in casinos or red-light districts. When you get money, regardless of the amount, return home immediately. After that, you may return to work again.”

De Quan is featured in a book written by a Helena man, looking at the history of the Chinese in Montana, crafted through

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