|Kim was born in Hong Kong, China, in 1841. She came to Prescott in about 1884. Little personal information is known about Kim other than the fact (according to her obituary) that she was known as “China Mary” in the Chinese quarter of Prescott where she lived.|
The earliest Chinese settlers came to Arizona just after it had become a Territory in 1863. They were drawn from their troubled homeland to the western frontier after news had reached them of the vast natural resources and beauty of the area, and the allure of making money in mining. New opportunities arose for the Chinese in the late 1870s with the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad through Arizona Territory. The need for experienced railroad workers presented the Chinese of California a chance to escape prejudice in the coastal cities.
Many of the male Chinese immigrants, known as “Sojourners,” came to America to earn money for their families and would eventually return to their homeland. But when the mining opportunities petered out and the railroads were completed, some Chinese remained in Arizona and continued to work as cooks and waiters. Many of those who remained were very industrious and opened stores, restaurants and laundries. Anglo landowners were eager to lease available land to the Chinese for cultivation, and the resulting fresh produce was eagerly purchased by the local communities.
As they succeeded in business, they were able to bring their families from China to Arizona. By the late 19th century, Chinese settlers had participated in the major sectors of the Arizona economy: mining, railroad construction, agriculture, retail businesses and ranching. They had become permanent residents and could point to their contributions to the development of Arizona.
When Kim died on March 4, 1909, she had been a resident of Prescott for a quarter century. We are left to wonder about her long journey to Arizona Territory and her lifestyle in Prescott, but she must have been well esteemed by the community to have her obituary published in the Journal Miner. She was buried in Citizens Cemetery in the Chinese Section along with other fellow countrymen who were a part of this Territory’s history.
Donors: Jody Drake and Parker Anderson