At least nine Chinese were buried in Ashland cemeteries early in the 20th century, said Victoria Law, director of the Ashland Historic Railroad Museum.
"These burials were seen as temporary by the Chinese people until the final burial in China," she said. "I believe that most of these Chinese people have been disinterred except maybe for the girls and women."
Only the remains of the men were disinterred and sent back to China, she said. Three of the Chinese were buried in the Ashland Cemetery on East Main Street; six in the Mountain View Cemetery on Ashland Street.
Tom Banse's story and the disinterment documents have been vital to uncovering the lives of those she refers to as Chinese pioneers, said Law, whose museum is in the Historic Railroad District, which once housed Ashland's "Chinatown."
Until the museum paid for a marker on the grave of infant "Bessie" Wah Chung three years ago, no stones marked the passing of the Chinese buried in the cemeteries, she said.
"It seemed appropriate that the Ashland Railroad Museum would pay for this as the Chinese came to Ashland to build the railroad," she noted.
Thanks to Banse's efforts, she has determined that Sing Quong, one of those disinterred in 1948, was from the village of Chong-Yun in southern China. She also discovered his full Chinese name was Chi Sing Quong and that his family had founded the village.
"It could be that Sing Quong may have been a railroad worker here, saved his money and used that to purchase his laundry in Ashland's Chinatown," she said. She had found an 1893 Daily Tidings article that reported that Sing Quong had purchased a Chinese laundry on Oak Street near the railroad tracks.
"Until Tom got these records, there wasn't much information about the Chinese who lived here," she said.
The documents include Chinese symbols indicating which village to send the remains to, she said.
"Because we now have these amazing records, we can find out their real names in Chinese and their home village," she said. "This puts a face on them."
Beginning at 12:30 p.m. Feb. 16 in the upstairs of the old Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Law will give a presentation titled, "70,000 Firecrackers: the story of Chinese New Year in Victorian Ashland."
For more information concerning the Chinese New Year celebration in Jacksonville on Feb. 16, check out www.socca.us.
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.