Instructions for Team 3: Chinese Immigrants
(The West, Lesson 1, Activity 4)

You are men who have come from China and who worked for the Central Pacific between 1863 and 1869. You are the unsung heroes of this venture. The most widely circulated photographs of the historic meeting of the rails at Promontory, Utah left you out of the picture despite the incredible hardships you endured. You will write a series of letters home describing both the hardships and heroism of your fellow Chinese workers.

Before you begin to write your letters complete the following tasks:

  1. Research the region in China you are from and why you left it.
  2. Figure out the year you arrived in California and what you did to support yourself. (Note: you may have arrived during the Gold Rush years (1849-52) or you may have come directly from China to work on the railroad.)
  3. Imagine the family you have left behind and what their hopes are for you in America.
  4. Be able to describe the kinds of work you are most equipped to do as you undertake working on the railroad. Imagine what concerns you have for your safety and well being.
  5. Imagine what kinds of experiences you might have had as an Asian in a Caucasian world thus far.

Suggested Web sites for research

After gathering the information you need to write one letter home for each year you worked on the railroad. Include topics such as:

  • How the Chinese organized themselves into organized "gangs" of workers.
  • How they imported aspects of their lifestyles (food, clothing) and how their lifestyles contrasted with workers from other parts of the world.
  • What it was like working for Charles Crocker who ran the building of the Central Pacific.
  • The work of cutting through the Sierra Nevadas without any modern machinery.
  • The wage differentials paid to white and Chinese workers and other forms of discrimination you faced.
  • The horrible winter of 1865-66.
  • The strike of Chinese workers in 1867.
  • The stories of fellow Chinese workers with whom you work.
  • Your emotions when the last tie is laid at Promontory, Utah.
  • Your plans for the future.