COBWEB CORNERS: The Chinese in this area
By Mel McFarland
This covers a broad base, but I get several questions about the Chinese in this area. No, most of the railroads around Colorado did not use Chinese labor. In fact there was a certain dislike for them in Colorado. Most of the railroads here in Colorado were built using Mexican, Italian and Irish laborers. There was a large pool of available men around Pueblo, where two of the state's major contractors were located. For example, when the railroad was built up the Arkansas to Leadville, the 1880 Census recorded the names of many of the laborers, and there is hardly a Chinese name in the lists. Most of the Chinese in Colorado's mining camps were businessmen.
Here in Colorado City, there was a small enclave of them in the laundry trade. The 1859 cabin that's now in Bancroft Park figures into that story. There was a serious opium trade in the area, and a fire in the basement of a nearby building, caused by men high on opium, almost burned the cabin down. In Colorado Springs there was a prominent Chinese businessman, China Jim, who imported furnishings, and art from San Francisco. He also traveled to China to bring in items. A hundred years ago there were regular stories in the newspapers of his travels.
On a slightly different, but connected subject, is food! Now I have told you about some of my favorite spots for breakfast and burgers, so how about Chinese? When I was a young man, the Golden Dragon on South Eighth Street was a popular spot. I worked for Levine's, one of our popular book and hobby shops, and every Christmas the owners took their employees out for dinner. The Golden Dragon's Cantonese was the usual choice, and their food was how I saw Chinese food until I left this area. On a visit to Hawaii, I learned about some of the other varieties. Perhaps there was a Colorado City Chinese restaurant, but I only remember Italian, Mexican and traditional American as its prominent choices.