Chinese families thrived in Butte's early days

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Posted at 9:57 AM, Jan 11, 2023

BUTTE — Butte will be celebrating the early Chinese/Americans who helped build the Mining City.

“The Chinese were instrumental in building Montana and Butte and whether that was cutting timber building the railroads or, as in here in Butte, operating a lot of different kinds of businesses,” said Mai Wah Society Board Member Pat Munday.

The Chin family operated the Mai Wah Noodle Parlor and the mercantile store in what was once a thriving Chinatown in the area of Mercury and Main streets. In the early 20th Century, they served the thousands of miners coming off shift.

The Chin family prospered and raised nine children.

“Several of the boys served in World War II and one of the daughters served as a spy for the U.S. Government in World War II,” said Munday.

Preserving these historic buildings is part of the Mai Wah Society’s goal. The production crew from the streaming series 1923 came to the Mai Wah to get inspiration for a storyline that will involve the early Chinese.

“They’re going to use a set they built that based n careful measurements and photographs of the Mai Wah,” said Munday.

The group will host the Chinese New Year parade on Jan. 28 beginning at 3 PM in Uptown, where the dragon will be carried around to businesses.

“And then they bless the building and that’s part of the tradition that follows over from China that is being reestablished here,” said Mary McCormick of the Mai Wah Society.