The Chinese at North Adams
Rev. W. J. Potter a recent visitor at North Adams, Mass gives the following interesting account of the Chinese Colony of shoe makers at that place, in the columns of the Toledo Index:
Soon after reaching North Adams we sought the “Chinese quarter.” At present this is confined to the factory and grounds were the Chinamen are employed. A portion of the large brick building is given up to them for their domicil [sic]; and the two or three acres of pleasant grounds surrounding the building serve them for gardening and recreation. They are permitted, of course, to go out as freely as any workmen, but they choose for the most part to stay within the fences of their establishment. They still fear, and not without some reason, that they may suffer insult, if not worse injury, should they stray far away from their home. The Crispins do not acquiesce in the “situation” yet; and some of them, we are told, were ready to commit any outrage upon the Chinamen if a convenient opportunity should present. The citizens generally, however, seem disposed to treat the newcomers kindly, and in the daytime the Chinese go freely and alone to the stores of the village, and on Sundays venture out in groups for longer walks.
It was after the work of the day was finished when we went to the shoe factory. But this gave us an opportunity all the better for noting the natural characteristics of this new class of laborers. The larger portion of them were out in the yard. Some were collected in little groups chatting together. Others were sauntering off singly in a contemplative sort of mood. A few were hoeing in the garden, in which they show a good deal of skill. One or two were smoking, though in a very mild way. And some fifteen or twenty were playing ball; and from the sounds of merriment that came from their direction, they were evidently enjoying the sport hugely. In company with other curious lookers-on we entered the grounds to have a nearer view. There was not much system about the game of ball. It seemed to be more a general frolic with the ball, any one catching it who could, and throwing again, than a game with fixed rules. There was no such earnest work about it as in American games of ball, no such striving for some definite end, but it was all frolic and fun. The players were not only playing ball, but they were playful with one another; and the most trifling incidents of humor were sufficient to call forth shouts of laughter. They seemed like children overflowing with glee, and having a good time on very small resources. The characteristic, indeed, that first impressed us in all these people that we saw there, whatever they were doing, was their air of joyous contentment. It was more than satisfaction or serenity; it was the child’s delightedness with the thing in hand. And we were told that when at work they show the same playful good humor; are not silent, as American workmen are apt to be, but are always chatting and laughing, as if their work was play too. Another noteworthy feature in this playful scene was the absence of the roughness, scuffling, mock-quarrelling, and maneuvering, for personal advantage, that are so indigenous to a crowd of American boys and young men. They were hilarious and even boisterous, but at the same time showed the utmost courtesy, gentleness and good temper. And we were assured by Mr. Sampson, the proprietor of the factory, in an interview the next day, that they were uniformly kind, docile and peaceable, causing no trouble in the management of the establishment. . . .
“The Chinese at North Adams,” Maine Farmer, October 22, 1870