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“A Must See!”

Kam Wah Chung and Company Museum
Ranked #2 of 6 things to do in John Day
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Helena, Montana
Level 6 Contributor
103 reviews
20 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 34 helpful votes
“A Must See!”
Reviewed May 26, 2014

It's hard to believe this area had the 3rd largest Chinatown in the US back in the day. A great tour go to the interpretive center first not the tour first then there like we did. If you do that its uh...a tad awkward but they still let us tour. Such an amazing piece of history tucked into small town America. Oh might be hard with young children since there is lots to touch that you can't touch.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
1 Thank redredles
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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99 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
Modesto, California
Level 6 Contributor
578 reviews
253 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 542 helpful votes
“What a Fascinating Historical Site!”
Reviewed May 22, 2014

We visited this museum a few weeks ago while vacationing throughout Oregon. This sounded like a very interesting and worthwhile historical stop and it did not disappoint. In fact, I was completely mesmerized by what I saw here. I love historical places and this is one of the most interesting and unique places I have ever visited. It is amazing to me that here in the very small town of John Day in a rather isolated part of Oregon, that this wonderful history of Chinese culture still exists. I learned a great deal about the Chinese presence in Oregon; John Day once had the 3rd largest China town in the U.S. The Chinese came to work in the gold mines and suffered great persecution while living in John Day. The two Chinese immigrants who ran this store and medical clinic from the 1880's to the mid 1900's makes for a wonderful story of perseverance and commitment to the community and to their adopted country. The store can only be viewed by way of a tour which occurs on the hour and lasts approximately 45 minutes. The store was closed up in 1948 after Doc Hay became too ill to run the store. The store remained closed with all the contents until it was opened in the late 1960's. Officials found the store just as Doc Hay and his partner had left it. Shelves are stocked with canned goods, jars and boxes of grocery products, some familiar today such as Quaker Oats, Wheaties and some not so familiar. There are bottles of liquor, tobacco products, Chinese herbal remedies and personal products such as soaps and "modern" medicines such as aspirin and laxatives. These items fill the shelves and are quite numerous. There are seven or eight rooms and they consist of a stockroom, the store, Doc Hay's bedroom, Lung On's room, the kitchen, the bunkroom and the Apothecary. The kitchen has a huge wok, ladles, spoons, pots and other cooking implements. The apothecary has many boxes with Chinese herbals as well as other items used for cures including a bear paw. There are several shrines throughout the store and I noted that at the shrines there were even oranges, dried but still in form since the 1940's! There are a variety of furnishings including the very chair that Doc Hay had his patients sit in while he checked their pulse and determined the appropriate treatment for their maladies. Doc Hay and Lung On had a prosperous business eventually and Lung On even opened the first car dealership in Eastern Oregon, had race horses and other businesses. In spite of having some wealth, these men lived very simple lives which can be seen in their very Spartan living conditions. The park ranger did an excellent tour for us and I did not want to leave at the end. I wanted to stay there for hours and examine each item, there is so much to see in this small store that the time goes by too quickly. The items cannot be touched and flash pictures are not allowed so it is difficult to get good pictures in the dim light, but I did my best with my small handheld camera. Unlike most historical sights that one sees, the items in this store are the real thing, they are not replicas placed here to show how life was lived at the time. This is what makes this place so appealing. It is so atmospheric, because everything is still like it was in the 1940's or earlier. After our tour of the store, we went to the visitor center (where the tour begins and basically across the street from the historic store) and watched the 30 minute film on the store, the two men and the history of the Chinese in the area. I would definitely recommend watching the film as well as checking out the exhibits in the Visitor Center. One of the most fascinating exhibits was a notebook that held a number of checks that Doc Hay did not cash from his patients. The checks were found when the store was reopened in the 1960's and located under his bed in a chest totally $23,000, a small fortune from the early 1900's. It is free to take the tour of the store and check out the visitor center, donations are accepted. There are a few books and other items for sale and I bought a photographic guide of the store which has great pictures and is a wonderful memento. I also bought another book written about Doc Hay's medical practice. I could go on and on about how interesting and worthwhile this historical site is. Be sure to check it out if you are ever in the area; in fact this is a destination in itself and worth a drive to get here. Don't miss something this precious, a glimpse into the past not often seen!

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank MSWMom50
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Tieton
Level 5 Contributor
63 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“Both interpretative center & museum”
Reviewed May 14, 2014

Both were well worth the visit. Recommend visiting the interpretative center first, then meeting the park ranger there on the hour for a tour of the museum just a block away. Although the museum, built in the late 1800's is not wheelchair accessible, the interpretative center is wheelchair accessible.

There is a book in the interpretative center that contains photos of the interior of the museum, and there is a video tour in the interpretative center that is about 45 minutes in case someone cannot access the museum itself.

The ranger made the visit to the museum far more interesting and we enjoyed our visit. The tour was about 40 minutes and the interpretative center we spent about 30 minutes.

Visited May 2014
Helpful?
Thank W N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Level 5 Contributor
48 reviews
19 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 63 helpful votes
“Authentic History”
Reviewed May 10, 2014

I went on a whim and certainly glad I did! The free admission caused me to leave a donation because I felt so guilty for such a great experience. You literally walk into history sitting in the middle of John Day. It has been a couple of years since my tour, but I still think about all of the Chinese remedies and herbs still sitting on the shelves there. I returned from China a week ago and I think I need to return to go through the museum one more time. Make sure to take the time for this attraction, don't let it's simplicity fool you!

Visited September 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Eric M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level 4 Contributor
40 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 10 helpful votes
“What a Jewel!”
Reviewed November 25, 2013

This is a true hidden JEWEL
Being a pharmacist, this small building filled with herbs and treatments is very interesting. The story of the history of the area, what brought the Chinese off the beaten path and why there are no more in the area is quite interesting.

Visited June 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Lensdrug
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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