The Coming Man from Canton

The Coming Man from Canton

Chinese Experience in Montana, 1862–1943

Christopher W. Merritt

Historical Archaeology of the American West Series

288 pages
12 photographs, 17 illustrations, 22 tables, index


August 2017


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

August 2017


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

August 2017


$65.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

In The Coming Man from Canton Christopher W. Merritt mines the historical and archaeological record of the Chinese immigrant experience in Montana to explore new questions and perspectives. During the 1860s Chinese immigrants arrived by the thousands, moving into the Rocky Mountain West and tenaciously searching for prosperity in the face of resistance, restriction, racism, and armed hostility from virtually every ethnic group in American society. As second-class citizens, Chinese immigrants remained largely insular and formed their own internal governments as well as labor and trade networks, typically establishing communities apart from the main towns. Chinese miners, launderers, restaurant keepers, gardeners, railroad laborers, and other workers became a separate but integral part of the American experience in the Intermountain West.

Although Chinese immigrants constituted more than 10 percent of the Montana Territory’s total population by 1870, the historical records provide a biased and narrow perspective, as they were generally written by European American community members. Merritt uses the statewide Montana context to show the diversity of Chinese settlements that has often been neglected by archival studies. His research highlights how the legacy of the Chinese in Montana is, or is not, reflected in modern Montana identity and how scholars, educators, professionals, and the public can alter the existing perception of this population as the “other” and perceive it instead an integral part of Montana’s past. 

Author Bio

Christopher W. Merritt is the deputy state historic preservation officer for the Utah Division of State History.


"Merritt's scholarship provides much needed attention to the rural Chinese American experience east of California. Since much of the existing historical scholarship on the pre-1965 Asian American community focuses on urban populations in North American West Coast, Merritt's detailed research on Montana's Chinese American community is a significant contribution to Asian American history and Montanan history."—Kelly N. Fong, Western Historical Quarterly

"A meticulously researched and carefully written study. . . . It is loaded with graphs, charts, lists and pictures of archaeological sites and artifacts that tell the story of the Chinese miners, laundry and agricultural workers, cooks and restaurant owners. . . . An essential source on the Montana Chinese experience."—Harlan Hague, True West Magazine

“A grand overview of Chinese experiences in Montana. This much-needed volume will help to fill the gap of studying the Chinese immigrants in the interior American West.”—Liping Zhu, author of The Road to Chinese Exclusion: The Denver Riot, 1880 Election, and Rise of the West

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
1. Entrance and Expansion, 1862–1880
2. Restriction and Legal Attacks, 1880–1900
3. Diversification, Collapse, and Aging, 1900–1943
4. Archaeology of the Overseas Chinese in Montana
5. Chinese Social Organization in Montana and Archaeological Implications
6. Conclusions and Future Directions

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