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)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

August 2017


$65.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

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

"This research is a worthy addition to the scant body of documented information about the daily life of the Chinese immigrants in America. Even fewer published resources bring the historical narrative into this relatively recent period. The book concludes with a valuable dissection of many of the prevailing myths about the Chinese experience, both in Montana and elsewhere. It is refreshing to see a publication that illuminates Chinese communities in the American interior, rather than coastal settlements. By using archaeology and primary historical research, along with a focus upon the details of daily life, and providing statistics to validate his conclusions, Merritt has offered a well researched contribution to the deeper understanding of the overseas Chinese."—Roberta S. Greenwood, Historical Archaeology

"Christopher Merritt's new book is a welcome addition to the study of Chinese immigration to North America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It's a compelling account of Chinese immigrants' contributions to the economic and social development of the Great Plains in general, and to the state of Montana in particular."—Roland Hsu, Great Plains Quarterly

“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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