Chinese Immigrants in Idaho

Chinese immigrants came to Idaho in the mid to late 19th century. At its peak, the Chinese people made up 30% of Idaho’s population. Working as railroad workers, miners, farmers, merchants, and more, the Chinese narrative is an essential part of Idaho’s early history. Chinese immigrants were active players, not passive observers, in their communities. The following stories highlight the common experiences of the Chinese in Idaho, including violent discrimination, hard work, and indomitable spirits.

Boise's Chinatown

Similar to the rest of Idaho, Boise was home to many Chinese immigrants in the mid to late 1800s. Integral to Boise’s history, Boise’s first Chinatown was first located in the middle of downtown Boise, on Idaho Street. Attracted to the Boise Basin…

Pon Yam House, Idaho City

Between 1860 and 1875, the Chinese population in Idaho dramatically increased. In fact, at its height, the Chinese accounted for over 30 percent of the state’s population—the highest per capita amount in the entire nation. Following the alluring…

Silver City, A Town with Three Graveyards

Today, Silver City is kept alive by tourists. Visitors can stay in an antiquated hotel, which only recently procured indoor plumbing, and walk around the small town. There is a beautiful white chapel on the hill, a small general store that boasts…

Polly Bemis House

Born in Northern China, Polly Bemis came to the United States as a young woman. The details surrounding her arrival are unclear, but it appears as if Polly’s impoverished family sold her to bandits. These bandits shipped her to the United States and…

Chinese Massacre Cove

Many Chinese immigrants to the United States in the 19th century came to work as laborers and miners. They faced considerable discrimination and challenging working conditions in the American West. Usually reworking claims that American miners had…