The Tong Wars is an important but hidden away story Kingman keeps, but the tour guides of Beale Street Theater’s Ghost Walk (Tour A) 2019 will gladly unravel it for you. Although they will talk about Tom King and Don On’s roles in the end, we should now cover the beginning of these devastating murders.
To start, the Tong Wars was a collection of feuds between gangs of Chinese immigrants and descendants throughout U.S. cities, including our very own Kingman. The word “tong” means “meeting place” or “hall.” Originally, tongs were legal, safe places and protection for Chinese immigrants from criminals and hate crimes.
The word “tong” was picked up by the U.S. white population to refer to illegal secret societies and activities, like gambling and opium trade. As the protective legal tongs were established in the Chinese-American community, criminals took this new word reference and created illegal tongs. These Chinese criminal tongs made money from opium trade as well as gambling, which were legal in China, but not in the U.S. As criminal tongs sprouted throughout the country, feuds exploded over territory and money. These vendettas lasted from the 1850s to the 1920s. It is estimated that dozens of people were killed by the end of the wars.
But how did all the senseless wars end? What (or…who?) had to be sacrificed to finally create a treaty after 70 years of murder?
You’ll just have to wait until your Ghost Walk tour…