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Chinese Rail Workers Remembered on 150th Anniversary of ‘Golden Spike’

May 15, 2019

By Steve Wishnia and Neal Tepel

OGDEN, Utah—The descendants of Chinese immigrants who worked on the first transcontinental railroad marked the 150th anniversary of its completion May 9. Margaret Yee of the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association helped Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and a descendant of Union Pacific’s chief engineer on the project tap a ceremonial spike in Ogden. “They say the Chinese built the railroad, the railroad built America,” Yee said. “We haven’t really insisted that these contributions be recognized until fairly recently,” Descendants Association president Michael Kwan, a Salt Lake City judge, told the Salt Lake Tribune. His great-great-grandfather was one of the 14,000 Chinese immigrants who worked 12-hour days building the railroad’s western section from Oakland over the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Utah, with as many as 1,000 being killed in accidents on the job before it was completed in 1869, meeting the Union Pacific’s eastern section at Promontory Point, on the north side of the Great Salt Lake. The Descendants Association also participated in a re-enactment May 10 in Promontory Point of the driving of the golden spike that completed the tracks connecting the railroad’s eastern and western Central Pacific sections. Read more

May 15, 2019

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