Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month – Chin Lin Sou, Railroad Man

During the 19th century, Chin Lin Sou provided leadership and guidance to his fellow Chinese Americans in the construction of major railroads in the United States. Chin, who was born in the Chinese city of Guangzhou (also known as Canton), immigrated to the United States in 1859 at the age of 22.

Chin first settled in California and, due to his strong fluency in both Chinese and English as well as his leadership skills, he became the foreman for a group of Chinese workers laying steel rails eastwards from the west coast for the Central Pacific Railroad (CPRR). This railroad formed the western segment of the First Transcontinental Railroad and, during the 1860s, approximately 12,000 Chinese emigrants were part of CPRR’s workforce. When the ceremony marking the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad was held at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, an eight-man Chinese crew was selected to place the last section of rail.

After the completion of this historic project, Chin made his way to Colorado. He was hired to assist with the construction of Denver Pacific Railroad, a north-south line linking Denver with the First Transcontinental Railroad at Cheyenne, Wyoming. Chin’s role in this project again involved serving as the foreman of a Chinese crew helping to build the railroad.

Chin subsequently remained in Colorado for the remainder of his life, establishing himself as a prominent member of the state’s Chinese American community. The entrepreneurial Chin also established a few businesses; one of these was the Chinese Trading and Insurance Companies, which sold supplies to Chinese railroad workers. He died in 1894 and was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Denver. About seven years later, family members arranged to have his body exhumed and brought to China for reburial there. Chin remains appreciated in his adopted country, however. Denver’s Colorado State Capitol Building, for example, has a stained-glass window portrait of him in recognition of his accomplishments.

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