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Pon Yam House

This is the only remaining building from Idaho City’s Chinese population, which the 1870 census reported at 1,751 – more than 45% of the total. Nearly all the Chinese in Idaho City were from the Canton vicinity of China. Pon Yam was a successful businessman and a respected leader in the community. It was reported he owned the largest diamond in the mining camp, and he was often called upon to settle disputes among the Chinese tongs. From this building he sold herbs and other Chinese products

The Pon Yam House is named for a long-standing inhabitant, Pon Yam, who immigrated to Idaho from China. During the 1860’s mining was booming in the Boise Basin. Not all companies that pursued the gold rush were American. Chinese corporations purchased mining rights in the area as well, it’s estimated that around 1870 Idaho’s population was roughly 30% Chinese. Idaho City’s Chinese population were thought to have been well accepted by the community in general.

Pon Yam was a successful businessman and miner. It’s believed he established residency in the Pon Yam House in 1870. His house served as both a home for his family and as a local shop serving the Chinese community. Pon Yam imported Chinese food and other everyday items the Chinese community were accustomed to. From traditional clothing, utensils, and fireworks. The Pon Yam House became the center of the Chinese Community in the area, with traditional Chinese holidays being celebrated there.

Pon Yam was also an important part of the community at large. Pon Yam and many Chinese also participated in American Holidays while in Idaho City. Newspapers from the time reported the construction of the schoolhouse was funded by local businesses, including Pon Yam. He lived in Idaho City for over twenty years before returning home to China. 

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