The History of the Ong Ko Met Family Association
The names Ong, Dong, Deng, Tang, Teng and Ung are all being used by those whose surname is represented by the Chinese character on the right.
The spelling of the name is based on whatever the translator heard at the time when the Chinese dialect was spoken.
The first Ong generation began with Ong Mon Kung. Ong Mon Kung was appointed by King Wu Ting in the Shang Dynasty in 1400 BC to be Chieftain in charge of the country of Ong in Nan Yang County located in today's Henan Province.
The Ongs did not establish their present identity with the name Ong Ko Met until the 47th generation. Prince Wong Mong rebelled against King Gong Mo during the Eastern Han period in 26AD. The rebels were badly beaten by General Ong Yu who defended West Fort, thereby saving the kingdom. A tall monument was created on a terrace called Wun Toy, translated Cloud Terrace, in honor of those heroic twenty-eight generals who defeated the rebels. At the age of twenty-four, General Ong Yu was the youngest general to be awarded with the highest honorary title, Marquis Ong Ko Met.
As time passed from dynasty to dynasty, the Ongs slowly migrated to other parts of China. In the Sung Dynasty, 1272 AD, the 92nd generation of Ongs conducted a mass migration toward southern China. Prince Ku Sze Tao had forced Chieftain Wuhan of the Ong Clan to move southward to Nanhung in Guangdong Province. In subsequent years, their descendents had spread to the Sunwui, Toishan and Hoiping Districts also known as the Pearl River Delta. Many of the Ongs that came to America originated from this delta area.
Life became very difficult for people in China during the nineteenth century, especially for those in Guangdong Province where the Opium War of 1839-42 and the Second Opium War of 1856-60 between China and Britain was fought. The Chinese fought hard to keep opium out of China. Eventually, the effects on Chinese society were devastating. The aftermath of the war had brought about more hunger and misery. Everyone was looking for a better place to live and to escape British imperialism.
Coming to America
As gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill in California in 1848, news of the Gold Rush spread quickly to China. The California Gold Rush brought hope to many Chinese. All were eager to find a passage to America or Gold Mountain (Gum Shan). By 1856 the lure of gold attracted thousands of Chinese to America. They settled mainly in San Francisco (Tie Fow), Sacramento (Yee Fow), and nearby communities.
The building of the Central Pacific Railroad across the Sierra Nevada started a greater wave of Chinese immigration. Upon breaking ground for the railroad in Sacramento on June 8, 1863, Governor Leland Stanford praised the Chinese laborers for their achievements and called for more to come. Within a year, 15,000 Chinese joined the labor force and more were on the way from China. But by the 1870s the Central Pacific Railroad was built and many Chinese workers were now out of work.
Fortunately during the 1850s the United States government, as part of the Federal Swampland Act, offered up millions of acres of delta swampland at very little cost for anyone who could reclaim it. Many developers saw opportunity to exploit the Chinese workers that needed jobs and built Chinatowns in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. They had the Chinese push back the waters and the developers claimed the land. In the end, the Chinese played a pivotal role in reclaiming the delta by building a complex system of levees, transforming over 500,000 acres of swampland into one of the richest agricultural regions on earth. Many Chinese immigrants became productive farmers and farm workers in the Delta region of Sacramento and San Joaquin River. Today, some of their descendants still reside in Locke, Walnut Grove, Courtland and other communities in the delta.
To view a written history of the Ong Ko Met in Chinese click here.
The San Francisco Ong Ko Met Association
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prevented all new Chinese immigrants from entering America except tourist, students and merchants. Discrimination against the Chinese was rampant.
Among the first Ong family members to arrive from China and settle in San Francisco during the 1860's were Ong Kai Yet who opened Bock Toa Hong, an herb store at 859 Stockton Street and Ong Sen Shek who opened Hi Wo Hong, an herb store at 718 Grant Avenue. Following them were many more Ong families leaving their home villages from the Woo Lung, Hoiping District which is now referred to as the Hu Long / Xiao Hai, Kaiping District.
From 1910 to 1940 the point of entry for Chinese immigrants arriving from Pacific routes was Angel Island. Immigration officials detained and interrogated newly arrived Chinese people while they determined if they were eligible to enter the United States or if they were merely "paper sons."
State laws were passed to exclude Chinese from all but meanial occupations, from owning land, and from basic legal rights. Chinatowns and family associations, like the Ong Ko Met Association, were formed to secure the safety of Chinese-Americans and to fight for the rights of Chinese immigrants.
San Francisco Ong Ko Met Association - Chronology of Events
1877 First established at 808 Clay Street
The Sacramento Ong Ko Met Association
Among the first Ong family members to settle in Sacramento were Sun Gung and Sun Yip. Sun Gung arrived in 1884. He was the first Sacramento pharmacist of Chinese descent, a translator at the Court House, and a clergyman at the Congregational Church. Sun Yip was a grocer and also a clergyman at the Chinese Baptist Church. In 1899 Dong Si Chon opened the Sun Yee Yuen herb store at 214 I Street.
A few years later Dong Haw, Dong Oy Lung, and Dong Bock Lung immigrated to Sacramento. In 1906 Dong Haw, Dong Oy Lung, and Dong Bock Lung opened Hong King Lum Restaurant at 3rd and I Street. Later in 1911, Dong Haw opened the Yick Chong Co., the first Chinese grocery store in Sacramento. In 1942 the Ong Ko Met Association was formed.
Sacramento Ong Ko Met Association - Chronology of Events
1942 Jack L. Tang, Stanley Dong, Chong Ong, Don Haw,
Wing Tow Ong, Ong Si Jum, Kung Ong, and others, decided to establish
a Sacramento branch of Ong Ko Met Association. They rented the
second floor of the building at 973 3rd Street.
The Phoenix Ong Ko Met Association
In the 1860s, Chinese worked at the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg Arizona. By 1872, when the first wave of Chinese immigrants was more centralized, the Chinese in Phoenix open laundries. Before the gray-faced America West Arena shadowed First and Madison streets, the Ongs and Tangs owned grocery stores and lived in this same swath of costly real estate from the late 19th century until the 1930s. They called the settlement China Alley. In the early 1940's the Ong Ko Met Association was established in Phoenix to coordinate and assist the family members with the surname of Ong, Dong or Tang.
When builders broke ground for the basketball arena in the early 1990s, Fred Ong helped raise more than $20,000 from Arizona's Chinese-American community to help pay for the archaeological dig at the site. Thousands of artifacts, from bottles and buttons to rice bowls and toothbrushes, have been stored at the Pueblo Grande Museum in Phoenix.
In 2005, the Phoenix Ong Ko Met Family Association was also active in saving the 1929 Sun Mercantile Building in Phoenix's Chinatown from hotel developers and secure space for an Asian American museum.
Phoenix Ong Ko Met Association - Chronology of Events
1860 Chinese worked at the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg