The Wongs of Beloit Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin Press, 2022
Through family interviews, original photographs, and national records, Professor Emerita of History Beatrice Loftus McKenzie traces the lives of a resilient multigenerational family whose experiences parallel the complicated relationship between America and China in the 20th century.
In the early 1900s, Charles Wong moved from Guangdong Province to the United States and opened the Nan King Lo Restaurant in Beloit, Wis. Soon after, his wife, Yee Shee, joined him to start a family and build the restaurant into a local institution. In 1938, Charles’s tragic murder left Yee Shee to raise their seven children — ages 1 through 14 — on her own. Rather than return to Hong Kong, the family stayed in Beloit, buoyed by the friendships they had forged during the worst parts of the 1930s.
McKenzie encountered the Wong family and their story about 10 years ago in the Beloit College Archives. They approached her to write their family history, and McKenzie has cultivated a warm friendship with descendant and collaborator Mary Wong Palmer, daughter of Charles and Yee Shee Wong. Mary’s brother, the late Frank Wong, was college provost from 1981-87, providing one of several ties to the college.