Great story of Jonathan! I can't believe I never noticed it before. With Halloween here...it's time for more legends and lore. Here's one from a little mining town that was located off of Tioga Pass.
The Triple Deaths of Ah Wee,
The Laundryman of Bennettville
by Cecile Page Vargo
High in the Sierras, near the base of Tioga Hill, laundryman Ah Wee was sick and dying in his Bennettville shanty. His friend, Jim Toy, a merchant and Chinese doctor from Lundy, hurried across the rugged mountains to his side. Not long after he arrived, Ah Wee took his last breath. Jim waited until the body was cold and rigid, then went to a boarding house for supper. After the meal, he and a group of men decided to go back to the laundryman’s and tend to the body. Imagine their surprise, when they arrived and Ah Wee was up and walking around. It took the strength of all of the men to get Ah Wee back to bed again. Jim Toy nursed Ah Wee through the night. Just before daybreak, however, Ah Wee breathed his last one more time.
Mule Ride to Lundy
A strong box was built for the Chinese laundryman’s body, so it could be taken to Lundy for internment. Louis Amoit’s pack train would come for the body and the box around noon that day. Meantime, Jim watched the corpse constantly for returned life. Louis arrived and they packed the box with Ah Wee’s body in it on the back of a pack mule. They trudged along slowly until reaching the level ridge of Mount Warren Divide. As Louis hurried the mules, the one with Ah Wee’s corpse began to trot. Suddenly, groaning noises were heard from the strong box. First thoughts were that it was the mule groaning, but Louis decided it best to make sure. As he stopped the mule, the groans from the box became louder. Ah Wee was alive once again. Reportedly, Louis Amoit’s “ eyeballs crawled out on his cheeks, looked at his ears, and tried to climb under his hat” in fear.
Louis Amoit and his pack mules, with the once again alive and breathing, Ah Wee, headed on to Lundy. In Lundy, Ah Wee rested comfortably in quiet quarters, appearing to be convalescing nicely. By 11:00 that Monday morning, an American physician checked on him to see how he was doing. Ah Wee turned his face to the wall and breathed his last one more time.
Peaceful and Penniless
The Homer Mining Index of October 27, 1883 , reported that on the Tuesday after his third last breath, Ah Wee was buried with “imposing ceremonies of the Chinese kind.” When interviewed for the Index, Ah Wee’s friend Jim Toy said he had died of a cold. Asked if it was a case of pneumonia, Jim Toy thought the reporter had said “no money”, and replied “No, no. Him got no money - him allee time gamble - tlee week ago him losee two hundled dolla - him got no money.” Regardless of what caused Ah Wee’s triple deaths, the third death was the charm, and he laid peacefully and penniless, to rest one last time.
Stretching the Truth
It is well known that during the 1870’s and 1880’s, a few editors of mining town newspapers were prone to exaggeration to make the life of the lonely miner more interesting as he read about weekly events. Amongst the editors of the afore mentioned Homer Mining Index, where the story of Ah Wee originally came from, was one known as Lying Jim Townsend. Lying Jim, cranked out copy for the camps of Bennettville, Lundy, Bodie, Aurora and surrounding areas. He was particularly noted for inserting an “occasional yarn of questionable veracity” once in awhile. Lying Jim was quoted from a column as saying “It requires inventive genius to pick up local news here now. The scribe has to trust to his imagination for facts and to his memory for things which never occurred.”
Whether Lying Jim, had anything to do with the three deaths of the Bennettville laundryman, this self pro-claimed ghost town gossipist of modern times doesn’t know, but she does find it interesting that this all occurred so close to Halloween.