Since the late 1870s Independence has had an intermittant East Asian community, originally constituted by railway workers, or ‘coolies’ who were settled here by Grand Western Railways after the completion of one of the major projects. Originally, this was intended to be only temporary, awaiting the next round of railway infrastructure construction, but Grand Western went out of business so the Chinese labourers stayed, and formed their own little community.
By the 1920s the community had greatly diminished, many members leaving for San Fransisco and the West Coast, and an upsurge in racist sentiment drove further more ‘anywhere but here’. In the 1960s however, an entreprising business man Chu-yu Soong, set up a small factory making small plastic Orientalia, leading to an upsurge in numbers of Chinese residents. From the 1990s this factory has gone from financial difficulty to financial difficulty, from cheap Chinese and Taiwanese competition, but has so far held on.
Numbering about 200-250 Chinese, the Independence ‘Chinatown’ consists of a little less than one town block, comprsing several Chinese restaurants (e.g. The Good Food Wok), a Chinese supermarket and two extremely kitsch shops for tourists passing through.