Chun Afong — Hawaii’s First Millionaire

On his way to the California Gold Rush, a Chinese man instead ended up in Hawaii–and became Hawaii’s first Chinese millionaire.

In 1849, Chun Afong (Ah Fong) left behind his wife and son in his hometown, Zhongshan (Xiangshan) village in China. He settled in the Kingdom of Hawaii, with about a hundred Chinese, and opened a shop near King Street. In only six years, the Chinese immigrant made a fortune in retailing, real estate, sugar, rice, and opium.

Afong married Julia Fayerweather, a seventeen-year-old granddaughter of a Hawaiian chief, and raised four sons and thirteen daughters. 

In the late 1800s, Afong offered a $350,000 dowry to whoever married one of his daughters. Louisiana’s The Opelousas Courier said,

All the Ah Fong girls are petite have peculiarly graceful ways, winning voices and a certain vivacity that has no comparable counterpart in American life. … [They] are good singers, and have the love of the Hawaiians for string music.

In 1889, Afong returned to China with his younger son Toney to the village of Meixi. The elder Afong earned money through business and funded projects to improve the village.

Afong died in 1906, and his family fought for his fortune in court.

– Alice Kim

Note: Chun Afong’s name was also spelled as as Chong Afong, Chun Ah Fong, and Chen Fang.

Articles from Chronicling America

“Capt. Whiting’s Choice: Reminiscences Regarding the Ah Fong Family of Honolulu”
The Hawaiian star, April 11, 1893, Image 3

“A Mongol Father: Arrival of Chun Afong’s Family”
The morning call, September 21, 1893, Page 7

“The Ah Fong Family: Some of Them on their Way to the World’s Fair at Chicago”
Hawaiian star, September 29, 1893, Page 2

“Story of the Chinese Croesus of Hawaii”
The San Francisco call, July 31, 1898, Page 23

“The Pretty Ah Fong Girls of Honolulu: A Truly Wonderful Story That is Unparalleled Even in the World of Fiction”
The Opelousas courier, April 15, 1899, Image 2

“Arm of Federal Law Impedes Daughter of the Afongs”
The San Francisco call, June 9, 1904, Image 4

“Death of C. Afong: Former Resident of the Islands Dies in China at a Very Advanced Age”
The Hawaiian star, September 27, 1906, Image 1

“Afong Family Is Much Divided”
The San Francisco call, November 21, 1906, Page 4

“Mrs. Afong Loses on the Demurrers”
The Hawaiian sta, June 10, 1907, Image 1

“Daughter Wins First Point in Afong Suit”
The San Francisco call, June 19, 1907, Page 3, Image 3

“Charge Fraud and Collusion: Paving the Way for Reopening of the Afong Litigation”
The Hawaiian star, September 14, 1907, Page 8

“Whose Poker Yarn Is This?”
The Hawaiian star, October 4, 1907, Page 3


One Comment on “Chun Afong — Hawaii’s First Millionaire”

  1. […] the late 1800s, Chun Ah Fong offered a $350,000 dowry to whoever married one of his thirteen daughters. Louisiana’s The […]

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