2019 marks the 134th Anniversary of the Chinese Massacre

SEPTEMBER 2ND IS THE 134TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHINESE MASSACRE

chinatown

SEPTEMBER 2ND IS THE 134TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CHINESE MASSACRE

August 31, 2019

(Note: The following article includes excerpts, photographs, and maps from a Sweetwater County Historical Museum piece about “Chinatown” and Camp Pilot Butte originally released in February of 2019)

Monday is Labor Day, a holiday for barbecues and outdoor activities, but it also marks the anniversary of the darkest chapter in Rock Springs history: the Chinese Massacre of September 2, 1885.

By the summer of 1885, there were just under 600 Chinese and less than half that number of white miners working in the coal mines in and around Rock Springs. Tensions were high because the Chinese miners were willing to work for lower wages, which kept overall wages down and created resentment among the white miners.

On the morning of September 2, at the Number Six mine just north of Rock Springs, a fight between white and Chinese miners resulted in the death of a Chinese worker. Later in the day, a mob of about 150 white miners attacked "Chinatown," the section of town north of Bitter Creek where the Chinese miners lived, and set it on fire. More than two dozen Chinese were killed and the rest fled. All 79 of the Chinese shacks and shanties were destroyed by the mob.

To restore order and protect the hundreds of Chinese miners soon to be returned to Rock Springs under heavy army escort, Territorial Governor (and later United States Senator) Francis E. Warren arranged for soldiers of the 7th U.S. Infantry Regiment to establish a base sited between “Chinatown” and downtown Rock Springs. A new “Chinatown”was hastily built, the miners returned to work, and, by November 30, 532 Chinese and 85 white miners were producing about 1,600 tons of coal per day.

The army’s new post was dubbed Camp Pilot Butte and continued to be garrisoned until March of 1899, when the base was closed.

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River features a special exhibit on the Chinese Massacre, and "The Chinese Massacre at Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, September 2, 1885," by Isaac H. Bromley, an excellent work on the subject, is available at the museum bookstore.

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