Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

by R. Gregory Nokes
Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

by R. Gregory Nokes


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In 1887, more than 30 Chinese gold miners were massacred on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon, the deepest canyon in North America. Massacred for Gold, the first authoritative account of the unsolved crime—one of the worst of the many crimes committed by whites against Chinese laborers in the American West—unearths the evidence that points to an improbable gang of rustlers and schoolboys, one only 15, as the killers.

The crime was discovered weeks after it happened, but no charges were brought for nearly a year, when gang member Frank Vaughan, son of a well-known settler family, confessed and turned state’s evidence. Six men and boys, all from northeastern Oregon’s remote Wallowa country, were charged—but three fled, and the others were found innocent by a jury that a witness admitted had little interest in convicting anyone. A cover-up followed, and the crime was all but forgotten for the next 100 years, until a county clerk found hidden records in an unused safe.

In bringing this story out of the shadows, Nokes examines the once-substantial presence of Chinese laborers in the interior Pacific Northwest, describing why they came, how their efforts contributed to the region’s development, and how too often mistreatment and abuse were their only reward.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780870715709
Publisher: Oregon State University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2009
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 1,085,797
Product dimensions: 6.26(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.49(d)

About the Author

R. GREGORY NOKES is the author of Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory, Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon, and The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett: Oregon Pioneer and First Governor of California. He traveled the world as a reporter and editor for The Associated Press and the Oregonian. A graduate of Willamette University, he attended Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow. His reporting on the 1887 murders of more than thirty Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon resulted in a formal designation of the site as Chinese Massacre Cove and was the basis for an Oregon Public Broadcasting documentary. Greg and his wife, Candise, live in West Linn, Oregon.

Table of Contents

Prologue 8

Part 1 The Dead 11

Chapter 1 Tales of Murder 12

Chapter 2 "Adventurous Boys" 17

Chapter 3 Miles from Punyu 26

Chapter 4 Why they Came 32

Chapter 5 More Tales of Murder 39

Chapter 6 The Judge and "The Chinaman" 45

Chapter 7 A Personal Journey 50

Chapter 8 The Mon-Tung Camp 63

Chapter 9 Two Investigations 66

Chapter 10 "With Great Regret" 71

Chapter 11 Rock Springs and More 76

Chapter 12 "Deplorable in the Extreme" 82

Part 2 The "Innocent" 87

Chapter 13 Vaughan Confesses 88

Chapter 14 "Don't Ask ... Don't Tell" 98

Chapter 15 A Story Changes 103

Chapter 16 Behind the News 108

Chapter 17 On a Merry-Go-Round 113

Chapter 18 Claims for Corpses 117

Chapter 19 A Kind of Trial 121

Chapter 20 Wanted: Horse Thieves 129

Chapter 21 Tightening the Screws 134

Chapter 22 A Second Confession 137

Chapter 23 Blooming Flour 140

Chapter 24 Flight 144

Part 3 P.S. Keeping Secrets 153

Chapter 25 The Secret Keepers 154

Chapter 26 And Now, the Journal 167

Chapter 27 The Coffin Maker 173

Chapter 28 Memorial Not 178

Chapter 29 Horner's Epilogue 182

Epilogue 183

Appendix 185

Acknowledgments 188

Notes 189

Bibliography 201

Index 205

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