The Rock Springs Massacre
Digital History ID 28
The late 19th century was the site of intense labor strife. In September 2, 1885, in Rock Springs, Wyoming, Welsh and the Swedish coal miners, many of whom were members of the Knights of Labor, burned the homes of approximately 75 Chinese families, and killed at least 28 Chinese and 15 wounded. Federal troops had to be brought in to restore order.
The following editorial in the Rock Springs, Wyoming, Independent, denounces the return of Chinese miners.
Three hundred soldiers protecting them
Chinatown to be rebuilt
United and determined action needed.
It was rumored Wednesday noon that the Chinese were on their way back to Rock Springs. Few believed the rumor, as it was not thought they could be induced to return.
But about two o’clock a passenger train came in bearing two hundred armed soldiers. Closely following was a freight train of twenty-two cars loaded with 650 of the hated Chinese, the latter train switching off and went toward No. 3 mine, where the Chinese disembarked, and hurried over to the ruins of their houses. They began digging in the cellars, and soon unearthed a large amount of money. Six thousand dollars in gold and silver was dug up from one cellar, and as much more from another, where it had been concealed before their flight.
Numbers of them soon came up town. Some looked bold and defiant, while others were evidently fearful of being attacked, but no demonstration was made against them. The cars were afterwards brought down the track to a point near the soldiers' camp, where the Chinamen built fires, had supper, and spent the night.
The action of the company in bringing back the Chinese means that they are to be set to work in the mines, and that American soldiers are to prevent them from again being driven out.
It means that all the white miners in Rock Springs, except those absolutely required, are to be replaced by Chinese labor.
It means that the company intend to make a “Chinatown” out of Rock Springs, as they proposed to the Almy miners last Monday.
It means that Rock Springs is killed, as far as white men are concerned, if such program is carried out.
Source: Rock Springs Independent, 3 September 1885. Reprinted in Cheng-Tsu Wu, ed., Chink! (New York: The World Publishing Company, 1972), 167.
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