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History of Washington: The Rise and Progress of an American State/Chapter LVII


Opposition to the Chinese began early in the territory. The legislature on January 23, 1864 passed an act imposing a per capita tax of $24 a year on each Chinaman, to be paid in quarterly payments of $6 each. This tax was reduced to $16 a year in 1866. The sherrifs were charged with the duty of collecting it, and they were authorized to exact payment by seizing and selling the goods of delinquents when necessary.

But rigorous as this tax was it did not prevent the Chinese laborers from coming to the territory in considerable numbers and the census of 1885 showed that there were 3,276 of them engaged in various occupations within its borders. There was at that time no very serious opposition to them. Work was abundant and everybody was employed who cared for employment. A few agitators and mischief-makers were protesting, but they secured little attention and few followers, until the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, threw many men out of employment, a considerable portion of whom drifted across the line to Seattle, Tacoma and other towns along the Sound.[1]

From that time forward the agitators and mischief-makers found it easier to get the attention of the multitude than they had done. The idle always have time to listen, and are easily persuaded that somebody other than themselves is responsible for their idleness. Their passions are easily inflamed; it is particularly easy to arouse in them a hatred for, and encourage an opposition to an alien race. The opposition to the Chinese in California was well known all along the coast. Every sand-lot orator in San Fransisco was as notorious in the cities of Washington and Oregon as in those of California, and some of their associates and co-workers had drifted to the Sound cities and were aspiring


to imitate their example. Strangely enough, there were persons of responsibility and respectability who readily joined with these in stirring up trouble. There were few residents of the territory, if any, who were anxious to have the Chinese remain. Some of the coal mining companies, a few of the mills, and a few private individuals had employed them, when it had been difficult to procure white labor, but now that that difficulty was past, most of them were glad to secure white laborers again. A few had Chinese house servants who had proved so satisfactory that they wished to retain them, but these were not many. The Chinamen therefore were left with few to defend them, except those who were not willing to see them driven out by violence.

The agitation which began in Seattle and Tacoma in the summer of 1885, had gradually spread to other towns and villages in the western part of the territory, and to the coal mines in King County, in a few of which the Chinamen were working, when on September 4th, the people at Rock Springs, Wyoming, drove the Chinamen out of the coal mines at that place, killing eleven of them. News of this outrage was applauded by the agitators, and those who were accustomed to listen to them. It spread quickly to the smaller towns, and was received with peculiar interest at the coal mines and the hop fields where some growers, who had been unable to procure the usual number of Indians to harvest their crop, were bringing in Chinamen for the purpose. Among the latter were the Wold brothers, who had large yards in the Squak valley. On the afternoon of September 5th a party of 35 Chinamen, arrived at their yards, and two nights later their camp was attacked by five white men and two Indians, who fired into the tents where the Chinamen


were sleeping, and killed three of them and wounded three others. The rest fled to the woods and escaped.

The perpetrators of this cowardly act were easily traced, and within a few days were arrested and taken to the jail at Seattle. In due time they were indicted for murder, but such was the state of public feeling at the time that they were not convicted. They were also indicted for riot, and on this charge one of the number was convicted and a trifling penalty imposed, but an appeal was taken and the case was not decided until long afterwards.

On the night of September 11th, only four days after the attack on the hop-pickers in the Squak valley, the quarters occupied by the Chinese coal miners at Coal Creek were raided by ten of fifteen masked men, and burned. Some of the inmates were roughly used. Guns and pistols were fired to frighten the Chinamen, but none of them were killed. They were however, told that they must forthwith leave the country.

These outrages were openly applauded by the lawless element, as that at Rock Springs had been. The perpetrators of them were praised as men of spirit, by the street orators in both Seattle and Tacoma, who were every day finding it easier to get attention. Street meetings were held more frequently than ever. Parades were organized in which tableaux, showing women in chains, and children supposed to be starving as a result of competition with cheap labor were exhibited, while numbers of banners or transparencies with denunciatory inscriptions were displayed, all of which amused or excited the idle, and alarmed the timid, disturbed and unsettled business and made conditions, which were bad enough at the beginning, even worse than they otherwise would have been.


The agitation was accomplishing the purpose for which it had declaredly been started, win what should have been a satisfactory way, if those who were directing and stimulating it had no other purpose in view. Many of the Chinamen were voluntarily leaving their employment and the country, as fast as they could get the money they had earned, and secure passage to British Columbia or California. The coal mine owners and mill owneres were discharging some, and arrangint to discharge others, as rapidly as they could fill their places. The employers of Chinese servants in some cases were getting rid of them. The Chinese merchants, contractors and owners of laundries alone, or almost alone, seemed to be making no preparation to leave.

But the agitation was kept going just as vigorously as if nothing had yet been accomplished. “An anti-Chinese Congress” as it was designated by those who arranged it, was summoned to meet in Seattle September 28th, and self-appointed members came from all directions to attend its deliberations. All the labor organizations were represented. The mayor of Tacoma presided. Most of the active agitators attended and made speeches. A long series of high-sounding resolutions was adopted, their final declaration being that all Chinese must leave Western Washington by or before November 15th. Following the so-called “Congress,” a mass meeting was held at Tacoma, in which the resolutions it had adopted and the edict it had proclaimed were approved, and a committee of fifteen was appointed to see that the edict was enforced. This committee promptly served notice on all the Chinese residents of the place that they must leave within thirty days. A similar committee was appointed in Seattle only a few days later.


By this time the Chinese consul at San Francisco had become alarmed for the safety of his countryment in the Sound country, and had written Governor Squire to ask whether the local authorities could and would give them protection under the law and the treaty, in case the agitators should attempt to put their threats into execution. The governor had applied to the sherrifs for the information as to the exact condition of affairs, and asked whether they were confident of their ability to preserve order. Nearly all replied confidently. John H. McGraw, afterwards governor of the state, but who was at the time sherrif of King County, was “firmly convinced” that he would be able “to protect the lives and property of all persons in the county, withough the intervention of the military arm of the government.” Nineteen-twentieths of the able bodied men could be depended upon, as he thought as a posse comitatus, in case the lawless and viciously inclined should make any open attack. Sheriff Byrd thought there had been no disposition to show harm to the Chinamen in Tacoma, but he was not satisfied that his town would escape trouble should they refuse to go by the 1st of November. A large number of men were taking an active part in the expulsion movement, and should they meet with resistance from the Chinese, trouble would be sure to follow.

But he was sure that a sufficient number of “good substantial citizens among the businessmen of Tacoma” would stand willing and ready to assist him in preserving peace, and he would immediately make a thorough canvass of the city to ascertain how many reliable men he could command in case of emergency. At Whatcom[2] there were but few Chinese, and Sheriff DeLorimer replied that they would soon be gone, and they would go in peace.


Having received these assurances the governor wrote the consul that in his opinion the sheriffs in the principal centers would be so strongly supported by the law-abiding citizens, that they would be able to repress all disorders. “Of course it is possible,” he said, “that an outrage might be committed before the authorities could prevent it, and in the excited state of public feeling, I have privately advised Chinese residents who have waited upon me, that I thought the best policy for them to pursue is to quietly withdraw, if they can do so, until the present period of excitement has passed away.”

The governor had also communicated with the authorities at Washington, and for some days following he kept them thoroughly advised. The consul at San Francisco had also written to the Chinese minster in Washington, and he in turn had applied to the national administration to guarantee the protection of his countrymen. Warned by what had happened at Rock Springs, President Cleveland and his cabinet were anxious to prevent, if possible, a similar outbreak on the Sound, and yet were unwilling to assert the national authority, so long as the territorial and county officials felt confident that they would be able to control the situation. They however, stood ready to send troops from Fort Vancouver[3] to any one of the Sound cities, as soon as advised that it would be necessary, or even urgently desirable.

In reply to inquiries from the secretary of the interior, which were prompted no doubt by the solicitation of the Chinese minster, the governor again communicated with the sheriffs and the municipal authorities, particularly in Pierce and King Counties,[4] notifying them of the anxiety felt in Washington and San Francisco about the situation in their


neighborboods, and asking for more definite information that would enable him to keep the president, and others in authority, thoroughly advised as to the progress of events. To this the sheriff of Pierce County replied that the Knights of Labor in the city of Tacoma, had offered themselves and their services as deputy sheriffs, and he was swearing them in as rapidly as they could be called to his office. He had sworn in fifty deputies in the Puyallup Valley, and “two hundred good substantial citizens of Tacoma had already offered their services,” and he would swear them in at once. He had no doubt he would be able to procure all the assistance necessary, and he assured the governor “that peace will and can be preserved by the civil authorities of our county.” On the same day General Sprague, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Tacoma, wrote that while many were willing to utter incendiary language to frighten the Chinese away, they would not countenance unlawful acts. “The sheriff,” he said, “is both efficient and vigilant, and before the 1st of November, he will have a force of about three hundred reliable deputies sworn in, and be ready for any emergency.” This letter was accompanied by another, sighned by a large number of the most prominent business men of the town, in which they “beg respectfully to say, that in our opinion there will be no occasion whatever for the presence of troops, or the employment of an organized force under the sheriff, and that the sheriff will be able to perserve the peace and enforce the laws.” In this he would be supported by the citizens generally. “We hold ourselves responsible for these assurances,” this letter concluded.

On October 27th, the governor visited Tacoma and addressed a mass meeting of its people, and on the following day received a letter from a prominent resident of that city,


assuring him that “there is not a man in Tacoma who does not fully recognize the difficulty of the position in which you are placed by the prevailing agitation, and the patient good sense with which you have up to the present, met and surmounted that difficulty. The reaction of sentiment in your favor is quite marked. . . . Your visit has set matters right, and there will be no further misunderstanding. Our Chinese are still going, and there will probably be very few left here at the end of this week.”

On the 29th, the governor was invited to attend an anti-Chinese meeting in Tacoma, but being unable to be present he sent a letter saying, that while he sympathized with the American workingmen in their efforts to have the Chinese peacefully go, “the condition distinctly is peace; maintain law and order, and the victory will be yours.”

It was evident enough from all this and from other information received by the governor, that the people of Tacoma were determined the Chinese should go. Many of them seem to have hoped that they would be allowed to go peaceably, but the disturbing element was thoroughly resolved that they should go, and resolved to accelerate their going, in case there was the slightest indication that all would not leave before the time fixed by the declaration of the “anti-Chinese Congress.” It soon became apparent that the sheriff and his deputies were quite in accord with this sentiment.

The plans of the disturbing element had been carefully laid, and while the sheriff was assuring the governor of his ability to preserve the peace, and the law-abiding portion of the community was hopeful, if not confident, that he would do so, the agitators and their followers were prepared for action. On the morning of November 3d, they assembled to


the number of several hundred, and marched to the Chinese quarter, which was located on the waterfront near the Northern Pacific freight yards. They had a number of wagons with them, and as soon as the houses of the Chinamen were reached, their goods were thrown into them, while their owners were assembled in their neighborhood to be marched out of town. The day was cold and rainy. The Chinamen were greatly excited, but none of them offered any resistance. An equal number of children could hardly have been managed more easily. Several of them were old and decrepit; a few were sick, but these were forced out of such shelter as they had, and placed on the wagons with their goods. The stores and places of business such as were engaged in trade, were not disturbed at the time, but as soon as all the houses had been vacated, the evicted celestials, escorted by their tormentors, took up their line of march through the town, and out along Centre Street to Lake View, where the wagons were unceremoniously unloaded, and the owners of such goods as they contained were left on the bleak prairie, to make themselves as comfortable as they might until the following day, and it was reported that two of the sick died meantime from exposure.

On the day following this “peaceable expulsion,” as those who had planned and perpetrated it chose to call it, one of the most active promoters of the trouble wrote the governor as follows: “The Chinamen are no more in Tacoma, and the trouble over them is virtually at an end. Yesterday, they were peaceably escorted out of town, and put upon the freight and passenger trains this morning, the price asked for a special train being too exorbitant.

“The twenty-five or thirty Chinamen who were permitted to remain a day for the purposes of packing and shipping


store goods will leave tomorrow morning. . . . It affords me genuine delight to recall my assurances to you at Olymbpia and here, that the Chinese would get out of Tacoma without any trouble, and point to the denouement in confirmation. Those who predicted differently were partly swayed by their wishes, and greatly underrated the intelligence, character and resolution of the men who worked up the movement, and who were flippantly called ‘rabble’ bu their moral and intellectual inferiors.”

While this letter was being written, or soon therafter, the superior moral and intellectual people referred to were burning the buildings lately occupied by the Chinamen on the water front, and two days later they burned the Chinese stores and residences built on ground leased from the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, some of which appear to have still contained goods of considerable value.

No steps were taken to punish the men who had participated in this riotous proceeding, and they would have been ineffectual had the attempt been made. This encouraged and emboldened the lawless, and turbulent element elsewhere, and forcible, heretofore called “peaceful” expulsions continued in the smaller towns of Pierce, King, Kitsap, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom Counties, until most of the Chinese were driven away.

While thes proceedings were taking place in Tacoma, the governor was advised of what was going on by numerous telegrams from Chinese merchants and others, who appealed to him for assistance. But without the sheriff's support he could do nothing at the time, and it was now apparent, if it had not been so before, that the sheriff was in sympathy with the expulsionists. So far as Tacoma was concerned, all had been done that could bt done, except to burn the


buildings and goods that remained. But it was desirable, if possible, to prevent similar proceedings in other places, and the governor accordingly issued a proclamation warhing all persons against participating in any riot or breach of the peace, and particularly against inciting others to riot, and calling upon all sheriffs and law-abiding citiens generally, to secure the Chinese against assault. The proclamation also contained an appeal to all good citizens to, “array yourselves on the side of the law. This is a time in the history of the territory for an intelligent, law-abiding and propserous community, who love thier contru and their homes, who are blessed with the boundless resources of the forest, field, and mine, and who aspire to become a great and self-governing state, to assert their power of self-control and self-preservation, as against a spirit of lawlessness which is destructive alkit to immigration, to labor and to capital. If you do not protect yourselves you have only to look to the step beyond; which is, simply, the fate of Wyoming and the speedy interference of the United States troops.”

In Seattle the agitation had been carried on during September and October as noisily as in Tacoma, but it did not have the secret or open encouragement of the sheriff as it had in Pierce County, and the law-abiding part of the community took a bolder stand in opposition to it. In order to show the lawless element that it would not be permitted to resort to violence without opposition, a public meeting was called, which was addressed by several speakers, all of whom favored the maintenance of the law, and the preservation of public order. C. H. Hanford, then assistant procecuting attorney, after outlining the dangers of the situation, as he saw it, suggested that the most effective service law-abiding citizens could render at the time, would be by declaring their


purpose to sustain the law, and by pledging themselves to systain the sheriff in maintaining order. The response ot this was prompt and most encouraging, as a large majority of those present rose to their feet and offered to be sworn in as deputies at once. Sheriff McGraw was present and accepted the service tendered. The oath was administered to several hundred resolute men, and the sheriff was then provided with a posse that he could rely upon as subject to his call when needed.

This meeting was held at the Opera house, and the law and order party was fromthat time forth known as “the Opera House Party.” Its moral effect was good, but it did not put a stop to the work of the turbulent element. A grand jury was in session at the time, and in his charge to it Chief Justice Greene had carefully pointed out its duty with regard to persons who might be conspiring to violate the laws. The Chinese who were in this country were entitled to the protection of the laws, and all privileges and immunities under them, equally with all white persons. This protection was pledged to them by solemn treaty stipulations, and any combination whatever, for the purpose of depriving them of this protection, was conspiracy and punishable under the statute.

This charge was published, and was notice to the noisy element that its proceedings were likely to be inquired into if any violence was permitted. It also konw that the sheriff would not be unsupported in case he was required to act, and that he would act if there was need to do so, and this knowledge doubtless helped largely to restrain Seattle's committee of fifteen from immediately following the example set by the Tacoma committee.


Another public meeting was held by the citizens' party on the evening of the day following the publication of the governor's proclamation, and lathough the call for it had been hastily issued, a large number of the most prominent residents and business men of the city were present. Some of the principal agitators were also there and were listened to patiently. All were willing to have the Chinese go. A committee had hastily drawn up a plan for getting rid of them, in a peaceful and lawful way, which it was hoped would be acceptable to everybody, but a majority of those present were resolved to prevent their expulsion by force if there should be a need to do so. Several short but very forcible speeches were made by J. C. Haines, Judge Lewis, and by two speakers repreasenting the turbulent element, who were loudly cheered by their sympathizers who were present. Judge Thomas Burke made the most impassioned speech of the evening. He had long been known as the friend of the oppressed against the oppressor, and up to this time he had been a general favorite among the laboring people, whose cause he had invariably championed, when there had been occasion. But on this occasion they were not in sympathy with him, or fancied they were not. He declared himself as unalterably opposed to riot, at all times, and particularly at the present time when there was no need or cause for it. He would stand for the rule of law, and no other, at all times and in all places. He denounced the proceeding of the mob at Tacoma, and declared that he would rather live under the rule of hte Autocrat of all the Russias, than under that of a dozen or twenty lawless men, who were the worst kind of tyrants.

This declaration was received with hisses and jeers by the noisy element present, and one of their leaders appealed to


them to listen respectfully to what the judge had to say. This offer of assistance the judge resented, coming as it did from one who scarcely had been known to a dozen people in the city before the trouble began. “I need no one to intercede with a Seattle audience for me,” he said. “I know these people, and they will hear me if they hate me. They have no reason to hate me, for I have always been their friend. . . . I am a free man and will preserve my liberty. The question is on the road to a solution, but in order to hasten it you cannot afford to violate the eternal laws of justice. The Chinese want to go, but don't like to be robbed or murdereed. Let the working men of Seattle show to the world that the great principle of justice prevails here. Do not be unjust to a dog or a horse. The Chinamen are here under solemn treaty stipulations, but they are going. It is to our interest to see them go, but not to our interest, but just the opposite, to see one drop of innocent blood spilled, or a single breach of the law.”

Before the meeting closed John Leary reported for the committee of which he was chairman, that the Chinese had agreed to go, and were preparing to do so, but that some of them had a large amount of property which thy wished to dispose of, that one firm being valued at $135,000, while the city owed another $30,000. These wanted to have time to dispose of what they had, and make their collections, and it ought to be granted. As he understood matters the opposition were willing that a reasonable time should be granted for this purpose.

It was hoped that this report, and the evidence given by the meeting that no one was opposing the removal of the Chinese by any lawful means, would pacify the excited element, and that quiet would soon be restored, but the hope

John Leary
[Plate with transparent overlay interleaved between pages 332 and 333]
[Text of overlay]
Born at St. Johns, New Brunswick, in 1836, and during his earlier years he was extensively engaged in the manufacture of lumber and also a dealer in general merchandise as St. Johns. He came to the coast in 1869 and settled in Seattle. In 1871 he was admitted to the bar and was engaged in active practice until 1883, when he retired. In 1884 he was mayor of the city. In 1872 he took a leading part in the explorations of the coal measures in King County, and in opening and developing some of its principal mines. During the remainder of his life he was actively connected with many of the most important enterprises having for their object the development of Seattle and the State.


was not realized. Judge Burke's speech, as it was reported from mouth to mouth, increased the excitement. The estimation in which he had been held by those whom he had so uniformly befriended was, for the time being, completely changed. He was no longer popular with the crowd; instead of praises, and expressions of confidence and esteem, the bitterest denunciations were heard. The peacable part of the community felt alarmed for his safety, but he continued to go about his business as usual, and made no effort to answer his detractors.

During the next two days a home guard was organized under command of Captain George Kinnear,[5] and Governor Squire was urgently advised by telegraph, to have a detachment of Federal troops sent to the city at the earliest moment. “Delay is criminal,” said Sheriff McGraw; “Quickest action possible is necessary” was Judge Greene's dispatch, while ex-Governor Ferry telegraphed, “In my opinion troops should be sent here instanter.” Thus urged the governor sent equally urgent appeals to Washington, and on the 8th, five days after the Chinese had been driven out of Tacoma, General Gibbon arrived from Vancouver with three hundred and fifty soldiers, and took charge of the city. In the presence of this force the riotous element quickly dispersed. The troops remained only nine days and then returned to their barracks on the Columbia.

For the time being the agitation seemed to be at an end. The city was as orderly as it had ever been. Excited crowds were nowhere to be seen on the streets, and the agitators had apparently given up the contest. It could hardly be claimed, in fact, that there was further need for a contest. Chinamen were no longer employed in the mills, mines, factories or by the railroad, and the number of house servants and


common laborers had been greatly reduced. All this had been accomplished without violation of the law, and all classes were seemingly satisfied.

During November fifteen of the most violent among the agitators were indicted, under the so-called Ku-Klux act, upon a charge of conspiracy to deprive the Chinamen of the equal protection of the laws. Their trial consumed eleven days. Al the accused testified in their own defense, and avowed that no act of violence, breach of the peace, or unlawful act had been contemplated by them, and that none would have been committed or countenanced. The contrary could not be proved and their acquittal followed.

But the excitement was not yet over. The committee of fifteen were envious of the work done by the Tacoma committee apparently, and resolved if possible to emulate it. But the experience of some of their number with the law, and the certainty that Federal troops would be sent to suppress disorder if any occurre, made them cautious. They accordingly worked more secretly and bided their time.

The opportunity they waited for seemed to have arrived on Saturday, February 6th, when the Steamer Queen of the Pacific was lying at her dock on the waterfront, preparing to sail for San Francisco on the following day. That evening a meeting wa quietly held in a part of th city where the anti-Chinese sentiment was strongest, at which much was said about the unsanitary condition of the Chinese quarter, and the city ordinance requiring a certain fixed amount of air space in sleeping rooms, in proportion to the number of occupants. It was suggested that the committee of fifteen should inspect the Chinese houses on the following morning, and ascerttain whether this ordinance was properly regarded. Of course none of those present cared how much or how


little air space a sleeping Chinaman would be content with, nor did they care specially about the enforcement of the ordinance in Chinatown. If they had they would have appealed to the constituted authorities to enforce it. What was wanted was a legal pretext for what they were about to do, and this was fixed upon.

Accordingly on the following morning early the committee, followed by a large number of their supporters, went to the Chinese quarter with wagons, and while some of them made inquiries at each house about the number of cubic feet of air per occupant they furnished, others invaded the premises and carried the goods they contained to the wagons. The Chinamen made no attempt at resistance—they knew it would be useless to do so. The police did nothing to stop what was going on, but rather gave it countenance by making no protest when demands were made upon the Chinamen to open their doors.

As soon as Sheriff McGraw was apprised of what was going on he hurried to the scene of th action and commanded the crowd to disperse, but it only laughed and jeered at him and continued its work. He summoned a few of the bystanders, whom he knew and thought he could rely upon, to his assistance, and with their help attempted to put a stop to the work of eviction, but the crowd was too numerous and too determined for his small posse, and as soon as he stopped work at one place it was begun at another. Finally the fire bells were rung as a signal to the home guards to assemble, and they soon appeared, followed a little later by two companies of local militia.

But before this force could be assembled and effectively used about three hundred and fifty Chinamen, and their effects, had been driven or carried to the ocean dock, where


an immense crowd had assembled, some of whom opposed and some encouraged the eviction. Here proceedings were checked for a time by the refusal of the captain to receive any Chinamen on board unless their fares were paid. This was seemingly an unlooked for difficulty, but hats were passed and a collection taken up by which nearly a hundred men were provided with tickets, and they were allowed to go on board.

While this was going on inquiry had been made among the frightened Chinamen by a few men who were determined that the law should not be violated, if it were possible to prevent it, and it was ascertained that while many of them were willing to leave, some did not wish to do so, and on their application a writ of habeas corpus was issued by Judge Greene, and served on the captain, commanding him to bring the Chinamen on hi ship into court next morning at 8 o'clock, for a hearing.

All proceedings were thus checked temporarily. The difficulty now was to protect the Chinamen from violence and prevent a riot, and this promised to be no easy matter. The streets were filled with excited people, large numbers of whom had hurried to town from all parts of the surrounding country, as the news had spread that the war on the Chinese had begun again. Among these were many turbulent characters who had no interest in the welfare of the city, and whould have been glad to see it at the mercy of a mob. These were all opposed to the Chinese, and joined loudly in denouncing the officers of the law and all others who were not encouraging riotous proceedings.

Toward evening matters quieted down considerably. The streets were patrolled by the militia, and the soldiers not on duty were held at their several quarters ready for service. The authorities spent the night in preparing to resist any


violence on the morrow. Governor Squire telegraphed to General Gibbon that a serious conflict between the civil authorities and the mob was probably, and requeted that troops be sent at once from Port Townsend. But the general could not act without authority from Washington and so replied. A message was then sent to the president, fully advising him as to the troubled condition of affairs and urging prompt intervention. Judge Greene also telegraphed the president that in his opinion the occasion was one requiring the suspension of the wirt of habeas corpus, and a declaration of martial law. If the governor could not enforce martial law, which he doubted, the situation might be controlled by the courts and the militia without bloodshed, and without the aid of the regular army. The case was one that required “the sudden supervention of a strong governmental power.”

About midnight an attempt was made to put some Chinese on a train, which was to leave at 4. a. m. and run them off to Portlan, but the train was guarded by the military, and was sent out ahead of time. About the same time a company of Home Guards was sent to the dock, where the anti-Chinese committee was watching the Chinamen, and drove them away. Members of the guard were stationed at all the approaches to the dock to prevent a return of the agitation, and after that all was peaceable till morning.

During the night warrants had been prepared for some of the ringleaders and eight of them were arrested next morning and taken to jail. A prompt hearing was given them, bail was furnished and they were released.

Then at 8 o'clock Sheriff McGraw, with an escort of the Home Guards and the two militia companies, brought the Chinamen, eight-five[6] in number, into court, which was then held in the old city hall, at Third Avenue and Yesler Way.


The agitators were taken by surprise, and the crowd in the streets and about the courthouse, at first was not very large, but it steadily increased, and the streets about the building were soon thronged with an angry mob, but no attempts at interference were made, as the crowd was held back from the courthouse by the armed guards.

Arrived in the court room Judge Greene explained to the Chinamen that while the poeple wished them to go, they were, under law, entitled to remain if they wished to do so, and they would be protected in doing so. Each Chinaman was then asked by name, whether he wished to go or remain, and all but sixteen of the eighty-five declared they wished to go. This closed the inquiry and the party was escorte back to the ship by the sheriff's guard. The trip was made without serious incident, and when the dock was reached all that wished to do so went on board, their fare having been paid by subscription, but when 196 had been received, Capt. Alexander announced that he could not legally take any more. This left about 100 on the dock, whose fares had been collected and who wished to go. After considerable discussion it was agreed that they should be taken by the next steamer, but as this would not sail for several days, and as the Chinamen could not be held on the dock meantime, it was resolved to escort them back to the quarters from which they had been driven on the day previous.

This was certain to be both a difficult and dangerous undertaking. The sheriff had only the Home Guards, a small company numbering not more than forty men, and a smaller company of cadets from the university to assist him, but putting the guargs in advance and the cadets in the rear, with the trembling celestials between them, the return march was begun up Main Street toward First Avenue. The


street was thronged but not crowded, but it soon became apparent that the crowd was assembling from all directions. It was not generally known, nor was it possible to make it known, that an arrangement had been made to send the people under guard, out ot the city by the next steamer, and that they were only being returned to their quarters temporarily, because there was no other place they could stay. The crowd seemed to think they were being returned to the place from which it had driven them, to remain there. Consequently as the march proceeded the crowd rapidly became larger and uglier. When First Avenue was reached it was found to be packed with an excited multitude for several squares[7] in either direction. Main Street beyond it was equally crowded. All were shouting and many were in a state bordering on frenzy.

By the time the advance of the guards had reached the middle of First Avenue, it was necessar to push this howling mass from their front, in order to advance, and at the East line of the street some of the crowd pressed through the line and turned the Chinamen back, but the cadets were behind them, preventing their retreat, and so they could only march around in a circle like so many frightened sheep. It was impossible to move them forward, and so a halt was called and a line of guards formed across the streets, making a sort of square within which were the Chinese who were now so thoroughly frightened as to be helpless. There were several old soldiers among the guards, who had seen danger before, and all acted with great coolness.[8] At the order given their guns were loaded with ball cartridges, but no demonstration was made about using them. Sheriff McGraw marched up and down in front of the line, commanding the crowd to disperse, and warning everybody not to interfere with the officers


of the law in the discharge of their sworn duty, but the crowd only jeered at and defied him. Some of the noisier members now urged the other to make a rush on the guards and disarm them, but a mob is not easily moved to united action until success is certain. Then it becomes furiously bold. It was so in this case. It was not until the guards had held their position for some seconds—perhaps minutes, that a few of the bolder members of the mob gained courage to make something like a rush. Even then it was not a united effort made all along the line, but furtive attacks made in only one or two places. One of the first of these was directed at E. M. Carr, afterwards brigadier general of militia, but then only a private in the Home Guard. It was a most unfortunate selection for those who made it, for Carr was stoutly built and as courageous as strong. He disposed of one or two of the first who approached him, with his fist, but when others joined in the attack he clubbed his rifle and laid the nearest rioter at full length across the street. This discouraged others in the neighborhood and for a time Carr was left alone.

While he was thus engaged the attack became more general along the line, and some of the guards, no one knows how many, began firing. No order to fire was given, but the rioters were rapidly becoming so aggressive, that the guards or some of them, apparently believed they must use their guns or be overpowered. At the first fire one of the noisiest and most aggressive rioters, a man named Stewart, fell mortally wounded, and several others were hurt. Stewart was a large powerfully built mann and, although mortally wounded tried again and again to rise, at the same time cursing the guards and calling upon the mob to attack them. But they could not be encouraged to do so, and while they delayed the


two militia companies arrived, and thus reënforced the guards were able to hold their ground until the mob gradually dispersed and permitted them to escort the Chinamen to their quarters. But this was not done until nearly an hour later, during most of which time the soldiers stood with their rifles cocked and ready to fire at the first indication of an attack.

During the shooting a charge of buckshot was fired from the west end of the line into the side of the New England Hotel, at the northwest corner of First Avenue and Main Street, tearing a hole nearly as large as the crown of a man's head in the clapboards. Judge Burke held a place with a double-barreled shotgun in this part of the line, and it was for a long time charged that he fired the shot that made the hole, though it was afterwards proved that his gun was not discharged during the fighting. But somebody drew a mark around the hole and labeled it “Burke's mark,” and it remained there for a long time afterwards.

The man Stewart seems to have had no part in the agitation, and no relations with the agitators, until he appeared in the mob on First Avenue on the day he was wounded. He was not a resident of Seattle, but had come to town that morning to see the excitement, and like one who “passeth by and meddleth with strife not his own,” he had fallen into trouble from which there was no escape. He and the others who had been wounded were carried to express wagons, by which they were taken to the hospital. Stewart died on the following day, but all the others recovered.

Finding that the guards would shoot, and shoot to kill, the rioters could not again fet up courage to make a second attack, but they remained for a long time to hurl impotent abuse at the militia, the guards and the Chinese. Then some of them bethought themselves to invoke the law in their


own behalf, and warrants were sworn out for Judge Burke, Rev. L. A. Banks, E. M. Carr, Frank Hanford and David H. Webster, on a charge of shooting with intent to kill. The intention was to accuse C. H. Hanford, who was then assistant United States attorney, and had been among the foremost in upholding the law from the beginning of the agitation. He had been detained at the wharf in arranging some matter with Captain Alexander in regard to the Chinamen he had already taken on board, and did not reach First Avenue until the shooting was over. He then, at the sheriff's solicitation, did what he could with the others, to keep the crowd from pressing too closely upon the guards, and so provoking another volley. He describes the scene as one of intense excitement. Several of the rioters were doing their best to encourage others to make an attack, but not one of them offered to lead it. They were particularly ugly toward Judge Burke. “Look at him,” they cried, “with that double-barreled shotgun and both barrels cocked. He'll hurt somebody yet.” It was in fact extremely probable that he might hurt somebody, though it happened happily that there was no occasion to do so.

The five warrants which the mob had procured from a justice of the peace, were not served until the guards reached the courthouse. A single constable came to make the arrests, and he had considerable difficulty in finding the Hanford he was after. He met Judge Hanford, who had been stationed with a gun to guard the courthouse door, but did not recognize him, and finally selected a third brother, A. Elwood. This mistake was soon discovered and Frank Hanford, for whom the warrant called was arrested.

When the constable was about to start with his five prisoners for the justice court, it began to be apparent that he


could never take them there alive, and a general protest was made against the attempt. The streets were still filed with the rioters. It was almost certain that one officer could not defend five prisoners, who were now marked as being under arrest, as the persons charged with shooting Stewart, and the others who had been wounded. Burke, Banks and Carr were particularly hated for the time being. Once in the street under arrest and without sufficient protection, they were likely to be torn limb from limb. But the constable was a broad-shouldered and very resolute man, and quite confident of his ability to escort them in safety. The prisoners, particularly Burke, were quite willing to go. “I have been preaching submission to the law,” said he. “The time has come to submit, and I shall do so.”

But before a start was made news came down from an upper room in the courthouse, where Governor Squire had been in consultation for some hours, with Judge Greene, W. H. White the United States Attorney, Colonel Granville O. Haller, and other prominent citizens, that martial law had been declared, adn the functions of all civil officers throughout the city suspended. He had also been in telegraphi communication with the president, and General Gibbon, and had been encouraged to believe that his proclamation would be sustained by the national authorities, as it was. A staff was promptly organized, the necessary orders issued, and within an hour or two the city was completely under the control of the militia. On the evening of the 10th General Gibbon arrived with ten companies of United States troops, and they remained for several months, until the excitement had entirely passed.

While the excitement was at its height in Seattle, the Chinese were driven out of several towns in King, Pierce and


Snohomish Counties. An agitation was started in Olympia to expel them from that place, but the prompt action of N. H. Owings, who had then been secretary of the territory for several years, and of Sheriff Billings, prevented any riotous disturbance. A company of about 150 of the law-abiding citizens was organized, the command of which was given to Captain William McMicken, whose long service during the civil war peculiarly fitted him to use such force to good purpose. Some of the riotously inclined know that he was not a man to be trifled with, and the agitation was soon dropped.

The five men for whom warants were sworn out on the day of the rioting in Seattle, were subsequently arrested on a charge of murder in the first degree, but they were never tried. The agitators fought stubbornly to have them sent to jail, but even this was not done. They were admitted to bail, which all readily furnished, and they were not afterwards called upon to answer further. The bitter feeling against them, or some of them, continued for a long time, although their sole offense was that they had done what they could to preserve the peace, uphold the law, and save the multitude from injuring themselves. This hatred and bitterness was shown in various ways. A shot was fired through one of the windows of Judge Hanford's house one evening, but fortunately no one was injured by it. Judge Burke's landlord was notified that he must no longer rent his building to him, or it would be blown up with dynamite. All were more or less annoyed by vicious remarks as they passed through the streets, but they did not permit themselves to notice these stupid insults, and in time they were heard no longer.

Most of the leaders of this vicious agitation, particularly in Tacoma and Seattle, had no permanent interest in these cities. They were mere transients, or if they had hoped to

William McMicken
[Plate with transparent overlay interleaved between pages 344 and 345]
[Text of overlay]
For nearly sixteen years the surveyor-general of Washington territory and state. He was born at Youngstown, N. Y., January 1, 1827. In 1854 removed to Dodge County, Minnesota, and at the commencement of the Civil war raised a company for the Tenth Minnesota Regiment, of which he was elected first lieutenant, and finally became its captain. He served in the western army under Schofield, Rosencrans and Thomas, and in the Department of the Gulf under Canby. He came to Washington in the employ of the Northern Pacific, and helped to build the line from Kalama to the Sound. Was appointed surveyor-general in 1873, and was reappointed by Presidents Hayes and Arthur. He was territorial treasurer from 1886 and 1887, when he was again appointed surveyor-general by President McKinley, and held the office until his death in 1899. He was long prominently identified with the Masonic order, the G. A. R. and Loyal Legion.


make permanent homes in either city, the hope was soon abandoned, and they moved on to new fields where less was known about them. The names of the committees of fifteen are now scarcely remembered. One member of the Tacoma committee when last heard from, was reported to be working for a Chinaman in Honolulu.

Wikisource notesEdit

  1. That is, Puget Sound.
  2. Now Bellingham, Washington.
  3. Now Vancouver, Washington.
  4. The counties containing Tacoma and Seattle, respectively.
  5. Author:George Kinnear; Kinnear, in his own writing on the events, explicitly contradicts Snowden on quite a few points, especially about the events in the streets in early February, especially Snowden's account of the attack on the Guards.
  6. Presumably "eighty-five", but the published text reads "eight-five".
  7. Presumably "squares" = "blocks".
  8. The following passage is singled out by Kinnear as inaccurate. He writes:

    The fact is, the Guards to the number of about 80 men, with loaded guns, moved from the dock to Commercial Street (First Ave.) in close column, the men all in their places. A simultaneous attack was made to take from us our guns from the front to the middle of the column. Our march was not checked till attacked.

    Carr was not alone. He was with the column and was not left alone till the column was.

    The Guards has loaded their guns before they left their quarters.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924. It may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain).