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2011      -     1885

 
 

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Eureka: Two Views of the former Eureka Chinatown

Eureka is known as the place where the "peaceful" expulsions began. It was here for the first time white citizens of a town decided to force all of the Chinese residents to leave. This was seen as a "decent" and "humane" alternative to the riots and attacks against Chinese that had taken place elsewhere.

While anti-Chinese racism had been simmering in Eureka for many years, the atmosphere of the town changed overnight due to an unfortunate accident. During the fall and winter of 1884-85, increasing violence between rival Chinese tongs had troubled the residents of Eureka. On the evening of February 6, 1885, gunfire erupted between two tongs, and Eureka City Councilman David Kendall was accidentally shot and killed when he walked between two Chinese men who were shooting at each other from opposite sides of the street. Police arrested one of the Chinese men and took him to jail, but a crowd of more than 600 men soon gathered and threatened to lynch the prisoner and other Chinese who were thought to be involved.

The mayor intervened, and a committee was appointed to find a less violent end to the situation. The solution proposed by the committee was to order all Chinese residents out of town within 24 hours. Soon representatives of the committee went throughout the town and surrounding ranches informing all Chinese to pack up and be prepared to leave the next day. In the meantime, the Sheriff asked for the local militia to mobilize in order to prevent a riot from breaking out overnight.

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About this site: The Humboldt County Historical Society in Eureka has a photograph in their collection, dated 1885, that was taken at the intersection of 4th and E Streets by an unknown photographer. This is the exact place where David Kendall was killed. The block on the right side of the photograph was the main Chinese community in Eureka. The downtown street names and locations have not changed since the time of the expulsion, so I was able to match the location of the photograph with the same intersection today.

The 1885 photograph is reproduced here with permission of the Humboldt County Historical Society.

GPS: 40 48' 09.51" N, 124 10' 01.97" W

 
       
    tim greyhavens photography