General Area of the Chinese Community

 

On Saturday, June 4, 1892, a mob described as several hundred men marched through the streets of Bonners Ferry with the intent of ridding the town of all of its Chinese residents. For months the editor of the local newspaper, The Kootenai Herald, had been haranguing his readers about the "most objectionable class of people that can infest any community."

 

The editor, S. D. Taylor, spared no words in his diatribes against the Chinese:

 

"With their loathsome diseases, their criminal habits and practices, with their miserly propensities, with their practice of sending all their wealth back to China, and with their general blighting influence on a community, they are a curse to our town and -- will the public do it?"

 

Since the only known accounts of what happened on June 4th come from Taylor's newspaper, there is no record that he actually took part in the events of that day. However, it is clear he incited the crowd to do his bidding.

 

The crowd went to every Chinese business and residence in the area and told the people there they had to leave town in two hours. Guards stayed with the Chinese while they packed as many belonging as possible. Proprietors of laundries were allowed to stay for another day in order to settle up business, almost all of which would have been with the white residents of the town.

 

While the Chinese had been given no advance notice, it was evident that some planning had gone into the event. A special train was waiting at the station just to haul away the Chinese, and as soon as their luggage was on board they, too, were forced onto the train and taken away. There is no record of where the train went or what happened to the people on board.

 

In the next edition of the newspaper, Taylor wrote:

 

"The whole affair was done quietly and expeditiously. No one was hurt. They were given plenty of time to pack up...John Chinaman is gone and this ends the chapter."

 

Records indicate that it's possible that some Chinese never left the city or that others returned rather quickly. Two months later a lease for a new laundry was signed by a man named Soo Wah, who had run another laundry before the June expulsion.

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Sources: Wegers, Zhu, local newspapers

About this site: At the time of the expulsion a small island and slough were directly to the east of Bonners Ferry. On the other side of the slough was an area known as Eatonville, where most of the Chinese lived. A plank walkway and bridge connected the two areas. The slough was filled in sometime in the mid-20th century, and the area known as Eatonville was incorporated into the City of Bonners Ferry. Howard Kent of the Bonners Ferry Historical Society identified the area around this now abandoned school as the most likely site where the Chinese once lived.

Bonners Ferry

© 2020 Tim Greyhavens. All rights reserved.

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