General Area of the Lemm Ranch Chinese Cabin
In mid-February, 1877, arsonists set fire to the businesses of several white people who had employed or rented property to Chinese. A few weeks later a small group of white men went to a cabin on the Lemm Ranch where Chinese workers were living and ruthlessly shot six men there at point-blank range. Three died immediately.
Although badly wounded, a man named Wo Ah Lin survived by feigning death. After the white men left he tended to the two other wounded men who were still alive and then made his way into town to get help. One of the survivors died the next morning, but Wo Ah Lin and another man named Ah Shung eventually recovered.
After the murders several fires were set in Chico's Chinatown, but the residents managed to put them out before they spread.
Weeks later twenty-nine men were arrested for the murders and the arson. A grand jury dismissed the charges against eight of the men, but four pleaded guilty to the murders. A determined prosecutor managed to make arson charges hold against six more men, and they were found guilty at a trial. This was one of the few times that anyone actually was convicted of crimes against the Chinese.
In 1881 local citizens demanded pardons for all of the convicted men. California Governor George Perkins, who the previous year had declared a legal holiday for the purposes attending anti-Chinese demonstrations, shortened the sentences of all of the men to the time they had served already and released them.
Small fires continued to be set in Chinatown and in places where Chinese were employed for the next two years. In 1886 multiple fires broke out simultaneously in Chinatown, and the entire area burned to the ground. Many Chinese left the area after that.
About this site: The approximate site of the Lemm Ranch cabin where the Chinese men were murdered was documented by Steven Morris, who was a student of former Chico State University Professor Michele Shover. Dr. Shover has done extensive research into the history of Chinese immigrants in Chico, and I am deeply indebted to her for sharing part of her knowledge with me.