Site of the Chinese Laundries
In 1893 a serious economic depression plagued much of the United States. Although the problems were caused primarily by railroad overbuilding, out-of-work farmers and others in and near La Grande blamed their woes on the Chinese in their community. On September 24th, 1893, a crowd of estimated at about 200 armed Caucasians marched to the Chinese quarters of the city, and, after looting the laundries and other stores there, they ordered the Chinese to leave the city.
Approximately 50 Chinese packed up their remaining belongings and prepared to leave town. Another group of armed men went to local farms where Chinese laborers were employed as hop pickers and rounded up another 15 to 20 Chinese. They were brought back to town and taken to the local railroad station with the others. Some left on the next train, but the majority hiked out of town and set up a camp on the Grand Ronde river about four miles away.
That night fires broke out in several Chinese laundries and homes, and many buildings were destroyed. The next day another group of local men went to the Chinese camp on the river and forced the people there to leave the area. Law enforcement officers finally regained control of the city, and fifty-three of the agitators from the mob were arrested. They were given a short trial, and all were found not guilty by a jury of their peers.
Within a few years, many Chinese returned to La Grande and a smaller community existed there for several decades.
About this site: An 1893 Sanborn Fire Map of the city, found at the Eastern Oregon University Library, shows several Chinese laundries and dwellings along Adams Avenue. By overlaying that map with one of the current city, I was able to determine the exact location where these buildings once stood.