Site of the Chinese Hanging Tree

 

On September 10, 1885, residents of the small town of Pierce, Idaho, were shocked to find the body of storekeeper D. M. Fraser. According to newspaper reports, he had been "shot and chopped to pieces in his own store."

 

Locals immediately suspected Lee Kee Nam, a Chinese merchant who had opened up a store in direct competition with Fraser. Vigilantes captured Lee Kee Nam and his business partner, and by various threats (including hanging the store owner until he passed out) they coerced the two into incriminating each other over Fraser's murder.

Not satisfied with the coerced claims the vigilantes also rounded up three other Chinese men and handed all five of them over to the local deputy sheriff. There are no accounts of how the other three men were alleged to have been involved.

 

On September 18th, the deputy sheriff and a small posse rode out of town with the Chinese prisoners, with the intent of taking them to county seat at Murray. Just a few miles outside of Pierce, they were stopped by a large group of masked and armed men, who took the posse's weapons and ordered them to leave the prisoners and go back to town.

 

A makeshift gallows was created by lashing a pole between two trees, and all five of the Chinese men were hanged on the spot. The local newspaper reported when the sheriff's posses returned they found that the pole between the trees had broken but had been lashed to a center post, leading them to conclude that the Chinese must have been hanged twice before they finally died.

 

A perfunctory investigation of the original murder took place the following year at the request of the Governor, and it quickly concluded that the Chinese were the guilty parties. No one was every charged with the murders of the Chinese.

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Sources: Owens, Wegers, Zhu

About this site:The site of the hanging is now officially called Idaho State Historical Site #307, the Chinese Hanging Tree. It is along State Highway 11 at Mile Point 27.5, just south of Pierce.

Pierce

© 2017 Tim Greyhavens. All rights reserved.

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