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Site of the Ocean Dock


In early February, 1886, an armed mob rounded up most of the 350 Chinese residents in Seattle who remained after weeks of previous threats and attempted to force them onto the steamer Queen of the Pacific. The Captain of the Queen refused to let anyone on board without a proper fare, so the mob, having been given no choice, began collecting money from their ranks.


In the meantime, a Chinese resident convinced Judge R. S. Green to file a writ of habeas corpus, stating that many of the local Chinese were subjects of the Emperor of China and were being unlawfully detained.  That night the Chinese were held in a warehouse on the dock overnight. The local sheriff, John McGraw, had the foresight to deputize a militia numbering at least 100 men, and many of them spent the night at the dock guarding the Chinese against any harm.


By the next morning the leaders of the mob had collected enough money to pay the fares of 196 Chinese. Although a judge informed the Chinese immigrants that they had a right to stay in Seattle, every one of them knew fully well what had recently taken place in Rock Springs and other cities. 


Afraid for their lives and with only the clothes on their backs, many Chinese lined up to get on the ship and away from Seattle. The Queen sailed for San Francisco that day with a full load of passengers.


Sheriff McGraw convinced the leaders of the mob to allow the remaining Chinese to return to their homes until the next steamer arrived. Unfortunately, by that time another large crowd has assembled, and they were not happy to see the Chinese begin to leave the dock and head toward their homes.

Sources: Chin, Hildebrand, Kinnear, Pfaelzer, Wilcox, Wynne, local newspapers


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About this site: Both newspaper and official reports state that the Chinese were held overnight in a warehouse on the Ocean Dock. The location of the dock is well documented on both early city maps and in old photographs. The original dock was built entirely of wood and extended out approximately where the current ferry dock is shown in this photograph. The brass plaque is an historical marker that points to the location of the Yesler Dock, which predated the Ocean Dock. It does not mention anything about the incident in 1886.

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