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Site of the Original Chinatown


On the night on September 15, 1903, a group of at least 30 men from the Labor Union marched into Tonopah's Chinatown and ordered the residents to leave within 24 hours. A few hours later a smaller group began breaking into every Chinese-occupied house. They pistol-whipped anyone who resisted and ransacked the homes while searching for money and other valuables. Many Chinese reported losses of cash, gold and other prized possessions.


Some of the more prominent Chinese merchants were marched out of town and beaten, then left to find their way back. In the morning it was discovered that one of the merchants did not return. The next day his corpse was found with a deep hatchet blow on his forehead and wounds all over his body. The man, Zhang Bingliang, had lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years.


Many of the Chinese and several white residents of the town came forth to identify those who took part in the riot, and 17 men were initially arrested. After a preliminary hearing, only six men were charged with assault and murder. They quickly stood trial, but despite the eyewitness accounts of several Chinese and white men a verdict of "not guilty" was returned after little more than one hour.


Although the violence in Tonopah was one of many examples of injustice from the Chinese perspective, the Tonopah community was more cordial to some of the Chinese in town after the riot. Many of the Chinese who were victims of the riot stayed in Tonopah for several years, and some remained there until their deaths. In contrast, the 1910 census manuscript does not list any of the arrested rioters.

Sources: Chung, Lai, Summerhil, Central Nevada Museum

About this site: Tonopah's Chinese community was located in this wash about a half-mile away from the center of town. The exact location was identified by Allen Metscher, Director of the Central Nevada Museum in Tonopah. In the 1990s a developer bought the site and bulldozed all of the remnants that remained. The proposed development never happened. Today all that remains is a flat open area with no indication that anyone ever lived there.

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