OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

New OSU Press book examines 1887 massacre of Chinese in Oregon

10/21/2009

CORVALLIS, Ore. – One of the bloodiest incidents in Oregon history – the massacre of more than 30 Chinese laborers in a crime that was never solved – is receiving a fresh look in a new book written by a veteran journalist and published by the Oregon State University Press.

Author R. Gregory Nokes delves into the details of the atrocity and unearths evidence pointing to a gang of rustlers and schoolboys as the killers in his book, “Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon.”

In 1887, as many as 34 Chinese gold miners were slaughtered on the Oregon side of the Snake River’s Hell’s Canyon in what is considered one of the most heinous of numerous crimes committed against the estimated 300,000 immigrants from China who arrived in this country during the latter half of the 19th century. Only 11 of the victims were identified; the others died anonymously – many without graves.

“(Massacred for Gold) should be required reading in the American West,” said bestselling author Jim Lynch.

Nokes traveled the world as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press and also worked at The Oregonian, where he first wrote about the incident in 1995. As he expanded his research, he contributed an article on the massacre to the Oregon Historical Quarterly in 2006 and his reporting led to the formal designation of the massacre site as Chinese Massacre Cove.

His meticulous research of old records and newspaper accounts uncovers a trail of accusations and cover-ups, according to Micki Reaman of the OSU Press.

“The book traces the author’s long personal journey to expose details of the massacre and its aftermath,” Reaman said, “and to understand how the crime was for so long lost to history.”

Barry Lopez, a noted author and editor, said “Massacred for Gold” provides a local and national context for the murders and the subsequent lack of justice.

“It…makes it clear why all the young murderers went free,” Lopez writes. “Nokes describes two tragedies then, one of rapacity, the other of a community’s willful denial of its past. Nokes’ book, therefore, is an act of citizenship as much as it is a commendable work of history.”

The paperback retails for $18.95 and is available in bookstores, by calling 1-800-426-3797, or by ordering online at http://oregonstate.edu/dept/press

Author Nokes will read from his book at several forthcoming events:

  • Portland – Friday, Oct. 23, at Powell’s Books, 7:30 p.m.
  • Redmond, Ore. – Friday, Nov. 27, Paulina Springs Books, 6:30 p.m.
  • Sunriver – Saturday, Nov. 28, Sunriver Books and Music, 5 p.m.
  • Portland – Sunday, Dec. 6, Oregon Historical Society (time TBA)
  • Portland – Jan. 28, Friends of Mystery, Terwilliger Plaza, 5 p.m.

Information about other appearances, and the massacre, are available on Nokes’ website at: http://www.rgregorynokes.com/