Coal was very important for the operation of the railroad. And because of that, many railroads controlled their supply of coal by owning the coal-mining operations. One such mining operation owned by the Union Pacific Railroad was located in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
 
In 1885, the miners were trying to unionize. In order to break their efforts, the Union Pacific brought in Chinese laborers to work the mines. The Chinese were hard workers, but they neither understood the concept of unionizing, nor were they interested.
 
Frustrated, on September 2, the striking miners decided to strike out at the easiest and most visual target they could find. About 150 miners descended upon the Chinatown area of Rock Springs, with the objective of chasing the Chinese out of the area. When the miners started approaching, most of the Chinese abandoned their businesses and homes, and hid in the hills. Unfortunately, not everyone made it. Without weapons to defend themselves, 28 Chinese were killed, and 15 others wounded.
 
A week later, the U. S. Military arrived and escorted the remaining Chinese back from the hills. Many of them returned to the mines. Even though the identity of the participating miners was known, the local authorities took no legal action against them. However, the Union Pacific did fire 45 miners for their part in the massacre.
 
This was but one of a number of violent events that took place throughout the West. It was symptomatic of the hatred of the Chinese that three years earlier had resulted in the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited further Chinese immigration into the United States. Incidentally, the Chinese Exclusion Act remained the law until World War II when China joined on the side of the Allies.

Filed under: Old West History

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