The Rock Springs Massacre

On September 2, 1885, a mob of white coal miners attacked their Chinese co-workers (both groups were employed by the Union Pacific Coal Company) in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory, over a dispute on who had the right to work in a particularly lucrative area of the mine. The violence occurred after Chinese workers refused to participate in a strike for higher wages planned by the American miners. Twenty-eight Chinese were killed and fifteen were wounded; seventy-nine homes were set ablaze. The bodies of many of the dead and wounded were thrown into the flames. Several hundred Chinese workers were chased out of town and fled to the surrounding hills. Property damage was estimated at $150,000.

A week later, federal troops escorted Chinese laborers back to the mines. After restoring order, the troops remained at Rock Springs until 1898. Although the federal government had refused responsibility for actions in a territory, President Grover Cleveland requested that Congress indemnify the Chinese for their loss of property and Congress complied.

The Rock Springs massacre (also known as the Rock Springs riot) occurred on September 2, 1885 in the present-day United States (U.S.) city of Rock Springs, Wyoming, in Sweetwater County. The riot, between Chinese immigrant miners and white, mostly immigrant, miners, was the result of racial tensions and an ongoing labor dispute over the Union Pacific Coal Department's policy of paying Chinese miners lower wages than white miners. When the rioting ended, at least 28 Chinese miners were dead and 15 were wounded. Rioters burned 75 Chinese homes resulting in approximately US$150,000 in property damage.

Tension between whites and Chinese immigrants in the late 19th century American West was particularly high, especially in the decade preceding the violence. The massacre in Rock Springs was the violent outburst of years of anti-"coolie" sentiment in the United States. The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act suspended Chinese immigration for ten years, but not before thousands of immigrants came to the American West.