Snake River Massacre Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The Snake River massacre represents one of the most vicious acts of brutality against Chinese immigrants in U.S. history.

In May of 1887, Chinese gold miners working along the Snake River in Oregon were brutally attacked and murdered by a band of horse thieves. Although robbery appeared to have been their murderers’ primary motive, the viciousness of the attack and the subsequent failure to bring the perpetrators to justice are generally attributed to the racial bias harbored against Chinese immigrants in the western states and territories during the late nineteenth century.Snake River MassacreChinese immigrants;Snake River MassacreOregon;Snake River MassacreSnake River MassacreChinese immigrants;Snake River MassacreOregon;Snake River Massacre[cat]ASIAN IMMIGRANTS;Snake River Massacre[cat]VIOLENCE;Snake River Massacre[cat]EVENTS AND MOVEMENTS;Snake River Massacre

Details of the incident have never been fully uncovered, in part because of the event’s remoteness and the harshness of the location where the murders occurred. However, at least one scholar suggests that a cover-up also took place. What is known is that possibly as many as thirty-four Chinese miners from several small camps on the Snake River were murdered and whatever gold they had was stolen. An investigation paid for by a member of the Chinese Chinese Six CompaniesSix Companies uncovered the names of the seven attackers. All seven were indicted, but the three ringleaders were never caught. Of the four remaining attackers, one turned state’s evidence and was not tried, and the other three were acquitted, leaving little doubt that prejudice and discrimination played a role in the outcome of this event.Snake River MassacreChinese immigrants;Snake River MassacreOregon;Snake River Massacre

Further Reading
  • Nokes, R. Gregory. “’A Most Daring Outrage’: Murder at Chinese Massacre Cove, 1887.” Oregon Historical Quarterly 107, no. 3 (2006): 326-353.
  • Stratton, David H. “The Snake River Massacre of Chinese Miners, 1887.” In A Taste of the West: Essays in Honor of Robert G. Ahearn, edited by Duane A. Smith. Boulder, Colo.: Pruett Publishing, 1983.

Anti-Chinese movement

California gold rush

Chinese immigrants

Chinese Six Companies

Foreign miner taxes


Categories: History