Author Nokes to discuss book at LCSC on Oct. 2
Author R. Gregory Nokes will discuss and read from his new book “Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon” on Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. at Sacajawea Hall on the Lewis-Clark State College campus.
The event is free and open to the public.
Nokes, a former newspaper reporter and editor who resides in West Linn, Ore., will present a slide slow about the 1887 massacre of as many 34 Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon. His book probes into the massacre on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon at Deep Creek, now officially named Chinese Massacre Cove.
The book traces the author’s journey in digging out the facts of the crime, including breaking through the reluctance of two long-time residents of Wallowa County to tell what they knew. Nokes also steps back to explain why Chinese immigrated to the Pacific Northwest, what they did, how they were treated, and what became of them.
According to Nokes, the massacre is believed to be the worst of the many crimes committed by whites against the approximately 300,000 Chinese, most of them poor, who emigrated to the American West in search of work in the second half of the 19th century. Along with gold mining, the Chinese helped build the new railroads spanning the West.
While no one was convicted of the massacre, evidence pointed to an improbable gang of seven rustlers and schoolboys, one only 15 years old. All were from northeastern Oregon’s rugged Wallowa country, according to Nokes.
Nokes said one of the ringleaders was quoted as citing patriotism as a motive for the killings: “We’d be getting ourselves some gold, and we’d be doing our country a favor by getting rid of the Chinamen.’’ The crime wasn’t discovered until bodies surfaced near Lewiston after floating 65 miles down the Snake River. The Chinese miners had set out from Lewiston months earlier.
Six men and boys were charged with the murders after gang member Frank Vaughan, son of a well-known settler family, confessed and turned state’s evidence. Three gang members—the probable ringleaders—fled, while three others were found innocent by a jury. One witness said the jury had little interest in convicting anyone for killing a Chinese. A cover-up followed, and the crime was all but forgotten for the next 100 years, until a county clerk in Oregon’s Wallowa County uncovered long-forgotten records of the crime in an unused safe.
Prior to his presentation at Lewis-Clark College, Nokes will sign books at …and BOOKS, too!, located at 1037 21st Street in Lewiston, at 4-5 p.m.
Nokes has more than 40 years experience in journalism, including time with The Medford Mail Tribune, The Associated Press and The Oregonian. While with The Associated Press, he served as a correspondent in Latin America and a diplomatic correspondent in Washington, D.C. Among his travels were three trips to China.
After retiring from journalism in 2003, Nokes embarked on a second career as a lecturer and author.
Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon is published by Oregon State University Press. For more information, go to: www.rgregorynokes.com
The event is sponsored by the LCSC Humanities Division, the LCSC President’s Diversity Commission and … and BOOKS, too!