The Chinese at Coal Creek

History is never finished and done, in the past.  The writing of history brings new revelations about the history that may not yet have been told, that has been intentionally neglected, usually the more shameful events from the past.  When I wrote about the Coal Creek Trail in Hiking Washington’s History, I knew there were Chinese miners at this site in a Seattle suburb, but I did not know the full story.

R. Gregory Nokes writes about the burning of the homes of 49 Chinese miners near the Coal Creek mines in 1885 in his book Massacred for Gold.  The book also recounts the killing of more than 30 Chinese gold miners on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon in 1887.  The source of the information about Coal Creek is a Statement of Claims prepared by Chang Yen Hoon, the head of the Chinese legation in Washington, D.C.  Chang sought compensation for various acts of violence against Chinese immigrants in the U.S., including losses of $4,054.88 from the Coal Creek Mine in Washington Territory.

That wasn’t the first such incident at Newcastle.  In 1876, 40 Chinese mine workers were driven from the same mines, according to a coal miner who wrote to his wife:  “The miners at the Seattle mine [at Newcastle] drove all the Chinamen away from there Saturday last” (quoted in Historylink.org Essay 219).

The name China Creek lingers in contemporary Bellevue near the site of the Newcastle mines.  It is most often associated with a trail, a housing development, and the Golf Club at Newcastle, with no mention of the source of the name.  Ironically, the golf course at Newcastle has recently been purchased by a Chinese company.

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