Chinese in Walla Walla collection, 1886-1981  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Slauson, Morda C.Ukso, Paul
Chinese in Walla Walla collection
1886-1981 (inclusive)
1.8 linear feet, (3 boxes)
Collection Number
This collection contains materials related to the Chinese population of Walla Walla, Washington.
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Whitman College and Northwest Archives
Penrose Library, Room 130
345 Boyer Avenue
Walla Walla, WA
Telephone: 509-527-5922
Fax: 509-526-4785
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The first Chinese to immigrate to Walla Walla arrived in 1872 and were manual laborers constructing the Dorsey S. Baker railroad which ran from Wallula to Walla Walla. The Chinese settlement in Walla Walla grew to upwards of five thousand Chinese living in what was referred to as "Chinatown" located on Second Avenue between Main Street and Alder Street. The population decreased significantly after the completion of the railroad. However, a strong Chinese community remained and many new Chinese moved into the valley from Canton, modern day Guangzhou, to become gardeners and farm laborers. An organized group of vegetable gardens and dwellings were located in what was known as the "bottomlands" on Dalles Military Road and the land was farmed by an estimated eighty Chinese. At this time, the center of activity for the Chinese shifted as a two story brick building was constructed at Fifth Avenue and Rose Street. This building was used as a community building for the local Chinese population and contained as many as seven stores including a grocery, department and traditional artwork stores. There were a total of eleven Chinese owned businesses in Walla Walla in the early 1900s and they included restaurants and grocery stores. It was also common for many Chinese to be cooks for local families.

Tragedy struck the Chinese community and the collection includes information about the Chinese massacre of 1887 on the Snake River in which an undetermined number of Chinese miners were killed, between ten and thirty-one, at the hands of seven white men from Wallowa County. Additionally, there are newspaper articles which describe a fire in a Chinese hotel during the New Year's festivities that took the lives of eleven Chinese people. Other information includes several accounts of murder and the report of the first hanging in the Walla Walla Valley: a Chinese man.

Chinese New Year, in Walla Walla, was a memorable event as reported in newspapers, written accounts, and tape recordings which highlight the traditional Chinese ceremonies and rituals for the New Year celebration.

The newspaper articles within this collection aid in providing a partial timeline with regard to the fluctuation of the Chinese population. The height of the population, at nearly five thousand, in the 1870s to 1880s, diminishes to an estimate of fifty in the 1950s.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of Chinese language books, bank documents, correspondence, newspaper clippings, Certificates of Residence, photographs and negatives, information about the 1887 Chinese massacre at the Snake River, Chinese World Newspaper, red envelopes, David Deal research notes, and 1973 tape recorded oral history interviews from the "Chinese in Walla Walla" project.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Emigration and immigration
  • Geographical Names :
  • Walla Walla (Wash.)
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Slauson, Morda C. (fmo)
    • Ukso, Paul (fmo)