Rock Springs Chinatown

By Katherine Kasckow

May 31, 2017

In the 1860s, about 80% the population of Rock Springs consisted of Chinese immigrants. Most of these migrants came to the United States because of the construction of the transcontinental railroad. After moving to new western cities, the communities needed houses and shelter to come home to and spaces to raise families. This ultimately led to the creation of a Chinatown in a small part of Rock Springs that would allow for the Chinese migrant workers to have their own community for shelter and support. The community was located around the present-day streets of Bridger Avenue, N street, Ridge Avenue, and Elk Street.[1] In the 1880s the community had 40 houses that were located near the No. 4 mine where most of the inhabitants worked.[2]

The community of Chinese workers were attacked in the Rock Springs Massacre, due to a mixture of economic and cultural differences that started to create tension between Chinese and white workers within the area. In 1885, a mob of about 150 people descended on the Rock Springs Chinese population and murdered a large number of them out of anger. The number of Chinese workers who died on that day is still unknown.[3] The violence effectively resulted in the end of Chinatown within the city of Rock Springs. After killing the residents, the mob burned down the houses and buildings.

There are still remnants of this community, such as Ahsay Avenue, which was named after a Chinese leader who attempted after the massacre to obtain railroad tickets and back pay for the surviving miners. According to Bob Nelson, director of the Rock Springs History Museum, there is a chance that one of the houses from Chinatown survived the fire. He believes that one house still remains in Rock Springs, though the exterior has been updated significantly compared to the buildings that existed in the area.[4]

Although the buildings no longer exist, their histories still remain in Rock Springs and are significant to the state of Wyoming. With the preservation of the community’s history, we can still look back and see the experience of Chinatown in Rock Springs, a place that provided support and a sense of community for Chinese migrants who needed space to share their common cultural heritage with other migrants who had come to a new place in search of work.

[1] Mary Humstone, “Community Treasure of Rock Springs” (2005) Community Treasures of Green River and Rock Springs, http://repository.uwyo.edu/comm_treas_grrs/2.

[2] http://www.wyohistory.org/field-trips/chinatown-rock-springs

[3] http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/rock-springs-massacre

[4] https://www.noplaceproject.com/rock-springs3

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