Wednesday, April 1, 2020


Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

Edgefield - Blackberry Hall

5 pm doors, 6:30 pm event

Free. First come, first served. Arrive early!

All ages welcome

Share this event

Add to Calendar

Qualifies for “Attend a McMenamins History-Sponsored Event” Experience Stamp.

Why not stay the night? Receive 15% off your hotel room that evening using the code HISTPUB or mention it when you call the hotel.

About Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon

Presented by author and journalist R. Gregory Nokes

In 1887, a gang of horse thieves operating in northeastern Oregon plotted the robbery and murder of as many as thirty-four Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon, in one of the most horrific crimes in the early American West. Among the gang was a fifteen-year-old boy, Robert McMillan, who confessed on his deathbed a few years later in Walla Walla to his role in the crime.

An all-white jury had earlier found McMillan and other members of the gang innocent of the crime after the ring leaders fled. McMillan’s confession to his father tore the close-knit McMillan family apart. It took several more years for his father to disclose the confession to a Walla Walla newspaper. But by this time, his son was dead and the crime was already being forgotten.

The crime was covered-up for more than a century until a county clerk in Oregon’s Wallowa County found the long-lost records of the investigation and trial in an unused safe she was cleaning to donate to a museum. The rediscovery of the crime set in motion a series of events that brought new attention to the mistreatment of Chinese miners and railroad builders in the Pacific Northwest.

About the Speaker:

R. Gregory Nokes has traveled the world as a reporter and editor.  He is author of three non-fiction Western histories. His latest book is The Troubled Life of Peter Burnett: Oregon Pioneer and First Governor of California, published this year by Oregon State University Press. His earlier books are Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon in 2009, and Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory in 2013, both also published by OSU Press.

Greg’s second book, Breaking Chains, tells the little-known history of slavery in early Oregon, focusing on an 1852 slavery case, Holmes vs. Ford, the only slavery case adjudicated in Oregon courts. Nokes’ book was a finalist for the 2014 Oregon Book Award for non-fiction. Prominent Northwest author Jane Kirkpatrick has said, “This is how history should be written.’’

His 2009 book, Massacred for Gold, tells the story of the long-forgotten 1887 massacre of nearly three-dozen Chinese gold miners in Hells Canyon on the Oregon-Idaho border. The book inspired the Oregon Public Broadcasting program, “Massacre at Hells Canyon,” which aired on OPB-TV in January.  Nokes and others installed a memorial to the fallen miners at the massacre site.

Greg spent more than forty years in journalism, during which he traveled to more than fifty countries. As a reporter in Washington, D.C. for The Associated Press, he covered the State Department and traveled with several presidents and secretaries of state on foreign trips. Greg started his career as a reporter for the Medford Mail Tribune, and finished at The Oregonian, where he was both an editor and reporter. He retired from journalism in 2003 to embark on a second career as an author and lecturer on Northwest history.

A native of Oregon, Nokes did his undergraduate work at Willamette University. He attended Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow in 1971-72. Nokes and his wife, Candise, live in West Linn, Oregon.

For more information on this speaker and his books, check out:


About Edgefield History Pub

Edgefield History Pub

These monthly, free events are open to everyone interested in Oregon and Pacific Northwest history. Co-sponsored by like-minded historical and civic organizations, we bring you experts, scholars, first-person experiencers and historians who expound on topics from Lewis and Clark to shipwrecks, hop growing to women pioneers and far, far beyond. It's like being back in the classroom - except this time you get to settle into comfortable seats and enjoy a drink or two with dinner while you listen and learn.

This event is eligible for a History Pub Stamp