Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Olympic Club History Pub

Massacre on the Snake River

Olympic Club - Olympic Club Theater

6 p.m. doors, 7 p.m. program

Free admission

All ages welcome

About Massacre on the Snake River

Massacre on the Snake River

Presented by: author R. Gregory Nokes
Co-sponsored by: Centralia College, Centralia Library

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 s, 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 Author
R. Gregory Nokes has traveled the world as a reporter and editor. He is author of two non-fiction Northwest histories: Massacred for Gold: The Chinese in Hells Canyon in 2009, and Breaking Chains: Slavery on Trial in the Oregon Territory in 2013, both published by Oregon State University Press.

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.''

Nokes' 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's this January. Published by Oregon State University Press, the book is in its fourth printing.

In 2012, Nokes and others installed a memorial to the fallen miners at the massacre site in Hells Canyon. He is currently at work on a third book about the life of Peter Burnett, Oregon pioneer and the first elected governor of California.

Greg spent more than forty years in journalism, during which he traveled to more than 50 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.

About Olympic Club History Pub

Olympic Club 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.