1906 Expulsion of the Chinese

The County photo is dated 1885, but Pfaelzer dates is 1906...

Source: Humboldt County Collection (notice the Yacht Club in the background)

Jeannie Pfaelzer included a photo in her book, Driven Out, The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, that references a Chinese expulsion in Humboldt County in 1906- I’ve finally found the story…

In the summer of 1905, the Tallant-Grant Co. of Astoria, Oregon established a cold storage plant at Port Kenyon on the Salt River and with the commencement of the salmon season in October, purchased the fishermen’s catches for two cents a pound. During two months of fishing and at various times, daily receipts of nine, ten, and twelve tons were recorded (Ferndale Enterprise, 1 Aug. 1905; 17 Oct. 1905; 27 Oct. 1905; 5 Dec. 1905). Because Eel River salmon were no longer of the size or grade most desirable for cold storage purposes and in order to handle this surplus, the Company explored the feasibility of developing a cannery at Port Kenyon (Ferndale Enterprise 2 Oct. 1906). An inquiry was made to the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce about the employment of Chinese labor, without which, the Company claimed such a plant could not be successful. The Chamber responded that there would be no objection as long as certain conditions were met,including 1) the Chinese would work only at the cannery, 2) stay no longer than the period of operations, and 3) they would not be permitted at any time to leave the vicinity of the cannery (Ferndale Enterprise 22 June 1906). The Tallant-Grant Company built a 110×50 addition to the Port Kenyon Cold Storage Company building for the cannery, which began operations during the 1906 season. The investors felt that such a facility would be economically viable by utilizing the smaller salmon caught by the local fishermen and easily exported via the Salt River (Ferndale Enterprise 4 Sept. 1906; 9 Oct. 1906).

A month later twenty Chinese laborers, a number of Japanese and several Russian girls arrived from Astoria to work in the cannery (Ferndale Enterprise 2 Oct. 1906). Opposition to the arrival of the Chinese workers was swift and vehement. Their immediate expulsion from the county was demanded. Before they could settle in and begin their work at the cannery, the Chinese laborers were given law-enforcement protection and quartered on Indian Island until their departure for Astoria. The Company agreed to pay them their contract price and a spokesman for the Company said they were very thankful that the matter adjusted itself without blood shed (Ferndale Enterprise 5 Oct. 1906). The cannery operated periodically until the end of the 1912-1913 season (Ferndale Enterprise 29 Aug. 1913). Salmon were no longer available in sufficient quantities, and the Eel and Salt Rivers were no longer navigable to ocean-going vessels.

Source: A Cultural Resources Investigation of the Salt River Ecosystem Restoration Project Humboldt County, California March, 2008

Prepared by: James Roscoe, M.A., Erik Whiteman, M.A., R.P.A. Jennifer Burns, M.A., R.P.A., and William Rich, B.A. With contributions by Jerry Rohde, M.A. and Suzie Van Kirk, B.A. Roscoe and Associates Cultural Resources Consultants 3781 Brookwood Drive Bayside, CA. 95524

You can access the full (much longer) report here:



The first expulsion of the Chinese happened here in February 1885- when Eureka City Councilman David Kendall was accidentally shot during a conflict between two rival Chinese gangs.  An angry Eureka  mob initially demanded the lynching of many Chinese but eventually settled with the forced, permanent expulsion of all of Humboldt County’s Chinese residents, including those in Eureka’s Chinatown.



2 Responses to 1906 Expulsion of the Chinese

  1. Julie Fulkerson says:

    Good to be reminded. Often. We are still collectively a mess.



  2. Catherine Mace says:

    Those of us at the Historical Society were helping Jeannie with information for her book. The photo is often used to illustrate the first expulsion in 1885 which it was not. While Humboldt Co. was certainly not at its best, if you read the whole book, you will see that we did not go for the killing that other places in California were doing. This was in part to rational arguments by citizens at a rally in town. One of the speakers was my gr. gr. grandfather Charles A Huntington.

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