In the early days of mining in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho and even Montana) claim jumping was a real problem and common. There was very little law enforcement in those days, so violence could erupt at any moment.
Less reported were abandoned claims that were re-claimed by others. The Chinese workers could not own mines but would work abandoned claims to eek out what they could get.
Sometimes they got really lucky.
But luck usually runs out.
(Ask me later how I learned this.)
“Dirty Walker. . .?” I feel like I missed a memo.
“The Walker Family started the claim in 1932. But they were lazy and impatient. So, they abandoned it.”
“So, why isn’t it called the Walker Mine?”
He looks at me with a sort of “c’mon” look. Like I should know this.
“History only favors the victors.”
I better play along. I forget that I am Asian sometimes.
“Oh, well, of course white people. Heh heh, I thought you meant something else.”
“I don’t know, that is why I asked.”
Yeah, real quick thinking there.
He gives me a hard stare.
“Ever heard of the Asian Exclusion Act?”
Ok, this is actually getting interesting.
“Yes, I have. Otherwise known as the Chinese Exclusion Act.”
“Right. Know why it was created?”
“The Chinese built the railroads of the west. They did it fast and cheap. White labor cried foul because they were losing jobs to cheaper and better labor.”
“Yes, I know all this, how does this relate to mining?”
“To preserve jobs for white folks, the Chinese (and all other Asians, because white folks don’t know the difference) were prevented from coming to America and those who were already here were not allowed to own anything that white folks wanted. So, smart, hardworking, enterprising Chinese got busy making Chinatowns in big cities and small rural townships in the hills to support miners. The proverbial “Chinese Laundry” and “chop suey” restaurants popped up all over the place.”
He motions for me to work while he talks.
I am not keen on handling week-old dead bodies, but, I am still not dead, so I cooperate.
“Those mining towns eventually die and are abandoned. Mines go unclaimed. Guess who commandeers the claims?”
“Um, the Chinese?”
“Ok, so, how does that relate to these people?” I point to the dead bodies I am about to get to know really well.
“Ancient Chinese Secret!”