Hop Alley/ Chinese Riot of 1880 - Denver, CO
Posted by: Outspoken1
N 39° 45.241 W 104° 59.648
13S E 500502 N 4400456
Quick Description: This is a series of 33 Historic Markers placed throughout Lower Downtown Denver which create a walking tour.
Location: Colorado, United States
Date Posted: 1/13/2008 8:39:21 AM
Waymark Code: WM2YYY
Plaque reads as follows:
Hop Alley/ Chinese Riot of 1880
During the 1860's, the first Chinese settled in Colorado. Drawn here by the completion of the transcontinental railroad as well as by other demands for cheap manual labor. Existing amidst persecution, poverty and wretched living conditions, the Chinese worked mostly in laundries, as house servants and in the mines. The Chinese neighborhood was bounded roughly by Blake and Market, 19th and 22nd Streets, and contained about 500 Chinese. By 1880, the city had 17 known opium dens in this area, where one could "hit the pipe" or "suck the bamboo." "Hop" Alley buildings were said to be connected by tunnels and secret rooms accessible only by trap doors. Hostilities between the Chinese and other immigrants intensified as competition for jobs increased and negative publicity about opium dens filled the local press. On October 31, 1880, in John Asmussen's Saloon, located on the 1600 block of Wazee, an argument broke out between two pool-playing Chinese and some intoxicated whites. When the Chinese slipped out the back door, they were attacked and beaten, beginning Denver's first recorded race riot. About 3,000 people congregated quickly in the area, shouting "Stamp out the yellow plague!" Destruction of the Chinese ghetto ensued. Several white residents show remarkable courage protecting the Chinese: Saloonkeeper James Veatch sheltered refugees, as did gambler Jim Moon and Madam Lizzie Preston, whose girls armed themselves with champagne bottles and high heels to hold the mob at bay. Many were injured, and one Chinese man lost his life. Despite 150 claims totaling over $30,000, no Chinese were ever paid for property and business losses, nor did this dark day end Denver's struggles with the underlying issues of racial prejudice.
The plaque notes that one Chinese man lost his life. It does not note that he was lynched. From A Brief History of the Denver Police: "The Anti-Chinese riot in November of 1880 is quite a story. Denver had a section of town, populated by Chinese laborers, known as "Hop Alley". The name was in reference to the widespread use of opium amongst the "Celestials" as some people referred to the Chinese at that time. A group of railroad laborers entered a bar in the area and confronted two Chinese men playing pool, hit one of them with a cue stick, and was promptly shot at by the other pool player. He missed, but word quickly spread that a Chinaman had killed a white man. A large crowd gathered with the intent to destroy the Chinese, along with all their possessions. The eight policemen on duty were unable to control the crowd, even with the help of fire hoses. The riot continued into the night. At the time, the police were without a Chief. The City Council held an emergency meeting and appointed Dave Cook as Acting Chief. Cook had previously been City Marshal and was widely known for his bravery and intelligence. He was currently the head of the Rocky Mountain Detective Association, which was widely respected throughout the west as the premier detective agency in the area. In the meantime the riot became worse, as one of the Chinese was lynched. Cook gathered 15 of his own men, and ten others that he knew were tough gunfighters. By this time there were 2000 rioters, destroying the Chinese laundries. Cook and his men arrested nine men trying to torch one of the buildings. When the crowd attempted to free them, Cook instructed his men to fire into the ground, then aim the smoking muzzles of their guns into the rioters faces. That ploy worked well as the mob backed off. Between Cook's men, the police and sheriff's departments, and 125 special officers, the city was quiet by morning."