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Pierce in Clearwater County, Idaho — The American West (Mountains)
 

Murder & Vigilantes

 
 
Murder & Vigilantes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 6, 2018
1. Murder & Vigilantes Marker
Inscription. One summer's night in 1885, it is alleged that five Chinese men gained entrance to the Fraser General Store, while their fellow countrymen set-off fireworks up and down Main Street. It was a stormy night and the fireworks supposedly helped drive-off the evil spirits. The store's owner, David M. Fraser, a well-known and respected pioneer, slept in the back of his store. No one hear a shot, but the next morning his dead body was found by his packer, who had been sent to see it he was ill when he did not arrive for his usual breakfast at a boarding house nearby. It appeared that Fraser had been brutally attacked with axes, hatches (sic) and knives while sleeping, since there was blood on the pillow, on the bed, on the floor and a stream of blood trailed all the way to the front door, where the struggle ended with a gun shot through the mouth. Blood was also smeared on a rack of pick handles, as if Fraser had attempted to grab a weapon and defend himself. Interestingly, Fraser's safe and property went completely untouched.
Seven Chinese suspects were rounded up and thrown into jail. A group of citizens from Lewiston and the Camas Prairie, upon hearing of the murder, arrived in Pierce to investigate. They surrounded the town, and sent in a small posse to learn of the situation. A trial was arranged, but it was not an ordinary trial.
Murder & Vigilantes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 6, 2018
2. Murder & Vigilantes Marker
From lack of evidence and confessions, the court decided to try an old ruse. A man named Lon Sears, who had learned the Chinese language in the mining camps of Warren, Idaho, was disguised as a drunken Indian and thrown into jail with the suspects. Sears' ruse was apparently not successful, as the next day, a mock hanging was arranged at the Pierce Confession Tree, thinking it might be possible to frighten the guilty ones into confessing (photo of the tree at Pierce Historical Kiosk. This also failed, so the prisoners were returned to the jail. The court unable to determine guilt, released the two oldest men. The five remaining were turned over to a deputy sheriff, loaded into a hayrack wagon and started on the long journey to Murray, Idaho, for further trial.
Three miles south of Pierce, at a place called Hangman's Creek (near this present location), the entourage was met by a band of masked vigilantes. Without hesitation or interference from the guards, the vigilantes slung a pole between two black pine trees, put up five ropes and hung all five of the prisoners. The vigilantes were never found in the following years of searching. The bodies of the Chinese men were buried in the Chinese Cemetery (located at the corner of Moscrip Drive and Stover Drive in Pierce). According to custom, the bones of all Chinese in the cemetery were later dun (sic) up, washed and sent back
Murder & Vigilantes Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, May 6, 2018
3. Murder & Vigilantes Marker
To the right is the an earlier (original?) marker/monument for the Chinese Hangings, but there is no text on it.
to China. David M. Fraser's remains are buried in the Pierce Cemetery (Cemetery Road in Pierce), and the Community of Fraser (between Weippe and Greer) was named in memory of him.

Text adapted from Layne Gellner Spencer's "And Five Were Hanged", c 1971.)
 
Erected by Jonathan Syed, Eagle Scout Project.
 
Location. 46° 28.308′ N, 115° 49.08′ W. Marker is in Pierce, Idaho, in Clearwater County. Marker can be reached from State Highway 11 at milepost 27 near Fromelt Road, on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Pierce ID 83546, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Boom & Chinese of Pierce (a few steps from this marker); Pierce Gold Rush (a few steps from this marker); Gold Discovered (within shouting distance of this marker); Chinese Hanging (within shouting distance of this marker); Oro Fino City (approx. one mile away); Pierce Courthouse (approx. 1.6 miles away); a different marker also named Pierce Courthouse (approx. 1.7 miles away); Canal Gulch (approx. 1.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pierce.
 
More about this marker. This marker is at the end of a short trail leading north to the site of the Chinese Hanging.
 
Also see . . .  Chinese Hanging Site sign stolen…again -- Clearwater Tribune. One of the signs at the Pierce Chinese Hanging Site off of Highway 11 has been stolen, and this isn’t the first time. The original sign placed there approximately 30 years ago was attached to a stone marker. Eventually vandals pried it off the marker. In June of last year, Pierce student Jonathan Syed, for his Eagle Scout project, chose to improve the hanging site by placing four brand new signs (Submitted on August 11, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.) 
 
Categories. Asian AmericansLaw EnforcementNotable Events
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 11, 2018. This page originally submitted on August 11, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California. This page has been viewed 36 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on August 11, 2018, by Barry Swackhamer of San Jose, California.
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