Mr. Bayard to Mr. Chang Yen
Washington , February 23, 1888.
Sir: I have received with pain your note of the 16th instant, where a you state certain facts which have come to your knowledge, and which appear to indicate the murder of three and possibly ten Chinese subjects on the Snake River, State of Oregon, and you inform me of the unavailing steps taken by the local authorities to discover the murderers.
From the statements contained in your note and the accompanying report of the Chinese consul-general at San Francisco, with its annexed papers, I gather that in October, 1886, ten Chinamen, whose names you give (and who maybe called for convenience Chea-Po’s party), went up the Snake River to some point above Lewiston, Idaho Territory, in a boat loaded with provisions, for the purpose of seeking for gold; that towards the middle of June, 1887, three bodies of Chinamen, supposed to have been of the party mentioned, were found in the Snake River, with every indication of having been foully murdered; that these bodies having been found within the jurisdiction of Idaho Territory (one body having been found on Snake River, at Lime Kiln Bar, above Lewiston, one at Perrewawa Bar, about 40 miles below Lewiston, and the third at Log Cabin Bar, on Snake River, about 30 miles below Lewiston, which was recognized as that of Ah You), the authorities of Idaho held due inquest thereon; that on the verdict, showing that murder had been committed, warrants were promptly issued by the court at Lewiston for the arrest of the unknown murderers; that another Chinese exploring party visiting Log Cabin Bar in June, 1887, found three bodies of Chea-Po’s party floating down the river (which bodies I infer to have been those subsequently found lower down Snake River as above described); that Chea-Po’s boat was discovered stranded on some rocks in the bar and hacked with axes, and that at the spot of Chea-Po’s camp bedding and provisions were discovered strewn about, some of the scattered provisions being flour said to have been traced to the former possession of white men.
No clue is furnished pointing to the murderers save the indirect statement that in April or May, 1887, “a person named Jackson told a Chinese named Hung Ah Yee that he had witnessed some cowboys, eight in number, forcibly driving Kong Shii and his party out of the bar into their boat and throwing their provisions and bedding overboard; that Kong Shii and his party fled from them, being afraid to offer any resistance, and that since he (Jackson U) had learned of the murder of Chea-Po and nine others he had come to the conclusion that the cowboys had committed the crime.”
The facts which I thus endeavor to summarize connectedly are confusedly and even contradictorily presented in the inclosures accompanying your note. For instance, in the body of your note it is stated that Mr. Vincent, a commissioner of Nez Pèrce County, Idaho, visited the scene of the murder and there examined the three bodies, while Mr. Vincent’s appended statement shows that he examined but one body, found down Snake River at Log Cabin Bar, being, as would seem, the third body found, as I have above stated. Again, the scene of the murder is not located distinctly. Your note says that Chea-Po’s party went to Log Cabin Bar, and the spot is thereafter vaguely described as “the bar,” and as being up Snake River about 120 miles above Lewiston; [Page 388] but from Mr. Vincent’s statements Log Cabin Bar, where the third body, that of Ah You (Chea You?), was found, is about 30 miles below Lewiston.
It seems evident that murder has been committed upon three Chinamen, one of whom appears to have been identified as of Chea-Po’s party, and the other two are inferred to have belonged to that party. The remaining seven Chinamen of Chea-Po’s party have not been traced. The motive of the murder is not shown to have been plunder, for their boat was destroyed, not stolen, and their bedding and provisions were scattered about, although it is possible that the scattered property may have been that of Kong Shii’s party, which Jackson saw thrown into the water at “the bar” by cowboys a short time before. The murderers of the three discovered members of Chea-Po’s party are unknown, and no satisfactory clue to their identity is furnished by your statements.
It is greatly to be regretted that the facts thus meagerly stated afford very little basis for the successful operation of the law in tracking and punishing the unknown authors of this foul crime. I am, on the facts before me, indisposed to impute neglect to the authorities of Idaho Territory, within whose jurisdiction the three bodies were found. It does not appear that the crime itself was committed within their jurisdiction; Snake River, otherwise called Shoshone River, is the boundary between Idaho Territory on the one hand and the State of Oregon and Washington Territory on the other. The bar where Chea-Po’s party were camped, and where the crime is alleged to have been committed, is stated to be in Oregon, about 120 miles above Lewiston, Idaho, so that the authorities of Oregon have at least equal jurisdiction in the case, although it is not stated that any evidence has been laid before them to set in motion the machinery of justice in that State. I shall forthwith transmit copies of your note and its inclosures to the governors of the State of Oregon and of the Territory of Idaho, urgently recommending to them that every effort be made by the judicial authorities thereof to further the ends of justice by eliciting the facts of the murder and pursuing and punishing the guilty parties.
I need scarcely point out to you the advantage of furnishing the competent authorities with all attainable evidence in aid of the investigation asked for.
Accept, sir, etc.