Ping Yang School Bombing

From Lane Co Oregon

The Ping Yang School Bombing Oregon's Unsolved Case of Domestic Terrorism

by Stephen Williamson



On a hot July summer night in 1901, in a small community near Marcola, Oregon a school named Ping Yang was completely blown up by a bomb. It was the third attempt to bomb the school since 1895. No one was ever arrested for the bombings. Each of the attacks was at night and no one was injured.

Why was the school named Ping Yang, a Chinese name? Why was it bombed? The answer is a complex mix of social, religious and racial prejudices that exploded in the small, rapidly growing community.

The Ping Yang School has been mentioned only briefly in a handful of local reports. This article is the first attempt to put together a sequence of events to understand when and why the school was bombed. The school was about 12 miles east of Eugene-Springfield where the current community of Mohawk stands. Like many rural schools at the time, Ping Yang was a small schoolhouse with just one classroom.

Ping Yang opened in early 1895. The community had been divided on building the school and one single-minded man polarized residents of the area. Someone first tried to set fire to it. That attempt failed, but in May of 1895, a bomb was put under the floor of the school at night. A second bombing occurred in the winter of 1900. Finally the school was completely destroyed in July 1901. No one was ever arrested for any of the attacks which happened over a six year period - yet most people knew exactly who was responsible.


[edit] May 1895

The First School Bombing, May 1895

A Florence Oregon newspaper article from May 5, 1895 says that Ping Yang School was bombed because of fights over its location and "other things." Five years later in 1900, a local man created his own version of China's Boxer Rebellion in an attempt to close the school. He used racist imagery and fears of Chinese and other Asian immigrants to campaign against the school. One of the local school teachers, Maude Kerns, later became famed for her work with Japanese and Asian art.

The school was also being used by religious groups of missionaries who were quite progressive in their religious and racial views. Although the school was named Ping Yang, it is uncertain if any Asians were actually taught there. The name could go back to Christian missionaries who were active in Korea at the time. Perhaps this article will stimulate additional information about the school's history.

It appears that Ping Yang was the name of the entire area, not just the school. Three newspaper accounts from 1895-1901 use the name of Ping Yang to refer to the general area. When the school was built no Chinese would have used the name "Ping Yang." However, it could have been a good name if the school had some connection with Japan or Korea. In 1894 the Japanese became heroes to the Americans by rescuing the capital of Korea, which was named Ping Yang, from Chinese invaders. In 1895 the name "Ping Yang" was associated very positively with Korea and the Japanese, not China. If the school ever taught Asians it was probably in 1900 and 1901 - at the time of the second and third bombings, when Japanese workmen were building a railroad right past Ping Yang School and Joe Huddleston's farm.

[edit] September, 1894

The Storming of Ping Yang, 1894

Local historian Louis Polley wrote in his book A History of the Mohawk Valley that the school was named for a "Chinese battlefield." An earlier writer, Claude Hammitt wrote that one local man "moved the Boxer Rebellion all the way from China to the Mohawk" and organized the community to fight the new school. He is said to have been against the rapid population growth of the Mohawk area.

There was a community vote over the new school. A farmer, John Mulkey led the people who were in favor of building the school. Rather than the controversy ending, it continued to escalate over the next six years.

Both Polley and Hammitt say that a man called "Old Joe" Huddleston did not like the school bell or the sounds of children on the school grounds. He said that that the school bell sounded like "ping yang" to him and the kids sounded like a bunch of "fighting Chinese." Hammitt wrote that the battle of Ping Yang was happening at the time and this is what the school was named for. On September 15, 1894 Japanese forces landed in Korea to drive out the Chinese who were persecuting the Koreans in their capital of Ping Yang (North Korea today). One of the most widely read news writers, James Creelman, was in Ping Yang and wrote exciting descriptions of the battle between Chinese and Japanese military.

James Creelman's international dispatches were read all over America. He had interviewed President McKinley, Indian chief Sitting Bull, the Russian author Leo Tolstoy and the Pope of Rome. He wrote copy for William Randolph Hearst's Spanish American war. One paragraph from his news report "The Storming of Ping Yang" captures the flavor of his writing - and Western favoring of Japan over China.[1]

"The armies of Asiatic barbarism and Asiatic civilization met on this ground to fight the first great battle of the war that ended in the fall of Wei-Hai-Wei and Port Arthur; and here Japan emancipated the helpless Korean nation from the centuried despotism of China." See the Internet link below to the popular news story "The Storming of Ping Yang" by James Creelman in 1894. [2]

[edit] 1900

[edit] The Boxers vs. The Highbinders, 1900

Maeda, a Japanese friend of the Haydens who lived near Ping Yang

In addition to popularizing the community name of "Ping Yang" in 1895. Joe Huddleston later organized his own Boxer Rebellion in 1900. The Boxer Rebellion was happening in China at the time. Religious groups of Chinese monks trained in martial arts wanted to throw out all the foreigners from China. They killed many missionaries and their Chinese converts.

The English had never seen martial artists and called them "boxers." World famous writer Mark Twain supported the Boxers in driving out the foreigners from China. He called himself a "boxer" and also favored driving the Chinese from America.

Mark Twain might have liked Huddleston's homegrown Boxer Rebellion. If you were with him and opposed the school you were a boxer - but if you were against him you were a "highbinder" (a slur word for Asians because of the way they wore their hair).

The railroad and new lumber mills brought thousands of new people to the Mohawk Valley. Just as the Boxer Rebellion in China was one great effort to "throw out the foreigners" - one goal of bombing the Ping Yang school may have been to get rid of all the newcomers to the valley. Joe Huddleston used white's fears of Asians to campaign against the school and its supporters. The title "The Boxers vs. the Highbinders" comes from an article in The West magazine, written by Claude Hammitt who knew Huddleston and ran a store in Ping Yang.

[edit] White Men Quit - how the Asians came to Marcola

White Men Quit, 1900 news article. Japanese workers were brought in to work on the railroads in 1900. It was difficult to get white men to do the work as is seen in this Eugene news article from March 24, 1900, "White Men Quit." The story says that Japanese are being employed because the community would not accept Chinese or black railway workers. Many whites did not want to do the hard, low paying work and felt it was beneath them.

In 1900 most Americans were favorable towards Japan as a nation, and very much against the policies of China. One labor contractor in Portland supplied most of the Asian workers for the Pacific Northwest. The military battles at Battle of Ping Yang in Korea and the Boxer Rebellion in China made Japan and the US close allies. Japan was even adopting our national pastime of baseball.

[edit] Winter

The Second Bombing of Ping Yang School - Winter, 1900

The second bombing of Ping Yang School happened in the winter of 1900. This was at the time when newspaper articles show a number of "negroes" and "Japs" coming in to work on the Mohawk railroad. Joe Huddleston was seventy years old when the railroad came to Mohawk - and he was not glad to see it. He had come to Oregon when he was a boy in 1840 with his parents. He had lived with the Calapooya Indians and once had an Indian wife. He had known French trappers and their Catholic traveling priests. He was one of the oldest people in the valley at the turn of the century and a local legend.

Joe Huddleston had only one eye - the other was scratched out by his former wife. He lived mostly off the land, hunting and fishing and growing enough berries to make wine on his eighty acre farm. Claude Hammitt writes that he helped out a family who were mentally retarded. Huddleston also had a unique way of fishing in the local creeks. He would use dynamite and blast out dozens of fish at a time. He would fry the fish and share them with his cat. He was called "Old Joe" by nearly everyone in the area.

The new railroad line, carrying a seemingly endless stream of people and lumber, was built directly across from his house. The Mohawk valley of Oregon was home to some of the richest timberlands in the world. The low hills made logging easy and one giant lumber mill employed nearly 1,000 people. The bombing of Ping Yang was partly a reaction against all this growth and the thousands of people who were coming for jobs. Huddleston campaigned non-stop against the building of the new school using racist fears of all outsiders - especially Asians.

[edit] Marcola People Who Helped the Japanese Immigrants

Not everyone was against the new immigrants. Columbus Cole, an early merchant imported "many items from Japan," according to a video tape made by Louis Polley in 1991. He has a photo of Japanese tea that Columbus Cole imported and repackaged under his own brand name. This indicates that he had a large enough market of Japanese to sell to - and that he probably expected their population to grow. The community of Marcola was named by the railroad for Mary Cole, the wife of Columbus Cole. He had announced plans to build a store at Ping Yang.

Another reason for Columbus Cole to be involved with the Japanese was because of his strong religious beliefs. Cole was an active Methodist and donated the land and lumber to build Marcola's Methodist church. He undoubtedly supported missionaries and perhaps the Japanese Methodist church in Portland - where most of the Asian workers came from.

The Japanese man pictured above is named Maeda. He lived with the Hayden family who had a small farm near the Ping Yang School. The Haydens were poor and valued education highly. There is an article on this website about the friendship between Maeda, Charly (correct spelling) Hayden and his sister Ella. She was a school teacher and a student at the University of Oregon. Charly Hayden played the violin and cared for his elderly parents for many years on their farm, where Maeda also lived. It is not known where Maeda later moved. We do know that he and Charly Hayden kept in touch with letters. You can read about the Haydens and Maeda at this link: [3]

The arrival of the railroad signaled a population explosion. The population in the small valley more than quadrupled in just five years due to the growth of local lumber mills and the railroad. Many people were uncomfortable with the new immigrants coming from all over Europe and Asia. Marcola area news reports indicate that tensions in the small community were escalating in April, 1901. There are several sentences about how certain people are in need of "missionary work." Perhaps there was a connection between the community and missionaries overseas in Asia. That could be a reason the community accepted the name of "Ping Yang" for a school.

[edit] "We Have Got A Woman Preacher at Ping Yang"

Religious Tensions Behind the Bombings

Two news stories written in April, 1901 say that there was a "woman preacher" at Ping Yang. Early schools were often used as churches and for other public activities. Few churches allowed women to preach and the practice was very controversial. The final bomb, set off on a Sunday night, was put directly under the organ. This suggests that there was a religious reason for bombing the school. It was during this time that Huddleston began his own "Boxer Rebellion" of racist imagery. Asian workers were being brought into the area to build the railroads.

The Hayden Family of Ping Yang, 1899. It is likely that the "woman preacher," a Mrs. Hickman, was part of the Free Methodist church. Free Methodists ordained women as evangelists and supported their right to vote. Free Methodists originally formed to protest slavery in the United States. By 1875 there were Methodist missionaries in China, Korea and Japan. There was also a Japanese Methodist church in Portland that began at the turn of the century. There was a Free Methodist gathering near Ping Yang at the Parsons Creek School - where Mrs. Hickman also preached.

The April 1901 articles were written by two people with different points of view. The first article is titled "Mohawk Items from a Ping Yanger" - and says that Ping Yang "is badly in need of a little missionary work." The writer ends on a military tone with "all quiet at Ping Yang at present." The next week's article, "Mohawk Items by Hayseed" counters saying "Ping Yang don't need no missionary but some of the people who live around Ping Yang do. And we hope they may be able to have one." Clearly a community tug of war is happening at the school.

An early story about why the school was bombed was because they allowed dancing on Saturday night. Charles Irish, who came to the valley a just few years after the bombings said that one group of religious people objected to the dancing in the school. At that time most Protestant churches were against dancing of any type, while most Catholic churches allowed dances at their church. This may have been one motive for people involved in the 1895 bombing. By 1901 there was a restaurant in Mohawk and dances were held there. The story of people being angered about dancing may have come from the 1895 bombing, before churches and other public buildings were established.

[edit] No One Arrested

Joe Huddleston is mentioned in each version of the stories of the Ping Yang School bombing - yet he was never charged. Nor was anyone else ever arrested for the crimes. Both the 1895 and the 1901 news stories say that "suspicion points to certain persons" but there was no tangible proof of their involvement. The July 15, 1901 article calls the bomber a "fiend" and notes the long community battle over the school.

Local stories say that Huddleston bombed the school because he did not like the noise of its school bell and children on the playground. However, this account does not ring completely true. One man's dislike of children and schools is not a good enough reason for the authorities not to arrest Huddleston or one of his followers - even in 1900. Also, it would have been hard to get followers who wanted to bomb a school simply because of children playing on it's grounds and the school bell. There must have been other reasons.

There were four attempts to destroy the school (three by dynamite and one by fire) over a six year period. There may have been "socially sanctioned" reasons why no one was arrested for the bombings. In 1895 the issues may have been the rapid growth and that some people were using the school for dancing - a practice condemned by many religious groups. Joe Huddleston was clever enough to appeal to people's racist imaginations to get rid of the school and its children and school bell by playing on their fears of the Chinese and other Asians.

Ping Yang School operated quietly for five years between 1895 and 1900 when the school was bombed again. By 1900 there were many more immigrants in the valley, brought by the railroad being built by the Japanese. The Japanese had recently arrived in the community and established a base camp for constructing the railroads. In 1901 the school was hosting a "woman preacher" - something that has been controversial through the entire history of Christianity. Each of these could be reasons the bombing was accepted and no arrests made.

[edit] Reason to Remember

The Ping Yang School bombing has largely faded from memory. Some people have asked me why even bring up this embarrassing history? I answer because it is real history that happened to real people. They deserve that their stories be told and their contributions remembered. This article is the first, but hopefully not the last, to tell the story of what happened at Ping Yang and why the school was bombed.

The labor of Asians built the railroads that opened up the west for development and created countless fortunes. I did railroad construction during my college years in Louisiana. This page has a photo of me on a railroad track shortly after I moved to Oregon in 1976. This is some of the hardest work anyone can do and the Asian workers should be remembered. Perhaps a future research project will try to locate descendents of these almost forgotten pioneers using census records and old newspapers. Those who stayed faced years of discrimination and hardships. We need to learn the lessons of Joe Huddleston and what can happen when a community's fears about "foreigners" lead to hated and violence.

Events like the Ping Yang School bombing happened all over the West. The Pacific Northwest became a mostly white, European area because people of other races were kept out by exclusion laws and physical violence. Early Oregon was much more racially and culturally diverse than our histories tell us. But by 1923 the social and legislative decision had been made to keep Oregon for whites. Asians and specifically Japanese were barred by law from owning land or businesses. This is a part of our history that must not be forgotten.

We should remember the courage of teachers like Maude Kerns and Ella Hayden who taught all across the West in rural schools just like Ping Yang. They stood with ordinary people like John Mulkey and Columbus Cole against hate and fear. We need also to remember community historians like Claude Hammitt, Louis Polley and Curtis Irish who work to preserve our shared history.

[edit] Present time

"All Quiet at Ping Yang at Present"

Today Ping Yang is not much bigger than it was 100 years ago. The railroad is long gone and so are most of the lumber mills. The Mohawk Elementary School is not far from where the Ping Yang School once stood. Claude Hammitt's store is still open. He wrote an article about Joe Huddleston and Ping Yang for an issue of The West magazine.

In 1909 a new schoolhouse was built to replace Ping Yang. The school was renamed to Mohawk and operated for the next 50 years. The building is still standing, but is now a private family home. The new school cost over two thousand dollars to build. Ping Yang had cost less than five hundred - plus repairs.

Maude Kerns and Ella Hayden went on to have outstanding careers teaching in area schools and the University of Oregon. Charly Hayden took care of his parents for another twenty years. He bought a farm a few miles away. Charly Road is named for him.

Joe Huddleston sold his farm and moved away after the final bombing. The December 31, 1902 New Year's Eugene Daily Guard says that a lumber mill would be built on his place and that the move should receive "the approval and hearty recommendation of the Mohawkers.

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