Sunday, September 7, 2008

Local History from the Spokesman Review

The Spokesman Review today has a really excellent article, "Common Knowledge" about the 1921 murder of a Chinese miner in the Columbia River community of Daisy. The article, by reporter Bill Morlin, is not only an interesting story from our region's past, it is a model of how history journalism should be researched and presented.

The article details how Wong Fook Ah Nem was murdered for his gold and how nothing in particular was done about it, despite the eyewitness testimony of his brother and widespread knowledge of the identity of the killers. Of course this sort of event was far too common in the early Northwest--the most dramatic example being the murder of over 30 miners in Hell's Canyon in Idaho in 1887. That case too was never solved.

Morlin did a nice job in the article of combing through old newspaper accounts, hunting down the few primary source records that remain from the case, and interviewing residents of the area to pick up the fading oral history, which brought valuable new information. The Spokesman has even put some of the primary sources online, including the coroner's inquest (which includes riveting testimony from the victim's brother, Wong Fook Ah Tai), historical newspaper articles, and excerpts from secondary sources.

This rich story, along with the collection of online documents, would make a fine teaching unit for a school teacher, or a good added reading in a college history class.

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