by Stephen Williamson
But, why was a school in rural Oregon given an Asian name, and 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
against the new school. 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.
Reports at the time and later accounts say that most people knew
exactly who was responsible.
NOTE: Pyongyang is the
actual name of the Korean city that Americans called Ping Yang.
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." Fiver 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.
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
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.
"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.
In addition to popularizing the community name of "Ping Yang", 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
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.
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 Kalapooya
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 already a local legend. Later accounts by community
historians paint him sympathetically. But people in the area
these days, if they have ever heard of him at all, dislike even
the mention of his name.
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.
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. He was a very
tolerant and forward looking merchant for his times.
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: http://www.efn.org/~opal/hayden.htm
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
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.
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
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, father of Marcola historian Curtis 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. At the time several religious
groups were competing for the souls of Ping Yang.
The famous artist and University of Oregon teacher Maude Kerns may have taught at the Ping Yang School. Maude Kerns became well known for her work in Japanese art and made several trips to Asia. The name of Ping Yang must have fascinated her.
An April 10, 1901
news article states that Maude Kerns was teaching at the old
McGowan School, less than a mile
from Ping Yang. A following article on April 16 says
that "Miss Kerns" is teaching at Ping Yang. Maude Kerns also had
a sister, Edith, who was a teacher and it is possible she was
the "Miss Kerns" at Ping Yang. However, the news article, which
was written by a local person, would probably have used her name
to show that it was a different "Miss Kerns". It is also
possible that Maude Kerns traveled from one school to the other
since they were so close together. However, "official"
biographies of Her start her teaching career shortly after Ping
Yang. Maude Kern's niece told me that she thought Maude
was the teacher because Edith "did not have the temperament a
teacher needs, but Maude did." Perhaps a future researcher will
learn more of this time in their careers.
Maude Kern"s biography says that she had received a diploma in fine arts from a prestigious arts school in San Francisco. She had already earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon in 1899. Maude Kerns went on to become one of the most dynamic teachers of her time. Today an arts center is named for her. It can be found at this URL Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene.
It is hard to underestimate the dedication these pioneer teachers had. The job of a teacher was low paying, and tightly controlled by all sorts of social rules. Most contracts forbid the teacher to marry or even date during the school year. Considering that three attempts to destroy the Ping Yang school had already been made it took extraordinary courage to teach anywhere near there.
Establishing schools was often not easy in rural areas. Controversies over taxes, boundaries and curriculum were prominent then, much as they are now. Events like this happened all over the West. The first attempts to establish a university in Eugene, Oregon failed because someone set fire to the buildings.
Joe Huddleston is mentioned in every account 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.
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. We may not agree with their view on
the events, but we must appreciate that they documented it for
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 Ham
mitt'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."
[ End ]
* Curtis Irish was born and raised in Marcola. He has a collection of over 7,000 historic photographs of the area. He has also gathered hundreds of newspaper articles from the years 1891 - 1917. Irish has been a consultant for the University of Oregon's publication of Opal Whiteley's diary. He is a valued friend and colleague. Curtis Irish is widely respected as one of the foremost authorities on the early history of the Mohawk Valley. His file of Mohawk newspaper articles is online at this URL http://members.efn.org/~opal/mohawk.htm
* Louis Polley, a third generation resident of Marcola, has published excellent histories of the Mohawk Valley in his book and companion video. His excellent book is entitled A History of the Mohawk Valley and Early Lumbering (1984 and 1991). I also interviewed Mr. Polley several times in Marcola. His story about Ping Yang School is on page 40.
* Claude Hammitt. He wrote articles in the early 1970's about Ping Yang for the Lane County Historian and The West Magazine. Louis Polley quotes him extensively. The copy I have of The West Magazine article has no date on the pages. His family owned the store across the road from Ping Yang School. The store is still in operation today. The history of Ping Yang School might have been lost if not for his articles. The photo of Joe Huddleston comes from The West article.
* James Creelman, On the Great Highway. It was originally printed in 1901 and has been reprinted online by Cardinal Books. Creelman's 1894 war dispatch "The Storming of Ping Yang" might have been the root source for the name of the Ping Yang School. His book was a collection of dispatches he had written over his long career. The story about Ping Yang may be found at this web address http://www.cardinalbook.com/creelman/highway/iso8859/chap2.htm
* Maude Kerns' biography. The biography was published by the Maude Kerns Art Center. It briefly covers her early teaching years in the Mohawk Valley and it does an excellent job of documenting her importance in bringing Asian artwork to America. The Art Center named for her has a nice website about their work. http://www.mkartcenter.org/
* James Hayden, grandson of Charly Hayden. A Japanese man named Maeda lived with Charly (actual spelling) and Ella Hayden's family in Mohawk near Ping Yang School. James Hayden loaned me the photographs of Maeda and his friend.
* In This Great Land of Freedom, the Japanese Pioneers of Oregon (1993) - The Japanese American National Museum. This is an excellent book about the history of Japanese in Oregon. It has a number of photos of Japanese loggers at the turn of the century. It also has information about the Portland Japanese Methodist Church which was formed in 1893.
* Florence Oregon Newspaper. May 5, 1895 page 1 news article about 1st time the school was bombed and the earlier arson fire.
* Eugene Register Guard archives. Eugene newspapers used to have correspondents in rural areas. Every week or two there would be short items from many of the rural communities. The articles tended to mostly detail the coming and going of local people. Usually these reporters would not get their name on their story. Several of the articles referenced here are signed by "Hayseed" and one by a "Ping Yanger" showing the community tug of war over the school.
NOTE: Items from rural areas were often dated several days earlier than the main newspaper's date. For example, a Mohawk item within the paper could be dated April 14 but the actual newspaper printed on April 16. The dates below are the newspaper's printed date.
- Building the railroad 3-24-1900, 3-30-1900 , 3-31-1900, 4-2-1900, 4-14-1900, 4-18-1900, 4-21-1900
- Ping Yang news articles 4-10-1901, 4-16-1901, 4-26-1901. 7-15-1901 9-25-1902 12-31-1902
from Page 40 Mohawk
Hammitt in an article for the Lane
County Historian said that Old Joe Huddleston was an
was built sometime before the turn of the century to relieve
overcrowding in the old
Ping Yang School Blown Up May 5, 1895 Florence Oregon Newspaper
The Ping Yang school-house was located in the Mohawk valley about 10 or 12 miles east of Eugene. It is a new district, having recently been established. Since its establishment there has been considerable animosity in the district over the location of the school house, and other things. The building was a comparatively new one, though built on a cheap plan, the contract price being $300.
of Salt lake, preached at Ping Yang yesterday to a full house.
We learn that Mr. Cole, of Marcola, intends starting a branch
store at Ping Yang. Ping Yang is located about 12 miles east
Everything quiet at Ping Yang at present.
Mrs. Max Jackson of Ping Yang has a new wheel. We hope the lady won't have any trouble in learning to ride it. Walter Sharp is carrying the mail again. Charly Hayden can find his lost cat by inquiring at Mr. Fawvers.
The party who spoke of Ping Yang needing, a
missionary is off. Ping Yang
don't need a missionary, but the people that live around Ping
Yang do, and we hope they may be able to have one.
between the hours of and the Ping Yang school house, on the
Mohawk, 12 miles northeast of
The explosive was placed under the organ in the southwest corner of the building. The organ, the desks, and all other furniture and apparatus were blown to atoms, the floor and sleepers of the building were completely splintered, the sides of the building were blown out and all that remains Is the roof with part of the frame work to support it.
This is the fourth attempt made to destroy this school house. First an attempt was made to burn it; about three years ago dynamite was used and the building was considerably damaged, the benches, etc, destroyed; and again about a year and a half ago dynamite was placed on the organ and exploded but not much damage was the result. This time however, the fiend who is so bent on demolishing the building was more successful than at any previous attempt.
The Ping Yang school house was built some six or seven years ago at a cost of $400 or $500, it being about 25x30 feet in dimensions and a good building for its class. It contained about $75 worth of apparatus. Just before it was built the district was divided and there was considerable trouble over the location of the new building.
One faction wanted it in one place and another wanted it somewhere else. It was finally built on its present site, but there has been constant dispute in that locality over the matter ever since its erection.
The sheriff was notified of the explosion this morning and he will look into the matter and do all he can to find the guilty party or parties. Suspicion points to certain persons as the perpetrators of the crime, but no tangible clue of their guilt can be obtained.
THE DAILY EUGENE GUARD 9-25-1902: MOHAWK ITEMS
Columbus Cole has sold his sawmill and it is being moved out of the valley. The Seventh Day Adventists have left the valley, but leave many people as believers in their faith. They expect to return within a few months and establish Sabbath school.
THE DAILY EUGENE GUARD 12-31-1902 A NEW SAWMILL FOR MOHAWK
Dec. 31. Mohawk will soon have another sawmill. Mr. Briggs, the enterprising sawmill man and former manager of the Hyland mills at Trent, in preparing to establish a sawmill about three quarters of a mile northeast of Donna with a store and lumber yard on J. Huddleston's place. Such an enterprise "should receive the approval and hearty recommendation of the Mohawkers".
Louis Polley"s book the
below is to a reprint of the news story "The Storming of Ping
Yang", by James Creelman. This was a story of how Japanese
soldiers saved the lives of the citizens of Ping Yang when
Also, an excellent web site about James Creelman is done by the respected
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