by Stephen Williamson
(C) 2005 - Updated
why was a school in rural Oregon given an
Asian name, and why was it bombed three times and set
on fire twice? The answer is a complex mix of social,
religious and racial prejudices that exploded in the
small, rapidly growing community. 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.
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. At the
bottom of this paper is my list of over thirty references and
links for readers to further explore the causes and perpetrators
of the bombings.
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 1899-1900. 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
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.
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 Asian children were
actually taught there. It's likely the school taught Japanese railroad
workers English and Christianity.
There are two photographs of Japanese men from a longtime teacher, Ella Hayden. Her family befriended two Japanese men. On the back of one of the photos is written the phrase "Thy is so good." Missionaries often taught English using King James Bibles. The home addresses in Japan of both men are on the photos.
Read about Ella and Charly Hayden and their friendship with Japanese workers at this link.
Louis Polley wrote in his book A
History of the Mohawk Valley and Early Lumbering 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
There had been a vote on
building the new school. Huddleston was opposed to it. A
minister and 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.
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. It became very good PR for Japan.
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 newspaper that was covering the 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.
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. Google Books - Battle of Ping Yang
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. You can read his famous speech declairing "I Am A Boxer" at this link. http://www.chinapage.com/world/mark3e.html
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). Reverend J.F.
Mulkey was a founder of the school and also wore his beard quite
long and tied behind his head.
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. I did railroad construction in my younger years and other laborers look down on railroad men. Teams of railroad men are called "gangs".
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. He had come to Oregon when he was a boy in the 1840's with his
parents. He had lived with the Kalapooya Indians and once
had an Indian wife. 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.
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. Almost all farmers in timber rich Oregon used dynamite to blow up tree stumps to clear fields. Huddleston 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 nearby lumber mill employed nearly 1,000 people. The bombing of Ping Yang was partly a reaction against this rapid growth bring people from everywhere. Huddleston campaigned against the building (and rebuilding) of the school using people's racist fears of Asians.
Rising to oppose Huddleston and his "Boxers" were a handful of ordinary people with courage, people who believed in public education. They were farmers like the Hayden family, lumbermen like John Barr, teachers like the Spores and Staffords, and merchants like Columbus Cole.
Columbus Cole, an early
merchant imported "many items from Japan," according to a video
tape made by Louis Polley in 1991. Here is a 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.
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
& Religious Tensions Behind the Bombings
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. You can read the full text of
these news items below.
alcohol may also have been a motive - at least in the first
bombing. In the 1896 election the school was used by supporters of
Democrat William Jennings Byran for president. Bryan was in favor
of outlawing alcohol. Joe Huddleston, a Republican, countered by
running for public office in Mohawk giving away bottles of "Ping
Yang Brandy" less than a year after the school had been bombed.
Huddleston won. Here
is a link to the Eugene newspaper article of Huddleston's Ping
Yang Brandy - June 20, 1896.
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
Eugene 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 first name to show that it was a different "Miss
Kerns". It is possible that Maude Kerns traveled from one school
to the other since they were so close together. 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
The April 10th newspaper article stating that
“Maud Kerns is teaching the McGowan School” is interesting. Ping Yang was originally
built to replace the McGowan School.
The newspaper article says that McGowan was already an old
schoolhouse at the time of the bombings. It had been planned to be
closed when Ping Yang was built. The Ping Yang School was
reportedly built to relieve overcrowding in the McGowan School
because of all the new people and logging. According to Claud
Hammitt and Louis Polley the McGowan School was called the “old
White School” because it had a new coat of white paint about 1900.
McGowan School was not called the "White School" until after the
Most schools are named for the community they
serve or for the people who donated the land, as in the case of
the McGowan School. Often the names of famous Americans are used.
Few schools are named for battlefields in foreign countries
thousands of miles away, or for the sound of railroad bells or for
the color of their paint (the famous 1870’s painting of the
idyllic “Little Red Schoolhouse” being an exception). The
contrasting names of the two schools, Ping Yang and the “White
School” -- so different yet so physically close to each other,
suggests that racial issues could have had something to do with
their names or, perhaps it was named just for the color of its
paint. To us today, it certainly sounds racial - especially since
it was known simply as the "McGowan School" for many years before
it was painted white.
It is hard to
overestimate 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
date or even marry 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. Early attempts to establish a
university in Eugene, Oregon failed because someone set fire to
Huddleston and How Ping Yang School was Named
did the name Ping Yang come from? It appears that Ping Yang was
the name of the entire area, not just the school. Multiple
newspaper accounts from 1895 onward use the name "Ping Yang"
referring to the general area. A Mohawk brass band even called
itself the "Ping Yang Band" in 1902. When the school was built
in 1896, no Chinese would have used the name "Ping Yang."
But, it could have been a very good name if the school had some
connection with Japan or In 1894 Korea. The Japanese became heroes to the
Americans by "rescuing" the capital of Korea, which was named
Ping Yang (Pyongyang), from Chinese "invaders". In
1895 the name "Ping Yang" was associated very positively with
Korea and the Japanese, not China.
The issue of building and keeping the Ping Yang School divided the whole Mohawk area. The tiny Mohawk School District separated itself into four districts in 1895 when Ping Yang was opened. These four schools (Stafford, McGowan, Ping Yang and a fourth school) were not more than 2-3 miles apart from each other, even closer. The total number of students in the four schools could not have been more than a hundred or so in 1896. Yet, each school wanted its own separate school district controlled by only the people in that vicinity. What made them mistrust each other so? It must have been something about the Ping Yang Schoolhouse.
There are only a handful of accounts of how Ping Yang got its name and why it was attacked. Most of these stories were not written down until over sixty years after the bombings. There are no known public records of the Ping Yang School. The State of Oregon kept few records on schools of that day. What follows are the varied reasons reported for the origin of the name Ping Yang. Several of these tales are completely improbable and may have been invented to cover up the brutal reality that a school which was also being used as a church was firebombed three times.
According to the earliest newspaper reports, the name Ping Yang actually belonged to the entire area, not just to the school. Three newspaper reports from 1895-1901 use the name of Ping Yang to refer to the geographic area. In 1902 a brass band called itself the Ping Yang Band. The name Ping Yang was used about a decade, until the railroad came and changed the name to "Donna." The larger valley’s name was always Mohawk, a name which it retains to this day. The valley was named by John Spores, an early settler who thought it looked much like the Mohawk Valley of New York State.
The July 15, 1901 article calls the bomber a "fiend" and notes the long community battle over the school. The earlier 1896 article also indicates the perpetrators were known at the time. Huddleston and his “boxers” made little attempt to hide their identities or sympathies. The very first newspaper article in 1895 mentions arrests being talked about, but that none were made.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.
There were at
least five attempts to destroy the school (three by dynamite and
two by fire) over a six year period. There must have been
"socially sanctioned" reasons why no one was arrested for the
bombings. Joe Huddleston was clever enough to appeal to people's
racist imaginations to get rid of the school by playing on their
fears of the Chinese and other Asians. Perhaps even the school's
opposition to alcohol (which he manufactured) may have been
reason enough to bomb the school, at least the first time in
Photo of The Ping Yang Band - first formed in 1902
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 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 researcher will try to locate descendents of these almost forgotten pioneers using census records and old newspapers. Those who stayed faced years of discrimination and hardship.
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 we often remember. But by the late 1800's social and legislative decisions 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, fear and ignorance. We also need to remember community
historians like Claude Hammitt, Louis Polley and Curtis Irish
who work to preserve our shared history.
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 the April 1966 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 elderly parents for another twenty years. Charly Road is named for him.
Mulkey died in 1903 at the age of seventy four. The strain of
the fight to save the school took its toll on the old
minister. The Mohawk item reporting his death ends with a
poignant note, apparently referring to Huddleston or his
followers. It says that “there are some people who would get
along very well without spending too much time killing
happened to the Hayden's friends, Maeda and Yoshihara, after
they left the Mohawk Valley is not known for certain. Many
early Japanese immigrants returned to Japan. Those who stayed
faced decades of discrimination and exclusion laws. Maeda is
said to have returned to Japan. He and Charly kept in touch
with letters for some years.