Vigilante mob marches into Rocklin's Chinatown

Rocks, Rails and Ranches
By: Daniel DeFoe, Special to the Placer Herald
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Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series focusing on the expulsion of the Chinese residents of Rocklin in 1877. By Daniel DeFoe Special to the Placer Herald They came at sundown on Sept. 18, 1877 a deadly procession brandishing axes, awls and rifles, a vigilante mob filled with terrible purpose. Murder was in the air, and the place was Rocklin, California. The mob marched on the modest Chinatown located near the Southern Pacific Railroad roundhouse, a community of a few hundred people set discreetly away from the rest of the city. The residents had been given an ultimatum: “pack up, get out, or be driven out!” The deadline was 6 p.m. and all afternoon long lines of terrified Chinese, carrying whatever belongings they could manage, had been filing out of town. Shortly after six, the outraged white citizens of Rocklin fell on the now empty 25 structures and tore them to pieces. An overturned stove ignited a fire that spread quickly and Chinatown disappeared in smoke and ash. The cause that sent the “good citizens” of Rocklin to drive out the Chinese community, many of whom had lived in the region since the building of the Transcontinental Railroad, was murder. The awful news had spread of a multiple homicide at the Sargent Ranch in Secret Ravine. On Sept. 15, ranch hands discovered the body of a white woman inside the main house. She had been attacked with an axe and shot twice. Outside they discovered her husband, the ranch foreman Xavier D. Oder, dead of multiple gunshot wounds. Not far from this grisly scene lay a third victim, the ranch owner H. N. Sargent, mortally wounded with bullets in his head and shoulder. Sargent lived long enough to accuse several Chinese men of the crime. Police called in from Rocklin and Roseville arrived on the scene, and on the dying man’s testimony arrested ten Chinese miners at their cabin — not much more than a stone’s throw from the murder scene. Police found weapons and money on the men. Reportedly, the Sargent house had been robbed and circumstantially this was enough for the officers who hauled off their frightened prisoners, incarcerating them in the Rocklin jail. ________ Rocklin History Lecture series Who: Don Perera of the Rocklin Historical Society What: The story of the Nisenan, Rocklin’s first inhabitants When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16 Where: Old St. Mary’s Chapel, 5251 Front St., Rocklin