Saturday, January 9, 2016

July 11, 1887: Hong Di

Today we learn about a lynching in California through the pages of the Fort Worth Daily Gazette (Fort Worth, Texas) dated July 12, 1887:

A Chinaman Lynched

COLUSA, CAL., July 11.—Hong Di who was Saturday found guilty of the murder of Mrs. Rillyon [sic], was taken from jail and lynched this morning.


SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., July 11.—A company of national guard troops was placed at the jail at Calousa, Cal., last evening by order of the Governor in order to protect the Chinese murderer Hong Di, who shot and killed Mrs. Billou six months ago. The excitement of the populace regarding the verdict, fixing the penalty at imprisonment for life, was so great that an organized attack on the jail was regarded as imminent. The excitement having apparently died away, the guard was removed shortly before midnight. At 2 o'clock a band of armed men, numbering 200, surrounded the jail and seized the sheriff. The entrance to the jail having been effected, the Chinaman was taken from the jailor's room and taken through Chinatown to the railroad yards. Here the Chinaman was plied with questions, but he was so frightened that he had lost the power of speech. The rope was adjusted and he was swung from the cross-bar of a railway turntable, where he was left suspended.

An earlier article from the May 27, 1887 edition of The Record-Union (Sacramento, California) covers before the trial:




The Murderer Is In No Danger of Being Lynched.

[Copyright, 1887, by the California Associated Press.]

COLUSA, May 26th.—Hong Di, in charge of Sheriff Beville and Under Sheriff Staton, arrived hereabout 5 o'clock this morning. They put Hong in a buggy, setting him in the bottom, so they could throw the laprobe over him and made it appear that there were only two men in the buggy. But they anticipated no attempt at rescue. Hong Di now looks well-fed and sleek.

The talk about his being lynched at Colusa is the veriest bosh. there is not a man in Colusa who will not in this case, as in all others, maintain the majesty of the law. There will be no lynching, and no attempt at it. The murderer is in jail, and there is not the slightest ripple of excitement. About the only excitement here is that created by the slanders on the dead Mrs. Billiou. He will have as fair a trial here as though he were worth his millions.


OROVILLE, May 26th.—Hong Di left here at 10 o'clock last night in charge of Sheriff Beville and a deputy for Colusa. The feeling her in regard to the Examiner dispatch, though considerable, is not so pronounced as at Chico and Colusa, as all the parties are strangers here. We are glad to be rid of Hong Di.


CHICO, May 26th.—Mr Billiou was in Chico to-day, and is almost distracted by the terrible lies told by Hong Di about his wife. He called at the Chico Enterprise office and showed a letter he has written to the Examiner, which appeared in the Enterprise this afternoon. It is as follows:

To the Editor of the Examiner, San Francisco—

DEAR SIR:  In your issue of Tuesday, May 24th, you published what you call "Hong Di's Confession," stating that I am inclined to credit his statements. now, Mr. Editor, this is entirely incorrect. Knowing the circumstances so well, I know the Chinaman's statements are false. If Hong Di did not intend to murder my whole family, why did he shoot Weaver while in the house? Why did he chase Annie around the house armed with an ax? Why did he fire two shots after wounding Weaver and killing Mrs. Billiou, and why did he break in the door with an ax? Weaver is [in] Chillicothe, mo., and holds himself in readiness to return to St. John at once.


Regarding the story that Mr. Billiou is at the head of a hundred men in Colusa county who propose to lynch Hong Di, he requested the Enterprise to state that Mr. Billiou wishes to give the chinaman a fair trial, so that his stories may be proved base falsehoods. If he had the opportunity he would not kill him now, until he had been proved a liar.


Senator A. F. Jones, attorney for Joseph Billiou, had a long interview with Hong yesterday afternoon, in the presence of Sheriff Ball, in the Oroville jail. Hong repeated his story of the intimacy between Weaver and Mrs. Billiou. Senator Jones told him that the story was ridiculous and absurd. "Well," replied Hong, "I have told it that way, and if I changed it nobody would believe me." This morning the Chinaman took a notion that he wanted to write out a full history of the crime. He was furnished with paper and pencil, and has been writing all day. A man was put in with him to tell him hown [sic] to spell words he was in doubt about.

Chico Enterprise, May 25th.

I touched on this story in an article of interest  following a different lynching. The trial was covered in the July 8 - 9, 1887 editions of the San Francisco Chronicle. Hong Di's true name was Ho Ah Heung as revealed in the trial. 

Thank you for joining me and as always, I hope I leave you with something to ponder.

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