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Mob of unemployed workers led attack on Chinese in Los Angeles

On October 23, 1871, California witnessed one of the saddest incidents in its history when 19 Chinese immigrants were killed in a Los Angeles race riot. Chinese immigrants had been flocking to California for several decades, and by the 1870s they made up over ten percent of the population. The Central Pacific railroad company was using almost all Chinese labor to replace Irish workers who had demanded high wages and often went on strike. Many white Californians resented their loss of jobs. The additional factor of the gold mines drying up left more men without work, increasing the tension.

Since 1854 California’s public officials had officially been anti-Chinese, attempting to restrict Chinese immigration and using derogatory terms such as "coolies."Los Angeles in particular was known for its lawlessness, especially in the Chinatown area. On October 23 a number of Americans accused a Chinese man of shooting a white man. A mob of unemployed workers formed in the area, shouting "California for the Americans." They looted and destroyed much of Chinatown and eventually hung 19 Chinese-Americans. The authorities took no action against them, in effect approving racial violence.

Modoc War was the last Indian battle fought in California

From January to June in 1873, the U.S. Army fought the Modoc War in California. The troubles began in 1852, when some Modoc Indians attacked a train entering California, killing half of the passengers. The Americans retaliated by proposing a peace conference, and then killing the Indians who came to it. In 1869, the Modocs were sent north by the U.S. government to a Klamath Indian reservation. When they returned to their homes, it was viewed as a defiance of U.S. authority, and the U.S. Army moved in on the Modoc area.

About 175 Modocs retreated to the lava caves in Siskiyou County. They demanded that the Army leave them in peace, and in return they would not bother the settlers. Under Chief Kientepoos (known as Captain Jack) the Modocs held off the soliders. Then, under the cover of a peace flag, the Modocs shot the commanding U.S. General and a number of troops. Following this incident, the Army ruthlessly tracked down all the Modocs, killing their leaders and many of the rest of the tribe.  The end did not come for six months, during which time the U.S. lost 75 men and $500,000, while 200 Modoc were killed. It was the last battle fought in California.

Luther and Eliza Tibbets brought first navel oranges to the state

An important development in California agriculture occurred when Luther and Eliza Tibbets brought navel oranges to the state. Oranges were already a major industry in California. By 1872, there were over 35,000 orange trees in Los Angeles County alone. After the Southern Pacific Railroad opened services to Los Angeles, the fruit was easily exported east for significant profits. William Wolfskill, a former trapper, was able to sell one crop for $23,000, which caused other growers to think about expansion. Among these was Judge John Wesley North, who bought 4,000 acres of barren land on credit and then convinced numerous immigrants from Michigan and Iowa to come to California. In the spring of 1871 they began to plant thousands of orange seedlings.

Among these early settlers were the Tibbets. In 1873 they received cuttings, which had been sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture from Brazil, of a variety of orange called the navel orange. They carefully planted the two cuttings, which grew to produce a juicy, seedless and delicious fruit. These two trees became the parent stock for planting throughout the 1880s, and navel oranges flourished in the California soil and sun. A memorial marks one of the original trees, still growing in Riverside.

Workingmen's political party was formed

In 1877, an Irishman named Denis Kearney organized a powerful new political party called the Workingmen’s party of California. Kearney was a forceful speaker who had a successful business in San Francisco until his cruel remarks caused merchants to withdraw their support from him. He was outspoken against the Chinese immigrants who were willing to work for less pay. Kearney led riots in 1877, and often threatened violence, both towards the Chinese and those he called "robber-capitalists" who employed them. He was eventually removed from his own party’s highest office. However, the party itself remained a power in state politics.

The movement was significant as the first attempt to organize labor in California. It pushed for 8-hour work days, statewide public schools, banking reform, and restrictions on monopolies. When the California constitution was revised in 1878, 51 of 152 delegates were registered as Workingmen, and their demands were reflected in the laws of the next few years even though the party largely dissolved by 1880.


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