The Railroad's Chinese Jail

Bryan Spellman

Plains, United States

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Artist's Description

Featured in the group Historic Sites, March 5th, 2020.
Featued in the group Tuesday Afternoon, March 29th, 2020.

When the Northern Pacific Railroad came through western Montana in the mid 1880s, a large number of Chinese came to build the iron highway. Paradise, Montana, was a major center for the railroad, with a plant set up nearby to build the wooden ties on which the iron rails rest. For some reason, no doubt racist, the Chinese were not allowed within the town of Paradise, and had to camp outside the town’s limits. As is common with large groups of men (of any ethnicity), there were often fights or other altercations which ended up with the men jailed or otherwise separated. In the case of the Chinese, should any of them get into trouble with the railroad bosses, they would be taken across the Clark Fork River and left in this small cabin at least overnight. There were no bridges in those days. The cabin sits on the south side of the River and the railroad runs along the north side. Another sad story of how the West was won.

I do not know exactly when the cabin was built, most likely 1880-1885, but around 2000, after the building had fallen into disrepair, a local artisan, Orville Kuester, rebuilt it from the ground up using the original materials he found on the site.

Taken March 4th, 2020 near Paradise, Sanders County, Montana, USA.

Nikon D810 dslr, Nikkor 24-120 mm lens set at 29 mm. ISO 500, f /16, 1/20th second. Shot in RAW format, finished in Lightroom Classic and Photoshop CC 2020.

Artwork Comments

  • Kathy Weaver
  • Bryan Spellman
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  • Stephen Thomas
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