Two opposing Chinese factions fought each other at Five Cent Gulch in the Chinese War of 1854. Tensions from the two factions, the Hong Kongs and the Cantons, originated from the disparities in their political and religious beliefs back in China. Tensions continued in California when the two groups argued over mining rights near the West Weaver Creek. The battle may have started because of a dispute over the possession of a Tom sluice, which came to a bloody end when a Hong Kong man shot one of the Cantons with a dueling pistol. The Cantons, furious over the death of one of their leaders, immediately called for a battle, a challenge the Hong Kongs quickly accepted.
Although both factions originally agreed that any type of weapon was allowed for this battle, voyeuristic and meddlesome white miners threatened the two factions that if any stray bullet hurt any white spectator, the white miners would come after and kill all the Chinese. These threats almost called off the battle, but with more egging on from these white spectators, the two factions continued their preparations by ordering medieval-like and fearsome weapons from local blacksmiths. The white spectators also took it upon themselves to train and drill both sides in military tactics.
Almost 2,000 spectators arrived from all over Shasta and Trinity counties to witness the fight. The Hong Kongs clearly outnumbered the Cantons, but the Cantons hid pistols under their clothes. In addition, the white miners resolved to even the numbers for the crowd favorite Cantons by interfering movement of one of the Hong Kong divisions. The white spectators then proceeded to force the factions into battle with rocks and clubs.
The Cantons saw their opportunity and charged toward the Hong Kongs with their weapons drawn, stabbing and piercing the bodies that had fallen. As the Hong Kongs retreated, the Cantons drew their pistols, and began shooting at the Hong Kongs. The white spectators also sought cover, but one white miner, John Malmberg, took advantage of the situation and targeted the Hong Kongs with his own gun. Dan Horn, another spectator who had gambled his money on the Hong Kongs, ended Malmberg’s rampage by shooting him through the head as a means of eliminating help for a Canton victory.
After a brief and victorious 10-minute battle, the Cantons marched back to Weaverville with flags waving high and drums beating loudly. With fatalities on both factions, the Cantons and Hong Kongs spent the next day burying their 26 dead in separate cemeteries and tending to their 60 wounded. The Chinese War of 1854 was over.
Presently, Five Cent Gulch no longer resembles a battlefield. Developers have constructed houses and apartments on the privately held land of the battlefield.
Submitted by: Sylvia Guan, USFS