Mining and the Immigrants

Thomas G. Alexander
Utah, The Right Place

The influx of emigrants with diverse cultures cut against the tight grain of community needed for successful union organization. In 1880, for instance, nearly half of the workers at Bingham were emigrants, principally from the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Canada—all but a small percentage were northern European. Cornish “Cousin Jacks” dominated the British group. Over time, workers from southern and eastern Europe and east Asia, savaged by economic and social changes in their own countries, sought a new life in America.

More than 10,000 Chinese, mostly from south China, worked for the Central Pacific, laying track over the Sierra, paralleling the Humboldt in Nevada, and crossing the Salt Lake Desert to its rendezvous with the Union Pacific at Promontory Summit. After the completion of the railroad, some settled in Utah, generally in Box Elder County; some worked on railroad construction crews; a few worked in the mining industry, a smattering as far south as Silver Reef; and others operated businesses, usually laundries and restaurants in the cities, towns, and mining camps. In general, they formed an underclass that was ill-treated by most Euro-Americans in social business and relations.