Is There a Mass Grave of Chinese Railroad Workers in the Brigham City Cemetery?

Graveyard Survey

The rumored location of the mass grave.

Burial Practices Facts

  • Most railroad workers who died were buried near where they died, not in a small Mormon town some miles away.
  • There are no original cemetery records from 1869.
  • Only "whites" were allowed to be buried in the Brigham City Cemetery until some time in the 1960s (Japenese people counted as white, but Chinese people did not).
  • Prejudices make it unlikely the stated location would have been used for a mass grave for Chinese.
  • The bodies of many of the Chinese workers who died working on the railroad were returned to China after the completion of the project.

Dead Chinamen — Six cars are strung along the road between here and Toano, and are being loaded with dead Celestials for transportation to the Flowery Kingdom. We understand that the Chinese companies pay the Railroad Company ten dollars for carrying to San Francisco each dead Chinaman. Six cars, well stuffed with this kind of freight, will be a good day's work. The remains of the females are left to rot in shallow graves, while every defunct male is carefully preserved for shipment to the Occident.

—Elko Indepndendent, January 1, 1870

Bones of Defunct Chinamen — The Central Pacific freight train last evening brought to the city the bones of about fifty defunct Chinamen who died from disease or were killed by accident while working on the line of the Central Pacific Railroad. They are to be interred in Conboie's private cemetery, as have been already the bones of about one hundred others similarly deceased.

— Sacramento Union, June 30, 1870.

Bones in Transit — The accumulated bones of perhaps 1,200 Chinamen came in by eastern train yesterday from along the line of the Central Pacific Railroad. The lot comprises about 20,000 poundds. Nearly all of them are the remains of employees of the company who were engaged in building the road. The religious customs of the Celestial Empire require that, whenever possible, the bones of its subjects shall be interred upon its own soil and the strictness with which this custom is observed is something remarkable.

— Sacramento Reporter, June 30, 1870

Is There a Mass Grave of Chinese Railroad Workers in the Brigham City Cemetery?