The Old Chinese Jail

An old cabin used as a jail for Chinese laborers on the Northern Pacific Railroad
The Old Chinese Jail

Workin’ on the Railroad

The Northern Pacific Railroad’s Chinese Jail at Paradise, Montana is a unique piece of American history. Built in 1886, it was designed to hold Chinese workers working on the railroad. At the time, Chinese immigrants often faced discrimination and violence. The jail was a reflection of the anti-Chinese sentiment that was prevalent in America during that time.

The Chinese were an important part of the workforce that built the transcontinental railroad. The railroad officials knew them to be hard workers, willing to do dangerous jobs,. One such job was blasting through mountains and laying tracks over treacherous terrain. Despite their contributions to the railroad, they were often treated poorly and were paid less than their white counterparts.

The Chinese Jail

The Northern Pacific Railroad built the Chinese Jail at Paradise to house Chinese workers arrested for various reasons. Built of wood with a dirt floor, the jail was a small, one-room building. The building was only about 12 feet by 15 feet in size, and it had no windows. The only entrance to the building was through a small door that was only a few feet tall.

The conditions in the jail were harsh. Officials ooften subjected the Chinese workers held there to abuse and mistreatment. Given very little food and water, they slept on the cold, hard floor. Many of them became sick or died as a result of their confinement in the jail.

A 16x20 inch print of the Old Chinese Jail being held by a woman
The 16×10″ print is available as either a glossy photo paper print or a ready-to-hang stretched canvas print

Perseverence in the face of discrimination

Despite the harsh conditions, the Chinese workers perservered, continuing to work on the railroad. They carried on, and their hard work and dedication helped to complete the Northern Pacific in 1883.

Today, the Northern Pacific Railroad’s Chinese Jail at Paradise is a reminder of the struggles and sacrifices that Chinese immigrants faced in America. It is also a reminder of the important role that the Chinese played in building America’s infrastructure.

A sad part of our history

The Northern Pacific Railroad’s Chinese Jail at Paradise is a powerful symbol of the struggles and triumphs of Chinese immigrants in America. It is a reminder that despite the discrimination and mistreatment that they faced, they persevered and made important contributions to American society. Today, we can honor their legacy by learning about their history and by working to ensure that we treat all people with dignity and respect, regardless of their race or ethnicity.

A 3 foot by 6 foot triptych of the old Chinese jail hanging above a large couch in a home or office setting
The 3×6 foot 3-panel triptych is sure to make a statement in your home or office

To see a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train crossing the Clark Fork, check out this blog post. The scene is just a few miles upstream from the jail.