Ghadar Memorial Foundation Of Astoria

Ghadar Memorial Foundation
The Ghadar Party founded by Punjabis in the United States and Canada

Our Foundation

The Ghadar Party was an organisation founded by Punjabis, principally Sikhs, but also Hindus and Muslims, in the United States and Canada with the aim of securing India's independence from British rule. It was an revolutionary association of Indians with headquarters at San Francisco. Key members included,Bhai Parmanand, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Har Dayal, Kartar Singh Sarabha, Abdul Hafiz Mohamed Barakatullah, Rashbehari Bose and Gulab Kaur, Harnam Singh.

In the early twentieth century, five to six hundred men and one family of East Indians lived along the Columbia River, from The Dalles to the coast, with the largest numbers settling in St. Johns and Astoria. A small group also worked for the railroads in southern Oregon. The men were often called “Hindus” by the newspapers and others—a derogatory term, a misunderstanding of their faith, and a reference to Hindustan (roughly present-day India and Pakistan). East Indians, mainly Sikh men from Punjab and Hindus and Muslims from other regions of India, migrated to the United States because of the harsh conditions—plagues, famines, and political conflict—in Hindustan under British colonial rule. Part of an international diaspora, the East Indian community in North America worked primarily in lumber mills in the Pacific NW and British Columbia, and in agriculture in California.

In the spring of 1913, East Indians formed the radical nationalist Ghadar Party in Astoria. The meeting was held in the Finnish Socialist Hall, reflecting the important ties and comradery East Indian activists had, in Astoria and elsewhere, with socialists, radical labor organizers, and Irish, Finnish, Mexican, and Chinese nationalists. East Indians were sometimes called “coolie slaves” and targeted by white violence. With time and experience, many East Indians came to believe that the lack of self-rule in their country was the cause of their suffering and disrespect the world over, and they vowed to make change. After years of work and discussion, East Indian laborers, activists, students, and intellectuals organized and attended Ghadar’s founding meeting in Astoria, arriving by rail, boat, and car and on foot from British Columbia, San Francisco, and communities along the Columbia River.

The word ghadar translates as mutiny or revolution, and it indicates its adherents’ strategy. With the outbreak of World War I, four to five thousand men left the West Coast for India. Joined by men from the Philippines, Singapore, and beyond, they aimed to persuade the long-serving Sikhs of the British military to mutiny and thereby spark an armed general insurrection to end British rule. Their immediate plan was unsuccessful, and in India most were hung or jailed for life. In San Francisco, the home of Ghadar’s headquarters and newspaper, leading Ghadarites were tried and convicted in the then-largest federal trial ever mounted. Yet despite these significant setbacks, many today in India and in the larger diasporic community consider the Ghadar Party the opening salvo—imaginatively and practically—of the fight for Indian independence, which formally occurred in 1947.

Activists organized Ghadar in Oregon for several reasons. First, Oregon leaders like newspaperman Harvey Scott and Judge Matthew Deady developed a specific racial strategy for Oregon. By providing a safe environment, Oregon attracted and prospered from Chinese laborers and, later, “Hindus,” driven out by racial violence elsewhere in the West. Oregon leaders like Deady, Scott, and others took hard stands in the press and in the courts against race riots. Consequently, especially in western Oregon, there was much less anti-Asian violence than in the rest of the West. Many of these same Oregon leaders, however, also drafted constitutional measures in 1857 to ensure that Negroes, Mulattos, women, and Chinese—and later Japanese, East Indian, and Filipino—could never become citizens or vote. Oregon’s message to Asian laborers seemed to welcome them to work but not to stay.

East Indians did not have an idyllic life in Oregon. One man was killed in a hate crime in Boring in 1907. The community of East Indians in St. Johns was the target of widespread violence in 1910. In the wake of that riot, almost two hundred residents and the town’s mayor and police chief were charged with rioting by the Portland district attorney. Only one man was convicted. East Indians experienced less violence in Oregon than elsewhere in the West; and, unlike anywhere else in the West, perpetrators of violence against East Indians were prosecuted by governmental authorities in Oregon, if with mixed results. In addition to this relative, if uneasy, racial peace, Oregon was not a focus of the political police unit formed by British Columbian authorities and British colonial officials to target so-called Hindu nationalist organizers. That police unit was simply too small and too occupied in the East Indian radical centers of British Columbia and San Francisco to include activists in Oregon. Consequently, East Indian activists had a safer political environment in which to organize in Oregon given the lack of political police arrayed against them, the comparative racial peace in the state, and the significant community of radicals, especially in Astoria, offering them friendship and assistance in their efforts to change their country.


The Ghadar Party event was organized in Astoria, OR in 2013. The Mayor of Astoria, city staff and community members of Astoria helped to organize the event with the Sikh communities of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. Around 300 people came to the inaugural event to put a commemorative plaque to remember the Ghadari Baba in the ground of Maritime Memorial park in Astoria. After 4 years the plaque got stolen, then our state senator, Betsy Johnson and city officials helped us to put a new plaque back in the park. This second celebration was held on July 14, 2018. People came from all over the US and Canada to celebrate the event. We have now decided to hold a celebration every year to remember those Ghadari Baba. This year’s celebration will be held on July 13th from 11am to 2pm at Maritime Memorial Park in Astoria.


Hindu Alley Men Were Peaceable

For more than 18 years Astoria had a Hindu Alley, a block of houses on Birch Street near the old Hammond Mill in Alderbrook. Old-time Astorians estimate that there may have been nearly 100 Hindus from India among the 600 employees of different nationalities working for the mill, which burned Sept. 11, 1922, before the great Astoria fire in December of that year. There were also Greek, Japanese, and Arab workers. The Mohammedan Arabs and the Hindus were often confused. Mention the Hindus to an old-timer, and the immediate response is “Yes, I remember them. They all wore white turbans. They were tall men. They were good wrestlers.” But beyond that very little is commonly known about the Hindus, because as most of the immigrant groups in the early days, they kept to themselves.

Hindu Alley

According to Cecil Moberg, who grew up in Alderbrook, there were 12 bunk houses along the waterfront between 51st and 52nd Streets on Birch where the most of Hindus lived. He said that about four men lived in each house. Hattie Spencer said that 12 Hindus lived in the house behind her home at 4777 Cedar, renting it for a dollar each for a month. For the “Hindu Alley,” bunkhouses, there was a central cook house, said Chris Simonsen, where they ate Indian food. He remembers their making chupaitti pancakes, patting the dough between their hands. He also said that they would only buy live chickens, and only roosters, not hens.

Mill Workers

The mill where they worked was built by George and William Hume, both cannerymen. Construction began in 1903 and The Hume Mill went into operation in 1904. It was briefly called the Tongue Point Lumber Company. Between 1905 and 1906, the mill was bought by A.B. Hammond. Shortly after he took over the mill, Hammond traveled to India and brought back Hindu laborers, according to former mayor Peter Cosovich, of 308 W. Lexington, Astoria. No one could know exactly when the Hindus came to Astoria, but from piecing together the information from about 20 old-time Astorians interviewed this reporter has concluded that they probably came in 1906.

One Hindu Family

Moberg only recalled there being one Hindu family, living in a small house at the foot of 47th Street. The other Hindus were all single men who came to work for the mill. Although most were single men, Mrs. Spencer remembers hearing that “At one time there were two Hindu women dressed as men who worked at the mill for quite a while with the men until they were found out.” But that was all she knew. There were four children in the Hindu family. Moberg said that the two older boys, Kapur and Budha Singh, attended school with him. “The boys had such beautiful white teeth,” he remarked, recounting that one day the boys explained how they cared for their teeth: “They picked a willow twig from the swamp and used it to clean their teeth.” Although Moberg said that these boys “spoke perfect English,” many of the workers at the mill didn’t speak English. Some however, learned while working at the mill, said O.K. Atwood, former mill bookkeeper.

Not Cheap Labor

Although many immigrant groups who came to the United States came because they would work for cheap wages, that was not true of the Hindus. Helmer Lindstrom of 4874 Cedar remembers that the Hindus “never undercut wages”—They would never agree to work for less than the other employees. According to Peters, they worked 10 hours a day, six days a week for 28? A week—at least during the period after he arrived in 1916. The Hindus did different types of work in the mill said Atwood. Some worked on the cargo docks, and some worked on sorting and piling the lumber on the runways.

Feared Hindus

Many of the old-timers reported that as children they were afraid of the Hindus. “We thought they were terrible coming with their turbans,” said Mrs. Spencer. We were afraid of them at first. But my dad said,” They have to make a living as the rest of us. We are foreigners, too.” “As children, we were afraid of them because they were great big men,” Moberg added. Chris Simonson, who lived across from the bunkhouses, remembers as a child throwing snowballs at Hindus, trying to knock off their turbans, in about 1910. He also said that men would pick fights with the Hindus when they came home from town on the last street car in the evening. “For the most part, however, the Astoria community considered the Hindus “vastly interesting, and peaceable.” “The Hindus kept to themselves and didn’t interfere with the whites,” said Mrs. Spencer.

Agile Wrestlers

The Hindus were most known for their prowess and agility in wrestling, back in the days when wrestling was “real, honest-to-goodness wrestling,” in Bill Wootton’s words. They would hold wrestling bouts in Rosenberg Hall, about 11th & Exchange. “They were light-heavyweight champions,” Wootton said. “They used scientific holds and used their science and ability to get in and out of the holds.” .

Hindu Menace Reported

Peters confirmed criticisms voiced in an article in the Dec. 11, 1907 Astoria Weekly Budget. He said that rumors were they not spending it here.” The article was written about Portland’s experiences, and likely the same held true here. “With every vessel from the Far East there are several Hindus who came here to remain a few years,” said the article describing the ‘Hindu menace.” They accumulate what they want in wealth and take it back with them.



Ghadar Memorial Foundation Of Astoria.


1772 Center St NE. Salem OR 97301