A Bozeman Hanging: The Story of Lu Sing
At one time in the past, Bozeman had a significant Chinese population. Brought to the West by railroad or gold mining work, many Chinese people settled in Bozeman. Most Chinese businesses and homes were located in what was called ‘China Alley,’ the alley just north of Main Street between North Rouse and North Bozeman Avenues. There were several Chinese owned laundries, restaurants, and general stores located in this area.
On the morning of Tuesday October 3rd, 1905, Tom Sing sat down for breakfast in the kitchen of the City Restaurant, a Chinese owned place, located on the corner of Main and Bozeman, where Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery sits today. According to sources, Policeman Williams was making his rounds nearby and heard a scream from a Mrs. Maud Gilday. “They’ve cut Tom’s head off! Come quick!” Policeman Williams found Tom Sing on the floor with his head split open and his suit coat slashed to pieces. The policeman asked the nearby restaurant owner, who had committed this crime? The restaurant owner pushed forward Lu Sing, a Chinese man who had been employed by the City Restaurant for a short time as a handyman. “You take him” the restaurant owner said, Lu Sing offered no resistance and was immediately arrested and taken to jail.
Wild speculation on the motive behind the killings followed, fueled by the Republican Courier, the local Bozeman newspaper. Maybe a Chinese company in San Francisco had hired Lu Sing to kill Tom for marrying Anne Kum Chee, the property of a rich company member (Newly immigrated Chinese men were organized into companies by Chinese associations who paid for their tickets to cross the Pacific Ocean. These companies owned them until their debt was paid off). Some said Lu Sing was the rich member who owned Anne and that he had sworn to avenge himself, while others claimed Lu Sing loved Tom’s wife and thought with Tom dead he could marry Anne Kum Chee. People living away from downtown’s ‘China Alley’ thought it had to do with the Chinese Tong Wars. Nevertheless, Tom Sing was dead, and the only statement made by the accused was, “if he kill Tom Sing, he was a good man.”
Lu Sing’s trial began November 15th, the Bozeman Chronicle reported that the hatchet and meat block were brought in as evidence and several Chinese men took the witness stand. Lu Sing also took to the stand to defend himself. Speaking in both Chinese and English, he declared that, “he was outside peeling potatoes, came in for coffee, and saw Tom Sing lying on the floor. Then Yung [the restaurant owner] pushed him at the policeman.” Lu Sing became a bit confused during cross-examination, he was adamant that he had not used the hatchet or killed Tom Sing. Lu Sing’s lawyer argued that the supposed confession was just the policeman’s impressions of Sing’s imperfect English and that there was not confirmed motive for the murder. The jury returned a guilty verdict within 15 minutes, Lu Sing was sentenced to death by hanging.
After several appeals to the Montana Supreme Court, Lu Sing was hanged on Friday April 20th, 1906. Prior to the hanging, the sheriff mailed out 150 invitations to members of the jury, press, and prominent Bozeman citizens. The Republican Courier described the invitations as, “printed on mourning stationary, with a cut of Lu Sing on the upper left hand corner.”
The hanging took place at 1:05am on April 20th, 1906. Lu Sing’s last words were, “I want to notify my cousin in Butte, I want to notify you people that I never kill anyone.”
Lu Sing is buried near the Poor Farm section in Sunset Hills Cemetery, in the northwest corner of the cemetery. The location of Lu Sing’s grave is recorded in city records, but there is no marker remaining. Either the marker has been lost over time or, more likely, no marker was erected.
Republican Courier, April 10, 1906
Three Forks Herald, February 19, 1981
Fergus County Argus, April 27, 1906
The River Press, November 15, 1905
Anne Garner, Who’s Who in the Bozeman Cemetery (Bozeman: The Bozarts Press, 1987).