Selangor Civil War: Destruction and Revival
Tin mining was still the leading industry in the new settlements of Selangor in 1860-70s. When there were two fast growing mining centres in one state with distance of no more than 20 km in between, direct confrontation was inevitable. Owners of tin mines from both Kuala Lumpur and Kanching could not wait to expand their territories. Eventually, they came face to face fighting over the same mining ground.
The civil war of Selangor had already broken out between the Malay chiefs around the coastal port of Klang in 1867. Once Kuala Lumpur and Kanching became a part of the battlefield, the Chinese labourers were also divided between the two camps to support different Malay chiefs secretly and fought against each other for the control over mines.
In the civil war, Yap Ah Loy allied himself with Tunku Kudin against Raja Mahdi, the most powerful Malay chief at the time being. In 1872, Kuala Lumpur fell in the hands of Raja Mahdi and the cruel chief burnt all the wooden houses on the town to the ground. The mines were neglected and mistreated to swamps. The miner’s machinery and property were properly destroyed. Kuala Lumpur was turned to a ruin from the prosperous small shiny town.
However, Yap Ah Loy recaptured Kuala Lumpur along with his ally Tunku Kudin in 1873. With the help of British intervention, his territory was even expanded to the coastal area of Selangor at the time including the old enemy town Kanching. He rebuilt the town and the centre of the Chinese settlement was moved from Klang and Gombak rivers to the nowadays Old Market in the centre of Kuala Lumpur. Roads was built in and around the town to the main mining areas. At the end of 1870s, Kuala Lumpur became ‘the neatest and prettiest Chinese and Malay town’. By late 1875, the labour force was rebuilt to 60% of what it had been in 1870. Since its major competitors Kanching and Klang was also destroyed in the war and now in control of Yap Ah Loy, the wealth and political power of Kuala Lumpur started to build up rapidly again.