The story of Historic Wintersburg has its roots in the late 1800s, with the formation of Wintersburg Village in the peatlands. The rich farmland brought people from across the country and across the sea, all hoping to create a new life in California.
Henry Winters promotes Orange County at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Winters was named president of the California Celery Company and helped place Orange County celery in eastern U.S. markets. Winters also donated land for the rail line that went through Wintersburg. Residents circulated a petition to name the town in his honor, creating the little community of Wintersburg.
"In the early years of the county's history, Mr. Winters purchased twenty acres of land...His land yielded 137 bushels of shelled corn and 100 sacks of marketable potatoes to the acre the first year...samples of this remarkable showing were placed on exhibition at the World's Columbian Exposition, in 1893, and created a sensation. Probably this exhibit, more than any other display from California, had a tendency to place the resources of Orange County in the proper light before the world in general." A History of Orange County, Samuel Armor, 1921
Left: An 1899 advertisement for Crescent Bicycles at the time of Orange County's pioneer and agricultural era. An 1899 film clip, "Ladies on Bicycles," demonstrates Victorian ladies had mastered tricky maneuvers with full skirts, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1iaF4Np2PU (Advertising image, Orange County Directory, 1899, Fullerton Public Library)
A great granddaughter of Henry Winters, Diane Daly, writes to Historic Wintersburg in 2013, "He was born Luther Henry Winters, in Warren OH and married Cordelia Wilson, who was born in Pasadena. My mother and cousin, who are granddaughters of Henry, are still alive in CA. They tell me that Henry's land was on Warner and Gothard. He had 6 children, my grandmother Bonnie was the oldest."
A 1920 "Huntington Beach - Newport Oil Fields" map shows Henry Winters still owned property west of the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks near Gothard Avenue, north of Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue, within a couple minutes walking distance northwest of the Charles and Yukiko Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission.
Eighteen-year-old Charles Mitsuji Furuta arrives in America, first in Washington state. He is prevented from disembarking in Hawaii to join his brother, Soichi, due to contagion and continues alone to America. He works in the lumber and railroad industry for a few years in Washington.
Left: Charles Mitsuji Furuta, circa 1904. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family)
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Clergy begin walking into the celery fields in the Wintersburg area to talk with Japanese bachelor laborers. Labor camps are located off present-day Springdale Street and Warner Avenue, and in the area of Smeltzer (north Huntington Beach). One of the camps is managed by Tsuneji Chino, one of the first Japanese to arrive in Orange county (along with Tsurumatsu Asari). Chino later becomes a good friend of Charles and Yukiko Furuta.
Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission effort founded by Reverend Barnabus Terasawa, a Cambridge-educated Episcopalian minister, with support from the Presbyterian community of nearby Westminster. The newly-formed congregation begins meeting in a barn in Wintersburg Village. This coincides with a community meeting in the Armory building at Wintersburg and Gothard avenues regarding the need for churches in the growing village.
"In 1905 fireworks for the Fourth of July were donated and handled by the Japanese Association of Wintersburg (an area that is now part of Huntington Beach), which put on the show in a local baseball field....An unusual feature of early Huntington Beach Fourths was the recognition of local ethnic communities, particularly Huntington Beach's sizable Japanese American population, in the parade and other activities. During the early years of the twentieth century, resident Japanese entertained viewers with wrestling matches and dance exhibitions and, later in the day, handled the fireworks display. In 1935 the Huntington Beach parade included full-fledged Japanese and Spanish divisions."
(Editor's note: the "local baseball field" is likely the present-day Triangle Park on Main Street in Huntington Beach, which was known to host night baseball games in the early 1900s.) Source: Debra Gold Hansen and Mary P. Ryan, "Public Ceremony in a Private Culture: Orange County Celebrates the Fourth of July," Chapter 6, Postsuburban California: The Transformation of Orange County Since World War II (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991)
ABOVE: Warner Avenue Baptist Church, constructed as the Wintersburg M.E. Church in 1906 at the southeast corner of Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue and Gothard Avenue, is a couple minutes walk west of the Wintersburg Presbyterian Mission complex. (Photo, 2012) All rights reserved. ©
The present-day Warner Avenue Baptist Church is constructed as the Wintersburg M.E. Church. Henry Winters donated the land for the Church in 1906 and Wintersburg resident James Cain donated a house for the parsonage. There is still a Cain Drive, just south of the Warner Avenue Baptist Church off Gothard Avenue.
ABOVE: South side view of the former Wintersburg M.E. Church, from the backyard of an early 1900s bungalow on Cain Drive at Gothard Avenue. (Photo, May 2013) All rights reserved. ©
Land documents from the Orange County Archives show the Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission property was purchased this year through the help of Rev. Terasawa. The property later was deeded to Charles Furuta, who in turn later donated a portion for the church.
Construction begins on the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission. Huntington Beach incorporates in February 1909.
The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission construction is completed and the first services are held. The Manse (clergy home) next door is completed this year, by builder J. Hori. Reverend Joseph K. Inazawa and his wife, the former Miss Kate Alice Goodman, take up residence in the Manse.
LEFT: The building plans for the Manse, constructed by J. Hori in 1910. (Image, Wintersburg Presbyterian Church) All rights reserved. ©
The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission supports the establishment of the Japanese Language School in Talbert (Fountain Valley).
Charles Mitsuji Furuta travels back to Japan to meet his bride, Yukiko Yajima. She was seventeen, he was 31. They return to America on the Shinyu Maru of the Toyo Kisen Kaisha shipline, later NYK (the Japan Mail Steamship Co.) in 1912.
The final touches are made on the Furuta bungalow, freshly painted with red iron oxide and white trim. During her 1982 oral history interview, Yukiko Furuta explains, "It was originally about half the size of the present house, because only two people lived in it. It had a living room, a kitchen, and two bedrooms...There was no electricity, no city gas, and...an outdoor bathroom. The road in front of the house (Wintersburg Avenue) was so muddy that when it rained she couldn't walk on it."
Yukiko Furuta stands on the porch of her new home, circa 1913, the Manse can be seen in the background and the edge of the 1910 Mission to the right. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family) All rights reserved. ©
Koha Takeishi flies his Curtiss model airplane from Dominguez Hills airfield to Wintersburg. His plane was purchased through a fundraising effort by Smeltzer and Wintersburg farmers, who raised $4,000 and formed the "Smeltzer Flying Company." Takeishi is killed at an airshow in Osaka later the same year.
California Governor Hiram Johnson signs the Alien Land Law of 1913 on May 19 (effective August 10) prohibiting "aliens ineligible for citizenship" from owning land, but permitting leases lasting up to three years. Directed at the Japanese, the law also affected Chinese, Indian and Korean immigrants. Having purchased the land prior to 1909, the Furuta farm is grandfathered and remains under the ownership of Charles Furuta.
The newly re-constructed Huntington Beach pier is dedicated, including day-long festivities that feature a surfing demonstration by George Freeth, and a fencing and sword dance demonstration by the Japanese community. (Huntington Beach News, June 12, 1914)
The Japanese Language School opens in Garden Grove, California.
LEFT: Pacific Electric Railroad track washed out by flooding, circa 1916. (Photo, National Archives)
"After getting on the red car, I would pay the conductor the five cents it cost to go to the Garden Grove station, from where I walked south on Taft Street to the Garden Grove language school located on Sherman Street."
Clarence Nishizu, 1982 oral history interview, California State University Japanese American Project
Spanish Flu pandemic sweeps the world, causing over a half million deaths in the United States and killing nearly six percent of the world's population.
"It was taken for granted that all members of every family would be afflicted by this flu. Our family was no exception. Every member of our family came down with the flu. I was only ten or so years old when this epidemic hit. One day we found out that my parents both had been infected, and that there was nobody to care for us. Suddenly, Mr. Goya came to our house. My mother asked him to please leave, or otherwise he would certainly contract the flu himself. But he utterly refused to go."
Clarence Nishizu, 1982 oral history interview, California State University Japanese American Project.
LEFT: "Wintersburg Folk Join Celebration" headline in September 12, 1919, Santa Ana Register (now Orange County Register), featuring an article about a reception for returning World War I soldiers.
"The Wintersburg-Smeltzer section was well represented at the reception for soldiers and sailors at the Orange County Park Admission day, among which were numbers of local service men who have returned home. Between 30 and 35 are on the local roll of honor and a goodly number of these men were in attendance."
Among those at the event noted by the Santa Ana Register: the Gothards, the Worthys, the Grahams, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Moore, the Kettler family, the Nichols family, and Reverend Junzo Nakamura of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission.
California passes Alien Land Law of 1920, imposing additional restrictions to the 1913 law. Under the 1920 law, leasing land for a period of three years or less and owning stock in agricultural companies was prohibited. Those identified as agents or guardians of ineligible aliens were required to submit an annual report on their activities.
Reverend Kenji Kikuchi and family arrive in Wintersburg Village, replacing Reverend Junzo Nakamura, and live in the Manse. Reverend Kikuchi remains the clergy at Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission during the time it organized as a Church, departing in 1936.
RIGHT: Charles and Yukiko's son, Ray Furuta, high jumping at Huntington Beach High School, circa 1929. Note the oil derricks in the background. (Photo courtesy of Furuta family) All rights reserved. ©
Black Tuesday came October 29, 1929, and with it the Great Depression. Reverend Kenji Kikuchi of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church ran to the Huntington Beach Bank to find out what happened to the Church funds. "We almost felt like crying," he remembered. "But, later, when we fixed pews in the church, we could draw our deposit from the bank after the arrangement by the government. In this way, we collected small amounts of money little by little."
The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission helps start a Japanese Language School at Laguna Beach.
"The area where these families farmed was called Crystal Cove...In 1929, Reverend Kenji Kikuchi of the Japanese Presbyterian Church of Wintersburg came to the house of Mr. Shinichi Matsuyama, one of the farmers, and started a school there...(Shinichi Matsuyama) also opened his home for Presbyterian church services and Reverend Kikuchi's lessons were religiously oriented. On Saturday his house was open for language and on Sunday it was open for church service."
Clarence Nishizu, 1982 oral history interview, California State University Japanese American Project
ABOVE: Crystal Cove, along the coast just north of Laguna Beach proper, after a flood in 1937. (Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives)
Reverend Kenji Kikuchi reports on the "new Sunday school at Laguna Beach."
The Costa Mesa Japanese Language School opens at Whittier Avenue on land bequeathed to Tosh Ikeda by Fanny Bixby Spencer (the first Costa Mesa school building was leased from the school district and was at Nineteenth Street and Harbor Boulevard). The School is founded by Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission congregant Shuji Kanno, father of James Kanno, the first mayor of Fountain Valley and first Japanese American mayor of a continental U.S. city. The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission supports the School, some later classes being taught by Reverend Sohei Kowta.
A 1930 listing for Charles Furuta notes his golf fish farm. (Orange County Directory, 1930, Fullerton Public Library)
A 1930 listing for Henry Kiyomi Akiyama--who tested the first goldfish ponds with Charles Furuta at the Furuta farm--shows he has moved his gold fish farm from Wintersburg to Westminster. (Orange County Directory, 1930, Fullerton Public Library)
A 1930 listing for Tsurumatsu Asari, whose goldfish farm was further east on Wintersburg (Warner) Avenue, shows he received his mail at the Santa Ana post office. (Orange County Directory, 1930, Fullerton Public Library)
The publication of Echo, written by the American-born Nissei generation in Orange County.
The Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church opens the doors to its new building, a classic Southern California Spanish Revival style.
LEFT: The 1934 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church. (Courtesy of Wintersburg Church) All rights reserved. ©
The congregation managed to raise funds and build during the Great Depression, seeking funds from all over Orange County.
The original 1910 Mission and Manse (clergy home) remain on the property, now hidden from view by the 1934 Church building. Behind the Manse, the clergy kept chickens and other small livestock to feed their families.
The Japanese Language School and Sunday services supported by the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church expand at the Laguna Beach location. The building used for the school is now Cottage #34 at Crystal Cove State Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
"In 1935 the Japanese community in this area constructed a new building on the bluff above Crystal Cove west of Coast Highway...this new building was used for community purposes in general. Kendo, Japanese culture, religious services, both Buddhist and Christian, an annual Christmas play, and farm meetings to discuss labor problems...perhaps the first farm cooperative was born where the farmers formed a seed-buying cooperative known as the Laguna Beach Growers Association. Also, the young people used the building for holding dances. Even funerals were held in this building. But its primary function was for the Japanese language school."
Clarence Nishizu, 1982 oral history interview, California State University Japanese American Project
Reverend Sohei Kowta and family begin living in the Manse, while he serves the Wintersburg and greater Orange County community. They continue to live in the Manse until 1942.
Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church congregant Stephen K. Tamura becomes the first Japanese American attorney in Orange County, after attending Harvard University. His law practice opens at 202 East Fourth Street in Santa Ana. The law office building is one of the few Japanese American historical sites extant in Orange County today.
Left: A stone in the Orange County Central Justice Center's Japanese garden commemorates Japanese pioneers. (Photo, January 2013)
Pearl Harbor. Forty-one years later, Yukiko Furuta's oral history interviewer Arthur Hansen, California State University - Fullerton, asks her to describe the time, "Now, I know the impact of Pearl Harbor was very great both upon the Nihonjin community and also upon the Furuta family personally. And I'm wondering if she can give us as much detail as possible about what followed after the news of Pearl Harbor occurred. We are sitting in the very house where the Furutas sat, at that time, so we are in kind of an historical place."
Yukiko Furuta replies, "She thought her children were Americans, so she thought her children would be drafted and they'd have to fight against Japan. So she thought she herself would have to die because that was the rule of Samurai families."
"The FBI came to the church to take Reverend (Kowta), but then the minister said that all the husbands had been taken and the wives were having trouble. If he would be taken, no one would take care of them. So the FBI agent called the office and talked to the people at the office. Then they decided not to take him. So he could stay in the Japanese community." Reverend Kowta later left with the Japanese community in 1942 when they were evacuated for confinement.
Executive Order 9066 is signed on February 19 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Order created military exclusion zones in the western United States, and led to the forced evacuation and confinement of over 120,000 Japanese Americans.
The Furuta family and Reverend Kowta and family are evacuated and confined at the Colorado River Relocation Center. Charles Mitsuji Furuta is first taken to the Huntington Beach Jail, then to Tajunga Canyon INS detention center, then to a military detention center at the Lordsburg Alien Internment Center, New Mexico. Within the same camp at Poston, Arizona, are the Furutas, the Akiyamas, and Kowta family.
RIGHT: Second-generation Wintersburg goldfish farmer Harley Asari, son of Tsurumatsu Asari, writes to Huntington Beach High School administrator Ray Elliott from the Colorado River Relocation Center at Poston, Arizona, in 1943. A 1920s Huntington Beach-Newport Oil Fields map shows the Asari property is immediately adjacent to property owned by Ray Elliott on the north side of Wintersburg Avenue. (Poston envelope donated to Historic Wintersburg by D.K. Enterprise, http://www.dickkeiser.com/)
The Furuta family returns home to Wintersburg Village. Reverend Kowta and family return to the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles to help with the Union Church and Evergreen Hostel.
During her 1982 oral history interview, Yukiko Furuta remembers "they grew sweet peas before the war that the plants grew very well. And Reverend (Kowta's) wife Riyo always admired the sweet peas, and this crop generally did well in this area...she found that the water lily roots were left in the pond, you know, and were still alive...So they decided to grow sweet peas as a business, and also raise some water lillies (sic). It took so long to change the pond into a field. That was very hard work. But then they became happy in the sweet pea business and continued in it for thirty years."
ABOVE: A 1947 aerial shows the Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission complex at the center, the Nichols family farm just to the left. By then, the Furuta farm had been converted to a flower farm and no longer sold goldfish. (Source: County of Orange, California)
Furuta farm and Wintersburg Presbyterian Mission complex part of annexation of Wintersburg Village to City of Huntington Beach.
Fountain Valley (formerly Talbert) incorporates. Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission congregant James Kanno is elected as the first mayor of Fountain Valley and becomes the first Japanese American mayor in a mainland United States city.
Left: Superintendents Willis Warner (in car), C.M. Feather and William Hirstein, with Mayor A.A. Hall of Santa Ana and Mayor James Kanno of Fountain Valley at a Warner (former Wintersburg) Avenue bridge dedication in 1961. (Photo, Los Angeles Herald Examiner)
Kanno explained during his 1971 California State University-Fullerton Japanese American Project oral history interview, "the two questions that were asked on the ballot: 1. Do you want to form a city, yes or no? 2. If so, who would you want as councilmen for the city? There were nine people running for the five council positions. I don't know what happened, but I ended up with the most votes."
Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission congregant Stephen K. Tamura becomes the first Japanese American appointed to the Orange County Superior Court.
The National Historic Preservation Act is signed, creating the National Register for Historic Places.
Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission congregant Clarence Nishizu is the first Japanese American selected as Foreman of the Orange County Grand Jury.
Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission congregant Stephen K. Tamura becomes the first Japanese American appellate judge in the continental United States.
Historic Buildings Survey by the Bowers Museum Japanese American Council notes Historic Wintersburg property as number one on the list of important historical sites.
LEFT: The 1986 Bowers Museum - Orange County Japanese American Council Historic Building Survey. (Image, City of Huntington Beach archives)
The Survey notes "Churches and schools served as focal points for small Japanese communities..." The Survey found 33 surviving buildings in 1986, most have vanished as of 2013.
Historic Resources Board established by City of Huntington Beach.
President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, granting reparations to Japanese Americans forcibly evacuated and confined during World War II.
During his official remarks at the signing, President Reagan remembers the Masuda family of Talbert (Fountain Valley), congregants of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission. Another congregant, Clarence Nishizu, is at the signing, having actively supported the legislation.
City of Huntington Beach lists “Furuta House” and “Japanese Church” as Local Landmarks in Historic Resources Cultural Element of City's General Plan.
Greystone Homes plans residential development on Historic Wintersburg property.
The Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum at the Fullerton Arboretum opens its first exhibit, "Sowing Dreams, Cultivating Lives: Nikkei Farmers in Pre-World War II Orange County."
A key force in the fundraising effort to build the Museum was Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission congregant Clarence Nishizu.
ABOVE: The Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum on the grounds of the Fullerton Arboretum. (Photo, 2013) All rights reserved. ©
The City of Huntington Beach marks its centennial anniversary. This also marks 100 years since construction commenced on the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission.
City of Huntington Beach releases Historic Context Survey for review and input. Four of the Historic Wintersburg structures are noted in the draft survey as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places: the Furuta home, the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian 1910 Mission, 1910 Manse and 1934 Church.
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