Thursday, January 31, 2013

Historic Wintersburg: In the News

Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, circa 1910-1911.  The Mission was constructed between 1909 and 1910, and the manse in 1910.  A few of the gum trees shown in the photograph still stand near the Mission building. (Photo courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church)
Postcard image of the 1934 Wintersbug Japanese Presbyterian Church building, built during the Great Depression. (Photograph courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church)

The stories of Historic Wintersburg are making the news.  Here are a few of the recent stories about us:

City of Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman with Orange County Register reporter Jaimee Lynn Fletcher by the 1910 Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, January 9, 2013.

Group trying to save O.C. Japanese historical site
Orange County Register, 

Martha Furuta and her son, Norman Furuta.  Martha was married to Charles Mitsuji and Yukiko Furuta's son, Raymond, a Huntington Beach High School alumni.  (Photograph courtesy of the Furuta family)

Wintersburg grandson reflects on life on the farm
Orange County Register,

5 questions with...Wintersburg Preservation leader
Orange County Register,

Eileen Frere, KABC Channel 7 News, at Historic Wintersburg on January 21, 2013. 

Eileen Frere chats with Dennis Masuda near the 1910 Mission and 1934 Church buildings.  The Masuda family were congregants and Dennis remembers going to Sunday school in the Mission building.  (Photo, January 21, 2013)

Site of historic Huntington Beach Japanese church may face demolition
KABC Channel 7 News, 

Reporter Art Barron, CBS Los Angeles, in front of the Furuta family barn, January 17, 2013.

OC Preservationists fight to save site as piece of Japanese-American history
CBS Los Angeles,

A portion of a mural that once graced the parking area of the Huntington Beach Art Center, between 1995 to 2000.  The mural depicts the Furuta family, the goldfish and water lilies they farmed, the 1934 building of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church, the barracks of the Poston Arizona Relocation Center, and Huntington Beach's famous Golden Bear and pier.  (Photograph courtesy of Furuta family)

The "Prospectus" document used to gain support for the construction of the Mission building from the Orange County Japanese community.  It was written circa 1904. (Image courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church)

Discover Nikkei, the international publication of the Japanese American National Museum, re-published the Historic Wintersburg blog post, "Why Orange County's Japanese Community Built a Church in Wintersburg."

Discover Nikkei, the international publication of the Japanese American National Museum, featured an article about Historic Wintersburg for their Japanese-speaking readership, written by Japanese researcher Takamichi Go,

Gum trees next to the boarded up manse, constructed in 1910.  (Photograph, January 17, 2013)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wintersburg and the birth of a County

Group of Huntington Beach city officials and representatives from the Japanese community, May 1912.  In the photo: Huntington Beach's first mayor, Ed Manning (second row, far right), and Charles Furuta (front row, second from left).  The group is standing in front of the Huntington Inn near present-day Pacific Coast Highway. (Photo courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church) © All rights reserved.

   Over the past year, Historic Wintersburg has highlighted some of the notable figures associated with the Furuta farm and the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission and Church complex.  When learning about the history and stories of Wintersburg Village, we repeatedly get the response, "I had no idea!"  A rich history was about to slip through our fingers.
   As we start the New Year, Historic Wintersburg reviews the 2012 stories of some of the remarkable people associated with this small patch of land in the former peatlands.

Yukiko Yajima Furuta and Reverend Junzo Nakamura, at the time of Yukiko's marriage to Charles Furuta in 1912. (Photo courtesy of the Furuta family) © All rights reserved.

   The original owners of the extant Furuta farm--purchased between 1904 and 1909--one of the two Japanese-owned properties in present-day Huntington Beach prior to California's Alien Land Law of 1913 prohibiting property ownership by Japanese.  

   The Furutas were one of Wintersburg’s three goldfish farmers.  They donated land to the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian MissionCharles Furuta, who arrived in the United States in 1900, was president of the Smeltzer Japanese Association, which met in Wintersburg at the Asari Market.  He was among the first Japanese taken by the FBI, due to his involvement with the Church and the Association.  The Furuta family was interned at the Poston Arizona Relocation Center.

Read more about the Furuta family at and

Members of the Masuda family at the Gila River Relocation Camp in Arizona.  Kazuo Masuda can be seen at the center of the photograph in his Army uniform.

   The entire Masuda family—farmers in Talbert—were congregants of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission.  Four of the Masuda brothers served in the U.S. military.  On the night of Dec. 7, 1941--while Kazuo Masuda was stationed at Ft. Ord, California, beginning his Army training--his father, Gensuke, was taken from his farm in Talbert to the Orange County jail, then to Fort Missoula, Montana.  The family was evacuated to the Jerome Relocation Center in Drew and Chicot counties, Arkansas.  After Gensuke was released from Fort Missoula, the Masudas were sent to the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona in 1944, until 1945.  While the family was interned, Kazuo Masuda was killed in action in Italy.

   Mary Masuda was granted leave from the Gila River camp to travel to Orange County and check on the family farm in Talbert, before the family returned home in 1945.   Upon arrival in Orange County, Mary was threatened by men claiming association with the Native Sons of the Golden West.  Hearing of the incident,  General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell arranged a personal honor.  On Dec. 9, 1945, on the front porch of their farmhouse in Talbert, Gen. Stillwell—along with then Captain Ronald Reagan—presented Mary Masuda with the Distinguished Service Cross in honor of her brother, SSgt. Kazuo Masuda.

   Kazuo and Masuo Masuda were nominated in 2011 for the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The Masuda family was specifically remembered by President Ronald Reagan when he signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.

Orange County 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 Avenue bridge dedication in 1961.  (Photo, Los Angeles Herald Examiner)

   James Kanno became the first mayor of Fountain Valley and the first Japanese American mayor on the continental United States in 1957.   James explained during his 1971 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."

   The Kanno family were congregants of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission and Shuji Kanno, James Kanno’s father, taught at the affiliated language school in Costa Mesa on land bequeathed as a legacy by Fannie Bixby Spencer.  Due to his involvement at the language school, Shuji Kanno was among the first Japanese taken by the FBI and was incarcerated at the Department of Justice Lordsburg New Mexico detention center.  The entire Kanno family was interned at the Poston Arizona Relocation Center

Read more about the Kanno family at 

The first Japanese American appellate judge in the continental U.S. and Orange County's first Japanese attorney, Justice Stephen Kosako Tamura (1911-1982), one of the "Sunday school boys" at the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission.  (Photo, Japanese American Bar Association)

   The Honorable Stephen K. Tamura first Japanese American appellate judge in the continental United States and Orange County's first Japanese attorney.  He also served as Justice Pro Tem on the California Supreme Court and as a member of the California Judicial Council from 1979 to 1981.  In addition to his 43 years in the law, Tamura was a founding board member of the Orange County Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles.

   The Tamura family were congregants at the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, which is documented in a 1981 oral history interview with Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission Reverend Kenji Kikuchi for the Honorable Stephen K. Tamura Orange County Japanese American Oral History Project (he referred to Tamura as one of "my Sunday school boys").

   The Hisamatsu Tamura Elementary School in Fountain Valley is named after Justice Tamura’s father, a Japanese pioneer who was instrumental in organizing one of the first schools in Talbert (Fountain Valley).  Justice Tamura was interned at the Granada War Relocation Center (also known as Camp Amache, in Colorado), before attending Harvard University in 1943 and enlisting in the U.S. Army in 1945.

Read more about Justice Stephen K. Tamura at 

Reverend Joseph K. Inazawa and his wife, the former Miss Kate Alice Goodman, circa 1912.  Reverend Inazawa served as the first clergy for the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission in 1910, and was described as a "man of highly pleasing personality."  Goodman was described as "possest of a delightful sense of humor." (Photograph courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church) © All rights reserved.

   The first clergy for the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission in 1910, Reverend Joseph K. Inazawa held the first official service in the Mission on Christmas day.

   He and his new bride, Kate Alice Goodwin, made international headlines--from as far away as New Zealand--when they became engaged in 1909 and again when they married in 1910.   The couple famously eloped to New Mexico, because California banned interracial marriage between 1850 to 1948. 

   Their story is documented in oral histories and also in front-page news clippings from 1909 and 1910, as well as the 1913 article by Neeta Marquis for The Independent, Interracial Amity in Los Angeles, Personal Observations on the Life of the Japanese in Los Angeles.

Read more about the Inazawas at

Henry Kiyomi Akiyama at the Pacific Goldfish Farm, post WWII in 1945.  The Akiyamas "are formerly of Poston and report no difficulties in disposing of all goldfish they are able to deliver to the market." (Photo, UC Berkeley Bancroft Library)

    One of Wintersburg’s three goldfish farmers, who later opened the Pacific Goldfish Farm—billed as the “largest goldfish farm in the world.”  From humble beginnings in Wintersburg, Akiyama became one of Orange County’s wealthiest residents. 
    Henry Kiyomi Akiyama also was one of Charles Mitsuji Furuta's best friends.  They worked together on the Cole Ranch off Gothard Avenue in Wintersburg.  Charles and his wife, Yukiko, had arranged the marriage of Akiyama to Yukiko's sister, Masuko, and the newlyweds lived with the Furutas for a while at the Cole Ranch and at the Furuta farm.

Read more about Henry Kiyomi Akiyama at


The "Prospectus" document for the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission, circa 1904-1909. (Image courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church) © All rights reserved.

   Signatory on Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission 1904 “Prospectus” document which was used to raise funds for the 1909 Mission construction.  "T.M." Asari is noted in a 1982 oral history with Clarence Nishizu as the first Japanese to arrive in Orange County.  
   Asari was one of two Japanese land owners in Huntington Beach prior to the Alien Land Law of 1913 (the other being Charles Mitsuji Furuta).  Asari owned the Asari Market and a goldfish farm on Wintersburg Avenue.  He initiated the Smeltzer Japanese Association, which met on the second floor of his market.  Asari also organized the Smeltzer Flying Company.

Read more about Tsurumatsu Asari and his son, Harley, at

Yasumatsu Miyawaki's son, Leonard, being given a horseback ride by Y. Tanaka in Wintersburg, circa 1914. (Photo courtesy of California State University - Fullerton Center for Oral and Public History, PJA 029) © All rights reserved.

   Signatory on Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission 1904 “Prospectus” document which fundraised for the Mission construction.  

   Miyawaki owned the first Japanese market in Huntington Beach on Main Street in 1907—then known as the “Rock Bottom Store”—in the present-day Longboard Restaurant and Pub, the oldest wooden structure in Huntington Beach's historic downtown on Main Street.

Yasumatsu Miyawaki, owner of the Rock Bottom Store on Main Street in Huntington Beach, circa 1911. (Photo, California State University Fullerton, Center for Oral and Public History PJA 030) © All rights reserved.

   Clarence Nishizu was a congregant of the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission.  Instrumental in the passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 by President Ronald Reagan, Clarence Nishizu was present at its signing.

   Clarence Nishizu was Co-founder of the Orange County Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens' League, the oldest Asian American civil rights organization.  In 1966, Clarence was the first Japanese American selected as the Foreman of the Orange County Grand Jury.  In 1975, he received a special `Resolution of Appreciation Award' for his meritorious service from the Orange County Criminal Justice Council.

Reverend Sohei Kowta and his wife, Riyo, lived in the manse with their children at Historic Wintersburg from 1938 to 1942. (Photo courtesy of Wintersburg Presbyterian Church) © All rights reserved.

   Reverend Sohei Kowta was the pastor at the Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Church from 1938 to 1942.  His sermon on the "last Sunday" before internment is a powerful message of endurance and hope.   

   Reverend Kowta continued to bring people together both while he and his family were interned in the Poston Arizona Relocation Center and afterward, when the family returned to Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California.  Historic Wintersburg is working with Reverend Kowta's descendents to capture the Kowta family histories. 

   The daughter of Charles Mitsuji and Yukiko Furuta, Etsuko was born on the Furuta farm in Wintersburg.  Photographic images reveal a happy childhood on the Furuta farm and at the beaches of Huntington BeachToday, Etsuko lives in Northern California, is in her 90s, and provided an oral history for Historic Wintersburg.

   As we work to preserve the historic Furuta farm and Wintersburg Japanese Presbyterian Mission complex, more of the history is uncovered and we learn the significance of the Wintersburg Village community for Huntington Beach, Orange County and the country.

All rights reserved.  No part of the Historic Wintersburg blog may be reproduced or duplicated without prior written permission from the author and publisher, M. Adams Urashima.