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Ketchikan in Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska — Northwest (North America)
 

The Lost Frontier

World War II uprooted Japanese-Alaskans

 
 
The Lost Frontier Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, September 4, 2021
1. The Lost Frontier Marker
Inscription.  Stedman Street was a congenial place for Japanese immigrants and their families up to the 1940s. Japanese-born miners, fishermen, laborers and entrepreneurs settled across the creek from downtown and founded families. Japanese-Americans from the United States also put down roots in Ketchikan, where about 80 people of Japanese heritage made their homes in 1940. They took out loans and started businesses. They established a community hall and school on Stedman Street and sent their little ones there to practice Japanese language and culture. From 1920 to 1940, many Japanese-owned businesses were founded: restaurants; a bakery; grocery stores; a laundry; a hotel: a clothing store; rooming houses; a billiard parlor; a tavern; and other enterprises.

Japanese bombs fell on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, and effects of that surprise attack hit Japanese on the West Coast within days. Male issei — immigrants born in Japan — were rounded up from California to Alaska and interned as potential spies. In Ketchikan, 15 issei were “apprehended” and held at nearby Annette Island. They were soon transferred to an
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internment camp in New Mexico. Wives and children carried on business and families as best they could in a time of nationwide suspicion.

Most local people sympathized with their Japanese-American neighbors, but others caught war hysteria. A cabin burned on Deer Mountain above Ketchikan the night of Dec. 7, 1941; the next day's false gossip said a prominent issei businessman (a 37-year local resident) set the blaze to signal Japanese attackers.

The other shoe fell in April 1942. Authorities on the West Coast carried out a presidential order and corralled families of male Japanese immigrants. Internees had a week to fill two suitcases per person. There was hardly time for issei wives and mothers to tend to their nisei (second-generation Japanese-American) children and their property. One family hurriedly sold the stock in their grocery store at half price. One issei woman stored her household goods and ironically bought $500 in U.S. war bonds before shipping out. The 59 Ketchikan “evacuees” — the greatest number from any Alaska city — were held in Idaho two and a half years.

A few internees had friends who looked after their homes and businesses. But most had little or nothing to salvage at war's end. Of the many Japanese-American families who called Ketchikan home in 1940, only four returned to stay after
The Lost Frontier Marker detail image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, September 4, 2021
2. The Lost Frontier Marker detail
The Ohashi family in 1924 — George and Mary Ohashi with their children: Inga, Buck, Louise and Ruth. The family owned and operated several businesses on Stedman Street for almost a century.
V-J (Victory Over Japan) Day.

Nation & Family
World War II pointed up the ambiguous position of Japanese in the Territory of Alaska. For some, wartime was a painful conflict of loyalties. Take Pat Hagiwara.

Born in America to a first-generation Japanese immigrant couple who owned a bakery on Stedman Street, he joined the Alaska National Guard 297th Infantry in 1941, just months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He trained at Chilkoot Barracks in Haines and returned to Ketchikan to participate in drills for defense of the First City. He played basketball with the local 297th Infantry team.

But when internment came, his parents were rounded up. His unit was assigned to supervise the loading of a merchant ship that took his mother and dozens of others down the coast. For the rest of the war, Pat Hagiwara served the country whose government detained his family.

A family business that withstood time and world war
Members of the Ohashi family stand in front of their billiard hall and rooming house in the 1920s. The Ohashis founded their business on Stedman Street in 1908 — pioneers among the Japanese immigrants who settled in as Ketchikan progressed from a mining town to a seafood processing and transportation hub. Friends of the Ohashi family protected the shop during the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II.
The Lost Frontier Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, September 4, 2021
3. The Lost Frontier Marker
The Ohashi family re-gathered after the war, re-opened their business and operated a confectionery at the address late into the century.

Japanese-Alaskan business thrived on Stedman
Immigrants worked hard and succeeded on Stedman Street in the 1920s-40s.
Home Bakery — Frank and Shima Hagiwara • Jim's Café — Jimmy Tanaino • Togo's Laundry — Zenji Togo • Owl Café — Fumi Shirahige • Ohashi's — George and Shika Ohashi • Ketchikan Chop House — Serii family • Y.A. Laundry & Pool Room — Suzuki family • Tatsuda's Grocery — Jimmy Tatsuda (a family-owned store still in operation in the 1990s) • Kimura Grocery & Rooms — Kimura family • New York Café — George and Yayoko Shimizu • Tatsuda's Men's Store — Charlie Tatsuda

Alaska: A second home
This Stedman Street sheet from the 1920 U.S. census shows that Japanese and Filipino residents dominated along the blocks south of the creek. The line amplified for this sign shows the subject's place of birth and native tongue along with the parents' places of birth and language. Japanese immigration was building toward the unexpected crisis of WWII.

Captions
(Top) Pre-war portrait of a Ketchikan family — The Ohashis in 1924. City of Ketchikan Museum Department
(Middle)
Terao Funeral image. Click for full size.
via Alaska and Polar Regions Collections, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, circa 1925
4. Terao Funeral
Mourners, including many in Ketchikan's Japanese-American community, attend a funeral.
American first — Pat Hagiwara (front left) of the National Guard 297th Infantry Tongass Historical Society
(Bottom) New address for the New York — Yayoko Shimizu (second from right) stands with family and friends in front of her New York Café and Hotel at 207 Stedman St. This 1920s photo shows the second New York Café: George and Yayoko Shimizu opened the first on Dock Street around 1900, then built a new hotel on Stedman in 1924. The family operated the New York for decades; it was purchased and renovated in classic style in the 1980s. Courtesy of New York Hotel and Café
 
Erected by Historic Ketchikan, Inc. • Civil Liberties Public Education Fund.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Asian AmericansCivil RightsIndustry & CommerceWar, World II.
 
Location. 55° 20.461′ N, 131° 38.443′ W. Marker is in Ketchikan, Alaska, in Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Marker is on Stedman Street south of Creek Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 207 Stedman Street, Ketchikan AK 99901, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Stedman-Thomas Historic District (here, next to this marker); New York Hotel & Café (here,
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next to this marker); Ohashi's (a few steps from this marker); June's Café (within shouting distance of this marker); Creek Street (within shouting distance of this marker); Dolly's House (within shouting distance of this marker); 20 Creek Street (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Diaz Café (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ketchikan.
 
Also see . . .
1. Ketchikan's New York Hotel: Rich history in a small package (PDF). Retrospective of the hotel built and operated by the Shimizu family. By June Allen in Stories in the News (an online news site), posted November 22, 2003. (Submitted on September 17, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.) 

2. Pat Hagiwara dies at 91 Former Resident Was Member of Most Decorated Military Unit in WWII (PDF). Obituary by Dave Kiffer in Stories in the News (an online news site), posted July 24, 2010. (Submitted on September 17, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 17, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 17, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 270 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 17, 2021, by Duane and Tracy Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Mar. 2, 2024