The Human Side of War: A narrative of true American grit

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There are some stories that never make it into the history books. It really is a shame. They are left in the silent pages of dusty journals, faded photos, and family stories. Yet it doesn’t mean they are any less important. The small, tiny, anonymous moments of life don’t always get recorded, but the pieces that are left show the rich, inspiring lives those before me have led. Pieced together, photos and stories tell the best stories, the ones that should really be in history books.

For example, Isabella Christina Draper. She was raised in the south – the Deep South, in the middle of the Civil War.

Tensions Brewing

Isabella Christina Draper was born under unusual circumstances. She was born literally in the middle of war. Her parents were farmers in Tennessee, and when War between the states broke out, Tennessee was a split state with the Middle and West Tennessee regions favoring the Confederacy, and East Tennessee taking a strong Union stand. Isabella’s parents farmed smack along the border where the Union and confederate loyalties clashed (oral history of  Cheryl Bowman Nesmith).

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Living in Fear 

Even if you don’t remember a lot  from their 8th grade American History class, it is clear – growing up in the middle of war is harrowing. Often, it is the women and children that suffer the most. An entry retold by her great-great granddaughter shows the trials of growing up in war.

“She was 6 years old when the War broke out and with her father fighting for the Confederacy, that left her mother and the kids at home to survive the best they could. She would often tell my grandmother (Isabella’s daughter) how they would keep watch on the farm because at any time they would spot a Union or Confederate troop coming through for food and would have to quickly hide what little they had. No matter which side, when the troopers or soldiers left, they took everything in sight that could be eaten and anything else that struck their fancy, leaving the family with basically nothing. It didn’t matter the color of uniform the raiders were wearing, the family was seen as a target of opportunity. As the war progressed and the situation became more dire, bush-whacker gangs (guerrilla soldiers) became a terrible threat to the farmers, as well as Home Guard units, which often times were no better than the bush-whackers. These killers would steal, murder and burn any home they took a mind to just because they could. Every time little Belle turned around, she was running for her life, hiding the family’s pitifully scant supply of food or taking the one hog or two chickens she had into the woods hoping to keep them from being confiscated. Particularly in the latter part of the war, the family would run for cover simply to avoid being tortured and killed for information on husbands, sons, or brothers off fighting. Belle was 10 years old when the War finally ended. From age 6 to age 10, this is how Belle lived her life.”

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I can’t even imagine what it would be like to live through such conditions. The untold fear, nightmares, and hunger. What would it be like to never experience a sense of normalcy?

The Aftermath of War 

Her great-granddaughter, Cheryl Bowman Nesmith continues, “Immediately after the War, the situation worsened. There was no rail ticket for former soldiers to return to their families, therefore sons, husbands and brothers who had fought in the War oftentimes took months to return home, if they had a home to return. All the while, the bushwhackers ran rampant, destroying what little was left of the countryside and murdering anyone who crossed their paths. Add to this the shameful actions of the northern “carpetbaggers” who soon flooded the southern states scooping up large sections of land and farms that w foreclosed due to lack of payment on taxes. And the living conditions for the hundreds of starving local people continued to go downhill. The so-called “Reconstruction Years” imposed on the southern states were almost as brutal as the War itself. From the age of 10 until she married at 18, Belle and her family endured this horrible time.”

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Married Life

On 2 Oct 1873  Isabelle or “Belle”  married Cicero Constantine Stone, or C.C. stone. She was 18 years old, he was 23.

Cheryl Bowan Nesmith  says:

In 1873, animosities between the two loyalties still raged in Putnam County and when Belle married C.C. Stone, she came into the marriage from a Confederate family, he from a Union one. His family had to leave Tennessee immediately after the War due to their staunch Union affiliations and it was two to three years before the Stone family returned to Middle Tennessee. I’m sure discussions between the two got quite lively at times. Add to this the fact that C.C. was raised a Catholic and Belle was raised Church of Christ, one might say that even more “fuel was added to the fire”. My grandmother used to laugh at this because Bell raised every one of her kids, including my grandfather, in the Church of Christ. With C.C. being gone most of the time, I guess it never was a huge issue between them. C.C. worked for the U.S. government as an Internal Revenue Ranger, breaking up moonshine still operations in the hills and mountains. He was gone from home a lot over the years and under constant threat of life. After spending decades wondering whether Belle would ever see her husband alive again, raising eight kids basically alone and running a hotel, again basically alone…” Belle had lived through a lot.

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Belle’s husband, C.C. Stone

C.C. and Isabelle Draper Stone,  in front of the hotel they ran. Children are behind them. Image courtesy of Madeline Stone Gilbert

C.C. and Isabelle Draper Stone, in front of the hotel they ran. Children are behind them. Image courtesy of Madeline Stone Gilbert

“At the turn of the century, C.C. retired from the U.S. government, he and Belle sold the hotel and they with four of their remaining children moved west settling in Dexter, Chaves County, New Mexico Territory. You would think by now, after moving away, that events would settle down and perhaps Belle could find things to smile about. But, in 1909, when C.C.’s father, Enoch Stone, passed away, C.C. returned by train to Tennessee for the burial.

Word got out that C.C. was coming back to Tennessee and the threat was made by some of the mountaineering families that he would be killed as soon as he got off the train. He told them “bring it on; I’ll be there to meet ya”. Again, Belle was left wondering if she would ever see her husband alive again and this was hardly something to smile about. Fortunately, nothing happened; C.C. tended to his business and returned safely to New Mexico” ( Cheryl Bowman Nesmith).

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This is a photo of an old postcard (complete with stamp bleeding through from the back) of the Bloomington Springs Hotel in Bloomington Springs, Tennessee. This is the hotel that C.C. Stone and his wife Belle Draper Stone owned and operated until they sold it and moved the rest of the family to the New Mexico Territory after C.C. completed his time as a U.S. Ranger with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Photo courtesy of Judy Duke, Museums Administrator, Cookeville History Museum and Cookeville Depot Museum in Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee.

This is a photo of an old postcard (complete with stamp bleeding through from the back) of the Bloomington Springs Hotel in Bloomington Springs, Tennessee. This is the hotel that C.C. Stone and his wife Belle Draper Stone owned and operated until they sold it and moved the rest of the family to the New Mexico Territory after C.C. completed his time as a U.S. Ranger with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Photo courtesy of Judy Duke, Museums Administrator, Cookeville History Museum and Cookeville Depot Museum in Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee.

Isabelle

Isabelle “Belle” Christine Draper Stone
c.1948 , Pine Lodge, New Mexico, USA

Despite the hardships of her life, Belle lived to old age.

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This was cropped from a group photo of her and her children, in-laws, grand and great-grandchildren at a Stone Family Reunion. She was around 90 years old. Original owned by: Gladys Stone Hughes.

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Isabelle Christine Draper Stone is sitting and wearing a shawl around her shoulders. She was around 90 years old at the time of this photo. Standing L-R: Arthur Stone, Dorothy Kuykendall, Alfred Stone, Josie Stone, Charlie Stone, Walter Stone, Peggy Stone, Garnet Stone, Maud Stone, Fate Kuydendall’s brother, Harry Kuykendall, Fate Kuykendall, Bonita Stone and Christine Kuykendall. Sitting in chairs L-R: Mae Stone, Aubry Stone, Ora Stone, Isabelle Draper Stone, Wanda Stone, Stuart Stone, Pansy Stone Kuykendall, Doris Kuydendall and Eunice Kuydendall. Children in front L-R: ?, Desi Mae and Danny. Photo owned by: Gladys Stone Hughes.

In fact, she lived to be over 100 years old.

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This was taken on her 100th birthday. Isabelle is sitting and is flanked from left to right by: Arthur Stone, Walter Stone and Garnet Stone. Photo owned by: Gladys Stone Hughes.

If you ever think your life is hard, just look at history. There you will found countless stories of perseverance, courage, and true grit. Belle Draper, is one of those stories. She endured hunger, pillaging and hardship. She also practically single-handedly raised 8 children and ran a large hotel, all while constantly fearing for her husband’s life. She may not be in the history books, but her story is in my book – never to be forgotten.

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Duel!

Showdown. Shootout. Shoot ’em up cowboy.
The picturesque wild west, was well – wild. 
An ideal “wild west” scenario probably wouldn’t be complete without a duel. Dueling, imported to America from Ireland and England, was a common way to handle many situations including neighbor quarrels, gambling disputes, or libel.
duel

It seems barbaric in our day. However a lot of people viewed it as honorable. Contrary to popular belief, the point of a duel was not “shoot to the death,” although that was frequently the outcome.
For example, in the code of dueling or the “Code Duello” “Any wound sufficient to agitate the nerves and necessarily make the hand shake, must end the business for that day.

Benjamin Franklin Morris was born deep in the heart of Texas.

Photo courtesy of Denise

Photo courtesy of Denise

See how you're related! Jacob C. See is the uncle-in-law to Benjamin Franklin Morris

See how you’re related! Jacob C. See is the uncle-in-law to Benjamin Franklin Morris. His sister (Rachel Jane See) had a daughter who married Ben Morris.

Later, in 1851-1852 his family settled in the Bakersfield area. They came to San Luis Obispo, California  around 1854 and went into cattle ranching. The Morris’s had their own stables and were breeders of fine horses. He was also listed as being a “Justice of the Peace” in the Coulterville Mariposa Newspaper.

Horses on a farm around 1800. These horses could have been similar to the kind Benjamin Franklin Morris would have raised

Horses on a farm around 1800. These horses could have been similar to the kind Benjamin Franklin Morris would have raised

Benjamin Franklin Morris. Photo courtesy of ancestry.com

Benjamin Franklin Morris. Photo courtesy of ancestry.com

When Benjamin was 26 he married Emmaline “Emma” Jane Monroe in San Luis Obispo, California on March 16, 1870. They had three daughters together. Sarah Amelia, Elizabeth (Etta) and Rebecca Marion. Emma died in 1877 during childbirth when Rebecca was born. Emma who was married at 16, passed away when she was 23.
With a newborn in the house, it was only a short two months later when Benjamin married Amanda Allen Laird.

Benjamin Franklin Morris with his second wife Amanda Laird and his daughter Etta morris

Benjamin Franklin Morris with his second wife Amanda Laird and his daughter Etta morris

With his second wife Amanda, Benjamin has four more children. Benjamin Jr. (born 1879), Mary Jane (born 1880), Josephine Goldie (born 1882), and John A. T. (birth date unknown).

It is ironic that Benjamin Franklin Morris was named after a founding father who were among some of the most noticeable Americans to condemn dueling. Franklin called duels a “murderous practice… they decide nothing.”

Family history tells that Benjamin. F. Morris was killed by George W. Walker on Higuera Street in front of the Central Hotel in San Luis Obispo. They were friends at one time, but a dispute over a horse and then Benjamin be-friended Walker’s ex-wife after their divorce, and this led to bad feelings and consequently a confrontation ending with Benjamin getting killed. Benjamin rode into town on Higuera St., in front of the Central Hotel, dismounted and seeing Walker said “look out!”. Both drew their pistols and fired at each other. Morris shot Walker in the thigh Walker shot once and Benjamin shot 2-3 times, one being a shot near the heart. “San Luis Tribune, 02-1884

“My grandfather [Benjamin Sr.] was shot and killed on the street, Higuera St. in San Luis Obispo. My grandfather had a contest with another man whose name was Mr. Walker. This Mr. Walker stepped out of a building and as my grandfather dismounted to tie his horse to the hitching rack, he shot him from under the horse’s neck twice. Hitting him near the heart once and a little higher on the shoulder the second time. My grandfather was not aware that this man was anywhere near, of that he was in this temperament. My grandfather, as he fell, drew his gun and shot Mr. Walker, but hit him too low, near the groin. They rushed Mr. Walker to the hospital, but he was crippled to the extent that he limped after that but he didn’t harm him in any other way. After this happened to my grandfather and his burial in the old Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Luis Obispo, Amanda (Ben’s wife) bought a stone for his grave [a huge stone as I have seen] paid $1,500 for it which was a lot of money in that day and age, and then the family broke up and . . . . “[the story she tells was that Mr. Walker and Benjamin had a horse race and Mr. Walker lost. “Grandfather had his own stables, raised his own horses and had some that was pretty good. This Mr. Walker came after my grandfather to race him. Race on of the horses he felt he could be at. I don’t know what the wager was or whether there was a wager. I don’t know but anyway my grandfather beat him in this horse race. And so my mom tells me that that’s what it was all about”] Source of the following information: Memories of the Benjamin F. Morris Family, as told by Hazel M. Finley Guy (his granddaughter), recorded by Terry Guy (Hazel’s grandson) in 1981 and text edited by Wayne T. Scott, my brother:

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Image courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Regional Photograph Collection, MS 168

When he died his three daughters Sarah, Elizabeth and Rebecca were made wards of the court and put in a San Luis Obispo convent for 3 years. (They were taken care of by nuns at the girls school).

Image courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Regional Photograph Collection, MS 168

Image courtesy of San Luis Obispo County Regional Photograph Collection, MS 168

Philip Kaetzel was appointed administrator of the estate. When Ben died two brothers [Joseph Morris Jr. & Elijah Morris] living in Wyoming came down. One (Uncle Joe) was a foreman for Kern County Land and Catte Company (several years before and after 1900) . He bought a cattle ranch consisting of 999 thousand acres. Lester Guy (my dad) wondered why he didn’t buy one more acre.” – http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=tcbjammon&id=P136

Benjamin Franklin Morris died on March 2nd 1884. He is buried in the San Luis Obispo Cemetery (Lady Sutcliff, section 5, lot 5, plot 3).

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courtesy of findagrave.com

Jacob C. See – The stuff legends are made of

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Jacob “Jake C. See (photo courtesy of James Mahar)

Here is my great-great-great grandpa.
That’s right, three greats.

He is great.

For one thing, he could put any No-Shave November participant to shame.
He really did have amazing beards and mustaches. But, he was so much more than his spectacular facial hair.

See how you're related! Click to enlarge.

See how you’re related! Click to enlarge.

He was a G-E-N-U-I-N-E real American cowboy in California.

According to San Luis Obispo Folklore and History:

Jake C. See was the quintessential American cowboy―a mountain of a man with a wide handle-bar mustache and sparkling, clear eyes; his cheeks and sharp nose were chiseled by decades of wind, rain, and dusty trails until his face became as burnished as the leather boots he wore; he was bow-legged from constant horseback riding, donned a wide-brimmed Stetson hat and a bandana, wore a gun on the hip, and when riding carried a 100 foot riata (lasso rope)―the use if which he was famous for. Con­sidered the “Robin Hood” of the West by friends and the devil incarnate by the rest, in 1880 was eventually arrested and convicted of sheep rustling but served only two years of a four year term in San Quentin Prison after local residents petitioned the governor for his early release. He ran unsuccessfully for Sherriff of San Luis Obispo County in 1918. (Apparently he was the popular choice until a scandal turned voters against him/he was picked up for bootlegging).

1918 poster for

1918 poster for “Jake” See running for Sheriff. (Photo courtesy of James Mahar.)

Not much is found about Jake See’s childhood. However, the little details that have been preserved are priceless. Jake See was an orphan and was adopted while “crossing the Great Plains by covered wagon train on the way to California” (San Luis Obispo Folklore and History: The Life and Times of Jake C. See).His new family settled in the in the California Frontier.  The times were different back then.

San Luis Obispo, 1876 (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

San Luis Obispo, 1876 (Photo courtesy of wikipedia)

“San Luis Obispo was cow country―a time ruled by cattle ranchers and the cowboy way where the vigilante’s rope and the law of the gun prevailed” (San Luis Obispo Folklore and History: The Life and Times of Jake C. See).

A newspaper clipping from 1886 illustrates how life was different back then. Fights were a common way to settle business.

San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Jan 1886, Tue, Page 8

San Francisco Chronicle, 5 Jan 1886, Tue, Page 8

Not only was Jake accused for grand larceny and served two years for stealing sheep, on June 29, 1889 he was arrested for forgery when he was 44. According to the Sacramento Daily Union” vol. 1, No. 5 30 Jun, Jake See forged notes with MR Duffy amounting to $3,000. That was a lot of money back then!

The Record-Union, 30 Jun 1889, Sun, First Edition

The Record-Union, 30 Jun 1889, Sun, First Edition

Jacob See. Sepia tone print on card (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar)

Jacob See in his younger years. Sepia tone print on card (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar)

Jake See’s stories do not end with sheep rustling and money. In another account of Jake See’s life: Charged With Cutting Timber on Government Lands in Madera, it tells another side of Jake. 
Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 9.38.31 PMJake C. See may have been a colorful person, but some of the legends surrounding his name are allegedly untrue. In my family there is a legend that Jacob See was a horse thief and he was eventually hung for the crime. I am happy to report that Jacob C. See was no horse thief (as far as I can tell). He also was not hanged for a crime. Despite the legends, Jake See died of influenza. He was 73 years old when he passed away.

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Narcissa (Biggs) See. Sepia print on card. (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar).

Narcissa (Biggs) See. Sepia print on card. (Photo Courtesy of James Mahar). She was 13 years old when she married Jake See. He was 17.

Joseph See's poster from when he ran for Sheriff in 1918. Current Sheriff of San Luis Obispo County,CA. Ian Parkenson. (photo courtesy of No1deon of ancestry.com)

Joseph See’s poster from when he ran for Sheriff in 1918. Current Sheriff of San Luis Obispo County,CA. Ian Parkenson. (photo courtesy of No1deon of ancestry.com)

Joseph Vard Loomis – A Silent Hero

Warning: This is a long post. But if you read through it. It is definitely worth it.

“Vard was really friendly,…not only to the Japanese. When he talked to …farmers, ..he sat and talked for a half-hour or an hour. He really cared about people, ” said Kazuo “Kaz”, a prominent Arroyo Grande farmer.

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Vard in the middle with the first Arroyo Grande Japanese-American baseball team that he coached. (Photo courtesy of Lilian Sakarai and the South County Historical Society, Heritage Press, Volume II number 6, August 2007)

Joseph Vard Loomis, better known as “Vard” is one of those people that is hard to forget. He was described as friendly, personable and loyal by those who knew him. However, what he is likely remembered most for, is his love and kindness to the Japanese-American citizens of Arroyo Grande.

According to The Heritage Press, “The most prominent supporters of Japanese Americans in Arroyo Grande were J. Vard Loomis and his brothers.”

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Loomis brothers – L Clinton, Ivan and Vard Loomis

Background:
Edward Clinton Loomis, (their father) was one of the area’s early ranchers and founded a feed and grain store in 1905. Over time the business grew and by the 1930s, E.C. Loomis and Sons was the main agricultural supplier in San Luis Obispo county.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

During this time period it was clear that “the area’s agriculture was split into two distinct cultures: the largely Caucasian cattle ranchers and dairy farmers, who grew hay and alfalfa and ran their cattle on rolling inland pastures; and the largely Japanese American produce growers, who irrigated labor-intensive vegetables in the fertile coastal valleys. E.C. Loomis and Sons served them both, offering feed and grain to the ranchers and seed, fertilizer and insecticide to the farmers, ” (Heritage Press (Volume II No. 6).

Japanese-American workers tending the fields. (photo courtesy of the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange  - http://pove.net/our-history/

Japanese-American workers tending the fields. (photo courtesy of the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange – http://pove.net/our-history/ In the 1940 census, nearly two thirds of the Japanese American workforce had agricultural jobs.

When Edward Clinton Loomis retired, his sons Joseph “Vard,” Clinton “Buster” and Ivan took over the family business.

John Loomis recalled: Every year, the Loomises threw an annual “Japanese picnic” for their Japanese American customers. Families from Santa Maria to Morro Bay attended the gathering. On the day of the picnic Mr. Hayashi would (bring) crates of his own- grown lettuce, mayonnaise and cases of canned shrimp and crab….and mix it all up in large washtubs. They served sirloin steak, bread, beans, crab salads, coffee and soda pop, followed by …ice cream for dessert. Games followed cigars and cigarettes….those Japanese picnics were wonderful. When Kaz Ikeda became a teenager, Juzo Ikeda decided that his eldest son and the other young Nisei (second generation) needed a constructive physical outlet. At the time, baseball was at the height of its popularity, and every town and city had a sandlot team. Juzo decided the Japanese Americans of Arroyo Grande should have one too. He learned that Vard Loomis had played baseball at Stanford and enlisted his help. In 1931, they organized the Arroyo Grande Young Men’s Association baseball team, which Vard coached for ten years, until the internment. Kaz, the catcher*, was “quite a ball- player”, according to his cousin Haruo Hayashi. The team traveled to Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Bakersfield, Fresno and San Jose to play other Nisei teams (second generation Japanese Americans.) Vard drove the team, and wife Gladys often went along. One day, a bus full of African American musicians spotted the Nisei team practicing in an Arroyo Grande park and challenged them to a game. Being the only “white guy” and odd man out, Vard was selected to be the umpire.It was one of the happiest days of his life, he later told his daughter Sandy—filled with laughter and good- natured teasing as each team called him “four-eyes” and “blind” whenever he made an unfavorable call (The Heritage Press, Volume II, No 6, pg. 8).

Most of the truck farms in the area were operated by Issei (or first generation) like Kaz’ father. Juzo Ikeda came to America and had began farming in 1929. Because of his success he was soon leasing forty acres of rich in the Arroyo Grande Valley.

“By the late 1930’s, there were about forty Issei farmers in the area. They formed a growers’ co-op—the Pismo-Oceano Vegetable Exchange—to ship produce to the East Coast”  (The Heritage Press, Volume II No. 6, pg. 8).

The success of the Issei farmers was shattered after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Japanese Internment camps sprang up across the US and Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and property. Unfortunately the vast majority of Japanese Americans lost everything during Internment. Because of the California Alien Land Laws, Issei were banned from owning land and lost all rental or lease agreements when WWII started.

Japanese Exclusion Orders of the time period. (Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans)

Japanese Exclusion Orders of the time period. (Image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans)

Even though there was unfair treatment, the Japanese American citizens stepped up to the challenge. Gladys Loomis (Vard’s Wife) remained absolutely livid at the treatment of her fellow friends. In 1991 she said, “Never once was any disloyalty found in our area. Nearly all of the young men who played on Vard’s Nisei baseball team who were of draft age volunteered immediately. Not one was drafted. Almost all of them worked in military intelli- gence because they were bilingual. Some served in the 442nd Infantry Combat unit (sic), the most decorated American unit of the war.” 

Despite persecution, name-calling and harassment, Vard and his family continued to be friends with Japanese Americans during and after the war.

According to the Heritage Press, “The Loomis’s stood by their Japanese American friends, even though others in the community called them Jap-lovers. Kaz Ikeda’s family had particular reason to feel grateful for Vard Loomis’s help — so much so that Kaz would later name one of his sons after him. At the outbreak of war, Kaz was twenty-three. He had recently graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and was helping his dad farm the sixty acres that Juzo had purchased in Kaz’ name when he turned twenty-one.

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Kazuo “Kaz” Ikeda with Joseph Vard Loomis

About a month after Pearl Harbor, Kaz was abruptly thrust into the role of head of household. His father broke his neck in an accident involving a run- away team of horses. He was paralyzed and required around-the-clock nursing care at the hospital. When the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA) ordered Japanese Americans to move east of High- way 1, quite a few of the Arroyo Grande farmers had to relocate. Kaz’ family moved across the highway to the Arroyo Grande Japanese- language school.

The Arroyo Grande Japanese American Language School (on the right) when they were first ordered to move. (Image courtesy of the  South County Historical Society - http://216.92.187.150/archives/whats_new/2009/january.htm)

The Arroyo Grande Japanese American Language School (on the right) when they were first ordered to move. (Image courtesy of the South County Historical Society – http://216.92.187.150/archives/whats_new/2009/january.htm)

Then they heard that the exclusion zone would be extended to the middle of the state. Kaz and some other Nisei drove east of Highway 99 looking for a place to rent, but, he recalled, “They didn’t want us out there. We couldn’t find any place to rent, so we decided to stay put.” When they learned they were going to be evicted, the family appealed to the WCCA. Juzo needed long-term nursing that was not available at the makeshift “assembly center” at the Tulare County Fairgrounds, Kaz recalled: “The WCCA told us my dad could remain at the local hospital until adequate facilities could be built at Tulare. And Mother could stay with him. But Mom hardly spoke English and didn’t know how to drive, so I asked if I could take her place. That’s when Vard stepped in and said I could stay at his place as long as I needed to. He didn’t hesitate for a second, but I heard he got a lot of flak from his friends.” Kaz’s mother and brothers went ahead to Tulare, while Kaz stayed with Vard and his wife Gladys and visited his father at the hospital every day. In exchange for the Loomis’ kindness, Kaz offered to babysit their daughter, Sandy. For the next two and a half months, he was the only Japanese American in the area. Gladys Loomis recalled that Kaz’s presence caused the sheriff to search their home for short wave radios, and the young Nisei was once stopped by the police for being alone in a car with a young white woman he was driving her home at Gladys’s request (The Heritage Press, Volume II, No 6, pg. 8).

“According to John Loomis, the uthorities enjoyed exercising their power: Soon after Pearl Harbor, we started having blackouts in Arroyo Grande. Most of the air raid wardens were guys that were 4F. They were quite a rowdy bunch. They would threaten to kill people for not having their lights properly shielded.
“They were mean hombres.”

“Finally, the Tulare Assembly Center’s medical facilities were ready, so Kaz and his father rejoined the family. They were eventually transferred to Gila River, Arizona, where the family cared for Juzo in their barrack until he died in the summer of 1943.” (The Heritage Press, Volume II, No.6)

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Gila River concentration camp, Arizona. (Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records. Gila River Camp). this concentration camp held over 13,000 inmates, most of whom were from California. This camp was known for its baseball team, the Gila River Eagles, its prolific produce that fed most of the camps, and for being visited by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

During the war, it was also not uncommon to see Japanese property burglarized, and burned. Vard knew this was a possibility, but tried to help the best he could.

During the war, “the Ikeda farm had been rented out to a couple of young Portuguese men. Vard Loomis stopped by regularly to collect the rent, out of which he paid the property taxes. Vard Loomis looked after the The Fukuhara’s 200 acres of choice farmland near Oceano. Their house on Halcyon Road was just about the biggest in town when it was completed in 1941. After Pearl Harbor, the brand-new place be- came a natural target for the resentful and envious. When the Fukuhara’s were interned, they asked Vard and Gladys, then living in a modest little house, to move into their home and keep an eye on their property.

“Vard and his brother Buster leased the Fukuhara acreage and farmed it during their absence. The Loomis brothers also arranged for the evictees to store their personal belongings in a large dehydrator building near their of- fices. Unfortunately, the building was somewhat isolated and easy to break into, so most of the furniture was stolen or vandalized by war’s end.” (The Heritage Press).

After WWII when the Japanese were allowed to return to their homes, only a few people returned to the Arroyo Grande farmlands. The few that did come back, had farms, but did not have the necessary capital to farm. Businesses at the time were not willing to lend credit for the needed supplies and labor to restart their farms.

According to the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange History, “Once again, it was the Loomis family along with Jack Snyder, the village blacksmith, and Earl Wilkinson of Wilkinson’s Meat Market who helped their Japanese friends by extending them credit [and equipment] when no one else would be of assistance.”

Japanese American farmer, Arroyo Grande (image courtesy of http://pove.net/our-history/).

Japanese American farmer, Arroyo Grande (image courtesy of http://pove.net/our-history/).

Re-establishing farm operations under these challenges wasn’t. They worked with little equipment and supplies, only hiring help when they could afford it.

“Instead the entire family both young and old, joined hands and the families helped one another.  Together they labored long and strenuous hours, many times well into the night, to get themselves back on their feet.” (Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange History).

Although Vard and Gladys Loomis did not receive a medal of honor for their service, many are grateful for their kindness before, during and throughout the war. Vard may not be living any longer, but his example of loving your neighbor as yourself is a testament to future generations like myself .

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If anyone has any personal stories or memories of Vard or Gladys, I would love to hear them.

Sources:

http://www.southcountyhistory.org/Newsletters/august2007.pdf
http://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1307&context=moebius
http://sloblogs.thetribunenews.com/slovault/2012/02/japanese-relocation-world-war-ii-week-by-week/
http://pove.net/our-history/
http://216.92.187.150/archives/whats_new/2009/january.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans
http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Gila_River/

Aged Man Must Go to Asylum

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That title certainly caught my attention while I was researching.

I had stumbled across a clipping from the  Bakersfield Californian Newspaper dated August 6, 1907. My heart dropped. Mental care was oftentimes nothing short of abuse in the 1900s. It is the stuff haunted houses are made of.
According to an article from science museum.org, “Large Victorian public asylums haunt the history of psychiatry. They were hailed as places of refuge for some of society’s supposedly most vulnerable men and women. These buildings were called ‘lunatic asylums’, and later renamed ‘mental hospitals’. They earned a reputation as dehumanizing, prison-like institutions.” Perhaps Dewitt Clinton Biggs was not in a “prison-like institution.” I would like to hope.

 Although it is noteworthy that DeWitt spent his last days suffering from mental illness and was repeatedly admitted to an asylum, it doesn’t define his life. He grew up, married, and had a family of his own. He had at least eight children and supported his family through mining.

The article is attached below. Read on to find out more about his family life.

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The article says:

The Bakersfield Californian August 06, 1907

AGED MAN MUST GO TO ASYLUM

De Witt Biggs is in County Jail Again.    Parades Street on Saturday Night with Shotgun on His Shoulder

DeWitt Clinton Biggs, and aged man whose mind has been falling for some time past, was locked up in the County Jail yesterday, after having been released only a short time before, and an effort will  now be made to have him re-committed to the asylum for the insane at Stockton.

    Biggs is over 70 years old. He is connected with one of the best families in the county by marriage, but old age has weakened his mental facilities. He is an old inmate of the northern asylum, but was released about two years ago apparently cured.

    The other day, while in one of his tantrums, he was arrested by the local police officers, who thought he was intoxicated. When he appeared in the justice court the next day, however, he appeared to be perfectly sane and was released.

    Saturday night however, he left Tom Owen’s house where he was seen stopping, and imagining that his life was in danger, paraded up and down before the house for some hours, a heavy shotgun on his shoulder, looking for imaginary enemies, who had threatened his life, he said. The next morning he started out on the street, using and old broom for a cane. Finally he arrived at the County Jail, and went inside, saying that he wanted to see some of the prisoners. His condition was recognized by “Doc” Staley and he was locked up in a cell.

It is probable that Biggs will be taken before either Judges Mahon or Bennett tomorrow, and be examined as to his sanity, there seems to be no other way of taking care of him than by this method.

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The Stockton California Insane Asylum where DeWitt most likely spent the remainder of his days. DeWitt passed away six months after the newspaper article was written on February 15, 1908. (photo courtesy of http://www.asylumprojects.org/index.php?title=Stockton_State_Hospital)

DeWitt Clinton Biggs was the son of David Biggs.His father married a Scotch-Native American woman named Martha “Patsy” Chisholm.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

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DeWitt Clinton Biggs (Courtesy of James Mahar – from Album of Mary King)

A younger DeWitt on the right with wife Mary Martha Busik and most likely their son David (photo courtesy of James Mahar – print. Original from Mrs. Dorothy Biggs)

According to records, Mary Martha Busik /(Busic) was either 13 or 16 years old when she was married DeWitt, who was 35 years old. (25 February 1866, White River, Tulare, California). Although this seems young, it was not uncommon at the time.

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DeWitt on left, friend on the right. Taken approximately 1870. (Courtesy of James Mahar – Print. Possibly with partner in mining venture)

Most likely where DeWitt is buried.  (photo courtesy of Joanne. "This is an unmaintained cemetery on private lands." )

Most likely where DeWitt is buried.
(photo courtesy of Joanne. “This is an unmaintained cemetery on private lands.” )

May you rest in peace DeWitt Clinton Biggs.