Book Review Thursday: Midnight in Broad Daylight: A Japanese Family Caught Between Two Worlds

This meticulously researched book by Pamela Rotner Sakomoto is a compelling story of a Japanese-American family finding themselves on opposite sides during World War II.   The book opens with scenes from one of America’s darkest days, December 7, 1941, following Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Harry Fukuhara, twenty-one years old and living in Los Angeles, finds it hard to comprehend the news.  Meanwhile his seventeen year-old brother, thousands of miles away in Japan, had just boarded a train for a school track meet when he heard someone speak of “our victorious assault on Hawaii”.  Little did these two brothers realize they would eventually serve on opposite sides. Katsuji and Kinu Fukuhara, Japanese immigrants to America (he in 1900 and she in 1911 after marrying Katsuji sight-unseen – a picture bride), had five children – four sons and one daughter.  The oldest two children, Victor and Mary, were sent back to Japan at an early age to avoid discrimination and, ostensibly, to immerse them in the Japanese culture.  They both returned in 1929.   However, their three younger children – Harry, Pierce and Frank – were all born and raised in the Pacific Northwest where Katsuji worked hard to provide for his family, despite often being shunned because of his ethnicity. The Depression years were difficult and when Katsuji died Kinu decided to return to Japan, taking all her children back to her ancestral home of Hiroshima.  Harry, however, vowed from the start to someday return to America – he was, after all, an American by birth and proudly so. First Mary and then Harry returned to America, determined to...

Monday Musings: A Red-Letter Day

Readers, both new and the returning faithful, you made my day on Sunday, February 7!  Thanks so much for stopping by in record numbers.  I was thrilled to see my Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl, but more excited to see these stats on my WordPress Dashboard: The article entitled “Ghost Town Wednesday: Cayuga, Oklahoma” was “the bomb” apparently as 247 views were registered.  Within that article was a link to the Tombstone Tuesday article for Mathias Splitlog (second place in total number of views).  Since the beginning of 2016 Digging History has circled the globe with well over 6,000 views from these nations: Thanks so much for your support and the encouragement to soldier on and keep writing.  I’ve been researching some great stories for what I hope will turn into a book about unique and unusual nineteenth century (Victorian era) headlines.  Stay tuned! If you’re a regular reader and haven’t signed up to receive an email each time a new article is posted, just provide your email address in the “Subscribe to this blog” box in the top right-hand corner and press Subscribe.  I hope you continue to find the articles interesting and informative — comments are encouraged and most welcome! Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY! Please consider a small donation to support Digging History. Click the DONATE button below (or the DONATE link at the top of the page for instructions) and you will be directed to a secure payment site where you may make a one-time donation or set up a recurring monthly donation (NOTE: NOT tax deductible). ...

Book Review Thursday: Brave Companions

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough is known for his meticulously researched historical and biographical works.  In Brave Companions McCullough combines essays originally written for magazine publication into a compelling book of short biographies.  Two of the essays were written as a result of research for two books: The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 and Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt. Harriet Beecher Stowe and Theodore Roosevelt, as well-known American historical figures, were profiled along with lesser-known or long-forgotten individuals such as Alexander von Humboldt.  Although born into an aristocratic Prussian family in Berlin, he decided to forego a life of privilege and chose instead to embark on an extended exploration of Latin America.  Charles Darwin would later utilize Humboldt’s extensive research and documentation.  In his best-selling book, Personal Narrative ITALICS, Humboldt described the need for a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Of course, that indeed became a reality many years later with the Panama Canal. In a way this book is a window into the thought processes of McCullough and his storied writing career.  McCullough would often find subjects for his books while researching another subject (that happens to me all the time!).  For instance, he pointed out that while researching The Great Bridge, the story of the German immigrant Roebling family and their stunning achievements in building the Brooklyn Bridge, he studied Henry Ward Beecher to understand the times surrounding the bridge’s construction.  Beecher was a renowned Congregationalist minister and social reformer, the brother...

Ghost Town Wednesday: Lone Star, Texas

  This ghost town in northeast Cherokee County was first known as “Skin Tight”.  According to legend the community got that name after cattle buyer and merchant Henry L. Reeves opened a store.  It’s believed the name was due either to Reeves’ “close trading tactics” or perhaps because he worked as a trapper and animal skinner. The town had begun to take shape in several years earlier in 1849 when Hundle Wiggins settled there after the Texas Legislature created Cherokee County in 1846.  Reeves built a store there in the early 1880’s and on June 13, 1883 a post office was established under the name “Lone Star”.  Not long afterwards Reeves moved to Smith County and was shot to death in Troup on June 13, 1886. By 1885 Lone Star had grown to a population of 160 with a cotton gin, gristmill, sawmill, general store and school.  The town was somewhat isolated but the town continued to grow steadily.  Both Woodmen of the World and the Masons established chapters in the small community. By 1890 there were three mercantile stores and a millinery shop in the business district.  In 1893 a fire swept through the business section of town and destroyed all but two buildings.  The fire started in the offices of Dr. J.E. Rowbarts, who died in the fire.  No one was ever able to determine the exact cause although it was common knowledge the doctor kept a cannister of black powder in his office. The town was rebuilt quickly and resumed its growth, reaching a population of three hundred by the mid 1890’s, aided in part by...

Book Review Thursday: Johnstown Flood

As this book’s description notes, it is much more than just a story about one of America’s greatest weather-related tragedies, the Johnstown Flood of 1889  – it’s also a social history, set in the nineteenth century’s so-called “Gilded Age”. Nearing the end of the nineteenth and looking head to the twentieth century, America was flexing its muscle as an industrial power house.  Titans of industry made millions on the backs of hardworking men in the coal and steel industry and Johnstown was a leading boom town in southwest Pennsylvania. David McCullough dedicates the entire second chapter of the book to setting the stage for the tragedy by introducing readers to some of those titans of industry, notable among them the likes of two men named Andrew (Carnegie and Mellon).  Along with other successful businessmen, they helped organize an exclusive members-only summer resort in the mountains above Johnstown in 1879 – the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.  The lake had been called many things, including Lake Conemaugh, but residents of Johnstown referred to it as the South Fork dam. For years members had been warned of the dam’s instability, and each time residents of the valley would be assured the dam was perfectly safe.  That would prove to be tragically false on May 31, 1889 when a massive weather system hovered in the area for several hours, dumping massive amounts of rain which caused the dam to burst and flood the valley below. The wall of water roared through community after community, destroying practically everything in its path and causing the deaths of over two thousand people.  When news...

Ghost Town Wednesday: Lulu City, Colorado

This ghost town, now located in Rocky Mountain National Park, was founded in 1879 after Fort Collins merchant and entrepreneur Benjamin Burnett heard about a silver strike in the mountains west of Fort Collins near the headwaters of the Grand River (later Colorado River).  Burnett sent out prospector John Rigdon to investigate the claims. Rigdon went over Thunder Mountain (later renamed Lulu Pass) and camped in a beautiful park situated at an elevation of 9,400 feet.  There he began to prospect, initially finding a vein of silver and lead.  After returning to Fort Collins and having the ore tested down in Denver, Burnett decided to personally investigate. In the summer of 1879 he loaded up a wagon and took his family to the park.  He wasted no time in laying out a town, and an ambitious one at that.  One hundred blocks were platted, with sixteen lots per block.  Streets were numbered first to nineteenth and the avenues were named Ward, Mountain, Riverside and Trout.  The town was named in honor of his daughter Lulu. Burnett was assisted by a man named Godsmark, building a store and erecting log cabins.  He returned to Fort Collins, loaded the wagon with supplies for the new stores and brought back six large mules.  There was, however, no road per se.  His son Frank later described the arduous trek: The route traveled to Lulu City was from Fort Collins up through Livermore, Long Cabin to Manhattan, through Manhattan west to Old Baldy.  There are two peaks of Old Baldy and the road went between them on the west through the top of the...

Tombstone Tuesday: Carbon Petroleum Dubbs (a “for-real” name with a rags-to-riches story)

Carbon Petroleum Dubbs was born in Franklin, Pennsylvania to parents Jesse and Jennie (Chapin) Dubbs on June 24, 1881.  Jesse was born in the same county (Venango) in 1856, around the time the country’s first oil was discovered, and grew up during the early boom years.  It wasn’t surprising that Jesse, son of druggist Henry Dubbs, developed a fascination with the oil industry, nor that he named his son after one of oil’s elemental components.  Carbon later added a “P.” to his name to make it more “euphonious”.  When people began calling him “Petroleum” (perhaps people assumed that’s what the “P” stood for)  the name stuck, thus he became known as “Carbon Petroleum Dubbs” (“C.P.”). Jesse set up a “dinky” chemistry lab in a small oil field and began experimenting in an attempt to discover a way to produce gasoline from crude oil.  In 1890 his neighbor, Senator Richard Quay, had him arrested for “maintaining a common nuisance” – the stench was more than the senator could bear.  A trial was held a few months later and a split decision resulted – yes, he was guilty of creating a nuisance but on the second charge of continuing a nuisance he was exonerated.  However, as the newspaper headline asked – “Will This Stop the Bad Odor?”1 As an “inveterate tinkerer”2 Jesse was constantly discovering new ways to use petroleum.  Like his father Henry he was a druggist by trade, inventing a protective jelly for miners, as well as inventing a process to extract sulfur from crude oil.  His experiments took him far and wide around the world, despite once being...

Monday Musings: Signature Stories

Recently I’ve added a new dimension to ancestry research by collecting signatures of either my own or those of my clients’ ancestors.  When the time comes to format a pedigree chart, I will be incorporating these on the chart — something unique to document history besides a bunch of dates and places.  Each one will tell a different story. I was formatting a few signatures of my Rupe ancestors and was thinking about their stories – call them “signature stories” if you will.  One set of signatures was included in a series of affidavits averred to by four members of the Rupe family of Sebastian County, Arkansas in support of  George Abbott and his claims for property “appropriated” during the Civil War. George Abbott was a miller living in either Sebastian or Scott County until February of 1864 when he went to Fort Smith.  Abbott was deeply opposed to secession and his sympathies were solidly Union.  Like many others in the South (Arkansas was a divided state) who considered themselves Unionists, Abbott was harassed by Rebels. At Fort Smith he worked for the Union cause and claimed this as evidence of his loyalty.  His petition to the Commissioner of Claims, established under the act of March 3, 1871, stated in April of 1864 members of the 9th Kansas Cavalry (as well as two Arkansas units) camped near his home in Sebastian County and appropriated: one mare ($150); two thousand pounds of fresh beef ($120 or 6 cents a pound); and one hundred bushels of corn ($150).  He was requesting remuneration in the amount of $420. Abbott’s petition also included...

Riding the Circuit

The typical circuit riding preacher of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries wasn’t someone who had been afforded formal seminary training. Rather, it was more likely a former common laborer like a blacksmith or carpenter who, following a dramatic religious conversion, answered the call to preach to the masses by riding from village to village spreading the Gospel.  It certainly wasn’t a well-paying job and many died at a young age.  In 1855 a man who signed his editorial “An Old Circuit Rider”1 knew all too well the pittances afforded the itinerant preacher. In 1827 missionaries received only fourteen cents a day on average and he had heard of ministers who hadn’t received one cent in a six-month period.  The itinerant minister might “pass the hat” and gather enough to send him down the road a bit further.  One minister receive a saddle girth for his services.  That would keep his saddle in place but not food in his belly. Yet another minister known by the “old circuit rider” made only one “cut bit” one year.  He went on to explain how in those days it was customary to make change by cutting larger pieces of silver into smaller ones.  A cut bit was an eighth of a dollar, also called a “sharpskin”.  The man was about to set upon a trip of 250 miles and what was he to do?  He started riding, making stops along a seventy-mile stretch.  Upon preaching the last service of the stretch the “cloud bursted” and his act of faith was rewarded. A friend had heard about his plight and informed the congregation ahead...

Book Review Thursday: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager team together again to write a compelling narrative about a key piece of early American history.  The Revolutionary War had ended, George Washington had resigned as commander-in-chief and bade farewell to his troops by the end of 1783. The Constitutional Convention wouldn’t convene in Philadelphia until 1787 and Washington wouldn’t be overwhelmingly elected the country’s first President until 1789.  America, deep in debt, was anxious to quickly grow its economy by exporting products across the Atlantic and beyond.  The first serious encounter with Barbary pirates occurred in 1785 when a U.S. ship was captured, its commander and crew imprisoned for several years. The pirates had been operating for years, but now that America was on its own after winning their independence she no longer had the protection of the British Empire.  Their mighty naval force notwithstanding, England had instead chosen to buy the pirates off rather than fight them. America’s leaders were divided, however — John Adams favored meeting the pirates’ demands, whereas Thomas Jefferson wanted more.  In 1795 the United States finally settled with the Algerians, but by the time Jefferson became President in 1801, the problem had only worsened despite the United States having finally agreed to pay tribute.  At this time America didn’t have much of a navy. but when the situation escalated Jefferson decided to take on the pirates instead of cow-towing. This book chronicles both the victories and missteps during the early years of the United States Navy and Marine Corps.  The opening lines of the Marine Hymn contain the phrase “to the shores of...