Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Historical Images of Lake Washington

This webpage is intended to complement the publication Around Lake Washington, Arcadia Publishing, 2021. It is a list of all sources used for historic photos and quotations. All contemporary photos are by the author, Eleanor Boba, unless otherwise indicated in the book.

Cover - Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum, #SHM 723.

Title Page - Photo courtesy  Shoreline Historical Museum, #SHM 1910A.

Chapter 1 - The North End
Page 11, Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum, #SHM 1230.

Page 12, Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum, #SHM 1250.

Page 13, Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum, #SHM 723.

Page 14, Photo courtesy of Kenmore Heritage Society.

Page 15, Photo courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum, #SHM 1356.

Page 16, Photo courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives.

Page 17, Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #1986.5G.1869.

Page 18, Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #1983.10.12862.3. Quotation from Seattle Star, cited in webpage Charles Lindbergh, An American Aviator,

          Page 19, Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #2000.

Page 20, Photo courtesy Densho, The Japanese American Legacy Project.

Page 21, Courtesy The Seattle Public Library, #spl_shp 40300.
Page 22, Courtesy Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle, #VR1030-00013. RG1030 Orphanages and Boarding Schools, Seattle.

Page 23, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #2000.

Page 24, Courtesy The Seattle Public Library, #spl_shp 14290.

Page 25, Courtesy The Seattle Public Library, #14288. VERIFY

Page 26, Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collection, UW40854.

Page 27, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #PI27795.

Page 28, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, 1983.10.3686.

Chapter 2 - The Westside

Page 29, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #29054, Series 5801-01: Don Sherwood Parks History Collection.

Page 30, Courtesy Army Corps of Engineers and Friends of the Ballard Locks, #

Page 31,Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #30551, Series 5801-01: Don Sherwood Parks History Collection.

Page 32, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #2000.

Page 33, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, #1983.10.9672.1.

Page 34, Courtesy University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, NIS(I)7259d.
Page 35, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #172630, Series 5801-08: Olmsted Brothers Photographs.

Page 36,Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, #1983.10.7531.
Page 37, Courtesy Yousef Shulman.

Page 38, Courtesy Rainier Valley Historical Society, #01.037.01.

Page 39, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #11615, Series 2613-07: Engineering Department Negatives.

Page 40, Courtesy Rainier Valley Historical Society, #1999.065.0002.

Page 41, Past image courtesy Rainier Valley Historical Society, #02.022.01. Present image courtesy Karen O'Brien.

Page 42, Courtesy John L. O’Brien Family.

Page 43, Past image courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #2000. Present image courtesy Karen O'Brien.

Page 44, Courtesy Rainier Valley Historical Society, #08.31.52.

Page 45, Courtesy Kubota Garden Foundation and Densho, The Japanese American Legacy Project.

Page 46, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Maida Miller Collection on the Florence Crittenton Home, #2000.43.7.

Page 47, Courtesy Rainier Valley Historical Society, #02.001.01.

Page 48, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #1941, Series 9940-01: Erlyn Jensen Rainier Beach Collection.

Chapter 3 - The South End

Page 49, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #1986.5.199.1.

Page 50, Courtesy  the Renton History Museum, Renton Washington, #41.0831.

Page 51,Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #1986.5.6724.1.

Page 52, Courtesy Renton History Museum, Renton, Washington, #763A.

Page 53, Courtesy Renton History Museum, Renton, Washington, #5782.

Page 54, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Pacific Coast Company Photograph Album, #1978.6585.27.

Page 55, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #shs365. Art Wood quotation from 1991 oral history in possession of Renton History Museum and quoted in "In the Garden of Eden: A Kennydale Story," by Steve A. Anderson, Renton Historical Society & Museum Quarterly, June 2005.

Page 56, Courtesy Renton History Museum, Renton, Washington, #6062. Laughery quotation in "More Remembrances of Early North Renton," Renton Historical Quarterly, November 1973.

Page 57, Courtesy Renton History Museum, Renton, Washington, #3078.

Page 58, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #1986.5.39315.3

Chapter 4 - The Eastside

Page 59, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #226, Series 2613-07: Engineering Department Negatives.

Page 60, Courtesy Eastside Heritage Center, #2002.147.010.

Page 61, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Alfred Renfro Photograph Albums and Diaries, #2013.39.18.12.

Page 62, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, #1983.10.3974.

Page 63, Courtesy Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, Joe Williamson Collection, #5156-012.

Page 64, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #1989.10.4.

Page 65, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #1997.20.1.

Page 66, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Postcard Collection, #1998.10.39.

Page 67, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #shs18755.

Page 68, Courtesy Archives of the Archdiocese of Seattle, #VR1060-00647.

Chapter 5 - Around the Lake

Page 69, Courtesy Black Heritage Society, #2000.09.2.05.

Page 70, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, #1983.10.2530.2.

Page 71, Courtesy Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.

Page 72, Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #shs2823. Brochure courtesy Washington State Historical Society, #1997.1.85.

Page 73, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society, #1997.10.39.

Page 74, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society, #1994.36.18.

Page 75, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #1986.5.7588.2.

Page 76, Courtesy Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive, #WWAPCO472.

Page 77, Courtesy Eastside Heritage Society, #2014.005.010.

Page 78, Courtesy Rainier Valley Historical Society, #94.002.01.

Page 79, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #PI20283.

Page 80, Photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, James D. Lowman Family Photograph Collection, #2008.47.2.1. Brochure courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #5804_05_06_14_001, Series 5804-05: Planning, Construction and Maintenance Records.

Page 81, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #4453, Series 2613-07: Engineering Department Negatives.

Page 82, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #shs11726.

Page 83, Courtesy Eastside Heritage Society, #2010.028.005.

Page 84, Past image courtesy Army Corps of Engineers and Friends of the Ballard Locks, # Present image courtesy Kyle Stetler.

Chapter 6 - Ecology of the Lake

Page 85, Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration, via Wikimedia Commons, #552235.jpg.

Page 86, Top photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Anders Beer Wilse Collection, #1988.33.92. Lower photo courtesy Renton History Museum, Renton, Washington, #1994.068.3883. Slauson quotation in personal correspondence of Lucile McDonald, Lucile McDonald Collection, University of Washington Special Collections.

Page 87, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Anders Beer Wilse Collection, #1988.33.238. Tonkin quotation in Renton: From Coal to Jets, by Morda Slauson, 1976, p. 27.

Page 88, Courtesy Shoreline Historical Museum, #SHM-388.

Page 89, Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, #shs8917.

Page 90, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #44896, Series 2613-07: Engineering Department Notes.

Page 91, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #12861, Series 2625-10: Department of Streets and Sewers Photograph Collection. Parker quotation from oral history in possession of Rainier Valley Historical Society.

Page 92, Courtesy Renton History Museum, Renton, Washington, #2019.007.

Page 93, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives, #65820, Series 5801-01: Don Sherwood Parks History Collection.

Page 94, Courtesy Washington State Historical Society, #2002.71.19. Kinne quotation in "Kennydale Days," by Pauline Kirkman, c. 1985, manuscript in possession of Renton History Museum.

Page 95, Past photo courtesy Museum of History and Industry, Seatle Post-Intelligencer Collection, #PI23041. Present photo courtesy Mikala Woodward and Rainier Valley Historical Society.

Back Cover - Courtesy Museum of History and Industry, PEMCO Webster & Stevens Collection, #1983.10.7529.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Battle Road: Comparing Source Material on the Battle of Dominguez Rancho

The Battle of Dominguez Rancho as depicted by William H. Meyers in Naval Sketches of the War in California, published in 1939.

“A renegade from Flores’ camp brings intelligence that a party of some 300 Americans (sailors, marines & riflemen) had landed at San Pedro & moved on towards Los Angeles. At Domingo’s Ranche, they were met by 130 Californians with a small field piece, defeated & driven back to the Ship with a loss of 5 killed & 7 wounded. Must be Mervine for no other officer is ass enough to attempt to move infantry against these people unless backed by Artillery.” (McLane, 87)

Thus does 1st Lieutenant Louis McLane of the U.S. Navy, describe the Battle of Dominguez Rancho in October 1846, the last true victory of the Mexican residents of Alta California in the fight to prevent conquest by American forces. At the time of writing, Lt. McLane was on loan to John C. Frémont’s California Battalion in northern California. Despite questionable punctuation, spelling, and fact-checking, his paragraph provides an adequate overview of this incident in the California War.

Commodore Stockton, in his official report on the battle, echoed McLane’s report, although in more formal language:

“Captain Mervine further informed me that…he had landed with his sailors and marines for the purpose of marching in conjunction with Captain Gillespie and his detachment of volunteers to Ciudad de los Angeles. He had not carried any artillery with him; that about twelve miles from San Pedro he encountered a party of the insurgents with one piece of artillery; a battle ensued; that several charges had been made upon the insurgents’ gun, but it was impossible to capture it, as, whenever he approached, they hitched their horses to it and retreated. Having sustained a loss of several men killed and wounded, he retired with his force and re-embarked.” (Stockton Report, 174-75)

The basic facts of the case are not in dispute. There are differing opinions among both primary and secondary sources as to the size of the Californio forces, the number killed and wounded, and the actual dates of the battle. (Some say the march began on October 7th and the retreat on October 8th. Others have it all a day later. The plaque commemorating the battle at Rancho Dominguez plumps for the latter.) The estimated number of defenders ranges from 50 to 400, depending on whom you ask. Not surprisingly, American sources tend to the higher ranges.As to casualties, most sources indicate none killed on the Californio side, although one source says that two of the wounded succumbed to their injuries following the battle. (Faragher, 129) American casualties included a cabin boy killed by friendly fire before the march even started and four to thirteen killed by enemy fire, again, depending on whom you ask.

March through the mustard

On the morning of October 8th (or 7th, if you prefer) two American vessels stood in San Pedro Harbor, the merchant ship Vandalia [1] and the U.S. Navy’s frigate Savannah. A diverse body of soldiers, sailors, and marines, about 300 in number, disembarked from the Savannah and were rowed to shore. They were under the command of Captain William Mervine who had been sent by Commodore Stockton, chief of the Pacific Squadron, to put down the rebellion that had broken out in the Pueblo of Los Angeles two weeks earlier. The second ship, the Vandalia, had aboard Brevet Captain Archibald Gillespie and his command of some 50 soldiers, the contingent that had been left behind to garrison the pueblo after it had been conquered by the Americans in mid-August. Just nine days earlier Gillespie and his men had been harried out of Los Angeles and forced to make a humiliating march some 25 miles to the sea. San Pedro was the closest point to Los Angeles at that time with a harbor deep enough to accommodate sailing ships.

Now Mervine proposed to reverse the process, marching troops back to the pueblo and reclaiming it for the United States. Neither Mervine nor his boss, Stockton, expected the Californios to put up any meaningful resistance. A quick march, a quick victory, and then some consequences for their impudence!

The most detailed account of the events of these two days comes from one Lieutenant Robert C. Duvall, who served under Mervine in the engagement. Duvall was the keeper of the ship’s log of the Savannah. (Robert Duvall)

The march began inauspiciously with the death of the cabin boy, William A. Smith, in an accidental discharge of weaponry on the beach. But, without burning daylight, Mervine led his troops out along the dusty lowland wagon trail that led toward the pueblo. In his haste, the Captain ignored the advice of some of his officers to take ordnance from the ships. That would only slow him down! The troops likewise took little in the way of provisions. Such niceties as food and water would surely be available en route!

The troops waded out into the track lined in places by waist-high mustard fields. Ominously, horsemen started appearing on the upland slopes. A few shots rang out on both sides. Fortunately for the Americans, the Californio captain José Antonio Carrillo was under strict orders from his commander, José Maria Flores, not to risk an all-out fight, but to harass the interlopers until Flores could arrive with a piece of artillery. (Such tactics are sometimes called “Fabian,” after the Roman General Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, who employed such strategies against the Carthaginian Hannibal and his elephants.)

After eight hours and 12 miles of a hot heavy march the troops staggered into the Rancho Dominguez, less than halfway to their ultimate destination. With his men exhausted, Mervine agreed to stop for the night at the rancho.

Duvall described the first leg of the march:

“For the first four miles our march was through hills and ravines which the enemy might have taken advantage of, but preferred to occupy as spectators only, until our approach. A few shots from our flankers (who were the volunteer riflemen) would start them off; they returning the compliment before going. The remainder or our march was preformed over a continuous plain overgrown with wild mustard, rising in places to six or eight feet in height. The ground was excessively dry, the clouds of dust were suffocating and there was not a breath of wind in motion. There was no water on our line of march for ten or twelve miles and we suffered greatly from thirst. At 2:30 p.m. we reached our camping ground.” (Robert Duvall, 116)

According to Dominguez family historian Robert Gillingham, the family was in residence at the time. In his comprehensive Rancho San Pedro, Gillingham writes “Manuel Dominguez and his family were not molested, but had to provide beef and other food supplies.” He further states that, as to the battle, “there is no evidence that Don Manuel Dominguez took any active part, but he did send a messenger from the Rancho to authorities in the Pueblo when the American troops appeared.” (Gilllingham, 151)

Most other historians believe the family had vacated the premises in advance of the soldiers, driving off most of their livestock, as well. From the time that Gillespie’s party had marched south to San Pedro, at the end of September, the caballeros had kept an eye on movements at the harbor. Gillespie had been told to embark immediately, and the Vandalia stood ready to provide this service, but he apparently hesitated for several days, perhaps hoping for immediate salvation from the sea. Prior to leaving the town, he had sent a messenger on a fast horse north to notify Stockton of the situation. 

The Californios were also keeping eyes on the sea. Whether it was Dominguez or another look-out who sent the message to Flores at the pueblo is immaterial. However, it seems likely that a man of means and connections like Manuel Dominguez would have taken steps to assure the safety of his very young family by removing them to the pueblo or to some rancho farther inland during this chaotic time. Not only were his seven children at the time all under 17, the youngest but two years of age, but his wife was six months pregnant with their last child. None of the primary sources consulted for this essay mention anyone, even servants, at the rancho.

A sleepless night

Although the Americanos were able to bivouac on the grounds and patio of the Dominguez Rancho, it is doubtful that many got any rest. Nor were the Californios taking time out from the contest. Throughout the night the troops at the rancho were harassed by gunfire which they attempted to return, firing into the darkness. At about two in the morning, according to Duvall, a cannonball landed at the feet of some of the Americans, indicating the arrival of the cannon that was about to turn what was left of the tide of battle. “The marines, riflemen and volunteers were sent in pursuit of the gun, but could see or near nothing of it.” (Robert Duvall, 116) This was hardly surprising, since it would have been quite dark at that time, with only the light of a gibbous moon to make out shapes in the gloom.

At least at the rancho the troops were able to obtain fresh water from a spring and food from the ranch stores.

Despite the fatigue and what surely must have been the demoralization of his troops, Mervine rousted them out at daybreak to continue the march toward Los Angeles, another 16 miles along the track that is now, roughly, Alameda Street.

Flying artillery vs. Infantry squares

The advance toward the pueblo came to a screeching halt only three to four miles up the road, in the vicinity of what is now Compton Creek. Any thought that the enemy had retreated was put to rest when, according to Duvall,

“…the enemy appeared before us, drawn up on each side of the road, mounted on fine horses, each man armed with a lance and carbine. They also had a field piece (a four-pounder) to which were hitched eight or ten horses, placed on the road ahead of us. (Robert Duvall, 117)

What followed was a running battle in which Mervine attempted to make forward progress, but was driven back each time by volleys from the gun. The horsemen used their reatas (lassos) to pull the cannon, affixed to a wheeled cart, out of the reach of Mervine’s advance men whenever they made an attempt to capture it, a kind of Californio game of chicken. The caballeros themselves were able to stay well back and keep the advantages of speed and agility.

Duvall states that the gun was loaded with round shot and copper grapeshot, in other words, cannon balls and small projectiles fired like buckshot. One historian, Leonard Pitt, believes the Californios may have been using other projectiles as well: cobblestones and metal scraps, in short anything that could cause damage.(Pitt, 33) Several historians have remarked that the Californios had only inferior gunpowder at their disposal, manufactured at the Mission San Gabriel, and not much of that. Some have considered that lack of powder was the reason cannon fire ceased during Mervine’s retreat.

This phase of the battle lasted only an hour or two. At some point, Mervine and his lieutenants recognized the futility of further action. They could not make forward progress. They could not capture the gun. They had wounded needing care. Even the approved method of fighting cavalry, placing the men in “infantry squares,” with sharpshooters and bayonets positioned on the perimeter, had little effect, since the enemy kept their distance.

A decision was made to retreat to the ship, carrying their dead and wounded in carts. The dead, numbering at least five, were buried on a small islet marking the entrance to the harbor. Either before or after these events the land mass became known as Deadman's Island. It is possible, also, that some fallen comrades were left on the field of battle. Reports from the enemy's side suggest that, following the battle, corpses were found along with spoils of war that included an American flag, equipment, and tobacco. (Farragher, 129)

The trip back to San Pedro was long and weary, we can imagine. The Californians kept their presence known with occasional potshots. Notably, the defenders did not follow up their advantage with an all-out assault. In keeping with their instructions, they continued to harass the Americans in the hope of driving them out of the country. In this they were successful — but only for a time.

Stockton takes charge

Mervine, Gillespie, and their men did not immediately set sail. Without further orders, they hovered at the cove in San Pedro for more than two weeks until Commodore Stockton himself arrived with a large force on board the flagship Congress on or about October 26, as had been previously arranged.  Sizing up the situation, and viewing what appeared to be hundreds, if not thousands, of horsemen on the hills, the Commodore made the executive decision to move his forces and his base of operation to San Diego, from whence he was to launch the final and successful assault on Los Angeles. In his report to his boss, Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft, Stockton explains his decision with telling words that speak of his disdain for the local inhabitants:

“Elated by this transient success, which the enemy, with his usual want of veracity, magnified into a great victory, they collected in large bodies on all the adjacent hills, and would not permit a hoof except their own horses to be within fifty miles of San Pedro. I had, however, agreed to land there, to be in readiness to co-operate with the forces under Major Frémont expected from Santa Barbara; and therefore determined to do so in the face of their boasting insolence, and there again to hoist the glorious stars in the presence of their horse covered hills.” (Stockton to George Bancroft)

Stockton get a dig in against John C. Frémont, that loose cannon who failed to meet up with him at San Pedro with his California Battalion:

“…I had given up all hope of the co-operation of Major Frémont. Besides, the enemy had driven off every animal, man, and beast, from that section of the country, and it was not possible, by any means in our power, to carry provisions for our march to the city.” (Stockton to George Bancroft)

Image courtesy of

Lessons learned

Historians have analyzed the battle from many angles and most agree on a few basic factors that can be briefly summarized:

·        Mervine’s incompetence: The Captain’s failure to prepare adequately for a forced march over rough terrain left his troops fatigued and demoralized. In addition, his decision to travel without the artillery he had to hand on board the Savannah clearly put him at a disadvantage, even against a single, aged field-piece.
·        Stockton’s arrogance in underestimating the resentment and resolve of the Californios.
·        The horses: Carrillo’s mounted caballeros had every advantage in navigating familiar terrain.
·        Style of warfare: The Battle of Dominguez Rancho is a classic example of guerilla warfare used effectively against a force schooled in the rigid rules of classic warfare. Not unlike the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord in 1775, the caballeros used their native wits and weapons, the element of surprise, and even trickery to force a tactical withdrawal by their enemy.
·        Scorched earth: The Californios stopped short of actually burning crops, but they did — at the direction of Commandante Flores — drive off much of the cattle and horses from the coastal areas where they might have provided mounts or sustenance to the Americans. Indeed, Stockton and Mervine had been confident that they could find horses to ride and pull artillery along their route. The lack of these animals cramped their style. At Rancho Dominguez, they were able to commandeer one nag from an unfortunate man who had strayed into their camp. The horse was useful for dragging the cart bearing their wounded back to San Pedro, not much else.

Deceiving the Enemy

Antonio Maria Osio, a long-time resident of Alta California, commented on the clever tactics and “games” used during and after the Battle of Dominguez Rancho by the Californios to intimidate and wear down their opponents. He describes how Carrillo deployed his 80 men to fool the eyesight of Commodore Stockton on the beach:

“The eighty men walked halfway around San Pedro Hill. Then, one after the other, they climbed up to the top, where they could be easily seen by the warships, and then they climbed down. The first man to arrive at the base of the hill would run halfway around to catch up with the formation that was coming down, and he would position himself behind the last man. Thus they gave the appearance that there were more than six hundred soldiers.” (Osio, 235)

Another of Osio’s anecdotes involves a dog that hung around Stockton’s men on the beach. It seems one of Carrillo’s men tempted the dog over and tied a note to his neck challenging Stockton to “a colossal battle.” The trick must have worked, because a few hours later Stockton’s ships were preparing to stand out of the harbor! (Ibid.)

The story of the dog is confirmed in a first-hand account by ship’s surgeon Marius Duvall, posted to the Savannah at the time and no relation to Lieutenant R.C. Duvall. Duvall kept a journal in which he described the scene on the beach on October 28:

“A bright day; we began to be at home in our camp —Commodore Stockton came on shore, looked at every thing, made some bombastic speeches to the troops and returned on board. Today about 11 a.m. a large party (400?) came and reinforced those previously here — soon afterwards, 100 of them occupied the hills nearest out lines, they abused us, and one of them rode in bravado quite near us — he was fired at several times. Late in the afternoon, they sent a dog down to us, some letters were found on him, very abusive and obscene in their language.” (Marius Duvall, 64)

Duvall goes on to describe the hasty and somewhat humiliating departure ordered by Stockton:

“A flaming ‘general order’ was read to the troops. About 10 o’clock at night the boats from both ships came on shore with the order to [load up] every thing in the shortest possible time — this was accomplished before daylight of the 29th. There was some confusion, and it was fortunate there was not a spirited enemy to watch us; some of us received a ‘ducking.’ What will be said of this here and at home [?!] (Ibid.)

Many writers have mentioned the Californios’ use of horses to stir up dust clouds to create the impression of a large horde. One account is in the memoirs of an American resident of the country, one Benjamin D. Wilson, who, as a friend to both sides, became a witness to history. Finding himself a prisoner of the Californios after the battle, Wilson agreed to act as an intermediary with Stockton whose arrival by sea was shortly expected:

“I was placed under charge of a Sergeant, and carried to the place designated, near the old
San Pedro Landing, on the Mesa, where I was to await Carrillo's orders. On our way we passed Carrillo's command, of some four or five hundred men all mounted … they seemed to be collecting on Dominguez's Ranch all the scattered horses they could secure; they already had a large number together… I looked back in the gap where the road leads through from the Palos Verdes to San Pedro Landing, and saw an immense dust raised by a large caballada mixed with mounted soldiers. This immense band of horses and cavalcade occupied up again to the same gap, and passing through again. This gave the impression and appearance of an immense mass of mounted cavalry, as no one at a distance could distinguish horses through the dust, if all had riders or not.” (Wilson, 115)

It appears that Wilson was himself fooled by the stratagem he describes, since it is unlikely that Carrillo had anything like “four or five hundred men” at this stage of the game. We have read that Dr. Duvall had the same impression of a large force.

Historian Bancroft also mentions these tricks on the part of the Californian forces, including the episode of the dog at the beach, although with less detail.

Yet another account is that contained in the memoir of film star Leo Carrillo (1880-1961) titled The California I Love. Carrillo is able to recount family lore handed down by his great-uncle José Antonio Carrillo, the very fellow who led the Californios against Mervine’s men. His ancestor regaled the children with the story of how he confused the Americanos with a type of smoke screen:

“He had his cavalrymen attach pieces of brush, old cowhides, and all sorts of heavy objects to their reatas. These were dragged across a dusty spot ahead of the oncoming American force. Then the horsemen dashed in and out of this dust cloud so that they appeared as a tremendous force of cavalry. The Americans were completely confused as to the numbers of the Californianos [sic]. Actually there were only fifty in the contingent under the command of Jose Antonio.” (Carrillo, 18)

Carrillo offers additional details about the battle, including the presence of “skittish gray mule” that dragged the cannon into battle and a suggestion that the Californios had only eight cannonballs which they re-used when they were able to retrieve them from the battlefield. (Ibid.) We must mention that Leo Carrillo was born 18 years after his great uncle’s demise; thus, he had only second- or perhaps third-hand knowledge of these tales.


The Battle of Dominguez Rancho was, of course, a mere blip in the history of the battle for California. With little or no backing from the official government in Mexico, and no other allies, the Californians only bought themselves a little time and perhaps burnished their reputation for bravery and fighting skill. Once Stockton had regrouped in San Diego, met up with General Stephen W. Kearney, not so fresh in from New Mexico, and tracked down Major Frémont and his California Battalion who were making their way south from Monterey by land, the fate of the Californians was sealed. Stockton and Kearney pushed through resistance in the battles of San Pascual (December 6 and 7), Rio San Gabriel near Montebello (January 8 and 9), and La Mesa near Vernon (January 9). A day following this last battle, Stockton’s forces entered Los Angeles for the second time, again encountering no opposition. Meanwhile, Frémont, now a Lieutenant Colonel, had approached the town from the San Fernando Valley, and, in a brilliant tactical move ensuring his own fame, cemented a peace treaty with Andres Pico of the Californio forces under the noses of his commanders, Stockton and Kearney. But that is a story for another day.

Who are you calling old?!

Folklore has dubbed the Battle of Dominguez Rancho “The Battle of the Old Woman’s Gun.” (Other names include “The Battle of Dominguez Hills,” “The Battle of Dominguez Ranch,” and “The Battle of Mervine’s Grapes” with a sarcastic nod to the grapeshot fired from the gun.)

So, who was this old woman and what did she have to do with a gun? Well, reliable sources have stated that the single piece of artillery used in the battle, a four-pound cannon brought to bear by the Californio forces, was one that had been hidden away by a woman during or perhaps just after the American occupation of Los Angeles. Famed historian Hubert Howe Bancroft, writing from voluminous notes taken by researchers in 1886, names the woman Inocensia Reyes:

“Nearly all of the male inhabitants of southern California were now, in a certain sense, engaged as soldiers in the revolt…The country was ransacked for old muskets, pistols, and lances, with indifferent success. An old four-pounder, that had formerly served on festive occasions for the firing of salutes, was dug up from the garden of Inocencia Reyes, where it had been buried on Stockton’s first approach; and this was mounted on a pair of wagon wheels by an English carpenter.” (Bancroft, 318)

A few years after Bancroft’s monumental work, historian J. M. Guinn, writing in the publication of the Historical Society of Southern California, identifies the woman as Dona Clara Cota de Reyes, but without mentioning his source. A search of public records reveals that one Maria Clara Cota de Reyes, a widow, lived in the pueblo of Los Angeles at the time of the uprising with five children, one of whom was named Maria Inocencia. It is likely that the burying of the cannon was a family affair. Dona Clara would have been about 56 at the time, old enough to be considered “old” in those days. Maria Inocencia was only about 31. ( This version of the story appears to be confirmed by a descendant of the Reyes family. (Tina Reyes email)

But wait, there’s more! A website dedicated to the history of the Verdugo family in California adds more detail to the tale, naming several co-conspirators in the plot to seize and bury the gun. While historian Guinn believes the gun was buried in a sugarcane field at 1st and Alameda streets, the author of the post states that the cannon was transported to a peach orchard adjacent to the Reyes homestead at 2nd and San Pedro streets. (Doc ) The two addresses are a scant quarter mile apart. The web article draws on information from the memoirs of one Narciso Botello, an eyewitness to the events of the rebellion. Botello explains that

“It needs to be said how this cannon had always been in the Los Angeles Plaza, used to fire salutes to the Virgin. This cannon had been buried in a sandy spot of Antonio Reyes’ orchard, and meantime hidden by some women before Stockton came into town.” (Botello, 81)

Let us note that, according to baptismal records of Mission San Carlos Borromeo, an Antonio Reyes was the father of Inocencia (or Ynocencia) Reyes and the husband of Maria Clara Cota Reyes.(, baptismal record)

In the extensive notes to the published Botello memoirs, editor Brent C. Dickerson details the adventures of the gun prior to the big battle, including a salute welcoming new governor Micheltorena in 1842 and its involvement in a jailbreak from the old calaboose in 1845. He recounts the conspiracy to obtain and bury the gun, perhaps twice, so it may be that both the story of the cane field and the peach orchard are true. Dickerson draws on publications currently unavailable to us, including the memoir of Pablo Vejar, the alleged instigator of the scheme. (Dickerson, Annals, 261) According to Vejar, the gun was buried for the second time on or about September 27, only a few days before the battle and during the period that Gillespie and his men were under siege on Fort Hill.

What happened to the Old Woman’s Gun?

Artillery, like the four-pound bore cannon that came to be called the “Old Woman’s Gun” (el pedrero de vieja) or el conico (conical one) were prized possessions in the rough and ready days of old California. While anecdotes about the gun are few and far between, we can piece together the gun’s life story, always keeping in mind that some accounts are contradictory and many guns looked alike.

Like many others, our gun had a number of varied assignments during its working life and in retirement it traveled as far afield as New Orleans and Annapolis. Probably. At present a cannon on display at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis purports to be the one we want.

Courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis.

El conico is said to have been one of several guns stationed on the Los Angeles Plaza, a gathering spot in the old pueblo, and fired during ceremonial or festive occasions. As such, it was probably brought to the town by soldiers, perhaps the early “leather-jackets.” Had the gun been fired in anger prior to fetching up on the plaza? It is certainly possible, but probably impossible to know.

In his memoirs, Antonio Maria Osio provides a description of the gun in question:

”The angelinos had acquired a very small cannon which they would fire to celebrate special occasions. Unfortunately the vent on the cannon was too wide, and those who wanted to play artilleryman would be injured and might even lose their thumbs when they fired it. Even though the cannon had this defect, the angelinos, aware that it could do more damage through it mouth than through it vent, believed that it was an excellent defense. However, it was not mounted on a gun carriage. So to make it more powerful, they mounted it on a cart made from a tree trunk and left to engage Captain Mervine’s forces.” (Osio, 235)

Guinn picks up the tale:

“[The gun] was lashed to the axle by means of rawhide thongs and was drawn by riatas as described by Lieut. Duvall. The range was obtained by raising or lowering the pole of the wagon. Ignacio Aguilar acted as gunner, and having neither lanyard nor pentstock to fire it, he touched off the gun with the lighted end of a cigarette. Never before or since perhaps was a battle won with such crude artillery.” (Guinn, "Battle," 266)

Brent Dickerson, in his extensive notes to Narciso Botello’s memoir, provides further description of the gun courtesy of Franklin G. Mead, a descendant of old Angeleno families. Mead, basing his observations on the gun at Annapolis, describes it:

“The Old Woman's Gun is a quite large swivel gun; but it is, indeed, a swivel gun (in contradistinction to a field gun). Description: Bronze, smoothbore, 4 pounder, cannon tube, 43½ inches overall in length; bore 2.77 inches diameter; 4½ inch muzzle section length; tube 4 inches in diameter at the muzzle astragal; 16 inch chase section; 6 inches between 3rd and 2nd reinforce; 9½ inches across at trunnions.” (Dickerson website)

Further, Mead disputes Osio's assertion that there was something wrong with the cannon’s vent, a hint that perhaps they were not describing the same gun.

The Old Woman’s Gun was not the only piece of artillery available to the Californios. Accounts of the Battle of San Pascual, which followed the Battle of Dominguez Rancho on December 6 and 7 also involved a cannon or cannons. Louis McLane of the U.S. Navy, who accompanied Frémont toward Los Angeles, provided this account of that battle and the two skirmishes that followed:

“Flores [awaited them] with about 600  men on the best horses in California – and 3 pieces of Artillery – 1 twelve pound Iron medium and 2 brass 4’s. [He] disputed the passage of the Rio San Gabriel on January 8 & [of] the Mesa [on] January 9th. [Flores] was beat off on both days & on the 10th Stockton entered Los Angeles.” (McLane, 108)

It is possible, even likely, that el conico was present at these battles. Historian Guinn believes so based on inscriptions on the gun itself. (Guinn, "Battle," 265)

U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

In the hands of the enemy

Various sources say that two cannons were surrendered to (now) Lieutenant Colonel Frémont shortly after the signing of the Treaty of Cahuenga on January 13, 1847. Most assume that el conico was one of these:

Edwin Bryant, a journalist embedded with Frémont’s troops, was present at Campo de Cahuenga when Frémont met with his counterpart, Andrés  Pico. In his journal he writes out the terms of the treaty in full. Article 1 dictated that the defeated forces “deliver up their artillery and public arms…” He goes on to state that “the next morning [January 14] a brass howitzer was brought into camp and delivered. What other arms were given up I cannot say, for I saw none.” (Bryant, 53)

J.M. Guinn, writing at the end of the 19th century, asserts (without giving his source) that two cannon were given up to Frémont at Cahuenga – “the howitzer captured from General Kearny at San Pascual” and “the woman’s gun that won the battle of Dominguez.” (Guinn, A History, 143)

Mr. Guinn provides us with tantalizing information about the gun’s future in a paragraph which places the small cannon on display at the New Orleans Exposition of 1884-85, otherwise known as the World Cotton Centennial. Guinn says the “label” read:

“Trophy 53, No. 63, Class 7. Used by Mexico against the United States at the battle of Dominguez Ranch, Oct. 9, 1846; at San Gabriel and Mesa; Jan. 8 and 9, 1847; used by U.S. forces against Mexico at Mazatlan Nov. 11, 1847; Urias (crew all killed or wounded); Palos Prietos, Dec. 13, 1847 and at San Jose, Feb. 15, 1848.” (Guinn, A History, 131)

As we have seen, San Gabriel and Mesa were back-to-back clashes early in January 1847. The last three encounters mentioned were skirmishes of the Mexican-American war outside of California.
Although Guinn does not specify it, the gun displayed at the exposition was likely a part of the U.S. Navy’s display. A catalog of the exposition described some of the many guns offered for view by the Navy: “Full sized models of the thirteen-inch and fifteen-inch bore, steel rifle cannon, now being made for the steel cruisers, were shown, together with specimens of the Hotchkiss revolving cannon, the Gatling gun, and the Dalghren and Parrott cannon.” (Fairall, 338)

If the gun was in the custody of the navy in 1885, it would go far to explain how it came to be at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum at Annapolis today. Photos made available by the museum show the gun on display among artifacts of the Mexican-American war. It is labelled “Old Woman’s Gun.” Close-ups of the barrel reveal that at some point it was inscribed with the wording Guinn quotes above, and perhaps more.

Tales told by dead men

So, we have what seems like a straightforward timeline for our gun: from Cahuenga to the U.S. Navy, to the New Orleans Exposition, to retirement at Annapolis. There is, however, one story that puts a hitch in this theory: In 1881 one Horace Bell, a former California Ranger (state marshal), published his memoirs. Although Bell does not cover the period of the battles and treaty, he recounts an interesting anecdote involving Juan Sepúlveda, a prominent don who had served with Carrillo in the Battle of Dominguez Rancho. Sepúlveda and Bell, it seems, were part of a group of boisterous gentlemen celebrating the new American holiday, the Fourth of July, in 1853.

According to Bell:

“Don Juan, in the exuberance of his patriotism, had unearthed a venerable field piece which had enjoyed the silence of the grave since it had fired its last shot in defense of Mexican territory. Captain Sepúlveda mustered and embarked his command on a large boat and proceeded up Wilmington Bay, where he embarked his artillery and sailed for Dead Man’s Island, where, after infinite labor, he succeeded in mounting his battery on the highest point of the island, and all being ready, we let loose such a thunder as was never exceeded by one gun. It seemed that we would wake the seven sleeping heroes who so quietly reposed on the little barren rock…...while paying our respects to our liquid ammunition, Don Juan proceeded to tell us how the seven sailors came to be killed. Their wooden head-boards stood in line in front of us.” (Bell, Chapter IX)

Sepúlveda then went on to give a vivid and perhaps somewhat enhanced account of the Battle of Dominguez Rancho, swearing that the gun at their feet was the very same that had turned the tide of that engagement. In Bell’s remembered and poetic words, Don Juan spoke thusly:

“The old gun was subsequently buried near my house, and after a nap of six years, here it is, and here am I, and others who dragged it away at the time, and here we are, all of us, the old gun, the old enemies, now friends, and here is brave Higuera firing a salute of honor over our former foes who fell in battle.” (Ibid.)

If there is any truth to this hearsay evidence, it would put the lie to the story of the old gun being surrendered as a spoil of war in 1847. It would raise many more questions concerning its actual fate and concerning the true identity of the impostor currently on display in Annapolis with a label that reads:

“Surrendered to Commodore R.F. Stockton, U.S.N., Los Angeles, California, January 16, 1847.”

A word in parting

In reviewing the story of the battle, I have endeavored to balance all relevant sources, both primary accounts and secondary assessments, while attempting to correct for bias of the parties involved. I am forced to concur with the words of historian Guinn who, in his 1899 article wrote:

“Of the notable events occurring during the conquest of California there are few others of which there are so contradictory accounts as that known as the battle of Dominguez Ranch.” (Guinn, "Battle," 261)

[1] The Vandalia was a sloop-of-war which had served in the U.S. Navy until being decommissioned in 1845. Although she was re-commissioned for service in the Navy in 1849, during the period in question she was in private service.


  • The Private Journal of Louis McLane, U.S.N., 1844-1848 edited by Jay Monaghan, 1971.
  • Stockton report to Congress, 1848, in Memoir of the Life and Public Services of John Charles Fremont edited by John Bigelow, 1856.
  • Stockton to George Bancroft, Secretary of the Navy, November 23, 1846, in Samuel Bayard, A Sketch of the Life of Com. Robert F. Stockton, Applewood Books, 2009.
  • John Mack Faragher, Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles, 2016.
  • Robert C. Gillingham, Rancho San Pedro, 1961.
  • Lt. Robert C. Duvall, "Extracts from the Log of the U.S. Frigate Savannah kept by Robert Carson Duvall," California Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. III, No. 2, July 1924.
  • J.M. Guinn, "Battle of Dominguez Ranch," Annual Publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and Pioneer Register, Vol. 4, No. 3, 1899, pp. 261-266. Much of Guinn's 1899 article was reproduced verbatim in his history of California, below.
  • J.M. Guinn, A History of California and an Extended History of Los Angeles and Environs, Vol I, Chapter 18, "The Defeat and Retreat of Mervine's Men," 1915. Guinn provides a detailed of account of the battle in this three-volume opus. Unfortunately, while he assures us that “In gathering material for this work, I have examined the collections in a number of libraries, public and private, have consulted state, county and city archives and have scanned thousands of pages of newspapers and magazines,” he does not provide individual sources for his statements.
  • Leonard Pitt, The Decline of the Californios, 1966.
  • Antonio María Osio, The History of Alta California, 1996.
  • Marius Duvall, A Navy Surgeon in California, 1846-1847.
  • Benjamin David Wilson, "Observations on Early Days in California and New Mexico," edited by Arthur Woodward, Historical Society of Southern California, 1934, vol. 16.
  • Leo Carrillo, The California I Love, 1961.
  • Hubert Howe Bancroft, A History of California, 1846-1886.
  • Tina Reyes, email to Eleanor Boba, April 1, 2019.
  • Doc, “The ‘Old Woman’s Gun’ and the Battle of Rancho Dominguez, blogpost, Verdugo Family History, October 4, 2017,, accessed April 2019.
  • Ynocencia Reyes Cota, baptismal record,
  • Narciso Botello's Annals of Southern California, 1833-1847 edited by Brent C. Dickerson, 2014.
  • Brent C. Dickerson, "Narciso Botello's Annals of Southern California, 1833-1847, Illustrations, Maps, Images and Further Remarks,"
  • Edwin Bryant, What I Saw in California, undated, c. 1846-47.
  • Herbert S. Fairall, The World's Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, New Orleans, 1884-1885, 1885.
  • Horace Bell, Reminiscences of a Ranger, 1881, Chapter IX, Kindle edition..
  • Les Driver, “Carrillo’s Flying Artillery,” in California Historical Society Quarterly, 1969.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Little Girl Lost: The Japanese Immigrant Case

In 2017 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Seattle, blocked an attempt by President Donald Trump to ban immigration from certain Moslem-majority countries. Among case law cited in the Court's motion was Yamataya v. Fisher (189 U.S. 86 1903), a case argued before the Supreme Court in 1903. Also known as the Japanese Immigrant Case, Yamataya v. Fisher was an appeal by a Japanese immigrant to be allowed to remain in this country following a deportation ruling by the immigration service in Seattle.

The Supreme Court ruled against Yamataya, allowing deportation to proceed. However, in the fine print, Yamataya v. Fisher ruled that deportation of immigrants ought not to proceed summarily but must allow for due process -- in other words, a hearing of some kind must take place. It was this provision that was referenced in blocking the federal government from immediately deporting Moslems who had already arrived at U.S. ports.

The origin of this photo, which appeared in an article in the Seattle Daily Times, is unknown. It appears to be a studio portrait from Japan.

Lost in Translation

But who was Yamataya? The identity of the appellant in this landmark case is often overlooked.

It seems that Kaoru Yamataya was a young girl brought to Seattle on a Japanese passenger ship in July 1901. Between that date and her eventual deportation in 1906, Kaoru's sad story encompasses pregnancy, separation from her family, the death of her child, a manhunt, incarceration, and, possibly, sexual exploitation. Through it all, she was subjected to public scrutiny and hounded by immigration officials.

What we do know about her is pieced together from newspaper fragments, public records, and a whole lot of supposition. A century gone by, along with the sentimentality and racial profiling of the day, as well as linguistic and cultural divides, make it difficult to get at the truth. Newspapers of the day were happy to report hearsay evidence and to embellish the facts with both romantic filters and inflammatory rhetoric. Government records, including census forms, birth and death records, and immigration forms, were filled out by third parties themselves trying to overcome language barriers and who may have had motives of their own. Statements made by and through attorneys in legal proceedings are also suspect

Even the transliteration of the names Kaoru, Yamataya, and Masataro are subject to wide fluctuations in the records. In the Writ of Habeas Corpus issued on behalf of Kaoru, she is referred to with a male pronoun.

What we know

On July 11, 1901, Kaoru disembarked from the ship SS Kaga Maru at Smith's Cove in Seattle. She was accompanied by a Japanese man, or perhaps by two. The immigration inspector listed her age as 15, her race and nationality as "Jap." In the space on the landing card designated for "Destination and Name and Address of Relative or Friend to Join There," was noted "None" and "Settler." Few other fields on the form were filled out.

The original passenger manifest for the SS Kaga Maru, including the names of Kaoru and Masataro Yamataya. (NARA)

Kaoru was allowed to land and leave the customs shed. However, some four days later she was arrested along with her fellow traveler, Masataro Yamataya. The immigration authorities held a brief hearing (Board of Special Inquiry) and then asked for an order of deportation from the office of the Secrtary of the Treasury for Kaoru. By July 23 the order was in hand.

The immigration service had decided that the girl met the criteria for deportation outlined in both the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Immigration Act of 1891: she was a pauper and likely to become a public charge.

Ad for the Tokiwa Boarding House from a Japanese newspaper, preserved in the files of the National Archives and Records Administration, Seattle, as part of Masataro Yamataya's federal court case.

Kaoru and Masataro had been tracked down to a boarding house on Jackson Street in Nihonmachi (Japantown) called Tokiwa House by Immigrant and Chinese Inspector Thomas M. Fisher. Masataro was thrown in jail on suspicion of promoting prostitution; Kaoru was sent to a charity due to her "delicate condition." Apparently, Kaoru was in an advanced state of pregnancy. She was initially sent to the Good Shepherd Home in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood, but by the time she gave birth she was at the Crittenton Home in the Dunlap neighborhood of the Rainier Valley.

Masataro Yamataya had been in the United States for some years before returning to Japan about 1900. He offered a number of stories for bringing Kaoru to this country -- or perhaps stories were made up for him:
  • Kaoru was his adopted daughter and was coming to live with him.
  • Kaoru was being sent to the States for education and he was her uncle. 
  • Kaoru was brought to the States to work in a brothel run by his wife on "Japanese Alley" in Spokane.   
  • Kaoru was sent to the States by her aristocratic parents in Japan due to her indiscretion and to spare them the dishonor of a pregnant single daughter.
  • Kaoru was sent to the States to separate her from her secret lover.
For reasons that are not clear, the Yamatayas decided to fight deportation.

With help from the Japanese community, a firm of American attorneys was retained and a petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed with the U.S. District Court in Seattle. The petition protested the girl's confinement, echoing the words of standing immigration law:

"Your petitioner further alleges that the said imprisonment of the said Kaoru Yamataya by the said Fisher is unlawful; that the said Kaoru Yamataya is not an idiot or an insane person; that she is not a pauper, and is not likely to become a public charge; that she is not suffering from any loathsome disease or any disease, or any dangerous or contageous [sic]disease ; that she has not been convicted of a felony or other infamous crime or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude; that she did not come to the United States in violation of the contract labor laws passed by Congress, or in violation of any law of the United States relative to the exclusion of aliens, and that the said Kaoru Yamataya is lawfully within the United States and is entitled to remain therein." 

The Writ of Habeas Corpus issued on behalf of Kaoru. (NARA)

Upon their initial arrest by Inspector Fisher, Koaru and Masataro had provided statements. The signed accounts were highly personal and incriminating and, of course, were used against them in a court of law.

Masataro confessed to having a wife in Spokane who "did immoral business," to having no home of his own in the United States, and that neither he nor Kaoru had much in the way of money. Perhaps most damning, he admitted that he and Kaoru had shared a bunk on the ship coming over and had continued to share a bed in the boarding house where they were found:

"We had one room, one bed in the room. I and the girl occupied the same bed four nights, in the same room where Inspector Fisher found me this morning. When found I was in my Japanese dressing clothes, the girl was in the same [room? condition?], undressed and in her night clothes. I know that she is in the family way...I put my hands under her clothes this morning and assisted her to dress." (Statement of Masataro Yamataya to Custom House, Port of Seattle, July 15, 1901)
Masataro goes on to state that he had planned to place Kaoru with the Japanese YMCA in Seattle.

Kaoru's statement echoes that of the man she calls her uncle, adding that she shared the ship's bunk with both him and another "relation." She goes on to state:
"I have no money. I had none when I came here. A Japanese man got me in the family way in Nagasaki, Japan." (Statement of Kaoru Yamataya to Custom House, Port of Seattle, July 15, 1901)
The statements agree that Masataro paid Kaoru's passage to the United States, a key element for a charge of human trafficking.

Kaoru's statement is signed with Japanese characters. What appears to be the signature of another Japanese individual (Chary Nasake?) may be that of the translator. Masataro appears to have signed his own statement in English transliteration. Both statements are clearly written in the hand of Inspector Fisher, as deduced by his own signatures on the documents.

Kaoru's signature on her statement to Immigration Inspector Fisher. (NARA) 

Little Boy Lost

Two and a half months after arriving on these shores, Kaoru gave birth to a son at the Crittenton Home for unwed mothers on September 24, 1901; the infant died two months later of pneumonia. His death notice was submitted by Dr. Harriet J. Clark, the physician who provided services to the Crittenton Home. Coincidentally, or not, the child was named Thomas. Wild speculation might lead one to suppose that Kaoru chose the only English name she knew, that of Immigration Inspector Thomas M. Fisher.

The Case against Masataro Yamataya. 

Efforts to deport Kaoru unfolded parallel to the criminal case against her male companion, Masataro, who stood accused of what would today be called human trafficking. While the case against Kaoru was based on the argument that she was a pauper and likely to become a public charge, the authorities were quite clear that, in charging Masataro, they were looking for prostitution. In this they may have had some justification: according to historian David A. Takami, at the turn of the century Japanese women were frequently smuggled into the country to work in houses of prostitution in the international district of Seattle. Not all of them came willingly.

On June 13, 1902, Masataro Yamataya was put on trial in Federal Court in Seattle for bringing a woman into the country for immoral purposes. His attorneys presented depositions from Kaoru's family in Nagasaki. These interrogatories had been carried out in the presence of the United States consul for Japan, Charles B. Harris. The sworn, and somewhat rehearsed, statements testified that Kaoru had traveled to America with her uncle at the request of her family, that her father had given her money for the trip, and that he had sent additional funds to her in the States. The stated purpose of the trip: to learn English and sewing.

The answers of Kikotaro Tanaka, Kaoru's brother, are typical:
"He was asked to take her to America by my parents and to arrange for her to learn English and sewing. My family talked the matter over. I also asked Masataro Yamataya to take her to America for these purposes. I know that she was secretly meeting a lover before she left Nagasaki, and I believe she was with child when she left Nagasaki."
The statements of the family members agreed that Masataro had adopted Kaoru, with their permission, to make it easier for them to travel together. For this reason, she bore his name, although her father's name was Hirye Hamada.

A family friend who had accompanied the pair testified that he had occupied the bunk next to Masataro, while Kaoru slept alone. Further contradicting the original statements obtained by Inspector Fisher, T. Hayashi stated that Kaoru had occupied her own room at the Tokiwa House upon arriving in Seattle. 
"I was with them the whole time on the steamer, and I absolutely know they did not occupy the same bunk...After we arrived at Seattle we all three stopped at the Hotel Tokiwa, Masataro Yamataya occupying one room and Kaoru occupying another."  

About her secret lover, Hayashi goes farther than the others and names the fellow: "She had been living with a man named Otokichi Yamagachi, at Nishiyama, Nagasaki, before she left for America, and I believe she was with child when she left Nagasaki."

The covering letter for the six interrogatories obtained in Nagasaki, Japan. The letter is signed by the Consul of the United States, Charles B. Harris, dated February 7, 1902, and sealed with wax and silk ribbons. (NARA)

Four days after trial began, Masataro was pronounced not guilty. The depositions may have done the trick in turning the jury in his favor. Kaoru was initially included among a list of witnesses, but her name is struck off in the court files. It appears that she may have been in attendance at court; the Seattle Daily Times felt the need to comment on the "Beauty of the girl in question" in announcing the verdict in Masataro's case.

This grainy photo from the Seattle Star newspaper purports to show Kaoru in western dress. This historian is skeptical that it is actually she. Seattle Star, April 11, 1903.

The Case against Kaoru Yamataya

In 1903 the case, Yamataya v. Fisher went before the Supreme Court of the United States. The decision by the justices was bad news for Kaoru -- she was to be deported -- but also contained a grain of hope for future immigrant cases.

Beginning with the writ of habeas corpus, requested by Masataro and initially approved by the presiding federal judge, the Japanese Immigrant Case took off. A slew of legal actions flew back and forth between the opposing sides.

Early in 1903 the case came up for review by the United States Supreme Court. The appeal rested on three arguments:
  1. The Immigration Act of 1891 applied only to aliens who had not yet "effected entry" into the country.
  2. The Immigration Act of 1891 was unconstitutional since it did not provide for due process of law.
  3. Kaoru was deprived of her liberty without due process of law, in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution.
The attorneys who prepared the brief minced no words in accusing Inspector Fisher of abuse of power in his questioning of Kaoru and Masataro, proclaiming him "prosecutor, judge and jury" in the case. The brief stated that such arbitrary power harkened back to times before "Magna Charta" -- i.e. to the medieval era. They also referenced the 1894 treaty with the Empire of Japan, one that bestowed "most favored nation" status on that country. This may have been done to differentiate the case from the many challenges to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

As in the petition for the writ of habeas corpus, Kaoru's attorneys pointed to the fact that she did not speak or understand English and had been isolated from those who could advise her:

"Appellant does not understand the English language. She had no notice whatever of the investigation made by appellee, and was not represented and had no opportunity to be heard thereat. After her arrest and imprisonment by appellee appellant was not permitted to see her attorneys or her relatives and she was ignorant of the fact that any investigation had been made or would be made, or that any decision of the inspection officers had been made until a few hours prior to the sailing of the vessel upon which appellee intended to deport her. The evidence upon which appellee and the other inspection officers made their findings, and upon which the warrant of deportation was issued, was garbled, incomplete, misleading and in many respects untrue, in that appellant was made to answer Yes and No to questions which she did not comprehend, and answers conveying a meaning not intended were in consequence given, and only such evidence as when unexplained tended to support the finding of appellee was considered by him."

In response, the government argued that Inspector Fisher had done nothing wrong; that he had the right to order expulsion of an alien deemed to be a pauper up to one year following arrival; and that the "roving, experimental, and general allegations" against him were an assault on the authority of executive officers of the government. Many examples of case law were presented to back these claims, most of them involving Chinese nationals. Further, neither Kaoru nor Masataro had used the only protest method open to them -- that of appealing directly to the Secretary of the Treasury at the time of their arrest.

On April 6, 1903, the decision of the court was handed down upholding the arguments of Inspector Fisher and the government's legal team. Deportation decisions were the province of the executive officers (e.g. immigration officers). The jurists stated that the law against paupers, such as Kaoru was deemed to be, was "designed to protect the general public against contact with dangerous or improper persons." As for the language barrier: "If the appellant's want of knowledge of the English language put her at some disadvantage...that was her misfortune."

The vote of the court was seven to two in favor of the government's case, with famed jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. siding with the majority.

As mentioned above, Yamataya v. Fisher did provide a consolation prize for immigrant advocates. The court affirmed the right to due process -- in a way:

"This court has never held, nor must we now be understood as holding, that administrative officers, when executing the provisions of a statute involving the liberty of persons, may disregard the fundamental principles that inhere in 'due process of law' as understood at the time of the adoption of the Constitution."

This is the sentence cited in State of Washington; State of Minnesota v. Donald J. Trump (et al), filed February 9, 2017 in response to Trump's first Muslim ban.

For Kaoru it was too late; the court adjudged that she had been granted due process in her initial hearing before the immigration tribunal in Seattle.

Little Girl Lost

Shortly after the announcement of the court's decision, and before she could be picked up by authorities, Kaoru disappeared from the Crittenton Home. The Seattle Daily News wrote of her having been "spirited away." This may not have been the first time she disappeared. According to another newspaper account, upon being released from the Home of the Good Shepherd in August 1901, she left town and was tracked down in Salt Lake City.

Her second attempt to leave town was more successful; she was gone more than three years before being located at a boarding house in Portland, Oregon. Her whereabouts and activities during that time are a mystery. One local paper offered a highly colorized version of the story which included a lover from the lower classes who had followed her over from Japan, a planned elopement, cruel parents, and a hard-hearted uncle. The newspaper gushed over Kaoru in language that is painful to read:

"She is an aristocrat from the top of her little black head to the tips of her tiny toes, and is more than passing fair. She is possessed of the kind of a complexion that one reads about in Japanese romances." (Seattle Star, 4/11/1903)

On October 16, 1906, the Seattle Daily Times reported that she was back in county jail in Seattle. Two weeks later she was deported back to Japan on the Shimano Maru.

We do not know what became of Masataro Yamataya during those years. He had been allowed to reclaim his passport shortly after his acquittal at trial in 1902. He might, therefore, have returned to Japan. However, the 1920 U.S. Census shows him, at age 50, residing on 9th Avenue in Seattle, the manager of a boarding house.

Reasons Lost

The biggest question this researcher has is Why? Why did the immigration authorities pursue Kaoru for five years? In hindsight it seems like the effort to bring one teenage girl to heel amounted to a personal obsession on the part of the arresting officer. And why did the Japanese community commit the considerable resources necessary to take her case all the way to the Supreme Court? Perhaps there were precedents in play on both sides. Perhaps there were matters of personal honor at stake. Perhaps Kaoru was a victim of this country's ever-changing immigration policies and practices

A more diligent historian might make an effort to research the Japanese language newspapers of the day to gain insights into the community's response to the case. And a thorough review of immigration law as it applied to Asians at the turn of the century might help us understand the case and how it relates to this country's immigration practices today.

Sources for this essay include the immigration and federal court records on Kaoro Yamataya and Masataro Yamataya at the National Archives and Records Administration, Seattle; the court proceedings in the case Yamataya v. Fisher retrieved via Google Books; the Seattle Daily News; the Seattle Star,, and David A. Takami, Divided Destiny: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle (1998). Special thanks to Nancy Dulaney of the Rainier Valley Historical Society for calling this case to my attention.