Nakashima Family and their Snohomish County Farm

  • By Tracy Tallman
  • Posted 3/02/2008
  • Essay 8509
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Tracy Tallman contributed this People's History account of the family of Kamezo (1883-1975) and Miye Nakashima and their Snohomish County farm. Kamezo and Miye Nakashima were among the earliest Japanese families to farm within Snohomish County. They purchased their farm, located near Arlington, on July 31, 1937, from Sophie Frye Bass (1866-1947). They operated it as a dairy farm until 1942, when, during World War II, Executive Order 9066 forced the Nakashimas into internment camps along with nearly 120,000 first-generation Japanese immigrants and their American-born citizen children. On April 15, 1942, the Nakashimas were forced to sell the farm, and members of the large family were sent to different internment camps. Upon their release, Kamezo and Miye relocated to Seattle, where they managed the Marion Hotel.

Kamezo and Miye Nakashima

Kamezo Nakashima first appeared in the 1910 federal census for Snohomish County, Cliff Precinct (East of Stanwood, west of Highway 9), and the record reported that he had come to the United States in 1907. The family can remember him saying that he cut shingle bolts before beginning work on the farm, so perhaps he came to the area to work clearing land. However, by 1910 he was listed as a partner with another Japanese man working on a small farm owned by a Mr. Thomas.

Although there were 23 Japanese men working nearby in a logging camp and several more Japanese working for the McMurray Mill just across the Skagit/Snohomish County border, Mr. Nakashima and his partner were the only two farming in the area. It appears that Mr. Nakashima was one of the earliest Japanese farmers in Snohomish County. In the Tualco Precinct, south of present day Monroe, a G. Hayashida, who came to the United States in 1899, and his new wife Tani had a small farm with one hired hand. The Japanese crew that had been working on the railroad in Edmonds in 1900 had vanished by 1910.

Between 1910 and 1920 Kamezo Nakashima returned to Saga-ken, Japan and married Miye. They eventually had 11 children, raising only four on the farm in Snohomish County. One child was born in Japan before they returned to the United States. Of the other 10 children, six were sent to Japan at various ages to live with Mr. Nakashima's mother and an aunt. Of these citizen children, only two remained in Japan, the others returned and raised families here.

Snohomish County Japanese in 1920

By comparison to neighboring King County, the Japanese population in Snohomish County was small. In 1920 only 177 Japanese households were enumerated versus 5,392 in King County -- a decrease in both counties between 1910 and 1920. In 1920 there were 85 Japanese households in Skagit County.

Of the Japanese population of Snohomish County, the vast majority were married men living here without their wives. A scattering of families were mostly engaged in farming in the precincts of Pearson (east of Maltby), Allen (half a mile south of Oso railway station), Shorts (near Snohomish), Welangdon (on Ebey Island east of Everett -- still exists), and Marsh (south of Lowell). The lone exception was a railroad crew in Jim Creek. This was a change from 1910 when only Kamezo Nakashima and one other man were farming and other Japanese were working as section hands on the railroad, in logging camps, mining quartz in Index, or performing service jobs in Everett.

As with other nationalities, the Japanese created ethnic communities in many areas of Snohomish County -- the highest concentration being in Mukilteo where 85 (of 450 total Mukilteo households in 1920) households were counted by the census takers. Married men living without their wives and families with children born in the United States outnumbered the single men in Mukilteo.

The Farm Before the Nakashimas

The Nakashima farm began as a mill site owned by the Bass Lumber Company with Daniel Waldo Bass (1864-1936) as the operating owner. It still existed when Daniel Waldo Bass died, but the land had long ago been converted to dairy farming.

In 1885 Daniel graduated from the University of Oregon, later receiving a law degree from Willamette University. "For fourteen years he practiced law in Seattle and during the years 1893 and 1894 he held the office of deputy prosecuting attorney" (Bagley, p. 841). Bagley's book shows him working in the "manufacture of shingles" from 1905 to 1907 and in 1908 closing his shingle mill to become the manager of the Skagit Trading Company, conducting a general store at McMurray, Washington, and devoting considerable time to the operation of his farm. For three years he was the postmaster in McMurray, resigning when he moved to Seattle. (Bagley, p. 842)

At the time Kamezo Nakashima returned from Japan with his wife Miye and began a family, Daniel Waldo Bass had likely already closed his mill and converted the property to a farm. In 1908 he married Sophie Frye (1866-1947) when she was 42 and he 44, an apparent first marriage for both. They were living in Seattle with her parents and their extended family assisting in the management of the Frye Hotel. Sophie’s father, George Frederick Frye (1833-1912), built the Frye Hotel in 1909 and it still graces downtown Seattle as low-income housing. Sophie’s grandfather was Arthur Armstrong Denny (1822-1899) who is considered to be the “Father of Seattle,” her grandparents and mother having been in the original Denny Party that landed at Alki Point in Seattle November 13, 1851.

It is unclear when Daniel Waldo Bass began importing registered Guernsey cattle from Guernsey Island near England, but in 1937 when his will was probated he owned 25 registered milking cows complete with numbers and dates of birth as early as July 23, 1921, along with 11 purebred Guernsey heifers. These milk cows had names such as "Imp. Miye," "Belle," and "Caroline Sinawa." Bass also owned 19 shares of preferred stock in the Snohomish County Dairymen’s Association, the earliest being No. 3192 issued on June 20, 1926. No deed was found transferring the cattle and other farm implements to Takeo Nakashima, but these items could have been part of the $7,000 sale price on July 30, 1937, at 3 percent interest in payments of $50 per month on the remaining balance of $6,500.


The Nakashima Farm

The Nakashima farm in 1942 covered more than 1,200 acres in a slight valley that runs north from Arlington in Snohomish County into Skagit County. The Bass Lumber Company mill was once on the slight rise to the west of the present-day barn, where it could be powered by a stream that still exists and has been maintained by Snohomish County. A steeper rise to the east, past State Route 9, contains a spring that supplied the Nakashimas with well water, and still operates today.

When the Nakashimas began raising cattle, the farm was still covered the in old-growth stumps left after the timber had been harvested. As they grew older the children helped to dynamite the stumps and clear the land. They also installed an extensive tile system to drain the water from the original peat bog. The Nakashimas then planted pasture for the cows to graze. There was a small shack along the train line where they could wait and hail a train, but they shopped for the few items they couldn't raise on the farm in Arlington -- getting there by car in later years.

The shingle mill that once stood on the property was a mass of brick by the 1930s  and one of the sons could remember hauling the brick away in preparation for cultivation. There wasn't a weed in the field when they owned the property. It was said to have been a beautiful place. The creek that runs through the property had been dammed and the shingle bolts were floated into a pond. The creek is still there, flowing into Pilchuck Creek to the south. Today there is a cedar-log bridge over this creek that was likely built by the Nakashimas.

As there wasn't electricity, the milking was done by hand, and they had about 70 head of cattle with about 40 requiring milking. The children were enlisted when they became old enough and could milk perhaps one cow, some of the work being done by people who lived in the area hired by the Nakashimas. One of these men was Joseph St. Aubin, born in about 1876 in Canada. The farm sold the milk to Darigold. Electricity didn't come to this area until after the farm had been sold in 1942.

Their five parcels of land in Skagit and Snohomish counties were deeded to the Takeo Nakashima on July 31, 1937, when he would have been about 23 years old, following the death of Daniel Waldo Bass on December 14, 1936. Takeo was the oldest Nakashima son born in the United States, and therefore the son able to own land as a citizen. He had been educated in Japan, but returned to the United States help on the farm.

The American-born children of Kamezo and Miye Nakashima who stayed in the United States graduated from Arlington High School; some attending the Pilchuck School before it was closed, and for the 7th and 8th grades going to Bryant, walking the few miles to get there. Their first teacher at Pilchuck was also their family friend, Blanche Otin, whose family lived at "Pilchuck Settlement" in 1920.


On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, ordering nearly 120,000 West Coast persons of Japanese ancestry to relocate to internment camps. Kamezo and Miye Nakashima were sent to the Tule Lake Internment Camp in Modoc County, California -- "the largest and most controversial of the ten War Relocation Authority camps." It opened May 26, 1942 and was the last to close on March 28, 1946.

Other family members were sent to the Minidoka Relocation Center in Jerome County, Idaho. This was a 33,000-acre site with more than 600 buildings. It was in operation from August 1942 until October 1945.

One son had already been drafted into the military before his parents were interned and was therefore unable to help them.

Takeo Nakashima was working on the farm when Executive Order 9066 ended that way of life. He was ordered to go to Minidoka. On April 15, 1942, he sold the farm to Iver Drivstuen and his wife Bergie for $12,825. The cattle and farm implements were likely also included. The number of acres included in these respective transfers is unclear, but local legend says that the odd dollar value was calculated based on $10 per acre making the total acreage in 1942 1,282.5. Reportedly Mr. Drivstuen came to the Nakashima farm to buy a bull and was told that if he wanted the bull he had to purchase the entire farm for cash. He borrowed the money and later leased the property to his brother-in-law Oscar Almli who farmed it for many years and made some improvements to the barn.

Until internment two of the other Nakashima children ran the Jackson Café in Seattle. Later they ran the Oregon Hotel on First Avenue near Elliott Bay, the Mayfair Manor and the Quincy Apartments. Another son went to Alaska to work in a cannery and later became an electrician. This son actively volunteered in the Japanese American community.

After the War

When Kamezo and Miye Nakashima were released from the Tule Lake Interment Camp they became the managers of the Marion Hotel at 607 Madison in downtown Seattle. The family remembers that they owned the hotel and the land laws did finally loosen after 1952. The Marion Hotel no longer exists and may have been where Interstate 5 now runs through Seattle (the address was 607 Marion -- 6th Avenue abuts I-5 on the west and 7th Avenue abuts I-5 on the east).

Takeo met and married his wife at Minidoka. They lived in the Pacific Northwest until they purchased a house and some land at Lake McMurray, where two of their sons now live.

There are two Nakashima children still alive in the United States at this writing (2008), and two in Japan. The family patriarch feels strongly that his parents were private people who would not want their family details placed on the Internet. In deference to his feelings, names of the descendants of this extraordinary family have been omitted. Through email and conversation with several third-generation family members, many stories have been shared.

One granddaughter has participated in The Densho Project, which has as its mission  "to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished" ( The website can be accessed with a free membership and there are Nakashima Family photos there, although under the names of descendants.

The Old Nakashima Farm

Upon the internment order, Takeo Nakashima had sold the farm to Iver Drivstuen and his wife Bergie.  The Drivstuens leased to Oscar Almlis who farmed the land until this lease was cancelled on September 12, 1956. The property changed hands from Youngren to Haarsma to Weeda, with the Weeda family selling part of it to the Trust for Public Land on May 21, 1997, after which it came under the control of Snohomish County for use as a park.

After the County took over  the property it made improvements to the stream that runs along the old farm. The County tore down the original house that once sheltered the mill workers as it had been neglected beyond repair.

The Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad line, built in 1889, bisected the Nakashima farm on its route from Seattle through Snohomish, Arlington, and on into Skagit County -- eventually ending in Canada. In 1892 parts of the line were purchased by Northern Pacific, which eventually sold to Burlington Northern.

This track, abandoned in the 1970s or 1980s (depending on the section), was still in use when the Nakashimas were forced to sell the farm in 1942. About 89 acres of the original Nakashima Farm, including the only remaining structure -- the barn -- are now owned by Snohomish County and will be the trailhead for its Centennial Trail which follows the route of the rail line. The barn was granted "Washington Heritage Barn" status by the Washington State Department of Archeology & Historic Preservation in 2006 during its first round of approvals for this new program. Although there is no documentation to support this claim, it is very likely that Kamezo Nakashima assisted in the construction of the three-bay three-story, gambrel roofed barn.


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