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Mrs. Hannah Hori-Piggott of Fort Bragg

If there’s an old, old timer in the house who remembers Hannah Piggott nee Hori, we would like to know more about this most intriguing Fort Bragg woman. In broad and often confusing outline, she was Japanese married to a well known and much sought after American jockey named Harry Piggott, who raced at least once in the Kentucky Derby.

What we can find of the record says the couple married in Seattle in 1912. The state of Washington had permitted inter-marriages from the 1880s, being one of only several American states to permit them. Hannah is called Hanna Horia on the marriage certificate. Her parents were said to be American and Japanese, which would make her an Eurasian in the ethnic nomenclature of the times, if in fact she was also the daughter of a mixed marriage. But Hannah was born in Japan so it is more likely that her father was a white American, her mother native Japanese, and may we conclude that their union was a version of Madam Butterfly?

The Piggotts marriage in Seattle was noticed in the newspapers as a romance begun when Harry was hospitalized after a race accident when he met “a sympathetic and tender nurse named Hanna.”

As a 1912 resident of Fort Bragg he was twice arrested by Sheriff Burns Byrnes for possession of proscribed drugs. Hazy newspaper accounts of these arrests asserted that Mrs. Piggott was also somehow involved. A Joe Piggott was charged with doping a horse at Tanforan (California) in 1910. Harry Piggott died in Fort Bragg in 1934. 

After the death of her famous husband, Mrs. Hori-Piggott lived on alone in a home she owned on Harrison Street. She rented the rear of the house to a family of three, unnamed, and is also listed as having lived on McPherson Street, also in Fort Bragg. 

How the couple came to live in Fort Bragg after some years in the more cosmopolitan city of Seattle is, like much about the Piggotts, not known, but it is more likely that Mr. Piggott had some previous association with Fort Bragg. His work as a jockey up and down the West Coast would have made Fort Bragg convenient to both all of California and the Northwest. His breakthrough marriage to a woman born in Japan would likely have made the Piggotts doubly noteworthy in the Fort Bragg of the 1920s.

Although she had voted in Fort Bragg since 1920, at the age of 57, in March of 1942, the widowed Mrs. Hori-Piggott was ordered into custody and subsequently interned at Camp Amanche, Colorado, one of nearly 50 Mendocino County persons of Japanese descent forcibly relocated in the spring of 1942 as enemy aliens. The widow Piggott left Fort Bragg with the one authorized suitcase she was permitted to carry. 

Released in January of 1945, the widow Piggott returned to her Fort Bragg home, this time identified only as McPherson Lane and no street number. She died in Ukiah in 1949.

The late county supervisor, Joe Scaramella, of Point Arena, recalled in an interview, "I can add a little something to observations from the World War Two period. My uncle worked for a while for a Japanese family who was native born.

AVA: Native to America?

Joe: Yes, Japanese-Americans. Anyway, before the war I was involved in radio stuff. I sold them a radio that was pretty advanced for that time. It received short-wave and other things. So, somehow the word got out that they were going to be shipped out to a camp, see. There were prominent people out here at the Grange that were ready to go up there and wipe them out.

AVA: They thought they were spies?

Joe: Yes. They had that radio and they must be cooperating with the Japanese. That was the thinking. I was a member of the Grange then. I went out there and the Methodist minister was out there. And, by God, the resolution came up to do something about them. Boy, the Methodist minister and I just fought that tooth and nail and by God we beat that down. I thought that was one of the best things I have ever done. This was an American citizen, he hasn't been charged with anything, he hasn't done anything, except that he bought a goddamn radio that was commercially available. Later, they voluntarily left. They probably felt it would be better to get out of this area."

Jody Martinez, ace archivist and researcher with the Ukiah Daily Journal, unearthed a more comprehensive picture of the Japanese experience in Mendocino County during World War Two: 

"In the spring of 1942, the local draft board was instructed to register all men between the ages of 45 and 65. Ukiah draft registration was conducted on April 26 and 27, and among those who registered was 62-year-old Buichi Onomiya, who was known to many as “Joe.”

"A month later, Buichi Onomiya would be one of 47 Mendocino County residents, many of them American citizens by birth, taken from Ukiah during the World War II internment of those of Japanese descent.

The May 25, 1942 edition of The Redwood Journal had this to say about the Onomiya family: “Joe Onomiya came to America when he was 21. He is past 60 now and has lived the years intervening in Ukiah valley, the greater number of them on the Arthur Stipp ranch on the Boonville road. There are five children, two boys and three girls, all born and educated here, making brilliant school records, all well known.”

"Daughter Holly was a speaker at the 1940 commencement of Ukiah Union high school, where she was one of three members of the graduating class to receive life membership in the California Scholastic Federation. She had also represented Ukiah in the 1940 Lions Club public speaking contest, winning a regional award.

"The following news stories are from the 1942 Ukiah Daily Journal archives, and provide a glimpse into this tragic chapter of American history, when by order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, America interned some of its most loyal citizens.

Feb. 2, 1942. The Redwood Journal: Enemy Aliens Prompt To Register:

German, Italian and Japanese aliens responded promptly to the call of Uncle Sam to register. When registration opened at the Ukiah post office Monday morning there were approximately 30 enemy aliens in line and registration continued briskly through the day. Aliens of the nationalities mentioned must place on file three pictures of passport size taken within 30 days prior to the registration period. Registration continues thru February 7. The requirement applies to all enemy nationalities 14 years of age or over who have not taken the oath of allegiance before a federal judge, the final step in acquiring American citizenship.

Feb. 16, 1942, The Redwood Journal: Prohibited Area In County Is Changed

The “prohibited area” to enemy aliens in this county has been changed to include only that section between the Shoreline highway and the Pacific ocean. It was at first announced that the cities of Fort Bragg, Mendocino and Point Arena would be included in the prohibited area, while the remainder of the prohibited area would embrace only that section from the highway west.

The new ruling simplifies the matter for enemy aliens living and working in coast towns. The prohibited area stretches from Ten Mile to the Navarro river and from Alder creek to Point Arena. Alien enemies will be strictly prohibited from entering these designated areas.

The restricted area includes all of Mendocino county from Redwood Valley south, and north of Redwood Valley the area restricted is on a line from a little south of Willits and north taking in Willits and extending in about that eastern line to the Oregon line. Enemy aliens must be out of the prohibited area around Point Arena, the date margin being February 16. In restricted areas aliens are required to be in their homes from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. and during the remainder of the 24 hours of each day will not be allowed to travel farther away than five miles from their homes.

Feb. 23, 1942, The Redwood Journal: Japanese File Deed For Land Near Airport

Considerable consternation was aroused in Ukiah valley over the recording of a deed by local Japanese to property adjoining the Ukiah airport. The legal facts in the case are that the contract to purchase the property was signed five years ago and the owners have paid a certain sum each year. The contract was completed in January and the deed went on file in this county.

The property in question lies across the railroad track south of what is known as the McGarvey ranch. It was formerly owned by Leonia Hofheinz who sold the land to the Japanese, payments to be made over a period of five years. The deal was made through local real estate agents and handled by local attorneys and no ulterior motive is attributed to the purchase by those concerned with the transaction. The Japanese who purchased the property have lived there for the past seven years.

March 2, 1942, The Redwood Journal: Social Agent To Handle All Alien Enemy Problems

The Federal Security Agency which up to this time has been in charge of all matters arising from the evacuation of enemy aliens from the Pacific coast has requested the county social agency to take over this matter. All problems arising from evacuation will now be referred to W. G. Golden, social agent of Mendocino county. The Federal Security Agency “borrowed” one of the social workers early in the work and Miss Elizabeth Lewton was assigned to the work, opening an office in Fort Bragg.

March 23, 1942, The Redwood Journal: Service Center In Ukiah For Japanese

Speeding the job of preparing Japanese and Japanese-Americans for early evacuation from western Oregon, Washington and California and southern Arizona, the Wartime Civil Control Administration has opened a secondary services center in Ukiah to “streamline” handling the property, crop, personal effects and personal problems of persons of this race being moved out of designated critical areas. The services station is open at the U.S. Employment Service office, 181 Smith street. It is manned by representatives of government agencies selected to assist the evacuees. This is one of 64 such offices opened in the four states.

The agent will give advice and assistance in sub-leasing crop land, selling property, clearing permits to move, and other vital factors. “The Army is bringing its facilities to the affected people, and they are urged to immediately take advantage of this opportunity, prior to the evacuation orders,” Tom Clark, chief of the WCCA civilian staff declared.

“The deadline approaches. The government wants to give fullest protection to the rights of the Japanese, and arrange for the early departure of those voluntarily leaving the restricted areas. Whether they have representatives or not, Japanese must call at these stations while they are open. And they are urged not to make hasty sale of property or property rights, at financial loss. The government is ready to protect and advise them, and to prosecute any attempt to defraud these people, many of whom are confused and frightened by conflicting rumors.”

April 20, 1942, The Redwood Journal: F.B.I. Raids Alien Homes In District; No Contraband Found In Homes Of Japanese

Seven members of the FBI raided the homes of every Japanese in the Ukiah and Willits area Saturday and also the homes of two Italian aliens, one in Willits and one in Coyote Valley.

To the credit of the Japanese there was not one single article of contraband found by the FBI, who thoroughly searched the homes and premises of the Japanese aliens who will be leaving the prohibited areas in the very near future. A complete search for guns, ammunition, radios, etc., was made.

Five guns were confiscated in the home of Louis Acconero in Coyote Valley, an Italian alien.

A group of seven FBI men came into the territory late Friday night and Saturday spread over the area raiding every home in the district. According to Sheriff E.L. Williams, the Japanese aliens and citizens of this country have conformed strictly with every requirement of the government.

On investigation it has been found, according to Sheriff Williams, that V. Menichetti of Hopland, who was turned over to the U.S. Immigration for infringement of the curfew law, did not register as an alien at the last alien registration ordered by the government.

May 18, 1942, The Redwood Journal: Japanese To Evacuate Saturday; Registration To Take Place In Ukiah Tuesday

All persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien who reside within Mendocino county, will be evacuated not later than noon Saturday, May 23, by orders of the Western Defense Command, Civil Affairs Division Wartime Civil Control Administration. Counties included in the latest evacuation order, No. 82, are Mendocino, Del Norte, Humboldt, Trinity and Lake.

Registration of all Japanese in the county is required between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 19. Processing will continue from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 20 to Friday, May 22. Movement will be carried out Saturday, May 23, destination to be announced later.

May 25, 1942, The Redwood Journal: U.S. Army Directs Cavalcade Of Japanese Bound For Camp

Mendocino county’s Japanese caravan, formed by the emergency of war, pulled out from Smith and School streets Saturday morning at 9 o’clock. Forty-seven people of Japanese ancestry, the majority of them citizens of the United States by right of birth, were carried in two Greyhound buses. There was an army escort in the buses and a physician of the Federal Department of Public Health preceded in the caravan the army trucks loaded with baggage.

Probably best known of all the Japanese families leaving Ukiah Saturday are the Sam Wadas and the Joe Onomiyas. Sam Wada has worked for 40 years on the Alex Thomas ranch. It is the former Cunningham ranch and Wada worked first for the Cunninghams and then for the Thomases. Seven children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Wada, four boys and three girls. A grammar school teacher who was on hand Saturday morning to say farewell stated that each one of the seven was “brilliant.”

Joe Onomiya came to America when he was 21. He is past 60 now and has lived the years intervening in Ukiah valley, the greater number of them on the Arthur Stipp ranch on the Boonville road. There are five children, two boys and three girls, all born and educated here, making brilliant school records, all well known.”

Left to right: Mr. and Mrs. Sam Wada, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Onomiya, Ukiah, and Mrs. Frank Wada and Frank Wada of Hopland on the morning of their forced removal from Mendocino County on May 23, 1942. – Redwood Journal photo provided courtesy of the Robert J. Lee Collection (from the Onomiya family)

While only about a third of the more than 110,000 American residents interned in the United States during World War II returned to their original communities after release, most of the 47 Mendocino County residents forcibly removed on May 23, 1942 did come back, quietly picking up the pieces of their lives and continuing to live in the Ukiah Valley, Hopland and elsewhere in the county.

Two-thirds of the American residents interned were born in the United States.

To prove their loyalty, many Japanese-Americans enlisted in the military. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was composed entirely of Japanese-Americans and became one of the most decorated units in history. In one incident, the unit rescued a surrounded battalion, suffering 800 casualties to save 211 American soldiers. They were honored by President Truman, who said “You fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice — and you have won.” – Southern California News Group 

One Comment

  1. Malcolm Macdonald February 28, 2019

    The correct spelling for the 1910s sheriff (and off and on for decades after) is Ralph Byrnes. He was originally from the coast, but finished high school in Ukiah. Other than Doc Standley he is the most noteworthy of Mendocino County sheriffs.

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