Japanese-Americans from Washington and Oregon were sent to a center in Idaho. Officially named the Minidoka Relocation Center—a confusing name since it was located in Jerome County and not in Minidoka County—it was locally known as the Hunt Camp.* The name “Minidoka” was probably given to it because of its location on an undeveloped section of the Gooding Division of the Minidoka Project. The area was under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Reclamation.
Located on 68,000 acres of sagebrush, the relocation center consisted of thirty-five residential blocks containing fifteen single-story barracks buildings, a central dining hall, a recreation hall, a combination washroom-toilet-laundry building, and an office for the block manager. It was surrounded by barbed wire fences and a guard tower. In the spring of 1943 evacuees cleared and cultivated 250 acres at Hunt, producing more than one thousand tons of grains and vegetables, including enough potatoes to last them for a year. In 1944 they cultivated 800 acres and operated a hog ranch and poultry farm.
In January 1943 the government began accepting volunteers from the relocation centers to serve in a Japanese-American combat unit. In January 1944 the government began drafting young men from the relocation centers. By the end of the war more than eight hundred Hunt Camp evacuees were serving in the armed forces.
Soon after the evacuees arrived, the administration began recruiting them to work outside the center, including in the Mini-Cassia area, where they helped with the sugar-beet and potato harvest. Though some were not accustomed to farm work, they learned quickly
Some Japanese-American families had been living in the Mini-Cassia area for many years before World War II. Though they were not forced into relocation centers, they had to turn in their radios and cameras, remembered Mary Onishi Ogawa, whose family lived at Springdale. “They were supposed to turn in their guns, but we didn’t have any. It was scary. They took pictures of my mother and father as enemy aliens, and my mother looked so frightened.”
Excerpted from “Cassia County Idaho The Foundation Years” by Kathleen Hedberg and used by permission of its owners.
Kathleen Hedberg is the author of “Cassia County the Foundation Years” and “A Flood Can’t Happen Here”, and she’d love to hear from you. Drop her a note at [email protected].
Copies are available at: Cassia County Museum Corner of Hiland and Main, Burley, ID 83318, 208-678-7172 and Mini-Cassia Chamber of Commerce, 1177 7th Street, Heyburn, ID 83336 at 208-679-4793