LOOMIS BASIN HISTORICAL SOCIETY’S THROWBACK THURSDAY
Loomis Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church
The beginning of the First United Methodist Church of Loomis dates to December 1903 when four Japanese settlers met in the home of Komataro and Naka Sugasawa, forming the first Japanese Christian Fellowship in Placer County. Meeting with the Sugasawas were Kanematsu Igarashi and Shinzo Sakuma.
Born in 1880, Shinzo Sakuma had studied English and learned about Christianity in Japan. At age 17, he immigrated to Hawaii to work on the sugar plantations. From there, he migrated to Salinas, California, working first in the sugar beet fields and then as a gardener. In the winter of 1899, he made his way to Grass Valley to work as a cook in a sheep camp. Early the following spring, he came to Loomis where he found employment in a greenhouse nursery.
After settling in Loomis, Shinzo wrote to friends in Hawaii. Kanematsu Igarashi and Komataro Sugasawa both were from Shinzo’s native place in Niigata, Japan. They and Komataro’s wife, Nako, arrived in Loomis in December 1903. Almost immediately, the four began meeting in Christian fellowship, Shinzo and Komataro having been baptized in Hawaii. In the spring of 1904, Rev. Morizo Yoshida, pastor of the Japanese Methodist Church in Sacramento, started visiting Loomis once a month to conduct services. By early summer, Masao Omachi joined the group.
Kanematsu Igarashi was the first person baptized by Rev. Yoshida in Loomis. By the end of 1905, seven more were received into the fellowship: Tamejiro Takahashi, Tomehachi Otani, Nakanobu Tanizawa, Hisanoshin Takagishi, Ysataro Mukai, Kamekichi Uyeda, and Toyokichi Yamada. (You may recognize the names Sakuma, Igarashi, Takahashi and Takagishi from our last two Throwback Thursday posts.)
Rev. Yoshida returned to Japan to visit in about 1906 or ’07. While there, he told his friends and family about his work and the people of Loomis. Shortly thereafter, his niece, Nao Tejima, came to Loomis and became the bride of Shinzo Sakuma. She started a Sunday school for local Japanese children in 1909. In 1912, Shinzo Sakuma changed his name to Shinzo Makabe, a name by which he was well-known in the Loomis community.
By 1909, the fellowship’s membership had grown and the meetings moved from private homes to the Episcopal Guild Hall in Loomis. In 1911, the fellowship was officially recognized as the Loomis Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church.
Approximately 15 families were members of the congregation in 1913. The church purchased a 10-acre site on the corner of Brace and Barton Roads and built a parsonage. A chapel was completed in 1916.
The Loomis Japanese Methodist Episcopal Church was renamed the First United Methodist Church of Loomis in 1954. A few years later, the church integrated, receiving its first English-speaking pastor and non-Japanese members. Descendants of some of the founding members are active in the church today.
The original chapel still stands behind the church’s current sanctuary. It is pictured here at the Founders’ Day Anniversary and building dedication on November 12, 1916.
February 19, 2022, marks the 80th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order 9066, ordering the internment of the Japanese-Americans during World War II. Later this spring, the Loomis Library and Community Learning Center will host “A Month of Remembrance,” a series of programs commemorating the event and honoring those impacted by it.
This article was compiled by Barbara Leak on behalf of the Loomis Basin Historical Society, and originally appeared on the Loomis Library and Community Learning Center’s Facebook page. It is reprinted here by permission of the compiler.