Scope and Content note
This collection is comprised of the papers of Herbert Nicholson. It includes sections of a manuscript, possibly "Valiant Odyssey: Herbert Nicholson in and out of America's concentration camps," letters to Herbert Nicholson from individuals he met in Japan, some thanking him for his efforts to aid Japanese-Americans in the U.S. after World War II began, photographs of Herbert Nicholson and others, and Nicholson's research notes related to Japanese internment.
Herbert Nicholson (1892-1983) was born in 1892 in Rochester, New York, to Quaker parents. Nicholson was educated at Quaker schools, including Haverford College. On his 23rd birthday he announced he wanted to become a missionary in Japan. In 1915 he began working as secretary to a Quaker missionary in Tokyo, Gilbert Bowles, where he met Congregational missionary Madeline Waterhouse, whom he married in 1920. In 1922, feeling the call of rural duty, the couple relocated to Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture where farmers were less responsive to proselytizing than to practical aid. Nicholson started a savings account program for them, launched a goat farm, involved himself in the temperance movement, built a home for the aged, and ministered to lepers. In the late 1930s, Japan's aggressive military incursions in China and the resulting political tensions between Japan and America hampered the Nicholsons' ability to work and live in Japan. They returned to America in 1940 and settled in Pasadena, California. During World War II, in addition to offering spiritual succor and ferrying belongings and people between concentration camps, detention centers and medical facilities, Nicholson defended prisoners in speeches at churches and community organizations, traveled to U.S. military bases to comfort Nisei soldiers, and to the halls of power in Washington, D.C. to advocate for the release of their families from prison camps. When Nicholson was approached to fill in for an ailing Methodist minister at the all-Japanese American West Los Angeles Methodist Church in 1940 for $40 a month, he agreed, preaching in both English and Japanese while Madeline served as Sunday School superintendent.