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Wyman and Yamato

A 1911 map showing the location of Yamato along the Florida East Coast Railroad line.

A 1911 map showing the location
of Yamato along the Florida
East Coast Railroad line.

Wyman post office existed from 1902 until 1907, when it was renamed Yamato. Early maps show a Lake Wyman, in 1900, and the Wyman Post Office at the approximate location of the Yamato colony. Lake Rogers in Boca Raton is also known as Little Lake Wyman.

Joseph “Jo” Sakai graduated from the New York University School of Finance and came to south Florida in 1903 seeking a location for the first of many Japanese agricultural communities. Sakai received enthusiastic assistance from Flagler’s Model Land Company and Florida East Coast Railway, Governor William Jennings, and private investors. The Flagler interests hired Captain Thomas Moore Rickards to follow through with arrangements.

Sakai returned to Japan; a year later he brought a group of his countrymen to what is now north Boca Raton, but was then midway between then-Delray and Boca Ratone. They called the settlement Yamato, an ancient name for Japan. Following other local farmers, the colony grew pineapples while they were profitable, although Sakai had planned for other crops.

Most of the settlers were educated men who were unaccustomed to the hard labor, mosquitoes, and heat they encountered. Their hard work brought prosperity until 1908, when blight destroyed most of the pineapple fields, followed by the end of the market regionally. The Yamato settlers were well received by other residents, despite anti-Japanese sentiment in Florida about 1912 to 1913. Although the Yamato post office closed in 1919, the colony was still active, with its own school, general store, and other facilities. In the 1930s about 30 residents remained at Yamato.

Japanese settlers of the Yamato Colony with colony founder Jo Sakai (front center), 1905.

Japanese settlers of the Yamato Colony
with colony founder Jo Sakai
(front center), 1905.

Important Events
(provided by Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens):

1909: Japanese settlers of the Yamato Colony observed the fourth anniversary of the founding of the colony, located between Delray and Boca Raton. Although it fell far short of its goal, Yamato was established as a bold economic experiment that by example was intended to transform Florida agriculture.

c. 1916 : The Yamato Public School opened in a one-room schoolhouse. Until it closed in 1922, the school served the children of both Japanese settlers and their white neighbors.

1923: Japanese expatriate Jo Sakai (1875 – 1923), founder of the Yamato Colony of Japanese settlers, died of tuberculosis in an Ashville, North Carolina, sanatorium. His remains were returned to Palm Beach County for interment.

U.S. servicemen with a Japanese stone lantern

U.S. servicemen with a Japanese stone
lantern that had stood in front of the
Yamato home of the Kamiya family
for many years

1942: Federal Judge John W. Holland awarded ownership of land in the Yamato area, including land owned by Japanese, to the Federal government for the creation of the Boca Raton Army Air Field. While Japanese and others living within the designated tract were forced to move, Japanese living immediately adjacent to it were unaffected by the order.

1974: In several separate gifts, former Yamato settler and Japanese expatriate George Sukeji Morikami (1885 – 1976), the last of the first generation of Yamato colonists to remain in Palm Beach County, donated 200 acres of land west of Delray Beach to the county for the establishment of the park, museum and public school that bear his name. By doing so, Morikami hoped to benefit the people of his adopted country out of gratitude for the opportunities he found here.

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