Located on

FM 1135 about midway between I-10 and FM 105 is a historical maker dedicated to

the Kishi Colony. The houses and barns are gone and the fields are fallow, but

this was once the land that grew crops from rice to strawberries and even had a

profitable, though short production of oil.


Kishi was born in Nagata, Japan in 1872. He was an ambitious young man that

wanted to accomplish more than he felt he would be able to in his homeland, so

he left Japan in 1907 with his second wife, Fuji, and young son Taro and

migrated to America.


eventually settled in the community of Terry, located between Orange and Vidor.

He had encouraged 16 other Japanese men to move to Texas and they began prepare

1600 acres for cultivation. The first order of business was to dig irrigation

canals from Cow Bayou to the fields. Levees were constructed to hold the water

and the plowing and planting began. In the 1908 harvest the sale of 15,753

sacks of rice weighing 200 pounds apiece brought $47,000 income to the new


Salt water

invaded the rice fields and they colony needed to diversify its crops. By 1920

the crop production included cabbage, potatoes, onions, corn, cucumbers,

spinach, celery, tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, beets, and strawberries. It was

also about this time that oil was discovered on the portion of the land near


The east

edge of Kishi’s land was on the deep salt dome that would produce the Orange

oil field boom of the 1920s. The discovery of oil made Kishi a millionaire

practically overnight and enabled him to pay off all of his creditors and begin

to buy more land. He would eventually own 9000 acres.

Kishi’s son

Taro was college age and registered at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical

College. While at Texas A&M he became an outstanding football player under

legendary coach Dana X. Bible. He was a part of the teams that were football

powerhouses of the time and won several Southwest Conference titles. Taro Kishi

was the first Asian to play for the Aggies. During the 1924 football season,

Taro caught a touchdown pass against Baylor and returned a punt for a touchdown

against Texas Christian.

In 1925 when

the Aggies captured the Southwest Conference championship, Taro tore a ligament

in his shoulder early in the season. He came back to perform solidly against

TCU and after a reinjury he played a game against Rice, it was said he played “purely

on guts.” He was considered one of the Aggies’ most consistent ground gainers

of the era.


graduated in 1926 with a degree in Agriculture and returned home to help his

father farm.

Count Kojiro

Matsukata, president of the Kawasaki Dock Company had made a large investment

in Kishi’s oil venture and the Orange Petroleum Company had been created. The

land was leased for drilling to the Gulf Production Company, The Sun Company,

and Humble Oil and Refining Company. At its peak the wells produced slightly in

excess of 400 barrels per day.


oil was never discovered and the wells began to slow production in 1923 and by

1925 production had nearly ceased. Financial problems for Kishi began because

of the notes due on his large land purchases.

In 1924

several officers of the Japanese Navy had toured Europe and America to view the

state of military affairs. Commander Isoroku Yamamoto was from the same home

town as Kishi and brought his delegation to Orange to view the Kishi oil field

and to see how the Orange Petroleum Company was organized and run. On his

return to Japan Yamamoto tried to interest the Nippon Oil Company to consider

American operations. They were not interested.


later became the admiral who was the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

In 1925 the

Orange Oil Company was no longer profitable. Kishi’s finances were so depleted that he made

trips to Japan to try to borrow money to stay in operation with his farming


After the

start of World War II the remaining interest in the Orange oil properties was

placed under the Alien Property Custodian and sold to the Kilmarnock Oil

Company for the sum of $1.

Kishi was an

American patriot. Japanese was spoken in the home, but outside the home English

was the language. He wanted his son and daughter to be familiar with American

customs and history and be proficient in the English and Japanese languages.

Taro and his sister Tokiko had both attended public schools and the family

attended the Methodist church.

The Monday

morning following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Kishi went to Port Arthur and

turned himself in to the FBI. He wanted to show that he was a loyal citizen of

the United States. When asked if the Emperor ordered him to bomb a refinery in

Port Arthur, “would you do it?” He answered, “I am a business man and a farmer

and know nothing about explosives. Suppose I was adopted into another family

and was ordered to harm them would I do it? I could not do so.”

Later the

U.S. Attorney told Taro that his father “had answered all of our questions


Kishi was

sent to Camp Kenedy, near San Antonio for an internment period of only two

months. The probable reason for his internment was due to his relationship with

Yamamoto. Orange residents Lutcher Stark and J.O. Sims were quick to vouch for Kishi’s

character and patriotism and requested his release.

The only

other action taken was that the Kishi family had to surrender their firearms

and cameras.

Fuji Kishi

died in 1951, Kichimatsu died in 1956, Tokiko Kishi Hirasaki died in 1981, and

Taro Kishi died in 1993. They are buried along with 20 other members of the

Kishi Colony in a small cemetery located on the original tract.

Even though

there are none of the buildings left from the day of the colony and not much of

the land is still in use as farmland there are some majestic reminders of Kishi

and his contributions to Orange County. These are the large camphor laurel

trees in the area. The stones for these trees were brought from Japan by Kishi’s

1911-12 trip to Japan. One of the trees was certified by the Texas Forest

Service as the largest example of a living camphor laurel tree in Texas. After

the damage from an ice storm and a drastic trimming, that tree and the others

with it are once again forming a canopy over FM 105.