Mayer (detention facility)
This page is an update of the original Densho Encyclopedia article authored by Marie Masumoto. See the shorter legacy version here .
|US Gov Name||Mayer Assembly Center, Arizona|
|Facility Type||Temporary Assembly Center|
|Administrative Agency||Wartime Civil Control Administration|
|Location||Mayer, Arizona (34.3833 lat, -112.2333 lng)|
|Date Opened||May 7, 1942|
|Date Closed||June 2, 1942|
|Population Description||Held people from southern Arizona.|
|General Description||Located 75 miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona, Mayer was set on land that was originally farmland.|
|Peak Population||245 (1942-05-25)|
|National Park Service Info|
The Mayer Assembly Center was the smallest of all "assembly centers" and the one open for the shortest time, a mere twenty-seven days. It held Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the restricted areas of the state of Arizona numbering fewer than 250. It was built on the site of a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp about twenty-five miles southeast of Prescott, Arizona. The first inmates arrived at Mayer on May 7, 1942. Inmates from Mayer were all transferred to the Poston , Arizona, concentration camp on June 2, 1942.
The Mayer Assembly Center was located in Yavapai County in Arizona at the former site of a Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The camp was about seventy-five miles north of Phoenix and twenty-five miles southeast of Prescott. 
Contemporaneous reports suggest that the camp was made up of a combination of existing and newly built facilities. There were seven inmate barracks, a single dining hall that could accommodate the camp's entire inmate population, administrative offices, a small warehouse, and an infirmary. There were two bath houses for women, each with four showerheads, and two for men, each with two shower heads. There were three outside latrines divided into men's and women's sections, each with six "holes." There were also four indoor latrines, two each for men and women. None of the latrines had partitions. Another document describes the toilets as being "directly over cess pools," suggesting that these were pit toilets. A May 5 U.S. Public Health Service report notes that "[w]ell constructed sanitary pit privies will be used throughout the camp," except for the infirmary and administration building, which have flush toilets. A four- to six-strand barbed wire fence surrounded the camp. Rail freight from Prescott serviced the camp once a week. 
Camp Manager Thomas B. Rice noted his dissatisfaction with "sanitary conditions" a number of times. In an April 21 letter, he confirmed that while the buildings were "ready for occupancy," that "sanitary conditions should be given further consideration," citing "kitchen and cesspool sanitation" and also the lack of laundry facilities. In a May 18 letter to the Arizona State Department of Health, he again wrote of being "not satisfied with the general conditions" and the "problem of camp sanitation." In his May 29 report to for the secretary of war, Rice noted overcrowding as a main problem, along with the "lack of sufficient shower facilities." He also noted that the camp had only about 70% of the needed mess supplies and equipment to feed the inmates. Nonetheless, meals were served at 7:30, noon and 5:30 at daily cost of 43¢ per person. 
Mayer temporarily housed fewer than 250 Japanese Americans who lived in the southern portions of Arizona from which Japanese Americans were excluded. Most came from the Salt River Valley, including parts of the city of Phoenix, which was split by the boundary of the exclusion area. The first group of eleven inmates arrived on May 7, 1942, to set up the mess hall and kitchen. The bulk of inmates arrived the following day, bringing the population to 224. Six additional families arrived on May 25 to bring the population to 245. The camp closed on June 2 when the 246 inmates were transferred to the Poston, Arizona, War Relocation Authority concentration camp. Mayer's existence was a brief twenty-seven days. There were no recorded births or deaths in this time period. 
Camp Manager Thomas B. Rice and Finance Officer Arthur H. Whitely both came from the San Francisco WPA, with the former having been appointed on April 10 at an annual salary of $3,600, the latter on April 11 at $2,800. Don Wood was the chief steward. 
"Evacuees have organized a form of city government consisting of a Mayor, Commissioners, City Council, Board of Health, Fire Marshal, etc.," wrote Rice in his May 18 report. "The government has been functioning very satisfactorily and apparently meets conditions." Similar language appears in the May 29 report for the secretary of war. No further description of this organization could be found. 
While there was no educational program at Mayer, Finance Officer Arthur H. Whitely worked with various educational institutions including Phoenix Union High School, Mesa Union High School, Phoenix Junior College, and the University of Southern California, to administer tests to various inmate students from those schools. 
For More Information
The camp infirmary was headed by a Dr. Wada from California. In mid-May, dentist Toyo Shimizu and his family were transferred from Santa Anita . Registered Nurse Fusaye Tamiyasu completed the inmate medical staff. The Health Service report called the infirmary small but adequate, noting that it allowed for the separation of obstetrical patients and had tents that could be used to isolate those with communicable diseases. 
There was no library at the Mayer Assembly Center. 
There was no camp newspaper at Mayer.
Rev. Ernest I. Okamoto of Glendale led Methodist services on Sundays as well as evening prayer meetings during the week. There were apparently no Buddhist services offered. 
"Baseball, football, and volleyball constitute recreational activities," wrote Rice in his May 29 report. There is no further mention of recreational activities. 
Though there were efforts to establish a camp store in mid-May, Rice's May 29 report indicates that there was "no center store at present." Given the camp's closing within a few days, it seems clear that no store opened. The May 29 report indicates that Interior Police were able to make "minor purchases for evacuees" when picking up mail from the Mayer Post Office. 
Visiting days were Wednesday from 2 to 4 pm and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm. Would-be visitors had to have a written pass issued by the camp manager. 
April 10, 1942
Camp Manager Thomas B. Rice appointed by the WCCA.
May 7, 1942
The first inmates arrive at Mayer.
June 2, 1942
Mayer closes when its inmate population is transferred to Poston.
The Mayer site is bisected by Highway 69, and there is no trace of the camp today. There is no marker or memorial at the site. 
For More Information
Burton, Jeffery F., Mary M. Farrell, Florence B. Lord, and Richard W. Lord. Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites . Western Archeological and Conservation Center, National Park Service, 1999, 2000. Foreword by Tetsuden Kashima. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002. The Mayer section of 2000 version accessible online at http://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/anthropology74/ce16c.htm .
- This article relies heavily on material from the Center Manager's File in the Mayer Assembly Center documents on Reel 35 of the National Archives branch in San Bruno, California. Material from this collection will be cited by the sub-section number and title, followed by "NARA, San Bruno." Jeffrey F. Burton, et al., Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Site (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 355–56; Barbara Wyatt, ed., Japanese Americans in World War II: National Historic Landmarks Theme Study (Washington, D.C.: National Historic Landmarks Program, National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 2012), 112–13; Andrew B. Russell, "Arizona Divided," in Arizona Goes to War: The Home Front and the Front Lines during World War II , ed. Brad Melton and Dean Smith (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2003), 48.
- Thomas B. Rice, May 29 letter for secretary of war report, 1.143 Special Reports, NARA San Bruno, 1, 9; "Toilets and Baths," undated document, 1.107 Camp Maintenance & Improvement, NARA San Bruno; Fred T. Foard, Surgeon to Dr. W. H. Harrison, U.S. Public Health Service, May 5, 1942, 1.08 Works & Maintenance, Cave Creek Assembly Center General File, Reel 20, NARA San Bruno.
- Letter, Thomas B. Rice to Raymond Touhey [?], Apr. 21, 1942, 1.107 Camp Maintenance & Improvement, NARA San Bruno; Letter, Thomas B. Rice to J. D. Dunshee [Arizona State Department of Health], ca. May 18, 1942, 1.140 Sanitation, NARA San Bruno; Rice, May 29 letter, 4, 8, 9; "Japanese at Home in Camp," Prescott Courier, May 11, 1942, 1.133 Press Relations, NARA San Bruno.
- Rice, May 29 letter, 2–3; Thomas B. Rice, Weekly Letter No. 1, May 18, 1942, 1.153 Weekly Letters, NARA San Bruno; John L. Dewitt, Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Army, Western Defense Command), 227, 282–84, 363–66.
- Rice, May 29 letter, 1; Telegram, W. J. Jamiesson to R. L. Nicholson, Apr. 13, 1942, 1.124 Personnel, Appointive, NARA San Bruno.
- Thomas B. Rice, Weekly Letter No. 1, May 18, 1942, 1.153 Weekly Letters, NARA San Bruno; Rice, May 29 letter, 3.
- See various letters, 1.142 Service Division – Education and Recreation, NARA San Bruno.
- Free Methodist Camp Mayer Weekly Paper No. 3, May 27, 1942, 1.136 Religion, NARA San Bruno; Letter, R. L. Nicholson to Thomas B. Rice, May 11, 1942, 1.115 Evacuation and Evacuee Transportation, NARA San Bruno; Fred T. Foard, Surgeon to Dr. W. H. Harrison, U.S. Public Health Service, May 5, 1942, 1.08 Works & Maintenance, Cave Creek Assembly Center General File, Reel 20, NARA San Bruno.
- Rice, May 29 letter, 7.
- Free Methodist Camp Mayer Weekly Paper No. 3, May 27, 1942, 1.136 Religion, NARA San Bruno; Rice, May 29 letter, 6; "Japanese at Home in Camp," Prescott Courier, May 11, 1942, 1.133 Press Relations, NARA San Bruno.
- Rice, May 29 letter, 6.
- Letter, Thomas B. Rice to Rev. Ernest Okamoto, May 15, 1942, 1.132 Post Exchange, Canteen, NARA San Bruno; Rice, May 29 letter, 6, 13.
- "Visiting Days at the Mayer Assembly Center," Memo, Frederick D. Pine, May 17, 1942, 1.128 Policing, Military, Information, NARA San Bruno; Letter, Thomas B. Rice to William Kajikawa [President, Arizona JACL], May 12, 1942, 1.128 Policing, Military, Information, NARA San Bruno.
- Wyatt, ed., Japanese Americans in World War II , 112–13.
Last updated July 23, 2021, 3:44 p.m..