Japanese & Italian Immigrants
During the early decades of the twentieth century, agricultural enterprises of all kinds flourished in and around League City. Some residents, like George Giessler, raised milk cows. Others grew a variety of truck crops including strawberries, corn, cucumbers, beets, figs, tomatoes, and grapefruit. Much of this produce was grown by a group of Italian families that immigrated to League City from Cercenasco, Italy a small town located in the province of Turin.
Over a thirty year period, these Italian famiglia entered America via Ellis Island, New York, sailed to the Port of Galveston, and moved inland to League City. They possessed names still very familiar to many League City residents: Vaglienti, Ghirardi, Arolfo, Daro, Cucco, Morratto and Bocco. The transplantation of these Piedmontese to North Galveston County produced a strong, cohesive Italian community that continues to maintain a close relationship today.
The lack of food resources in Japan spurred other arrivals to the League City area. In 1903, a small band of Japanese rice farmers, led by the Japanese lawyer and businessman, Seito Saibara, came to Texas in order to establish a lucrative rice farming venture. The purpose involved growing enough rice to sell to Americans while sending the surplus to their land-limited countrymen in Japan.
For a while, the fertile soil, abundant water supply and warm GulfCoast climate ensured the success of this enterprise. For approximately twenty years, large sections of land north of League City contained a magnificent sea of rice fields that showcased huge stacks of golden straw at harvest time. However by the late 1920’s many of the Japanese rice farmers in the League City-Webster area had fallen victim to hard times.
A glut in the rice market after World War I forced many Japanese immigrants to convert their rice fields to truck farming. Some established nurseries in Webster and League City specializing in fig and Satsuma orange groves. Mitsutaro Kobayashi, an original member of the Saibara colony, became the first Issei (first generation) in the region to create a flourishing truck farming enterprise. At the height of his operations, Kobayashi possessed 350 acres of truck crops and 20 acres of Satsuma orange groves.