Table of Contents
DoJ and US Army Facilities
Confinement and Ethnicity:
An Overview of World War II
Japanese American Relocation Sites
by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord
Rohwer Relocation Center
The Rohwer Relocation Center was located in Desha
County, Arkansas, 11 miles north of McGehee and 110 miles southeast of
Little Rock. It was one of two relocation centers in Arkansas 27 miles
south was the Jerome Relocation Center. The relocation center was named
after the community of Rohwer, which was located one-half mile south.
Five miles west of the Mississippi River and at an elevation of 140
feet, the relocation center area is intertwined with canals, bayous,
creeks, and swampy areas. The forests that once covered the area are now
gone, replaced with rice, soybean, and cotton fields and dispersed
housing. About 1 mile south of the relocation center, on the east side
of State Highway 1, there are Indian mounds, one with a residence on it
Figure 11.1. Residence south of Rohwer on top of a suspected Indian mound (another Indian
mound is to the left of the house).
Several sources indicate the relocation center
reserve encompassed 10,161 acres, but a boundary map for the entire
reserve could not be located for this report. However, the central area
layout plan includes a vicinity map which may provide clues to the
boundary. Twenty full sections and four partial sections around the
central area are numbered on the map, whereas the other sections
depicted on the map are not numbered. While the total area of these
sections exceeds the reported 10,161 acre figure, the relocation center
reserve was likely limited to lands within these sections (Figure
Figure 11.2. Rohwer Relocation Center.
(click image for larger size (~70K) )
According to Bearden (1989), half of the relocation
center reserve remained under swampy bayou water during the spring. The
reserve was mostly on public land meant for subsistence homesteads under
the Farm Security Administration; the balance was purchased from local
The roughly 500-acre central area of the relocation center was along the
west side of State Highway 1 and the adjacent Missouri Pacific Railroad.
Construction by the Linebarger- Senne Construction Company of Little
Rock, Arkansas, began July 1, 1942, and the center was ready for use on
September 18, 1942 (Figure 11.3). The maximum population, reached in
November 1942, was 8,475. Evacuees were from California, who endured a
three-day train ride from the assembly centers to reach Arkansas. The
center closed November 30, 1945.
Figure 11.3. Construction underway at the Rohwer Relocation Center.
(WRA photograph, National Archives)
Rosalie Gould, the former Mayor of McGehee, grew up
in the area, and recounts that the Arkansas relocation centers were
located in very poverty-stricken areas, probably, she believes, at the
insistence of some influential Arkansas senator. In spite of local
expectations, the centers did not bring prosperity. Hence, as difficult
as conditions were within the relocation center, some local residents
envied the evacuees' access to regular meals and health care.