Monday, October 8, 2012


In early 1802, perhaps the first American ship arrived on Guam.  It was the Lydia, contracted by the Spanish government to bring a new Spanish governor from Manila to Guam.  On board was the First Mate, William Haswell.  Lucky for us, Haswell liked noting down a lot of things in his chronicle.

If the Lydia was indeed the first American ship seen on Guam, it may have been the first time the American flag was seen here as well.

Here are some things Haswell noted about Guam :

  • The homes of the Chamorros were small but clean.  Outside the house was another shelter for the fire.  People raised chicken near the house for the eggs.  They slept in hammocks or mats. (The people, not the chicken.)
  • People grew tobacco which had to be sold to the Spanish Governor, who then sold them at enormously high prices.
  • The Spanish priests tried to be involved in daily government affairs, but the military governor didn't appreciate this and the two powers were often at odds.
  • The governor, priests and private individuals gave the crew so much food on their departure that much of the meat had to be thrown overboard when they slaughtered an animal.  They had no salt to preserve the meat.
  • Haswell had the best watermelon he ever tried in his life right here on Guam.
  • The jungle was so thick he was amazed the Chamorros could walk so easily in it.
  • Haswell talks about the fanihi, or fruit bat.
  • Many Chamorros went around naked in the fields, but as soon as a European was seen, they would cover themselves.
  • The troops that had been brought over from Manila many years before were now (1801) mixed in with the natives and indistinguishable from them.
  • These soldiers were paid $10 a year, who then used the money to buy clothing and household goods from the same governor who paid their salary, and he marked up the price 800%.  They weren't paid in U.S. dollars, of course, but what was really Mexican pesos in coinage.

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