Monday, February 22, 2016

WHO WAS SALISBURY?


A major street in Dededo is named Salisbury Street

If you live in, work in or frequently visit Dededo or Yigo, you will probably be familiar with the name Salisbury. A street in Dededo is named Salisbury and a junction in Yigo is named Salisbury. Route 1 (Marine Corps Drive) runs from the Naval Station in Sumay all the way north to Yigo. When Marine Corps Drive hits Andersen Air Force Base, it meets Route 9 and that meeting of the two highways is called Salisbury Junction.




But why are these roads and places called Salisbury? Are they named for a person? Who?




There was indeed a man on Guam named Salisbury. Commodore George Robert Salisbury was an early Naval Governor of Guam, serving in that position from 1911 till 1912.



Gov. George R. Salisbury, USN
Picture possibly taken on Guam
(Courtesy of Monie Moody)

Salisbury was born in 1855 so he was already in his 50s when he came to Guam. He had created a very successful Navy career, and was called an officer of special merit, very popular with people from all walks of life.

His was an interesting record. From what others have written about his tenure as Governor of Guam, one might think his record was somewhat negative.

For example, he made it less of an obligation for Guam's children to go to school. If a child lived more than 2 miles away from a public school, he or she didn't have to go. Schools didn't go all the way up to the 12th grade in those days and, after the age of 12 years, no child had to go to school at all. Didn't Salisbury believe in giving the children an education? Perhaps he did, but according to Guam's particular circumstances in those days. Many Chamorros themselves thought that only a few years of basic classroom education were needed for a society that was largely made up of farmers and fishermen who didn't need higher schooling. Once a girl reached puberty, many Chamorro parents refused to send her to school. Thus, Salisbury's relaxation of compulsory education was more than likely not decried by the local population. It was also not entirely impossible for those who had the ambition to continue their academic education to attend private classes.

Secondly, it was Governor Salisbury who felt it necessary to send to the Philippines those diagnosed on Guam with Hansen's disease (leprosy). This was an unpopular decision among the patients and their families, though Salisbury was obviously motivated by a desire to keep the disease from spreading on the island. Past governors had complained about the difficulty of isolating patients on Guam.

Yet, a good number of Guam's social elite praised Salisbury and commended him on a job well-done when Salisbury was to leave island for another assignment.


(Courtesy of Monie Moody)

The letter, signed by people such as Vicente Herrero, Henry Millinchamp and Frank Portusach, mentions several accomplishments of Salisbury that may explain his popularity among these civic leaders.*

1. The good state of the island treasury, with income higher than previous years. The financial reports of the island government confirms this. In 1912, a year after Salisbury started as governor, the island government enjoyed a balance of $21,538, which was $3,400 more than what government coffers had the prior fiscal year.

2. Improvements in the island courts due to the appointment of an American (stateside) Island Attorney. I do not know what these men saw as the difficulty of having Chamorro Island Attorneys. Perhaps the prior, Chamorro attorneys were more familiar with the Spanish court system, which was being replaced by an American system. Perhaps, those attorneys being natives of the island, family relations or friendships may have interfered with judicial proceedings.  Unless we find something in writing, one can only speculate why these men felt an American Island Attorney was more helpful to the island courts.

3. Expansion of the island's road system. The island's only monthly publication, the Guam Recorder, reported road improvements month after month during Salisbury's one year as governor. This might explain why a road and a junction were named after him. "Every road on the island has been repaired," claimed the Guam Recorder. And it wasn't just roads. Public buildings, water supply systems....the island government was very busy under Salisbury.


TWO SALISBURY SCHOOLS

At one time on Guam, before the war, there were two schools named after two, different men named Salisbury.

There was a Navy Chaplain named Stanton Salisbury and the public school in Sinajaña was named after him in 1929.

The following year, in 1930, Governor Bradley named the public school in Yigo after former Governor George R. Salisbury.

Thus, during the 1930s until the war broke out in 1941, there were two Salisbury schools on Guam. Chaplain Salisbury School in Sinajaña and G.R. Salisbury School in Yigo.





* I believe this is a copy of the original letter, since the names of the signers are often in error.

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