Thursday, August 3, 2017


A Chamorro Girl

The American and British whalers who stopped on Guam in the 1800s often found many young Chamorro men very willing to join the crew. But, in one case, it was a young Chamorro girl that an American captain wanted.

Leonard Gifford was the captain of the whaling ship Hope. In 1862, the Hope sailed into Apra Harbor and stayed for some length of time. Gifford was accompanied by his wife Lucy Ann, who had given birth twice while on the high seas, sadly losing both children in infancy. By the time Gifford came to Guam in 1862, there was a young daughter Ella in tow.

While on Guam, Gifford made acquaintance with a Joaquín Iglesias of Hågat. Joaquín had a daughter aged 11 years by the name of Leocadia. We don't know if Iglesias made the offer first, or if Gifford made the request first, but the result was that Iglesias agreed to let Leocadia take up residence with Gifford wherever he may be, whether on Guam or elsewhere, to serve the Gifford family.  This isn't a surprise, since Gifford had a wife who was either pregnant or having just given birth. She needed help. The legal contract between Iglesias and Gifford stipulated four years of service, after which time Gifford was responsible for bringing Leocadia back to Guam.

Gifford was obliged to feed and clothe Leocadia, to treat her well and not prevent her from fulfilling the duties of her Catholic religion.

It seems that Gifford went off for a while, leaving Lucy Ann and Ella on Guam in the meantime. A Sydney newspaper reports that Gifford brought 1000 coconuts to sell in Australia. A son was born to him on Guam in November of 1863, and he was named Leonard Stanhope Gifford. His place of birth is indicated in this 1865 Massachusetts State Census. He is the 2nd name from the bottom.

1865 Massachusetts State Census

What happened to Leocadia?

Not long after the birth of his son on Guam in 1863, Gifford and family left the island. By 1865, the whole family was living in New Bedford, Massachusetts, including a 13-year-old girl born on Guam listed as Gorza. She is also listed as being black or brown in color. This is more than likely Leocadia, who would have been 13 going on 14 in 1865. Why is she called Gorza? It wasn't unusual for Chamorros to go by new names once they left the islands. They adopted names easier for their Caucasian bosses or masters to pronounce.

Imagine. A Chamorro teenage girl living in Massachusetts at the end of the American Civil War.

Gifford died in 1868 and Leocadia (Gorza) is not seen in any documents after 1865. Did she ever return to Guam? It's possible. But it's just as possible that Leocadia stayed in the U.S. till her death.

Leonard Gifford (left) 
Joaquín Iglesias (right)

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