Hypa: A Heroic Pohnpeian Woman in the Bonin Islands
For several years I have been tracking the history and families of the Bonin Islands (now known as the Ogasawara Islands); however, the last time I wrote something about it was about three years ago in 2014.
Until very recently this week, I had received a message from a Santos-Savory descendant living in Canada reaching out for information to find the name of her great grandmother, who turned out to be Susanna Webb married Benjamin Nathaniel Savory, the son of Nathaniel Savory, an American from Massachusetts and Maria Castro Santos, a Chamorrita from Guam and matriarch of the Santos-Savory and Santos-Mazarro families rooted in the Bonin Islands.
Although I had Susanna Webb’s name in the project’s database, the inquiry made me realize that I did not have any other information other than her name. I initially found Susanna’s name documented on a genealogy chart put together by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Johnson, before the U.S. returned the Bonin Islands back to Japan in 1968.
The good thing is that in the 1800s there was only one Webb family in the Bonin Islands. From all the literature I have been able to review she is the daughter of Thomas H. Webb, an Englishman, and Caroline Robinson, who is of British (George Robinson) and Pohnpeian descent (Teapa).
Because the Bonin Islands are a fairly small cluster of islands, naturally most people eventually will have some type of interwoven relationship with one another. As I enter these names in the database it becomes more apparent to me to see just how these relationships are connected in the Chamorro Roots Genealogy Project. Thomas Webb and Caroline Robinson had eight children and at least three of them married into the Santos-Savory family; while the other children have indirect marital connections.
Anyways, it is through Caroline’s family where Hypa, a Pohnpeian and caretaker of the Robinson family, comes to heroic life in literature regarding the Robinson family and certain events that occurred in the Bonin Islands in 1860.
I won’t go into all the details of Hypa’s story but will highlight some interesting things. In 1860, there was a violent land dispute between Robinson and a man with the last name Motley in the Bonin Islands. The violent dispute caused the Robinson family (George and his six children) to run and hide. George and three of his children (John, Henry and Eliza) ran in one direction, while Hypa and the other three children (Caroline, Charles and Susan) fled towards another direction of the island.
For 11 months, Hypa and the three children hid away and survived. Because Hypa was an islander, surviving off the land and waters was second nature to her. They built a hut, made fish hooks from old nails, and Hypa even used her hair to make a fish-line! During that unfortunate 11 month sojourn from the rest of the Bonin population, Hypa also aided in a baby delivery of the eldest Robinson child, Caroline (somewhere between 16-19 years old at the time), who gave birth on her birthday, December 10, 1860 to a baby boy. How Caroline may have become pregnant during that 11 month period remains a research work-in-progress and perhaps a talk-story in the future.
Their hiding ended when the Eliza L.B. Jenny, a whaling boat, commanded by Captain William Marsh (who so happened to be married to Carmen Olivares Calvo. And yes, she is related to the Calvo families on Guam and in the CNMI) heard of their flight and sought out to rescue them. Marsh brought them to a place called Little River where Thomas Webb lived and housed them. Soon after, Caroline became his wife and they began their family.
As a side note, Hypa and the Robinson family spent some time on Guam and Saipan around 1856-1859 before returning back to the Bonin Islands. To read more about Hypa, there is an article of her, “Hypa, the Centenarian Nurse,” written by the Reverend A.F. King and published in 1918, the Mission Field 1898.
Below are some of my previous blogs regarding Chamorro roots in the Bonin Islands and tracking their descendants:
*The Return of the Bonin Islands Back to Japan in 1868 (20 March 2014)
* The "Navy Generation" of Chamorro descendants and the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands (19 Dec 2012)
* Pre-Historical Relationships Between the Mariana Islands and the Bonin Islands (Ogasawara) (3 Dec 2012)
* More on the Savory Family with the Herrero's (21 Nov 2012)
* Maria de los Santos y Castro (1828-1890): Matriarch of the Savory and Mazarro Families Bonin Islands/Chichijima (18 Nov 2012)
Guma Imahe & the 19th APCC New Year Event
For those of you able come on out and join us! Lots of vendors and entertainment. Guam and the Chamorro culture are being featured this year. There will other entainment and performances represented by other Pacific Islands and Asia countries!
My Maternal Great Grandmother Carmen Salas; or was she a Salar?
I often wondered about my maternal Great Grandmother Carmen Salas’ parents. For many years I have been in search of her ancestry, which is why I am unable to find out her middle name; rather, her mother’s maiden name. Typically when I research names and come to a seemingly dead end, I tend to table any further research until new information arises. Later on, when new information surfaces, particularly with people with hard to find middle names, I have observed that many result in identifying people being born out of wedlock.
Such seems to be the case with Carmen. It took a while before one of my aunts finally confided in me in 2010, and told me that Carmen was born out of wedlock. Allegedly her biological father is “Tun Felis Torres,” recalled my Aunt. According to my Aunt, Carmen’s mother, was a housekeeper of a Torres family. She and her children resided in the Torres’ house and were pretty much not allowed to go outside.
Finding Carmen: Salas or Salar?
The earliest document I was able to trace Carmen was in the 1897 Census conducted by the Spanish government. According to this Census, she was 32 years old, married to Nicolas de Leon Guerrero and had two children at the time: Jose and Maria. The Census also indicated that they were living with Nicolas’ father (Matias de Leon Guerrero), mother (Maria Tello) and siblings (Maria, Juan and Rosa).
**I Pinipu yan i Pilan (Pendant Necklace)
Pinipu yan I Pilan: Historical Significance
Pinipu are perforated shell disks by ancient Chamorro crafted into bead strung together and used as necklaces. The perforated orange-white bead shells crafted from the Spondylus Oyster shells were used as ornaments and also as an ancient form of currency. Interestingly, many other cultures including some Native American tribes value the Spondylus Oyster shells to make contemporary jewelry. The seashells were vessels of life that pre-date the arrival of the indigenous people of the Mariana Islands.
Pulan has two significant meanings in the Chamorro language and culture: 1) it not only refers to the moon; but, 2) it also means to watch over or take care of someone or something. The moon, watches over us nightly. Our ancestors have used its characteristics as a calendar of seasons (13 months) for farming, fishing, and harvesting. The white clam shell is a symbol of the moon (pulan).
I Pinipu yan i Pilan. Therefore, within this particular jewelry (alåhas) that I have crafted, the combination of shells as a pendant signifies prosperity (in terms of flourishing mentally and physically in life) and to strive to live in harmony with our environment: we must take care of and watch over not just ourselves and our people, but also includes the air we breathe, the land and waters and the resources they naturally provide for us so that our children’s children may be able to enjoy the same to sustain future generations to come. These shells and conceptual values passed on from our ancestors become a part of our children’s wealth (guinahan famagu'hon).
(Free USPS Priority Mail shipping within the U.S. and U.S. Territories.)
Toka’ (spelled “Toca” in Fray Juan Pobre’s 1602 account) was a “native principal” who lived in Guaco, Rota.
Marjorie Driver. 1988. Fray Juan Pobre de Zamora: Hitherto Unpublished Accounts of his Residence in the Mariana Islands. Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 23, No. 1, 86-9, April.
(Note: As a reminder or in case you started following my research tidbits, many of our ancestors from the Mariana Islands are either nameless or are vaguely described with their name in historical documents. I have plans to one day publish an index names I do come across from the 1600 and 1700s. The photo above is not a picture of him; only a representation of him.)