No. 186.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.

No. 312.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 293, of date the 18th of November last, inclosing a copy of my communication to the Hon. Mr. Plunkett, secretary of the English legation, in relation to the Bonin Islands and American interests there, I have now the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a dispatch addressed to me by Sir Harry S. Parkes, of date the 27th instant, together with a copy of a report made to him by Mr. Robertson, the British consul at Kanagawa, in answer to my several inquiries made through Mr. Plunkett. (Inclosures Nos. 1 and 2.)

You will observe that the commerce of the islands is but nominal; that American whalers more frequently enter Port Lloyd than the vessels of any other nationality, and that the entire population is but sixty-nine, of whom but four are classed as white persons. According to the report it appears that probably the first resident of those islands was an American citizen, a native of Massachusetts, named Nathaniel Savory, who settled at Port Lloyd in 1830, and who died last year at that place, leaving a widow and six children. Before the dwelling of this family Mr. Robertson, on the day of his arrival, found the American flag floating from a staff, and states that, upon inquiry made by him whether the flag was intended to signify that the family considered themselves under American protection, he was answered in the negative, and that it was displayed on the arrival of vessels, &c., in compliance with the request made by Mr. Savory at the time of his death.

From the report it appears that Benjamin Pease, hitherto considered an American citizen, is dead, probably murdered; that his property is not of great value, and that his nationality is now questioned.

Upon the information furnished I consider that it is not needful at present to inquire further for American citizens or American interests in the Bonin Islands.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 312.]

Sir Harry S. Parkes to Mr. Bingham.

Sir: Mr. Plunkett having communicated to Mr. Robertson, Her Majesty’s consul at Kanagawa, on his departure for the Bonin Islands, your letter of the 15th ultimo, desiring inquiry to be made as to the reported death of Benjamin Pease, and also requesting information relative to the trade and population of the Bonin Islands, I have now the pleasure to forward to you the inclosed copy of a dispatch, which I have received from Mr. Robertson, furnishing all the information he was able to collect on the points you named.

It will afford Mr. Robertson and myself much satisfaction to learn that he has succeeded in meeting your wishes in this matter.

I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,


Hon. John A. Bingham,
&c., &., &c.

[Page 355]
[Inclosure in inclosure in No. 312.]

Dispatch from Mr. Robertson to Sir Marry S. Parkes concerning the Bonin Islands.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of dispatch No. 66, of the 15th ultimo, addressed to me by Mr. Plunkett in your absence, covering copy of a communication from the United States minister, requesting that my visit to the Bonin Islands might be availed of to obtain information on certain points set forth in the communication above referred to, and I have now the honor to submit, for the information of the United States minister, the following particulars:

First, in respect to the rumored death of Benjamin Pease, an American citizen:

Pease was last seen alive on the morning of the 9th of October, 1874, when he left his dwelling alone at 3 a.m. in a canoe to go around to visit Webb, an Englishman, whose holding is about 2½ miles distant by water from Pease’s dwelling. Pease never reached Webb’s house, and two days afterward his canoe was found close to the rocks, bottom up, and much damaged. Suspicion points somewhat strongly to a man named Spenser as either the actual murderer or instigator of the deed. I am assuming, of course, that Pease has been murdered; that he is dead there seems to be but little doubt among the settlers at the Bonins. The man Spenser (a negro) was brought to Port Lloyd (Bonins) by Pease in 1873, on returning from a visit to the island of Ascension, better known, perhaps, as Panape, situated in latitude 7° north, longitude 158° 15ʹ east. Spenser took up his residence with Pease and Mrs. Pease, (so called.) Mrs. Pease, I may here mention, is the daughter of an Englishman, George Robinson, by a woman a native of Guam. Her sister is married to Webb, and both women still reside at Port Lloyd. From all I could learn Pease suspected Spenser of a liason with his wife; this suspicion led to an open quarrel, and Spenser left Pease’s house. This occurred in September, 1874. On the 27th of September Webb remembers Pease coming to his house with a loaded rifle, saying he was “after that d–—d ruffian,” meaning Spenser, who was supposed then to have sought shelter with Webb. I am here led to remark that Webb himself, from his own showing, was by no means on good terms with Pease. The latter had, in the year 1869, induced him to leave Port Lloyd for Ascension, where promises of lucrative employment had been held out by Pease. These promises were never fulfilled, and Webb eventually returned to Port Lloyd to find himself dispossessed of his holding and reduced to great straits, the results, as he alleges, of Pease’s delusive promises.

On the 11th of June of this year, 1875, Spenser, strange to say, also disappeared under circumstances as inexplicable as those in connection with Pease. He started from Webb’s place in his canoe, on the above-mentioned date, to look for turtle, and was never seen again. The canoe was found two days afterward splashed with blood, and in the canoe was the coat Spenser had been wearing, torn across the back, apparently with a turtle-hook, and stained here and there with blood. Some faint light is thrown on this man’s disappearance by the statement of a man named Robert Myres, a native of Bermuda, and now residing at Port Lloyd. He informed me that the canoe used by Spenser belonged to him, Myres, and was only loaned to Spenser, and that some months ago when one of the settlers was using it the canoe was chased by another canoe, having on board two or three of a family of Kingsmill Islanders, the Tewcrabs by name, also residents at Port Lloyd. The occupant of Myres’s canoe shot his boat up a creek and behind some rocks, the other canoe passed by, and one of the men in her was heard to say, “We came d–—d near catching him then.” Myres, in explanation of this, said that his life had been threatened more than once by a young fellow named Savory, born on the islands, the son of an American, Savory by name, one of the earliest settlers, by a woman a native of Guam now living at Port Lloyd. Young Savory and Myres had cast their eyes on the same woman, a Japanese, who elected to live with Myres, and hence the cause of offense to Savory. Myres thinks that on the occasion just quoted some of the Tewcrabs, instigated by Savory, pursued his canoe under the impression that he was in it, and that he was the man meant as to whom it was said they came so near catching. At a later date Spenser is using Myres’ canoe, and disappears under the horribly mysterious circumstances as above stated.

I met and conversed with young Savory (Horace Savory) several times during the Curlew’s stay at Port Lloyd, and sounded him as to any cause of quarrel with Myres. He denied that there was any grounds of quarrel, and said that Myres was apprehensive of danger where no danger really existed. Savory, a youth of about 22, is not of prepossessing appearance, but, apart from that, I found him exceedingly civil and obliging. He acted as guide on the islands to Captain Church and myself on more than one occasion, and his home, where he lives with his mother and five brothers and sisters, is a pattern of cleanliness and decency. I questioned Pease’s widow in respect to his disappearance, but all my questions were answered by monosyllables, accompanied by a silly laugh. The woman had a baby at her breast, born but a few weeks [Page 356] prior to our visit, and of which, judged by the date of Pease’s disappearance, he cannot have been the father. It is currently reported on the island that Spenser was the father of the child.

To all my inquiries about Pease’s general conduct and character, I received but one reply. He appears to have made himself very obnoxious to the settlers, threatening to dispossess them, and generally assuming a tone of authority over them. No one seems to regret his loss, nor does one hear a single compassionate remark about him.

I think it right to state that doubt is thrown on Pease’s claim to have been considered as an American citizen, and that if the proofs could be got at it would, probably, be found that he was a British subject. As regards any property left by him, there is the dwelling-house and garden, situated on a location known as Aki, at Port Lloyd. This property was purchased by Pease from a Frenchman named Leseur, now on the island, for the sum of $80, and nobody at Port Lloyd would dispute a claim to this put forward on behalf of Pease’s estate. The Japanese government, however, assuming that they assert and make good their claim to the Bonins, may have something to say on the subject of Leseur’s right to sell the property. There are also on the premises nineteen head of cattle, in excellent condition. Nobody asserts a claim to these as against Pease, but it is generally believed that they are, or were, really the property of a company in Shanghai, known as the Pacific Trading Company, and which, probably, does not now exist. The cattle were brought originally to Port Lloyd by Pease, or by a man named Hayes, much associated with him, in 1871, in a brig, the Pioneer, from String’s Island, one of the Carolina group, and rumor has it that the cattle were stolen by either Pease or Hayes.

This is all I have to note on Pease’s disappearance and of his estate. I pass to the next subject on which information is requested.

The trade of the islands may be summed up in this: Each settler cultivates a small garden-patch in which he raises taro, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and other garden-vegetables; he occupies himself, also, in turtling and fishing.

The harbor of Port Lloyd may be said to be visited only by whalers; a year, perhaps, passing with only one whaler touching at the port. The settlers trade off their garden produce, turtle-shell, turtle-oil, and domestic poultry, which last mentioned thrive on the island, to the crews of the whalers against anything they can get, such as cutlery, hardware, drills or clothing material of any kind, tobacco, and ships’ stores generally.

The settlers prefer a system of barter, but are willing to accept Mexican dollars, in which case the rates for produce are notably as follows: turtle, each $2; turtle-shell, 50 cents per pound; lemons, (largely grown,) $2 per hundred; turtle-oil, $10, $15, and $20 per barrel. Garden-produce is almost invariably bartered. Timber is also sold; the best kinds cut and delivered on board at 25 cents per foot.

The whalers visiting the port carry either American, Hawaiian, or French colors, and in rare instances English; but for the most part the whalers are American. I make the total population to be sixty-nine, namely: sixty-six at Port Lloyd, and three on Hillsboro’ Island, one of the Bailey or Coffin group. Of the population there are only four pure whites now residing there, viz, Thomas Webb, a British subject, who arrived in 1849; Lewis Leseur, a French citizen, who made his first appearance at Port Lloyd in 1852, but did not settle there till some years later; William Allen, a German subject, who arrived in 1852; and Rose, of whom it is doubtful whether he is of Dutch or German nationality, who is settled on Hillsboro’ Island, Bailey group; the date of his arrival is uncertain, but it must have been subsequent to 1861. There is also at Port Lloyd a Portuguese (so called) named Gonzalves, but who goes by the name of Bravo. I can scarcely class him among the pure whites, for his appearance indicates that he has negro blood in his veins. He arrived on the island as far back as 1831.

One of the oldest, if not indeed the oldest, residents died at Port Lloyd last year. This was Nathaniel Savory, born in Massachusetts, United States, who settled at Port Lloyd in 1830. He has left a family of six children, who, with their mother, reside at Port Lloyd, on a clearing at the head of the harbor. The eldest son is a young fellow of some 22 or 23 years of age. Close to the dwelling is an outhouse immediately facing the anchorage, and in front of this the American flag was displayed from a staff on the day of our arrival in the Curlew. On visiting the dwelling, I asked Mrs. Savory if the hoisting of the flag was intended to convey that the family considered themselves under American protection. She answered in the negative, merely saying that it had been the dying wish of the late Mr. Savory that the flag should be flown on the arrival of a vessel or on any gala day. I invited her confidence and that of her family as to any wishes she might have on the subject of nationality or protection by reason of her alliance with Savory, but she said that, in common with her children and the settlers generally, they had no other wish than to be regarded as Bonin Islanders, and to be protected in their rights of property on the island. It is but right I should mention that Mrs. Savory had lived as the companion of two other men, at different times, prior to her becoming the companion of Savory. It is questionable, therefore, how far this family, even if they so desired, may be entitled to American protection, and [Page 357] any other claims to American citizenship by the settlers would be of the same shadowy nature.

In respect to Japanese, there are at present only two on the islands, both residing at Port Lloyd, one as a companion to a Manila man named Sino, the other as companion to a British subject, a native of Bermuda, Myres by name. These women went down from this some two years ago to the Bonins in a small schooner, called the Fori, flying American colors, and elected to remain at Port Lloyd; three or four other Japanese women, in addition, also went on the Fori, but returned to Yokohama.

The circumstances under which Japanese commissioners established a small colony at Port Lloyd, at the latter end of 1861, to be withdrawn early in 1863, are probably known to the United States minister.

I think the above furnishes replies to the different points on which information was requested.

I have, &c.,


Sir Harry S. Parkes, K. C. B., &c.