14 January 2009: Back online for the new year. Reading David Cargill’s diaries; and glad I did not have to travel 3 months on a small boat with the Rev Cargill.
The sins of missionaries: In his diary her recorded he had a higher status among Fijians that he had among Europeans. His diaries show he asked for and got got free housing and stole Fijian sacred objects for his private collection. On one voyage, the Captain and crew refused to listen to any more sermons on sin. Cargill’s records show his high sense of self-importance, and weakness for long sermons on ‘sin’. It also appeared that wherever Cargill settled; other missionaries found reasons, to settle elsewhere. Dillon, for example, said Williams sent the Cargills from Tonga to mission on Somosomo, because he found David Cargill’s pomposity intolerable.
Modern sins – nature of sins change: One tale of the life of Cargill, tells of his death of small pox on Tonga; others say he died from an overdose of laudanum (opium). This was so freely available in those times, addiction seems possible. Before his wife’s death for example, he visited the Jaggars’ house on stock up on laudanum – for his wife. The baby born soon after, died of convulsions. In these days, we define opium for recreation, as a modern sin.
John Hunt: The missionary John Hunt – a more useful character – lived six years – in Fiji; and like Cargill’s wife, died of ‘dysentery’ in his early 30s.
2 August 2008: Now updating again after a break. See research musings below.
Your dated Levuka history and people items wanted: I hope this site may help to give to give some of those – nameless in public histories – a place in the records; and perhaps, produce a collaboration which may contribute to Levuka heritage.
Was your ancestor born in Levuka? I welcome all contact from interested persons.
Try a test post: If you have some dated history, related to Levuka – birth, death, marriage, or Levuka history of any kind – please search for the year, post your dated item, with the source reference in comment field for that date, and I will put your information in the timeline, soon after.
Style guide: If your style matches, and you have a volume of content to post to the site , I will offer an editing password, and you can file your contributions, direct. Whats needed is dated items with a a reference to the source.
2 August 2008: Now updating again after a break. I am amused to see some references to my ancestors in W. T. Pritchards, Polynesian Reminiscences. My ancestor form minor players in the Pacific game.
Blog forms a type of conquest? But, if history is written by the conquerers, then maybe, a blog forms a type of conquest?. People once wrote or mused, alone with notes doomed to end up in the attic or the garage, and then thrown into the rubbish by the next generation – now can self-publish, and meet other people with the same interests. It’s a wonderful new world!.
New things I have learned lately about Levuka: Research has gained more depth and context as I learn and understand more. I write this from Sydney; and I am generations separated from these events. This week I mused on points of conquest – the point where a dominant nation – takes over, a less-powerful nation, in an environment of competitive access to resources.
Today, nations fight – politely – and less politely – for access to oil ,and gas and water. I would argue its generally commercial demand from traders which triggers resource wars. Traders see profits, and seek to influence policy.
That’s visible in the Levuka-traded commodities. In my judgement, one of the most significant commodities was the trading of people. In most of the documents its called “labour”; described like this; “Colleen Bawn left on a Labour Cruise to Tanna”. When it got back, however, the people were sold on a per head basis, at Levuka. So there’s a project there to calculate the value of that trade. in 1800 – 1850 commodity-values also rose and fell, as technologies changed or scarcity occurred; whale oil and whale-bone, slaves, women, tabua, metal, cotton, textiles, sandalwood, pearlshell, beche-de-mer, and land.
French in Tahiti, the British in Akaroa, and the British in Fiji: Fiji appeared a special case. Britain did not want Fiji; it was just after the American war of independence, and London administrators did not want another troubled colony. In the end, Cacobau appeared to cede to Britain – after its reluctant agreement – to gain protection from invasion from Tonga and the USA. His choice appeared the lessor of three evils, perhaps. It all cases, at these ‘points of conquest’ access to technology; metal, guns and shipping played a role; as did the pivotal role of regional administration and rule-making – consitution-writing – and the transformational benefits of “going Lotu” – as civilisations clashed at the point of contact. In this case, Levuka. It appears Fiji was, in the end, protected from total land grab – as in Guam, Tahiti, and Hawaii – by the early administration by William Pritchard, the Tahiti-born son of the ex Missionary consul of Tahiti, George Pritchard. The multilingual William P was raised with – or perhaps by – Queen Pomare of Tahiti, until the age of ten, when he was sent to Britain to school. He absorbed skills in the Pacific Way. It appeared he had little sense of “otherness” all people were one, but some more honest and some cmore orrupt. I read hints – yet to clarify – that William P had to contend with corrupt missionaries and traders; who opposed the fairness of his decisions; they wanted land at all cost and he opposed. Some expected the Consul to naturally rule in favour of the trader and the missionary. That was not his way. He was dismissed from his post as Consul, after a Fiji court case. I have yet to read the notes of the case. He was “unjustly accused” said
Berthold Seemann in a foreword to W. T. Pritchards, Polynesian Reminiscences; and the “The principal villains of the piece, if they can be so-called, were undoubtedly Calvert and Smythe”. I will post that new material later this week. These was the case researched ans argued in another useful title I want to get hold of” . Biography of William Pritchard Andrew, E. Robson http://epress.anu.edu.au/tpl/mobile_devices/ch14.html Accessed 2 August 2008
Another good book: I intend to buy, or get via library interloan, what looks like an excellent book – of which I have read a sample chapter – Exodus of the I Taukei, the Wesleyan Church in Fiji, 1848-74 = No Lako Yani Ni Kawa I Taukei; Na Lotu Wesele E Viti. By Andrew Thornley, Tauga Vulaono, University of the South Pacific, Institute of Pacific Studies 2002 ISBN 9820203406.
6 April, 2008; I am now back on line. My father passed away, and since then I have been ill for the last two months.
Purpose of site: This site aims to provide a Levuka timeline structure for the period 1700 – 1880; with special interest in the period 1840 – 1880. I encourage others with Levuka family history – or area interests – to post dated events to the comment fields for the years; I will then post these to the site. Your content may include births, deaths and events or related history. This site was started 30 September 2007. The simple plan was to search web and books for dated events, and to, step-by-step, build a Levuka timeline. I started with using a little of content from Jane’s Oceania, and the Fiji Government site, and then began to expand with more detailed referenced history. As density of content increases, more referenced material will appear. I have now begun source from books and papers not on the internet.
Finer-grained data: At the start point it only has year-separators. I plan to begin to provide months, so more more precise data-collation develops. Please post your dated and referenced events or information in the comment field for the year.
Hope to hear from you soon: One of things I would hope to evolve from this project is heritage funding, to add the graves information from the two Levuka cemeteries to this site.
More about me: I work as commodity analyst in Sydney, and I have a special interest in commodity cycles; and so have included categories for the commodities connected to Levuka for various periods; sandalwood, copra, coconut oil, cotton, sugar, slaves, and so-on.
The trigger for the project: Some people in my family show a pacific gene. I am one of those; and I have a brother and a son with the same look. Now my new grandson has appeared and he’s a Pacific giant. Only two, but he’s the size of a four-year old. So its a strong gene! A chain of family research over 15 years – lead to my discovery in the Suva archives that the gene came from a Polynesian – or Melenesian – ancestor – Christiana THOMPSON. No birth certificate exists, she was perhaps born at sea, but she was was christened on the beach at Levuka, Fiji in 1862, by John Calvert, Methodist missionary for the Ovalau Circuit. The Thompson family purchased an island near Levuka, Vanutha Lai Lai, after Cakobau sold it to the Consul. The Thompsons bought it off the Consul. It was later ruled as freehold by the Land Commission. The Thompson family lived on it for a time, but family records show they left it – or another island, after a violent event. The family then moved – over time – to Bluff, New Zealand, as coastal shipping businesss from the South Island gold-rush grew. The Thompson family owned Vanutha Lai Lai for 17 years, and sold it to the Kahn family. Captain Thomas THOMPSON – a captain, builder of wooden ships – was later Harbour Master and a town councillor at Bluff. The barques and schooner he built, and part-owned were used in the slave trade from Levuka. They also traded timber from Fiji. I have no evidence that they were slave traders. Slaves were a profitable item in that period. But, it’s possible. Maybe I am descended from one of those “labour recruits”. I have no evidence.
Family photos – with a Dufty – look; show Christiana THOMPSON had polynesian or melenesian genes – but her official parents were migrants to the Pacific – the English shipbuilder from Sunderland – Thomas Johnston THOMPSON who married a German woman – Christiane GOTZE.
She came from a long family tradition of Lutheran lawyers from Friesland. The two had 13 children. Six were baptised at Levuka. Some died at Levuka. I descend from the (Polynesian?) line from one of those children – Christiana THOMPSON; who had a Pacific mother or father. Photos show a family resemblance, so it does not appear as a case of adoption. Or maybe she was the child of an older sibling? The eldest son, Edward, “ran a way to sea”, and was never seen again.
On a visit to Levuka I found a very large numbers of graves (in poor repair) which record the large mixed community that existed in Levuka; and which, peaked, in population, about 1840 – 1870.
But I have found limited information in the public domain about individuals, not in public life.
Thank you. Even small piece of information may prove of use, as each piece connects to another.