My overnight stay was coming to an end , but one last stop before we leave stunning Mioko island at Duke Of York Islands. This stop was Queen Emma plantation- or whats left of it in Mioko!
Locals say stories of Queen Emma. A fierce lady who brought so much to people. People here still talk about her . How she walked around village and talked to people, how she say on the white sandy beach at Mioko bay and looked over newly planted coconut trees. How she wore white and liked her drink when she got older. Seems there are a lot of rumors and a lot of truth. Emma was a very shrewd, entrepreneurial person who worked for and against whoever suited her ambitions at the time. These included commercial enterprises, royalty, local tribes, head-men, government agencies and religious organizations.But there is a lot more to her story...
Queen Emma of New Guinea ( Emma Eliza Coe (26 September 1850, in Apia – died 21 July 1913, in Europe) . She is know as Emma Forsayth, Emma Farrell and Emma Kolbe
Queen Emma of New Guinea was a business woman and plantation owner of mixed American/Samoan descent.Emma Coe was born to Jonas Myndersse Coe, a US Commercial Representative to American Samoa and Joana Talelatale, a Samoan belonging to the Malietoa dynasty. Jonas married six times and had 18 children. They shared three sisters and three brothers from their father’s first of six marriages.
Her mother’s bloodline was related to the Moli tribe and Emma was recognized by the Malietoa as a princess.
Emma was married twice: first to Forsayth and then to Paul Kolbe. She had two children from her first marriage. Her son, James Myndersee Coe-Forsayth, survived Emma, however her daughter died very young.
Among the very elderly Tolais from the area, hers is not just a story of a very influential business woman, but a socialite whose lavish lifestyle, particularly sex and love life knew no boundaries.
In 1869, at age 19, Emma was home in Samoa with her formal education complete. Expected to marry, she showed her first signs of fierce independence, that became her hallmark. She thought marriage silly. Yet, with her beauty and her allure, European men in Samoa thought otherwise. It didn't help that she was known to perform "Samoan style." Concerned, her father ordered her to marry respectable, handsome, American Captain Henry James Forsayth. She became pregnant straight-away. It was an unhappy marriage. Captain Forsayth died in New York in 1873. A widow at 23, Emma kept his surname and her American Passport.
1873 Captain Forsayth died in New York . A widow at 23, Emma kept his surname and her American Passport.
1878, Queen Emma left American Samoa with an Australian lover, Farrell, who was known as a blackbirder, captain and trader for the Duke of York Islands in between New Britain and New Ireland.
There they traded mainly copra with the local population for beads, tobacco, knives and mirrors. The area was largely unsettled by Europeans up until that point due to aggression from the local inhabitants.
She began her "empire" on Mioko, Duke of York Islands
Thomas Farrel and Queen Emma operated from Mioko on the Duke of York islands, from where they soon recognized the need for a mainland base.
1881, Emma became interested in land around the Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain and differed with Farrell who continued trading.
1883 moved to Gunatabu (near today's Kokopo). Some 300 metres east of the present Vunamami United Church.
Emma bought the land from the local chiefs and with the assistance of her brother in law, the Dane, Richard Parkinson, set up a large coconut and cocoa plantations around Kokopo, East New Britain. During this period, she became highly successful and well respected. She was known as a heady woman, known to affect her charm on others and for throwing outlandish extravagant parties aided by her nieces.
1886 Mansion Gunantambu built at Ralum , equipped in part with furnishings of Robert Louis Stevenson which she purchased in Samoa.
Over the years Emma’s 'empire" consisted of more than 60 000 hectares of plantations over many areas of New Britain, New Ireland, Bougainville and various smaller islands.
Emma had a personal bodyguard of Buka boys armed with rifles. She cleverly registered her land with the American consul in Sydney. It is estimated that she employed more than 1000 nationals and about 50 whites to manage and operate her holdings. As well as copra, Emma dabbled in cocoa, cotton, kapok, vanilla and trepang amongst other investments. Vast areas of Tolai land and had it cleared and planted, mainly with coconut palms, by a workforce imported from New Ireland and North Solomons.
Gunantambu was the social hub of the Gazelle Peninsula for many years, with many stories and scandals to boot. She was renowned for her flamboyant lifestyle. Her house became the social centre of German New Guinea and she was the colony's outstanding socialite.
Her lavish champagne parties were financed through her profits from unequal exchange in trade with New Guineans, exploitation of labor and use of land acquired for a song. It is said that Queen Emma and her brother-in-law Richard Parkison, husband of Emma's sister Phoebe, together took more Tolai land than anybody else - Ralum plantation, Kuradui Plantation Malapau Plantation, Giregire, to name a few of their acquisations and forced Tolai speakers to live their native reserves.
According to her biographer,Queen Emma made personal contact with the chiefs around Blanche Bay and induced them to sell large defined areas to her.
The chiefs did not really understand the Europeans' system of buying their land, but they did learn much from frequent visits by the tall, thin, bearded Mr Parkinson who came armed and riding a horse, guarded by eight or ten implacable "black devils" who were always ready to shoot: and they learned something also from the occasional calls by English and German warships "which liked to let off their big guns."
"Black devils" refer to Mr Parkison's private guard of North Solomon islanders.
She was there in fact when the European community had a handful of fever wracked missionaries and traders who kept themselves out of the canibal's cooking pots only by ceaseless vigilance and (in the case of traders) readiness to shoot on sight.
1890 German colonists who started to move into Kokopo by passing trades ships. It was during this period she became affectionately known as the “Queen of New Guinea”.
Kokopo (Herbertshohe) was established
1900 Emma had the first hotel built called the Hotel Furst-Bismarck (situated near the site of the current Kokopo Beach Resort).
1907 Her commercial empire was still in full swing when until she learnt of increasing tensions between Germany and Britain in the colonies and Europe.
1909, Emma was nearly blind and suffering from diabetes. She sold her estate to Rudolf Wahlen for approximately DM 4 million.
At the time of disposal the Forsayth plantation company was the second largest in the protectorate and was reportedly for close to a million US dollars. Queen Emma retired to Mossman, NSW.
1913 She visited Monte Carlo with husband Paul Kolbe who died two days before Emma. The official death certificate discounts the many rumors surrounding their deaths. They were cremated .Her ashes were buried in her old station cemetery “Gunantambu” at Ralum. Today the site of the Ralum Club in Kokopo, New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
1924 their son re interred the urns at Old South Head cemetery in Sydney landmarked by two very large, ornate headstones.
Here is a PDF file with some great photos http://asopa.typepad.com/files/parkinson-legacy-1.pdf
Her house was destroyed by Allied bombing during 1943-44, and only remnants of its foundation and the flight of steps leading to Gunatabu remain.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954) Saturday 26 July 1913 p 16
SOUTH SEA PIONEERS.
DEATHS OF MR. AND MRS. KOLBE.
Cable news has been received from the Riviera of the deaths of Mrs. E. E. Kolbe of Ralum, New Britain, and her husband, Mr. Paul Kolbe, two of the most prominent planters and traders of the South Seas.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Kolbe had gone to Europe in search of health. Mr. Kolbe died on the 15th inst. from Bright's disease and heart failure, and his sudden decease evidently accelerated Mrs. Kobe's death, which took place from heart failure on the 21st inst.
Sources for information :
http://clanforsythaustralia.org/getperson.php?personID=I23&tree=JMCForsyth ( GREAT SITE)
Papua New Guinea