Saturday, August 25, 2007

Emma, Queen of the South Seas


Emma Coe, born in Samoa in 1850 of mixed American/Samoan parentage, was educated in Australia and the States before returning, against her father’s will to Samoa. In 1878, after the death of her first husband at sea, she and Thomas Farrel began a trading business in Mioko on the Duke of York Islands just off the coast here. She became the first real planter in PNG when she established a plantation on the site at Ralum including where the golf course now stands.

She was an exceptionally smart business woman expanding her empire to trade stores, several plantations and shipping. She enjoyed a lavish lifestyle including legendary parties in her mansion Gunantambu (seen above). In particular she liked men’s company, acquiring a number of husbands and lovers over her life-time. It was here in East New Britain where she became known as Queen Emma – a legend in her own lifetime.

Before World War I broke out, she sold up and moved to Sydney. Emma and her last husband Paul Kolbe died in Monte Carlo in 1913 within 2 days of each other. Emma’s ashes, interred in the local cemetery here disappeared, along with her headstone, which turned up in Sydney in a cemetery on South Head beside what is thought to be her son’s grave.

39 comments:

oldmanlincoln said...

Hello, Very interesting post. I read it twice. She was also a lovely lady.

Do you have Gooney Birds? I need a photo of a gooney bird. Mine are over 50 years old and faded beyond repair.

I am doing a bird book and wanted to include one. I also am putting the pictures on my bird blog. Don't know if you have seen it or not.

Abraham Lincoln
Just My Birds Blog

Jules said...

No sorry Abraham - no gooney birds around here - although I know a few 2-legged ones!!!

Old Wom Tigley said...

What a great bit of history, she was a beautiful looking women thats for sure, smart as well.
Great post Jules, are we heading over to Abes place after and causing a riot? ;)

• Eliane • said...

What a wonderful story. Quite a strong personality, that Emma Coe. No wonder she had a collection of husbands - she is simply gorgeous in this picture.

Jules said...

If there is a riot going down at Abe's Tom - I'm there!!!!

oldmanlincoln said...

You just scroll down to the bottom and then click on the archives, I think it is August 19, 2007 and that opens up all of the birds there. I looked and the tufted duck is still on there.

Abe

M.Benaut said...

Sounds like she was predisposed to moving things right along. Must be the tropical air up there.
With jewels/jules like that, the world was destined to be her oyster. Seems there's a vacancy for her successor?

Annie said...

And we think that women's liberation only began in the last century. She was a woman ahead of that curve, wasn't she!

Denton said...

An interesting post. It is sad that her ashes and headstone were moved from the place she obviously loved ... I enjoyed your phrase "acquiring a number of husbands and lovers".

M.Benaut said...

Jules, my dear, we do not expect that you aquire hundreds of husbands and lovers, nor should we lose too many balls in the delightful tropical waters, perish the thought, you should just dress like Queen Emma, at least just with the jules/jewels.

Jilly said...

What a beautiful woman! And what a fascinating story.

iBlowfish said...

Interesting narrative. I bet she was a smart women in her time in PNG.

Jules said...

m benaut - what a relief!!! I can manage the jewels but the rest was going to be a bit of a challenge!!!!!

adamhaber2000 said...

Hi I think the picture you have shown is of Emma's offices. The house Gunantambu was a large colonial house with verandah's all around.

I walked the steps and have seen the foundations at the Ralum Club.

Adam said...

Hi Jules,

Your picture shows Queen Emma's offices. Gunantambu was a large colonial house with covered verandah's all around. The Ralum club is located on this site.

Trevor Bell said...

Does anybody know the name of her first husband who was lost at sea? The reason I ask is that I have come across Juanita Stehr, presumably daughter of Alfred Stehr who owned Manuan Plantation on Duke of Yorks. She was born in 1890 an allegedly was grand-daughter of Queen Emma. She married Carl Wilde who was later to be a significant figure on Emirau. Hope somebody can help!

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Out of Orbit said...

Fascinating! I was wondering if you're "still" in the Province? I have a great deal of questions I'd like to ask about the New Britain area around the late 1800s.

Carl Robert Coe said...

The photo is of actress Barbara Carrera who played Emma Eliza Coe in the 1988 movie "Emma: Queen of the South Seas." Hal Holbrook played her father Jonas Mynderse Coe, who was born Feb. 12, 1823, and was the US Consul in Somoa.

Max Uechtritz said...

Trevor Bell .. just saw your question re Juanita Stehr, who Les Bell described in his book as grand daughter of Queen Emma. Did you get any answers? Queen Emma's sister Phebe Parkinson is my great grandmother and I chart family history. I am curious how Juanita fits in. The only way she could be a granddaughter would be if her father was JMC "Coe" Forsayth, Emma's only child. This may be the case but fascinating to find out the actual story. It is quite possible Juanita was born out of wedlock to Coe and a New Britain woman and was adopted out, to the Stehr family.

Michael Jacklin said...

I am Juanita Wilde's (nee Stehr)great grandson. My mother thought that Emma was an Aunt or Cousin. I have since seen a photo with my great great grand mother Caroline Stehr (nee Bartlett) in a photo with a group of Samoan ladies including Emma. The photo is tagged as Emma and sisters so maybe she was a niece.

Michael Jacklin said...

It certainly does not seem possible. The name Bartlett does not seem to be connected. My mother (Karleen)and grandmother (Eileen Emery nee Wilde) have both past on. The only information I have is from an article published by John Meehan in the 1990s for Air New Guinea. The Story of Carl Leopold Bruno Wilde. In that article it mentions that Caroline was related to Emma.

Camielle Gilbert said...

Hi, I love the story of Emma & was wondering how much you know of Milne Bay connections? My grandmother, Annie Dawkins(nee Watkins, daughter of Lemded Babin Mwadi Watkins(?) & George Henry Watkins of Woodlark Island (Muyua Island)& Bonivat & Kwattawatta Plantations owner with husband Arthur Dawkins) was quoted in a book about Emma as Auntie Emma. Have struggled to find which book or even the name of it. Would love to know of any connections. Camielle

Anonymous said...

For Max Uechtritz and Michael Jackson.
My mother Juanita Shanahan was one of the four duaghters of Juanita Wilde and CLB Wilde. Juanita Wilde was born Jaunita Stehr to Caroline and Franz Stehr in Samoa the family moved to Manuan Plantation on the Duke of York island.Caroline is believed to be a half sister to Emma and in the photo in the book Queen Emma was already married to Captain Charles Bartlett.
Michael Eileen was the eldest of the four sisters by Juanita (Helga the oldest was from another marriage for Wilde. Eileen was my Aunt along with Elspeth and Erdme.
A son Of Eileen's my cousin Michael lives near me in Cairns
Peter Shanahan petershanahan1@bigpond.com
25 Cagagi drive Kuranda Qld 4881 Australia.

Anonymous said...

I was named after Queen Emma and until reading the book given to me by my father I see I have not only received her name but am very similar in nature. Also a business woman I too can live in a mans world of business and be heard, acknowledged and valued. I too enjoy the company of men have been blessed to know many good men in my life and like Emma choose and move on from my partners as it suits me. I never knew how to understand this but after reading her book know now that it is strong woman who will not be ruled by a man and will stand independent in life, financially and in spirit. Others may see our choices as a weakness but it is actually strength that creates no fear in any decision you make being a failure but only a change to learn and grown as a person.

Suella said...

Hi Peter,
Your name rings a bell, I was talking to my cousin of mixed race parentage by name of Anna Lane, daughter of late Leslie Lane, (we are local girls) this afternoon and somehow during the conversation, Queen Emma was mentioned. We took our memories back to Wau town and the residents there in the early 50`s . 60`s to date of which only one person named Carolyn Mayfield lives now, daughter of Stewart Mayfield, one of the sons of I believe ( late Jack Mayfield and Carolyn Mayfield).Please confirm this in particular, the latter of whom we vaguely know from recollection of stories is related to Queen Emma. It is fascinating to read the comments by different viewers and the one from you.
Sue Abdelsamie

Unknown said...

Where can we get this movie

Helg Family said...

Hi there I am tracing my great great grandfather Peter Rasmussen's first wife Caroline Coe she was Emma's half sister, they married in Apia Samoa and she had 2 children to Peter Rasmussen before he left her to go to the Kingsmill Islands The Gilbert Islands by the"Godeffroy & Sons in 1870. Their names were Maxwell (Max) and Katherine (Katie). We believe they took their Mothers new husbands names? Caroline was married twice we believe once to a man named Bartlett and then next to a man by the name of Stehr. I would love to be in touch with any of the relatives that have heard of these family members, so I can add to our family history.
Thank you Andrea NZ

lynn wade said...

Hi there my great grand mother was Caroline Stehr I have her a copy of her death certificate it, it states that her father's name was Charles Bartlett. Planter I have the book with the photo of all the ladies with Queen Emma and Caroline is there. From information I have Caroline married Franz Stehr when she was seventeen years of age in Tonga, making it seem almost impossible for her to be married twice before. Otto Stehr was born in Mau he is my grand father. Anyone with information regarding this please contact me I was led to believe that Caroline's mother was a Samoan princess Sa and that Emma was Caroline's half sister 12 years her senior.
lynnsurfing@gmail.com

seeto87 said...

There sure is a lot of missing Carolines in queen Emma's history. Carloine Coe (Emma's half sister) couldn't have been married with 2children by 1870 as she would've still been a child. Maybe there was another sister who had Max & Kathrine and the other Caroline Coe married Bartlett to have a daughter also named Caroline who married Sterh. I am also searching family history here in Papua New Guinea, looking for a Caroline who is said to be a close kin of Queen Emma's and her name is also Caroline. She had from her first husband two children, but during the war he took their children with him to America, a Maxwell and Loretta.

seeto87 said...

Hi. Just going thru the comments, you should contact Michael and Anonymous from comments before. You share Caroline and Franz Stern, they come from the daughter Juanita and you the son, Otto. Fingers crossed, you found family. BTW. On the death certificate, does it have Bartlett as your grandmothers maiden name? Coz the book says saying Caroline was married to Bartlett, that's what's confusing.

lynn wade said...

May I enquire what book are you talking about please, the book i have has a picture of Caroline Stehr and Queen Emma along with other ladies the book was written by R W Robson I have Caroline Stehr's death certificate and it states her father was Charles Bartlet She was my great Grand mother and gave birth to Otto, my grandfather Juanita and several others I am trying to find my great grandmothers heritage I believe her mother was Sa and if thats the case Emma was her half sister its hard to put it all together. anyone know any more

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Carolyn Coe born 1862 ​Vaimoas Village Apia Samoa on 26 February
Caroline's mother was Saefaolu Manu Leleua but known as Sa or Elizabeth from
Vaimoso Apia Samoa. Sa's husband was Jonas Mynderssa Coe.
1823-1891 from America they lived in Mulifatu Faleallili in Apia Samoa.
Carolyn (Carrie) married Peter Rasmussen in 1879 in Apia Samoa at 17 years old. Hope this helps. Blessings

Unknown said...

Okay thank you so they married later than I thought!! I have found that Max was named after their friend who ran a trading post for the German firm in Fiji, Max Kessler. I am really interested to see if Carolyn Coe is the same person we are all related too as we also have family photos of her with her father at about 8 years old?? And none of her any older!! Lynn do you have your great grandmothers birth date on any of the documents? As I am Assuming she might be the daughter of Carolyn Coe to the Barlett guy and named after her mother?? Which would make your Great Grandmother Caroline, Emma's niece??

Unknown said...

Hi Again
Since my original comment on the blog 2016; I have done research from Samoa and I found that Carolyn Coe and Peter Rasmussen when they were married lived at Le Utu Vao Plantation they had three births all together.
Carolyn had a baby boy that died in Samoa her first born also called Max born the 14 May 1880 and died at 10 months old 24 April 1881.
They then named their younger son Maxwell Kessler Rasmussen born who lived for part of his life in Samoa he married Faalu and he lived at Lepea. We used to have a picture of him in his military uniform in the house at Mulifanua.
Maxs daughter Katherine (Katie) we knew as Aunty Titi because my grandfather couldn't say her name,she was born 1 October 1902 she lived on the plantation with her husband John Southon they were married on the 15 December 1934 in Tufiopa, but were never able to have any children of their own so they adopted children from Samoa. Katherine (Katie) died in Apia in 1986.
They had Laura Sophia Rasmussen born 25 December 1881 she died in Samoa 15 November 1903 and she is in the European section of the cemetery Tuamasaga in Apia.
Peter Rasmussen left Carolyn Coe and went to trade on other Islands until his return to Samoa when he married our great great grandmother Josephine Yandall and had one son.
Carolyn must have moved on to have other husbands and children??

lynn wade said...

Stehr Caroline 1869 — 1931 Deaths & burials New South Wales, Australia

These are the dates on my great grandmothers grave at WAVERLY N.S.W cemetary
Apparently she was evacuated from Manuan Plantation as an Austrian as she was part Samoan they would not evacuate any coloured people. As far as i know she had several children Jaunita Otto Louise there were twins one deceased I do have a partial familhy tree i will be away for a while but will get back with further info Its all very confusing all the Carolines and Carolyns

TaimB4 said...

Max Uechtritz here (great grandson of Phebe Parkinson, sister of Queen Emma):

There was only one Caroline Coe who was a half sister to Queen Emma and Phebe parkinson.

Caroline Coe was the first progeny of the marriage of Jonas Coe to his second wife Sa.

She was married firstly to Peter Rasmussen (as others point out). I have no personal information on possible later marriages.

However , I do have a first-hand account by Caroline Coe - her own words in a letter to her sister Laura in the United States in 1882. The letter was sent from Mulifanna Plantation.

Here are extracts: " Now comes our lot of wich I am the oldest, then comes Sister Mary Ann and theres you and then Lizzie and then Grace and the Josephine poor little thing she is dead, she died after Sa die. Lizzie and Grace still going to school. Mary Ann stays with old Father and keeps house for him. I think Dear Pa will write to you and tell you all about himself he got married again for about 12 months ago and now Ma had a little Baby about two months ago, it is a little girl another Sister for us. Now I must write you a little more about myself. My Husband’s name is Peter Rasmussen and he is Manager of the largest plantation of Samoa called Le Vetu SaoVao, there is about 2500 acres of cotton cultivated there is about 500 laboureres Black Fellows and two white overseers on the place. There is a station about two miles from our house where I got on horseback when I am through with my work. I have got a splendid horse to ride and riding is the only amusement one has got here and I am very found of it. I go to Apia about once every three months to see Pa and then I stays a few days and then hurry back again as I have got a large house to keep clean. Now Dear Sister- I think I have told you enough for this time or else I shall have nothing to write about the next which shall be as soon as I hears from you again, which I hope will be before long and thee I expect a long long letter hoping you will write me everything concerning yourself and your friends. Until then I shall constantly think of you and pray & this will find you in the enjoyment of good health and hoping that we may meet some day or another. Please give my best and best of love to your Pa and Ma. I beg you to believe me your most Affectionate Sister
Caroline Rasmussen

My Address is
P Rasmussen Care of
Deuche Handles and Plantazen Gesellshaft der Sudsee Inseler& Hamburg Apia Samoa

TaimB4 said...

Max Uechtrit Cont.

The above letter starts: "Mulifanna Plantation
September 16th 1882

My Dear Sister Laura,


Your letter from the 3rd of May was received by Pa sometime this month but I don’t live in Apia but about 25 miles beward? I only got your letter today the 16th of September. Pa sent it to me to read. I cannot explain how glad I was to hear from you and I at once will write to you so that I may soon hear from you again.

I suppose I should introduce myself first else you would not know who I am. My name is Caroline and I am your oldest sister -Sa being our mother. I am twenty years old and I have being married about three years. I was sent to San Francisco when I was 12 years of age and stayed there until I was 16 years when Pa took me down to Samoa again. The first two years I stayed at Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Ned’s but as they treated me more like a servant and as a relation of theirs Pa took me from there to Mrs. Bruce where I stay about 2 years and then went to Samoa where I married in November 2nd 1878 and found out dear father very sick but thanks to God he soon recovered and now in very good health. Dear Sister, I told you I returned in November but don’t laugh! I am going to tell you that I got married in July 19th 1879 and that since that time I have had two childrens, the first born being a little Boy, born on 14th May 1880 but I am sorry to state that he died on the 24th April 1881, also only 10 months old. I can asure it was a hard time to both me and my Husband but on the 25th December 1881, I had another Baby, a little Girl the prettyest cussiest little thing in the world and my constant prayer to God is to let me keep her. To asure you that we had not quite forgotten you I nam’en her Laura Sophia,

Elsewhere in our family letter collections, Jonas Coe confirms Caroline's boy as Maxwell Rasmussen.