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.

29 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