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Re: Frank and John HARDER, Samoan Islands, c.1880s
Posted by: Ka'Ike (ID *****2890) Date: December 19, 2006 at 11:11:52
In Reply to: Frank and John HARDER, Samoan Islands, c.1880s by Manaia of 591

Hi again!

Just found your first message and let me try and fill in some of the blanks, from what little I know of family history. SHOULD be wrapping Christmas presents, but I MUST do this!

My German great-grandfather, ??? [von?] Harder, emigrated from a town outside Hamburg, forgot the name, in Germany to the US and became a US citizen. Have no idea when. Finding his first name would help search ships' passenger lists & US immigration records.

From what little I know of German surnames, the "von" portion does not make sense, since Harder means herder or shepherd in German, but it was part of the family story. Understand there are still a lot of Harders living near Hamburg.

Somehow he ended up in Samoa. Where he was and what he did in between remain a mystery. I have a very vague memory of hearing he traveled with a brother, but I could have imagined it.

I also have a fleeting memory of a picture of a skinny, dark-haired, mustachioed young man either in a striped swimsuit or standing behind one of those life-size pictures of a striped swimsuit for his portrait. I think he was referred to as my great-grandfather, but it could have been on my mother's side.

Found almost nothing in Hawai'i records that matched dates and ages of people passing through either to or from Samoa, EXCEPT the name of a Mrs. Harder arriving with two very young sons in the mid-1800s. My notes are not handy right now, but it was in a year (late 1850s or 1860s?) which would correlate with her sons growing up to be young men fathering children in the 1880s. But there was no other data about them.

Navy records show that Frank Harder was born 6 March 1884. I have John's birth date somewhere, but I just got back from traveling and can't find my notebook where I wrote down all the details. I recall that John was older, which fits family lore.

Somewhere I came across a reference to Bernhardt Harder, but his birth date may be between John and Frank's? I'm writing this all from recent memory, which is a lot worse than my long term memory! Anyway, if memory serves me, and Bernhardt came along between the two, is he the son of another Harder brother in Samoa? Is my vague memory of two Harder boys coming from Germany correct? And did they both end up in Samoa?

The rest of that story is that John, being older, was supposed to undergo the pe'a but did not, so Frank did. Again, from what I know of modern pe'a tattooing, this isn't/wasn't some kind of first-born son ritual, but a rite of passage for all Samoan males. Failure to endure the pe'a bravely meant a lesser social status and may have denied marriage to those who did not.

It may have been a reason that John joined the US Navy, to avoid any social stigma? But from what little I read of Aggie Grey's biography, Afkasi (part) Samoan children led very privileged lives. [There's a picture of a teenage Aggie Grey in the book and on the wall of her hotel and I swear she looks like did at the same age!] So I don't think John's refusal to be tattooed handicapped him much.

I don't know the dates they joined the US Navy. Frank Harder went as far as the 6th grade? But they must have left Samoa alone and as young men. Maybe together? Family lore says that my Samoan great-grandmother, the mother of Frank and John, divorced my German great-grandfather because of excessive drinking, for which her sons never forgave her. He went on to marry two other Samoan women and we met some of my grandfather's half-sisters living in Boston and Auckland in the 1960s and 1970s. We lost touch and they are probably all gone by now. But I have some photos of the NZ aunties. Bottom line, neither parent probably left Samoa with their sons.

For a while, I wondered if my great-grandfather really married all his wives. But from what I learned of Samoa, they adopted Christian mores & ethics fairly quickly, so I'm pretty sure his marriages were legitimate under law.

In 1975, my aunties in New Zealand showed me a picture of a tall, thin, stately, older Samoan woman in a Western-style dark color dress holding a young child in her lap. She looked tall enough to be six feet seven inches, as family history has it. They said she was my great-grandmother and she was treated with great deference whenever she visited them. This would jive with family lore that she was the daughter of a chief.

Whether or not she was Mata'afa's daughter is unproven. The name Suluo'o seems to have no relation. Mata'afa had only one "natural," a Victorian euphemism for illegitimate, daughter, name unknown for now. He then converted to Catholicism, took the name Iosepha (Joseph), never married, and, according to all accounts, kept his vow of celibacy, in honor of Christ, for his entire life, much to everyone's surprise!

There are several chiefs/kings with the Mata'afa family name. And some other matai (chiefly) families have several names, like Malietoa Mata'afa, so it's tough sorting through all the names and dates. If I was born & raised there, it might be easy to figure out. Plus, it doesn't help that Mata'afa never married and never had a large family of descendants to preserve his name and legend. Is the King Mata'afa buried in Mulinu'u the same King Mata'afa who led a revolt for independence and may have been my great-great-grandather or is it his nephew? The library next to the capitol building in Apia was not helpful unraveling the mystery.

Another family story is that Frank and John would ride their ponies up to Vailima to visit Robert Louis Stevenson. My visit to Vailima was also fruitless. For the longest time, I thought my grandfather was born in 1888, which would make it highly unlikely he could ride a pony before RLS died in 1894, or even remember that he did, but not impossible. But since he was born in 1884, it makes the pony riding story all the more plausible.

And Mata'afa and RLS were reportedly close friends, so it's possible his grandsons were welcome guests at Vailima? Again, no proof found yet. I always loved RLS works, even before I knew of the family story. I can imagine the young Harder boys listening to "A Child's Garden of Verses" at the knee of its author!

Since they were born to a naturalized US citizen, both sons were US citizens and exercised their citizenship rights by joining the US Navy. Frank Harder's headstone says California, NOT Samoa, though his birthplace is listed in Navy records as Apia. California could be his "home of record," a military term of art that refers to where you were living when you enlisted. It's possible he and/or John relocated to California before joining the USN.

Again, wherever my notebook is, I have a list of duty stations and dates for both Frank and John. Frank was a Boatswain and John was a Gunner. Eventually they made their way to the officer ranks. How half-Samoan enlisted men accomplished this in the stuffy, racist US Navy of the first half of the 20th Century, when almost ALL Naval officers were Annapolis grads, HAD TO BE Annapolis grads long before ROTC and OCS, is a story worth knowing.

They spent a lot of time on ships, including the USS Arizona and the USS Utah, both sunk at Pearl Harbor. While Frank was on the Yangtze River Patrol, he was homeported in the Philippines, but his sons, my dad and his brother, were at boarding school on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong at that time. The school is still there.

John is reported to have helped build the original Officers' Club at Pearl Harbor. It's long gone, but there is still a party lanai/pavilion on the site next to the piers. Being a gunner, John is also reputed to have been stationed at the munitions factory in Newport RI.

I have yet to research my nephew's assertion that Frank was supposed to accompany Peary to the North Pole and that John's appendicitis prevented him. Knowing Navy folks, family emergencies take a back seat to the mission, but it was a different era back then and appendicitis and surgery were much riskier than today.

It appears from Navy records that Frank and John were retired in 1942, shortly after WWII broke out. Whether or not they stayed on in some other capacity is unknown at this time. It appears Frank's last duty station was the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Not sure where John retired from, but reports are he ended up in California.

Frank disappears from the retired officer records shortly after his September 1951 death in NYC. John continues to be listed until they stopped publishing retired officers names in the early 1960s. Where and when he died I do not know.

Artifacts of my grandfather that I remember were an expertly crafted little oblong wood box with a sliding lid that he made and a traditional mother of pearl fish hook lashed with sennit about four inches long.

OK, I've written a book here. Hope it's not too boring. Have a good holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!

Ka'Ike



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