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AfriGeneas Western Frontier Forum

Black sailors in the Pacific.

Hi Miles

I've been collecting oral histories about my fathers family in Fiji for a few years now...most of the tangible information comes from my investigations looking at our family bible...birth/death/Marriage certificates etc.

Thanks for posting that bit out of Hazel Mc Ferson’s research….I haven’t been able to access that info from here in Australia. I don’t know who Ms Mc Ferson interviewed or where she obtained her information but it appears that the HB Williams she refers to is my relative.

I don’t know about the five Fijian wives…mmm that’s a new story. However, I can believe that W HB Williams was a black prince. I have a photograph of his son JD Williams who settled in Levuka…he looks like he is more than 6ft tall…he is casually seated on cane peacock chair….there is no doubt in his appearance that he has African blood….his features are strong….black and proud.

William HB Williams
1818 – 1865

It is not known where William HB Williams was born. It’s also not known what the initials H.B stand for. According to the family’s oral history he was born in Louisiana. His ancestors originated from Mali, West Africa. They were taken to Louisiana as slaves, where they worked for a cotton plantation owner by the name of John Williams.

William and a brother called Ezra left Louisiana around the mid to late 1830’s and travelled to New Bedford Massachusetts.

If this is so...the only possible route that they could have taken at that time would have been on a whaling ship from Louisiana to New Bedford.

William would have been in his mid to late teenage years.

Is it possible that the Williams brothers were in fact from Massachusetts, Boston or even New Bedford?

While New Bedford opposed slavey in 1716 and employed ex-slaves on whaling ships, the brothers arrived in New Bedford more than 30 years before the official abolition of slavery on December 6th 1865.

From New Bedford the brothers got on a whaling ship headed for the South Pacific. I understand a lot of black workers on these ships jumped ship at various places looking for a better life. Conditions on those whaling ships were harsh and hard.

It’s believed that Ezra left the whaling ship bound for the Pacific in Jamaica. William stayed on the boat until it got to Samoa where he jumped ship and eventually married a chief’s daughter named Kuine Teuila.

According to the Williams family bible....William Williams had seven children. They were: William, James, Ezra (Ezra died in 1909 – aged 66 years....could this have been the man that supposedly died in Suva 1909??), Anne, Nicodemus (offspring of Eliary? – different mother). John Denny , David Gaudale, Aaron Peter.

The Williams Bible does not mention Kuine from Samoa. The bible states that William H.B Williams was married to a Mary or maybe May? Apain in 1851.

However on the Marriage certificate of JD Williams it states fathers name: William Williams and Mothers name: Kuine.

William H.B Williams died on board the schooner “Lisard” on 18th April 1865. He was 47 years old. There is an elaborate oral story of how WW had to leave Samoa and what happened to him on his way to Fiji. His body is buried on a private estate in fathers eldest brother used to look after the grave site when he was a young boy.

If this is accurate it lines up with the date of the arrival of John Denny Williams to Levuka in 1865 as stated in the Cyclopedia of Fiji. There is no mention in the Cyclopedia of William HB Williams.


18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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