Sunday, February 16, 2014

Col. Webb C. Hayes and Mary Miller Hayes; Traveling the Pacific Rim

Traveling the Pacific Rim
Colonel Webb C. Hayes and Mary Miller Hayes
 (standing second from right) with Missionaries

When Colonel Webb Hayes married Mary Miller Brinkerhoff in 1912, he delighted in finding a global traveling companion. For months at a time, they traveled the world, spending brief periods between trips at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio – always their touchstone.

Before Christmas in 1913, Webb and Mary set sail aboard the S.S. Mongolia out of San Francisco. For the next six months, they toured the Pacific Rim. In the Age of Steam, their travels became longer and farther. They packed everything they would need in four steamer trunks, two suitcases, and bundles of steamer rugs. After leaving Hawaii, they booked passage on the S.S. Mauara for Australia via the Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea, the Philippines, China, Korea, and Japan.

The colonel reveled in seeing exotic wildlife, meeting old comrades, and sharing memories of past military campaigns. For Mary, it was a time of adventure and discovery. She rode out rough seas and the remnants of hurricane winds and rain on the steamer’s deck. She played cricket, fished, and faced the last of a small pox epidemic.
Well educated and a keen observer, she was fascinated with the native peoples and their “strange” cultures, customs, foods, languages and dress. The colonel happily arranged journeys by train, car, and boat far into the back country so that Mary could gain a deeper understanding of native peoples’ ways. She attended festivals, rituals, and poi dances. Sensing that the cultures and customs soon would disappear, Mary Hayes purchased sea grass steamer chairs and willow furniture. She filled her trunks with fabrics, bracelets, skirts, rattan mats, painted tea sets, blackwood carvings, beads, baskets, and bags – all with the intent of displaying them at Spiegel Grove. 

She and the colonel became immediately aware that it was the native peoples who provided the labor on large sugar, tobacco, hemp, and coconut plantations controlled by foreign powers. They questioned missionaries about education, working conditions, and entire islands that served as European penal colonies.

Steaming more than a thousand miles in three weeks, they reached the heavily fortified post at Manila and then journeyed by mail train, car, bus, sampan, ferry, and rickshaw to see former battlefields, memorials, and military posts, where Colonel Hayes had served at the turn of the century. As Colonel Hayes reminisced, Mary, ever the diarist, recorded every detail, leaving an amazing historical record. 

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