To Walk Under Palm Trees

The Germans in Samoa: Snapshots from Albums


The Germans in Samoa 38

In the middle of 1913, Lieutenant Werner von Bulow became ill and was admitted to the Government Hospital in Apia. He died there some days later on 15 June, aged 64. At his hastily arranged funeral service the next day Fritz Stunzner made a short address. It seems unlikely that Apia-based Stunzner would have known Von Bulow well. In fact from the absence of reminiscences about Von Bulow in Samoan literature it seems that his circle of friends might have been small.

A son of the Prussian nobility had made the interesting decision to spend the second half of his life living as a bookish bachelor in the Samoan wilderness. We know of his literary works but we are left wanting to know more about the man himself, what made him tick, whether he was happy. Thirty years in one place suggests that he was.

In death, there was a hint that Von Bulow had been a contented man. Theodore Brunt bought Von Bulow’s plantation and lived there with his family from 1914 to about 1920. His son, Bert, spent his childhood there and told of what he saw with his strong psychic faculty that the Samoans call “vavalo”. Bert recalled that he often saw the ghost of Von Bulow pottering around in the garden.

Another Brunt found the site of Von Bulow’s old house in 1975 when the photo above was taken. The young man shown was the LMS pastor in Matapo’o standing on the home’s foundations. Von Bulow’s ghost could not be seen.

Credit: Tony Brunt Collection, photographer T.Brunt.

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