To Walk Under Palm Trees

The Germans in Samoa: Snapshots from Albums


The germans in Samoa 54

Lucy Warns Spemann was born in Aleipata (shown in image) in 1888, the daughter of Julius Warns, from Eppendorf, near Hamburg, and Lucy Barry (or Luise Bell-Schwenke). Julius was one of the early German pioneers in Samoa and is mentioned by Harry Moors, in his book, “Some Recollections of Early Samoa,” as one of the exclusive club of pre-1880 settlers. The Warns family reportedly raised seven children in Aleipata, including three boys. Despite this fair representation of males the Warns name faded out in Samoa in the 20th century through predominantly female offspring and emigration. The family’s copra plantation was at Satitoa, and comprised a large area of land directly behind the Catholic Church on the coast. The only connection with Apia was by boat or track. This photo shows a large Aleipata copra plantation taken in the colonial period.

After Lucy Warns and Adolf Spemann married they developed a 110-acre cocoa plantation at Aleisa and between 1906 and 1911 had five children. Then misfortune entered the family narrative.

Credit: Hufnagel-Betham Family Collection, photographer Kurt Hufnagel-Betham.

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  1. Ben Armstrong says:

    Where abouts in “Some Recollections of Early Samoa” does Moors mention this? Can you provide a page or chapter number?

  2. SH says:

    I’ll find out and tell you. They have the book at a university here in the U.S.

  3. Tony Brunt says:

    In examining Mr Moors’ list on pages 39-40 of his book, I have made the assumption that the name he renders as “Wahrns” is, in fact, a reference to the Warns family, who were early settlers and planters at Aleipata. Mr Moors compiled his wonderful list in the 1920’s from memory “without recourse to any documents,” as he wrote. Many pioneer’s names he rendered somewhat phonetically, or took a stab at the spelling. Understandably, there were quite a few mistakes. Names which were misspelled included Axmann (spelled as ‘Axman’), Crichton (Creichton), Cordtz (Cordts), Hunkin (Hankin), Grevsmuhl (Grevesmuehl), McFarland (Macfarlane), Schwenke (Schwanke), Wulf (Wolf), Hammerell (Hamrell) etc. Our own family name of Brunt, present on Savai’i from the 1860’s, he rendered as Brandt. This is all very understandable and does not detract from the value of Mr Moors’ list. But we must cross-reference when we use it and make commonsense deductions.

  4. SH says:

    I’m confused by her my 2 X great-grandmother’s last name. Was she a Barry, Bell, or Schwenke? On my Aunt Elizabeth’s birth certificate, it has her listed as a Barry, whose father was a Bell from England, or Schwenke from Hannover.

    • Tony Brunt says:

      SH: I think you are right that her name was Lucy Barry. Certainly “Lucy” is on her gravestone at Tufuiopa in Apia. She was not Luise. I got the Luise Bell-Schwenke name from documents held by Lucy Warns Spemann’s daughter, in Auckland, who is now in her eighties. There does seem to be a blood connection dating from the 19th century between the Warns and Schwenke families though, the exact nature of which is unclear at this time. Two members of the Warns family are buried in the Schwenke family plot at Malaela, Aleipata. There are no headstones but they are remembered as “Alolu” and “Kalausa” (Adolph and Klaus Warns, grandsons of Julius and Lucy). Cheers.

  5. Hernando Amuimuia says:

    Hey there just noticing that you have the Bell name mentioned! My family is the Bells in Samoa, just wondering if you know much information on the Bell family and the pioneers? Trying to do a family Tree

  6. SH says:

    That’s what everyone’s trying to figure out. On familysearch it only has him listed as Bell. However, there may be a couple of Bells. When I looked at the database of Bells on that site, it had a Carl Bell born on the same date, though it has him listed as being from Holland rather than England, as it shows on the family tree. I also discovered a book about a Thomas Bell from England. He lived in New Zealand, though, and was born on a different date.

  7. SH says:

    You mentioned pioneers, well, perhaps you’re talking about the Bells on Sunday Island. It’s called “The Crusoes of Sunday Island.”

  8. Paula Wright says:

    My Grandfather said her name was Lucy Barry she was his Great grandmother. I know only word of mouth but I hope it helps, his mother was Caroline Auguste Ernestine Hack B. 10 sept 1901 in Apia, Upolu,German Samoa.

  9. SH says:

    Thanks Paula. Tony cleared that up 100% in regards to Barry. Yes, she was born a Barry. Though there is a Bell connection somewhere because I remember my mother mentioning a Lucy Bell in the 80s (her great grandmother). Who knows, adoption? Death? Mistaken identity? In any case, one thing seems certain, and it’s that Julius Schwenke raised her.

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