Slaver captured by Chamorros

William “Bully” Hayes was a blackbirder (slave trader) and criminal who in the nineteenth century terrorized the inhabitants of Micronesia for many years. He was born in Cleveland (Ohio) sometime around 1829 and died in the Marshall Islands in 1877. In the last years of the nineteenth century and early decades of the twentieth he became a legendary figure as an adventurer.

Although the British authorities of the H.M.S. Rosario tried to capture Hayes in Kusaie (now Kosrae) after the accusations made against him by the islanders and his own crew, the credit for the arrest of Hayes shall always be for Chamorro lieutenant and gobernadorcillo (little governor or mayor) of Hagåtña José Pérez Cruz, who captured Hayes in his undergarments, in a cove near Falcona Point in northern of Guam.

Hayes landed at Guam on February 28, 1875. He apparently planned to engage in commerce with a Captain Willney and bought a small schooner – the Joaquina Ana – from Francisco Portusach who would later become the disputed acting governor of Guam after American Captain Henry Glass seized Guam from the Spanish in 1898.

Hayes renamed the ship Arabia and after satisfying official requirements, departed Apra Harbor on April 8 bound for Pohnpei but secretly carrying nine Spanish political deportees sentenced to exile on Guam and six Chamorros wishing to emigrate illegally. These people had apparently paid whatever price Hayes demanded of them.

Eventually alerted to the scheme and the Arabia having been sighted off Falcona Point, Chamorro Lieutenant José Pérez Cruz with twenty men of the local militia walked overland to Falcona. Seeing the Arabia silhouetted against the horizon, Pérez and his men waited through the night and finally saw Hayes approach the shore early the next morning in a boat in his underwear.

Intending from the start to take their money once he got rid of them, Hayes had spent the night pretending the wind was too weak to sail and attempted to get the passengers to go to the shore to swim. Prompted by the reluctance of his clandestine passengers, Haynes took off his clothes to try to demonstrate that he was serious about taking a swim and was promptly seized by Lt. Pérez and his men.

Seeing what was happening on shore, the passengers forced the pilot to pull anchor and sail on to Palau where the Chamorros may have gotten off. The Arabia then sailed on to Singapore where the deportees found their way home to Spain. Hayes was imprisoned in Hagåtña until June 10 when he was sent to Manila, tried and imprisoned for about nine months.

After spending some time in San Francisco, in April 1877 Hayes returned to Micronesia on board the yacht Lotus. While navigating near Jaluit in the Marshall Islands, he was murdered by a blow from an iron fitting. Reportedly, he left a widow and twin daughters in Samoa, and most probably an undetermined number of illegitimate descendants in different islands of the Pacific.

In 1983, Hollywood star Tommy Lee Jones portrayed William Hayes in the movie Nate and Hayes. In 1986, the Federated States of Micronesia issued a number of stamps based on scenes of his tumultuous life.

By Carlos Madrid and Nicholas J. Goetzfridt, PhD

For further reading

Cleveland Midweek Review Pictorial, “Cleveland Born Pirate,” November 30,1932.

Clune, Frank. Captain Bully Hayes: Blackbirder and Bigamist. Sydney, 1970.

Earnshaw, John. “Hayes, William Henry (Bully) (1829 – 1877),” in Australian Dictionary of Biography. Vol. 4. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1972. Also available online at Australian Dictionary of Biography Online Edition “Hayes, William Henry (Bully) (1829 – 1877)” (accessed 10 November 2014).

Lubbock, Basil. Bully Hayes, South Sea Pirate. 1st ed. Boston: Charles E. Lauriat Company, 1931.

Madrid, Carlos. Beyond Distances: Governance, Politics and Deportation in the Mariana Islands from 1870 to 1877. Saipan, CNMI: Northern Mariana Islands Council for Humanities, 200

Saunders, A.T. Bully Hayes. Perth, 1932.

Trood, T. Island Reminiscences. Sydney, 1912.