War in the Pacific
Archelogy and History of Guam
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Only comparatively little has remained from the 230 years of Spanish occupation, between the normal ravages of time and vegetation and the effects of typhoons and earthquakes, and the destruction of Agana. in July 1944 and other activities connected with the late war. Umatac and the vicinity of Agana and Apra Harbor were apparently the only two areas of permanent Spanish settlements. The only surviving structure otherwise appears to be the "Casa Real" below Ritidian Point, described below (subhead No. 5). I have encountered rather vague references to a few missions or other establishments elsewhere on the island*, but no definite information and no actual remains of structures (which may nevertheless exist, to be located by a less hasty and superficial survey).

* For example, the statement by Captain Ewer, In Life and Adventures in the South Pacific, 1861, reprinted in the Guam Recorder, June-Sept., 1925, that, during his visit on Guam in April 1852, a walk "into the country" he saw, about five miles northeast of Agana, the ruins of a monastery with the date 1636 (?-1686?)on the Keystone of an archway.

1. Agana. Neither the surviving remnants of public structures, nor the cathedral church and government house which were destroyed by the bombardment, are to be regarded as very old. The first church at Agana was built in 1669, but the last was built, on the same site, in 1912. The last (?) government house was built by Gov. Solano, who came in 1884; presumably on the site of that of 1736. The stone bridge is discussed below along with the other "old Spanish" bridges.

The old Spanish fort (Ft. Apugan) above Agana evidently was transformed in 1942-43 into the Japanese fortification discussed below. The fort originally dates at least from 150 years ago, and probably was first built by the Spaniards in the middle or late 18th century; the earliest reference to it I have found so far is that of William Haswell in 1802, as a "citadal" with seven guns and ten soldiers.

Among the few surviving pre-war private houses in Agana, the Torres house is the most interesting and best-preserved; it appears to be comparatively old, it is a commodious and well-built two-story house, such as referred to or described by 19th-century visitors to Guam in 1802, ("a pleasant town" of 500 houses, 6 streets, 1800 people), in 1818, ("about 570 houses in Agana, only 50 of which are built of stone"), in the 1860's (78 private houses built of stone, 40 with tile roofs and 38 with thatched roofs). It is now ruinous, however. Although the exterior walls are standing to full height all around and the floors are mostly in place, it is deteriorating and being invaded by vegetation. The decking of the roof is gone, though the heavy rafters of durable ifil wood remain.

2. Apra Harbor and Orote Point. No remains seem to survive of the Spanish fortifications of San Luis de Apra, described in English by several visitors from Anson (1742) onward. Ewer (1852) says of it, "in the centre of the bay is a small island, on which is a fine-looking fort, with five or six guns mounted for the protection of the commerce of the island . . . a solid piece of masonry mounting six guns of 18 pounds calibre. It is entirely surrounded by water, and guarded by a few soldiers." Fifty years before, Haswell says, "on the southwest side of the Island is a very fine Bay and Harbor, defended on the west and northwest sides by a Reef and a small island . . . a large outer harbor . . . an inner harbor . . . and a large lagoon to the eastward which goes a long way into the Island . . . This bay has two forts, one on an island in the middle of the harbor of six guns and it commands the entrance of the inner harbor; the other Fort of four guns is on the high hill on the starboard . . . At the Hill fort, 5 men, at the island fort, 12."

In 1772, according to Crozet, the entrance of Apra Harbar was protected by the brick battery Saint Louis with eight bronze 12-pounders of old pattern. Thirty years before, in Anson's time, the "Castle of St. Lewis" was armed with five guns. The 1686 description by William Dampier of the "small Fort on the west side, near the south end, with six guns" might possibly be intended for San Luis de Apra rather than Umatac.

The old Spanish lighthouse on Orote Point was perhaps not very old, as I find no mention of it in these 1742-1852 descriptions. In any case, nothing remains of it now.

The rock-cut stairway down the cliff on the north side of Orote Point, pictured in Thompson, 1945, plate 1-8, still exists but is in very poor condition.

3. Umatac Bay. This locality is the most interesting historically on Guam, with virtually the only significant and comparatively well-preserved surviving remains of the Spanish period.

First must be mentioned the monument to Ferdinand Magellan, though — as pointed out in section A-4 of this report — it is far from certain that this actually was the exact point of the first European landing in Micronesia.

Umatac definitely was, however, so far as known, the port of call for the Manila galleons, presumably from 1568 on.

Missionary endeavor and Spanish settlement, however, beginning in 1668, were centered around Agana; there is little mention of Umatac until the 18th century in the sources I nave been able to consult, Umatac was, nevertheless, one of the settlements into which the Chamorros were concentrated in the 1680-83 campaigns, and churches evidently were built at Umatac, Agat, and other villages, in or soon after 1660. The present ruined old church at Umatac is not the original but was rebuilt extensively after the 1849 earthquake. Considerable portions of the structure may well be from the first church, incorporated in the reconstruction.

The three forts overlooking Umatac Bay are of the greatest interest. At least one is early, mentioned by Anson in 1742 (the Castle of San Angelo, with five 8-pounds, near the road where the Manila ship usually anchors) and perhaps by Dampier in 1686 (see above), by Haswell in 1802 (a fort of six guns; a lieutenant and 20 men). Finally in 1818 we get the complete outline, in the letter of a companion of Freycinet, printed in the Guam Recorder 4-1, April 1927: "defended by three forts called the Sorrowful Virgin, the Holy Angel, and St. Vincent" (actually, N. S. de la Soledad, Santo Angel, N. S. del Carmen).

In 1870, Gov. de la Corte Calderon, in his memoirs of Guam of 1855-66, described Umatac Bay as "more exposed than the foregoing ones to winds . . . However, as it is free from coral reefs, ships may anchor in close to the beach (of clean sand and gravel), and their boats can go back and forth at all hours. Moreover, one may, with great ease and promptness, at any time of the year, take on very good water there, from a little stream with a pebble-bar at its mouth.

"For this reason, Umatac Bay was always the port of arrival for the galleons from America until they ceased coming, and even yet almost all the ships which call at these islands go thither to take on water, although to transact all other business they have to anchor in Apra Harbor.

The village of Umatac, with a population of 127 souls, he spoke of as "a little hamlet which ekes out a wretched existence with the help of the ships (whalers) which nave to go there for water. It lies at the foot of a mountain range which leaves it no room for fields, nor can it be reached by any road.

"There is in it a house called the Casa Real of mamposteria with tile roof, formerly the residence of the governors whenever they went down there to receive from the galleons the funds sent them every year from Mexico; after having been destroyed by an earthquake it was rebuilt in 1862 on a much smaller scale. The church also has walls of mamposteria, but the other 19 houses of the village are wretched affairs of betel-nut splits and reeds, with roofs of nete thatch."

Haswell in 1802 had mentioned the "large house for the Governor, or for the Commanders of the Galleons that call there." In 1852, Capt. Ewer misplaces it at Merisa; probably the fine church with two large bells which he describes also should be placed at Umatac. The companion of Freycinet in 1818, cited above, described the town as consisting of about 30 "hovels" built on piles, but also pictured the church and convent (a large two-story building with terrace and stone stairway) and the Casa Real (the governor's summer palace).

Nothing appears to survive of the House, or of the convent. The church is ruined, but with most of the walls standing to a good height.

The forts are still in fair condition, but in need of repair and stabilization. Much is said to have gone since the war, owing to GI souvenir hunters and the typhoon of 1949; but the general effect is still much as described in 1927 in the Guam Recorder: "Opposite Fort Santo Angel, whose ruins crown the cliff on the northern shore, may still be seen the stone sentry box formerly part of the fort of N. S. de la Soledad on the hill at the south side; and traces of the water battery, N. S. de Carmen, near the stream are still visible; the stones as also those of the cathedral, are being gradually carried away for building." The reference to the "water battery near the stream" is puzzling, as the third fort, N. S. del Carmen, is on a higher hill on the north above Santo Angel. But the point of interest is that already in 1927 only the sentry-box remained conspicuous at Soledad. It still stands, partly repaired recently (by the parish priest of Merizo). The south fort (Soledad) is a paved area (flagged with limestone blocks) circled by a wall 4 to 5 feet thick, standing only about 1-1/2 feet high on the inside, with the aforementioned sentry-box at the northeast side, and with a guard-room on the southeast side, its walls standing up to 9 feet high to reach the level of the rim of the flagged enclosure.

4. Merizo. The convento, built in 1858, is the only old Spanish building still in use (still as a parish house); the surviving bell-tower of an otherwise completely ruined church dates only from 1917, however.

5. The Road from Agana to Umatac. The old route is visible in many places and there are several "old" Spanish stone bridges. A shrine between Asan and Agat, mentioned below under Existing Historical Markers includes the statement that Governor Felipe Cerain had this difficult road constructed in 1784-1785, but the stone bridges are clearly of much later date.

In his memoirs, as given in English translation in the Guam Recorder (for July, 1926, Vol.3), Felipe de la Corte Calderon, Governor of Guam 1855-1866, speaks of the 16-foot-wide coast highway, from Agana through Piti and Agat to Umatac, as very bad, with solid wooden bridges. The road ought to be stone-built but appropriations have been insufficient — a familiar situation.

A stone bridge in Agana was built less than 60 years ago — not the present surviving one, out another which was replaced by a constructure in 1933: "in the city of Agana, capital of the Mariana Islands, on the 16th day of October, 1893, the Governor Don Juan de Godoy del Castillo, at 4 in the afternoon, set in place the first stone thus began the construction of a bridge over the river which passes through this city, near where it empties into the sea." (quoted in the Guam Recorder, 1936).

The existing stone bridges include the one in Agana, on the former course of the Agana River, one arch, in fair condition; the one close to the coast two miles south of Agat (1/2 mile south of the Nimitz beach entrance), in fairly good condition, double-arched, 12 yards long ad 12 feet wide, floored with heavy timbers, with parapets 20 inches high (partially gone), with central and end buttresses; and a third on one of the two streams entering Seja Bay — illustrated by Mrs. Thompson (1945, Pl. 1-A). The bridge hasn't changed much since whenever this photograph was taken, except for becoming largely overgrown with dense vegetation. It is in fair condition, double-arched, the floor nine feet wide between one-foot-wide parapets and 18 yards long to the bend onto the ramp at the north end, with a notable large central buttress upstream. There is also a bridge in Umatac which was originally "old Spanish" of ???, more recently rebuilt with concrete.

There is no trace of a bridge over the other stream at Seja Bay, and none over the two rivers entering Ceti Bay, between there Umatac. Evidently whatever appropriations were made available between about 1870 and 1898 did not suffice to complete the program.

6. The Casa Real at Ritidian Point. The only known surviving Spanish structure north of the Agana vicinity is on the strand below Ritidian Point, near the farmhouse belonging to Mr. Juan Castro of Toto. It is referred to as a "Casa Real" but obviously must have been a chapel or a religious school; it is a typical small church structure.

The ruin is of an oblong stone building 39 feet long and 15 feet wide. There is a doorway at the west end, three windows along each side, no opening in the east wall (the altar end, if a church). The walls are 28 to 30 inches thick, and still stand up to 6-1/2 feet high in places. The three window openings in the north wall run 50 inches wide at the inside and narrow to 30 inches at the outside, in typical Spanish style.

According to Father Garcia (Life of Sanvitores, 1683), there was quite a thriving little parish of San Miguel at Ritidian in the 1670's, with a church, priest's house, schools for boys and girls, and a barracks. The church was built by the direction of Capt. Damian de Esplana in 1674. Other later sources and negative evidence indicate that settlement of this locality was abandoned after 1700. Consequently, this ruin presumably is the 1674 church of San Miguel de Ritidian, though it seems incredible that so much could remain of a roughly-built stone structure in such dense growth after two hundred and fifty years.

7. World War II sites. Those representing the liberation of Guam are for the most part already marked, as described below under "Existing historical markers and monuments," The Japanese occupation and attempted defense are also represented by guns and remains of fortifications in Gongna Cave at the north end of Tumon Bay; by tunnels under the Bishop's House at Agana; by a small fort on the hill overlooking Agana, which apparently is on the site of an old Spanish fort*; by concrete machine nests at the north end of Agat Bay; by a Japanese submarine on display at Camp Dealey on the east coast.

*It is located on the crest of the slope at the intersection of a line across the northeast tip of the Paseo de Susana to the end of Ypao Point (Saupon Point) and a line across the plaza bandstand and the George Washington High School to the towers of Radio Barrigada.

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Last Updated: 14-Feb-2004