Frank B. Lesher, USS Virginia, Ports in the Pacific

For Frank Lesher the adventure has just begun again, travels to ports of other cultures where discovery awaits!  A true sailor, Frank enjoyed the idea of visiting someplace where he had never been before and going out into this new world and finding things that he had never experiences.  For many of the young sailors of the fleet this was their attraction for joining the Navy, Frank was just the rare person who planned to share his experience by writing and collecting souvenirs from his journey.

The Third Division was tasked with the Ex-Queen to discuss the possibility of Japan attacking the Hawaiian Territories.  Admiral Emory went ashore to meet with her while a portion of the crews from the division were allowed liberty.

The USS Virginia was part of the Third Division that was sent to Maui to visit the Ex-Queen before heading to Honolulu.  This card shows the Ex-Queen Lilinkalani sitting on her throne.


lahaina - island of maui

This is an example where Frank used his limited time to not only explore, but to share his experience by making sure to get postcards and to send them from the local post office.

The two cards depicting a sugar mill on the island and a view from the water of Lahaina are both captioned with English and Japanese titles.

These two cards are extremely rare and are the only two postcards that I have from the fleet's visit to Maui.  But did write a letter:

Lahaina - Island of Maui, Hawaiian Islands                                        Dear Papa,                                                                                          Well, Here we are at  the village of Lahaina, which is nothing more than a large sugar plantation with thousands of acres of sugar cane growing on the sloping sides of the mountains of volcanic origin.  The village is located right along side of the ocean and we had no sooner dropped anchor than fruit of all sorts was sent aboard as a gift of good feeling, consisting of water melons, pine apples, bananas, and other sorts of fruit.  


They were of the finest to be had on the island and any house-wife would have gone crazy over the size of the pine-apples.  Am going to try and get ashore tomorrow evening and take the sights.  From the ship we can see the camp of native militia,so you see that even out here we have a secondary line of defense.



Despite not going ashore, Frank did send postcards from Honolulu that are shown at right and below.  The Judiciary Building, located in downtown Honolulu was popular enough to send two cards! Below is a nice real photo postcard of the floral parade showing a vintage car with Hawaiian prominent occupants.

At Left:  The crown room where and casket where the crown of the former days is kept.

"Visited the largest sugar plantation and plant on the island.  They make 27,000 tons of sugar a year, pack it in bags holding 120 pounds and ship it to the states where it is refined.  The employees are chiefly Japs although the overseers are chiefly Germans and Americans.  The owners are Germans.  The plantation from which the plant draws its supply consists of about 7000 acres.

Went swimming in water of about 74 degrees temperature which you could of easily stood, and would have enjoyed immensely.  The bottom was somewhat obstructed with coral, and the waves broke father out over several larges reefs.

They gave a dance for both the enlisted men and the officers, out in the open air part of the music being furnished by the natives.  We illuminated ship for them while there.  It was at Lahaina that I got my first view of the South Sea Island canoes which are a very rude and clumsy affair, although they seem to serve the purpose very well.

On account of our stay in Lahaina, I was not a able to get ashore at Honolulu.  It is the first stop I have missed so far, of course it is a little hard luck, but then I can I have been ashore on the Islands.  From where we are anchored I can plainly see the volcano craters of the Punch Bowl and Diamond Point.  Of course they are extinct.  I can also see the fine hotels that you spoke about in your letter."

welcome to the south pacific


At Sea - Making passage to Auckland,                                                                                                              It has been intensely warm since we left Honolulu that I have put of writing until cooler weather set in, and today being much cooler I thought I would write a few lines.

North of the equator the weather was very hot with showers during the night, so that one was not able to sleep out of doors much, but around this latitude we have not had near as much rain as at the same latitude north of the line.

Your last letter was delivered to me as no other mail was ever delivered.  The Minnesota remained behind in Honolulu a day and a half to get the mail from the states.  She overtook us in Lat 00" 13'S Long 165: 52' W which you will notice is only a few miles south of the equator.  The fleet was stopped about two o'clock in the afternoon, and each ship sent their life-boat over to her to get their mail.  She had on board 137 sacks of mail for the fleet.

On Saturday August 1st, we passed the Samoan Islands, of which the Island of Tutila is in the possession of the USA.  We passed in close to the town of Pago Pago the capitol, and the fleet was reviewed by the Annapolis which is stationed at this port.

auckland, new zealand

We arrived here last Sunday morning and were greeted by all sorts of river and coast crafts.  We anchored in two columns and the Virginia was assigned to an anchorage right close to the Connecticut and near the landings.

Went ashore on Monday from 1 pm until 12:30 am and took in the sights.  The city has a population of 83,000 and seems to be a very prosperous place.  The buildings are not very high and are old fashioned in construction.  I did not see a passenger elevator during my days sight-seeing.  The town is  quite hilly and transportation is furnished by means of train (trolley) cars.  From the center of the town to the certain limits you can ride for 2 cents American, beyond it costs from 4 cents.

Most all of the illuminating is  done by means of gas, lessen the fleet decorations.  In the streets and building is done by this method.  Pictures of Roosevelt and King Edward seen everywhere.  The American and English flags being entwined around or between them.

It cost a Chinaman or Jap $500.00 and an examination both mental and physical to get into the country.  This is the way they protect themselves from the  Yellow-Peril.

Sydney - "the city is far different then what I expected to see"

This certainly is a most beautiful harbor, land-locked on all sides except a small entrance it affords ample protection to all classes of vessels.  There is plenty of room on the inside to anchor all of the USN .  Residences are built right along the edge of the harbor and their lots run down to the waters edge.  One does not see any unsightly advertising such as greets the eye at many of our American ports.  I am sending you papers and a map of the place, together with a set of views published by the government for the occasion.  The City is far different than what I had expect to see, it being up to date and in many ways reminding one of an American city.  The city is beautifully illuminated by night, with electricity, gas being very little used as at Auckland.  Everywhere you go you are greeted in a most cordial manner and the people see in this visit of the fleet a still more firmer alliance between the Australian possessions and the USA.

Went ashore on Saturday morning at 6:15 and took the trip up to the Blue mountains, the name of which sounded very familiar to me.  We walked from the dock to the train station the workmen going to their work hailed us with words of greeting and we answered back.  At the railroad station we had breakfast which consisted of sandwiches and tea.  At 8:30 we boarded a special train consisting of 6 day coaches (built American plan) and a parlor car, drawn by two English locomotives.  The railroads are all owned by the government and they gave us one of the best trains that they could get up.  We had a fine ride through the Australian bush which is composed chiefly of gum or eucalyptus trees with very little underbrush.  They have frequent forest fires, but as the timer is  not very big or valuable, they do not pay very much attention to them.

After a ride of three hours we reached our destination Blackheath a mountain village 3900 feet above sea level, frequented by summer tourists and sight-seers, but as it was their winter season or rather early Spring, here were not many tourists in evidence.  We were met by the village pastor and members of the Australian Parliament, and conducted to a spot where wee planted three trees, one of them and American Oak, in honor of the event.  We were then conducted to the Ivanhoe Hotel where luncheon was served and toasts were drunk to the close friendship existing between the Americans and the English nations.

After luncheon we were shown some of the grandest scenery I have every seen.  Saw a Place where a stream of water drops over a cliff to a depth of 520 feet below.  It is called Govettes Leap because at one time a convict escaped from a chain gang and in order to escape capture leaped over the  cliff.  From this point could also be obtained a beautiful view of the George and canyons beyond.  After tea at the hotel at 3:30 we returned to Sidney arriving at 7:15.


"welcome the big stick" melbourne, australia

We arrived at Melbourne yesterday about 3:00 amid a most hearty greeting and cordial welcome by those on the ships that came down the bay to greet us.  The entrance to the bay is some thirty miles down from the city, and it was there that the excursion steamers meet us.  One fellow in a naptha launch had a big painted sign on top of the launch reading "Welcome the Big Stick."  There were thousands of people on the boats to meet us, and they accompanied us up the bay which is a very wide one.

I am enclosing you a map of the city and surrounding territory in which you will see that the city proper is  some seven miles from the water front.  We land at the railroad piers and take a train to the city.

Was ashore once after I wrote you my last letter.  Went up to our friends at the piano store and he gave us the  Fiji Island curios that he had promised us.  He gave me a hatchet made out of stone and wood, and two war clubs that they used to beat each other over the head with.  These are genuine articles as he lived in the Islands for four years.

The Adze, above is a Fiji is a general purpose woodworking tool.  It was used for roughing out objects like bowls and canoes with a stone head made of basalt chipped into the shape of a of a hammer then shaped by rubbing with wet sand to create it's shape.  (

The two clubs at left are can be described as Ula Fijian War Clubs.  The Ula was for throwing at an enemy and several be carried tucked into a warriors belt.  (

We leave tomorrow morning at eight o'clock for Albany so will write you a few lines and use a Victoria postage stamp.  Each state has its own stamps and one cannot use a stamp to send a letter from Melbourne that be bought in Sydney.  Mailed postcards to all my friends around the corner of King and Main Streets.

Was ashore last Tuesday from ten until eight am the next morning.  It was a rainy day and wee were not able to get around very much.  Spent time in their Museum of History and Art and Geological Gardens which are very good exhibits.

The Liberty party lands at Williamston and from there the government takes you up to Melbourne free on there English Railroad Line owned by the Government.  As you will see by the pictures, the streets of Melbourne are very broad, while those of Sydney are narrow.  Melbourne streets are laid out at right angles to one another while those of Sydney run in all directions.

Went ice-skating in the evening at a skating rink.  It was the first time for four years that I have been on skates still I got along in good shape.

The American Fleet certainly has made a show in Australia and the bond of friendship has been drawn much closer together by the visit.  Men and women stop you  on the street and ask you how you are enjoying yourself and what you think of the city compared with Sydney.  There is a great rivalry between the two cities.  They don't think very much of England and don't like to be called British, but Australians.  They hope some day to have a navy of their own.

I am sending you "The Age" for a week.  The receipt of which I enclose as a memento.  The price is  9 pence of 18 cents American.  I am also sending a weekly magazine giving pictures.

We expect to get American mail at Albany one of the ships is  staying until Sunday morning to meet the mail steamer.  Will write from Albany -  Love to Mother, Affectionately, Frank

                                                                                                      albany, australia                                                                                                   "it is a quiet modest little village with fine roads and substantially built houses with the average number of saloons, with their bar-maids."

We received 35 bags of mail today from the Kansas.  She stayed behind in Melbourne to meet the mail steamer and get he mail from the States.  I am writing this in the investigators office and the orchestra is playing sweetly on the outside.  Here I am about 12,000 miles away from down in Western Australia at a town by the name Albany, population 3,600.  Was ashore last Saturday.  It is a quiet modest little village with fine roads and substantially built houses, with the average number of saloons, with their bar-maids.  Only special first class men were allowed to go ashore and all the inhabitants were complementing on the good conduct of our men.  Albany is built upon the side of a hill.  The inhabitants of which are engaged in farming and cattle grazing.  East of the town there is a rock about 20 feet high which resembles a bull dogs face very much.  They call it dog rock.

There are two harbors to the place, an outer one which is quite large, where we first anchored, and an inner one where we went to coal on account of the outer one being too rough for a collier to come along side of the ship.  We are short to coal on account of all the colliers not showing up, but we hope to make Manila on the coal we have 1400 tons.  We on the Virginia are economizing in every way possible only allowed to burn certain lights, officers and men only allowed in small amount of water each.  If wee strike no storms, we will make Manila all OK.  Hope we don't have to go into any fort for coal.

Was up in the chart house doing some drafting for our navigation when the door opened and the Captain came in.  He asked me what part of hte country I came from, and on replying Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, he exclaimed, The devil you are!  Said he wondered if I knew Joshua Sharp, said he was a first cousin of his ect., of course I was right at home and we had a personal conversation together.  Suppose the navigator was surprised to find that I was well acquainted with the Captain's relatives.

Just came from swinging my hammock and find that there is a marine stationed over the water-cooler so that the men will not drink too much water, and yet in the face of all of this they are illuminating the ships the last 3 nights we are here!  I suppose they want to make the bluff that we are not short of coal.


Cholera in Manila, Philippines

We are now in the Java Sea and the temperature is extremely high, so warm in fact that we are allowed to go around the decks in our pants and undershirts.  The fleet had a close call from running up on the rocks this morning.  The Admiral was heading for the straits of Lombok, but when dawn broke he found he was fifteen miles to the eastward and quite close to the  shore, of course you could not hear the breakers roar or anything of that sort.  Still it is considered a great blunder in navigation to go fifteen miles from the entrance of a strait.  Tonight we will enter the straits of Makassar and the charts caution the mariner to proceed very cautiously as it is a very dangerous route.  (The Makassar Strait is located on the equator at 118 degrees E between Borneo and Sulawesi.)

Here we are in Manila Bay, but as you have no doubt seen in the papers we are not allowed to go ashore on account of the cholera, which they say is quite severe in some of the districts.

Received all of your letters up until September 1st, which I think is  pretty good mail service.  Received mothers letter also and tell her that I receive the Repositories regularly, and read every one of them.  Also received Mrs. Coyles letter, and a postal card from Billy Culbertson, and one from the crown that was out camping.

Our cruise through the Java, Celebes, Sulu and China Seas was a very smooth and pleasant one save for the extremely warm weather.On September 30th we passed Zamboanga on the Island of Mindanao where I think John Brewer is stationed.  There were three army officers and soldiers so I was not able to make him out but suppose he was one of the crowd that I looked upon from the deck of the Virginia.

The natives who inhabit the island of Mindanao are called Moros and they were out in their canoes beating their tom-toms and other musical instruments used by them.  The town is a small one and from its size I judge it to contain about five or six hundred people counting the soldiers.  Near the town we say several native villages built as you saw them at the different expositions that you have visited.

From Zamboanga it is five hundred and ninety miles and took us two days to make the trip.  We arriving here on the second of October a day behind time due to he lack of colliers at Albany.  All the way up from Zamboanga we passed close to Uncle Sam's possessions and to tell you the truth they do not look like they are  worth the money and lives that they cost us.  Of course in the interior they are perhaps more fertile and productive.  The coast line of most all countries is a poor place to judge the land.

Coming into Manila Bay we passed the island of Corrigador on which were located the Spanish forts that Dewey first silenced before he entered the Bay.  We passed by the naval station at Cavite and proceeded up to Manila, anchoring outside the breakwater.  Coaled ship from the U.S. collier Caesar and took aboard 1400 tons to take us to Japan.  See by the papers that they are going to give us silver medals of the occasion. 

"the finest time i have had since leaving the states" - yokohama, japan

October 20th - We are now in Yokohama and have been since the 18th, getting in one day late on account of the storm.  We received a very cordial welcome six big steamers coming out to welcome us.  They had a bug display of day fire works, and as each ship passed us they gave their cry of welcome which is pronounced "Banzai."   I went ashore yesterday and had the finest time I  have had in a foreign country since leaving the states.  Left the ship at nine=thirty and upon landing at the Yokohama docks we marched to the railroad station and took the free special train for Tokyo.  Our ride from Yokohama to Tokyo was a most interesting one passing through a veritable fairyland as it were.  Everywhere could be seen the Japs working in the fields at their vegetables and rice plantations.  There are very few horses in Japan.  You either see a man pulling around a cart or else he has a pair of baskets slung over shoulders supported by means of a stick.  At every school house that we passed on the way up, the children were all lined up along the track to cheer us in their native way as we pass by, at the same time waving Japanese and American Flags.

Upon our arrival at Tokyo we were met by native YMCA men and sailors who acted as our guides, and who proved to be most capable ones, as they could all speak fairly good English.  I happened to get a hold of a fellow who was a student at one of the Episcopal missions in Tokyo.  At many times during the afternoon I tried to make him take some money or to buy something for him but he would not take a thing from me.  We rode in the trolleys some of the time and once in a while we would take rickshaw from one point to another.  The trolley cars were free while we never payed more than ten cents American to go a distance of two miles or more.  The rickshaw men going on a steady trot all the time.  I always rode ahead while my guide followed in a rickshaw behind.  The endurance of these men is something wonderful for they go all day on a trot and do not seem to be very much fatigued at the days end.  At night they all carry Japanese lanterns, as to the trolley switchmen and policemen, the effect produced by all these lanterns twinkling in the streets is a most beautiful one, the streets being very dimly lighted.

Am sending you a map under separate cover on which I have marked the places I visited.  Took luncheon at one of the parks, in which chop sticks were furnished us to eat with.

After this was over we went to the Temple of Asakusa (Senso-ji is located in Asakusa which is a famous Buddhist temple) where we saw the people by the thousands worshiping an idol as their God.  There is a narrow street which leads up to the temple paved with flag stones, from which arises as the Japs shuffle along in their sandals, a noise which resembles the sounds of horses galloping away in the distance.  The sandals are made of wood, hence the noise.

Did some shopping at the biggest dept store in Tokyo.  We were received with many bows and salutations, and ushered into a tea garden especially prepared for the Fleet celebration.  Here tea, cakes and cigarettes, were served by Japanese girls while a vaudeville show was given for our benefit.  It being a continuous performance of acrobatic work and juggling.  Made a few purchases which I suppose will interest mother more than you.

Visited the Emperors palace but could not get within the inner wall.  Entered the outer gates built over three-hundred years ago and found ourselves passing through fine lawns of vast dimensions.  Rode for about five minutes more and found ourselves at the bridge over which the Emperor passes to enter his palace on top of the hill.  The bridge I should have said spans a moat at this point, which is four miles long and surrounds the entire inner palace grounds.  Sentries stood like statues outside the palace gates, hardly moving a muscle of their bodies.

"No such welcome as we received in japan - amoy, china

Have put off writing until I could get ashore and get some impressions of the place.  We arrived last Friday after a smooth passage from Yokohama, but found no such welcome awaiting us as we received in Japan.  Four Chinese cruisers came out to meet us and to escort the squadron into the harbor, which as you will see on the map is quite a long one but not very wide, and having a four mile an hour tide.

On Saturday we coaled ship and took aboard one-thousand tons from the USS Alexander which had received her cargo at Manila.  Cleaned up the ship on Sunday and on Monday we had a chance to go ashore and take in the sights.  We are not allowed to go up into the old city of Amoy nor over into the Eurpoean settlement for fear of getting the cholera or some other infectious disease.  A large dock was erected where we landed and marched in a body to the grounds.  On the way there we passed an old Chinese fort  on top of which  Chinese soldiers could be seen by the dozen.  The buildings for the entertainment are erected in a circle and made entirely of bamboo, some of them being eighty-feet high.  In the center of the circle a football and baseball field was laid off, and on it the various teams of the squadron strove for athletic supremacy.

The YMCA had a fine building with tables and chairs for correspondence, also a money changer and post office.  Six other buildings were devoted to the dining service and here meals were served prepared by a big hotel firm of Hong Kong.  There were two Chinese theaters where performances were going on all the time.  A performance of a play sometimes lasting a whole week.

From the entertainment grounds to the temple is a walk of one-half a mile, and here I saw all the Chinese gods depicting love, hate, grief, war and other emotions of everyday life.  Around the temple was a bazaar where the merchants held forth selling their goods, such as laces, silks, linen and other articles of commerce. 

Yes, Frank brought back and opium pipe from his visit to China.

The country around Amoy is very barren and mountainous, and one can readily see why so many thousands of them starve to death each year.  The temperature this time of year ranges from 65 to 85 degrees, it being very warm some days.

China has no gold standard, one of their dollars being worth about forty-five cents at the present time.  There is a large amount of counterfeit coin in circulation, so before a bank issues any dollars they take a stamp and punch the coins t see if there is any lead between the two faces of the coins.  The counterfeiters having a way of taking out the silver from the center of the coin and substituting lead instead.  One gets a hold of dollars defaced almost beyond recognition, but they pass as the best of money.

A boat such as we would term a row boat in the States is here called a san-pan, each one having two eyes in the bow, for a Chink says; "No eyes no can see," meaning of course that if the boat did not have any eyes he could not be able to navigate the ocean and rivers.  He stands in the stern of the boat and rows facing forward.

The Imperial Prince who is representing the Chinese government was aboard our ship yesterday from which he viewed the boat races.  His name is Sang.  He was given a salute of nineteen guns only two guns less than the national salute, so he is quite high up in the rank.

Have sent cards to all-hands, Amoy cards are rather scarce so I sent the best I could find.

"looking for a letter" - olongopo, philippines

Manila, PI November 11, 1908

Dear Papa,   We arrived at Olongopo which is 60 miles north of Manila at 11:30 on the last the 7th of November.  It is a beautiful harbor being only about 6 miles wide at its widest point.  It is here that the dry dock Dewey is  located.  I got a sight of it from a distance of about 2 miles.  We fired four shots from each of the 6", 8" and 12" guns to see if the sights were properly adjusted then left there Sunday night and arrived in Manila Bay Monday morning.  We are now hard at it with operations for target practice which comes off on the ship on the 18th last.

Have not heard from you for several weeks but am looking for a letter on the mail  which arrives on the 16th by the way of Japan.

The Weather is intensely warm here and we will be glad to get underway on December 1st and be homeward bound.  We ordered a permanent 500 foot long to be made in China.  This is called a homeward bound pennant and is flown at the main mast as we pass a ship or enter or leave port on our way home.

Our last week here will be devoted to liberty for the men in order to allow them to get ashore.  The quarantine is  raised and I think we will be able to see Manila.  "Tommy Burus" our bear mascot died from cramps on our way down from Amoy and was buried at sea, being weighed down by grate bars.  I think he was poisoned as he howled around the quarters, where they kept him all night.

The moonlight nights are very beautiful here at this time of the year.  One sees many falling comets around this latitude at this time of the year.  They have noticeably long tails, the longest I have ever seen.

Tell Mother I have two beautiful Chinese brass vases about 8" in height and 6" wide in which she can put two pots of ferns or other flowers.  The outside of each is hand carved in beautiful shape.  Each vase a little black wooden stand to set in.  I got a brass Chinese dinner gong for you to call all hands to breakfast in the morning.   It has a good tone and is 10-inches in diameter.  It sounds somewhat like the ones they used to beat at the Hbg AA Station and will I am afraid raise all the neighbors.  Will, I will close for tonight as news is scarce around here.  Heard of Taft being elected on the afternoon of the 4th about 4:20 pm which would be about the same time am in Pa.

Love to Mother, Affect. Frank



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