Recounting the Memories of the Past

Rajah Joseph William Torrey

Thomas Bradley Harris and Joseph William Torrey

North Borneo was never touched by any Europeans up until Charles Lee Moses came to Brunei and bought the leasing rights on almost the entire North Borneo from Sultan Abdul Momin and Pengiran Anak Pengiran Temenggong Hashim in 1865. The rights was later transferred to Joseph William Torrey of Hong Kong, Thomas Bradley Harris, Tat Cheong and other Chinese merchants. In fact these rights were transferrable to his successors in the company on the event of Torrey’s death.

Torrey began a settlement at the Kimanis River mouth, which he called Ellana.  Sugarcane, tobacco and rice were planted and some trade was conducted along the coast.

He was also highly regarded in North Borneo as he was not only the president of the American Trading Company of Borneo but also conferred by the Sultan the title of Rajah of Ambong and Marudu with ‘all other powers and rights usually exercised by and belonging to sovereign rulers’.

However, the company faced financial problems and other adversities such as diseases and desertion by immigrant labourers towards the end of 1866. In May 1866 Harris who had been appointed Chief Secretary died of fever and the settlement was withdrawn in November 1866.

Before Torrey returned to United Sates in 1877, he managed to sell his rights to the Consul of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Hong Kong, Baron Von Overbeck. Torrey died in Boston Massachusetts in March 1884.


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