George Percival Scriven:
An American in Bohol, The Philippines, 1899-1901

An On-line Archival Collection
Special Collections Library, Duke University

Following is some information about Edward Sharp from one of his relatives, Scott Adams. Mr Adams also contributed the photographs you see on this page, from his personal collection. The two portraits are of Edward Sharp from around the time he went to Bohol, and the postcard is from Manila in April 1902.

Uncle Ed Sharp
By John Scott Adams

Edward Sharp was born on January 7, 1871 outside Greenfield, Tennessee. Educated in the local county schools, he became a teacher and eventually co-principal of the Greenfield Academy. Later he sought higher education in Chicago and when the call came for teachers to go to the Philippines he didn't hesitate to embark on what was to be the greatest adventure of his life.

Teaching on the island of Bohol from July 1902 through the Spring of 1904, he took advantage of the opportunity to learn, explore and experience the local culture. As a result he had several adventures that have been passed down in the Sharp family to this day.

On one occasion he went out in a little canoe to explore a small salt lake accompanied by a Filipino companion. While reaching for an interesting plant he capsized the canoe and went under leaving only his hat floating on the surface. Local lore said that a person would only come up once in that particular lake and his companion quickly righted the canoe and waited a moment. When Ed bobbed to the surface the companion grabbed him by the hair of the head and pulled him into the canoe. Needless to say Uncle Ed was more careful after that.

On another occasion three or four of his fellow teachers are supposed to have decided on a whim to take a trip to explore some nearby islands that had been placed "off limits" and were supposedly inhabited by "head hunters". For whatever reason, Uncle Ed decided not to go at the last minute. The teachers turned up missing and in about a week their naked headless bodies were found in their boat floating offshore of one of the islands. The American newspapers carried lurid and sensational accounts of this story and the Sharp family, including Ed's mother, was frantic with worry until a letter arrived saying that he was safe.

Ed was sick several times while on Bohol even to the point of thinking he was dying. He even went to the point of writing his will and sending it to his brother Allen. He recovered and the will later caused a chuckle or two. However, near the Spring of 1904 Uncle Ed contracted some sort of severe tropical fever and was sent by cattle boat to Hong Kong to recover. While there he added to his store of Filipino artifacts by collecting many Chinese items. He recovered but decided to return home. In the process of leaving Asia he made several stops at various ports of call before returning home in 1904.

When he returned Uncle Ed brought four large casket-sized boxes filled with his Asian artifacts which he gave away as gifts to family and friends. These included bamboo trunks, sandalwood boxes with bronze locks and keys, silk and paper umbrellas, bamboo and ebony rulers, walking sticks and pointers made of bamboo and ebony, Filipino hats, Japanese shoes, silk fans, chopsticks made of ivory and ebony, daggers, coconuts, bolts of silk, banana cloth, spices, elephant tusks, wooden castanets, spurs used for cock fighting and many other items too numerous to mention. Ed gave his sister Jane Swindell a finely woven mantilla or shawl made of silk which is still a prized family possession. Along with the mementos he brought his pictures and a stock of stories about his time in the Philippines.

Uncle Ed soon met and married a pretty young lady named Floy Berson and had a daughter, Evelyn. Still filled with a sense of adventure he moved his young family to the Indian Territory soon to be known as Oklahoma. He was a gentleman and a scholar in the finest tradition. Many of the family followed him in the teaching profession including his only daughter. After Uncle Ed died, Evelyn realized what a special legacy in pictures and papers he had left and donated them to Duke University to be used and enjoyed by many.

[Scriven Diary title page | Other photos from the Ed Sharp collection]

A project of The Digital Scriptorium, Special Collections Library, Duke University. February 2001