History of Guam's Hagatna River
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The current mouth of the Agana River (Minondo River
from plaque at San Antonio Bridge) opens into the
Philippine Sea at the east side (right) of the Paseo De
Susana Park peninsula. The present day Guam Seal Park
(right photo) was not always the location which marks the
main aperature of the river.
My 1995 photo (right) is a modern scene protrayal of the Territorial
Seal of Guam's flag. The guam seal is the central emblem of the Guam
flag. Our objective is to locate the original site of the Hagatna River in
the Guam Seal.
Ascertaining the location of the original river is important
historically since the Hagatna River has been used as a
reference point in oral history (as the legend of Sirena)
and in the legend of Camel Rock. The channel associated
with the River was a mneumonic commemorating remote
geographic markers as Urunao Point in the official Seal
(Rogers, Robert. 1995; 142).
The map to the right is from "Mapa de la entrada y puerto
de san Luis... 1738 from Papas y Planos, Filipinas 29,
Archivo de Indias" (Driver, Marjorie. Hezel, Francis S.J.
2004; frontispiece). The 1738 illustration confirms that the
Hagatna River orginally had two mouths.
"The location of the City of Agana and the outflows of the
river show an island-like area across from the channel
(barra) in the reef. The missionary San Vitores’ settlement
was first made on that island-like area between the beach
and the river" (Driver, Marjorie. Hezel, Francis S.J. IBID;
By 1700, the center of Agana, by then several hundred
yards inland from San vitores' original mission was the
large unpaved and irregular Plaza Principal. It would later
be named the Plaza de Magallanes around 1846, then
renamed the Plaza de Espana by the Americans after
1898. The main streets of Agana stretched westward from
the plaza toward Anigua since the Agana River swamp
blocked extension to the east (Rogers, Robert. 1995; 75).
"Gov Manuel Muro (1794 - 1802) built the stone bridge of
San Antonio and named it after Saint Anthony of Padua. It
was also called Tolai Acho’. Muro built Fort Santa Agueda
and named it after his wife Dona Agueda del Camino"
(Marjorie Driver, Francis Hezel. El Palacio. 2004 MARC
UOG; 21). Fort Santa Agueda was located on Apugan Hill
overlooking Agana. Muro completed both in the year 1800
(Rogers, Robert. 1995; 87).
By Governor Villalobos' term in 1831-84 the Agana River
had been diked (only 1 dike referenced) to allow more
water to flow through the village between Agana and the
beach in which the people bathe and wash clothes (Driver,
Marjorie. Hezel, Francis S.J. Ibid; 30-31).
The 1835 map of Barrio de San Antonio above confirms
that the 1st mouth of the Hagatna River drains to the left
of the present day boat basin across the Hagatna Channel
as referenced in the Legend of Gapang (Amesbury,
Hunter-Anderson. 1991; 11).
"Prisoners held at the Agana Presidio worked the salt flats
in San Antonio." They were sent from the Philippines and
worked on dikes and other water control devices in the
Agana swamp (Amesbury, Hunter-Anderson, Moore. 1991;
"A dike, in a swampy valley (Agana Springs) east of
Sinajana, was made out of rough stone and in the center a
wooden bridge to facilitate passage. Governor Manuel
Brabo y Barrera (1875-1880) created a ditch in the swamp
but the swamp did not drain properly for rice cultivation.
By the time of Governor Francisco Olive y Garcia
(1884-1885), the Agana Swamp grown to at least two
dikes and a system of irrigation ditches made of
manposteria. The project for draining the swamp to grow
rice was abandoned.
Under the American Governor S. Root, work began in June
1933-Feb 1934 to dredge a channel, twenty feet wide and
three feet deep through the swamp (Johnston, Emilie.
AFTER World War II
The present day mouth of Agana River near where Father
San Vitores landed in 1668 was dredged by the Navy
Seabees. The park was created with massive amounts of
rubble from the buildings of old Agana destroyed by the
American bombardment in WWII (Rogers, Robert. 1995;
Debris from Agana was piled out from shore near the
former mouth of the Agana River. A prominent new
peninsula was created called Baker Point. This area would
be renamed the Paseo de Susana in 1955. The little Agana
River channel was once more moved, this time to flow into
the sea on the east side (right side) of the Paseo de
Susana, where it remains today (Rogers, Robert. 1995;
Author: Rudolph Villaverde 2012
-------------Bibliography Reference Books
Amesbury, Judith and Hunter-Anderson Rosalind and
Moore, Darlene. 1991. An Archaeological Study of the San
Antonio Burial Trench and a report on the Archaeological
Monitoring of Road Construction along Marine Drive
between Rts. 8 and 4, Agana Guam. Micronesian
Archaeological research Services.
Johnston, Emilie G. Guam Recorder. 1974. Vol 4 No 3
Spanish Dikes in the Agana Swamp. p 11,12.
Marjorie Driver, Francis Hezel S.J. "El Palacio. The Spanish
Palace in Agana 1668-1898." 2004.
Richard F. Taitano Micronesian area Research Center
University of Guam".
Rogers, Robert F. Destiny's Landfall History of Guam. 1995.
University of Hawai'i Press.
Safford, William Edwin. Useful Plants of Guam. Facsimile
printing 2009. Originally printed by U.S. Government
Printing Office 1905. Published by Guamology Publishing
Based on the 1738 contours above, the primary
outflow of the river appears to be near the Hagatna
boat basin. The secondary outflow was located in
Anigua and drains across the present day Charlie
Corn Building (personal interview Tony Palomo
A large spring called "Matan-hanom" issues a
copious supply of water year round. From the great
swamp called the "Cienaga" flows the Agana River,
the channel of which has been artifically lengthened
and turned for about a mile parallel to the coast
before it reaches the sea (Safford. Useful plants of
Guam 1905; 52).
"The photograph above (courtesy of MARC)
which supplied the design for the flag of Guam
was taken along the shores of Agana Bay in a
spot that was part of the Navy Yard
Reservation. By 1937 this view no longer
exists. The area in the immediate vicinity of
the palms have been filled in and used as a
storage for coal" (The Guam Recorder vol XII
No.X Jan 1937).
Navy Yard Reservation (Hagatna Boat
Basin) may be behind the tree and houses
based on approximities from maps.
"Plan of the City of Agagna. Capital of the Island of Guam by Mr. A. Berard, Naval Officer. Embarked on the Corvette
De S.M. L'Uranie. The voyage of Louis de Freycinet 1817-1820. Paris Pillet Aine. 1825."
The Hans Hornbostel (1921-24) map indicates
that the Hagatna Minondo River was the prehistoric
cause for the formation of the Hagatna Boat
basin Channel in the Legend of Gapang
(Amesbury, Hunter-Anderson and Moore.
In 1987, a Latte Period fire-blackened deposit
was found east of SLC at the base of the cliff
dated to A.D. 1430. An excavation at the Plaza
de Espana by M. Sheutz produced a radio
carbon date of 630 B.C. (Amesbury,
Hunter-Anderson and Moore. 1991; 20).