John Martin Poyer
Commander, United States Navy
Poyer served as the Governor of American Samoa from 1 March 1915 to 10
Without orders from the government but based on what he learned from a radio news service, the governor of American Samoa, Navy Commander John M. Poyer, instituted a quarantine policy.
When he heard of the outbreak on Western Samoa, he banned travel to or from the neighboring islands, which were about 40 miles apart. When the governor of Western Samoa, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Logan, sent a boat with mail to American Samoa to be put on the itinerant mail boat docked there, Poyer refused even to allow the bags to be transferred. Enraged, Logan temporarily stopped all radio communication with the American islands.
Poyer persuaded the island's natives to mount a shore patrol to prevent illegal landings. People who disembarked from ships sailing from the American mainland were kept under house arrest for a specified period, or examined daily. Aspects of the quarantine continued into mid-1920, a year after Poyer departed to the sound of a 17-gun salute.
There were no influenza deaths on American
The Navy Cross is presented to John M. Poyer,
Commander, U.S. Navy, for exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of
great responsibility as governor of American Samoa, for wise and successful
administration of his office and especially for the extraordinarily successful
measures by which American Samoa was kept absolutely immune from the epidemic
of influenza at a time when in the neighboring islands of the Samoan group
more than 10,000 deaths occurred, and when the percentage of deaths throughout
the Polynesian Islands as a group, is reported to have ranged from 30 to
40 per cent of the population.
WASHINGTON, May 13, 1922 – Commander John Martin Poyer, U.S.N., retired, died suddenly at his apartment in the St. Nicholas last night. He is survived by his wife, Mrs. Emma Porter Poyer, a niece of General Horace Porter, former Ambassador to France, and a daughter, Miss Mary Porter Poyer.
Commander Poyer was retired from active service
in June 1906, on account of ill health, but was recalled to duty in March1915,
and appointed Governor of American Samoa. He served until June 1919.
His work in preventing the influenza epidemic from spreading from British
Samoa to American Samoa was so notable that he received the Navy Cross.
Since his relief as Governor of Samoa he had lived in this city.
WASHINGTON, January 12, 1932 – Mrs. John Martin Poyer, widow of Commander Poyer, U.S.N., former Governor of American Samoa, died yesterday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Leslie A. Kniskern, 6410 Georgia Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland, after a short illness. Funeral services will be held at the residence tomorrow afternoon at 1 o’clock followed by burial in Arlington National Cemetery.
Mrs. Poyer was the daughter of the late Dr. and Mrs. George W. Porter of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was a resident of that city until her marriage in 1891. She was a granddaughter of Governor David Rittenhouse Porter of Pennsylvania and great-granddaughter of Major General Andrew Porter, a member of General Washington’s staff. The late General Horace Porter, former Ambassador of France, was her uncle.
She was well known in Washington service circles.
Commander Poyer was attached here at different times and was on active
duty at the Navy Department until he became Governor of American Samoa
POYER, EMMA W/O JOHN MARTIN