“The blue coat fired! The gray coat looked at him; and he too fired. Their mini balls whizzed through the air and two targets were hit. Yankee and Johnny Reb celebrated by throwing their hats high above their heads. They had killed two of the pirates but hundreds more were attempting to overrun them. This time, they are not fighting each other. Blue and gray coat were here to protect Ellena!”

This is what I imagined if the American colony had thrived in Kimanis! Not that dramatic but at least the Americans would want to expand their holding here. Had they been successful, Ellena would have been the name of North Borneo and who knows; Ellena would have been one of the states of the USA.

Ellena, located at Kimanis Bay was actually once leased by American Consul to Brunei, Charles Lee Moses from the Sultan of Brunei. He then sold them to William Torrey and Thomas B. Harris, also Americans in 1865. That year, the American Civil War had just ended. That same year, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

They then renamed Kimanis, Ellena. They brought in settlers hoping to make it a successful town, but eventually, most of them succumbed to the dreaded tropical diseases, and died here. Finally the remaining settlers gave up and left Ellena. Had the town prospered, probably the history of North Borneo (Sabah) could have taken a different part.  The Americans gave up and sold their right to Baron Gustav Von Overbeck, and he himself sold them to the British in 1880. From that day onward, the history of North Borneo was shaped by the Empire of Great Britain.

There was a legend told by the elderly; once there was a Brunei royal princess who was denied to choose her own lover by her family members. Feeling dejected, she chose a town and cursed it. Kimanis, will always be forgotten and travelers will never notice its existent. If this legend is true, I don’t know why she picked this place. Come to think of it, I can’t help but believing this curse because Kimanis is indeed such a sleepy and forgotten town.

Old historical building in Kimanis, small American colony was set up here

Looking at the above pictures which I took myself, that building does remind me of the towns of the wild frontier we used to see in the western cowboy movies. This single row building is the hallmark of Kimanis Town. In fact it is the only shop house left standing! This wooden structure is definitely historical. It is the only link to the past. As such, it is the only structure that could make the name Ellena; meaningful. I am very worried that one day this old heritage building would be pulled down unless there a serious effort made by our government to preserve them. If the authority takes the trouble to repair and upgrade the wooden structures with massive soft landscaping works integrated with it, I am sure this place will look wonderful and many people will come here. Then, who knows, perhaps, the curse of the princess might be broken forever.

Lonely train station at Ellena, Kimanis train station

The train station at Kimanis

If I am an American, I would definitely find this place interesting. I believe not many US citizens know about this place and its history. Ellena (Kimanis) is approximately 45 kilometers from Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu), the North Borneo (Sabah) capital. Visitors can come here by roads or traveling by train. It would be a wonderful idea if they can travel using the North Borneo Railway. The North Borneo Railway is a vintage train carriage that could re-live your experience back to the good old colonial days, a very good compliment for your traveling trip to Ellena! Even the rail station at Kimanis looks so lonely and destitute; truly reminding you of the old Wild West.

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