Life in Hawaii, by Titus Coan
Copyright ©1882, 1997 (electronic edition by Edward J. Coan)

Chapter II.

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Marriage Embarkation for Hawaii Santiago, Callao, and Lima in 1835 Arrival in Honolulu Passage to Hilo Our New Home First Labors.

ON returning from Patagonia I landed in New London, Conn., May 7, 1834. During all the long months of my absence in the South, not a word had come to me from friends, nor had any tidings from me reached the land of my birth. There had been many fond recollections and tender heart-longings, and quires of paper had been filled, but no breath of heaven, no bird of the air had wafted these yearnings, these burning thoughts from North to South, and from South to North. Over the Atlantic or the vast continent no answer had come to anxious inquiries, no echo to calls of love.

But the perils of the sea and of the howling wilderness of savages were now past, and I was in the land of liberty, of light, and of Christian love.

I went to Boston and reported; to Killingworth, to surprise with joy my aged and mourning father; and to Middlebury in Vermont to find the one whom I had chosen, and who had waited patiently and with out change of object or of purpose, for seven long years to welcome this glad day.

She was then teaching with the dear mother Cooke, in the Middlebury Female Seminary.

She went with me to her fatherís house in Churchville, where on the 3rd of Nov., 1834, we were married in the church on Monthly Concert evening. On Nov. 4th we left for Boston, visiting friends in New York and Connecticut by the way.

On the 23rd of November we received our instructions as missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, in Park Street church, together with Miss Lydia Brown, Miss Elizabeth Hitchcock, Mr. Henry Dimond and wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Edwin O. Hall.

On the same occasion a company of twelve missionaries, destined to Southeastern Africa, received their instructions. The house was packed and the occasion was one of great interest.

On the 5th of December, 1834, we embarked on board the merchant ship Hellespont, Capt. John Henry, and bade farewell to Boston, to hundreds of dear and precious friends, to our dear country, not expecting ever to see them again. On the 6th we awoke and looked in vain for land. City, hills, mountains, had sunk in the ocean, and nothing outside of the dancing Hellespont was seen but the ethereal vault and the boundless blue sea.

We plunged into the Gulf Stream and were handled roughly by current and wind and foaming wave. The wild winds howled, the clouds thickened and darkened, and the tempest raged.

Our good ship labored, plunged, rose, trembled, plunged and rose again amidst the foaming billows, shaking off the feathery spray like a sea-lion, and rushing along her watery way with grandeur. In the night her shining pathway was all aglow with countless, sparkling brilliants. Our voyage soon became pleasant. The weather was favorable, the captain attentive and kind, the officers faithful, and the crew obedient and respectful. Our seasickness vanished, our skies brightened, and we were a happy family, daily becoming better acquainted with each other. Miss Brown was a maiden lady from New Hampshire, of true devotion to the work of the Lord. She was appointed to the Islands to teach the women of Hawaii domestic duties, such as carding, spinning, weaving, etc., in connection with a civilizing Christianity. Miss Hitchcock was also a maiden lady, well educated and pious. One of her brothers was already an active missionary on the Islands, and she was going out to assist in teaching. She afterward married Mr. Edmund H. Rogers, a missionary printer.

Mr. Dimond came as a book-binder. His good wife was Miss Ann Anner, of New York City. Both of them are now living. Mr. E. O. Hall was a printer from Rochester, N. Y. He also found his wife in New York City, a Miss Williams, a devoted lady. Mrs. Hall died a few years ago.

This united circle held morning and evening devotions, and our days were spent in reading, writing, and social intercourse. On Sabbaths when the weather was favorable we had preaching, at which service the captain, officers, and crew were present.

But I need not detain the reader with a third voyage in the Atlantic. Enough to say that we passed pleasantly along to the South, sinking the Northern constellations one by one, and raising the Southern, seeing no Equatorial line, no Neptune, and no land until the hills of Terra del Fuego lifted their snowy heads upon us above the clouds. I had longed to see the wild coast of Patagonia and the Falkland Islands, where only a year before I had roamed with the savage tribes, or found more comforts among the whalers and sealers of those southern islets. But we passed between the Continent and the Islands, descrying neither.

My heart mourned for this land of Patagonia, a land on which the shadows of death had always rested, and where no day had yet dawned.

We passed through the Strait of Le Maire, and with all sails set, in a balmy and bright summer day sailed very near the dreaded Cape Horn.

Only a day after we had set our studding sails and spread all our canvas, a stormy wind took us far toward the Southern Cross and the ice mountains of the Antarctic. But in a few days, more favoring gales hurried us Northward again, and on the 8th of March the joyful sound of "land ho!" thrilled all on board, and the lofty Cordillera chain stood out in grandeur before us. It was Chili, and the city of Valparaiso was in sight. We came into the roadstead, dropped anchor, furled sails, congratulated one another, and blessed the Lord for a safe passage thus far.

As the Hellespont was to remain in port about twenty days, Mr. Dimond and I engaged a carriage and driver, and made a trip to Santiago, the capital of Chili, about 100 miles inland and near the foot-hills of the Andes. Our ride was very exhilarating. This city is one of the most beautiful in South America, well watered from the mountain snows, and well shaded with trees. On our way we passed over high hills and broad plains. The roads over these hills were wide and cut in zigzag lines, with ample terraces or resting-places at the angles. On ascending one of these lofty hills at early dawn, we descried the heads of two men, recently severed, each nailed to a high post at different places, and grinning ghastly upon us. Our driver told us that these men were highway robbers and murderers; that they had, on going up this hill, perpetrated the vilest of crimes, killed a husband and his wife, with two children, stolen their baggage clothes, and horse, and thrown the dead bodies into a deep ravine below; and for these horrid crimes their heads had been made beacons of warning to all who passed along this road.

We left Valparaiso on the 27th of March, and anchored in the harbor of Callao, Peru, on the 6th of April, 1835. Here we spent twenty-one days, giving us opportunity of going on shore as often as we desired, of visiting Lima, of attending the gorgeous ceremonies of Passion Week, of looking into the grand Cathedral and their splendid churches, and of noticing the monuments of art, and the scars of revolution in that renowned, but often suffering, desecrated, and vandalized city.

With the courteous Bishop of Lima, we went through the Cathedral, he bowing and crossing him self as he passed by the various pictures and statues, telling us of the guardian care of the different saints over the city.

We left Callao on the 27th of April, saw the mountains of Hawaii on the 5th of June, and on the 6th landed in Honolulu. The Hawaiian mission was then in session, and on the arrival of the Hellespont, the mission appointed a committee of three to meet us on board, while the meeting was adjourned, and a large part of the members with wives and children came down to the wharf to welcome us, and to escort us to the house of the Rev. Hiram Bingham. The welcome was warm and warmly reciprocated, and the meeting was joyful. It seemed to us apostolical. We regarded these veteran toilers with a feeling of veneration. Some looked vigorous and strong, others seemed pallid and wayworn. Here were the fathers and mothers in Israel, and here the brothers and sisters, with flocks of precious children. We rejoiced that we were permitted to be numbered with this honored and happy family. We all united in a hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God, and then knelt in prayer.

The new reinforcement united in the daily meetings of the mission until the closing of its sessions, when we went forth to our appointed stations; my wife and I to Hilo, Hawaii, with Mr. and Mrs. Lyman.

We embarked at Honolulu, in the schooner Velocity, falsely so-called, on the 6th of July. The schooner was small, a slow sailer, dirty, crowded with more than one hundred passengers, mostly natives, and badly managed. The captain was an Irishman given to hard drinking.

We sailed from Honolulu on Monday. The sea was rough and nearly all of the passengers were very seasick. Our first port was Lahaina, eighty miles from Honolulu, where we were to land Mr. and Mrs. Richards, Dr. and Mrs. Chapin, Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding, and other families. On Wednesday morning the captain announced that the land just ahead was Maui, and that we should all land in about an hour at Lahaina, where we might rest a day, bathe, eat grapes and watermelons, and be refreshed for the rest of the voyage, about 150 miles further.

But the poor captainís eyes were dazed, and he had lost his reckoning. We had gone about in the night and we were back at Honolulu! This fact came upon us with a shock of agony. After such seasickness as some of us had never before endured, the dreadful thought came over us, "Shall we ever reach our homes on this vessel and with this master?" Many of us had tasted neither food nor wafer from Monday to Wednesday, and all had lain crowded on a dirty deck, exposed to wind, rain, and wave, and how could we live to reach our destination? But there was no alternative. We said go, and the dull Velocity went about and headed again for Lahaina, where we landed passengers, and on the 21st we saw the emerald beauty of Hilo, and disembarked with joy and thanksgiving. Hundreds of laughing natives thronged the beach, seized our hands, gave us the hearty "Aloha" and followed us up to the house of our good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lyman, who were with us to comfort and inform us all the way.

The bay of Hilo is a beautiful, spacious, and safe harbor. The outline of its beach is a crescent like the moon in her first quarter. The beach is composed of fine, volcanic sand, mixed with a little coral and earth. On its eastern and western sides, and in its center, it is divided by three streams of pure water; it has a deep channel about half a mile wide near the western shore, sufficiently deep to admit the largest ship that floats. Seaward it is protected by lava reef one mile from the shore. This reef was formed by a lateral stream of lava, sent out at right angles from a broad river of molten rocks that formed our eastern coast. This reef is a grand barrier against the swell of the ocean. Lord Byron, who visited Hilo, when he brought home the corpses of King Liholiho and his queen, gave the name of "Byron Bay" to this harbor, but that name is nearly obsolete.

The beach was once beautifully adorned with the cocoa palm, whose lofty plumes waved and rustle and glittered in the fresh sea-breeze. Beyond our quiet bay the broad, blue ocean foams or sleeps, with a surface sometimes shining like molten silver, tumbling in white foam, or gently throbbing as with the pulsations of life.

Inland, from the shore to the bases of the mountains, the whole landscape is "arrayed in living green," presenting a picture of inimitable beauty, so varied in tint, so grooved with water channels, and so sparkling with limpid streams and white foaming cascades, as to charm the eye, and cause the beholder to exclaim, "This is a scene of surpassing loveliness."

Behind all this in the background, tower the lofty, snow-mantled mountains, Kea and Loa, out of one which rush volcanic fires. At the first sight we were charmed with the beauty and the grandeur of the scene, and we exclaimed, "Surely the lines are fallen to us in pleasant places, and we have a goodly heritage."

We were satisfied, yes more, we were delighted, with our location, and to this day we bless the Lord that He inclined the minds of the mission to assign us to this field of labor. In this, as in all the past, we see the guiding hand of Him who has promised to "direct the steps" of all who "commit their way to Him."

Hilo had then but one framed house. It was a low, two-story building in the style of a New England farm-house, built and occupied by the Rev. Joseph Goodrich, a good and faithful missionary of the A. B. C. F. M.

Mr. Lymanís home, into which we were received, was a small, stone house, with walls laid up with mud, and a thatched roof. Each family had but one room about fifteen feet square.

Mr. Goodrich, with his family, left Hilo in November for the United States, not to return, and we were advised to occupy his house, which with later additions and improvements has been our habitation ever since.

Mr. Lyman soon built a comfortable house near us, and the old stone-and-mud hut was devoted to a schoolroom.

By the advice of the Lymans, who had been two years in Hilo, and whose experience and wise counsel were of great use to us, we at once began teaching a school of about a hundred almost naked boys and girls, being ourselves pupils of a good man named Barnabas, who patiently drilled us daily in the language of his people. By reading, trying to talk, teach and write, we crept along, without grammar or dictionary, the mist lifting slowly before us, until at the end of three months from our arrival, I went into the pulpit with Mr. Lyman, and preached my first sermon in the native language. Soon after, I made a tour with him into Puna, one wing of our field, and then through the district of Hilo, in an opposite direction. These tours introduced me to the people for whom I was to labor, and with whom I had a burning desire to communicate freely, and helped me greatly in acquiring the language.

The General Meeting at Honolulu in June had advised Mr. Lyman and myself to establish a boarding-school for boys, leaving to us the question as to which of us should be the principal of the school, and which the traveling missionary.

He chose the school as his chief work, and I the pastoral and preaching department. Our labors, however, were not separated for a long time, he preaching always when I was absent on tours, and often when I was at home; we always worked in harmony. After a year or two, the school being enlarged and important, Mr. Lyman requested the mission to accept his resignation of the joint pastorale of the church and to appoint me as the sole pastor. This was done harmoniously, and we have labored side by side until the present day, mutually assisting, and rejoicing in the success of all departments of the service.

Under the efficient care of Mr. and Mrs. Lyman the school has been a great success. Its department of manual labor is an important feature in the institution. It has given a very valuable physical training to the boys, imparting to them skill and health, and making the school nearly self-supporting. The young men are well dressed, neat and manly in their appearance, and give evidence of an elevation above the common masses around them. In all, the Seminary has graduated about one thousand pupils. Many of them are among the most useful members of society, and some of them have become legislators, judges, teachers, Christian ministers, foreign missionaries, etc.

Mr. Lyman, feeling obliged through declining health to resign his office as Principal, the Rev. W. B. Oleson was appointed in September, 1878, as his successor.


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