Life in Hawaii, by Titus Coan
Copyright ©1882, 1997 (electronic edition by Edward J. Coan)
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Visit to the United States Salt Lake Chicago Washington City Brooklyn Old Killingworth Changes in the Homestead Passing Away Return to Hilo Death of Mrs. Coan.
AFTER an absence of more than thirty-five years from the United States, we were persuaded by the kind solicitations of friends, and by a repeated invitation from the American Board, to return for a visit. The health of Mrs. Coan being precarious, and no medical skill at the Islands affording relief, it seemed the more desirable to go.
We arrived at San Francisco May 5, 1870. Spending fourteen days in California, we took an Eastern train, spent a Sabbath at Salt Lake City, saw the Prophet and several of his apostles, met several of the Mormon missionaries whom we had seen in Hilo, attended service in the great tabernacle, heard much bold assertion without proof, and witnessed a singular observance of the Lordís supper, the elements being distributed by laughing boys, while a speaker was haranguing the audience without making a single allusion to the death of Christ, or to the ordinance which commemorated that event. We also saw the foundation of the great temple, which a bold declaimer said was a literal fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah ii. 2: that "the mountain of the Lordís house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it."
The speaker affirmed that this prediction was now fulfilled before the eyes of the Mormons, and all the people shouted Amen.
We spent a little time in Iowa, and arrived in Chicago June 1st. Here I was called to labor more abundantly, and here we met many warm friends, and two sons of our esteemed associates Mr. and Mrs. D. B. Lyman; one of them a physician of prominence, the other a lawyer. In this marvelous city we spent two weeks, and then came eastward. In all, we visited more than twenty States and Territories, everywhere finding multitudes of Christian friends; many of whom we had seen before, and many more whom we had not seen in the flesh, but who were fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters and friends in Christ Jesus.
We found our country broad, fertile, populous, and wealthy. It had extended from ocean to ocean; its villages, towns, and cities had multiplied, and its population increased beyond a parallel in history. Its schools, its colleges, its churches, and its humane and benevolent institutions had multiplied marvelously. Its railroads formed a web-work over all the land, and its telegraphic wires were quivering through the atmosphere. Its progress in science, in art, in discovery, in intelligence, in invention, in wealth, and in Christianity, seemed to make it the pride of all lands.
And yet the scars of war were everywhere. The empty sleeves, the crutches, the trunks without a leg, the sightless eyes, the disfigured faces, were marks of the ghastly wounds of war. And then the dead of Gettysburg, Arlington Heights, and other silent hecatombs, the youth, the strength of the country; the millions that sleep in dust to be numbered no more among the sons, the fathers, the husbands, the citizens of our beloved land!
But our country needed this fiery chastisement, and it will be better in the end if so be that the North and South understand and profit by the lesson.
Our social intercourse, not only with personal friends and old acquaintances, but with a multitude of new-formed friends, was precious and endearing. It would be a great gratification to mention names, were it possible, and to record our tribute of gratitude and thanks to God for the many kind and Christian attentions shown us everywhere attentions that left impressions on our hearts which time and space can not eradicate.
My opportunities to meet Christian conventions and associations, Sabbath-schools, Monday meetings of clergymen, meetings of benevolent societies, of working-women, etc., were numerous and exhilarating; and one thing which charmed me, if possible, more than any other, was the fact that partition-walls were gradually giving way between different evangelical denominations.
I was glad to be invited by brethren of various denominations to speak in their assemblies of the love of God and of His wonderful work among the heathen tribes of the Pacific. More than once I was in the pulpit and on the platform with beloved ministers of the Episcopal Church. In Monday morning meetings of pastors for prayers and consultation, I met Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, and many others, and my tongue longed to sing with David: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."
My talks in large and smaller assemblies during the eleven months we were in the States numbered two hundred and thirty-nine.
Assuredly the Lord has commanded the blessing to rest on all such unions of heart among His people. There need be no harm in the varied organization of Christian workers. There may be a beauty and an increased efficiency in it, as there is in the organization of armies, or other corps of officers or laborers, if only there be harmony of heart, "the unity of spirit in the bonds of peace."
One of our happiest weeks was spent in the city of Washington. Every day was full of interest. We looked in upon our institutions, legislative, civil, literary, benevolent, and religious, and were cheered to see so much of good sense, philanthropy, and earnest piety modifying and refining life in the metropolis of the Union.
We visited the Howard University, in company with its President, and attended one of its commencements in a crowded church in the city. The exercises did honor to the faculty and the speakers, and the large and cultivated assembly, in which were seen many if not most of the clergy of the city, with numbers of the Senators and Representatives of the nation, manifested a lively interest in all the ceremonies of the occasion. Several of the students were graduated with honors. The speeches of the colored students were good, and that of one of the darkest in his class was not only sensible, but brilliant.
I need not speak of our visits by invitation to theological and female seminaries Andover, Bradford, Vassar, Union, Auburn, and Princeton, and of our great enjoyment on these occasions.
The meeting of the American Board for 1870 was held in Brooklyn, and for the first time we had the privilege of attending this annual gathering.
Here we met missionaries and men of distinction from the Orient and the Occident, from every continent, and from many an island of the globe. Never shall I forget that great congregation of glowing faces and earnest listeners. I have seen larger and more compact assemblies on Hawaii, but they were less responsive. This was like a sea of shining silver. It was mind and soul looking out of its windows; it was intelligence, culture, piety, beaming like sunlight from human faces.
I have seen Mauna Kea veiled with the mantle of night, and casting its gigantic shadow of darkness upon us. Again I have seen it when the first rays of the rising sun began to gild its summit. Watching it for a little while, the light poured down its rocky sides, chasing the night before it, until the mighty pile stood out clothed in burnished gold, and shining like a monarch arrayed in robes of glory.
And when I gazed upon that platform in Brooklyn, and cast my eyes upon the great assembly which filled the house, I said in my heart, "When will Polynesia and Micronesia display such a gathering of wisdom, piety, and moral power? A brighter than a natural sun begins to illume the darkness of those lands, chasing away the night of ages; but when will the full-orbed Sun of Righteousness ascend to the zenith and pour a flood of light and glory over all our benighted islands?" And then I reflected that even these lights of the Christian churches were yet to flicker as distant tapers before the coming glories of Zion, as predicted in the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah.
Our visit to Killingworth, my native town, was full of interest. Tender memories of childhood and youth often drew tears. Sixty-nine years had swept along the flood of time since my eyes first saw the light of day, and forty-four since I had left the home where I was born and nourished. The homestead where my father taught his boys to plow and harrow, to plant and hoe, to sow and reap, to cradle and bind, to mow and rake, and pitch and gather into the barn the winterís feed for cattle, was there. The orchard, where we children gathered apples and other fruits, was there; but many of the choice trees were gone, and the great sugar-maple and the nut-bearing trees where we had contested with the squirrel for our winter stores had disappeared. The cottage, where eight children had been reared, and where, as years passed on, we gathered at our annual thanksgivings, was desolate and silent, and no living voice came up from lawn and meadow and field which once echoed with the shout and merry laughter of childhood. The cool waters of the well were unruffled, and the sweep and "the old oaken bucket" were no more. The "Cranberry Brook" sung and babbled amidst the alders and witch-hazels, but with no response from eager, gleesome anglers and bathers. Birds built their nests and sang and reared their broods without disturbance.
The old school-house, with its broad fire-place, and its benches of slabs; the round side-down, with rough wooden legs and lacking supports for the childrenís backs, were replaced by a convenient room, with stove, and easy seats, and other improvements. The barn-like meeting-house, with its high galleries and lofty sounding-board, and the little foot-stoves which comforted the mothers, while the fathers sat chilled on bleak, wintry Sundays, had disappeared, and a new building was in its stead. I went to it; there was a new pastor, and the congregation was mostly new. Here and there a white-crowned head in the assembly revealed a schoolmate or a friend and companion of my youthful days. Ah, memories how tender, how dear, how deathless! I went to the cemetery, where friends once near to me had been gathered one by one, and where each of the departed ones slept alone unconscious of his proximity to the dust of his dearest earthly friend. On the marble I read the sober epitaph of father, mother, sister, neighbor, and friend. Stones in other grave-yards already marked the resting-places of all my brothers save one, and he has since that time departed.
Thankful for one more view of my boyhoodís home, with chastened reflections I turned from it for the last time.
On our return to Hilo we met a cordial welcome from all, and the church and people were in a prosperous state. But a heavy shadow darkened over our home. The dear one who had been its light and joy for thirty-six years was growing feebler day by day, and the signs of her departure could not be mistaken.
Calmly she began to set her house in order, to be ready to welcome the coming messenger. She assured us of her unshaken faith in Christ, and prepared farewell suggestions for the dear ones she was soon to leave.
On Sunday, Sept. 29, 1872, the faithful spirit took its flight upward. Her sojourns on the earth was three-score and two years; her life above is "where eternal ages roll."
There were tender and solemn funeral services in our church on Monday, but the day was stormy, and it was not till the following morning that the dust of our beloved one was laid to rest in the cemetery on Prospect Hill, where hers was the first grave. On the marble that marks the spot, these words are inscribed.
"ĎFaithful unto death,í
Crowned with life."
The cemetery is in a beautiful place; the towering mountains are upon the west and south. East and north stretches the ocean, and a glorious emerald landscape is on every side. The soft breezes that rustle the leaves, and the murmurs of the distant surf, do not wake the sleeping form that awaits the behest of Him who is "the Resurrection and the Life." The soul unfettered, unchained, has drawn nearer than they to the throne.
The dear one was an extensive and eclectic reader, a clear and logical thinker. Her mind and heart were well prepared to take an active part in the literary and religious discussions and activities of the age, but she freely chose the life of a missionary to the heathen. To me she was a peerless helper. Her self-denial was marvelous. The same self-abnegation which led her to say to me, in answer to the question, "Shall I go to Patagonia?" "My dear, you must go!" controlled her whole life. She never objected to my going on my most severe or perilous expeditions along the shores or on the mountains of Hawaii; or held me back when duty called me to the Marquesas Islands. When I expostulated with her against remaining alone in the house, as she sometimes did, she would answer, "I am not afraid."
To her tender love, her faithful care, her wise counsels, her efficient help, and her blameless life, I owe under God the chief part of my happiness, and of my usefulness if I have had any, as a laborer in the Masterís vineyard.
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