Friday, January 30, 2015

Lāhainā Banyan Tree

Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 - the “Missionary Period,”) the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission (ABCFM) sent twelve Companies of missionaries – 184-missionaries; 84-men and 100-women - to the Hawaiian Islands.

By the time the Pioneer Company arrived (1820,) Kamehameha I had died (1819) and the centuries-old kapu system had been abolished, through the actions of King Kamehameha II (Liholiho, his son,) with encouragement by his father’s wives, Queens Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani (Liholiho’s mother.)) Keōpūolani later decided to move to Maui.

“On the 26th of May (1823) we heard that the barge (Cleopatra's Barge, or "Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi," Pride of Hawaiʻi) was about to sail for Lahaina, with the old queen (Keōpūolani) and princess (Nāhiʻenaʻena;) and that the queen was desirous to have missionaries to accompany her”.

“A meeting was called to consult whether it was expedient to establish a mission at Lahaina. The mission was determined on, and Mr S (Stewart) was appointed to go: he chose Mr R (Richards) for his companion … On the 28th we embarked on the mighty ocean again, which we had left so lately.”  (Betsey Stockton Journal)

Keōpūolani is said to have been the first convert of the missionaries in the Islands, receiving baptism from Rev. William Ellis in Lāhainā on September 16, 1823.  Keōpūolani was spoken of “with admiration on account of her amiable temper and mild behavior”.  (William Richards)   She was ill and died shortly after her baptism.

The tenth ABCFM Company arrived in the Islands on September 24, 1842 on the Sarah Abagail from Boston.  On board were Rev George Berkeley Rowell (1815-1884) and wife Malvina Jerusha Chapin (1816-1901) and Physician James William Smith (1810–1887) and wife Melicent Knapp Smith (1816–1891.)  They were assigned to the station on Kauai.

Born in Stamford, Connecticut in 1810 to a farm family, James William Smith became a school teacher at 17, and had a religious conversion at 19. He studied religion for about 3-years until he became ill in 1834 and was unable to complete his studies to enter the ministry.

Turning to medicine, he attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York, and proceeded to practice there for about five years. He applied for missionary work in 1840, and married Melicent Knapp. The couple would provide missionary, educational and medical help to the islands for the next 45 years.

Their son, William Owen Smith, born at Kōloa, Kauai, was educated at Rev David Dole’s school at Kōloa, later attending Punahou School in Honolulu; Smith left school to go to work on a sugar plantation for three years to learn the sugar industry, working in the boiling house in winter and in the fields in summer.

Smith was Sheriff of Kauai for two years and Maui for two years.  He later became a lawyer and state legislator.

During the revolutionary period, Smith was one of the thirteen members of the Committee of Safety that overthrew the rule of Queen Liliʻuokalani (January 17, 1893) and established the Provisional Government.

He then served on the executive council of the Provisional Government and was sent to Washington DC when the proposed Organic Act for the Government of Hawaiʻi was pending before Congress.

When not filling public office, Mr. Smith had been engaged in private law practice and was affiliated with various law firms during his long career.

Smith and his firm wrote the will for Princess Pauahi Bishop that created the Bishop Estate. As a result of this, Pauahi recommended to Queen Liliʻuokalani that he write her will for the Liliʻuokalani Trust (which he did.)

As a result, Liliʻuokalani and Smith became lifelong friends; he defended her in court, winning the suit brought against her by Prince Jonah Kūhiō. (KHS)

Speaking of his relationship with the Queen, Smith said, “One of the gratifying experiences of my life was that after the trying period which led up to the overthrow of the monarchy and the withdrawal of Queen Liliʻuokalani, the Queen sent for me to prepare a will and deed of trust of her property and appointed me one of her trustees”.  (Nellist)

Smith was also a trustee of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate from 1884-1886 and 1897-1929, the Lunalilo Estate, the Alexander Young Estate and the Children’s Hospital.

He died at his Nuʻuanu home on April 13, 1929 after catching a cold that developed into bronchial pneumonia. His funeral was held at Kawaiahaʻo Church.  (ksbe)

Oh, the Lāhainā Banyan Tree …

On April 24, 1873, while serving as Sheriff on Maui, William Owen Smith planted Lāhainā's Indian Banyan to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Lāhainā.

Today, shading almost an acre of the surrounding park and reaching upward to a height of 60 feet, this banyan tree is reportedly the largest in the US.

Its aerial roots grow into thick trunks when they reach the ground, supporting the tree's large canopy. There are 16 major trunks in addition to the original trunk in the center.

The image shows the Lāhainā banyan tree.  In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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