« Moloch Molokai Molyneux, Sir Caryll »



An interesting island, one of the North Pacific group formerly known as the Sandwich Islands, or as the Kingdom of Hawaii, then as the Republic of Hawaii, and since annexation by the United States of America as the Territory of Hawaii. This annexation was determined by joint resolution of Congress, signed by the President 7 July, 1898, the completed organization taking effect 14 June, 1900. Of the eight principal islands, Molokai is fifth in size, 261 sq. miles; also fifth in population (2504, Census of 1900). Its location is between the islands of Oahu and Maui, separated from the latter by a channel only eight miles in width, and having no great depth. Molokai is about thirty-eight miles in length from east to west, and its average width is about seven miles. The island, however, was larger in its original volcanic formation. The mountain backbone was split or displaced, the northern part being submerged in the ocean; and there now remains a line of majestic cliffs and noble headlands that for unique grandeur can hardly be surpassed, the great ocean beating at their base except where the few valleys or gulches form open places and where the cliffs recede. This somewhat irregular line of bold mountain face varies in height from 2200 feet in the central part of the island to 3500 feet towards the east. Some higher peaks lie farther back in the eastern part, the highest being almost 5000 feet. All of these highlands are strangely seamed by erosion; verdure has crept in, covering the protected parts, and in some places good sized trees are growing. Except in the very dry times, many rivulets appear, disappear, come again to the surface or in the open places in kaleidoscopic variety. After heavy rains these little streams become torrents and from overhanging places leap into the open, and are caught and carried away by the winds. In the mountains back of the open-faced northern coast, many wild deer are found. A coral reef, about half a mile in width, fringes the southern coast. The slopes to the south and lower-lying parts are used for grazing. Owing to the uncertainty of the supply of water, the island is not well adapted to agriculture. Honey is an important export. Some attempt has been made at sugar planting, without much success. This picturesque group of islands is favoured in being out of the cyclone belt, and in having no snakes.


The entire northern coast of Molokai has but one projection of land. The gulches are merely open places, like the mouth of a pocket, but just about in the central part of the coast, where the cliff is 2200 feet, there is at its base the Leper Settlement Peninsula (52 miles from Honolulu), somewhat of a horseshoe shape, about two miles wide near the cliff (pali), and projecting about two miles into the ocean. Around the extreme point this new coast line is from 100 to 150 feet high; nearer the pali it is not so much; at Kalawao, the eastern side, about fifty feet only; and at Kalaupapa, the western side, it is even less. An old and very difficult trail over the pali has been improved so that carrying the mails twice a week to and from the steamer landing of Kuanakakai, on the southern side of the island, is practicable, and occasionally a passenger (usually an official) comes or goes that way. The steamer comes around to the landing at Kalaupapa once a week. This peninsula has been formed by the action of a local volcano long since the main island was formed. The dead crater, Kauhako, occupies a central part of the peninsula, and has a well of brackish water, the surface keeping on a level with the ocean, its greatest depth being 750 feet. The entire formation is very porous, with many caverns and crevices. Just off Kalawao, and fronting the mouth of Waikalo Valley, are two masses of rock projecting from the sea, one known as Mokapu, one as Okala.

Leprosy first appeared in the Hawaiian Islands in 1853. In 1864 its spread had become so alarming that 3 Jan., 1865, in the reign of Kamehameha V, the Legislature passed "An act to prevent the spread of leprosy", the execution of the law being in the hands of the Board of Health. In 1865-6, there were 2764 persons on the islands reported to be lepers. Under the act of 3 Jan., 1865, segregation was begun, and plans were made for a separate hospital. Land was purchased for this in Palolo Valley, Island of Oahu, but when it became known in the neighbourhood, objections were so strong that the effort was abandoned. A site was then secured at Kalihi, near Honolulu, well separated from the other habitations, and in November, 1865, the hospital was established there. This was for retention, examination, and to some extent medical treatment of the lepers or suspects. This was indeed good; but the need was felt of a larger and more permanent settlement, isolated for those declared to be lepers, to be operated in connexion with the Kalihi Hospital, where efforts would continue for the cure of cases in the early stages. In locating a leper settlement the search was soon directed to the Molokai Peninsula, so well protected by the sea in front and by the towering cliff behind. Favoured as it is by the wholesome trade-winds from the north- east, a place better adapted could hardly have been found. The Board of Health established its authority here on 6 Jan., 1866. Waikalo Valley, connected with the peninsula on the eastern side, and not accessible from other directions, was first selected, as the rich land there could be cultivated, and the little colony might become self-supporting. This attempt did not succeed, the deep valley being rather moist for habitation. Therefore, a good part of the holdings upon the eastern and middle portions of the peninsula were secured, and improvements were begun. Waikalo Valley has not been useless, however, but has been used for cultivation of taro. The non-leper residents still remained at Kalaupapa, the steamer landing. In the time of these beginnings (1865-68) Dr. F. W. Hutchinson was President of the Board of Health, and was Minister of the Interior from 26 April, 1865, until 11 Dec., 1872. Mr. R. W. Meyer, a resident of the mountain-top above the settlement, was Board of Health Agent and attended to the business. He continued as agent, the practical and very efficient business manager of the Leper Settlement until his death, 12 June, 1897.

The physician at Kalihi Hospital reported 2 March, 1866, having received 158 lepers, 57 of whom were sent to Molokai Asylum, 101 remaining at Kalihi Hospital for treatment. In sending to Molokai, some difficulty attended the separating of relatives. Therefore, a few non-leper relatives were allowed to go along as helpers or Kokuas. Some cattle and sheep were also sent to Molokai. For Kalihi Hospital, and Molokai Asylum (or Settlement, as it generally became known later), the total amount of expenses in 1866 was $10,012.48.

Matters went on pretty well at first, but after some time an ugly spirit developed at Molokai. Drunken and lewd conduct prevailed. The easy-going, good-natured people seemed wholly changed. Thus the President of the Board of Health reported at some length in 1868; but he was able to state that a change for the better had come. Improvements had been made at Molokai, including the building of an hospital. Mr. and Mrs. Walsh had been employed to take charge in February, 1867, relieving Mr. Leparat, who had resigned, Mr. Walsh to act as schoolmaster and magistrate, Mrs. Walsh as nurse. This 1868 report gives the number of lepers received at Molokai as 179, the number remaining at the Kalihi Hospital as 43, the number total amount of expenses for Kalihi Hospital and Molokai Settlement since 1866 amounting to $24,803.60. From this time on, efforts were continually made to render the segregation and treatment of lepers more effective. Many difficulties were met and overcome. To keep good order in these earlyl years was always difficult. The lepers were increasing in number. Nearly all who came to the settlement were located at Kalawao, on the eastern side of the peninsula, the leper settlement practically continuing there for many years. In 1890 a better supply of water was brought from Waikalo Valley; the pipe was soon extended to Kalaupapa, the steamer landing. A reservoir was constructed midway on the ridge between Kalawao and Kalaupapa. Previous to that time a pipe was laid from a small reservoir in Waialeia Valley, between Waikalo and Kalawao, and extended only partly through Kalawao. At Kalaupapa two miles distant, the people brought their water from Waihanau Valley in containers upon horses and donkeys. The poeple at Kalaupapa were chiefly non-lepers who lived there before settlement times. Their holdings (kuleanas) had not yet been secured for the lepers as those at Kalawao had been. This was done, however, in 1894, since, after the waterpipe was laid to Kalaupapa, the people had begun to drift that way, and the public buildings also, the shops, etc., had gradually been moved to that place. Therefore it was wisely determined that, in the interest of good order, as well as for convenience, the Government should own and control the entire peninsula and all of its approaches, the non-lepers being sent away. This was quite thoroughly accomplished in 1894.


It is the name of Father Damien, however, that has made Molokai known throughout the whole world. He came to the Molokai Settlement to remain, 11 May, 1873. Good order in the settlement was somewhat precarious. Damien's determined character proved to be of great value. Besides his priestly offices, there was opportunity for his efforts at every turn. With a hungry zeal for work, he accomplished many things for the good of the place; he helped the authorities, and brought about a good spirit among the people. Ten years later (1883) the Franciscan Sisters came to Honolulu from Syracuse, N. Y., having been engaged by the Hawaiian Government. They expected coming to the settlement at once, but the authorities concluded that conditions there were unsuitable, that better order must be secured, and some improvements made in buildings, etc. So the sisters remained at Kakaako Branch Hospital, near Honolulu, for about six years, a certain number of newly gathered lepers being retained there. The hospital was given up when the sisters came to Molokai. At the settlement in 1883 conditions would indeed have been intolerable for the sisters, and the same was true in 1886 when the writer joined Father Damien; but matters were being gradually improved. At last three sisters came to Kalaupapa 15 Nov., 1888. Bishop Home for girls and women had been built. Two more sisters came 6 May, 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson coming by the same boat for a visit. Father Damien died 15 April, 1889. His death, after such a life, arrested the world's attention. A spontaneous outburst of applause from everywhere at once followed. The sixteen years of labour on Molokai made a recored that seemed unique to the world at large. The world knew very little about lepers, and Father Damien's life came as a startling revelation of heroic self-sacrifice. He is acknowledged the Apostle of the lepers, and whatever others may do in the same field will help to perpetuate his fame and honour. A monument was offered by the people of England, and accepted by the Hawaiian Board of Health. It was given a place at Kalaupapa, not far from the steamer landing, near the public road now called "Damien Road", adjoining the sisters' place at Bishop Home. The monument in itself is interesting, being an antique cross, fashined and adapted from stone cutting of about the sixth century, such as was found in the ruins of the Seven Churches of Clonmacnoise on the river Shannon, Ireland. It was transferred by the Board of Health to the Catholic Mission on 11 Sept., 1893, the Bishop coming to receive and bless it. Two miles away, at the other end of the Damien Road, in Kalawao, the body of Father Damien lies, close by the church, where the Pandanus tree stood that sheltered him on his arrival in 1873. Over this grave stands a simple cross with the inscription on one side, "Father Damien", on the other, "Damien Deveuster". The strong wooden coffin was placed in an excavation, and imbedded in a solid block of concrete. Since Father Damien's time, two priests have usually been on duty at the settlement, one at Kalawao, the other at Kalaupapa. Father Pamphile Deveuster, Damien's brother, was here in 1895-7; he returned to Belgium and died there 29 July, 1909.


Public sentiment over the islands has always supported the Government in carrying out the law concerning lepers; official activity, although somewhat varying, has one the whole made fair progress; at times political interests have not been entirely favourable. The first home at Kalawao, for orphan boys and helpless men, was begun in 1886 under Father Damien, with a few old cabins at first, two large buildings being added in 1887-8, all irregular and provisional. The Government, however, recognized it as a home 1 January, 1889. Three Franciscan Sisters came to this Kolawao Home, 15 May, 1890, and the mother-superior visited it occasionally. In 1892-4 the present Baldwin Home was constructed, and put into use in May and June, 1894. The sisters were replaced 1 December, 1895, by four Brothers of the Picpus Order. Up to the present time (1910) the home has had, including those still living, 976 inmates. The Board of Health has always employed an experienced physician and other officials for the settlement. For many years the Hawaiians had strong ideas about regular physicians. Very few would call for one, and this continued at the settlement up to about 1902. They would, however, always take medicine from the brothers or sisters, and have had a friendly feeling for the Japanese treatment. It has been put in use, dropped, and revived many times. The elder Dr. Goto introduced it at Kakaako in 1886. Good order and favourable conditions in general were specially noteworthy from 1893. A glance over the records of the next ten years shows continued improvements in the water supply, enlarging of medical service, etc. Total expenses for segregation, support, and treatment of lepers for six years, ending 31 December, 1903, were $876,888.86. In 1906 the buildings owned by the Government numbered 298; those owned by private parties numbered 150. In 1908 the lepers at Molokai numbered 791: of these, 693 were Hawaiians, 42 Chinese, 26 Portuguese, 6 Americans, 5 Japanese, 6 Germans, 2 South Sea Islanders, 1 Dane,1 French Canadian, 1 Swede, 2 Porto Ricans, 1 Filipino, 1 Tahitian, 1 Russian, 1 Corean, 1 British Negro, 1 Hollander. In 1866 the total number of lepers at the settlement on 31 December was 115; it kept increasing until in 1890 the number reached 1213. Since then there has been a decrease until, 31 December, 1908, the number was 771. In 1908 the plan adopted in the earliest days (1865-69), of attempting to cure new cases, or any that seemed promising, before being sent to Molokai, has been revived. The renewal should be more effective than in the early time because of the great advances science has made in the past forty years. This new work is now carried on at Kalihi as it was over forty years ago, but in better buildings and under far greater advantages. The general outfit at the Molokai Settlement is about complete: establishments for the medical department, hospital, dispensary, nursery, etc. There are bath houses and drug departments at the homes, and special houses for the sick. At Kalaupapa there are the poi factory, the shops, and warehouses, and the residences of the officials pleasantly located and well supplied with conveniences. A large building is under construction for white lepers, the funds being furnished by generous friends throughout the islands. There are two Catholic churches, and several of other denominations. At Kalawao the most prominent features are Baldwin Home and the U.S. Leprosarium. This leprosarium is probably the greatest institution of its kind in the world. The appropriation by Congress was generous. The buildings are extensive, and supplied with a very elaborate outfit of the best quality and latest invention, and everything in fact that present-day science can provide. Another new addition recently added by the U. S. Government is a fine lighthouse, a pyramidal concrete structure, the light of which is visible for about twenty-four miles.

      Quinlan, Damien of Molokai (New York, 1900); Lindgren, The Water Resources of Molokai (Govt. Printing Office, Wash., D.C., 1903); Malo, Hawaiian Antiquities (Honolulu, 1903); Dutton, Earthquake Science Series (New York and London, 1904); Idem, Hawaiian Volcanoes (London, 1904); Alexander, A Brief History of the Hawaiian People (New York, 1891- 1899); Thrum, Hawaiian Annual (Honolulu, 1906-10); Hitchcock, Hawaii and Its Volcanoes (Honolulu, 1910); Blackman, The Making of Hawaii (London, 1906); Senn, Around the World via India (Chicago, 1905); Carter, Report to Secretary of Interior (Honolulu, 1904); Frear, Report to Sec. of Int. (Honolulu, 1909); Official Reports of the Hawaiian Board of Health (Honolulu, 1866, 1868, 1894, 1902-1909); Boeynaems, art. Damien in The Catholic Encyclopedia.

Joseph Dutton.

« Moloch Molokai Molyneux, Sir Caryll »
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