Freemasonry in Hawai‘i

Hawai‘i was first visited by Freemasons as early as the early-1790s, with the visit of George Vancouver. In addition, other lesser known Freemasons (mariners, merchants and professionals) visited the Islands. On April 8, 1843, during the reign of King Kamehameha III (Kauikeaouli), Freemasonry was formally established in Hawai‘i by Joseph Marie Le Tellier, Captain of the French whaling barque “Ajax” when he warranted Lodge Le Progres de l’Oceanie No. 124, of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the Supreme Council of France.

Hawaiian Royalty soon looked to membership. Apparently, the lodge did not take the opportunity to enroll King Kamehameha III. The association between Freemasonry and the Hawaiian Monarchy started with Prince Lot when he was raised in Hawaiian Lodge in 1853, and became the first Native Hawaiian to become a Freemason (he later became Kamehameha V.) Later, in 1879, King Kalākaua (one of the most active members of the Craft in the Island Kingdom,) conducted a grand Masonic ceremony at the site of the new ‘Iolani Palace, using Masonic silver working tools specially crafted for the occasion.

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O‘ahu Sugar Company

Dillingham partnered with J Hackfeld and Company (Paul Isenberg) and Mark Robinson (who provided land for the mill site) to form Oahu Sugar, incorporated in March 1897. The O’ahu Sugar Company (OSC) plantation and mill began in Waipahu as a development project of Benjamin F. Dillingham, who had leased land from James Campbell, prompting noted historian Muricio Michael’s observation: “The town of Waipahu is a child of O‘ahu Sugar [Company].”

One lasting legacy of the plantation is the August Ahrens Elementary School. Founded on September 1, 1924 to serve students from the surrounding sugar plantation area, August Ahrens opened its doors to 605 students and 13 teachers. August Ahrens Elementary School continues to provide educational services for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade on its 14-acre campus in Waipahu. It is the largest single-track elementary school in the state with approximately 1,500 students and 220 faculty and staff.

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A Day in the Life

“June 29th. A busy day.” In part, the sole entry for that day in Sybil Bingham’s journal (1820) helps to describe what life was like for the families of the early missionaries in Hawaiʻi. The missionary family’s day began at 4 am (… it continued into the night, with no breaks.) The mission children were up then, too; in the early morning, the parents taught their children. “We had one tin whale-oil lamp between us, with a single wick…. Soon after five we had breakfast. By 9 am, after accomplishing all domestic duties and schooling of the children, the wives would begin the instruction of the Hawaiian children – and taught them for six solid hours, occasionally running into the house to see that all was straight.

The missionaries were scattered across the Islands, each home was usually in a thickly inhabited village, so that the missionary and his wife could be close to their work among the people. By 1850, eighteen mission stations had been established; six on Hawaiʻi, four on Maui, four on Oʻahu, three on Kauai and one on Molokai. Meeting houses were constructed at the stations, as well as throughout the district. Very prominent in the old mission life was the annual “General Meeting” where all of the missionary families from across the Islands gathered at Honolulu from four to six weeks. The primary object of this gathering was to hold a business meeting for hearing reports of the year’s work and of the year’s experiences in more secular matters, and there from to formulate their annual report to the Board in Boston.

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These posts are part of a personal learning experience; I have been searching to learn more about the place I and my family were born, raised, and live (and love) – then, share what I have learned.

Because of my Planning work across the Islands, as well as previously serving as Director of the State Department of Land and Natural Resources, State Historic Preservation Officer and Deputy Managing Director for Hawaiʻi County, I have had the opportunity to see some places and deal with some issues that many others have not had, nor will have, the same opportunity.

So, I am sharing some insights, events and places with others. These informal historic summaries are presented for personal, non-commercial and/or educational purposes. I hope you enjoy them. Thanks, Peter.

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