At four years of age, the child Lydia was sent to the Royal School. A neighbor attended the day school of Mr and Mrs Johnstone. The school yards joined each other, separated by a fence.
“The boys used to climb the fence on their side for the purpose of looking at the royal children, and amongst these curious urchins was John O Dominis.” (Liliʻuokalani)
He cried out, “Hey, come over here and we’ll play with you.” A friend noted, “They can’t come out. That’s the royal school. They’re all sons and daughters of princes. Someday, they may be kings and queens.” (Schenectady Gazette, August 27, 1932)
Later, Dominis and others ended up passing notes with the others on the other side, and occasionally had short visits with them, including Lydia.
John Owen Dominis was born March 10, 1832 at 26 Front Street in the home of Reverend Dr Andrew Yates in Schenectady, New York, son of Captain John Dominis and Mary Jones Dominis. They had two daughters. (Schenectady Gazette, August 27, 1932)
“Two marble headstones in the burial plot of Christopher Yates at Vale Cemetery bear the name of Dominis. They are for the daughters of Captain and Mrs. Dominis, older sisters of John Owen. Presumably both girls were born in Boston, as Dominis may be found in directories of that city before and including 1831 but not later.”
“One child, Mary Elizabeth, died on May 9, 1838 and the other, Frances Ann, died on January 11, 1842. Both were in the 13th year when stricken.” (Schenectady Gazette, August 27, 1932)
“When he was two or three years of age, the captain was called to his ship for a trading cruise to China, Mrs Dominis accompanied him”; the children stayed with neighbors.
“It may be that the China trip convinced Mrs Dominis of the necessity of her son’s presence.” The parents left the city a month or two later, taking the boy with them; they arrived in Honolulu Harbor in April 1837. (Schenectady Gazette, August 27, 1932)
Captain Dominis reportedly embarked on several trading voyages while their Honolulu house was being built, using the profits to pay off accumulated debts and resume operations (it’s not clear how many trips were required to build the new home.)
Then, “on August 5, 1846, Captain Dominis left again on a ship under his leadership, but after he left Honolulu for China, there was no word that his ship landed on any dry land until this day.” (Kuokoa, March 16, 1895)
Mary Jones Dominis and teenage son John Owen Dominis remained at the house but rented out rooms to maintain it. The American representative to the Hawaiian Kingdom, Anthony Ten Eyck, rented it (he said it reminded him of Mount Vernon, George Washington’s mansion, and that it should be named “Washington Place.”)
King Kamehameha III, who concurred, Proclaimed as ‘Official Notice,’ “It has pleased His Majesty the King to approve of the name of Washington Place given this day by the Commissioner of the United States, to the House and Premises of Mrs Dominis and to command that they retain that name in all time coming.” (February 22, 1848)
Young Dominis remained in school until about 1848 – then, the fever set in with him and he was one of the first to join the gold rush in California; he served as bookkeeper for merchants there, but returned to Honolulu in about a year and started work with Charles Brewer.
Dominis later served as chamberlain and secretary to Kamehameha IV. (He would later hold significantly greater roles in the Hawaiian Government (Governor of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Oahu; House of Nobles, Lt General and Commander in Chief, among others.))
“(Liliʻuokalani) was engaged to Mr Dominis for about two years; and it was our intention to be married on the second day of September, 1862 (her birthday.)”
“But by reason of the fact that the court was in affliction and mourning (young Prince Albert had died August 27, 1862,) our wedding was delayed at the request of the king, Kamehameha IV, to the sixteenth of that month; Rev Dr Damon, father of Mr SM Damon, at present the leading banker of the Islands, being the officiating clergyman.”
“It was celebrated at the residence of Mr and Mrs Bishop, in the house which had been erected by my father, Paki, and which, known as the Arlington Hotel, is still one of the most beautiful and central of the mansions in Honolulu. To it came all the high chiefs then living there, also the foreign residents; in fact, all the best society of the city.” (Liliʻuokalani)
“Soon after our marriage, Prince Lot invited my husband and myself, with Mr and Mrs Robert Davis, who were married about the same time, to accompany him on a trip to Hawaiʻi … We accepted, and it became really my bridal tour.” (Liliʻuokalani)
“On the accession to the throne of Prince Lot as Kamehameha V, (Dominis) was at once appointed his private secretary and confidential adviser, which position he occupied during the entire reign.”
“The king was surrounded by his own people, with whom he was in perfect accord, but showed this mark of royal favor to my husband simply because he preferred to advise with him on matters of public importance.” (Liliʻuokalani)
Lydia was eventually titled Princess and later Queen Liliʻuokalani, in 1891. Dominis died August 27, 1891, seven months after Liliʻuokalani took the throne.
“His death occurred at a time when his long experience in public life, his amiable qualities, and his universal popularity, would have made him an adviser to me for whom no substitute could possibly be found.”
“I have often said that it pleased the Almighty Ruler of nations to take him away from me at precisely the time when I felt that I most needed his counsel and companionship.” (Liliʻuokalani)