“Samuel Damon … was known to sailors from all the Four Seas as Father Damon, pastor of the Seaman’s Bethel of Honolulu. The wife of Father Damon was the daughter of Samuel Mills of “Haystack Meeting” fame …”
“… one of the five young men who met and decided that they should go out into the world to advance the cause of Christianity among heathen people.” (Honolulu Times, December 1, 1909)
“Beloved by all – he and his wife always collecting & caring for the poor. Old whalers like him.” (Twain)
“Samuel Chenery Damon, chaplain of the American Seamen’s Friend Society and pastor of Bethel Union Church at Honolulu. His (wife) Julia Sherman Mills Damon, no less a tireless worker in Christ’s service, was first president of the Stranger’s Friend Society.” (Dye)
Damon came of Hawaii in 1842. On January 1, 1843 he began publication of the American Temperance Advocate, briefly called The Friend of Temperance & Seamen and then simply The Friend. (Twain)
Damon served as the chaplain at O‘ahu Bethel Church (Seamen’s Bethel) for 42 years, serving the sailors of vessels who entered the port of Honolulu.
“Beth-el” was designated as a refuge for sojourners. At that time more than 100 whaling vessels with approximately 6,000 sailors aboard entered the port of Honolulu annually.
Materials for the building had been contributed by several ship owners in Norwich and New London, Connecticut. A residence for the chaplain was also built nearby.
The chapel was of average size, measuring 48 feet by 30 feet. The main hall seated 300 persons; the basement had a reading room, a book depository, and a marine museum. Dedicated in 1833, the chapel stood until 1886. (Watson)
“Father Damon’s chief life-work has flowed in a different channel … Whereas their mission was emphatically to those Islanders who had never before heard the Gospel message, his was distinctively to the white settlers at Honolulu …”
“… but especially to the multitude of sailors from all lands who forty years ago flocked to the Hawaiian isles in very far larger numbers than at the present day, and many being wild and reckless, proved far more serious foes to mission-work than any which arose from mere indigenous heathenism.”
“In those days Honolulu was the winter rendezvous for the American whaling fleet, and about a hundred and fifty ships sometimes assembled here; bringing, of course, an immense influx of wild, undisciplined men.”
“Of those days Dr. Damon himself has said: ‘During the years between 1842 and 1867, at the lowest estimate, six thousand sailors annually entered the port, sometimes far more.’”
“‘I recollect one Sunday morning over thirty whale-ships and sixteen vessels of war rounded Diamond Head, besides all the merchant vessels. There could not have been less than ten thousand seamen during that year in the port of Honolulu.’”
“‘The Rev. S. E. Bishop reports from three to four thousand as visiting Lahaina, while the Rev. Titus Coan reports as many more, calling at Hilo.’” (Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, August 1886)
“Leaving New York in March, 1842, he and his bride sailed for Honolulu, where he at once commenced work as pastor of the Bethel Chapel, which had been erected in 1833, and was the only place of worship for the English-speaking community.”
“Busy as was his life, he yet found time to care for all. Every traveller who has visited the isles can tell the same tale, of how ‘Father Damon’ was the first to welcome the coming, the last to speed the parting guest …”
“… and so he remains linked in the first and last Hawaiian memories of many a wanderer in distant lands, all of whom will assuredly endorse words spoken concerning him:”
“‘All will feel that the Honolulu they have known will not be Honolulu to them without Dr. Damon’s genial cordiality to give warmth and brightness to their enjoyment of its sunshine, and memories of bis courteous friendliness.” (Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, August 1886)
“After a short but severe illness he passed away on the 7th of February (1885), carried off by inflammation of the brain, when within eight days of completing his seventieth year.”
“I believe that to many besides myself, it must have been a surprise to learn that he had so nearly attained the three-score years and ten …”
“… for he was so young-looking, and so full of unbounded energy, both physical and mental, and so eager to enlarge his work in a new field of usefulness, that, though he likewise was honoured with the affectionate title of ‘Father,’ it seemed as though he must belong to a younger generation than those of whom I have hitherto spoken.”
“His funeral was attended by His Majesty King Kalākaua, and various members of the Royal Family; also by the Anglican bishop and the majority of the Anglican congregation; for all the community have good reason to mourn the death of one of Honolulu’s noblest citizens.” (Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, August 1886)