“Somewhere about the year 1848, possibly earlier (actually, 1841,) a young man from Boston landed on the shores of our Islands; he was about eighteen years of age, an entire stranger, coming out to those distant fields of labor to seek his fortune. “
“My adopted father, the chief Pāki, befriended him, gave him the first helping hand which welcomed him to his new country, and rendered him such assistance as was in fact the means of showing to him the opportunity of making his way in the world …” (Lili‘uokalani)
Gorham D Gilman was born in Hallowell, Maine, May 29, 1822. He shipped on a vessel, arriving in Honolulu early in 1841. He found commercial employment, mastered the Hawaiian language, and pursued his career at several locations in the islands. For some years, he was in business at Koloa, Kauai.
Lured by news of the gold strike, by mid-November 1848, he was in San Francisco. There he formed a partnership with Mr Wetmore. But California proved a disappointment; in the spring of 1849 Gilman returned to Hawaii. (Sharpless & Greer)
“(A)s years passed by he established himself in business, and soon became one of the leading merchants of Lāhainā, at that time the port of call in the Islands for the whaleships, ranking second only to Honolulu.”
“It was then the base of supplies to this fleet of vessels, was a thoroughly thrifty place, and a business city of growing commercial importance. But the oil-wells of the land have thrown into neglect the oil-ships of the sea, and since this decline and decay Lahaina is little more than a city of ruins.” (Lili‘uokalani)
This phase of Gilman’s long life lasted until 1861. By then the whaling fleet, on which his prosperity depended, had deserted Lāhainā. (Sharpless & Greer)
“Mr. Gilman probably saw the approaching decline of the industry by which the place was supported; for he broke up his business connections there, sundered certain personal ties, and returned to the East with a very handsome fortune, it is said, the result of the accumulation of years of mercantile life on Hawaiian soil and under Hawaiian laws.” (Lili‘uokalani)
From Honolulu he returned to Boston where he and his brothers, John A and Samuel K Gilman, entered the wholesale drug firm of Gilman Brothers. After making his home at Newton, Massachusetts, in 1865, he became a prominent citizen of that community.
He developed an active interest in politics and served in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature. Gilman retained connections with Hawaii and the West Coast (as late as 1902 he was vice-president of an organization of California pioneers). (Sharpless & Greer)
“Gilman had been earlier in life a conspicuous figure, not only in the drug trade but in civic, Masonic and religious affairs. At various times in his career he was both a representative and a senator in the State legislature, an alderman in his home city of Newton, and Consul-General for New England of the Hawaiian government.” (Bulleting of Pharmacy, 1909)
“In 1887, during my journey with Queen Kapiʻolani, we met Mr. Gilman, who was at that time very kind and attentive to me. To be sure, he had a point to gain; he wanted a decoration from the king, and did not hesitate to say so.”
“On the return of the queen’s party to the Islands, letters were received from Mr. Gilman, directly applying for the honor to my brother. Chiefly by means of my personal influence his petition was granted, and he was made a Knight Companion of the Order of Kalākaua, and the decoration forwarded to him.” (Lili‘uokalani)
“Gorham D. Gilman, Hawai‘i’s good friend at the Hub of the Universe Boston will be honored by the Chamber of Commerce with a testimonial in the form of a laudatory letter, accompanied by some suitable memento of the Islands, in appreciation of his promotion efforts on behalf of Hawaii.”
“For years a resident of Honolulu; and for many, many years, a citizen of Boston, Mr. Gilman has not lost sight of the Islands, and his interest has gone so far that he has kept the progress of the group before the reading public and at great gatherings in the East.” (Recognition of Gilman by Honolulu Chamber of Commerce, PCA, July 16, 1897)
“His library of Hawaiiana was one of the most extensive in the northeastern US; it was supplemented by paintings, photos, and curios.”
“As consul, Gilman rendered great service by giving illustrated (stereopticon) lectures on Hawaii—especially during the critical year of 1893. And the student of Hawaiian history owes him much.”
“Besides the several journals he kept at various times, he produced a number of articles for Thrum’s Hawaiian Annual. These reminiscences add greatly to our knowledge of Honolulu in the 1840s and 1850s. ” (Sharpless & Greer)
“He made the acquaintance of King Kamehameha III, and of four kings who succeeded him, including King Kalākaua, also Queen Kapiʻolani and the present dethroned Queen Liliuokalani.”
“Mr. Gilman received from these various royal personages many decorations and gifts. His mastery of the native language was so easily accomplished that he became very proficient, and his translation of an important United States Government treaty was accepted officially, in preference to that of a man of far greater experience.”
“Mr. Gilman lived widely, tried to do his whole duty, achieved a splendid record, kept at work under a full head of steam until he reached the fine age of 87 years, and has gone to the larger life, a noble alumnus of Mother Earth, well fitted for the career upon which he is now entering.” (The Friend, November 1909) Gilman died at Newton on October 3, 1909.