Lawrence McCully was born in New York City on May 28, 1831; two years later, the family moved to Oswego, New York. He attended Courtlandt Academy and graduated from Yale in 1852; he was a tutor for a family in New Orleans and later taught school In Kentucky.
“Without any family, friends or connections in these Islands to call him here, he, as the result of his reading, formed the plan of settling in the Sandwich Islands, and came hither via Panama and California.” (star-bulletin)
On December 15, 1854, King Kamehameha III died; shortly after, McCully, a young man of 23 years, arrived in the Islands with the intent of making it his home.
Here he stayed; “he knew the land of his adoption intimately and greatly to the advantage of the public service. [He was] an educated man, with high sentiments and pure character, a well stored mind, cultivated by reading and foreign travel.” (Chief Justice Judd)
He got a job in 1855 as “Police Justice” in Hilo. A couple years later, he resigned and moved to Kona, where he bought land and began an orange orchard. While on the Big Island, he learned the Hawaiian language.
When he moved to Honolulu in 1858, he studied law in the office of Chief Justice Harris and passed the bar in 1859. In 1860, he was elected to the Hawaii Legislature as a representative of Kohala, then was picked speaker of the House.
Because “the practice of law was not very remunerative in those early days,” McCully became, in 1862, an interpreter to the Supreme Court and the Police Court in Honolulu. He later became Clerk of the Supreme Court; then, he took a position as a deputy attorney general.
McCully was married Miss Ellen Harvey, at the residence of Chief Justice Allen, May 20, 1866. They had an adopted daughter, Alice. (Burrage & Stubbs)
In 1877, King Kalākaua appointed McCully as Second Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, then in 1881, to First Associate Justice and a member of the Privy Council.
While on a trip to London in 1891, “he acted as the accredited delegate of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association at the Ecumenical Conference of the Congregational Church. … On his return home he gave an account of the gathering from the pulpit of Central Union Church, holding the intense interest of the congregation as he told his story in graphic language without notes.” (Daily Bulletin)
“Living through the reigns of four successive kings and holding office under all of them, he witnessed the great political and economic changes that have taken place during the past forty years. As Police Justice, Interpreter, Clerk of the Supreme Court, Boundary Commissioner, Deputy Attorney-General and Justice of the Supreme Court.” (Chief Justice Judd)
“Two important characteristics of Judge McCully [are] his prudent and simple method of life, not savoring of either extravagance or parsimony … [and] his inherent honesty of character. He loved the truth. Policy had no place in his thoughts, and never swerved him in his decision. Sometimes a consideration of policy would have been to his advantage, but he never thought of that “. (Chief Justice Judd)
“As a Judge I think every one will accord to him honesty of intention and honesty of purpose. I think all recognize the fact that he possessed in a striking degree a love of justice as such. He was just to all; he endeavored in his decisions to do justice. He was possessed also of a sense which is called common, but perhaps it is rather uncommon. He possessed a common sense and clear judgment, a logical mind that enabled him to arrive at conclusions in his decisions which recommended themselves to the Bar, certainly, and I believe to the community as a rule.” (Castle)
“In social life he shone, for his conversation was always instructive, his words fluent and select. He associated only with the best and purest spirits—nothing low or degrading met with response in him. As a Judge, his work was good. His written opinions are characterized by thoroughness of treatment and sound sense.” (Chief Justice Judd)
Judge McCully was one of a group of land owners who pooled their resources to bring “Mr. Peirce, a well borer” from California to drill for artesian water on their properties in Honolulu proper, the first of these being bored in 1880 at the Mānoa property of Mr. Augustus Marques “a gentleman not long resident in the kingdom, who had built his house on the dry flat land at the mouth of Manoa Valley.” (ASCE-Hawaii)
Then, on the 15th September, 1880, another well was drilled on the McCully property and a fine flow was obtained and named the Ontario Well. It greatly exceeded what had hitherto been got … Being nearer town and directly on the road, and, the volume being larger, this well renewed the public interest and enthusiasm, and hope of a new source of prosperity to the country. (Thrum, 1882)
McCully had acquired a land grant (3098) and owned about 122 acres makai of Algaroba Street to Kalākaua Avenue. In 1900, eight years after McCully’s death, a subdivision map and a prospectus for the property was submitted to the authorities.
The property, which extended from South King Street to Waikīkī Road (Kalākaua,) was to be divided into 53-blocks of equal size. The subdivision was to be serviced from “town” by an electric streetcar line passing through the district.
The main mauka-makai thoroughfare is McCully Street; ‘Ewa-Diamond Head streets are named for trees (Algaroba, Banyan (later called Waiola,) Citron, Date, Fern, Lime and Mango (later turned into Kapiʻolani.) (Other tree-named streets, Orange, Palm and Tamarind, are no longer there.)
What became known as the “McCully Tract” was developed as a residential area in about 1901. Sales stalled, in part, because the declaration in the prospectus said deeds would not be transferred until lands were filled to government grade, something that did not happen until undertaken as part of the Waikiki Reclamation Project. (Stephenson)
From 1925 to 1927, the Ala Wai dredge material was used to fill and raise the surface levels of the McCully area. Walter Dillingham’s Hawaiian Dredging Company was the contractor for the canal project and he had an interest in the McCully property through the Guardian Trust Company. (Stephenson)
Lawrence McCully died at his residence on April 10, 1892. A district on Oʻahu, a major roadway (and bridge) and others are named after him.
Today, McCully is a well-established residential community generally Koko Head side of Kalākaua Avenue, between King Street and the Ala Wai, generally surrounding McCully Street (one of the neighborhood’s major mauka-makai arterial roadways.) (C&C Honolulu)
It has the highest median household income within the Honolulu Urban Core and has the lowest individual poverty rate among the Urban Core neighborhoods. (C&C Honolulu)