“In September, 1865, the spit of land on the northern or windward side of the island of Molokai was chosen as a suitable site for the establishment of a settlement for the segregation of lepers.”
“The site is probably one of the most suitable and isolated that could have been chosen for such a purpose. It is surrounded on the north, east, and west by the sea, and the base or southern side is placed beneath a steep pali or precipice from 1,800 to 2,000 feet high, which discourages communication with the rest of the island.”
“The first settlement was at Kalawao, on the eastern side of the spit of land. It lies close to the mountains at the rear and is much exposed to the northeast trade winds.”
“Kalaupapa, the more recent and larger settlement, is situated on the plain to the westward, is further removed from the steep cliffs, and is somewhat protected from northeast winds by the crater of Kahukoo.”
“When the board of health first opened the settlement, and for many years afterwards, much difficulty was experienced from the presence of persons who owned parcels of land in this tract and who were called Kamainas or old settlers. They were not subject to the laws governing lepers, and were free to come and go from the settlement at will.”
“The Hawaiian government has secured the property owned by those Kamainas, and they have been removed from the settlement. Molokai is probably the most complete settlement of its kind in the world.”
“It has hospitals, churches, homes for leprous children, male and female, stores, market dispensaries, cottages for leper residents, jail, storehouses, etc. The majority of the lepers live in cottages built by themselves or by the government, and in the settlement there is a total of all buildings of 716.” (Carmichael, Leprosy in the US, December 30, 1898)
“At a distance Kalaupapa looks like a prosperous little town, and in anticipation of the visit of the board of health a large number of the habitants had gathered at the landing place, some on foot and many mounted on horses.”
“Some difficulty was experienced in landing, which was done by open boat, there being no docks or wharves, as there was a strong northerly swell and the surf was somewhat dangerous. In the hands of natives skilled in surfboating this was soon accomplished without accident, and the entire party landed.”
“Here were seen the different churches, Protestant, Catholic, and Mormon, including that built by Father Damien, and the grave of this leper martyr by the church side. The Baldwin Home for leprous boys was then visited, and the hospitals and cottages for the accommodation of lepers in various stages of the disease.” (Carmichael, Public Health Reports, December 30, 1898)
American Protestant missionary H Harvey Hitchcock held a three-day meeting at Kala‘e, on the cliffs above Kalaupapa, in 1838, which was attended by many from the peninsula and the northern valleys. (An out-station of the Kalua‘aha mission was established there around 1840.) In 1839 a Hawai’ian missionary teacher named Kanakaokai was stationed on the peninsula.
Siloama Protestant Church was the first church to be erected at Kalawao Settlement at Kalaupapa, it was originally constructed and dedicated on October 28, 1871 by the Protestant Congregational Church.
Kana‘ana Hou Church (New Canaan church) was a branch of Siloama’s church; it was built in Kalaupapa in 1878 and enlarged in 1890. In 1881, the congregations of Kalawao and Kalaupapa united as Kanaana Hou. Siloama Church was rebuilt in the 1960s.
Belgium-born Joseph De Veuster arrived in Honolulu on March 19, 1864. There he was ordained a Catholic Priest in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace on May 31 and took the name of Damien.
Another Belgian, John Emil Van Lil, son of John Francis Van Lil and Marie Teresa, came to the peninsula near the turn of the century. He was a lay Catholic brother assisted at the Baldwin Home.
He later was in “charge of all (animal) stock. Mr. Van Lil is a practical farmer, and enthusiastic in his work and I feel that our dairy and farm matters are in good hands.” (Report of the Superintendent of the Leper Settlement, BOH Annual Report, 1903)
“(A) hog ranch (had previously been started) with one boar and ten sows. We have now over one hundred pigs. but through lack of food am unable to go ahead as fast as we might. As the pork is to be issued to the people in lieu of beef, I do not believe it would be a paying proposition to purchase food from the outside.”
“We have cleared about six acres of land in one of the sheltered valleys and planted four thousand papaia trees; about 50 per cent. of which are coming along nicely.”
“We have also planted about two acres in pumpkins which are also doing well. As papaias and pumpkins make good hog feed combined with the cooked offal from the slaughter house. it is only a question of time until we will have sufficient food for all the hogs we can raise.” (Report of the Superintendent of the Leper Settlement, BOH Annual Report, 1903)
“The general health conditions of the Settlement have been excellent … and I here with wish to express my appreciation to Superintendent McVeigh for his foresight in establishing and maintaining this dairy …”
“… as well as to Mr. Emil Van Lil for his able management of the same; not one of the numerous daily milk orders issued having been dishonored, although some 56 gallons of milk are requisitioned daily.” (Board of Health Annual Report, 1906)
A patient from Lahaina, Elizabeth Kaehukai (Baker) Napoleon, had “married Walter U(w)aia Napoleon on April 26, 1890 and they had 12 children together. Seventeen years later, she and Uaia divorced on Dec. 27, 1907.”
“The divorce decree states, ‘On 11 Nov. 1907, Uaia, without just cause or provocation, turned Elizabeth out of his house, and refused to allow her to re-enter their house. Uaia utterly failed, neglected and refused to provide Elizabeth lodging, clothing, food and other necessities. Uaia also refused to allow their children to see or talk with her.’”
“It is likely that Uaia suspected Elizabeth had early signs of leprosy and this is why he kicked her out of the house. By court order, Elizabeth was allowed visits with her children on Saturdays and Monday from 9 am to 7 pm. On Sept. 22, 1911, she was taken in for suspicion of leprosy. She was sent to Kalaupapa on April 9, 1912.” (NPS)
There, she met and married (October 12, 1914) Van Lil at Kalawao. “Six months later, Van Lil was examined on April 10, 1915 and found to have leprosy. He was 59 years old.” (NPS)
“The huge Belgian dairyman, good Van Lil, of old memory, now a patient, had married another, and the pair lived happily in a vine-hidden cottage near Kalawao, making the most of their remaining time on earth.”
“Beyond a fleeting embarrassment in his vague blue eye, he met us on the Damien Road with the undimmed buoyancy of other years, and our eyes could see no blemish on his face. Probably we were more affected than he, for in the main the victim of leprosy is as optimistic as he of the White Plague.”
“And Emil Van Lil was not the only one whom we saw who had perforce changed his status toward society in the intervening eight years. The little mail-carrier who had led us up out of the Settlement, we found in the Bay View Home, cheerful as of yore, although far gone with the malefic blight.”
“And, auwe! some of the men and women we had known here before as extreme cases still lingered, sightless perhaps, but trying to smile with what was left of their contorted visages, in recognition of our voices.”
“Others, whose closing throats had smothered them, breathed through silver tubes in their windpipes. Strange is this will to persist tenacity of life!” (Charmian London )wife of Jack London), 1917)
“Van Lil died four years after Elizabeth on May 2, 1925. He does not have a marked grave.” (NPS)