“Dear Doctor (James) – I have taken this opportunity to express my heartiest appreciation and many thanks for the good treatment that I received at your hands while at the hospital for the last past three months.”
“I am enjoying sound health at present owing to your skilful medical attention given me and which I never, will forget.” (Hawaiian Star, December 7, 1909)
On the continent, the idea of unified, correlated national health services had been germinating slowly since the epidemic of yellow fever in 1793. Fast forward about a century … State Boards of Health were being organized in rapid succession.
In 1874 the National Association of State Health Commissioners was formed, and the obvious need for a central federal health agency became more and more apparent. Then in 1879, a National Board of Health was created.
In 1872, the small island off Iwilei in Honolulu Harbor – “Kamokuʻākulikuli” – became the site of a quarantine station used to handle the influx of immigrant laborers drawn to the islands’ developing sugar plantations.
The site is described as “little more than a raised platform of sand and pilings to house the station, with walkways leading to the harbor edge wharf, where a concrete sea wall had been constructed” and as “a low, swampy area on a reef in the harbor”. (Hawaiian Gazette, March 23, 1881)
By 1888, Kamokuʻākulikuli Island had been expanded and was known as “Quarantine Island.” If vessels arrived at the harbor after 15 days at sea and contagious disease was aboard, quarantine and disinfecting procedures were required at Quarantine Island. (Cultural Surveys)
At the request of the Territorial authorities an officer of the United States Public Health Service was detailed for duty as sanitary adviser to the Governor of Hawaii. (Journal of Public Health, 1913)
The work of the Public Health and Marine-Hospital Service in Hawaii was divided into four sections: quarantine operations; plague-preventive measures; immigration inspection; and marine-hospital relief.
“At Honolulu the service has a first-class quarantine and disinfecting station with a wharf capable of accommodating vessels of 35 feet draft. The quarantine station has accommodations for 75 cabin and 600 steerage passengers in the regular quarters and barracks.”
“In addition there are tent platforms of United States Army Regulation, 14 by 15 size, which can be made available at short notice for 1,280 soldiers, with the cooperation of the Quartermaster Department of the Army or of the Hawaiian National Guard. There is also tentage capacity on the island for at least as many more troops or other persons.”
“At Hilo the service maintains a second-class quarantine and disinfecting station with facilities for fumigating vessels by the sulphur-pot method. There is as yet no provision for handling numbers of persons in quarantine except on shipboard or by arrangement with the board of health for use of its quarters temporarily.”
“At the subports of Mahukona, Kahului, Lāhainā, Port Allen and Kōloa acting assistant surgeons of the service board and inspect incoming vessels.” (Surgeon General Annual Report, 1911)
Dredged materials from improvements to Honolulu harbor had enlarged Quarantine Island again and by 1906 the island was encircled by a seawall and was 38-acres. By 1908 the Quarantine Station consisted of Quarantine Island and the reclaimed land of the Quarantine wharf (with a causeway connecting the two.)
Quarantine Island (what is now referred to as Sand Island) became the largest United States quarantine station of the period, accommodating 2,255-individuals. This facility included two hospitals and a crematorium. (Cultural Surveys)
One of its residents was William Francis James. James was born in Darwhar, Bombay Presidency, India, November 11, 1860, the son of Cornelius Francis and Caroline Sophia James.
Dr William Francis James was married to Sarah Ellen “Helen” Robinson in San Antonio, Texas on June 16 1886. The couple were parents to eight children: William Walter James, Francis “Frank” Leicester James, Stella James, Caroline Ella “Cherie” James Morren, Sophie Ethel James Fase, Gracie James, Naomi James Jacobson Hart and Ruth James Lord. (Schnuriger)
James was a graduate physician (Tulane, 1893) and surgeon in private practice since 1888 in San Antonio Texas. He enlisted in the US Army in the Rough Riders, 1st Volunteer Cavalry during Spanish American War in 1898 and then came to the Islands in 1903 to work for the Public Health Service; his salary was $200 per month.
His duty as Acting Assistant Surgeon required him to board vessels wanting to enter the port of Honolulu and examine their passengers and crew and ascertain if there are any diseases there among that would prevent the vessel from entering the port. (US Circuit Court of Appeals)
“(W)e treat free of charge all sailors on United States boats, and also hospital treatment and outdoor patients treatment, and boarding vessels for the purpose of examining the crew and passengers on board the boats as to their health, and contagious diseases especially.” (James)
His services went beyond medicine … “Voicing the unanimous sentiment of the Japanese community, the members of the Japanese Hotel Union of Honolulu desire to express their deep appreciation of the heroic act …”
“… by which a Japanese woman, Sei Shibata, was saved by you from drowning in Honolulu harbor on the 23rd of September, 1912.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 3, 1912)
“Plunging into waters infested with sharks, Acting Assistant Surgeon WF James, of the public health service, stationed at Honolulu, rescued a Japanese woman from drowning on September 23.”
“The Young brothers’ launch Water-witch with visiting newspapermen was soon at the scene, and the woman and her brave rescuers were hauled aboard. From the launch they were transferred to the ‘Korea.’ Drs Trotter and James worked over the woman for some time before she was restored to consciousness.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, September 24, 1912)
“(James) was lauded for bravery by Secretary of the Treasury MacVeagh, who yesterday called attention to his ‘humanitarian and unselfish action.’ Dr James was formerly a Roosevelt Rough Rider.” (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, November 4, 1912) He died May 23, 1944 in Honolulu.