“This is the place,” and joy seemed to fill all.
Elder Johnson then suggested that it should be called the Valley of Ephraim (a name that President Lewis had suggested to Brigham Young a few weeks before) and that the city be called Joseph. All agreed. (Britsch)
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let’s step back.
In September 1850, Elder Charles C. Rich, one of the Church’s Twelve Apostles (the leading councils of the Church are the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles), visited a group of Mormon gold miners who were working on the American River near Sacramento, California.
Rich suggested to them that it would be well for them to spend the winter, when mining had to stop, on missions to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiʻi) because expenses were smaller in Honolulu than they were in the gold fields of California.
The next day eight miners were ordained to fill missions to Hawaiʻi, others were added and the whole group sailed for the islands. They arrived on December 12, 1850, the first group of Latter-day Saints missionaries to set foot on that land. (Britsch)
On October 17th, 1853, a special committee made a trip to Lānaʻi to inspect the ahupua‘a (native land division) of PāIāwai, which belonged to the chief Levi Ha‘alelea. On November 2nd, 1853, the committee reported back to Brigham Young in Utah, that:
“…They found the place well adapted in many respects for this purpose, the soil being good, the situation a central one and having ready intercourse with the two principal markets, Honolulu and Lahaina, and sufficiently isolated to be comparatively free from the surrounding evil influences…” (Maly)
In August 1854, Elder Ephraim Green (1807-1874), a Latter-day Saint missionary to Hawaiʻi, moved to Pālāwai Basin on Lānaʻi with the intention of establishing a new settlement. Ephraim Green described laying out the city on October 3, 1854 as follows:
“I tuck my cumpas and commenst to lay out a town at the fut of the mountain and laid out one stret runing south to the sea three mildes to a fine litle harbour whare we land out boats hear we intendt to build a (storehouse) to leave our produse. I then laid out three more streats thruing (turning) the town in to blocks fore acres each with the streats fore rods wide. This is a butiful location for a town.”
“This valley is supposed to be of sufficient altitude to admit the growth of wheat, corn, sweet potatoes; with many of the tropical fruits, and we hope that it will prove sufficiently moist to admit of the cultivation of the coffee and grape.” ((Lewis to Young; Britsch)
“We are situated on this Island, nearly two thousand feet above the level of the sea, in a beautiful valley containing three thousand acres of land. Here we catch the mountain breeze and the climate is beautiful and healthy. In many places in this country as high and alleviated as this, the rain makes it disagreeable. But here there is no inconvenience felt on that account. Only some times there is a lack for the want of it.” (Maly)
Over the next year the pioneers planted an amazing variety of seeds, slips, and starts. The list included wheat, oats, barley, grapes, sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes, beans of several kinds, peas, squash, pumpkins, bananas, corn, melons, peaches, plums, quinces, pears, tomatoes, cabbage, and “many kinds of garden seed.” (Britisch)
But, the weather, particularly the rainfall, had serious consequences – sometimes there was too much, most of the time there was too little. A spring was about 1-mile from where they lived and farmed.
“… there is not a single stream or spring in this district, and it is with much difficulty that the people manage to get enough drinking water. Sometimes they have brought water from Lāhainā, and lugged it four miles from the beach to their homes in Pālāwai valley.” (Gibson)
“The threatenings of war in Utah in 1857 induced every white Mormon Elder to return home. The native church was left to its own guidance.”
“The Utah Elders invariably told the natives that they did not come to establish themselves here, like the missionaries, but simply to teach them what they felt to be the truth, and then go their way to teach others.” (Gibson, Pacific Commercial Advertiser, October 24, 1861)
Walter Murray Gibson was sent on a mission by Brigham Young to the Far East and came to the Hawaiian Islands in 1861. He subsequently declared himself the “Chief President of the Islands of the Sea and of the Hawaiian Islands, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints.”
The Church sent a group to investigate Gibson’s activities. Upon arrival to the island of Lanai, Joseph F Smith described the situation as follows:
“We found that he had ordained twelve apostles. High priests, seventys, elders, bishops, and “priestesses of temples,” all of whom had to pay a certain sum corresponding to the various degrees of honor bestowed upon them….”
“Gibson had bought the district of Palawai (6,000 acres) by the donation of the Saints, assuring them he was doing it all for them for the Church. He persuaded them to give all they had to the Church and made it a test of fellowship….”
“Brothers Benson and Snow required him to sign the land over to the Church as it was deeded to him and his heirs. This he flatly refused to do informing them he should take his own course.”
Gibson was excommunicated from the Church, although he retained the land which was purchased under the auspices of the Church. (Mormon Sites)
In later years, Pālāwai Basin was planted in pineapple. In 2004, the Mormon Pacific Historical Society and the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation erected a monument to the Pālāwai Saints paying tribute to those early members who established the first gathering place for Mormons in Hawaiʻi.
The image shows the Mormon memorial, overlooking some of Pālāwai Basin. In addition, I have included other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
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