Dwight Baldwin was born on September 29, 1798 to Seth Baldwin (1775 –1832,) (a farmer) and Rhoda Hull Baldwin in Durham, Connecticut, and moved to Durham, New York, in 1804. His father, He was the second of 12 children. (Baldwin Genealogy)
He was employed with his father on the farm, enjoying the benefits of the common school, and generally in winter of a select school, till the age of sixteen. In the fall of 1814, he commenced the study of Latin, with a view to prepare for College.
The last of his teachers being a graduate of Williams College, he was induced to enter at Williams, where he spent two years; and then he left Williams and entered Yale College, where he graduated in September, 1821.
By the recommendation of President Day, the next two years he was employed as Principal of the Academy in Kingston, Ulster County, NY. A third year was spent in teaching a select school in Catskill, Greene county. He then devoted himself to the study of medicine, at the same time teaching a select school in Durham, NY.
Then, he got caught in the religious fervor; about the first of March, 1826, he found relief in believing in an Almighty Redeemer, a hope which has never forsaken him. Religion became the all-absorbing subject of his thought by day and by night. (Baldwin Genealogy)
He soon came to the decision to join a mission, and September 3, of that year, he united with the Congregational Church in Durham, NY, and soon after he entered the Theological Seminary at Auburn, where he spent three years, offering his services into the American Board of Boston for a Foreign Mission … and they were accepted.
He did not have time to await official recognition of his medical degree so at direction of the Prudential Committee he took his diploma as Master of Science. He was ordained at Utica, NY on October 6, 1830.
He was introduced by a friend to Charlotte Fowler, daughter of Deacon Solomon Fowler of North Branford, Connecticut, and a few weeks later was married to her on December 3, 1830. Twenty-five days later they set sail with the Fourth Company of missionaries to Hawaiʻi on the ship ‘New England;’ he arrived at Honolulu, June 7, 1831. (Baldwin)
Soon after their arrival, the Missionaries were assigned to different stations over the group, wherever there seemed to be the greatest opportunity of doing good. After a few months in Honolulu he was assigned to help Lorenzo Lyons in Waimea, Hawaiʻi Island. He remained there three years, from 1832 to 1835. (The Friend, December 1922)
In 1835, ill health caused Baldwin to leave Waimea and seek recovery in the Society Islands. “Such was the opinion of all I consulted at Honolulu, & though I could preach & attend to other duties, & it was trying to part with my dear family, yet I was afraid I might hereafter repent, should I not go; so I came to the conclusion to go.” (Baldwin, November 20, 1835)
“We sailed from Honolulu the 14th of July (1835) … We anchored at Papeete bay, on the NW side of Tahiti, in just one month from the time we sailed. … During the ten days we were at Tahiti, I did all I could, to visit the several stations”. (Baldwin)
“From Tahiti we sailed to Huahine, (then) we set sail for these islands. We were favored with good winds & in 20 days saw Hawaii … I landed Sept. 20th thankful at finding wife & little ones safe & well.” (While he was in Tahiti, his family had settled into their new home at Lāhainā.) (Baldwin, November 20, 1835)
The Lāhainā mission was started in 1823; William Richards had been pastor for 13-years. Lāhainā was then the favorite Royal Center of the King, and nearly all the high Chiefs of the Islands; it was the Kingdom’s capital (from the 1820s through the mid-1840s.)
It was also a thriving harbor in those days, being a port of call for the whale ships which sometimes filled the bay so full that one could jump from one deck to another.
Father and Mother Baldwin as they were often called, opened their home to all. Officers and masters of ships were the recipients of their wholehearted hospitality. Dr. Baldwin was physician for the mission families, and the government physician for Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. (The Friend, December 1922)
“A barrel of whale oil furnished light for a year. The flour brought by the missionary steamer Morning Star came once a year and several times it had been so wetted in the storms off Cape Horn that it had hardened and it was necessary to chisel off the daily measure for cooking.”
“Vegetables, however, grew in their own garden and there was an abundance of fruit, such as bananas, grapes, and watermelons, and one does not hear that they suffered from their poverty.” (Baldwin)
Baldwin preached at the Waine‘e Church (“Moving Water;”) the cornerstone was laid on September 14, 1828, for this ‘first stone meeting-house built at the Islands,’ It was dedicated on March 4, 1832. The Hawaiian royalty attended services there.
(After fire destroyed the church in 1894, Baldwin’s son, Henry Perrine Baldwin, helped fund its restoration. Damaged and restored several times, the Church finally changed its name from Waine‘e Church, to Waiola Church (“Water of Life”) in 1954, and has safely-stood since.)
A series of epidemics swept through the Hawaiian Islands in the 1840s, whooping cough and measles, soon after followed by waves of dysentery and influenza; then, in 1853, a terrible smallpox epidemic. Although precise counts are not known, there were thousands of smallpox deaths on O‘ahu; Baldwin is credited with keeping the toll to only a few hundred on Maui.
“My journal has been long laid aside – not because I have not had thousands of things to record but mainly because press of cares has left little leisure to record what is passing in & what we are engaged. … 1853 was wonderfully taken up with our war with small pox on the islands.” (Baldwin, October 8, 1854)
“(Baldwin) was constant in his ministrations, taxing his strength almost to its limit. He was obliged to cross the channel to Molokai and Lanai often when the weather was very stormy, and too, very dangerous.”
“He never hesitated for a moment when the call came, night or day, but hurried on with his little bag, stepped into a double canoe and was off to Lanai and from there he took a whaleboat to Molokai. It was not unusual for Dr. Baldwin to take a trip of 80 or 90 miles on horseback to visit patients in Hana.” (The Friend, December 1922)
In 1856 the health of Father Baldwin, who had worked thirty-six years without a vacation, failed and the “American Board” granted him a year’s leave of absence. He and his wife left the Islands for a year’s visit in “the states.” (Baldwin)
In 1859 Baldwin belatedly received an honorary medical degree from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire. Without having this he had suffered much embarrassment at the hands of the medical society of Honolulu who, despite the fact that he had been combining an exhausting medical practice for 27-years with his ministry, would not recognize him with a medical license unless he could produce documentary evidence of his medical degree. (HMCS)
It was with regret that Baldwin resigned his pastorate at Lāhainā, in September, 1868. That year Father Baldwin became associated with Reverend Benjamin Parker in the conduct of the native Theological Seminary at Honolulu; the Baldwins moved to Honolulu in 1870.
Mother Baldwin died on October 2, 1873; the inscription on her tombstone reads, “A life of work, love and prayer;” Dwight Baldwin died on January 3, 1886.
The Baldwins had eight children: David Dwight (1831–1912), Abigail Charlotte (1833–1913), Charles Fowler (1837–1891), Henry Perrine (1842–1911), Emily Sophronia (1844–1891) and Harriet Melinda (1846–1932). A daughter, Mary Clark died at about 2½ years of age in 1838; a son, Douglas Hoapili, died at almost 3 in 1843.
The Baldwin’s coral and stone Lāhainā Home, Baldwin House, is the oldest house in Lāhainā (completed in 1835.) It is now home to Lāhainā Restoration Foundation; they oversee and maintain 11 major historic structures in Lāhainā and provide tours of the Baldwin House. (Lots of information here from Baldwin Journals, Baldwin Genealogy and Mission Houses.)
Jamie DeBrunner says
Wow! So interesting…mahalo for sharing!! Part of my ohana immigrated from Portugal to Lahaina in 1904. My great grandmother died giving birth to her 8th child, and is buried at Maria Lanikila Church, in Lahaina. That child is now buried with her…my Uncle John Pestana died approx. 15 years ago. Mahalo for sharing your historic knowledge!!
Samuel Wolff says
Thank you Peter. I wonder what he would’ve thought of how his descendants spent their time in Hawaii…