In the Colonial Records in the Boston Libraries relating to the founders of Scituate, Massachusetts, and their descendants, the name John Damon was spelled Daman. He came to the colony of Plymouth probably as early as 1628, with his sister Hannah and Uncle William Gilson who was their guardian.
After the ‘Boston Tea Party’ the Colonists enrolled themselves into companies of ‘Minute Men’ to assemble at a moment’s warning, which was to be given by the ringing of bells, firing of guns, etc; Samuel Damon and Simeon Damon, his brother, were under the command of Capt. Joseph Stetson.
Among the men to respond to the ‘Lexington Alarm’ on April 19th, 177 5, enrolled in Captain John Clapp’s Company of Minute men, appear the names of Samuel Damon, Daniel Damon, John Damon (brothers), and Stephen Damon.
“In the year 1793, Samuel Damon with his family consisting of his wife and eleven children, came from Scitnate, Mass. And located a farm on what was known as Parker’s Hill, near Springfield. Here he built a log house in which he reared his family. This farm was known for many years as the Damon farm”. (Damon)
Samuel Chenery Damon, son of Colonel Samuel Damon, was born in Holden, Massachusetts, February 15, 1815. He was graduated from Amherst College in 1836, studied at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1838-39, and was graduated at Andover Theological Seminary in 1841. He was an American missionary.
He was preparing to go to India as a missionary and was studying the Tamil language for that purpose, when an urgent call came for a seaman’s chaplain at the port of Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands. He was ordained September 15, 1841, and he decided to accept the position at Honolulu.
He married Julia Sherman Mills of Natick, Massachusetts on October 6, 1841. Julia’s uncle, Samuel John Mills Jr, was one of five participants in the famous 1806 Williams College ‘Haystack Prayer Meeting’ that led to the beginning of a secret missionary fraternity called the Society of Brethren, the first Protestant foreign missions organization in America.
Mills later led in the formation the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions or ABCFM (the Protestant missionaries who came to Hawaiʻi in 1820.)
In 1842, the Damons moved to Honolulu at the direction of the American Seamen’s Friend Society – Damon served as the chaplain at O‘ahu Bethel Church (Seamen’s Bethel) for 42 years, serving the sailors of vessels who entered the port of Honolulu.
“Beth-el” was designated as a refuge for sojourners. At that time more than 100 whaling vessels with approximately 6,000 sailors aboard entered the port of Honolulu annually.
Materials for the building had been contributed by several ship owners in Norwich and New London, Connecticut. A residence for the chaplain was also built nearby.
The chapel was of average size, measuring 48 feet by 30 feet. The main hall seated 300 persons; the basement had a reading room, a book depository, and a marine museum. Dedicated in 1833, the chapel stood until 1886. (Watson)
Damon preached two sermons on Sunday with an additional service on Wednesday. He ministered to the needs of the visiting sailors, which could include food, clothing, and temporary shelter.
He encouraged sailors to refrain from liquor and carousing while on leave. He also collected the sailors’ mail until a post office was established in 1851. Concerned with educating his seagoing flock, he collected books on spelling and arithmetic.
In 1886 a raging waterfront fire destroyed the Seamen’s Bethel, which was still Bethel Union’s home. The idea surfaced of combining Bethel Union, now without a home, with the well-established Fort Street Church (at what is now the ʻEwa Makai corner of Fort Street and Beretania at the top of the Fort Street Mall.)
In 1887 a formal merger of Bethel Union and Fort Street Church created Central Union Church, with 337 members. They first built a church across from Washington Place (1891,) then built the present Central Union in 1920.)
Perceiving a need for a newspaper, Damon founded ‘The Temperance Advocate and Seamen’s Friend’ (later reduced to ‘The Friend,’) which published local and world news, announcements, messages from the visiting sailors, and articles and sermons written by the chaplain himself. Printed regularly, the newspaper totaled an estimated one-half million copies over the years. (Watson)
The Friend described itself as the “Oldest Newspaper West of the Rockies” in the early 1900s; it was a monthly newspaper for seamen which included news from both American and English newspapers as well as announcements of upcoming events, reprints of sermons, poetry, local news, editorials, ship arrivals and departures and a listing of marriages and deaths.
In the mid-1800s, many professing Christians migrated to Hawaii from South China looking for a better life working on the Sugar Plantations. In February 1869, with the support of Damon, Sabbath Evening meetings for the Chinese were held under the guidance of Samuel Aheong, a Chinese plantation worker.
Aheong returned to China in 1870. Damon made the facilities of the Bethel Church available for Sunday afternoon services and personally taught a small group of Chinese English in a night school in the parish hall. (FirstChinese)
Samuel and his wife Julia visited missions overseas in Egypt and Syria. They also made a trip to the United States to observe the settlements in California. In 1849 revisited Holden during a trip to the centennial celebration in Philadelphia, to which he was a delegate.
Damon passed away in 1885 at the age of seventy and lies buried at O‘ahu Cemetery. Three years after his passing, his brother-in-law Samuel C Gale gave the citizens of Holden the beautiful Damon Memorial that housed both the Gale Free Library and the Holden High School. The library, said Gale in his dedicatory speech, was Damon’s inspiration.
Click the following link of a portrayal of Reverend Samuel Chenery Damon (portrayed by David C Farmer) as a Mission Houses Cemetery Pupu Theatre (recorded on cellphone, sound is weak:)