“When I found I had crossed that line, I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person. There was such a glory over everything; the sun came like gold through the trees, and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.” Harriet Tubman
Born into slavery on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in 1822, she was named Araminta by her enslaved parents, Ben and Rit Ross. Nearly killed at the age of 13 by a blow to her head, “Minty” recovered and grew strong and determined to be free.
Changing her name to Harriet upon her marriage to freeman John Tubman in 1844, she escaped five years later when her enslaver died and she was to be sold. One hundred dollars was offered for her capture.
In 1849 Harriet Tubman learned that she and her brothers Ben and Henry were to be sold. Financial difficulties of slave owners frequently precipitated sale of slaves and other property.
The family had been broken before; three of Tubman’s older sisters, Mariah Ritty, Linah, and Soph, were sold to the Deep South and lost forever to the family and to history.
Despite additional dangers resulting from the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Tubman risked her life and ventured back to the community where she was born to rescue family, friends, and others.
The act required the reporting and arrest of anyone suspected of being a runaway slave, eliminated protections for suspected runaways, and provided economic incentives to kidnap people of African descent.
In September of 1850, Harriet was made an official “conductor” of the Underground Railroad. This meant that she knew all the routes to free territory and she had to take an oath of silence so the secret of the Underground Railroad would be kept secret.
Vowing to return to bring her family and friends to freedom, she spent the next ten years making about 13 trips into Maryland to rescue them. She also gave instructions to about 70 more who found their way to freedom independently.
Through the Underground Railroad, Tubman learned the towns and transportation routes characterizing the South—information that made her important to Union military commanders during the Civil War.
As a Union spy and scout, Tubman often transformed herself into an aging woman. She would wander the streets under Confederate control and learn from the enslaved population about Confederate troop placements and supply lines.
Tubman helped many of these individuals find food, shelter, and even jobs in the North. She also became a respected guerrilla operative. As a nurse, Tubman dispensed herbal remedies to black and white soldiers dying from infection and disease.
A lifelong humanitarian and civil rights activist, she formed friendships with abolitionists, politicians, writers and intellectuals. She knew Frederick Douglass and was close to John Brown and William Henry Seward.
She was particularly close with suffragists Lucretia Coffin Mott, Martha Coffin Wright, and Susan B. Anthony. Intellectuals in New England’s progressive circles, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison, Bronson Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Franklin B. Sanborn, and Mrs. Horace Mann, befriended her, and her work was heralded beyond the United States.
Tubman showed the same zeal and passion for the campaign to attain women’s suffrage after the American Civil War as she had shown for the abolition of slavery.
Harriet Tubman died in 1913 in Auburn, New York at the home she purchased from Secretary of State William Seward in 1859, where she established the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged. She was buried with military honors at Fort Hill Cemetery. (NPS)
In the Islands …
In 1848, King Kamehameha III fundamentally changed the land tenure system to a westernized paper title system through the Māhele. The lands were formally divided among the king and the chiefs, and the fee titles were recorded in the Māhele book.
In 1850, a law was passed allowing these “native tenants” to claim fee simple title to the lands they worked. Those who claimed their parcel(s) successfully acquired what is known as a kuleana.
Deeds executed during the Māhele conveying land contained the phrase “ua koe ke kuleana o na kānaka,” or “reserving the rights of all native tenants,” in continuation of the reserved tenancies which characterized the traditional Hawaiian land tenure system. (Garavoy)
Contemporary sources of law, including the Hawai‘i Revised Statutes, the Hawai‘i State Constitution, and case law interpreting these laws protect six distinct rights attached to the kuleana and/or native Hawaiians with ancestral connections to the kuleana.
These rights are:
- reasonable access to the land-locked kuleana from major thoroughfares;
- agricultural uses, such as taro cultivation;
- traditional gathering rights in and around the ahupua‘a;
- a house lot not larger than 1/4 acre;
- sufficient water for drinking and irrigation from nearby streams, including traditionally established waterways such as ‘auwai; and
- fishing rights in the kunalu (the coastal region extending from beach to reef).
The 1850 Kuleana Act also protected the rights of tenants to gain access to the mountains and the sea and to gather certain materials.
The Kuleana Act did not allow the maka‘āinana to exercise other traditional rights, such as the right to grow crops and pasture animals on unoccupied portions of the ahupua’a. The court’s interpretation of the act prevented tenants from making traditional use of commonly cultivated land. (MacKenzie)
Kawaiaha‘o Church Clock
Kawaiahaʻo Church (Stone Church) generally marked the eastern edge of town; it was constructed between 1836 and 1842. The “Kauikeaouli clock,” donated by King Kamehameha III in 1850, still tolls the time to this day.
Honolulu Streets Named
It wasn’t until 1850 that streets received official names. On August 30, 1850, the Privy Council first officially named Honolulu’s streets; there were 35‐streets that received official names that day (29 were in Downtown Honolulu, the others nearby.)
At the time, the water’s edge was in the vicinity of what we now call Queen Street. Back in those days, that road was generally called ‘Makai,’ ‘Water’ or Ali‘i Wahine.’ (Gilman)
Beginning of the Mormon Mission
“The Mormons are said to have commenced their mission in 1850. Their converts are scattered over all the islands. They number about nine per cent of all those who in the census returns have reported their religious affiliations. This mission owns a small sugar plantation at Laie, on the island of Oʻahu.” (The Friend, December 1902)
The Church traces its beginnings to Joseph Smith, Jr. On April 6, 1830 in Western New York, Smith and five others incorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fayette, New York.
In the summer of 1850, in California, elder Charles C Rich called together more elders to establish a mission in the Sandwich Islands. They arrived December 12, 1850. Later, more came.
Honolulu Fire Department
Alexander “Alick” Cartwright worked as a clerk for a broker and later for a bank, and, weather permitting, played variations of cricket and rounders in the vacant lots of New York City after the bank closed each day.
Rounders, like baseball, is a striking and fielding team game that involves hitting a ball with a bat; players score by running around the four bases on the field (the earliest reference to the game was in 1744.)
Cartwright played a key role in formalizing the first published rules of the game of baseball, including the concept of foul territory, the distance between bases, three-out innings and the elimination of retiring base runners by throwing batted baseballs at them.
The man who really invented baseball spent the last forty-four years of his long life in Hawai‘i and laid out Hawai‘i’s first baseball diamond, now called Cartwright Field, in Makiki. Cartwright went on to teach people in Hawai‘i how to play the game; and, he did a lot more when he was here.
In Hawaiʻi, he continued the volunteer fire fighting activities he had learned as a member of the Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 12 in New York City – and, he was part of Honolulu’s first Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Shortly thereafter, the Honolulu Fire Department was established on December 27, 1850, by signature of King Kamehameha III, and was the first of its kind in the Hawaiian Islands, and the only Fire Department in the United States established by a ruling monarch. Cartwright was appointed Chief Engineer of the Department and shortly thereafter, he became Fire Chief.
“The ordinance by Kamehameha III, December 27, 1850, establishing the Honolulu Fire Department, required each householder
to keep at least two buckets hanging handy, for fire use exclusively, and further ordered that they be brought to every fire.”
“The bucket part was probably the most effective, as the only other equipment at that time was a hand engine and 150 feet of homemade canvas hose through which, by constant relays on the pump handles, water could be thrown some sixty feet.” (Thrum)
Aside from his duties at the Honolulu Fire Department, Cartwright also served as advisor to the Queen. Cartwright was the executor of Queen Emma’s Last Will & Testament, in which she left the bulk of her estate to the Queen’s Hospital when she died in 1885. Cartwright also served as the executor of the estate of King Kalākaua.
Post Office Established in Honolulu
The first mention of a postal system in Hawaii was an enactment of the Legislature on April 27, 1846, relating to the handling of inter-island mails. It was entitled “An Act to Organize the Executive Departments of the Hawaiian Islands,”
With the US Post Office initiating a regular mail service by steamship between the east coast and California and Oregon, and a subsequent treaty between the US and Hawaii (ratified August 9, 1850) in which an article provided for the safe transmission of the mails between the two countries, the Hawaiian government decided that the 1846 statute governing internal correspondence was insufficient to handle foreign mails.
The Privy Council, therefore, passed a decree on December 20, 1850, and the 1851 Legislature enacted a law that established a Post Office in Honolulu (temporarily in the Polynesian Office). The Council appointed a Postmaster, Henry M. Whitney, and set up rates for renumeration to ships’ captains for carrying the mails. (DAGS)