Samuel Gardner Wilder was born June 20, 1831 in Massachusetts. Wilder arrived in Honolulu in the clipper ship White Swallow in the year 1857, that same year he married Elizabeth Kinaʻu Judd, daughter of missionary doctor and politician Gerrit P. Judd.
Their honeymoon voyage to New York on the chartered White Swallow went via Jarvis Island, where Wilder picked a load of guano for sale on the continent.
“Samuel G Wilder has had the career of a man of more than ordinary ability and energy whose private enterprises and public services have both in a large degree been a benefit to the country of his adoption.” (Hawaiian Gazette July 31, 1888.)
Upon returning to the islands, in 1864, Wilder and his father in law (Judd) set up a partnership for a sugar plantation at Kualoa, and built the mill and the stone chimney together.
The mill is associated with a tragedy when Willy Wilder, the nine year old son of Samuel Wilder, fell into a vat of boiling syrup during processing. He died a few days later from his severe burns.
By 1867, the decision to end the Judd-Wilder venture at Kualoa was made. The mill ground its last crop during the summer of 1868. After the failure of the plantation, the land was used a pasture for cattle and horses under the name of Kualoa Ranch.
He was later in the lumber business, but his wealth and prominence started in the interisland steam transportation business. Starting with the Kilauea, then the Likelike, then many more, he formed a flotilla of interisland carriers and later organized them under the Wilder Steamship Company.
The Wilder organization had strong competition from the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company, which developed from the activities and interests of Captain Thomas R. Foster.
In 1905, the Wilder Steamship Company merged with the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company, forming the largest fleet of steamers serving Hawaiʻi. That company started the first scheduled commercial airplane service in 1929 as Inter-Island Airways and became Hawaiian Airlines in 1941.
His life included politics and King Lunalilo appointed Wilder to the House of Nobles. King Kalākaua later appointed Wilder to his Cabinet, where he served as Minister of the Interior from 1878-1880.
He was a businessman rather than a politician, and his watchword was efficiency and economy in administration. He applied to the business of government the same ability and energetic leadership that won him success in his private business enterprises. (Kuykendall)
Mr. Wilder’s administration of the Department of the Interior was characterized by a well-defined policy of extensive internal improvements. Wilder vigorously pushed forward the construction of roads and bridges with other public conveniences, including the Marine Railway. (Hawaiian Gazette July 31, 1888)
During his term in office that Kulaokahuʻa, the “plains,” between Alapaʻi and Punahou streets mauka of King Street in Honolulu, was opened for settlement. Work on ʻIolani Palace was begun and preliminary railroad surveys were made on the island of Hawaiʻi. Wilder’s influence was felt in all departments of the government. (Kuykendall)
In 1878 Wilder established the first telephone line on Oʻahu, from his government office to his lumber business. King Kalākaua then purchased telephones for ʻIolani Palace. (Charles Dickey in Haiku, Maui had the first phones in the islands (1878;) connecting his home to his store.)
In 1881, Wilder initiated a railroad connecting the Mahukona port with the plantations in North Kohala on the Big Island (Niuliʻi to Mahukona;) he later bought the Kahului Railroad Company.
Wilder was appointed and later elected to the legislative assembly and served as its president. “He was a practical parliamentarian; just, prompt and precise in his rulings combining rare tact with energy in the dispatch of business.” Hawaiian Gazette July 31, 1888)
At this time, the Bayonet Constitution was enacted which created a constitutional monarchy much like that of the United Kingdom – this stripped the King of most of his personal authority and empowered the legislature.
The 1887 constitution made the upper house of the legislature elective and replaced the previous absolute veto allowed to the king to one that two-thirds of the legislature of the Hawaiian Kingdom could override. Wilder supported the monarchy and told the King that he did not think the monarchy could last much longer. (Kuykendall)
Mr. Wilder had advised the King to enter at once into negotiations with the United States to part with the sovereignty of the country while he was in a position to do so with advantage, and before affairs became more complicated. Kalākaua did not follow the advice given to him by Wilder. (Kuykendall)
King Kalākaua conferred upon Mr. Wilder the distinctions of a Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalākaua and Grand Officer of the Royal Order Crown of Hawaiʻi.
“This generous and many-sided man tended with loving care to the deserving, with charitable purpose to the poor and with patriotic conscientiousness to the wants of his country.” (Daily Bulletin August 7, 1888)
The former Kaʻahumanu Wall, from Punchbowl to Mōʻiliʻili, followed a trail which was later expanded and was first called Stonewall Street. It was also known as “Mānoa Valley Road;” later, the route was renamed for Samuel G. Wilder (and continues to be known as Wilder Avenue.)
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