When you talk about the Holts coming to the islands, you can’t help but notice that, when you mention their family, you end up listing a lot of other notable Island families.
It starts with Robert William Holt, son of Christopher and Elizabeth Holt; he was born June 14, 1800, in Liverpool, Lancashire, England. (Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerk Project)
Like many other English families of that time, the Holts had relatives living in Massachusetts in America. Holt left home as a young man to seek his fortune in America. He probably arrived in Boston about 1800. (Taylor)
“He was a younger son, so he moved from Liverpool to Boston. Went to work for a firm called Owen Jones.” (John Dominis Holt IV) Holt was probably employed by the shipping firm with whom Captain John Dominis was associated. Holt grew close to Captain Dominis and began making trips with him into the Pacific during the later part of the 1820s. (Taylor)
“He must have lived with the Joneses. I don’t know that, but he married one of the Jones’ daughters”, Ann Maria Stanwood Jones, in October 1829. (John Dominis Holt IV and Clarice Taylor)
Ann was born in 1811 to Owen and Elizabeth Lambert Jones. Ann was the sixth of eight known children. Robert and Ann established a home in Boston.
“[T]he Jones’ daughter that [Robert] married was the younger sister of [Mary Jones – who married] John Dominis, the first Mrs. Dominis. Mrs. Captain Dominis. Mary. They were sisters.” (John Dominis Holt IV)
Captain Dominis “was a sea-captain, who had originally come to Honolulu on Cape Horn voyages, and had been interested in trade both in China and in California. The ancestors of Captain Dominis were from Italy; but Mrs. Dominis was an American, born at Boston, and was a descendant of one of the early English settlers.” (Liliuokalani)
While in Boston. Captain John Dominis and Mary Jones Dominis had two daughters. Unfortunately, both girls died; “Two marble headstones in the burial plot of Christopher Yates at Vale Cemetery bear the name of Dominis. They are for the daughters of Captain and Mrs. Dominis”. (Schenectady Gazette, August 27, 1932)
Captain Dominis was master of the brig Joseph Peabody which was stocked with trade materials in Boston, sent around the Horn to Hawaii for trading, then to the Pacific Northwest coast of America and eventually across the Pacific to Canton, China and home by way of Cape Hope. Such a voyage required an average of three years. (Taylor)
“Large profits were made by the owners on such voyages. The master of the brig and often members of the crew also profited with a share according to their rank and responsibilities.”
“It may be that Robert William Holt was a clerk or supercargo [a representative of the ship’s owner on board a merchant ship, responsible for overseeing the cargo and its sale] who assisted Captain Dominis with the trading.” (Taylor)
As for the Dominis family, “John Owen Dominis was born in Schenectady, New York on March 10, 1832.” (Iolani Palace) Captain Dominis decided to settle in Honolulu and brought his wife, Mary, and their son, Owen, with him on his trip into the Pacific.
They landed in Honolulu on April 23, 1837 and planned a home on land which the Captain had purchased from an English merchant, Henry Skinner. (Taylor) “The house known as Washington Place was built by Captain Dominis for a family residence.” (Liliuokalani)
“I was engaged to [John Owen] Dominis for about two years and it was our intention to be married on the second day of September, 1862. … our wedding was delayed at the request of the king, Kamehameha IV, to the sixteenth of that month; Rev. Dr. Damon, father of Mr. S. M. Damon, at present the leading banker of the Islands, being the officiating clergyman.” (Lili‘uokalani)
“It was celebrated at the residence of Mr and Mrs Bishop, in the house which had been erected by my father, Paki, and which, known as the Arlington Hotel, is still one of the most beautiful and central of the mansions in Honolulu. To it came all the high chiefs then living there, also the foreign residents; in fact, all the best society of the city.”
“[John Owen Dominis] was really an only child, although there had been two daughters older; but while he was an infant they both died in the United States”. (Liliuokalani)
While in Boston, Robert William Holt and Ann had two girls. Unfortunately, Robert’s wife, Ann, died August 15, 1832; the girls remained in the East with members of the Jones family for a few years.
As a single father of two young girls under the age of two, Holt left his daughters in the guardianship of his sister-in-law Mary (Jones) Dominis, who was the wife of Captain John Dominis. Within a year of his first wife’s death, Robert William Holt migrated to the Islands (in about 1833). (Taylor)
“William Robert Holt did not have to look far when he found a second wife for himself after settling in Hawaii. He married Wati Robinson, a young woman growing up in the James Robinson household.”
Wati Robinson was part Tahitian (Wati is a Tahitian name). She is believed to have been the daughter of a part Tahitian sea captain. Wati Robinson Holt, wife of the Robert William Holt was called Kalani-ma-ma, an endearing term by her children and grandchildren.
“Wati was the stepdaughter of Mr. [James] Robinson. She came into his family when Mr. Robinson married about 1825 for the first time. Wati was then about 12 years old. She was Mrs. Robinson’s child by a previous marriage, having been born in 1815, just five years before Mr. Robinson stopped in Honolulu.”
“Wati became Mr. Robinson’s adopted child and took the name Robinson, her mother had two children by Mr. Robinson. They were James J. Robinson, born in 1826, and Charlotte C. Robinson, born about 1828. The first Mrs. Robinson died shortly afterwards and Mr. Robinson married Rebecca Prever in 1843 by whom he had a large family.” (Taylor)
James and Rebecca Robinson had eight children: Mark, Mary (married Thomas Foster), Victoria (married Curtis Ward), Bathsheba (married Samuel Allen), Matilda (married WE Foster), Annie (married Albert Jaeger), Lucy (married Thomas McWayne) and John.
James Robinson was just 22 when he came to the Islands; he came from London, his birthplace, arriving here in 1820, before the first missionaries (while rounding Cape Horn his ship passed the “Thaddeus,” which was bringing the first missionaries from New England.)
He was carpenter on the whaling ship “Hermes.” In 1822, sailing from Honolulu for Japan the Hermes was wrecked on the reef of Holoikauaua (what is now referred to as Pearl and Hermes.) This seeming disaster turned into a new industry for Honolulu and proved to be the foundation of his subsequent business and of his fortune.
The combined crews (totaling 57) made it safely to one of the small islands and were castaway for months with what meager provisions they could salvage. He and the crew built a small schooner (the Deliverance) from the wreckage and the survivors of the wreck sailed back to Honolulu to remain permanently.
After his arrival, Robinson was befriended by Kamehameha II and John Young. He and a ship-mate, Robert Lawrence (a cooper (barrel maker,)) sold the Deliverance for $2,000 and found employment in repairing schooners owned by the king and chiefs and, in 1827, established Honolulu’s and Hawaii’s first shipyard at Pākākā, or “the Point,” on land obtained from Kalanimoku.
The shipyard was a busy place; Robinson supervised the actual work of the shipyard and trained Hawaiian helpers. Mr. Lawrence attended to the family cooking and personal affairs of the employees.
James Robinson found himself so burdened with overseeing the actual work of the shipyard that he did not have time to look after the business affairs of the firm. His acquaintance Robert William Holt led to his offer to Mr. Holt to join the firm as a business manager. Mr. Holt joined the firm about 1835.
Holt joined the Robinson and Lawrence families then living in the Pākākā shipyard. RW Holt showed his insight in business and began to make investments for the firm. The businessman of that day was a wholesaler, retailer, banker, and money changer.
The Kingdom of Hawaii had no coinage, so business was done with Spanish reals, English pounds, American dollars and sometimes French coins. Money could be made or lost in exchanging these coins.
An American whaler would come into port after spending a year at sea. The captain needed coins to pay off his crew, he needed coins to purchase supplies and he needed repairs to his ship.
Robinson, Lawrence and Holt would advance the captain the coins he needed at a price. In return the captain would give the firm a bill of exchange payable by his shipping firm in Boston or New York. Robinson, Lawrence and Holt would have to send the bill of exchange by the next ship going to New England.
Money was also to be made on bills of exchange in Honolulu. When other contractors in Honolulu were short on coins, the firm would buy bills of exchange at a 15 per cent discount. If the Kingdom of Hawaii needed money, the firm would loan it at 10 or 20 per cent interest. (Taylor)
“Robert Holt made a fortune in the whaling industry. He was a shipbuilder and he was involved in shipping. He was from the famous Liverpool family of Holts who are still England’s leading shipping people.” (John Dominis Holt IV)
During the lifetime of the shipyard partnership, RW Holt, James Robinson and Robert Lawrence had invested much of their earnings in lands and Honolulu property. Outright purchases had been made after the Mahele of 1846.
Among the lands were three large tracts in rural Oahu which Mr. Holt had evidently secured with the idea of developing them into ranches for his sons.
One of the tracts was the unique inland Ahupua’a of Wahiawa belonging to the Princess Victoria Kamamalu. Mr. Holt developed the Wahiawa lands as a cattle ranch, ran sheep, goats and horses on the place and built the first ranch house. Another large tract was the ahupua‘a of Mākaha.
This brings in a new name, William Arnold Aldrich – with interconnections into several of the families noted. A Boston Yankee, Aldrich married the daughter of Robert William Holt. WA Aldrich was born in 1824 into a Boston family and left home when news of the discovery of gold in California reached the East.
After accumulating a little money, he took a sailing ship for Hawaii and became a boarder at Washington Place, the home of the widow Mrs. Captain John Dominis (RW Holt’s sister-in-law).
Aldrich may have had a letter of introduction to Charles R. Bishop, a young New Yorker recently wed to the Princess Bernice Pauahi. Aldrich and Bishop struck up a lifelong friendship. They pooled their resources and went into the mercantile business. Eventually, merchandising led to financing new business ventures.
In 1853 the two formed Aldrich & Bishop, gave up merchandising and devoted their attention to financing. Eventually Aldrich and Bishop started the first bank in Honolulu.
Aldrich found two attractive young women in Mrs. Dominis’s household. They were the daughters of Robert William Holt by his Bostonian wife.
Mrs. Dominis was rearing the girls as ladies. Mrs. Dominis made it very plain that their father RW Holt was welcome to visit the girls at her home, but she did not approve of the girls visiting their father at Pākākā Point.
Aldrich fell in love with one of them, Elizabeth Holt. His love for the girl was encouraged by Mrs Dominis and by the girl’s father RW Holt. Mr. Aldrich and Elizabeth Holt were married December 25, 1854 at Washington Place.
As Holt aged, Aldrich was appointed guardian of Mr. Holt’s affairs. (In a hearing related to this, Robinson and Lawrence told the judge that RW Holt was now so old and infirm that he was unable to take care of his affairs as a partner in the shipyard firm.) (Taylor)
The guardianship lasted only a short time; Robert William Holt died July 6, 1862. Holt felt it his duty to protect his children by leaving a will, which like English wills would provide the children with an income without enabling them to touch the principal. Aldrich was the first administrator of the Holt estate.
Mr. Holt first provided his wife with an income of $800 a year. The income was to be drawn from the revenues of the estate. His daughter, Elizabeth, Mrs. William Aldrich, was to have one quarter of his estate, no strings attached.
Each of the three sons were named in the will. Each was given one fourth the income of the estate during his life and the children of each son were to inherit a share of their father’s revenue. The estate was not to be divided at the death of each son, except to set aside portions for the son’s children.
When Mr. Holt died, the partners Robinson and Lawrence took the Honolulu lands as their share and gave the Holt estate the rural Oahu lands. (Taylor)
Mr. Aldrich did well for the Holt Estate. The revenues were never so high in any of the following years. When the Aldrich’s left the Islands to live in the Bay area about 1869, the estate suffered from the loss of Mr. Aldrich’s astute financial ability.
As you look through the names of descendants of Robert William Holt, you will find that children of subsequent generations carry many of the names of people whose paths crossed with Holt. These help us remember Holts’ connections with others in the Islands.