Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion, 1830-1890
The Log of Mystic Seaport: Four Essays

On Shore in a Foreign Land: Mary Stark in the Kingdom of Hawaii
by Richard C. Malley

From The Log of Mystic Seaport, Volume 37, Number 3 (Fall 1985): 79-92. View original page images

Honolulu. Saturday Nov. 10th 1855

We arrived here a week ago Thursday [1 November] & Saturday afternoon about 4 o'clock I went on shore in a foreign land for the first time-found Mr. Bullion's carriage ready for us, took a ride out towards Diamond Point & came back before dark. 1

This passage, excerpted from one of a series of letters to her eleven-year-old daughter Lizzie, recorded the beginning of another phase of the globe-trotting adventure of Mary Stark of Mystic.2 In an age when long distance travel was neither easy nor common Mary Elizabeth Rathbun Stark (1826-1909) was presented an opportunity to make a very special journey when her husband, Henry S. Stark (1820-1857), was given command of the medium clipper B. F. Hoxie, newly built at Mystic by Maxson, Fish & Company.

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Honolulu as seen from the harbor. Punchbowl crater, which Mary climbed, is at the far right. The Nuuano Valley, where Mary first rode horseback, begins at the left. Drawn by Paul Emmert, lithograph by Britton & Rey, San Fransisco, 1854.

The maiden voyage of the Hoxie called for a passage from Philadelphia to San Francisco with general cargo. A stream of letters written during her yearlong absence chronicles daily life at sea and ashore in distant ports, creating, as Mary had intended, a special journal of sorts for her daughter.

Perhaps the most interesting group of letters was written during her nearly two months' stay in Honolulu. Mary's narratives afford a rare glimpse of that town and, by extension, the Kingdom of Hawaii during the crucial decade of the 1850s. As the observations of an outsider on the life and customs of the islands can sometimes be more insightful than the recollections of a longtime resident, Mary's letters from Honolulu draw a picture at once revealing and intriguing. At the same time, such observations can unintentionally disclose the preconceptions and attitudes of the writer to a foreign culture. Mary's letters provide the modern reader with elements of both.

Leaving her children, Elizabeth ("Lizzie"), age eleven, Charles, six, and Sanford, five, in the care of her husband's parents in Mystic, Mary departed on 25 March 1855 for Philadelphia, where the Hoxie was loading. A shipment of gunpowder, taken on while the ship was anchored in Delaware Bay, completed the cargo and the voyage began in earnest on 16 April, 1855. After a slow passage Of 156 days the ship came to anchor in San Francisco Bay. The voyage was plagued by contrary winds and extended calms, though the rounding of the Horn proved uneventful.

Mary enjoyed the month-long stay in San Francisco, sightseeing and visiting with several transplanted Mystic natives, a routine soon to be repeated in Honolulu. Though impressed with the rapid progress made in the city despite the gold rush fever, she became anxious to move on, a sentiment fully shared by her husband, though for different reasons.

... business was very dull & the prospect of a return freight was poor enough, & though not seen half as much of California as I could have wished, yet I was glad when your father decided to go to Honolulu, hoping from encouragement he received there to get a load of oil home, & if we can only get it & nothing happens we may get home sooner than at anything else he could do, as the last resort was to go to Callao & load guano for some port in Europe,...3

The land to which the B. F Hoxie sailed, known then as the Sandwich Islands, was a nation experiencing trying times on many fronts. Following Captain James Cook's visit in the 1770s the strategically located islands became subjected to increasing western military, economic, and, after the 1820 arrival of American missionaries, religious and cultural influences. Also, periods of internal strife had exacted a great price on the islands until the final triumph of one chief, Kamehameha, secured relative peace and unity by the early 1800s. By 1855 the government, a constitutional monarchy headed by a newly inaugurated twenty-one-year-old king, Kamehameha IV, was largely guided by naturalized Hawaiian citizens drawn from the resident British and American business and religious community. Rumors were rife of imminent filibustering expeditions from, or outright invasions by, a number of countries seeking to annex the islands. 4 Thus, the government was desperately seeking assurances from the U.S., Brittain, and France that Hawaiian sovereignty would be respected and guaranteed.

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The growing town of Honolulu as it appeared about the time the Starks visited. Drawn by Paul Emmert, lithograph by Britton & Rey, San Francisco, 1854.

A devastating smallpox epidemic in 1853 had accelerated an already frightening population decline among native Hawaiians. By 1855 the islands counted about seventy-two thousand citizens, down from eighty-four thousand in 1850.5 At the same time, the number of foreigners- Europeans, Americans, and Chinese -increased, especially in the largest town, Honolulu, whose 1855 population was around nine thousand.

The kingdom's economy was weak, with few exports, and heavily dependent on the semiannual visits of the whaling fleet for its survival. Some modest attempts at manufacturing were made, but a lack of skilled labor and craftsmen was sorely felt. In great measure the economy was controlled by the largely foreign resident business community centered in Honolulu and other towns.A respectable run of ten days brought theHoxie to Honolulu, Mary spending much of the trip reading the Annals of San Francisco, a newly published history of that young city. Arriving on Thursday, 1 November, she immediately noted the lushness of the island of Oahu, so different from dusty San Francisco.

Honolulu. Friday November 2nd 1855 I know this must be a pleasant place by the looks from here, the hills are green, though there are no trees on them & none to be seen here except the cocoanuts & orange trees, as I take them to be from their beautiful green. 6

Honolulu's protected harbor was accessible only through a narrow channel flanked by coral reefs. Large vessels like the 1,387 ton B. F. Hoxie required special assistance to enter the harbor.

This is a nice harbor, but the entrance over the bar is very narrow and ships coming in when the trade winds are blowing, which is most of the time at this season, are obliged to track in-that. is, they have a lot of oxen which they drive out on the reef, & take a line from the ship which they make fast to wheels & draw the ships through the passage & let go. I counted 17 yoke this morning, drawing ships in. 7

Upon arriving, Mary observed that there were about forty whaleships in Honolulu, with more expected daily. Vast quantities of whale oil and baleen were awaiting shipment to the U.S. east coast and, as she gleefully wrote to Lizzie, "...there is no other vessel here to load, so we shall not be detained here at all longer than is necessary, but get loaded & start for home immediately."8

It was not until Monday, 5 November, that the Hoxie was able to be moved, from her harbor anchorage to a wharf. A working party of Hawaiians, or "Kanakas" as they were called, then proceeded to discharge the stone ballast from the hold.

Though boasting perhaps the best natural harbor in the islands, Honolulu's port facilities were still inadequate for the needs of the many whaling and merchant vessels calling there. Harbor improvement was a high priority for the government, though one irate taxpayer took the authorities to task on this issue in a letter published in the weekly Polynesian.

SIR, just be kind enough to nudge the Board or Committee who control the Bureau of Public Works, and remind them of what they probably already know, i.e. that some two thousand tons of stone in the shape of ballast has come into our harbor since the appropriation of $30,000 was made for the improvement thereof. The same could have been had for the taking and applied to building a retaining wall.... It has been a matter of surprise to many that they have so long neglected to take advantage of the source of means so opportunely thrown in the way.9

With the ship tied up Mary was able to venture ashore more easily and explore the town and its environs.

I like this place very much indeed & I have never seen your father so well pleased with any place, except Key West, & this climate is like that, though there is a great difference in the appearance of the two places-there the land is low & level, while here there are mountains & vallies & it is pleasant enough. Your father thinks when they get well started with the work loading he shall enjoy going around to see the island, & I like to hear him say so, for he seldom likes any place well enough to look about."10

Oahu's tropical climate added to the novelty of Honolulu in Mary's eyes. Reflecting on New England weather in mid-November, she noted:

I suppose you have had some cold weather at home by this time, while here it is uncomfortably warm days, but is cool through the nights-we have had showers nearly every day, a little cloud rises up over the mountains, giving us a little sprinkling, & sometimes hard rain for a few minutes, but it is soon over & the sun shining as brightly as ever.... I wish you could see such beautiful rainbows-one of the brightest I ever saw, over the town & valley between the mountains, looked as if it was almost within reach."11

Honolulu was growing steadily during the 1850s and a variety of architecture greeted the visitor of the day. Both cut stone and wood frame buildings were to be found, along with structures of more traditional native design and construction. The town's first so-called "fire-proof" building was opened, amidst much local hoopla, the day the Hoxie arrived, and symbolized the start of a new phase of development.

In Honolulu, as in many other towns experiencing rapid growth, expectations often outran the reality of the situation, as Mary undoubtedly had opportunity to observe. The resulting frustration was aptly expressed in many lively letters to the editor of the Polynesian.

MR. EDITOR: Can you inform me who is the proper officer, if there is any, to remove obstructions from the public streets? Fort Street has been partially blocked up for nearly two years by old work benches and hand carts apparently belonging to the carpenter's shop upon that street. Perhaps the street has been leased to the occupant.... 12

Mary's homesickness and longing to see her children after so many months, a theme found in all her letters, was somewhat assuaged by the presence of many familiar names and faces, both on board New England vessels in the harbor and among Mystic natives working on the island. One of the most frequent visitors aboard the Hoxie was a Captain Sawyer of the New London schooner Restless, recently arrived on a trading voyage from Sydney, Australia.13 Sawyer often stayed on board the Hoxie, advising and assisting Henry Stark, while the Restless, under the mate's command, made short trips between Honolulu and other ports in the islands.

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Photograph, possibly copied from a Daguerreotype, of Captain Henry S. Stark, ca. 1855.

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Photograph of Mary R. Stark, ca. 1860.

Another frequent visitor was Harris T. Fitch (1821 - 1902), a commission merchant assisting Henry in securing a return cargo. Fitch apparently had run a New London grocery store in the 1840s, 14 and then moved to Honolulu where he supplied provisions, chandlery items, and even ships' boats to visiting vessels, in addition to lumber, coal, and furniture for the residents in town. In 1853 Fitch had purchased the New London whaling bark William H. Wheaton at Honolulu, whence she sailed as a Hawaiian-flag whaler until foundering in March 1855.15 Like Captain Sawyer, Harris Fitch proved a great help to the Starks during their stay.

Among the Mystic people working on Oahu was Mason R. Packer (1800-1888), a shipmaster with considerable sailing experience in the Pacific. Soon after the Starks arrived in Honolulu Packer paid a visit.

Capt. Mason Packer has been off here one day to dinner- he is well & looks exactly as he used to at home-he is engaged in the soap making business, & thinks it will be very profitable, though he intends when he gets it well started to sell out & go home. 16

In a subsequent letter to Lizzie nearly a month later she continued:

Yesterday afternoon [5 December] we had Mr. Fitch's horse & carriage & ... we went out to see Capt. Packer-he has got quite an establishment & they showed me their soap boiling works, & the soap that was cooling. He has a little store where he sells, with the sign "Halekuaikopa," or soap store. He gave me a part of a bar of soap which is very good, & I will take some home. He intends to sell out as soon as he can do so to advantage & go home. It does me good to hear him talk, it seems so much like being in Mystic. 17

A distinctly nonmaritime venture was farming, but here too a Mystic connection developed. In response to the demand for foodstuffs in California the Hawaiian government sought to increase exports of agricultural products, including fruits, vegetables, coffee, and even flour. A steam-powered flour mill was built at Honolulu in 1854 and production increased rapidly for a while.18

Thirty-two-year-old John Warren Burrows of New London, distantly related to Henry Stark, tried his hand at island farming on Oahu and was so engaged when the B. F Hoxie arrived.

Warren Burrows came off to see us . -he is looking well, though not quite as fleshy as he was at home. He was here to dinner & staid most of the afternoon & appeared just as he did at home -he said he would be here again today, & send a letter by us to his folks, as he has had no letters from them in more than two years-he is at work now farming.19

Unlike Captain Packer who planned to return home, young Burrows apparently stayed on in Honolulu, dying there in 1898 at the age of seventy-four.20

A parade of other Mystic area natives, with names like Fitch, Marston, Lyman, Comstock, Walker, and Pendleton, paid visits to Mary and Henry aboard theHoxie. Their presence, when added to that of Sawyer, Packer, and Burrows, prompted Mary to write that she "...should like to know if there is a place in the world where Mystic is not represented."21

Honolulu Harbor was the kingdom's window on the world, and through its coral portals came vessels and people of many nations. As the Hoxie was at a wharf, the Starks possessed a great vantage point for observing the frequent comings and goings in and around the harbor. With the large number of New England whaleships in port it must have seemed strangely comforting to Mary to look out and spot such familiar vessels as theRobin Hood and Shepherdess of Mystic and the Mogul, George & Mary, Phoenix, and India of New London.

In contrast to the many foreign vessels visiting Honolulu was a steady stream of smaller, native-owned craft. Mary noted in a letter that "the little schooners which belong here & trade between the Islands come in here every few days, loaded with potatoes, fruit & Kanakas."22By the 1850s a number of small vessels specifically designed for inter-island trading voyages were being built in American shipyards. One of the first of these was the 126-ton schooner Ka Moi built in 1853 by William Miller in New London, further emphasizing the ties between southeastern Connecticut and the Sandwich Islands. 23

Crewmen from the many whaling and merchant vessels flocked ashore in search of drink, entertainment, and women. In spite of its striking physical setting, in many ways Honolulu was similar to other port towns. For example, in response to the problem of rowdiness and vice in the shoreside sailor haunts the resident middle and upper-class community supported the efforts of the Honolulu Sailors' Home Society to construct a suitable boardinghouse for visiting seamen. Although Mary did not mention it in her letters, it is possible that she attended the much publicized fair held on 16 November to benefit the Society's building fund.

In the meantime sailors fought, drank, rode horseback, and spent money freely ashore. Classified advertisements appearing in the pages of thePolynesian during the Hoxie's, stay in port suggest the range and extent of sailors' shoreside excesses.

NOTICE. CAPT. CHARLES COUPPEY, Master of the French ship Pallas, hereby gives public notice that he will not be responsible for debts contracted by any of his crew.

CAUTION! The Captain and Consignees of ship Cato, give notice that they will pay no debts contracted by any of the crew of said ship.

D. T. BURR, Master, ship Cato. 24

After several visits into the town Mary was certainly aware of the behavior of many sailors on shore. "The men go in for pleasure while their money lasts, which is not long with some of them. This is a great place for dissipation."25

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Coady & Company's ship chandlery in Honolulu. The Coady family befriended the Starks during their stay. Border detail from an 1854 lithograph.

Sailors were known to jump ship in Honolulu, some to sign on board different vessels while others, lured by the idyllic appearance of the islands, tried to make a living ashore. With such a transient population of mariners and drifters passing through the islands, the following notice, which appeared in the Polynesian during the fall of 1855, did not seem unusual.

INFORMATION WANTED. OF EDWARD B. COE, of Rochester, New York. He went to California in September 1849, and after remaining there about one year is supposed to have left that country on a whaling voyage or otherwise-he having previously made a three years voyage out of New Bedford. E. B. Coe is 31 years of age and has his full name tattooed on his arm. The attention of whalemen in the Pacific and others is solicited to this advertisement...26

Mary's opportunities to explore Honolulu were limited during the first weeks of her stay due to Henry becoming seriously ill. With his health weakened by a chronic fever and cough during the passage from Philadelphia, he soon came down with what appears to have been dengue fever, a tropical malady characterized by severe sweats, chills, aches, and mental depression .27 Writing to Lizzie on 30 November, Mary described Henry's ailment.

Your father has been quite sick the last two weeks. He has what they call the boohoo fever, which they say every one who comes here must have, & no one was ever known to die with it, but it is exceedingly unpleasant-it is called boohoo because the natives have it, & when they are taken with it, many of them sit down on the ground & have a good cry, which does not help the matter much.28

Within a week of this letter Henry had recovered enough to write to his father, Sanford Stark. Whether Mary, too, fell victim to this mosquito-borne virus is not clear, though she did occasionally complain about thick clouds of "musquitos & fleas" in her cabin, and made a cryptic remark in one letter about having been ill.

For the first month of her stay in Honolulu Mary's contacts with native islanders had been infrequent and mostly from a distance. She probably first saw them as passengers on the small inter-island coasters entering the harbor. Mary especially noted the women "with their loose dresses, & bareheaded & footed, sitting around in the sun without any fear of tanning." And, she continued, "we see plenty of men around the reef without any clothes on at all."29

Mary's written impressions of the Kanakas show an unusual sensitivity for a newcomer from a New England where the "white man's burden" concept was recognized if not yet named.

They appear to have no value of time at all, & seem free from cares-there are hundreds of them standing and sitting about the streets, with nothing to do, & I imagine before the whites came they were a happy race, but now many of them are as anxious to get money as the Yankees & cannot be beat down a cent in their price, when they sell anything.30

It is difficult to judge from this passage whether the idleness of the many or the business acumen of the few made the greater impression. There is no doubt, though, that the manner of dress, especially of the women, intrigued Mary a great deal, as she continued on in the same letter:

They have a great fancy for yellow wreaths, which they wear on their heads, without bouriets, & large red & yellow beads around their necks, & the men dress up their hats in the same style. The women's dresses are all made alike, they are full with deep yokes, like a nightgown, some of black, some of white, some of pink , some Turkey reds &c., the more gaudy the better, & they wear a man's hat, if anything, on their heads.

By the 1850s the native Hawaiians were beset by a series of troubles, including a low birth rate and a high mortality rate. In addition, the coming, of foreign businessmen found them unprepared for the resulting growth of commercial activity. Few Kanakas had appropriate skills or training to find employment in the developing economy. As the kingdom's chief educator noted in a report published in the Polynesian,

How they are to be taught the various useful trades, and become farmers, and carpenters, black-smiths, shoe-makers, tailors, &c., and thus supply their own wants, and keep themselves from vice, is a question which is engaging the most careful consideration of the Board of Education .... 31

Intermarriage between Hawaiian women and westerners became a fact of life in the islands. As in other lands where different cultures melded, some of these unions were happy while others met with less success. A sampling of newspaper notices suggests that problems were indeed encountered in such marriages.

Caution! I hereby forbid all persons from harboring my wife Wahiueaumoana or trusting her, as I will pay no debts of her contracting after this date.


Honolulu, Nov. 2nd, 1855

Notice. THE PUBLIC is hereby notified that I will pay no debts contracted after this date, by my wife LOUISA KAUWAHI.

T. JORDAN Honolulu, Nov. 23rd, 1855.

In contrast to the majority of native women whom Mary encountered was the wife of Richard Coady, a Honolulu commission merchant assisting Henry Stark with his business dealings.

We have been stopping ashore ... at Mr. Coady's. He is concerned with Mr. Fitch in loading the ship, & it is very pleasant to stay, they have every thing nice & pleasant. Mrs. Coady's mother was a Kanaka woman & her father Mr. Robinson, is one of the richest men on the Island. Her mother is dead & she is an only child. She was sent to Boston when she was 6 years old & staid there 11 years & went to school. She came back 5 years ago, & is married & has two as pretty little girls as I ever wish to see. Mrs. Coady shows plainly the native blood, but is pretty, & very intelligent. Everything about their house is in the nicest style, & in perfect order. They have two Chinamen servants, & a nurse for the children. They keep an excellent horse & carriage & she drives out every afternoon about 4 o'clock, the time when every one rides who can get a horse, & it is pleasant I assure you.32

Mary's mention of the Chinese house servants pointed up another side of the Hawaiian story. In an effort to alleviate a critical labor shortage the government imported five hundred Chinese field laborers between 1853 and 1855.33 By the time the Starks arrived in Hawaii it was becoming apparent that these foreign workers were not the panacea that had been envisioned. Barriers of language and culture prevented these contract laborers from fully integrating themselves into island life. After several outbreaks of trouble among these plantation workers they, as a class, were regarded with fear and suspicion.

Yet, as late as December 1855 the Polynesian carried weekly advertisements for Chinese domestic and field laborers. A prominent page one notice read:


PERSONS desirous of getting Coolie Laborers are requested to call at the office of the undersigned. These Coolies, with a little teaching, make very good washmen, gardeners, house servants and laborers, and it would be advisable to those who are in want of such to engage them immediately. B. E. SNOW 34

Small numbers of Chinese laborers, unhappy in California, came to Hawaii in the 1850s. Hundreds more saw the islands from ships carrying them from California back to China. Mary apparently shared the disdain of whites in San Francisco and the islands for these foreign laborers who resisted acculturation.

The Sea Serpent went from here Saturday afternoon [10 November] with 400 Chinamen, & I should think they would be anxious to get to Hong Kong & get rid of them.

The clipper ship Challenger came, in here last week for water, from S. Francisco for Hong Kong, with Chinamen passengers, & he tried to get them to go by a ship from here so he might take a load of oil, but John Chinaman had no idea of changing & he was obliged to go on.35

Chinese merchants, artisans, and planters, had been well established in the islands for some years before the importation of coolie laborers. In contrast to these later arrivals the resident Chinese were an accepted part of the island community. Chinese firms, like C. P Samsing & Company, marketed a wide range of Chinese export goods at their shops in Honolulu. Mary's dislike for the Chinese coolies apparently did not apply to these enterprising Orientals. Indeed, to the Starks, surprised at the high cost of western manufactured items in town, the beautiful and exotic Chinese goods were a pleasant discovery.

I went ashore Saturday afternoon [11 November] to get some things which we were obliged to have, & found that the most necessary articles, such as are brought from home, sell for about double what they do there, but there are a great many Chinese goods which are reasonable, & your father says we must get some to take home, which I shall do with pleasure. We went into one store kept by Chinamen where they had beautiful workboxes, writing desks & any quantity of fixins, which I should never tire of looking at, & should have like to have plenty of money to buy.36

Some three weeks later Mary was able to fulfill her desire for Chinese export goods.

Tuesday morning [4 December] your father & I went out shopping & I suppose you would like to hear what we bought. We got a roll of matting for our upper hall at home, a camphor wood trunk, a writing desk, a few cheap fans, some silk pocket handkerchiefs & a piece of narrow stuff for thin coats.37

But Mary's visits ashore involved more than just shopping. As she mentioned in her letter about visiting with Mrs. Coady, riding was a popular form of entertainment and, for some, a fixed social ritual. Despite her rural New England upbringing Mary had never ridden a horse, and this daily Honolulu rite intrigued her.

They have plenty of horses here, but few carriages, & excellent roads, but they are not very long. The ladies ride horseback a good deal & I think I shall try it while I am here. The native women ride horseback just like men, with a long loose strip of calico put around them over the saddle, & over their feet into the stirrups, & look odd enough.38

Coincident with the Hoxie's visit to Honolulu was a series of performances by Lee & Marshall's National Circus, recently arrived from San Francisco. The circus owner, seeing the popularity of riding,among Honolulu residents, placed the following advertisement in the Polynesian in early November.

Riding School.

THE PROPRIETOR of the National Circus, Mr. H. C. Lee, would announce to the ladies and gentlemen of Honolulu, that he will give lessons in riding on and after Monday, November 5th. Ladies hours from 11 to 12 A.M. Gentlemen's hours from 3 to 4 39

Since the 1820s and '30s, when horses from California were first introduced in large numbers, native Hawaiians had enjoyed riding for pleasure and apparently, on occasion, for sport. A Honolulu resident, weary of the latter activity, complained to the Polynesian's editor:

... the writer would desire to call the attention of the proper authorities to the racing going on, upon the Nuuanu Road, from MacFarlane's out, as far as the road is level enough for the purpose. At the corner, near the Circus, the Police display wonderful diligence in arresting sailors going only at a dog trot, while a few rods off commences the race track, where at all hours of the day and late in the evening a 2.40 gait is kept up, greatly to the discomforture of quiet pedestrians.40

Mary had not had a chance to take any riding lessons before she found herself, along with an acquaintance, riding up the mountainous Pali Road through the Nuuanu Valley on 14 December. Proud of her accomplishment, she wrote to Lizzie,

I made my first attempt at riding horseback, which I liked very much, though the road was very rough indeed & we had about 4 miles to go, but I got along finely & think I should enjoy a ride on horseback occasionally.41

By the second week in December Mary knew that her stay in Honolulu was coming to an end, as the ship's hold was steadily filling up with a cargo of whale oil and baleen. She seemed determined to make the most of her time remaining and undertook a hectic week of touring with a gentleman acquaintance, probably a partner of Harris T. Fitch, whom she identified only as Jerry.

Monday morning [ 10 December] Jerry & I went up to Punchbowl, one of the mountains nearest the town, where they have a battery & fire salutes on extra occasions. It was a very warm day, but we climbed up after a while, stopped long enough to rest us, & then came down one of the hills which was much steeper than the one we went up. We suffered considerably from the heat, but I was not sorry I went. Coming back, we stopped into two native huts, & I got some water & melons. They live comfortably & easy, their mats spread on the ground, on which they sit & sleep, & they live on raw fish & poy, which is made from the tara, & is like arrowroot.42

In retrospect the Punchbowl. climb was only a preliminary to a much more ambitious ascent by the pair the following day. As Mary continued in her letter:

Tuesday afternoon [11 December] we rode down to Diamond Head, about 3 miles from here, where there is an exhausted crater. We left the carriage in care of a Kanaka boy & commenced climbing in a place which we thought easy, & we got along very well till about two thirds of the way up, when we found it very steep, & the grass which we held on to pulled up, & my feet commenced to slip, then I almost lost my courage. To think of going back was to fall down a long steep hill, & I dared not look up it was so steep, but Jerry went ahead a few steps & secured a footing, & then pulled me along, & I felt glad when we had reached the top- but felt well repaid for the troubles. From the summit we looked down into a deep round hollow, where a long time ago no doubt a volcano burned, which has overflown, as may be seen by the lava all around the outside & the deep gullies on the sides down which it has poured. I would like to have gone inside, which we could easily have done, but had not time. We had to walk some distance around the summit to find a place to descend, which we did without any trouble, but it was a sight to me. On our way back we stopped at Watiti,43 a village of native huts near the beach, among the tall cocoa nut trees-got some water out of a calabash & sent a boy up one of the trees, which he climbed as easily as a cat, & throwed us down two nice cocoa nuts, which I am very fond of. The Kanaka children look cunning enough, with their loose calico nightgowns on, & some of them wear no clothes at all, & appear to be as much at home in the water as anywhere.

It is unlikely that when Mary first drove out to Diamond Head five weeks earlier she ever imagined that she would scale that volcanic mountain. Yet in as many days she climbed two extinct cones, Punchbowl and Diamond Head. In light of this accomplishment it is curious that she did not comment on the active volcanism in the islands. On 11 August 1855 Mauna Loa commenced a fifteen-month-long eruption on the big island of Hawaii, southeast of Oahu.44 The southerly winds blowing that December could very well have carried smoke into view of Honolulu. Certainly the Polynesian mentioned it from time to time, printing eyewitness accounts with titles like "Hawaii Still Burns."45

Mary Stark's final excursion on Oahu took her up the Nuuanu Valley and provided her with that first experience on horseback previously mentioned. The destination this time was the Pali, a steep precipice and scene of a 1795 battle decisive in the unification of the islands under Kamehameha I.

Friday afternoon [14 December], Jerry & I went out to the Parry, or jumping off place as it might properly be called, as it is the place where the old king Kamehameha, when he conquered this Island, drove his enemies off a very high steep bank, which must have been death to them all. It is a place which most strangers visit, & is certainly the wildest looking place I ever saw & which I shall never forget.46

In spite of her frequent shore visits there were still some things that Mary was unable to see or do during her stay. For example, as she wrote to Lizzie shortly before leaving for home:

I have been here 6 Sundays, & have never been to church, as there has been no one to go with me, though I should like to have gone.47

It seems peculiar that with the constant stream of acquaintances she could not have found someone to accompany her to Sunday services, though Henry's illness probably accounts for some of these instances. Certainly there was no lack of religious activities as, by 1855, Honolulu boasted any number of Protestant churches, plus Catholic and even Mormon congregations.48 Indeed, on Sunday, 4 December, a new Methodist Chapel was dedicated in Honolulu, complementing the established American Protestant missionary churches whose presence in the kingdom dated to 1820.

Four days after Mary's horseback ride up to the Pali the B. F. Hoxie was moved out into the harbor, bearing "the largest freight list that every left this port" according to Captain Stark. Henry enumerated the cargo in a letter to his father in Mystic:

... we shall have something over 8000 Bbls Oil, & have engaged about 250,000 lbs bone [baleen] , & shall take more if there is any more ships arrive before we get away, then we have some 30,000 Goat skins at 3 1/2 cent apiece, & a lot of Hides at 2 cts per pound.49

Henry's hunch to sail to Honolulu had paid off handsomely. With the assistance of Richard Coady, Harris Fitch, Captain Sawyer, and others, and in spite of his bout of illness, he had arranged for a return cargo worth over $27,000. The baleen portion of the Hoxie's cargo represented about 30 percent of the total of this material exported from Honolulu for all of 1855. Moreover, the eight thousand barrels of oil carried by the ship comprised approximately 18 percent of the total oil passing through the port for the year.50

For nearly four days southerly headwinds prevented the ship from leaving Honolulu's bottlenecked harbor. The Starks took final leave of Harris Fitch, Jerry, and other friends as the vessel at last departed on Christmas Eve 1855.

Certainly Mary experienced mixed emotions upon leaving the islands. She was anxious that "nothing happen" on the return voyage that might delay her reunion with friends and family, most especially her three children. Often she had written to Lizzie and the two boys, "If only you were here ... :' before describing some sight or incident during the voyage. The reunion finally took place after the B. F Hoxie arrived at New York on 12 April 1856, 109 days from Honolulu.51

Mary constantly worried about Henry's health, which continued to deteriorate during the homeward journey. He apparently relinquished command of the Hoxie after the voyage and spent the following winter at Key West seeking to regain his strength. In spite of these efforts he died of tuberculosis at his Mystic home on 29 October 1857 at the age of thirty-seven.52

The departure from Honolulu undoubtedly left Mary sad at the thought of leaving so many newfound friends. Yet, during her almost fifty-two years of widowhood she could look back on this adventure, sharing her recollections with her family and friends in Mystic. These letters, which provide such a tantalizing glimpse of an earlier Hawaii, contain a brief passage which most simply sums up Mary's feelings.

I have found it pleasant here, & ... have enjoyed myself & if I live to get home I shall always remember my visit to the Sandwich Islands with pleasure.53


1 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 10 November 1855, VFM 196, G. W Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum.

2 Letters of Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, April 1855 to January 1856, VFM 196, G. W, Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum.

3 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 28 October 1855.

4 W D. Alexander, A Brief History of the Hawaiian

5 Alexander, pp. 273-76

6 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 2 November 1855.

7 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 10 November 1855.

8 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 2 November 1855.

9 Honolulu Polynesian, 29 December 1855.

10 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 10 November 1855.

11 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 14 November 1855.

12 Honolulu Polynesian, 3 November 1855.

13 The Friend, Honolulu, 14 November 1855.

14 Robert 0. Decker, The Whaling City (Chester, Connecticut: Pequot Press, 1976), p. 119.

15 Robert 0. Decker, Whaling Industry of New London (York, Pennsylvania: Liberty Cap Books, 1973), p. 167.

16 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 10 November 1855.

17 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 6 December 1855.

18 Alexander, p. 273

19 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 16 December 1855

20 R. Earl Burrows, Robert Burrows and Descendants, 1630-1974, 2 vols. (Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1975) 1:295.

21 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 10 November 1855

22 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 8 December 1855.

23 "Ship Registers and Enrollments of New London, Connecticut," unpublished report, G. W Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum; and Ralph S. Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, 1854-1874 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1953), p. 5.

24 Honolulu Polynesian, 3 and 17 November 1855.

25 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 6 December 1855.

26 Honolulu Polynesian, 17 November 1855.

27 David Zimmerman, "The Mosquitoes are coming-and that means trouble," Smithsonian 14 (June 1983): 32

28 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 10 November 1855.

29 Mary~ R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 8 December 1855.

30 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 10 December 1855.

31 Honolulu Polynesian, 29 December 1855.

32 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 30 November 1855.

33 Kuykendall, p. 76.

34 Honolulu Polynesian, 1 December 1855.

35 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 14 and 30 November 1855.

36 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 14 November 1855.

37Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 6 December 1855.

38 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 11 November 1855.

39 Honolulu Polynesian, 3 November 1855.

40 Ibid., 8 December 1855.

41 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 16 December 1855.

42 Ibid.

43 Curiously, Mary used the traditional spelling of Waikiki. By the 1830s American missionaries had developed a standardized spelling and pronunciation of the Hawaiian dialect. Certain letters, like t and r, were eliminated in favor of more dominant Hawaiian letters like k and L Waititi, for example, became Waikiki; and Honoruru became Honolulu.

44 Alexander, P. 287.

45 Honolulu Polynesian, 27 October 1855.

46 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 16 December 1855.

47 Ibid.

48 Gerrit P. Judd, Hawaii: An Informal History (New York: Collier Books, 1961), p. 87.

49 Henry S. Stark to Sanford Stark, 8 December 1855, VFM 196, G. W. Blunt White Library, Mystic Seaport Museum.

50 Based on Honolulu Custom House Report published in The Friend, Honolulu, 2 February 1856.

51 New York Herald, 13 April 1856.

52 Burrows, 2: 1242; and Kathleen P. O'Beirne, "Three Homes: Socio-Economic Chroniclers of Nineteenth-Century Mystic, Connecticut" (Master's thesis, Wesleyan University, 1970), p. 59

53 Mary R. Stark to Lizzie Stark, 7 December 1855.

Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion, 1830-1890