The Sandwich Islands, Stowaways, and Sugar Plantations

Who says history is boring?
Not when you’re in my family.

This is a story about my great-great-great grandpa.
Isn’t that great?

Andrew Jackson McKenney Sr. (Image courtesy of Donald Earl McKenney Jr).

See how you're related! Click to enlarge.

See how you’re related! Click to enlarge.

He name was Andrew Jackson McKenney Sr. He was born in the spring of 1840, in Stetson Maine.

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Why Maine? That’s because it’s where his ancestors settled. John McKenney’s great-ancestor was actually a Scottish soldier in the Scottish revolutionary war. Apparently, he was part of an army that tried to “place their own Prince Charles on the throne of Great Britain as the rightful heir of the Stuart monarchy. They were defeated by the military dictator, Oliver Cromwell, and the English forces at the battle of Dunbar and Worchester. (Donald Earl McKenney Jr).

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Think, Braveheart.

Unfortunately his ancestor and many other Scots were captured as prisoners of war and exiled to Boston where they served a year-year indenture. After seven years John McKenney moved his family to Maine where his family could establish roots.

So, that’s why Maine.

Legend has it that that Andrew Jackson McKenney was also born with a rebellious spirit because when the civil war broke out, he decided leave Maine as a stow away on a ship. The ship sailed around Cape horn to the Sandwich Islands, aka Hawaii.

Possible route of the ship he was on

Possible route of the ship he was on

Once in Hawaii he made friends and worked for the Rowan family on a sugar plantation near Kaneohe, Oahu.

Photograph of Kaneohe Hawaii

Photograph of Kaneohe Hawaii

How a typical sugar cane plantation would have looked on Hawaii.               ( courtesy of http://aam.govst.edu/projects/cmietlicki/images/images_2/sugarcane2.jpg)

How a typical sugar cane plantation would have looked on Hawaii. ( courtesy of http://aam.govst.edu/projects/cmietlicki/images/images_2/sugarcane2.jpg)

Mr. Rowan died a few years later. Within a year of his death, Andrew McKenney married the widowed Mrs. Rowan, (Louisa Grace Richards). Andrew was 21 years old, and Louisa was 30 when they were married. Louisa was originally born and raised in Cornwall England, but decided to live in Hawaii after finishing a world cruise with relatives and her sister. Before settling in Hawaii, they also spent some time living and working in Australia before coming to Hawaii.

Louisa Grace Richards. (Image courtesy of Don Earl McKenney Jr).

Louisa Grace Richards. (Image courtesy of Don Earl McKenney Jr).

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Kaneohe, Hi. What their land might have looked like.

Together they worked on the six acre sugar plantation. Allegedly their plantation was on the western fringe of Kaneohe, with the Puu Keahiakahoe mountains overlooking their land.
Interestingly, Andrew Jackson become friends with King Kamehameha V and was appointed his advisor and a uniformed member of the Palace Guard (Donald McKenney Jr).
(This fact gave me serious “cool points” when I lived in Hawaii during middle and high school.)
Allegedly his official sealing ring still exists and is owned by one of his decedents.

Example of a sealing ring which was a ring with a seal for impressing sealing wax. It was used often by important people to authenticate their documents.

Example of a sealing ring which was a ring with a seal for impressing sealing wax. It was used often by important people to authenticate their documents.

A few years later, Andrew McKenney suddenly passed away at the age of 38 on September 20, 1878. Although the cause of death was listed as “brain disease” it is uncertain. Family stories say that “he went blind and lost his hair shortly before death (Donald Earl McKenney Jr).

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Final resting place of Andrew Jackson McKenney. He was buried on the sugar plantation property, which is now on undeveloped state land. (Image courtesy of Don McKenney).

The location of the burial site is just west of the dead end of Kulukeoe Street (a residential area.) To the west of the burial site is the state mental hospital .

Don McKenney made a grave marker for Andrew McKenney. It is now mounted on the boulder that marks his burial place .

Don McKenney made a grave marker for Andrew McKenney. It is now mounted on the boulder that marks his burial place .

Because Andrew had passed away, Louisa was left alone with four kids to raise. (The three boys from her previous marriage were grown and out of the house.) The younger boys Andrew and Edward were sent to live in Utah with a half-brother named Charles Rowan.  Louisa married her third husband Robert Brown but quickly divorced him in 1881. She then took her daughters and sailed to San Francisco. The oldest Rowan sons, remained in Hawaii. George married a Hawaiian woman and raised his family. William Rowan died around 1887.

Louisa came back to Hawaii ten years after Andrew had passed away to visit.

Louisa came back to Hawaii after Andrew had passed away to visit. She is on the old McKenney place, most likely close to Andrew’s burial site. This is the last time she visited this place before returning to the states.

After a trip back to Hawaii during the late 1800s, Louisa and her two daughters returned to California and settled in the Oakland, California area. Although she spent the remainder of her life in the States, (until 1908) I can only imagine that part of Hawaii always remained with her. Or, as they sing in a popular Hawaiian song, Aloha Oe.

Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe Farewell to thee, farewell to thee
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace, One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au ‘Ere I depart
Until we meet again Until we meet again
ʻO ka haliʻa aloha i hiki mai Sweet memories come back to me
Ke hone aʻe nei i Bringing fresh remembrances
Kuʻu manawa Of the past
ʻO ʻoe nō kaʻu ipo aloha Dearest one, yes, you are mine own
A loko e hana nei From you, true love shall never depart
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Lysander Gault – A Whaler in the Hawaiian Islands

stereoview photographs of whaling during the time period of Lysander Gault (courtesy of https://pplspcoll.files.wordpress.com).

stereoview photographs of whaling during the time period of Lysander Gault (courtesy of https://pplspcoll.files.wordpress.com).

Cove at Buzzards Bay, Wareham Massachusetts (photo courtesy of Google maps)

It seems that the ocean is in our blood.

It isn’t hard to love the water, especially when your home is nestled against the salty ocean of Massachusetts. That was the the case for Lysander W. Gault. Born November 14, 1824 in Wareham Massachusetts, Lysander grew up near the Atlantic Ocean.

Onset Bay,  Wareham Massachusetts

Onset Bay, Wareham Massachusetts (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

click to enlarge. See how you are related!

click to enlarge. See how you are related!

There is not much information about Lysander’s childhood, but it must have been adventurous growing up with eight other brothers and sisters. He married Hannah Jane Francis November 11, 1861in New Bedford Massachusetts. Lysander was 36 years old, Hannah was 25.

lysander

click to enlarge

It doesn’t say when he began his career, but Lysander was a whaler. He spent much time off the coast of the Pacific – including Hawaii. Immediately I had scenes of Moby Dick swirling through my head when I found out he was a whaler.

“In the mid-1840s, when the industry was at its height, the vast majority of the 600 ships that arrived each year at Oahu and Maui came from the United States.” (Courtesy of http://www.theamericanmenu.com/2014/01/king-kalakaua-of-hawaii.html)

As it turns out, whaling is a very time and labor intensive job. Lysander was often away from his family for years at a time. According to the National Maritime Digital Library, one trip lasted at least two years! “The ships were outfitted with whaling gear and enough provisions to last for a cruise of up to four years” (New Bedford Whaling Museum).

American School, 19th Century Portrait of the New Bedford Whaling Ship John Carver. Unsigned

American School, 19th Century Portrait of the New Bedford Whaling Ship the John Carver. Unsigned

He departed in June of 1875 and returned May 1879. According to Records his ship the John Carver, caught 972 sperm whale and hauled 375 bones.

When I first read the log, I had two questions, “how do you get that many whales onboard a ship?” and “What did they do with the whale fat and bones?”

Before a world of iPads, before a world of electric lights, lighting was very important. Candles and lamps fueled with oil were used.

“When a whale was killed, it was towed to the ship and its blubber, the thick insulating fat under its skin, would be peeled and cut from its carcass in a process known as “flensing.” The blubber was minced into chunks and boiled in large vats on board the whaling ship, producing oil.
The oil taken from whale blubber was packaged in casks and transported back to the whaling ship’s home port (such as New Bedford, Massachusetts, the busiest American whaling port in the mid-1800s). From the ports it would be sold and transported across the country and would find its way into a huge variety of products.

Whale oil, in addition to be used for lubrication and illumination, was also used to manufacture soaps, paint, and varnish. Whale oil was also utilized in some processes used to manufacture textiles and rope.”  Whale bones were the new plastic and used in everything from corsets to piano keys. – (“What Products Were Produced from Whales, Robert McNamara, 19th Century History Expert.)

Corset made with whale parts. (Image courtesy of http://amhistory.si.edu/)

Corset made with whale parts. (Image courtesy of http://amhistory.si.edu/)

 Whaling was usually strenuous, unpleasant work. It was often said that “the stench of processing whales was so strong a whale ship could be smelled over the horizon before it could be seen” (am history).

The good news is that crews were often close knit.

Below are short notes written to Lysander from John A. Coffin who was a Master Mariner with Lysander on the John Carver.

notes exchanged between shipmates - Lysander Gault and John A Coffin. (Courtesy of http://pplspcoll.wordpress.com)

notes exchanged between shipmates – Lysander Gault and John A Coffin. (Courtesy of http://pplspcoll.wordpress.com) click to enlarge.

The notes are short and talk about important things such as, “I have sent a barrel of ale, put it in a safe place.”  Or, “please let Julian have his things when he comes for them.” It is remarkable that such simple everyday notes were able to be preserved for hundreds of years.

Lysander Gault's gravestone

Lysander Gault’s gravestone (courtesy of findagrave.com)

Standing in a small boat while battling tossing waves, trying to take down a massive and extremely powerful creature takes guts. Serious guts.
It was a grisly job that was probably part courage, and part crazy. It was all or nothing.
Yes, it is true whales are especially majestic creatures and should be preserved, but, I also have to remember that was a different time back then. Ideas were different. Life was different.
Although the age of whaling is esentially gone, the stories and lives of whalers such as Lysander Gault will always be remembered.

Plus, its always cool to say that sailing runs in the family.