Mary Mahiai, the original story, in English, 1901.


PROBABLY the most interesting woman in all Hawaii is the white-haired old wahine of four-score and ten, or thereabouts, who answers to the name of Mary Mahiai.

Last week an intricate land case came up in Judge Gear’s court and Mary Mahiai was summoned to appear as a witness, her testimony being relied upon to establish the validity of certain patents to extensive and valuable lands, the ancient boundaries of which were in dispute.

The old lady scorned the services of the interpreter on the witness stand and proceeded with her own story in good English astonishing the court and silencing the lawyers as, with Hawaiian freedom of gesture and animated features, she related the details of a most remarkable career.

It developed that she was born on the Island of Kauai before the coming of the first missionary, the arrival of Rev. Hiram Bingham being distinctly within her memory; at the age of seven years, little Mahiai, whose name (meaning “Working in the taro”) had been given her by her mother, went out in a rowboat with her uncle and five other men, starting for Molokai, to “go look see.” A storm came up and the boat was driven out of sight of land, its occupants having no food or drink with them, and suffering terribly from the pangs of hunger and thirst: for ten days and nights they drifted, becoming crazed and unable to cry out, and at last, when all hopes had been abandoned, and it was certain that the frail boat would go to pieces before the end of another day, a sail appeared upon the horizon and the faint outcries and feeble signals of the seven unfortunates attracted the attention of a sailor on board the ship, which was a sailing vessel bound for China. The six men and the little girl were taken on board and treated kindly. When the little girl was able to be about she was given the task of taking care of the captain’s little daughter, and the men were put to work on the ship; the vessel put in at Ladrone Islands, and by their own desire, the five men who had set out with little Mahiai and her uncle, were put ashore. It was afterwards learned that they were eaten by cannibals. Continue reading


Construction of the Bishop Museum, 1889.


The Kinau brought this morning two slabs from a heathen temple or heiau at Kapoho, Puna, Hawaii. They are to be placed in the Bishop Museum now in course of erection at the Kamehameha school grounds. Some of the stones in this same temple had a mark of a cross on them, supposed to have been made by the Spaniards when voyaging to these islands years and years ago.

(Daily Bulletin, 5/29/1889, p. 3)


The Daily Bulletin, Volume XIV, Number 2262, Page 3. May 29, 1889.

Queen’s Hospital trustees and the Bishop Museum, 1886.


 A special meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Queen’s Hospital was held this morning in the Chamber of Commerce room. The object of the meeting was to consider the advisableness and feasibility of transferring the antiquities and curios left to the Hospital by the will of the late Queen Emma to the Hon. Chas. R. Bishop, who is about to open a national museum. Mr. Kunuiakea, one of the heirs of the Queen Emma estate and part claimant of the curios, consents to give his interest in them to Mr. Bishop for the purpose mentioned, on the condition that the Queen’s Hospital also give their interest. It having been the wish of the late Queen Emma to have a national museum in Honolulu, and such wish having been specified in her will (signed but not witnessed), the Trustees of the Queen’s Hospital have decided to deed to Mr. C. R. Bishop all the curios and antiquities left them by the will of the deceased queen, on the condition that all the ancient relics left by the late High Chiefess Pauahi Bishop, be also given to the museum.

(Daily Herald, 9/16/1886, p. 3)


The Daily Bulletin, Volume IX, Number 1432, Page 3. September 15, 1886.

Beginnings of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, 1886.

Museum of Antiquities.

A special meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Queen’s Hospital was held yesterday. It was called to consider the question of conveying the Hawaiian antiquities and curios, devised to the Trustees by the will of the late Queen Emma, to the Hon. C. R. Bishop for a projected public museum. Mr. Bishop had sometime ago formed the purpose of founding a museum of Hawaiian antiquities, with the collection of his late consort, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop, as the nucleus. Continue reading

Mary Mahiai passes away, 1913.


Believed by many of the Hawaiians to be at least 110 years old, and having figured in a history which has been recounted from the Atlantic coast to the far east, Mary Mahiai died at her home on Vineyard street last Monday night, and was buried yesterday afternoon in the cemetery back of the asylum.

The aged Hawaiian was born on the island of Kauai during the period the reign of Kamehameha the Great, long before the first missionaries from New England arrived here, and at the age of seven years went out in a canoe with her uncle and five other men for the island of Molokai. A storm came up and the canoe was driven out of sight of land, and for ten days they drifted at the mercy of the elements without food or water. When nearly dead from hunger and thirst, a sail was sighted, and two boats appeared, the larger of which sent a boat out to take the occupants of the canoe aboard. They were treated kindly by the captain and soon learned that the vessel was bound for China. The little Hawaiian girl was given the task of caring for the captain’s daughter and the men put to work on the vessel. At one of the islands of the Ladrones the five men of the little party were put ashore at their request, and it was afterward earned that they were devoured by cannibals who were known to infest those islands. Mary Mahiai, with her uncle, remained on the vessel and were taken to China, where they were turned over to missionaries there. They remained there several years, during which time Mary’s uncle died. Mary was made nurse to one of the missionary’s children and soon after traveled to New York with her mistress. At the time of the gold rush to California Mary was in the employ of a missionary family named Bates, and in 1848 they set sail for the gold fields, via Cape Horn. They were many months reaching their destination on account of the fierce storms which swept that coast, finally reaching Monterey.

The party sailed for the Hawaiian islands a few years later, arriving in Honolulu in 1850, and Mary at once sent a letter to her friends, who had many years previous mourned her death, thinking that she had been drowned or eaten by sharks. Her friends came to Honolulu and her return was celebrated with a luau which lasted many days. Mary did not accompany her relatives back to Kauai, but remained in the employ of the Bates family, to whom she had become very much attached. Later, she married, her husband dying a few months later. Her second husband died of the smallpox and her third lived only a year after their marriage. She married for the fourth time and she and her husband lived happily for twenty years, he dying in the early part of the present century.

The interesting story of her life was told by her when she appeared before the United States senatorial commission on its visit to Honolulu in 1902. As she became old, Mary Mahiai lapsed into the easy Hawaiian life in her humble home on Vineyard street, where she would be often seen barefooted and clad in a holoku.

(Star-Bulletin, 1/8/1913, p. 4)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XX, Number 6479, Page 4. January 8, 1913.

Mary Mahiai, what a story! 1901.


The picture above is of Mary Mahiai, a Hawaiian woman who is ninety years old or more. Last week, she was called to court over land that is being fought over. Here, her story was heard. Because of her good story and her long life, one of our writers went once again to ask her about her history. And this is it:

I don’t know when I was born, but I was born before the arrival of the missionaries. I was very small at that time, and maybe I was this tall. One day, we boarded a canoe, her Uncle and five others; they wanted to visit Molokai. They were caught up in a storm in the middle of the ocean, and blown outward; they did not eat for ten days and nights. Because I was so young, I cried a lot. I wanted to eat, and I was thirsty. We had nothing to eat, and had no water left. Water came in the waa, and some of us drank the bilge water. We were near crazy with hunger and thirst. We lost hope that we would live. One day we spotted a ship. We tried to get noticed. We were fetched and taken aboard the ship. My duty aboard the ship was to care for the children. The captain and his wife were kind. We landed at Lardone [??]. Five of them got off with the intent of living there. We heard that they were eaten after that by the people this place. My uncle and I went all the way to China. I cared for the baby some missionaries, Mr. and Mrs. Brown. Thereafter, my uncle died and I was left alone with those haole. I was the caretaker of the baby. I lived for perhaps six whole years in China. I travelled around many places. Later, Mrs. Brown died. I lived with Mr. and Mrs. Bates. After that he wanted to go to California to prospect for gold. We accompanied him on a boat, and saw Cape Horn [Kepahoni], that place famous for rough seas. I saw many lands. I lived for three months in the gold fields. I wanted very much to return to Hawaii. Afterwards, these haole agreed and we all left for Hawaii nei. When we arrived, I immediately wrote to my parents and younger siblings. They came to Honolulu at once. They believed that I had died earlier. My father died without me knowing him.

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Custom House, 1895.

Custom House of Honolulu.

We are adorning these columns of the Kuokoa with a picture of the grand Hale Oihana Dute of Honolulu nei, at the corner of Fort [Papu] and Allen [Alani] Streets. this building was built during the reign of Kamehameha IV., and it was added to at various times when it was found that it was not adequate for the incoming goods to be stored, so it has become very long and wide. This is the entrance [makaha] into the nation, where goods from foreign lands are stored, and duty is collected on taxable items, and not only that, the owners pay a fee for care of their goods in this building by the government. There is a big force of government employees in this bureau under the Department of Finance [Oihana Waiwai], starting with the collector-general and the deputy-collector, and down to the secretary and the storekeeper, guards, and so forth. The money expended to rebuild or perhaps extend this entrance comes from the revenues of the growing public funds due to the duties charged by this entity.

(Kuokoa, 3/16/1895, p. 2)

Ka Hale Oihana Dute o Honolulu.

Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke XXXIV, Helu 11, Aoao 2. Maraki 16, 1895.

Washington Place, 1895.

The Residence of Wasinetona Hale.

We are putting before you the picture of Washington Place on Beritania Street, Honolulu, not because it was the storage for guns and weapons for Liliuokalani, but because it is a very old building constructed in Honolulu nei. The foundation of this house was began with coral blocks by the one called Isaac Adams, for the mother of Governor Dominis, while her husband, Dominis, was sailing as captain aboard a ship from Honolulu to…


…China, trading with places of the North and then returning to Honolulu. And being that Mrs. Dominis, who accompanied her husband, fancied living here in Honolulu, and building a home here to live in, and forever more leaving her own home in the state of Massachusetts, her husband agreed to her request. It was perhaps 1842 when the foundation was laid, but it was not completed until the beginning of 1846. And on August 5, 1846, Captain Dominis left again on a ship under his leadership, but after he left Honolulu for China, there was no word that his ship landed on any dry land until this day.

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Kuhio’s “Four Horsemen,” a translation from the time! 1939.

The Four Horsemen

The above picture was taken at Honolulu a few years before the passage of the Rehabilitation Law. There were four of these Hawaiians, and a few days after the return of the Delegate Prince Kuhio from Washington, assembled at Pualeilani at Waikiki to discuss the subject “Rehabilitation of the Hawaiians and after that discussion, these men went to town and had their picture taken at the William’s Gallery on Fort Street, as it was the Prince’s wish, so that he can show to his fellow congressmen at Washington his backers that brought up this important matter for rehabilitating its people, known to be decreasing, during the session of the Hawaii legislature, if the measure is allowed by congress. They are sitting. Prince Kuhio, standing, from left to right, Rev. S. L. Desha, Sr., John C. Lane and H. L. Holstein.

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