Historical Chronologies

Historical Chronologies

Interesting and significant events in the history of Hawaii, Kalaupapa, and Hansen’s disease. Extra information and stories about some of the events and people involved.

Today “leprosy” is known as “Hansen’s disease”. Those afflicted with Hansen’s disease are known as “patients”. At the time of most of the records mentioned below however, the terms “leprosy”, “leper”, and “inmate” were still in use. For the sake of historical accuracy I have left the old terms intact when quoting a historical source.

4th–5th
century A.D.
  • The earliest settlers, possibly from the Marquesas Islands, begin arriving in Hawaii.
1820
  • The brig Thaddeus arrives at Kailua, Hawai‘i,
    on April 4 bringing the pioneer company of American missionaries from Boston.
1823
  • Unconfirmed report of leprosy in Honolulu.
1827
  • Catholic priests arrive from France.
1835
  • Leprosy is observed in Kamuli, a Hawaiian woman living at Koloa, Kauai. This represents the first documented case of leprosy in Hawaii.
1839
  • Protestant religion established at Kalaupapa.
1848
  • Leprosy confirmed in Honolulu.
1850
  • First Board of Health established in Honolulu.
1853
  • First church in Kalaupapa (Calvanist) built of stone.
1863
  • Board of Health officially recognizes leprosy problem.
1864
  • Belgian postulant Father Damien (born Joseph DeVeuster) arrives in Honolulu and is ordained a priest on May 31 in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.
1865
  • Leprosy spreads at an alarming rate among the native Hawaiians, so on January 3, 1865, King Kamehameha V signs An act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy. The execution of the law is put in the hands of the Board of Health and authorizes the setting apart of land specifically to isolate and treat leprosy patients.
  • 2,764 people on the islands are reported to be lepers. Under the new act of prevention, segregation is begun and plans made for a separate hospital. Land is purchased in Palolo Valley, Island of Oahu, but when it becomes known in the neighborhood, objections are so strong that the effort is abandoned. A site is then secured at Kalihi, near Honolulu, well separated from the other habitations, and in November, 1865, the hospital is established there.
1866
  • The need for a larger and more permanent settlement is declared, isolated for those declared to be lepers, to be operated in connection with the Kalihi Hospital, where efforts would continue for the cure of cases in the early stages. In locating a site for the leper settlement the search is soon directed to the Molokai Peninsula, so well protected by the sea in front and by the towering cliff behind. Kalawao, on the Kalaupapa Peninsula, is set aside and on January 6 the first patients take up residence at the Kalaupapa Settlement.
  • 57 lepers are sent to Molokai Asylum, 101 remain at Kalihi Hospital for treatment. In sending lepers to Molokai, some difficulty attends the separating of relatives. Therefore, a few non-leper relatives are allowed to go along as helpers or Kokuas. Some cattle and sheep are also sent to Molokai. For Kalihi Hospital, and Molokai Asylum (or Settlement, as it generally became known later), the total
    amount of expenses in 1866 was $10,012.48.
  • Patients organize Siloama congregation in November.
1871
  • The building of Siloama church completed at Kalawao.
1872
  • St. Philomena chapel built by Brother Bertrant at Kalawao.
1873
  • Dr.Gerhard Henrick Armauer Hansen, a Norwegian physician, discovers Mycobacterium leprae, leading to proof of the disease as infectious in nature. Since then, this disorder has been called Hansen’s disease.
  • Father Damien arrives at Kalawao on May 10, 1873 on board the steamer Kilauea with 50 leprosy patients and a cargo of cattle. He adds an extension to St. Philomena, and builds the first Catholic church in Kalaupapa.
1881
  • Princess Liliuokalani, sister of King Kalakaua, becomes the First member of royalty to visit the settlement.
  • A leprosy hospital is established at Kakaako, Honolulu.
1885
  • Father Damien establishes orphanage for boys and girls.
  • Father Damien is diagnosed as having contracted leprosy.
1886
  • Father Damien supervises major changes to St. Philomena.
  • Joseph Dutton arrives at Kalaupapa to assist Father Damien. Dutton, an energetic and dedicated man, assumes many of the duties Damien is unable to perform as his leprosy progresses. Born Ira Dutton in Stowe, Vermont, he would later adopt the name of his favorite saint, St. Joseph. He arrives at a time when Father Damien sorely needs another
    missionary, so although he is an unordained layman, Brother Damien immediately starts calling him “Brother Dutton”.
1888
  • Mother Marianne, Sister Leopoldina, Sister Vicent arrive at Kalawao settlement in Molokai.
  • In answer to Father Damien’s request for buildings to house trained nurses from the Sisters of St. Francis and young, unmarried women patients, Charles R. Bishop finances the
    building of several buildings at Kalaupapa, called Bishop
    Home
    .
1889
  • Father Damien, 49, dies of leprosy on April 15 – Monday of Holy Week.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson visits the peninsula and becomes friends with the nuns and, to their despair, mixes freely with the lepers, and plays with the children. His sorry state of health makes him more susceptible to infection, and Sister Marianne admonishes him. Before leaving the island, Stevenson presents the children’s home with many gifts, including a piano, and addresses a little poem to the Sisters. (Read poem below.)
1890
  • Population shift from Kalawao to Kalaupapa accelerates.
1901
  • Bayview Home for aged and helpless opens at Kalaupapa.
1905
  • The Charles R. Bishop Trust repairs and improves the Bishop Home for women and girls.
  • Father Damien is slandered by the Reverend Mr. Hyde, a Protestant minister, for his methods of caring for the lepers. Robert Louis Stevenson writes an impassioned defense of Damien
    with the publication of an open letter entitled “Father Damien”.
    Read more about The Strange Case of Father Damien and Robert Louis Stevenson.
1907
  • Jack London and his wife spend a week at Kalaupapa. He later writes several articles based on his experience there, including The Lepers Of Molokai, published by The Women’s Home Companion.
1909
  • First Kalaupapa Hospital opens at base of cliffs.
  • Federal Leprosy Investigation Station opens at Kalawao.
  • Powerful lighthouse built at end of peninsula.
1913
  • Federal Leprosy Investigation Station closes.
1918
  • Mother Marianne dies at the age of 80.
1925
  • Robert Cooke of the Mutual Telephone Co. wireless department installs 2 radio receivers at Kalaupapa.
  • Robert “Doc” Cooke is selected to succeed John D. McVeigh as superintendent at Kalaupapa on July 1st.
  • Father Peter d’Orgeval comes to Kalaupapa – will become priest in residence.
1929
  • Vacant Federal Leprosy Investigation Station dismantled.
1931
  • Brother Joseph Dutton dies at age 88.
1932
  • Baldwin Home at Kalawao closes. Patients move into former Kalaupapa Hospital, renamed New Baldwin Home.
1934
  • Olivia Robello Breitha is diagnosed as having Leprosy and is sent to Kalihi Hospital.
1936
  • Robert Cooke oversees the return to Belgium of Father Damien’s remains at the request of King Leopold. The people of Kalaupapa are extremely upset to be losing their beloved Damien.
1937
  • Olivia Robello Breitha is notified treatment is no longer of benefit to her and she will be sent to Kalaupapa.
  • Ernie Pyle visits Kalaupapa, devotes a chapter in his book Home Country to describing his visit. He and Doc become friends and correspond until Doc’s death.
1938
  • “Mother” Alice Kahokuluna comes to Kanaana Hou Church, takes part in restoration of Siloama Church.
1939
  • Robert “Doc” Cooke, age 52, dies of a heart attack on May 18 at his Kalaupapa residence.
1945
  • On April 18, while on the frontlines with American marines on an island four miles west of Okinawa, Ernie Pyle is killed by a Japanese sniper bullet.
1946
  • Sulfone drugs are introduced in Hawaii. Hansen’s disease is put in remission and the sufferers are no longer contagious. The fewer than 100 former patients remaining on the peninsula are declared free to travel or relocate elsewhere, but most chose to remain where they have lived for so long.
1949
  • Hale Mohalu Hospital is established at Pearl City.
1966
  • Deteriorating Siloama totally rebuilt on location.
1969
  • State Board of Health ends policy of segregation.
  • Statues of Father Damien put in both national and state capitol buildings.
1976
  • Congresswoman Patsy Mink introduces legislation to place peninsula in National Park system.
1977
  • Father Damien declared “Venerable”, First step toward canonization.
1980
  • Kalaupapa National Historic Park becomes a reality.
1981
  • The advent of multi-drug therapy, or MDT (a combination of rifampicin, clofazimine, and dapsone) make a more rapid cure possible.
1995
  • On June 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified Blessed Damien and gave him his official spiritual title. On December 20, 1999, Jorge Medina Cardinal Estevez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed the November 1999 decision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to place Blessed Damien on the liturgical calendar with the rank of optional memorial. His official Feast Day is on May 10 of each year. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu is currently awaiting findings by the Vatican as to the authenticity of several miracles attributed to Damien. Upon confirmation that those miracles are genuine, Blessed Damien could then be canonized and receive the title of Saint Damien of Molokai.In Blessed Damien’s role as patron of those with HIV and AIDS, the world’s only Roman Catholic memorial chapel to those who have died of this disease, at the Église Saint-Pierre-Apôtre in Montreal, is consecrated to him.
2005
  • Mother Marianne is beatified by the Catholic Church, the second of three steps required for sainthood.
2009
  • Father Damien is canonized by Pope Benedict XVI
2012
  • Mother Marianne is canonized by Pope Benedict XVI

To the Reverend Sister Marianne,
Matron of the Bishop Home, Kalaupapa.
To see the infinite pity of this place,
The mangled limb, the devastated face,
The innocent sufferers smiling at the rod,
A fool were tempted to deny his God.
He sees, and shrinks; but if he look again,
Lo, beauty springing from the breasts of pain!
He marks the sisters on the painful shores,
And even a fool is silent and adores.

 ~ Robert Louis Stevenson