Thursday, December 12, 2013

Aloha Schenectady: Local Hawaiian Connections

North shore beach, Hawaii, photographed in 2005 by Carol Highsmith. Image from Library of Congress (, reproduction number LC-DIG-highsm-04487. 

During the cold winter months, when Schenectadians must sidestep slush and shovel out snow-buried cars, it's nice to daydream about spending time in a warm and sunny tropical paradise. Take a brief respite from the realities of winter in the northeast to explore the lives of a people that share a connection with Schenectady and with our fiftieth state, Hawaii.

One fascinating figure whose personal history touches Schenectady and Hawaii is Anthony D. Allen (1775-1835). Allen was born as a slave to a man named Dougal/McDougall in Schenectady. Following Dougal's death, Allen was sold to a Mr. Kelly of Schenectady. Allen escaped slavery in May 1800, and made his way to the Atlantic coast, where he found work on ships. He traveled to France, China, India, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Northwest, earning enough money to purchase his freedom before finding his home in Hawaii in 1810. He was granted a six-acre parcel of land in Waikiki from Hawaiian royalty. Allen soon became a prosperous and prominent entrepreneur and farmer. He also opened a boarding house, bowling alley, a small hospital, and is credited with building one of the first schools in Hawaii. Allen was also known to be very generous to the missionaries who came to the islands. "There are many white residents here -- the most pay an outward respect, sending us little present of fresh pork, corn, beans, and the like," wrote missionary Sybil Bingham in 1820. "There is one black man, Anthony Allen, brought up in Schenectady, New York, who I believe lives the most comfortably of any on the island . . . He has been very kind to us, sending us potatoes, squashes, etc. As often as once in two weeks, a goat or kid neatly dressed, -- every morning, two bottles of goat's milk, and many things I cannot mention." Allen's connection to Schenectady was renewed in 1822 when, following an article about Allen that appeared in the June 23, 1821 issue of the Missionary Herald, Daniel Dougal, the son of the man who had once held Allen as a slave, wrote to Allen and asked about his life in Hawaii. Allen did reply, dictating a lengthy and detailed letter about his life. He also sent gifts and money to a sister, Diana, who remained in Schenectady. The Reverend Charles S. Stewart also remembered a few prominent Schenectady men meeting with Allen during their travels to Hawaii following the Missionary Herald article. Allen died in 1835.

Image of the front page of an 1822 letter dictated from Anthony D. Allen to a Dr. Dougal of Schenectady, son of his former slave owner. The letter was sold at auction in 2009; this image comes from the British auction house Bonhams. 

Another notable person in Hawaii's history with a connection to Schenectady is John Owen Dominis (1832–1891), a statesman and the husband of Queen Lili'uokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. Dominis, the son of Captain John Dominis and Mary Lambert Jones, was born in Schenectady and spent his earliest years living on Front Street in the Stockade. The Dominis family was close to the family of Dr. Andrew Yates and lived in his home. When Dominis was five years old, he arrived in Hawaii with his parents. His sisters, Mary and Frances, stayed behind in Schenectady to complete their educations; unfortunately, both died very young, in 1838 and 1842, respectively. Around 1853, Dominis was appointed the private secretary to Prince Lot, who would later become King Kamehameha V. In 1862, Dominis married Lili'uokalani (also known as Lydia Paki). The marriage was, unfortunately, not a happy one. Dominis had many affairs and chose to socialize without his wife. In her memoirs, Lili'uokalani also notes that Dominis' mother disliked her and initially saw her as an "intruder," but warmed to her a bit more in later years. Dominis' connection to Hawaiian royalty afforded him a number of honors and responsibilities. Dominis served as Governor of Oahu and Maui, served in the House of Nobles, on the Board of Health, Board of Education, and Bureau of Immigration. He also served as Lieutenant General and Commander in Chief of the Hawaiian Army. When Lili'uokalani became Queen in January 1891, Dominis became Prince Consort. He died later that year in Hawaii and is buried in the Royal Mausoleum. Dominis fathered one son with Mary Purdy Lamiki Aimoku, a servant of Lili'uokalani.

This 1870s image shows Schenectady native John Dominis with his wife Liliuokalani, Hawaii's last reigning monarch. Seated, left to right: Queen Liliuokalani, Miriam Likelike (Princess of Hawaii), and Elizabeth Sumner. Standing, left to right: John Dominis and Archibald Cleghorn, respectively the husbands of Liliuokalani and Likelike. Image from the collections of the Hawaii State Archives, call no. PP-98-9-014 ( 

Last but not least is Emma Theodora Paty Yates (1850-1933). She was born in 1850 in Honolulu to John Paty and Mary Ann Jefferson. She married Isaac I. Yates in San Francisco in 1873, and the couple moved to Schenectady, where Emma Yates would live for over 60 years. Yates was active in the local chapter of the YWCA, serving as the organization's first treasurer. At the time of her death in 1933, she was one of the YWCA's oldest members. Yates was also active in Christ Episcopal Church in Duanesburg. She had five children: Jennie Ormsby Yates, Emma Theodora Yates, William C. Yates, Isaac I. Yates, and John Henry Yates. Emma Yates died in 1933 and is buried in Vale Cemetery. The Grems-Doolittle Library holds a collection of her personal papers. Yates also penned a document entitled Reminiscences of Honolulu, which is in the holdings of the Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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