Father Damien

Published by DonDavidson on

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 24 of my most recent book, Christ’s Faithful Servants:

Leprosy was unknown in Hawaii until 1835, when a woman on the island of Kauai was diagnosed with it. It was probably brought from China. The disease spread rapidly, and by 1863 it had become an epidemic. On January 3, 1865, King Kamehameha V signed into law “An Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy,” authorizing the Hawaiian government to transport lepers to the Makanalua Peninsula on the island of Molokai,[1] a region known as Kalaupapa. The first group was deposited on the peninsula on January 6, 1866, and consisted of nine men and three women.

The Makanalua Peninsula is a ten-square-mile prominence on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Molokai. This triangular peninsula is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, north, and west, and is effectively cut off from the rest of the island to the south by cliffs which are 1,700 feet tall and very steep.[2] In 1866, when the first lepers arrived, the peninsula lacked even the most basic comforts of civilization. The lepers lived in caves or whatever they could construct with the materials at hand. Sometimes new arrivals were pushed overboard and forced to swim ashore. Supplies were often cast into the sea and allowed to drift toward the island. The lives of these unfortunate victims began to change for the better when Father Damien arrived on May 10, 1873.

You can read all of Chapter 24, as well as excerpts from other chapters, a description of the book, and a list of contents by clicking on “My Books” above.

[1]. Molokai is a long, narrow island which runs almost 40 miles from east to west, but is only 6 – 9 miles wide from north to south. Molokai is located in the middle of the Hawaiian Island chain, between Oahu and Maui. The Makanalua Peninsula juts out along the northern shore of Molokai, about halfway along its length.

[2]. Even today, you can only reach the Makanalua Peninsula in one of three ways: (1) by mule trail down the cliffs, (2) by boat, or (3) by air to a small airstrip. No roads lead into the peninsula from the rest of Molokai.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *