Benjamin Pitman (Hawaii)

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Benjamin Pitman
Benjamin Pitman, Peabody Essex Museum.png
Benjamin Pitman, c. 1864
BornOctober 12, 1815
DiedJanuary 17, 1888(1888-01-17) (aged 72)
Resting placeMount Auburn Cemetery
Spouse(s)Kinoʻole o Liliha
Maria Kinney
Martha Ball
ChildrenMary Pitman Ailau
Henry Hoʻolulu
Benjamin Keolaokalani
Maria Kinoʻole
Charles Brooks
Harold Albert
Parent(s)Benjamin Cox Pitman
Sally Richardson

Benjamin Pitman (October 12, 1815 – January 17, 1888) was an American businessman who married Hawaiian nobility.


Benjamin Pitman born October 12, 1815 in Salem, Massachusetts. His father was Benjamin Cox Pitman (1790–1845) and mother was Sally Richardson (1789–1858). He had two sisters: Sally (died 1822) and Mary Elizabeth (died 1825).[1]

His father Benjamin Cox Pitman came to the Hawaiian islands on trading missions with Stephen Reynolds in 1826 and 1828. He brought his son in 1833[2] and settled in Hilo, Hawaii. About a year later, the younger Pitman married Chiefess Kinoʻole o Liliha, who controlled vast lands under King Kamehameha III.[3] On September 11, 1845 his father died and was buried in the new Oahu Cemetery.[4]

Around 1846 he opened a small thatched hut with only a mat over a floor of bare earth at the rim of Kilauea volcano called Volcano House. He charged $1 a day, but eventually gave up the remote site.[5] He opened a store in Hilo (called a ship chandler) to supply whaling ships. As the whaling business grew, so did his fortunes. He started added "Esq." at the end of his name and acted as district magistrate, but there is no record of his being educated in law. In 1849 a visitor described him as the major businessman in town.[3]

By 1852 he was growing coffee, arrowroot, sugarcane, and served as vice president of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society.[6] He employed Chinese laborers on his sugarcane plantation.[7] Pitman served as customers collector and first postmaster on the island of Hawaii.[8] In 1854, after the Hilo Boarding School and Church started by Sarah Joiner and David Belden Lyman burned down, he raised funds to rebuild it.[9]

Their children were Mary Pitman Ailau (1838/41–1905), Henry Hoʻolulu Pitman (1845–1863), and Benjamin Franklin Keolaokalani Pitman (1852–1918).[7] His first wife Kinoʻole died in 1855.

He married for a second time on August 5, 1856 on Oahu. Maria Louisa Walsworth was born in Cleveland, Ohio, May 20, 1822, married Rev. Henry Kinney, and had come in 1848 as missionary to the island. When Henry's health failed, they traveled to California, where Henry died in 1854. Maria moved back and married Pitman, but this second wife died on March 6, 1858 in Hilo.[10] Daughter Maria Kinoʻole Pitman (1858–1905) married Fred Morey, of Chicago in 1881.[11]His third wife was Martha Ball Pitman (1824–1902) with whom he had two sons: Charles Brooks Pitman (1860–1918) and Harold Albert Pitman (1865–1948).[12][13][14][15]

Pitman family house in Brookline, Massachusetts

When his business partner Reynolds died in 1859, Pitman became sole owner of the plantations, and built a house in Honolulu. About two years later, he sold his Hilo residence, which Pitman built at Niopola in 1840, and the sugarcane plantation at Amauulu (Puueo) to Thomas Spencer, and moved back to Boston so the children could attend school there. The Spencer House as it became called was later converted into the Hilo Hotel which was torn down in 1956.[16][17][18][19] In January 1868 he founded a "Hawaiian Club" in Boston.[20] For a period of time in the 1870s, Benjamin Pitman and his family lived in Germany.[21]

The Pitman family marker at Mount Auburn Cemetery

The family met future Queen Liliʻuokalani on her visit to Boston in 1887. His daughter Mary Pitman Ailau had been a bridesmaid with the Princess at Queen Emma of Hawaii's wedding.[22] He died in January 17, 1888 at Somerville, Massachusetts.[23] Pitman was buried in a family plot in the Mount Auburn Cemetery.[24][25]

Henry Hoʻolulu served in the American Civil War as a private in the 22nd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was captured, and died on February 27, 1863.[26][27]

Benjamin K. F. Pitman married Almira Hollander (1854–1939) in 1875 and became a partner in his father-in-law's law firm L. P. Hollander & Co.[28] Myra became active in the movement for Women's suffrage in the United States,[29] and returned to visit Hawaii in 1917.[30] Their son Benjamin attended Harvard College,[31] and their other son Theodore Pitman became a sculptor, dedicating a monument to his ancestors in 1928.[32] Another Theodore, their great-grandson, donated a valuable manuscript of notes from 1836 to 1861 to the Bishop Museum in 2007.[33]


  1. ^ Thomas Williams Baldwin (1915). Vital records of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the year 1850. 2. Wright & Potter Print. Co. p. 697.
  2. ^ "Death of an Old Kamaaina". Hilo Tribune. February 14, 1905.
  3. ^ a b Sally Engle Merry (2000). Colonizing Hawai'i: the cultural power of law. Princeton University Press. p. 156. ISBN 0-691-00932-5.
  4. ^ Richard A. Greer (1967). "Here Lies History: Oahu Cemetery, a Mirror of Old Honolulu". 1. Hawaii Historical Society: 53–71. hdl:10524/384.
  5. ^ "The Volcano House". Hawaii Nature Notes. National Park Service. 5 (2). 1953.
  6. ^ The Transactions of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society. 2. 1854. p. 40.
  7. ^ a b Kai, Peggy (1974). "Chinese Settlers in the Village of Hilo Before 1852". The Hawaiian Journal of History. Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society. 8: 64. hdl:10524/221.
  8. ^ "Town Postmarks: Island of Hawaii". Post Office in Paradise. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  9. ^ Helen P. Hoyt (1951). "Captain Robert Barnacle". Annual report of the Hawaiian Historical Society. Hawaiian Historical Society. p. 12. hdl:10524/45.
  10. ^ Hawaiian Mission Children's Society (1901). Portraits of American Protestant missionaries to Hawaii. Honolulu: Hawaiian gazette co. p. 88.
  11. ^ Annual Report. 68. Hawaiian Mission Children's Society. 1920.
  12. ^ Hawaii Supreme Court (1903). "Brown v. Spreckels". Hawaiian Reports: Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of the Territory of Hawaii. 2. Honolulu: Honolulu Star-Bulletin. p. 401.
  13. ^ Martha Ball Pitman at Find a Grave
  14. ^ Harold Arnold Pitman at Find a Grave
  15. ^ "Boston- New England Pitman fam - Genealogy.com". www.genealogy.com.
  16. ^ O'Connor, Kaori (1997). "Thomas Spencer and "a Visit to Kīlauea"". Notes & Queries. The Hawaiian Journal of History. Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society. 31: 208–213. hdl:10524/367.
  17. ^ "Hilo Hotel". hawaiiantimemachine.blogspot.com.
  18. ^ "Returning Home After Fifty Years". Honolulu Star-bulletin. December 26, 1916.
  19. ^ Godfrey, Frank (1899). Godfrey's Handbook of Hawaii: Guide to Hilo and the Volcano. Honolulu: Mercantile Printing Company. pp. 40–41.
  20. ^ Original members, January 19, 1868. Hawaiian club papers. Abner A. Kingman, Boston. 1868. p. 119.
  21. ^ "Sudden Death of Benjamin Pitman". The Boston Daily Globe. Boston. January 18, 1888. p. 1. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  22. ^ "Chapter XXI". Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen by Liliuokalani, Queen of Hawaii. Boston: Lee and Shepard. 1898.
  23. ^ "Death of Benjamin Pitman". The Hawaiian Gazette. February 14, 1888. Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  24. ^ "Association for Gravestone Studies e-Newsletter" (PDF). September 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2009-11-11.
  25. ^ Benjamin Franklin Pitman at Find a Grave
  26. ^ Bob Dye (1997). Merchant prince of the Sandalwood Mountains: Afong and the Chinese in Hawaiʻi. University of Hawaii Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-8248-1772-5.
  27. ^ Pitman, Almira Hollander (1931). After Fifty Years: An Appreciation, and a Record of a Unique Incident. Norwood, MA: Priv. print., The Plimpton Press. p. 21.
  28. ^ "Benjamin F. Pitman Obituary" (PDF). The New York Times. July 3, 1918.
  29. ^ Harper, Ida Husted, ed. (1922). History of Woman Suffrage: 1900–1920. VI. New York: National American Woman Suffrage Association. pp. 715–719. OCLC 10703030.
  30. ^ Almira (Hollander) Pitman (1931). After fifty years: an appreciation, and a record of a unique incident. The Plimpton press.
  31. ^ Harvard College, Raymond Sanger Wilkins (1937). Harvard College: Class of 1912,. The Cosmos Press, Inc. p. 596.
  32. ^ "Notes". Papers of the Hawaiian Historical Society. Hawaii Historical Society (16): 7. 1929. hdl:10524/978.
  33. ^ "Rare Manuscript Donated to Bishop Museum Archives". press release from Bishop Museum. July 31, 2007. Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-12.

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