HAWAII NATURE NOTES
The Park Idea
The future of the Land of Pele was cast in 1903 by William R. Castle, Honolulu lawyer and financier, who wrote in the Volcano House guest book: "The time has come when the United States Government might well reserve the whole region from Mokuaweoweo (the summit crater on Mauna Loa) to the sea in Puna." Three years later, some lady correspondents and magazine writers touring Hawaii under the auspices of the Portland (Oregon) Daily Journal visited Kilauea. The Weekly Hilo Tribune for March 6, 1906, reporting on the visit of the ladies to Kilauea the previous week, noted: "Mrs. Weatherred also expressed the opinion that the Volcano should be made a national park." The lady was Mrs. Edyth Tozier Weatherred, an Oregon newswriter who chaperoned the group.
The Hilo Tribune apparently failed to grasp the significance of the suggestion made by Mrs. Weatherred, for it did not follow it up until after Lorrin A. Thurston's Advertiser came out endorsing the idea. In an article quoted in the Tribune on March 20, 1906, the Advertiser commented: "The park idea is a popular one with the man on the street. Of a score of businessmen and others seen yesterday on the subject, not one expressed himself as other than favorable to the scheme and many gave excellent reasons why the Government should adopt it."
Editorially the Advertiser was quoted by the Tribune on the same day: "The advantages of having the volcano district put into a Federal reservation are well worth thinking about . . . Mrs. Weatherred is to be thanked for the suggestion. We hope that our commercial bodies will take this matter up and press it. Perhaps it is not too late to have something done at this session of Congress, if no more than to secure the appointment of a commission."
In an effort to establish the fact that the Tribune was the first to print the idea, it commented editorially on March 20, 1906: "The suggestion that Kilauea be made a national park meets with a unanimous response in its favor. The idea, after all a most natural one, was published first by the Tribune, and was made by the leader of the Oregon party, recent visitors at the volcano. It is eminently proper and in line with national policy that the volcano and its environs should be in the keeping, and under the care of the federal government, for the benefit of the people and in order that its surroundings may be both protected and improved."
Thus William R. Castle became the first person to sound the call for management of the Land of Pele by the Federal Government, Edyth Tozier Weatherred the first to conceive specifically the Hawaii National Park idea, and the Weekly Hilo Tribune the first to report it. But it was Lorrin A. Thurston, one of Hawaii's greatest men, who for a full decade fanned the sparks that brought this magnificent land into the fold of the National Park System.
A grandson of the first American missionaries who came to Hawaii from New England in 1820, Thurston contributed as did few others to the development of Hawaii's industry, culture, and government. He was a man of great vision and had a boundless faith in the future of the Territory. Born in Honolulu in 1858, he received his early education in the islands. When Thurston was ten years old, his family moved to the Island of Maui and on school vacations the youngster acted as guide for visitors to the summit of Haleakala and the crater as well, becoming one of the earliest guides of record in the lands now comprising the Haleakala Section of Hawaii National Park. He had his first glimpse of Kilauea as a young man of twenty-one and became so interested in the region that in 1891 he formed the company that operated the Volcano House for the next thirteen years.
After studying law at Columbia, Thurston returned to Hawaii and entered the local political arena. At the age of twenty-eight he was elected to the Territorial House of Representatives and later to the House of Nobles. Thurston was the spearpoint in the revolutionary movement that marked the end of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, and with Sanford B. Dole co-authored the constitution on which the Republic of Hawaii was established. Later he served as ambassador to Washington and Portugal from the shortlived Republic, and following the political unrest of the 1890's in Hawaii, Thurston engaged in several business enterprises and in 1900 entered the newspaper field as publisher of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, now The Honolulu Advertiser.
Thurston hammered regularly at the park idea in his newspaper and kept it alive before his readers. To acquaint Congress with Hawaii's problems, the Territorial Legislature enacted a special appropriation to bring a group of Congressmen to the Territory in 1907. The group, numbering fifty members of Congress and their wives, visited the area now comprising the Haleakala Section of Hawaii National Park and later Kilauea. A special feature arranged for the party's visit to Kilauea was a dinner cooked by Demosthenes Lycurgus over the hot lava vents on the edge of Halemaumau. Roast pig, stewed chicken, and other appetizing delights were served to the visitors, who were impressed by the food but more by the unique cooking method used. Thurston accompanied the Congressional party and capitalized on the opportunity of acquainting the influential visitors with the proposed park project. Demosthenes Lycurgus, who had visited Yellowstone National Park the year before and was keenly interested in the proposed Hawaii park project, lent Thurston ample support in selling the idea to the visiting Congressmen.
Secretary of the Interior James R. Garfield visited Kilauea in 1908 in company with Thurston, and another influential convert to the park proposal was won. The following year saw another Congressional party at Kilauea, and again Thurston took up the cudgels for the park project. One of the members of this party, Congressman John C. Lane, made the comment, after observing the seething and boiling lake of lava in Halemaumau, that teachers of the bible should visit Madame Pele so as to enable them to deliver the gospel with great force!
Thurston's work in the move to establish the park quickly won the support of Governor Walter R. Frear, of Hawaii, who appointed the spirited park promoter to represent the Territory in negotiating with the Bishop Estate and other landowners in working out the boundaries for the proposed area. Governor Frear took such an active interest in the project that he personally studied the statutes on the national parks. In his 1910 fiscal year report, Frear recommended to the Secretary of the Interior that legislation be sought to establish the proposed park.
Frear endorsed the park idea publicly from time to time, and at a meeting at the Hilo courthouse in 1910 spoke of it as an excellent one. It was at this meeting that an enterprising Hilo citizen outlined twenty-seven lines of attack on Congress to pass the park bill. The Governor commented that twenty-six might be enough but that it would not be "Thurstonesque" not to take the full quota!
In January 1911, Frear sent the draft of a bill to Washington for introduction in Congress to create the proposed "Kilauea National Park." The bill sought an appropriation of $50,000 of which Frear envisioned half would be used to acquire private holdings and the other half for the construction of roads and other improvements. This bill was suggested to Governor Frear by the Trail and Mountain Club of the Island of Hawaii, which was founded in 1910 at Thurston's bidding. At his suggestion, the newly-formed club, of which Thurston was first secretary, endorsed the park proposal and stated the establishment of the national park to be one of its objectives.
Thurston called on Frear before the 1911 Territorial Legislature convened and urged the governor to include a recommendation in his message to the lawmakers for the passage of a resolution endorsing the park project. Endorsement by the local legislature would give weight to the proposal then before Congress, Thurston thought, and so convinced Frear. The governor followed up on Thurston's idea, and in his 1911 message said: "The time seems ripe for pushing this project. The creation of the park is a matter not merely of local but of national and world-wide importance. Then he went on to recommend the resolution suggested by Thurston. This instrument, House Concurrent Resolution No. 13, was introduced in the Territorial Legislature on March 27, 1911, by Representative John H. Coney, of Kauai.
After Governor Frear gave his blessing to the park project, he ordered a survey of the lands proposed by Thurston for inclusion in the park. The survey was made in 1910 by Thurston, Surveyor Thomas Cook, W. H. Shipman, and Walter M. Giffard (after whom the rare native hibiscus, Hibiscadelphus giffardianus, is named). At Thurston's invitation, Carl S. Carlsmith, of Hilo, accompanied the surveying party to advise on the legal aspects of the proposed park boundaries.
The park area proposed by Thurston included 1,000 acres of land leased by C. Brewer and Company from the Bishop Estate for cattle grazing purposes, and neither the lessor nor the lessee went along with the idea of the inclusion of these lands in the park. This objection represented the only threat at this juncture to the proposed park project, and it reached all the way down the line to Julian Monsarrat, Manager of C. Brewer's Kapapala Ranch. When Thurston and the other members of his survey party set foot there, Monsarrat ordered them away! The Bishop Estate did not oppose the park idea as such, only the limits recommended by Thurston.
Coney's resolution recognized the objection of Brewer and the Bishop Estate to the inclusion of the 1,000 acres of ranch lands in the park and recommended modification of the boundaries on the ground that all opposition to the project would then be dissipated. At the time that the resolution was introduced and came up for hearings before the Public Lands and Internal Improvements Committee of the Territorial Legislature, Thurston was in Hilo looking after personal business matters. Getting wind of the provision in the resolution to eliminate some of the acreage proposed by him and as proposed also in the bill then before Congress, he wrote a telling letter to the committee urging retention of the lands. His Advertiser headlined on April 10, 1911: "National Park Bill is in Danger. Land Wanted as Pasture for Steers."
The next day the front page of Thurston's newspaper came out with a large box quoting several endorsements of the park proposal:
This well-timed maneuver by Thurston kindled sympathetic public interest but not sufficiently to withstand the pressures brought on the committee by the Brewer and Bishop Estate people. Nor was Thurston's eloquent plea before the committee a few days later sufficient to move it from the stand it took; accordingly, the committee approved the resolution, which specified the exclusion of the controversial 1,000 acres from the proposed park. Both houses of the Territorial Legislature passed the resolution unanimously on April 26, 1911. Thus Thurston gained endorsement of the park proposal from the Territorial Legislature. This, he reckoned, assured the presentation of a solid front in Washington when Congress considered the park bill, even if it meant getting along with 1,000 acres less than he had envisioned.
A new park bill was drafted later that year and sent in December by Frear to Prince Kuhio Kalanalaniole, Hawaii's Delegate to Congress, for introduction in the House. This bill lacked a proper metes and bounds description of the lands proposed for inclusion in the park and immediately hit a stalemate. When this technicality became known to Thurston, he got in touch with Governor Frear. At the governor's request, Claude H. Birdseye, Chief of the U. S. Geological Survey topographical party working elsewhere on the Island of Hawaii, undertook the mapping of the proposed park early in 1912. Thurston and Frear considered the work so urgent that Birdseye and his surveyors had but one day's notice from the governor to begin the job, which was completed on May 16, 1912. The following day, Birdseye forwarded the map to Washington. But the wheels ground slowly and four years were still to pass before the Land of Pele was to come into the select family of the National Park System.
|<<< Previous||> Cover <||Next >>>|