John C. McColgan, 1814-1890

Editor’s note: while today’s McCorriston isn’t one by name, he is one by blood; his mother is believed to be an older sister of Hugh McCorriston (1805-1848). We are including him because of his contributions to the sugar cane and sugar refining industries of Hawaii, the development of Molokai’s agriculture, his relationship to the McCorriston Brothers, and so that he is known to history beyond being the biological father of famed hula practitioner Kini Kapahu Wilson (1872-1962).

John C. McColgan (December 24, 1814-February 28, 1890) was a tailor, haberdasher, and sugar cane planter in the Hawaiian Islands during the reigns of the last Kings of the Hawaiian Islands.

John C. McColgan was born in County Londonderry, Ireland, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, on December 24, 1814. In about 1832, he left Londonderry for Manchester, England, and, in about 1834, emigrated to the United States. In 1849, John moved to California to work in the gold mines and, on November 26, 1849, he sailed from San Francisco, California, aboard the American ship Elizabeth Ellen. He arrived in Honolulu on December 13, 1849. [1] [2] [3]

Life and Business in Hawaii

Shortly after his arrival in the Hawaiian Islands, John started work as a tailor. He first went into business with David B. Clark, then partnered with Thomas Boland in August 1850; Alexander J. Campbell in about 1855; William Hanna in November 1863; and William Johnson in about 1868, with periods of sole proprietorship in between partnerships. He is credited with bringing the first sewing machines to Hawaii on September 12, 1853, and his skill and expertise led to his becoming the personal tailor for “His Majesty of the Kingdom of Hawaii,” which could refer to either King Kamehameha III or IV. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

By 1873, John owned a sugar cane plantation, in ʻEwa on the Island of Oʻahu. Later that year, in July, he leased land from the late King Kamehameha V’s estate on Molokai to start a sugar cane plantation which would use the same milling technology employed at the ʻEwa plantation. [11] [12] [34]

In about 1877, John moved to Kamalō on Molokai. His sugar cane plantation, the Kamalo Plantation, did well, producing “… rattoons, six months old, from the same place, which measured eight feet in length and nine inches in circumference … “ and “… stalks of cane … eleven months old, and measured 10 to 12 feet in length.” By 1880, John’s cousin Daniel McCorriston (1840-1927) managed the Kamalo Plantation, and his cousin Hugh McCorriston (1836-1926) refined the sugar while John acted as the agent in Honolulu. By 1884, the Kamalo Plantation was doing well enough to engage in the exportation of refined sugar to the United States, helping lay the foundation for the sugar partnership between California and Hawaii that exists today as C&H Sugar. [13] [14] [15] [16] [17]

The McColgan plantation, like the McCorriston homestead on Molokai in later years, was a waypoint for visiting dignitaries and other travelers. In 1882, John hosted King David Kalākaua, Governor John O. Dominis (the future Prince Consort of Queen Liliʻuokalani), and their party during an official visit to Molokai. [18]

In addition to plantation farming, John was also involved in real estate, distilling (presumably rum), and cattle ranching. He owned property on Fort Street in Honolulu, which suffered a fire in 1885; was engaged in distilling in at least 1878-1880; and was one of a handful of people who provided heifers to the leper colony at Kalaupapa in 1888. He was also a frequent foreign juror and a member of the Honolulu Rifles, a volunteer military company of the Hawaiian Islands formed on February 26, 1857. [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [35]

Summiting Mauna Loa

In 1872, John was a member of a party to summit Mauna Loa on the Big Island on September 7. As related primarily by F. L. Clark, the party suffered trials, tribulations, altitude sickness, and bitter cold to be some of the first Europeans to experience the grandeur of Kīlauea:

We watched steadily the grand fountain playing before us, and called frequently to each other to note when some tall jet, rising far above the head of the main stream, would carry with it immense masses of white-hot glowing rock, that as they fell and struck upon the black surface of the cooling lava, burst like meteors in a summer sky.

The party—which included Mrs. J. H. Black, the first woman known to have made the ascent—broke camp on the morning of the 8th of September, 1872, leaving a roll call of their party and how to find water atop the mountain. [25]

Personal Life

In 1854, John fathered a son named John Hiram (1854-1936) with the Hawaiian woman Makakoa. John Hiram was born in Waimea, Kauaʻi, on February 12, 1854, married Mary Keliihuluhulu on April 29, 1909, and died in Honolulu, Oahu, on July 3, 1936. [26]

By 1862, John was partnered with a Hawaiian woman named Kalaʻiolele, who is sometimes referred to as his wife. Other times, their children are considered to be illegitimate. John and Kalaʻiolele had sixteen children, including three sets of twins. [10] [27] Eight of these children lived to adulthood, and three are known:

  1. Daughter Mary Piʻia McColgan was born in Honolulu, Oʻahu, on November 19, 1862, married Mr. Saurin in about 1886, married George Mahi in about 1897, and died in Honolulu, Oʻahu, on December 3, 1951

  2. Son John Kekaua Kamanolulu was born in Honolulu, Oʻahu, in August 1867, married Lilia Kaohu on October 10, 1885, married Hattie Keanu (1869-1944) on January 5, 1889, married Deborah Kamālie Pahau (1870-1923) on November 17, 1907, and died in Kipahulu, Oʻahu, on July 15, 1927

  3. Daughter Ana Kini Kapahukulaokamamalu Kuulalani McColgan Huhu, known as “Kini,” “Kini Kapahu,” and “Aunty Jennie",” among other names, was born in Honolulu, Oʻahu, on March 4, 1872, married John Henry Wilson (1871-1956) on May 8, 1908, and died in Honolulu, Oʻahu, on July 24, 1962

Kalaʻiolele died in about 1876, shortly before John moved to Molokai. [28]

John C. McColgan and Kini Kapahu Wilson

John—alternatively called “John H. McColgan,” “John N. McColgan,” and “John Kamanoulu”—was the biological father of Kini Kapahu Wilson (1872-1962), the world-renowned hula practitioner and second wife of Honolulu Mayor John Henry Wilson (1871-1956). John and Kalaʻiolele gave Kini to Kapahukula and Kuʻula at her birth in the practice of hanai, or informal adoption. [10] [29] [30]

As her biological father and a practicing Catholic, John provided for Kini’s religious development during her early years. He arranged for her Baptism into the Catholic Church when she was about eight months old, and he enrolled her in the Catholic school at the Cathedral when she was eight, paying all the tuition and fees for her education. Due in part to John’s influence and in part to the lack of help given by the pastor of the Protestant Kawaiahao Church upon Kuʻula’s death, Kini’s adoptive mother Kapahu converted to Catholicism in 1879 and continued to raise Kini in the Catholic Church. [28] [31] [32]

The Will of John C. McColgan

John died testate, leaving his estate to friends, the Catholic Church, some of his children, his half-siblings and their spouses, and his cousins, their spouses, and their children:

  • Friends

    • Herman Koeckemann (“the Rt. Rev. Herman Koeckemann, Bishop of Olba”): $300 in cash

    • James F. Morgan (“my friend, James F. Morgan”): real estate situate on Judd St. and Fort St., with conditions

  • Children

    • John Hiram McColgan (1854-1936) (“my esteemed friend, John Hiram”): $500 in cash

    • John Kekaua Kamanoulu (1867-1927) (“my esteemed friend, John K. Kamanoulu”): $500 in cash

    • Mary Piʻia McColgan (1861-1952) (“my esteemed friend, Mary Saurin”): $500 in cash

  • Half-Siblings and Their Spouses

    • Margaret Moorhead (“my sister-in-law, Margaret Moorhead”): $200 in cash

    • Elizabeth Moorhead (“my half-sister, Elizabeth Moorhead”): the use and occupation of the premises on Judd St., with all household furniture and stock; the rents, issues, and profits of the Germania Market on Fort St.

    • Robert Moorhead (“my half-brother, Robert Moorhead”): $20/month, with conditions

  • The Catholic Church in Honolulu: $4000, with conditions

  • Cousins, Their Spouses, and Their Children

    • Margaret Gorman (1846-1932) (“Margaret Louisa McCorriston, wife of my cousin, Hugh McCorriston” ): $400 in cash

    • Jane Johnson (“Jane McCorriston, wife of my cousin, Daniel McCorriston, of Honolulu”): the rents, issues, and profits of the Blacksmith shop on Fort St.; the premises of the Blacksmith shop, with conditions

    • Each living child of Daniel McCorriston of Honolulu: $100 each, with conditions

    • Daniel McCorriston (1840-1927) and Hugh McCorriston (1836-1926) (“my cousins, Daniel and Hugh McCorriston”): the rest and residue of estate, real, personal, and mixed, and all remaining funds in trust, to share and share alike (NB: this includes the Kamalo Plantation on Molokai) [33]


John C. McColgan died 9:20 am on Friday, February 28, 1890, after a prolonged illness. He is buried in the Catholic cemetery on Fort Street in Honolulu. [1]

Updated February 1, 2019.


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