To Our Readers

By John Flanagan

Saturday, June 12, 1999

New England roots

In 1756, the year some say Kamehameha the Great was born in North Kohala, a Congregationalist minister named Justus Forward built a house in Cold Spring, Mass. By 1952, when my parents bought Forward's house, Cold Spring had long (and unfortunately) been renamed Belchertown. I grew up in this big, nine-room, center-chimney, two-story clapboard house on 50 hilly acres of hay fields, orchards, pastures and pinewoods.

Founded in 1731, Belchertown has a scenic New England common, or central square, ringed by white churches and adorned with a bandstand, like the one at Iolani Palace. The spacious common also features the obligatory Civil War monument, flagpole and a couple of old cannons.

One road through town is named Daniel Shay's Highway after the leader of Shay's Rebellion, a post-Revolutionary uprising. In 1787, six years before Kamehameha became sole ruler of the Big Island, Shay led 2,000 farmers unhappy with economic conditions to seize the arsenal in nearby Springfield. They ended up in jail.

As kids, we often visited Forward's grave in the little cemetery down the hill and across the road, within sight of the house. Forward died in 1814, five years before Kamehameha. His large marble tombstone -- stained and obscured by lichen, but with inscription still legible -- rests among others, some many decades older.

The house was assembled from timbers and boards cut, hewn and sawed on the property and set on a mortarless foundation of large stones. Its floors and walls of pine boards -- some 2 feet wide -- are fastened with square iron nails.

The beams were assembled with wooden pegs, or "treenails," driven into holes bored through the joints. A house built like that could be taken apart, shipped around the Horn and reassembled, as the Mission Houses were in 1820.

Links between New England and Hawaii endure. For 200 years, missionaries, whalers, soldiers and sailors -- even editors -- from the cold northeast have found warmth and welcome in these blessed isles.

John Flanagan is editor and publisher of the Star-Bulletin.
To reach him call 525-8612, fax to 523-8509, send
e-mail to or write to
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802.

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