Joseph Dutton

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Servant of God

Joseph Dutton

Joseph Dutton in 1922
BornIra Barnes Dutton
(1843-04-27)27 April 1843
Stowe, Vermont, United States
Died26 March 1931(1931-03-26) (aged 87)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States

Joseph Dutton (April 27, 1843 – March 26, 1931) was a Civil War veteran and Union Army lieutenant, who converted to Catholicism and later worked as a missionary with Father Damien.


He was born Ira Barnes Dutton in Stowe, Vermont, son of Ezra Dutton and Abigail Barnes.[1]

Dutton carried out his studies at Old Academy and Milton Academy, Wisconsin and in 1861 enlisted in 13th Wisconsin Infantry under Colonel Maurice Malooney.[1] He was a quartermaster in the 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.[2] He had been raised Protestant in Baptist Sunday schools[3] and was for a time married. The marriage did not last as his wife (who he never mentioned by name)[4] was unfaithful and Dutton developed problems with alcohol. He quit drinking in 1876 and later took the name Joseph.

He converted to Roman Catholicism in 1883 and afterward spent 20 months at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. In 1886 Dutton went to Molokai to aid the dying Father Damien, who was grateful for his assistance. Dutton remembered that he told Father Damien "My name is Joseph Dutton; I’ve come to help, and I’ve come to stay" upon meeting him—and he did stay, for the remainder of his life.[5] After Father Damien's death Dutton founded the Baldwin Home for men and boys with financial assistance from Henry Perrine Baldwin.

Dutton was a member of the Secular Franciscan Order.[6] He was often called "Brother Joseph."[4]

Dutton wrote the article "Molokai" for the Catholic Encyclopedia,[7] and composed and sent many letters detailing life on the island, and U. S. President Theodore Roosevelt was one of those who read of his service to the ailing. He was so impressed by the veteran's work that he ordered the United States Navy's Great White Fleet to pay tribute to him by dipping their flags as they passed by the island.[5]

Dutton died in Honolulu on March 26, 1931. He was buried at St. Philomena Catholic Church Cemetery, Kalaupapa. In 2015, the Diocese of Honolulu set up a committee to evaluate the possibility of canonization.[3][8] In December 2015, the Joseph Dutton Guild was established by the Diocese of Honolulu to petition the Diocese of Honolulu to start the formal cause of beatification and canonization. At the present, the Guild is in the process of collecting evidence to ascertain whether a petition for a formal cause is feasible.


  1. ^ a b The Catholic Encyclopedia and its makers. New York: The Encyclopedia Press. 1917. pp. 51.
  2. ^ Wisconsin Adjutant General's Office. Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865 Vol. 1. Madison, Wis.: Democrat Printing Co., 1886, p. 739.
  3. ^ a b "Another Molokai Saint? Diocese Of Honolulu Investigates Brother Dutton's Life". The Wanderer Newspaper. Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  4. ^ a b "A Servant of the Lepers: Brother Joseph of Molokai". Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  5. ^ a b vonBuol, Peter (November–December 2014). "Saint Damien's Soldier". Retrieved 5 May 2016.
  6. ^ Encyclopedia Americana (1969 edition), Volume 9 page 501
  7. ^  Dutton, Joseph (1913). "Molokai". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  8. ^ "The Path to Sainthood: Brother Joseph Dutton". KHON2. Retrieved 5 May 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Crouch, Howard E. Brother Dutton of Molokai. Bellmore, N.Y: Damien-Dutton Society for Leprosy Aid, 2000.
  • Dutton, Charles J. The Samaritans of Molokai: The Lives of Father Damien and Brother Dutton Among the Lepers. Freeport, N.Y: Books for Libraries Press, 1971.
  • Dutton, Joseph. Joseph Dutton, His Memoirs: The Story of Forty-Four Years of Service Among the Lepers of Molokai, Hawaii. Honolulu: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1931.

External links[edit]