William Harrison Rice

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William Harrison Rice
William Harrison Rice.jpg
Circa 1856
Born (1813-10-12)October 12, 1813
Oswego, New York
Died May 27, 1862(1862-05-27) (aged 48)
Līhuʻe, Kauaʻi
Occupation Teacher, Planter
Known for Punahou School
Spouse(s) Mary Sophia Hyde
Children William Hyde Rice
Anna Charlotte Rice
Three others
William Harrison Rice and his wife, Mary Sophia Hyde Rice.
Old School Hall at Punahou School.

William Harrison Rice (October 12, 1813 – May 26, 1862) was a missionary teacher from the United States who traveled to the Hawaiian Islands and managed an early sugarcane plantation.


William Harrison Rice was born on October 12, 1813 in Oswego, New York on the shore of Lake Ontario. His father was Joseph Rice and mother Sally Rice. On September 29, 1840 he married Mary Sophia Hyde, who was born on October 11, 1816. Her father was Jabez Backus Hyde, a missionary to the Seneca nation in western New York State near current-day Buffalo, New York, and mother was Jerusha Aiken Hyde. Reverend Hyde performed the wedding ceremony.[1] The Rices sailed in the ninth company of missionaries to Hawaii from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions on the ship Gloucester, leaving from Boston on November 14, 1840 and arriving to Honolulu on May 21, 1841. Also in this company were John Davis Paris, Elias Bond, and Daniel Dole.[2] The Rice and Paris families were intending to proceed to Oregon Territory, but after being told of Indian uprisings at the Whitman Mission, decided to stay in Hawaii.[3]

Their first posting after learning the Hawaiian language was the remote Wānanalua mission station in the Hana district, on the eastern coast of the island of Maui. Reverend Daniel Conde had founded the station in 1838, but was holding services in a traditional Hawaiian thatched building. The native Hawaiians were put to work building a stone building starting in 1842, which still stands.[4]

In 1844 the Rice family was transferred to become the first secular teachers at Punahou School that had been founded by Dole two years before in Honolulu.[5] One of his first tasks was to have a house constructed for his family and some boarders, known as "Rice Hall".[6] He then supervised the building of a building now called "Old School Hall" from 1848 to 1851, largely with student labor.[7]

In 1854 they resigned from the school and moved to the island of Kauaʻi[2] where he became manager for the Līhuʻe Plantation owned by Henry A. Peirce and William Little Lee, replacing James Fowler Baldwin Marshall. Since the plantation had suffered through extremes of storms and a drought, his pay was supplemented by shares in ownership of the company. The position also included a house called Koamalu, which means "shade of the Acacia koa tree".[8] From 1856 to 1857 Rice engineered and supervised construction of the first irrigation system for sugarcane in the Hawaiian Islands.[9] It took water from the wetter elevations of Kilohana Crater at 21°59′58″N 159°25′41″W / 21.99944°N 159.42806°W / 21.99944; -159.42806 (Kilohana Crater),[10] diverting the Hanamāʻulu Stream to solve the problem of uneven rainfall. It started as a simple ditch similar to smaller scale projects that ancient Hawaiians had developed, eventually adding flumes and tunnels.[11]

Death and legacy[edit]

Rice made a brief trip to California in 1861, but died from tuberculosis in Līhuʻe on Kauaʻi on May 27, 1862. His wife lived on until May 25, 1911, continuing to be a benefactor. Although he did not live to see it, the plantation shares became valuable as the demand for sugar increased due to the American Civil War and the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. In 1907 the original Rice Hall at Punahou was torn down and replaced by a new dormitory also named for the family. It was subsequently demolished in 1950, and the central open area of the campus is now called Rice Field.[6]

The Rices had five children. Daughter Hannah Maria Rice was born at Hana on February 17, 1842, in 1861 married German Paul Isenberg, and died April 7, 1867. Isenberg (1837–1903) took over managing the plantation in 1862, and then was partner in the company that became Amfac, Inc. with Heinrich Hackfeld.[12][13] Daughter Emily Dole Rice was born May 10, 1844, married Honolulu judge George de la Vergne (1839–1924) in 1867, and died June 13, 1911 in Los Angeles.[14] Son William Hyde Rice was born July 23, 1846, and became a politician, serving as the last Governor of Kauai. Mary Sophia Rice was born January 7, 1849 and died September 5, 1870.[1]

Daughter Anna Charlotte Rice was born on September 5, 1853, married businessman Charles Montague Cooke, founded the Honolulu Museum of Art, and died on August 8, 1934.[15] Their son was banker and politician Clarence Hyde Cooke (1876–1944), and great-grandson judge Alan Cooke Kay (born 1932). Other descendants include scientist Charles Montague Cooke, Jr. (1874–1948), musician Francis Judd Cooke (1910–1995), and baseball player Steve Cooke.

The modest irrigation system was expanded over the years. It was copied in other places in the islands, including a project by Henry Perrine Baldwin.[16] Baldwin's daughter Charlotte married Rice's grandson Harold Waterhouse Rice in December 1907.[17] By 1922, he had 66 known living descendants.[18]

Family tree[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mary Sophia Hyde Rice". The Friend. June 1911. pp. 7–8. 
  2. ^ a b Hawaiian Mission Children's Society (1901). Portraits of American Protestant missionaries to Hawaii. Honolulu: Hawaiian gazette company. p. 75. 
  3. ^ Marylou Bradley, ed. (2002). "Rice Family Papers 1838–1964" (PDF). Kauaʻi Historical Society. Retrieved September 17, 2010. 
  4. ^ Edith H. Wolfe; Chic Diehl (June 6, 1988). "Wananalua Congregational Church nomination form" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places. U.S. National Park Service. Retrieved September 19, 2010. 
  5. ^ William DeWitt Alexander (1907). Oahu college: list of trustees, presidents, instructors, matrons, librarians, superintendents of grounds and students, 1841-1906. Historical sketch of Oahu college. Hawaiian Gazette Company. pp. 4–5. 
  6. ^ a b "Rice Field". Punahou School web site. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Old School Hall". Punahou School web site. Retrieved September 18, 2010. 
  8. ^ Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel Hoyt Elbert (2003). "lookup of malu ". in Hawaiian Dictionary. Ulukau, the Hawaiian Electronic Library, University of Hawaii Press. Retrieved September 20, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Lihue Plantation Company History (Kauai)". Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association Plantation Archives. University of Hawaii at Mānoa Library. 2004. Retrieved September 17, 2010. 
  10. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Kilohana Crater
  11. ^ Edward Joesting (February 1988). Kauai: The Separate Kingdom. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 175–179. ISBN 978-0-8248-1162-4. 
  12. ^ George F. Nellist, ed. (1925). "Isenberg, Paul". The Story of Hawaii and Its Builders. Honolulu Star Bulletin. 
  13. ^ "Paul Isenberg Dies at Bremen, in the 66th Year of his Age". Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu. January 20, 1903. Retrieved September 20, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Mrs. de la Vergne Dies at Los Angeles Home". Evening Bulletin. Honolulu. June 13, 1911. Retrieved September 20, 2010. 
  15. ^ Edward T. James; Janet Wilson James; Paul S. Boyer (1971). Notable American women, 1607-1950: a biographical dictionary. Harvard University Press (Radcliffe College). pp. 377–378. ISBN 978-0-674-62734-5. 
  16. ^ Carol Wilcox (1998). Sugar Water: Hawaii's Plantation Ditches. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-2044-2. 
  17. ^ "The Baldwin-Rice Nuptials at Haiku". Hawaiian Gazette. Honolulu. December 13, 1907. Retrieved September 20, 2010. 
  18. ^ Hawaiian Mission Children's Society (1922). Annual report. 70. pp. 47–48. 

Further reading[edit]