Dr. James Wight of Scotts Irish decent studied medicine in Edinburgh Scotland and later traveled to Australia to practice his trade in the colonies.
Jane Tompkins of English Irish decent was born in Cape Town Africa and later traveled to Australia. Although at the time both were married to spouses back in Europe, the two fell in love and had their first child together out of wedlock.
The Jewell of the Big Island
In June of 1850 the estranged family made the decision to travel to the California Gold rush to make their fortune. Along the way they made port in Honolulu, Hawaii. During their layover the Wight’s decided to tour the Hawaiian Islands. Although Jane was pregnant with their second child, they continued their travels from island to island.
On August 2, 1850 on the Big Island of Hawaii while attempting to land ashore in Mahukona, the small boat was ship wrecked during a storm. Unfortunately, the family suffered their first loss of life. Their 13 month old daughter Ada Wight drowned during the tragedy. Once ashore, Dr. Wight was made aware of white parishioners living close by. He made the decision to venture out and get help for his ailing family.
Shortly after his departure, Jane went into labor with their second child surrounded by natives. While her dead child lay next to her, she gave birth to her new born. Growing up in Cape Town, Africa, Jane was accustomed to more fierce inhabitants. Her expectations were perhaps human sacrifice or cannibalism. Fortunately the Hawaiian culture practiced a much different perspective of mother hood and child birth. She quickly realized the Hawaiian natives were a caring culture.
Reverend Bond and his family already lived o n the island. By coincidence, his brother Dr. Bond had decided to leave the island for another destination.
The Wight family took up residence on the Island and for several years Dr. Wight practiced medicine and gave of his services freely. The Wight family also ran a store in Hawi for a number of years.
In approximately 1860 the family purchased a large parcel of land that looked out over the ocean on which to build their homestead. They named this their family estate Greenbank.
Their English farm house was built on an existing piece of flat land which was previously the location of an ancient Heiau (Place of worship and sacrifice).
Several building would be added to the estate including additional residence, caretaker quarters and a carriage house containing the first horse drawn buggy on the Big Island. Later years would include a beautiful greenhouse adjacent to the main house where some of the first botanical species in the state were grown.
Judge James Wight M.D. of North Kohala
(He is seated bottom row, third seat from the left)
He was always interested in the political welfare of the Islands and was elected a representative in 1886 and made a noble in 1887. Also, held the position of Circuit Judge from 1852 to 1863 when Kamehameha V ascended the throne. In the House, he was noted for his independent stand and those were trying times.
Wight Family Recollections & Hawai'i Publications
Here is the current collection of all the stories and news articles on the Wight Family and their family estate known as Greenbank.
PLEASE NOTE: These are copies of the original documents and article. We have not altered this information to reflect accuracy.
- CASTLE & COOKE, PUBLICATIONS PAMPHLET ON KOHALA
- BEACON MAGAZINE (ISSUE OF JUNE 1970)
- J. HINDS OF HAWI November 24th 1930s Advertiser
- THRUMS ANNUAL….ALL ABOUT HAWAII (SUGAR)
In this photo Jane appears to hold the weight of the world on her shoulders. She sits with a firm piercing look which suggests she can handle most anything she encounters. Which in fact she did exactly that through her years of travel and residents on the Island of Hawai'i.
On this page you will find additional information such as family recollections of living on Greenbank and Hawai'i publications on the Wight Family.
STORY OF TWO MEN WHOSE LIVES PROVE HAWAII'S OPPORTUNITIES JANUARY 7, 1928
By H.R. Restarick
Editor's Note: This is one of a series of articles by President Restarick of the Hawaiian Historical Society, Others will follow.Interest has been shown in the brief sketches which I have given in the Star Bulletin of certain men who had a part in the making of Hawaii. I have in mind two others who were very different in res¬pect to their early advantages. One was
James Wight of Kohala and the other Charles Notley of Paaullo.
James Wight was a Scot, an educated man and a doctor of medicine. He came with his wife to Hawaii in 1850. I knew them both and was often entertained at Greenbank, as they had named their place. Mrs. Wight told me they went from Honolulu to Kawaiahae and from there to Mahukona in an open boat. On the way, her young child died in her arms.
At Mahukona, they were given a grass house and there during the night, she gave birth to a child while the dead one lay in the room. Mrs. Wight knew nothing of the people and had the idea they were savages, and when, in the morning the doctor went out to make arrangements for his family, he was delayed and she got the idea that he had been taken and probably eaten.
While the doctor was still absent, the natives came and looked at her and she was almost frightened to death. "And think of it," she said as she told me her story, "I was afraid of the kindest people in the world, who were only curious to see a white woman and her baby".
He enjoyed remarkably good health during his long life and Dr. Wight's home was noted for its hospitality. His word was his bond and during his long residence he was seldom involved in litigation. Of the thousands who have been in his employ, all speak of him as a generous though stern employer.
He invested largely in real property and leaves a large estate to be distributed amongst his relatives. His widow and family will have the sympathy of the whole community in their bereavement.
FIRST CARRIAGE and Another European Queens Hospital
Mrs. Wight owned the first carriage seen in Kohala. It was a single seat affair with a perch forward for the driver.
Mrs. Wight rode in this seat, carrying a parasol for protection, at an ambling rate necessitated by the poor roads and the slow walk of the family horse.
Although Dr. Wight was the only physician within miles of Kohala, he was an example of the intelligent European whose talents led him into other fields of endeavor in the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Another European arrived in Honolulu in 1853. He was Hugo Stangenwald, who had studied medicine at Vienna and was forced to flee Austria by a revolution.
He opened a daguerreotype gallery in Honolulu and earned enough money to continue his medical studies in New York City.
He returned to Honolulu about 1870 and had a large private practice until he retired in 1890.
Dr. Stangenwald’s private interests lay in the field of research in chemistry and physics..
GREENBANK_ Honolulu Advertiser February 22, I973 Thursday
By Mary Cooke
An untenanted, haunted house, whose owner wanted it to remain furnished as it was at the time of her death in 1915 was sold at a private family auction, Tuesday. Greenbank, the 22 acre Wight estate in Kohala, Hawaii, was bought by Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Hunt of Honolulu. Mrs. Hunt is a great-grand-daughter of Mrs James Wight who, with her husband, built Greenbank.
Mrs Wight left Greenbank and its furnishings for the use of her descendents for 21 years after the death of her last child. She set aside $600 a year to maintain the property. The sum became inadequate to cover maintenance, the house became uninhabitable but the terms of the will were not broken. Greenbank, once a show place on the Big Island, stood dark and silent, it's paint, furniture, books and fabrics fading under layers of dust. Although Mrs. Wight's descendants respected her wishes, others did not.
Since World War II, looters have entered Greenbank and destroyed or taken the furnishings. Doors have been left open and rain and wind have beaten in through broken windows. "There's nothing left of the furniture," said Mrs Amy Rich, a grand daughter of Mrs. Wight. "Hippies roared round in it (Greenbank) and soldiers took a terrific amount during the war.
WHETHER the ghost of Greenbank deserted the house after it was looted is still a question. Some say the ghost is still there. Mrs. Rich said, "The ghost is finished.
'•One night when I was 8 years old (and living at Greenbank) I woke and saw a dark thing leaning over me. It was an evil thing. People used to see lights going round the house, but that's finished now".
Greenbank was built by Dr and Mrs James Wight who came to Hawaii from Australia in 1850. They were on their way to gold fields of California when their ship was wrecked off Mahukona, Medical doctors were needed in that remote part of the Big Island and the Wights were persuaded to stay.
Dr. Wight hauled wreckage from the ship over the Kohala mountains by horse cart and used some of the timber to build Greenbank. He became a judge during the reign of Kamehameha V, operated a ranch at Mahukona and worked with Ellas Bond to start Kohala Plantation.
THE WIGHTS had 13 children, six of whom died before they were grown. One of the surviving daughters was Mrs Rich's mother.
"My widowed mother, my sister and I lived in the guest cottage at Greenbank," Mrs Rich said. "Grandfather and Grandmother and my five aunts were in the main house.
"Life was very strict there and my grandmother Wight was definitely a grande dame, even in the country.
"Her oak sideboard in the dining room was beautifully carved and the table was set with damask and beautiful china, crystal and silver candelabra. There were linen sheets on the beds and lace curtains in the Windows.
MRS. WIGHT HELPED TEND STORE
Dr. Wight did not practice as a physician for pay, though he gave his services freely to Hawaiians. He devoted his time at first to a store at Halawa in the Kohala district. Mrs. Wight told me while the doctor was hauling freight with an ox team from Honoipu, about 10 miles distant, she would attend to the store in the front of the building in which they lived, and take care of her growing family in the room at the rear.
There were a good many Hawaiians in Kohala then and the native church was nearby the Wight residence. Mrs. Wight used to tell of some funny experiences. She remembered once seeing a native going to church riding an ox. He held the creature's tail in his hand so that he could twist it and make him go. Clothes were scarce then, and this man had on an old stove pipe hat, a waistcoat and a malo.
ACTIVE UNTIL OF GREAT AGE
When I knew the doctor he was old and feeble, but Mrs. Wight was well and strong, and continued active until she was of great age, and at the Christmas festivities, would dance with the children to show that she had not forgotten her steps. When the doctor died, he was buried in the family plot, the approach to which was by a gulch. Here a number had been interred a Mrs. Wight asked me to set apart the ground. It had been raining and the way to the place was muddy and slippery; she had been suffering from rheumatism, but she determined to go with the rest to the plot. The family tried to persuade her not to go but when she made up her mind to do a thing she would do it and it was no use to argue. She went down and so wrenched her back that she was in bed for
I first knew the doctor and Mrs. Wight when they visited their daughter in San Diego in the early nineties, and after coming to Hawaii I knew all the members of the family who were then living, and many an excellent luncheon have I had at Greenbank.
HAWAIIANS ANXIOUS TO SELL LAND
Dr. Wight acquired land and started planting cane and also bought a cattle ranch. I shall have something to tell in a later paper at the way land was acquired by different people, and will only say little and if the native wanted money he offered to sell his land. If one did not buy it another would, and so the holdings of the industrious white man increased by purchase, and now those who do not know there that Hawaiians did not value land and were often anxious to sell. The land was worth very he facts say the lands were obtained by underhanded means. Dr. Wight and his family had a hard struggle and while he was not wealthy, yet he was well-off.
Emma Wood, Florence Patton, Clara Bryant, Kate Wight, Mary Mason, Maude Wight, James Wight, and Alice Atkins, Eliza Yates MacKenzie.
LIBRARY OF HAWAII (HAWAIIAN PAMPHLET, QUEEN'S HOSPITAL: DR. JAMES WIGHT
A cultured Englishman* with his wife and family settled in Kohala on the Big Island in 1851 the same year Dr. William Hillebrand arrived in Honolulu to become the leading physician of the islands. The Englishman was a Dr. James Wight. He came to the Islands from New Zealand** and at once established a replica of an English estate in Kohala. Dr. Wight is best known as a sugar grower and miller. But he first established a medical practice, then a country store with a drug department and later went into the business of ranching and raising sugar.
His Pueakea cattle ranch lands and his Halawa sugar plantation lands are now a portion of the Kohala Sugar Company lands.
By many, Dr. Wight is remembered as the man who brought the first orchid plants to Hawaii. They were grown at his country home, called Greenbank, which was the social center of the Kohala district for many years. Dr. Wight reared eight daughters at Greenbank. He had them educated according to English standards with private tutors. He imported square pianos and piano teachers that his daughters might learn music.
Being a Scot he might not have liked to be called English. Acutally Australia.
BEACON MAGAZINE OF HAWAII, 1970s KOHALA: Dusty Memories
By L. Richard Ketchum
A region of century-old pleasantries, isolated by green but treeless mountains, turned now into rotting wood and broken window lights. Cobwebs have been woven over where glass imported from a faraway land once stood. Interiors are dark, damp with mildew and with wallpaper peeling away from plastered walls.
The laughter in Kohala is subdued. Many of the voices once heard here have been silenced by death or carried away to other places. They are not needed here, for there is not as much to laugh or talk about as there was in bygone days. Streets are lined with empty stores, their windows and doorways yawning darkly. Crumbling boardwalks creak under foot. False fronts are weathered and falling apart, while inside canned goods remain on dusty shelves and leather harness cracks more each year as it hangs unmolested from wooden beams.
A stone cross implanted on a young man's grave in another century is now engulfed, embraced, taken into the breast of an Olympian tree striking out mightily at the sky through verdant jungle canopy. (Notes Grave of James Wight). Pg. 100 - Photo in Book Hawaii). Not far away, the halls of Nineteenth Century school are silent. Dormer windows look out on an empty school¬yard, devoid of the girlish giggles which once filled the air. The sun is fogged in mist and droplets of shimmering rain course down broken window panes. Outside, red flowers attempt to brighten an otherwise dull day and we think we hear the metallic tinkling of a piano being played by a young girl now long dead or very old.
PASSING OF A KAMAAINA
Born 1814-Deceased-1906 (age-92 yrs.) Dr. James Wight, who passed away on the morning of Friday, Sept. 2 at Kohala, Hawaii was the oldest and most respected of the foreign settlers in that district. He had been closely identified with the progress of the islands for more than fifty five years. He was born in India in 1814 of Scotch-Irish parentage and received liberal education at the great University of Edinburgh, where he graduated in 1836. At 23 years of age he went to the Australian colonies with the intention of practicing his profession as physician, but his penchant was for business pursuits.
After thirteen years practice of medicine, there he abandoned the profession and migrated to Hawaii and settled in Kohala, where he opened a store and carried on business until 1884 when he sold out to the late S.G. Wilder. He became interested in sugar culture when the Kohala Plantation was started and payed quite an interest in that concern. He established the Halawa Plantation and conducted it for a number of years, but latterly had left the management with T.S. Kay as manager and attorney in fact with his son-in-law J.W. Atkins.
Although he had no inclination to practice medicine, he was always ready to assist any sufferer needing the services of a physician.
He was married to an Australian lady and leaves a large family of children, grand-children and great grand-children.
He was always interested in the political welfare of the Islands and was elected a representative in 1886 and made a noble in 1887. He also held position of Circuit Judge from 1852 to I863 when Kamehameha V. ascended the throne. In the House he was noted for his independent stand and those were trying times.
Mrs. Hunts Recollection
"GRANDMOTHER had her piano and she was a great flower person. The garden at Greenbank was a well known place of the whole islands. Grandfather brought the first ironwood tree to Hawaii from Australia. It is still living, over 100 years old. It's on your right as you go up the driveway to Greenbank." The estate also has it's own cemetery with about 30 graves in a compound behind an iron gate.
"We're not going to change the graveyard and definitely, we will maintain it," said Mrs Hunt after she and her husband bought the property "I don't believe in ghosts and I'm not afraid of them.” I'm not sure if the house can be rebuilt, we don't know yet what our plans will be."
Mrs Hunt said her father, Frank Atkins, was born at Greenbank. His mother was Alice Wight Atkins, one of the daughters of the orignal owners. Mrs Hunt is a teacher and principal of Island Paradise School, Ltd. and her husband is president of the school.
DR. JAMES WIGHT, KOHALA, HAWAII
1.(Damon)- Father Bond of Kohala p 184
In 1851, Dr. James wight, had come from New Zealand* to settle at Halawa in Kohala where for many years he kept a country store.
pg. 220 In 1869 the Board of Education appointed Dr. Wight of Kohala as school agent for the District.
2.(John Hind of Hawaii)
pg. 11 The haole residents of Kohala were very limited in number consisting of the Dr. James Wight family/the R.H. Atkins family
Directory lists Dr. Wight for the first time in the 1890/91 issue as physician. Residence Halawa (Hawaii continues through 1905/06. According to R. Renton Hinds book John Hinds of Hawi, the Wight's were buried in the family plot at their home – Greenbank.
DR. JAMES WIGHT (Kauka Waika)
Reference: The Friend 1905 October pg. 15, Pacific Commercial Advertiser 1905 September 3, Page 3, col. 3, "Passing of a Kamaaina", Father Bond of Kohala (book) , John Hind of Hawi, pg. 11, Directory listing 1890-1891 issue
1814 – Dr. Wight was born to Scotch-Irish parentage from India. He then received a liberal education at the University of Edinburgh in Europe. Upon graduating in 1836 at the age of 22 years, he set out for the Australian colonies with the intentions of practicing his profession as a physician, but his penchant was for business pursuits.
After thirteen years practice of medicine there he abandoned the profession and migrated to Hawaii and settled in Kohala, where he opened a store and carried on business until 1884 when he sold out the late S.G. Wilder. He became interested in sugar culture when the Kohala Plantation was started and owned quite an interest in that concern. He established the Halawa Plantation and conducted for a number of years, but lately he left the manage¬ment with T.S. Kay as manager and attorney and also with his son in late J.W. Atkins
In the year 1849, he married Jane Tomkins Wight formerly of Cape Colony, South Africa, now called Cape of Good Hope, with its Capital City, Cape Town. To them were born fourteen children of which 8 lived.
Although he had no inclination to practice medicine, he was a physician. He was always interested in the political welfare of the Islands and was elected a representative in 1886 and made a noble in 1887. Also, held the position of Circuit Judge from 1852 to 1863 when Kamehameha V ascended the throne. In the House, he was noted for his independent stand and those were trying times. He enjoyed remarkably good health during his long life and Dr. Wight’s home was noted for its hospitality. His word was his bond and during his long residence he was seldom involved in litigation. Of the thousands who have been in his employ, all speak of him as a generous though firm employer.
On the morning of Friday, September 2, 1905, in North Kohala at the family estate of Greenbank, Kauka Waika passed away at the age of 91. He was the oldest and most respected of the foreign settlers in that district. He was closely identified with the progress of the Islands for more than fifty five years……