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From Whaling Ship to Community Leader
By Melody Lassalle

Antonio Joaquim Lopes was born 13 Jun 1832 in Boa Vista, Cape Verde Islands. At the age of 14 he left home to begin life as a whaler on a whaling ship. He lived his life at sea for the next three or four years.

Around 1849, he found himself aboard a ship off the shores of Hawaii. While the ship was docked some distance from land, he and eight others conspired to jump ship. They were able to get away and made it to shore. Once they reached land they were all exhausted and almost instantly fell asleep. When they awoke the next morning, they were surrounded by Hawaiians. The faces were friendly. With some sign language, they communicated their situation. The Hawaiians received them warmly and took care of the nine escapees.

All of the whalers eventually took up residence in Lahaina. Antonio set out to start his new life by working on a cattle ranch. He proved quite adept at the necessary skills. He soon saved up enough money to buy land on Front Street and started his own cattle ranch.

Antonio married Kaahanui on 17 May 1879. He was her fourth husband. He had children by Kaahanui as well as by Mariana Julia Conceicao (Salgada) Medeiros, the widow of his friend, Joao Francisco Medeiros. It is unclear as to whether Antonio and Mariana were ever married.

Antonio was not one to sit on his laurels. He wanted to give back to the community that had been so good to him. In 1877, he became one of the founders of the Santo Antonio Society. He was instrumental in helping members find jobs and helping families establish themselves in Hawaii. His achievements went beyond career and financial success. He helped build a support system for the soon to be increasing Portuguese community of Hawaii.

In 1884, he was a grocer on King Street in Honolulu. At the same time, he owned land in Palama. The street where that land was located would later be called "Lopez Lane" in his honor.

In 1898, he was doing quite well for himself and his family. He owned a 7 acre ranch in Waialua. There he grew taro and other vegetables. He raised his ten children on that ranch. Each stayed home until they reached school age, then they were boarded at school. During summer vacation, they returned home and Antonio taught them the basics of farm life.

Antonio passed away on the 9th of March 1908 in Waialua of a uremic coma. His wife, Kaahanui, passed away on the 16 of March 1916. Antonio's life had taken many turns since his humble beginnings in Cape Verde. He went from a whaler to a successful rancher. He was a founder of the Santo Antonio Society. Through his actions he was able to make contributions to the very small, but growing Portuguese community of the late 1870s and early 1880s.

© 2004 Melody Lassalle

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