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Titus Coan

Sketch From Sailor's Magazine

The following was written follow Coan's death in a magazine published for sailor's at the time.


Titus Coan, D. D.

By the courtesy of Messrs. Harper & Bros., of this city, we are enabled to present to our readers a faithful likeness of Father Coan. We find in Fifty Years Efforts for the Welfare of Seamen, published by our Society in 1878, under the heading Twentieth Year, 1847-8, the following entry: Hilo, S. I. For the better accommodation of the 8,000 or 4,000 seamen annually resorting to this port, a Bethel chapel has been erected, and Rev. Titus Coax, missionary of the American Board, and pastor of the largest Christian church in the world, has performed a regular voluntary service in behalf of seamen. Under the heading Twenty-First Year, 1848-9, the record is continued: At Hilo, S. I., Rev. Mr. Coan still continued his abundant labors, preaching often to congregations of seamen equal in size to many congregations in New England. And up to the Thirty-sixth Year, 1868-4, this activity of his for sailors was faithfully put forth, as evidenced by another entry: Rev. Mr. Coan at Hilo, S. I., successfully devoted a part of his time and energies to seamen. So when this close and personal service for sailors was suspended, the grand old veteran still retained his interest in them, still held his broad true views of the part they are ultimately to play in the subjection of the world to Jesus Christ. Within a few years past, as readers of the Magazine will recall, we have sent several loan libraries to sea by his personal contribution for the purpose. His last communication to us appeared in our issue for May, 1882, p. 147, and was full of his wonted holy fire and cheer. It is in place to set down here the main facts of his life and death from the issue of Harpers Weekly for January 18th, 1888, and from other sources: 


From Harper's Weekly:

This remarkable man, whose death occurred at his home in Hilo, Hawaiian Islands, December 1st, 1882, was one of the oldest missionaries in point of service rendered that ever bore the cross to heathen lands. He had served in the Islands as a missionary almost without intermission for a period of nearly forty-eight years, and he was regarded by the natives with a feeling of affection and veneration. The venerable missionary was attacked by a severe stroke of paralysis September 16th last. He rallied from this attack, and became so much improved that he was able to take daily exercise in the open air up to the very day of his death. His funeral services were held on the morning of Sunday, December 3rd, in the native church at Hilo, the services being conducted in both the Hawaiian and English languages. He was in his eighty-second year at the time of his death?


From the N. Y. Evening Post: 

Dr. Coan was born at Eillingworth, Conn., on the 1st of February, 1801, and was the youngest of a family of seven. His father, Gaylord Coan, was a farmer, descendent from a family which settled in that part of Connecticut early in the history of the country. Until he was twelve vears of age, Titus Coan attended the village school, and was then employed by his father on the farm. He was anxious to learn more, and was taught at home by private teachers. When eighteen years old he began teaching school, and continued this work until 1827, in villages about his native town.

In 1827 he went to Riga, N.Y., where his older brother was preaching. Here he continued teaching school until 1880. On the 1st of June, 1881, he entered the second class of Auburn Theological Sem- inary, and two years later was graduated with high honors. On the 17th of April, 1888, he was licensed to preach. On the 16th of August he sailed for Patagonia with a party of missionaries sent out by the American Board of Missions on an exploring mission. The party returned the following year.

On the 3rd of November, 1834, Mr. Coan was married to Miss Fidelia Church, of Churchville, N. Y., and in the same month he and his wife were designated as missionaries to the Sandwich Islands. On the 24th of December, 1884, Mr. Coan, his wife, and five or six others sailed from Boston on the ship Hellespont for the Sandwich Islands, the station to which Mr. Coan and his wife were sent being the village of Hilo. They arrived at that place on the 21st of July, 1885. For two years Mr. Coan devoted himself to the study of the Hawaiian language, and also made a tour of the country round about Hilo. In a book written by him entitled Life in Hawaii, and published by Randolph & Co., he describes his experiences there. He labored earnestly among the natives, and the number of conversions in the three years 1838, 1839 and 1840, was more than 7,000, while the total up to 1880 was 12,118. His wife established a school for girls, and Mr. Coan was the physician of the settlement until 1849, when the Missionary Board sent out a physician to assist him.

In 1860, and again in 1867, he visited the Marquesan mission.

On the 5th of May, 1870, after an absence of about thirty-five years, he returned to the United States by way of California. He passed six months or a year here, and then returned to his work at Hilo. His wife died soon after his return to Hilo, on the 29th of September, 1872.

Rev. Dr. Coan subsequently married Miss Bingham, daughter of Rev. Hiram Bingham, long of the A. B. C. F. M. Mission in the Hawaiian Islands, and this lady survives him. 


The N. Y. Evangelist of January 11th, has the following:

A private letter to Rev. J. E. Kittredge of Geneseo, from his brother, C. S. Kittredge, M, D., who was with Dr. Wetmore in attendance upon the venerable missionary, Rev. Dr. Titus Coan, during his last sickness, gives further particulars of the last hours of the noble missionary. Dr. Kittredge writes:

"Father Coan is dead. He had a shock of paralysis Sept. 18th, as you already know. He seemed to be improving, and in fact was able to move the paralyzed limbs somewhat. Some two or three weeks before his death, he commenced taking exercise in the open air, being carried on a morele or lounge, borne by two men. In this way he made calls on his intimate friends, both native and foreign, and was also taken in to see his church one day. On Fridav, Dec. 1st., at noon, he arose, with aid, from his bed, to prepare for his usual ride, and took three steps to his chair. A fainting came over him, he closed his eyes and gasped, and soon was gone. Dr. Wetmore and I were called, and we at once responded. He lived only forty minutes, and with difficulty articulated the words Glory! Jesus! Farewell! Besides his wife and her sister. Dr. Wetmore and myself, the two household servants, Rev. E. P. Baker, and an old native who happened to be there, were the only ones present at the time. His death was peaceful. We buried him on Sunday from his own church, which was filled with natives and foreigners. The church was draped in black, and floral offerings covered the casket. At the cemetery many natives and others threw bouquets of flowers into the grave. And thus we buried a great and good man. All the flags of Hilo were kept at half mast from the time of his death, on Friday noon, till after the funeral, on Sunday noon."—The Sailors Magazine, February 1883, 53-54.




Labors in Behalf of Seamen.

From a sermon by Dr. Damon at the Honolulu Bethel, after the announcement of Titus Coan’s death, that appeared in the same magazine:

Here I may appropriately allude to his efforts and labors, through a long course of years in behalf of seamen. For many years he has been a most efficient seamen's chaplain. Assisted by the Rev. Mr. Lyman, a chaplaincy was there sustained by their voluntary well-directed efforts, which for efficiency and usefulness equalled almost any chaplaincy in any other part of the world. Upon this subject I can speak with great freedom and assurance, for during the past forty years I have been in the most intimate correspondence with him upon this subject. I feel quite sure the spiritual interests of seamen attached to the whaling fleet and vessels of war could not have been more thoughtfully cared for if a chaplain had been sent out from America or England for this special field of labor, yet this extra service was discharged with the most hearty cheer and thoughtful consideration. I feel quite sure many masters, officers and seamen will have good reason to bless God, to all eternity, that they touched at Hilo, in their long voyages, and came under the happy influence of the Rev. Mr. Coan and the other resident missionaries at that port.”—The Sailors Magazine, March 1883, 86,87