David Douglas Memorial, Hawaii Island
Photo: Gordon Mason
The circumstances around his passing are confusing because before beginning his trek he was alerted to the location of the three bullock pits on the trail, and he had already passed two. Some think he may have been examining the third and accidentally fallen into it. Others think that his host the prior night, a “well-known scoundrel,” may have followed him and robbed Douglas of his gold – which he was known to carry with him – before pushing him into the pit.
We do know that Douglas was expected back in Hilo to again stay with the Lyman’s, one of the earlier missionary families. Virtually all visitors to the island ended up at the Lyman’s sooner or later, at least for dinner, including Mark Twain and the many whaleboat captains who used Hilo’s harbor for provisioning.
David Douglas had been with the Lymans prior to his successful climb over Mauna Loa and was expected to stay with them on his return from Mauna Kea.
His remains were salted and sent to Oahu for an autopsy which proved to be inconclusive. Douglas was then buried at Kawiaihoa Church in Honolulu, where a plaque commemorates his achievements.
Douglas accomplished an amazing amount in his short life, for instance, he introduced more North American plants to Europe than anyone else (more than 250). There are about 50 plant species and one genus (Douglasia) bearing his name. After his death, the great tree of western North America was given the name Douglas fir. Kathleen Airdrie
A documentary film, Finding David Douglas, about the life and achievements of Douglas has just been completed and its United States premier will be Thursday, April 8, 2010 at the World Forestry Center, 4033 SW Canyon Road, Portland, Oregon – time to be determined (http://www.ochcom.org/).
So heads up to all our friends in Portland! All pictures from Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission website.