Rabbit Island Gun Runners

Rabbit Island Gun Runners

On December 19th 1894 four men sat off the coast of Makapu’u Point.  In the distance a schooner slowly appeared.  Recognizing the schooner Wahlberg from the blue signal light, George Townsend held up the red light in response.  Another brighter flash was seen off the bow of the schooner as had been arranged.  Townsend climbed in a small boat and began working his way towards the schooner.  As he approached he heard the Captain yell “password?”   Townsend replied “missionary.”  He was welcomed aboard with another question from the captain.  “Do you have the letter?” Townsend handed over the letter and began to transfer the revolvers and ammunition stores to the small skiff.  Townsend set off to shore, so he could send word of their success.  Once he had sent word to Honolulu he again set off in the small boat to land at Rabbit Island.  There they buried the revolvers in sacks just below the surface of the sand.

On the 1st of the year of 1895 the steamer Waimanalo, met the schooner wahlberg about 35 miles off the coast of Waimanalo.  The rest of the arms were loaded on the steamer Waimanalo before heading back to Rabbit Island.  The plan was set.  Something had to be done if the Kingdom was to survive…

Rabbit Island Pistol

Rabbit Island Pistol

This narrative was drawn from testimony given by Townsend in January of 1895.   The events described would eventually lead to the counter-revolution of 1895.  Sam Nowlein and Robert Wilcox led the uprising to reinstate the Queen and restore the Kingdom. However they were unsuccessful in their attempt and eventually arrested along with Queen Liliuokalani.

The Hawaiian Hostage team has been working to create a shirt design to commemorate this event in Hawaiian History.  Our first challenge was finding the correct gun used in the rebellion.  We started off looking in transcribed documents where we found a serial number to a seized Winchester rifle.  Unfortunately we were unable to find any further information because we lacked a model number.  As it turns out the bishop museum has one of the original pistols brought to Hawaii on the schooner Wahlberg.  As you can see in this movie, the handguns being smuggled into Hawaii were 44 Caliber Smith and Wesson top break revolvers.   The barrels of these guns were manufactured in several sizes including 6, 7 and 8 inches.

Below are links to references used in this article.

http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-idx?type=turn&entity=FRUS.FRUS1895p2.p0137&id=FRUS.FRUS1895p2&isize=text

http://www.hawaiialive.org/viewer.php?hostID=96&hostType=sub&resource=388

http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=LAH18950208.2.54