Newcomer’s Southern flag sewn by Hawaiian princess
Honolulu Star-Advertiser 30 Oct 2015, by Bob Sigall
The Confederate flag has been in the news this year. The flag was removed from the grounds of the South Carolina state Capitol in July. For many it is seen as a symbol of racism and segregation.
Because of that, I was surprised to find a Confederate flag was fabricated here in Hawaii. It was made by a Hawaiian princess for a resident from Kentucky.
Because the Confederate flag has been embroiled in controversy, I hesitated before deciding to write about it. But, it is history, Bishop Museum collections manager DeSoto Brown reminded me.
Let me tell you how this discovery unfolded. Dave Kemble, a longtime exhibit designer at the Bishop Museum, suggested I write a column about James Robinson and his descendants.
The Robinsons have been in business in Hawaii since the early 1800s, before the missionaries arrived. They own the island of Niihau and were in the sugar business on Kauai. Victoria Ward was a Robinson.
I looked them up in the newspaper index, available at most libraries, and online, and found that former Honolulu Star-Bulletin reporter Clarice Taylor had written about them.
Taylor wrote a historical column like mine from 1949 to 1962, called “Little Tales All About Hawaii.” In 1952 she had written more than 30 consecutive columns about the Robinsons.
Taylor often wrote multipiece stories, sometimes over several months, about one topic.
I don’t believe she ever published them in books, but the Hawaii Pacific Room at the main library has assembled the articles into binders that are over a foot thick.
In one of the articles about the Robinsons, Taylor wrote that a Confederate flag was made for Curtis Perry Ward, who had come to Hawaii from Kentucky before the Civil War in 1853.
Ward was a 24 year-old Southern gentleman, but Hawaii was more sympathetic to the North. Many locals taunted him, and he was seen as the “lonely Southern bachelor.”
Being a bachelor, he rented a room at a private home. The home he happened to choose was Washington Place. Before she was queen and given the name Liliuokalani, Lydia Liliu Paki lived at Washington Place with her husband, John Owen Dominis.
CLARICE TAYLOR said that “Liliuokalani liked young Ward and felt sympathy for him as a passionate upholder of Confederate rights.”
“So the chiefess made Mr. Ward a Confederate flag,” Taylor wrote. She wanted it to be a secret, so she sewed it by candlelight in her room.
“Mr. Ward was so pleased with the flag that a legend grew up about it. It Queen Liliuokalani, shown here seated on the veranda at Washington Place in 1917, rented a room to “lonely Southern bachelor” Curtis Perry Ward. Lydia Liliu Paki, as the then-chiefess was known, sympathized with the Kentucky native in Yankee-leaning Hawaii and sewed him a Confederate flag. Ward is said to have treasured the flag, and draped it over the canopy of his bed. Ward went on to marry Victoria Robinson, and they eventually settled at their “Old Plantation” estate south of King Street, now the site of the Neal Blaisdell Center on Ward Avenue. was said that he wouldn’t live under any other flag and that he spread it over his four-poster bed.”
Ward went into the delivery business and later married the 19-year-old daughter of his chief competitor, Victoria Robinson.
Curtis and Victoria Ward built their first home on Queen Street, where the Davies Pacific Center is today, then built a larger estate in about 1870 on more than 100 acres in Kakaako, makai of King Street. They called it “Old Plantation.”
It was said that all of their seven daughters were born in the bed, under the Confederate flag.
One source was not enough for me to feel confident the story was true, so I turned to local historians to see whether they knew about it.
NANETTE NAPOLEON, who has written a book about the Oahu Cemetery, found an article by Maili Yardley for The Honolulu Advertiser titled “Old Plantation Revisited.” It was published Aug. 27, 1966.
In it she says, “Even out in the little kingdom of Hawaii, the Civil War was widely discussed. Most American residents of Honolulu were Yankees and sympathized with the North. The royalists were very much pro-South, and this sympathy nurtured a great bond of friendship between them and young Curtis.
“When the South was defeated, Liliuokalani felt compassion for her young friend from Kentucky and sewed him a Confederate flag which he placed over the canopy of his bed.”
Barbara Dunn from the Hawaiian Historical Society found a mention of the flag in the book “Victoria Ward and Her Family Memories of Old Plantation,” by Frank Ward Hustace III.
It says, “according to a family story, some members of the court privately expressed sympathy for Ward’s Southern allegiance during the War Between the States.
“Lydia Lili‘u Paki is said to have worked quietly at night, in the privacy of her chambers, sewing a Confederate flag for Ward. He accepted her gift with pleasure and promptly attached it to the canopy of his four-poster bed, declaring it was his wish to die under the flag.”
I found a similar 1935 article in the Star-Bulletin by Emma Taylor, who knew Victoria Ward. She called the flag a “treasured relic of the Ward family to this very day.”