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Abel Douglas, American whaling captain






  Abel Douglass Maria Mahoi

Abel Douglass (also Douglas, Duglas) was born on Isle au Haut, Maine, and traveled to San Francisco California on the California Packet with his father and siblings in 1849. The Douglass family first settled in Antioch, then moved to Petaluma CA. They built the first house in Petaluma on what is now Washington Street. The house had been built in Maine and shipped around the horn and up the Petaluma Slough. It was put together with pegs. They also built the American Hotel, the first hotel in Petaluma, and are presumed to have helped build many of the other first buildings in town. In the early 1860s Abel, and brother Albert, went to San Francisco to seek their fortunes. They met James Dawson and Abel travelled to Victoria to join him in the fledgling Whaling business. Albert settled in Seattle and established a sailboat rental business in Lake Union.


Dawson and Douglass Whaling established the best record for whaling catches in the next ten years with Douglass serving as the Captain. Douglass became known as a "Down East Scotsman" because of the family Scottish heritage, his origin on the east coast, and his family avocation of mariners. Douglass was associated with several schooners in his time, the Kate, May Belle, Arietes, Industry, and Annie C. Moore. The May Belle was named after his favorite niece in Petaluma.


Captain Douglass maintained a long-term common-law relationship with Maria Mahoi (Mary Mahoy, Mahoya)(1), with whom he fathered eight children. They had a house on Salt Spring Island. Many of their descendants still live on the island or in British Columbia. Some of their sons helped Abel with sealing and other maritime business in the 1890s.


Captain Douglass was the Ship's Captain of the Pacific Coast part of the Canadian Geological Survey. Later Douglass served on sealing ships. One of his ships, the May Belle, was seized by the United States in the international sealing conflict between Canada and the United States. The seized ships rotted away in Alaska while the outcome of the sealing conflict was being resolved in international court. Before the conflict was resolved Captain Abel Douglass died in King County, Washington in about 1907.


Resolution for the Canadians came in 1911, but Captain Douglass's family were not paid for many years later because of the complications of Abel's American citizenship.


Maria Mahoi
Born to a Hawaiian father and a First Nations mother, Maria (pronounced Ma–Rye–ah) lived her entire life on the Gulf Island of British Columbia's southwest coast. A true pioneer, she lived from the mid 1850s to 1936, bore thirteen children, and now has a variety of descendents including loggers, fishermen, university professors, and a provincial minister of finance.

In Maria Mahoi of the Islands, acclaimed historian Jean Barman gives us a portrait of a woman who was independent, resourceful and proud of her Hawaiian heritage. Maria was also a woman ahead of her times, as she kept her name, protected her interests, and even went to court to contest a will.  Douglas left her in the 1880s.


Her second relationship was with a man who, like herself, would have been uncharitably described as a half-breed. George Fisher was the product of an Englishman's marriage to an Aboriginal woman. Fisher met Maria, who was ten years his senior, around 1885 when he was in his early twenties. They had six children together. He legally married Maria, but not until about 1900, when he had a near-fatal accident. Fisher, perhaps aware of his lack of respectability, was reluctant to marry Maria, except that he wanted his children to be legitimate. It seems he was loath to acknowledge his hybridity; Fisher was enumerated as white in the 1901 census.


Maria and George had a sometimes-tumultuous life together on Russell Island, just off Salt Spring Island. Maria Mahoi inherited the property, lthough her claim to it was dubious. Whether or not she had legitimately inherited it, Russell Island became hers, and the hub of all her family activities. Interestingly, She mothered thirteen children, outlived six of them, married a man ten years her junior, later wrested him away from a love affair that nearly destroyed the marriage, and acquired her own property suggests that she was not so very ordinary. While many women had ten or more children, not all were as resourceful as Maria, nor were many women property owners.


George Alexander Douglas 1871–1954
Amelia Douglas 1876–1901
Alfred Douglas 1878–1907
Ruby Josephine Douglas Couvelier 1882–1936
Mary Ellen Douglas Shepard 1882–1944
Abel William Douglas 1886–1966


See also:

  • Robert Douglass

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