OUR HERITAGE: Norwegians

At McGregor Point on Maui, close to the lighthouse, on Route 30, about one mile from Maalaea Bay, there exists a monument commemorating the spot where 600 Scandinavian immigrants arrived on February 18, 1881 aboard the Norwegian bark “Beta.”

 Sometimes called “the forgotten immigrants” more than 600 Norwegian men, women and even some children shipped out from Drammen, Norway in 1880, having signed up to work in ‘paradise’ on the booming sugar plantations in the Sandwich Isles, Kingdom of Hawaii. After a brutal six-month voyage, they went mostly to the island of Maui.

Captain Christian L’Orange, an early plantation owner, was commissioned by King Kalakaua to bring the Norwegians to the islands. But there was discontent and controversy from the very start when they found that the labor contracts they signed in Norway, written in Norwegian, were fundamentally different from the contracts presented on arrival, written in English. Many felt they had been misled and staged one of the first labor strikes in the islands.

The Norwegians went out on strike, frustrating the plantation owners who had only dealt “with meeker races.”

~ Eleanor Davis, Norwegian Labor in Hawaii

As soon as their contracts expired the majority of Norwegians left for the U.S. mainland. A small number of Norwegians remained in Hawaii working as skilled tradesmen, craftsmen or merchants.

Although the emigration to Hawaii was a failure, the Norwegians who stayed left a lasting legacy. Today there are many Hawaiians who are immensely proud of their part Norwegian ancestry and feel it an honor to trace their heritage to the ‘Beta’.


11 responses to “OUR HERITAGE: Norwegians

  1. I saw the passenger list in the Kongsberg historical library around 5 years ago. Now it’s digitalized. My family had five children on the voyage. My great grandmother at 11 and her older brother had already been sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Wisconsin, due to her being sickly. Only two were allowed. Another couple ‘adopted’ two of theirs. They got away with the other three, due to one being young. My great great grandmother Sønnev Fonnaust Andersen died in childbirth 4 months after they arrived. Family has tried to find the plantation they were on and a record of her death, but have had no luck.

  2. How can we learn more about this? I have been doing Norwegian genealogy for 30 years and hadn’t heard of this.

  3. Susan Adams Nealy

    We continue to make progress in replacing this culturally significant Scandinavian monument on Maui. Planning meetings w/Patty on the upswing as we charge forward. Anticipate updates! Aloha

  4. I believe my fiance’s great great grandparents were aboard the Bark Beta. They were married in March of 1881 and gave birth to their first two children on Honolulu. But beyond the passenger list , I am able to find little about their time there…. nothing, in fact. Any suggestions as to who i could reach out to. I’ve tried several historical organizations with little help or luck.

  5. Arnold Larsen

    We recently visited the lighthouse site on route 30. The plaque shown on the rock has been removed, either by vandals or someone trying to preserve it. Would like to know what happened.

    • Patricia Mazingo

      It is sad to say that the Monument was vandalized about 2 years ago and the plaques were removed and stolen. We are in the process of trying to repair the monument by replacing the plaque with something of less value to steal. It has taken some time to raise the funds to cover the costs of the artwork and materials but hope to have this project completed soon.

      • We visited the site many months ago a
        And saw the plaque was missing. I would think anything you put up will be be stolen or vandelized. Sad state of a
        Affairs in this world.
        Thankyou for responding.
        Arnold Larsen

  6. Are there passenger lists of the Norwegian and Danish immigrants on the ships?

    • Patricia Mazingo

      Yes there is a website called “Norway-Heritage” that has a list and some additional details on the Emigrants that came on the Beta.


        Patricia – hello, I am unable to locate the passenger list for the “Beta” on the website “Norway-Heritage”. Could you provide a link?

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