The Biographical Dictionary of America/Coan, Titus

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COAN, Titus, missionary, was born in Killingworth. Conn., Feb. 1, 1801; son of Gaylord and Tamza (Nettleton) Coan, grandson of Mulford Coan. and a descendant of George Coan, the first ancestor in America. His earlier years were spent in teaching, with experiments in business and in the militia's service as 1st lieutenant, but resolving finally upon the ministry he went to Auburn theological seminary in 1831. Thence in 1833 he went to southern Patagonia with one companion, Mr. Arms, TBDA, Coan, Titus.jpg to make explorations with a view to the establishment of a mission. After a residence of some months among the ferocious savages of the west coast he narrowly escaped with his life, being rescued by a passing vessel, and landed in New London, Conn., May 7, 1834. On Nov. 3, 1834, he was married to Fidelia Church of Churchville, N.Y., and embarked with his bride on December 5, as missionary to the Hawaiian islands. They reached Hilo, July 21. 1835, and within three months after his arrival Mr. Coan began preaching in the native language, sometimes four times a day in as many different places. His ardor and kindliness won the deep affection of the natives; he was pastor, physician, teacher, and counselor in one; and his labors met with wonderful, perhaps unparalleled success. From 1835 to 1882 he received more than 13,000 persons into his church: each one of this multitude only after personal examination of a sufficiently long continued "probation" to give him confidence in the reality of "conversion." He preached regularly in the large native church at Hilo, and to a congregation of foreigners as well ; he visited at frequent intervals, and on foot, all the villages and hamlets throughout the districts of Hilo and Puna, a coast line of 100 miles; he knew all of his people personally, kept registers of them and examined, instructed and disciplined the church members. In his tireless labors he was ably seconded by his wife. Fidelia Church Coan was a woman of extraordinary devotion and charm, and to her sacrifices no small part of Titus Coan's success was due. Her strength gave way under the strain of domestic and missionary labors combined, and she died at Hilo, Sept. 29, 1872. In 1860 and again in 1867 Mr. Coan visited the missions in the Marquesas islands; and in 1870, with his wife, the devoted missionary made a visit to the United States after a continuous absence of thirty-six years, returning to Hilo to end his days. In Hawaii "he saw a great population turned from darkness to light, a great part of it following his own blameless and loving Life for an example, and very many living to old age steadfast and zealous Christians." Titus Coan was not only one of the greatest missionaries that the world has known, but an ardent scientific observer. The main part of the existing data on the Hawaiian volcanoes came from his pen and was published in the American Journal of Science and elsewhere during many years. He wrote Adventures in Patagonia (1880) ; Life in Hawaii (1881); and made numerous contributions to scientific and religious periodicals. His death occurred at Hilo, Hawaii. Dec. 1, 1882.