Since its establishment, Greeley has always had renowned doctors amongst its population. One such doctor is Jesse Hawes, who lived here from circa 1875 until his death in 1901. In 1861, Jesse Hawes enlisted in the Union Army and served in the 9th Illinois Calvary. In 1864, Hawes was captured and became a prisoner of war in Alabama. After the war, he went back to school to receive his medical license and began practicing as a physician and surgeon. In 1874, Hawes married Clementine Rockwell and together they had one daughter, Mary. While living in Greeley, Hawes served a variety of positions in the community. He was a member of the Colorado State Board of Health and was a surgeon on the Union Pacific Railroad. He was also president of the Colorado State Medical Society and Colorado Board of Medical Examiners, vice president of the American Medical Association, and was a Trustee of the Colorado State Normal School, now known as the University of Northern Colorado. Needless to say, Jesse Hawes was a prominent and accomplished figure in society.
During Hawes’ life, leprosy, now known has Hansen’s disease, was a rampant and devastating disease as there was no cure. In an attempt to contain the disease, some went as far as creating isolated communities to prevent the spread of the disease as much as possible. In 1866, the Kingdom of Hawai’i created a colony on the island of Molokai for just this reason. The colony was placed on the Kalaupapa Peninsula as the climate was good and there was easier access to the sea for receiving supplies and new arrivals to the colony. Nonetheless, the colony was still remote with only 142 inhabitants at the end of the first year.
In 1901, renowned Greeley doctor Jesse Hawes received a permit from the Board of Health in Hawai’i to visit the island of Molokai to conduct scientific investigation. At this time, the colony had been established for 35 years but heavy segregation enforcement had only been in effect for 10 years. Regardless, the population of the colony had reached numbers upward of 1,100. Unfortunately, Hawes’ permit, held in the City of Greeley Museums’ archives, does not give more information as to the type of scientific investigation he was to conduct, leaving us to wonder why he wanted to travel. In the 20th century, scientists discovered a cure for Hansen’s disease and in 1969 the residents of the colony at Kalaupapa were allowed to leave. Some decided to stay and there is still a small number of residents there today.
Originally printed in the Greeley Tribune in 2019
Written by Katalyn Lutkin, former Archives Assistant