Upon his arrival as a missionary in Hawaii, John Anderson was discouraged. He was far from home, trying to learn a language that was completely unfamiliar to him, serving among people he felt were absolutely without morals. To make matters worse, the Hawaiian diet did not sit well with him. He felt pains in his stomach almost all the time.
In the midst of all his personal struggles, John found solace in what he called “the miracle of the sky.” He could often be found watching the sunrise and once wrote in his journal, “I arose thankful to be alive. The morning was beautiful, the air so serene, not a wave to trouble the bosom of the mighty deep.”
John worked hard and mastered the language. The missionaries found that the native fruits provided some much needed relief to their digestive systems. When they could, they picked fruit. They were particularly fond of pineapples. John and the other missionaries organized schools, taught English and walked many hundreds of miles, getting to know the people. John soon learned to love them. “This people have a simple, childlike faith,” he wrote. “We feel it as we mingle with them. They are the Lord’s children.”
John spent four years in Hawaii. He returned home at the end of May 1858 and quickly resumed the routines of life. John was very industrious and possessed good managerial skills. He began gathering ranch properties and some cattle and became quite prosperous.
In October 1859, Betsey Jane gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth Jane. In 1862, Margaret Hannah was born. John Anderson Jr. was born on September 2, 1864.
In 1865, John received a call to serve another mission in Hawaii. This time, John was encouraged to take his wife with him. As they discussed their options, John and Betsey Jane decided that John should take a second wife. Betsey Jane expressed a preference for Mary Jane Robinson, who was then 16 years old. John and Mary Jane were married in May 1865.
Due to a misunderstanding, however, the rest of the couple’s traveling company left without them. It was not safe for them to try to make the journey to California alone, so John was released until further notice.
In 1872, when John was again called to go to Hawaii, Mary Jane had four children and Betsey Jane had four children. John returned to Hawaii alone.
John found the conditions in Hawaii much improved. The church had grown in numbers and the members were strong. John was happy to be back. He received disappointing news from home, however. His father died in 1873. John and his father were especially close and John took the news with much sadness. In 1874, John learned that his brother William had also died. William was only 32 years old when he died and he left behind a young family.
While John was gone, Betsey Jane decided to separate herself from her husband. Joseph Fish, Betsey Jane’s brother wrote, “My sister Betsey Jane, who had married John A. West, had not lived very agreeably with her husband for some time. He had married for a second wife Mary Jane Robinson. She was a good girl, but John put her at the head of the family in many things. His neglecting his first wife in a measure and placing his second in charge of many of the family affairs was more than my sister was willing to put up with. She came home to her father and…she got a divorce from her husband. John’s own folks blamed him more for the separation than they did her. She had four children, two boys and two girls; she never married again.”
When John returned from Hawaii in 1875, Betsey Jane was gone.