Nā Mikanele: More on the Missionaries

#149 in the Moʻolelo series

2020 marks the 200th anniversary of missionary arrival. Specifically, the Congregationalist denomination sent missionaries under the auspices of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). Congregationalists are an American form of Calvinism, and the name Congregationalist refers only to the way in which the churches were organized. These missionaries came in twelve groups, called companies, the first and most famous of which was the “Pioneer Company,” consisting only of the missionaries Hiram Bingham and Asa Thurston, but the full party was:

Bingham, Rev. Hiram and wf. Sybil (Moseley). 

Chamberlain, Daniel, wf. Jerusha and five children. Farmer. 

Holman, Thomas, M.D. and wf. Lucia (Ruggles). Physician. 

Loomis, Elisha and wf. Maria T. (Sartwell). Printer. 

Ruggles, Samuel and wf. Nancy (Wells). Teacher and catechist. 

Thurston, Rev. Asa and wf. Lucy (Goodale). 

Whitney, Samuel and wf. Mercy (Partridge). Teacher and mechanic. 

Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, and John Honolii, Hawaiian helpers from Cornwall (Ct.) school.

Titus Coan Memorial Library, tc-lib.org

The Pioneer Company left Boston on the Brig Thaddeus on October 23, 1819 and arrived on March 30th, 1820 – a long and arduous journey. While they knew Hawaiians in New England, chief among them “Henry” Opukahaia, they initial impression of Hawaiians in Hawaiʻi was not positive, at least for Bingham and some of the missionary wives. Bingham wrote in his journal on the day of their arrival that:

The appearance of destitution, degradation and barbarism among the chattering, almost naked savages, whose heads and feet and much of their sunburnt swarthy skin were bare, was appalling…

He added the exclamation of the one of the wives of the Company, a quote that is often misattributed to him (including by the New York Times): “Can these be human beings!” [sic].

“Four Owhyhean Youths” [Four Hawaiian Youths], who returned to Hawaiʻi in the Pioneer Company in 1820 after attending the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut.

Bingham was based on Honolulu at what is now the Mission Houses Museum on King Street and Mission Lane (near Punchbowl St.) behind Kawaiahaʻo Church. He also lived on the campus of Punahou School for a time. Thurston ended up basing his mission in Kailua, Kona, where he supervised the construction of Mokuʻaikaua Church, the first church completed in Hawaiʻi in 1837.

William Richards and Artemas Bishop were part of the Second Company. Richards later left the mission and became a government employee (forbidden by ABCFM while a missionary) and was instrumental in the creation of the modern Hawaiian government.

The Third Company included Lorrin Andrews who wrote a Hawaiian dictionary, Ephraim Clark, Jonathan Green, Peter Gulick and Gerrit Judd, who joined Richards as a government diplomat.

Honolulu ca. 1820

Dwight Baldwin and Sheldon Dibble were both based in Lahaina, Maui. Dibble became the Principal of Lahainaluna Seminary and Baldwin an important influence in the then-capital of the Kingdom. I’ve written before that my great-great grandfather, Keliʻimakekauonuʻuanu (who name became Abel Makekau) was a deacon at Waiola Church under Baldwin. Baldwin’s son Henry Perrine Baldwin was co-founder of Alexander and Baldwin.

Among the missionaries of the Fifth Company were the famous music composer Lorenzo Lyons and the Hilo missionary Richard Lyman. Benjamin Parker was in the Sixth Company and the Seventh Company brought Titus Coan, whose Memorial Library site is the source for much of this information. Daniel Dole, father of Sanford Dole and founder of Punahou (Oahu College), was in the large Eighth Company, which arrived in 1837.

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