Preparing the Way added to American Antiquarian Society collection

American Antiquarian Society exterior
A key collection of published Hawaiian language materials can be found in the archives of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The American Antiquarian Society has accepted for inclusion of its collection a copy of my new book Preparing the Way – A Pictorial History for the Hawai‘i Mission Bicentennial 1820-2020. This pictorial history provides an illustrated narrative of the formation and sending of the pioneer Protestant missionary company sent to Hawai‘i from Boston by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1819.

The American Antiquarian Society library located in Worcester, Massachusetts dates back to the Early Republic days of the United States. The Society describes itself as: “Founded in 1812 by Revolutionary War patriot and printer Isaiah Thomas, the American Antiquarian Society is both a learned society and a major independent research library. The AAS library today houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, music, and graphic arts material printed through 1876 in what is now the United States, as well as manuscripts and a substantial collection of secondary texts, bibliographies, and digital resources and reference works related to all aspects of American history and culture before the twentieth century.”

During a research visit in 2018 I discovered a book with perhaps the first mention of plans for an American Protestant mission to evangelize the Hawaiian Islands. In searching for unknown, obscure details about the Christian History of Hawai‘i, I will often begin with a general term like the key word “Obookiah” and see what publications show up. Through a search for “Samuel Mills” in the digital card catalog available within the AAS library an 1810 book titled A Collection of Letters on Missions turned up. A note within the card catalog notation showed the book was self-published at the Andover Theological Seminary by American Foreign Missions founder Samuel Mills Jr. and Adoniram Judson, who sailed from Salem, Massachusetts in 1812 as the leader of the first foreign Protestant mission sent from the shores of the young United States. In the rear section of the book the Sandwich Islands is mentioned. Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia was in Andover with Samuel Mills at the time of the distribution of the book. One wonders if Henry helped his friend with the packing and shipping of the books, which were sold in advance by subscription to church congregations in New England to promote foreign missions. The book also gave one of the first notices of the formation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, inspired in spring 1810 by a request from Mills, Judson and two other Andover students. That took place at Bradford, Massachusetts, about eight miles north of Andover.

The American Antiquarian Society collection houses rare and newspapers with a Hawai‘i tie. The family of James Hunnewell, an officer aboard the brig the Thaddeus upon which the pioneer company sailed to Hawai‘i, in recent years has donated their collection of Hawaiian language mission press publications. This includes a copy of the first Hawaiian alphabet, struck off the Mission Press in January 1822.

The Rev. Samuel Damon (February 15, 1815 – February 7, 1885) of Hawai‘i joined the American Antiquarian Society in 1869. His ancestor Samuel Damon of Holden, Massachusetts in 1836 donated a corner of the property where the AAS is today located. The Rev. Damon served as the pastor of the American Seaman’s Friend Society chapel in Honolulu from 1841 to 1869 during the height of the American whaling ship era. He founded and published The Friend, a monthly newspaper He was the editor and publisher of The Friend, a monthly newspaper printed in Honolulu. The Friend was an outreach to the thousands of sailors who arrived in Hawai‘i each year during his life in Hawai‘i and included news of ship arrivals and departures and a wide variety of news about the Hawaiian Islands.

“How a Massachusetts Library Became ‘A Hotbed of Hawaiiana’” is the title of a Honolulu Civil Beat article about the Hawai‘i ties to the American Antiquarian Society.

Poai Lincoln performs at the American Antiquarian Society in October 2019 during an event for the 2019 Hawai‘i Mission Bicentennial in New England.
Poai Lincoln traveled from Hawai‘i to perform at the American Antiquarian Society in October 2019 during an event organized by the Hawaiian Mission Houses for the 2019 Hawai‘i Mission Bicentennial in New England. Poai accompanied acclaimed Hawai‘i actor Moses Goodes who performed in the main room of the AAS his one-man drama My Name is ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia.

Veterans Day: Remembering Hawai‘i men who fought in the Civil War

The story of Civil War veterans from Hawai‘i has been a passion for Nanette Napoleon. The Historic Hawai‘i Foundation has awarded Nanette for her efforts in preserving historic burial sites across Hawai‘i through the  Hawai‘i Cemetery Research Project.

A highlight of her work is her collaboration with the Hawai‘i Civil War Roundtable in perpetuating the memory of Hawai‘i veterans who fought in the U.S. Civil War mostly for the northern Union, but also for the southern Confederacy.

Through their efforts a bronze memorial plaque commemorating the memory of the Hawai‘i Sons of the Civil War is now located along the Memorial Walk at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Puowaina (Punchbowl) in Honolulu.

In addition, a tombstone for J. R. Kealoha, a Native Hawaiian Civil War soldier now stands at his once unmarked grave in O‘ahu Cemetery. without a tombstone.

Details about Nanette’s pioneering work in telling the history of Hawai‘i’s Civil War veterans (there are over 100) are told in the web post “The Surprising History Of Hawaiians In The Civil War,” which can be read on the Honolulu Civil Beat’s website.


General Samuel Chapman Armstrong

American missionary son Gen. Samuel Chapman Armstrong is the best known of Hawai‘i’s Civil War veterans. Chapman was born at Wailuku, Maui in 1839, the son of the Rev. Richard Armstrong of the Sandwich Islands Mission and his wife Clarissa Chapman Armstrong.

The Hampton Institute Library established by Hawai‘i Civil War veteran and missionary son Gen. Samuel Chapman Armstrong.

Upon graduation from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts – the site of the Haystack Prayer Meeting led in 1806 by Samuel Mills Jr. – Armstrong enlisted as an officer in the Union Army, following the lead of his older brother Richard. He is a notable Hawai‘i veteran for his heroic role in aiding in pushing back the famous Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, a turning point in a battle that some say decided the outcome of the Civil War. He rose to the rank of general following this action. In part due to his cross-culture youth spent in Hawai‘i, Armstrong was offered command of a company of black soldiers, the Colored Soldiers of the Civil War. Samuel’s sister Edith Armstrong Talbot wrote a well-written biography of her brother who went on to found the Hampton Institute in Virginia, a school for young freed slaves, following the Civil War. The training at Hampton was modeled on the Hilo Boarding School founded by missionary David Lyman in 1836.

Images are taken from The New England Magazine June 1892.

The Pilgrims Who Arrived in New England in 1620 Influenced Hawai‘i in 1820

The Pilgrim ship the Mayflower arrived off Cape Cod four hundred years ago today, on November 9, 1620.

The pioneer Hawai‘i Mission company sailed aboard the brig Thaddeus, a ship known in its day as the Mayflower of the Pacific, departing for the Hawaiian Islands from the Long Wharf in Boston on October 23, 1819. This 163-day voyage taken around Cape Horn brought evangelical Christianity to Hawai‘i, changing the Islands forever.

The sending of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions company came at the request of Native Hawaiian scholar Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia. Henry died of typhus fever at about the age of thirty at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut in February 1818. His dying wish was to return to Hawai‘i and to fulfill his plans to join with American missionaries in bringing the Gospel to the Hawaiian Islands.

Model of brig Thaddeus was displayed in the History Room of Mokuaikaua Church in Kailua, Kona. The Thaddeus was 85 feet long, with a beam of 24 feet. 

The Rev. Lyman Beecher, pastor of the Litchfield Congregational Church in Litchfield, Connecticut mentored ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia following his baptism at Torringford, Connecticut in 1814. Henry and his fellow Hawaiian scholars at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut were welcomed into the Beecher home. Beecher rose to become one of the most renowned ministers in New England in the 1820s. The Litchfield pastor preached the sermon at Henry’s funeral at the Cornwall Center Cemetery in February 1818.

Lyman Beecher presents a clear picture of the Pilgrim-Hawai‘i tie in his landmark sermon “The Memory of Our Fathers” given at Plymouth in November 1827. Beecher told the gathering, “If we look at our missionaries abroad [n.b. in Hawai‘i, Ceylon, Burma, elsewhere], and witness the smiles of heaven upon their efforts, our confidence, that it is the purpose of God to render our nation a blessing to the world, will be increased. In talents, and piety, and learning, and doctrine, and civil policy, they are the legitimate descendants of the Puritans.”


In the United States Capitol Building in Washington D.C. hangs a grand painting of the Pilgrim departure from Holland. Pilgrim leader William Bradford. In his book History of Plymouth Plantation, the first book written in New England, Bradford quoted their pastor John Robinson who declared a prophecy over the departing Pilgrims. Bradford, rather than seeing the Pilgrims as just fleeing the Old World for religious freedom, portrayed Robinson as sending off the Pilgrims as missionaries. Bradford emphasized this by quoting Robinson:

(They had) a great hope & inward zeal they had of laying some good foundation, or at least to make some way thereunto, for ye propagating & advancing ye gospel of ye kingdom of Christ in these remote parts of ye world; yea, though they should be but as stepping-stones unto others for ye performing of so great a work.

The Pilgrims land at Plymouth (Library of Congress)

FUTURE EVENTS

Grand plans to commemorate in April 2020 in Hawai‘i the arrival of the pioneer Mission Company, and in November 2020 in Plymouth, Massachusetts the arrival of the Pilgrims, have both been postponed due to the covid-19 epidemic.

Keep an eye on the Hawaiian Mission Houses website for updates on a possible rescheduling for April 2021 of the postponed pioneer company arrival events.

In Plymouth, the events are now rescheduled for April 2021.

The restored Mayflower II is featured in Sea History for Fall 2020. Click to read the news about the ship’s return to Plymouth from a three-year restoration at Mystic Seaport shipyard.

Events for the Hawai‘i Mission Departure Bicentennial were held in Boston at the Park Street Church, and across New England in October 2020.

Bicentennial events for the Hawai‘i arrival of the Sandwich Islands Mission had been planned for April 2020 in Kailua-Kona, in Honolulu, and in Waimea, Kaua‘i.

To celebrate the bicentennial of the formation of their church in 1820, the Historic Kawaiaha‘o Church in Honolulu has been hosting a monthly speakers series via youtube.com. Speakers focuses on the history of the historic church.

New details on death of George Kaumuali‘i – Humehume

New details on the death of George Kaumuali‘i [George Tamoree – Humehume] appear in the April 25, 1828 issue of the Philadelphian newspaper. The unsigned front page news report titled simply George Tamoree was apparently written by Elisha Loomis. Elisha had returned from Hawai‘i to the United States in 1827 due to illness. Loomis served as the printer for the Sandwich Islands Mission’s Pioneer Company.

In the article, Elisha tells of seeing George the day before his death from influenza in 1826 in Honolulu. He reports that Kalanimoku, the Christian prime minister of the Hawaiian Kingdom, told him details of George’s painful last hours.

Elisha knew George Kaumuali‘i well. Both Elisha and George studied together during the summer 1819 term at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut, they sailed together aboard the voyage of the brig Thaddeus leaving from Boston in October 1819 for Hawai‘i, and for years after their arrival in Hawai‘i in the spring of 1820, both in Kaua‘i and in Honolulu during the last years of George’s life.

Click here to read the article.

Elisha returned to New York State due to illness (he died later in the 1830s). He continued his service to the American Board’s mission to Hawai‘i by printing Ka Euanelio a Mataio [The Gospel of John] and other Gospels on a press in Rochester. Elisha started up a newspaper in Rochester to earn a living while doing mission work.