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.

A New Look at the Memoirs of Obookiah – My Kawaiaha‘o Church Bicentennial talk

me and leonard

My close Kaua‘i friend Leonard Mahoe (r.), the CRU City Neighbors ministry representative on Kaua‘i, joined me at Kawaiaha‘o Church in Honolulu on July 28, 2020 for the filming of A New Look at the Memoirs of Henry Obookiah. Leonard grew up attending Kawaiaha‘o Church in the 1950s and 60s. The 40-minute talk is one of the Kawaiaha‘o Bicentennial Speaker series and is set to first air on Sunday, August 16 at 4 p.m. HST

 

The Kawaiaha‘o Church Bicentennial Committee graciously invited me to be the August 2020 speaker in their ongoing Bicentennial Speaker series. I presented A New Look at the Memoirs of Henry Obookiah inside the historic Kawaiaha‘o sanctuary on July 28, 2020. The talk is scheduled to air on Sunday, August 16 at 4 p.m. HST on the Kawaiaha‘o TV YouTube.com channel.

Kawaiahao Talk front screen

My talk on Henry Opukaha‘ia aired on Sunday, August 16, 2020 on the Kawaiaha‘o Church TV Youtube.com channel. A Q&A time aired on Zoom followed the broadcast of my talk, which was taped in the Kawaiaha‘o sanctuary in late July. My talk is scheduled to be rebroadcast, watch here for an exact date and time.

Coincidentally, August 16, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of my arrival in Hawai‘i in summer 1970 to attend the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Looking back I am very thankful for the many blessings I have enjoyed in the islands of Hawai‘i where I have spent most of my adult life. The invitation to speak at Kawaiaha‘o is especially special to me.

In A New Look at the Memoirs of Henry Obookiah I present new details about the life and times of Ōpūkahai‘ia – Henry Obookiah, the first Native Hawaiian Christian. The 40-minute talk offers a preview of material appearing in my new book Preparing the Way, a 160-page full-color pictorial book created to mark the Hawai‘i Mission Bicentennial. The talk is also based on material I first presented in my 2015-released biography of Ōpūkahai‘ia, The Providential Life & Heritage of Henry Obookiah.

Mahalo to Haunani Hendrix who produced the segment, and Malia Ka‘ai-Barrett who introduced me to begin my talk, both on behalf of the the Kawaiaha‘o Bicentennial Committee. I joined Malia and Kahu Ken Makuakane on the stage at Park Street Church in Boston in October 2019 during the Hawai‘i Mission Bicentennial commemoration held in New England to mark the departure of the pioneer Sandwich Islands Mission company to Hawai‘i. Malia is a premier vocalist in Hawai‘i, I was honored by her introduction, and by Haunani’s production skills.

Following the first airing of A New Look at the Memoirs of Henry Obookiah  I will be fielding questions about my talk via Zoom at the Kawaiaha‘o TV channel on YouTube.com. The questions will be combined with the video of my talk and will be available for viewing at the Kawaiaha‘o TV channel.

The July speaker in the Kawaiaha‘o Bicentennial series was Kaipo‘i Kelling. Kaipo‘i is a fantastic teller of mo‘olelo of Hawai‘i, ask anyone who has listened to his talks. He is a Hawaiian language instructor and historian, in addition to being an elementary school teacher, with a focus on missionary era Honolulu. He  presented What Makes Kawaiaha‘o A Wai Pana (famous place). Kaipo‘i’s interesting and intriguing talk focused on the historical setting of the church in Honolulu in an area considered sacred in pre-‘Ai Kapu overthrow days.

Kawaiaha‘o historian Keiko Denbeau presented in June, using the historic plaques that grace the walls of sanctuary at Kawaiaha‘o to tell the story of interesting chapters in the historic church’s history.

Additional speakers in the series are posted at the Kawaiahao TV channel.

Mahalo to former Kawaiaha‘o pastor Kahu Curt Kekuna and his wife Becky Kekuna for their kokua in this project.

 

 

Jubilee look at the Hawaiian church in 1870

Rufus Anderson Portrait Wikimedia

Engraving by J. C. Buttre from a daguerreotype taken from “Discourse Commemorative of Rev. Rufus Anderson,” ABCFM publication, 1880. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The recently-released documentary A Witness To Aloha, created for the bicentennial of the landmark Kawaiaha‘o Church in Honolulu, has received great acclaim in Hawai‘i and wherever the 60-minute film has been viewed. A Witness to Aloha, directed by premier Hawai‘i filmmaker Dennis Lee, aired in April 2020 on KITV during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

To compliment the fine portrait of Kawaiaha‘o presented in A Witness To Aloha, I am posting an excerpt from the annual report of the Amerian Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for 1870. In this report is an account of a visit to Kawaiaha‘o and Hawai‘i made in 1870 by Rufus Anderson the Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission (ABCFM).

The overview offers an enlightening overview of the state of the Protestant church in the Hawaiian Islands some fifty years after the arrival of the pioneer mission company.

Anderson sailed to Honolulu from the West Coast to attend the Jubilee commemoration held in 1870 of the introduction of Christianity to the Hawaiian Islands. He found a flourishing native church in Hawai‘i in the years soon after the closing the ABCFM’s mission to Hawai‘i in 1863.

In 1820 the first group of Christians with plans to open a permanent mission station arrived, sent from Boston as the American Board’s Sandwich Islands Mission. The pioneer company of American Protestant missionaries was sent to Hawai‘i in 1819 from Boston  and arrived at Kailua, Kona on April 4, 1820.

In his report, Anderson wrote, “The very shore on which I first set my foot bore evidence of the great change. The first object to greet the eye was the great stone church, whose foundations were laid by the veteran Bingham. The barren waste of a few years ago, where was neither tree, shrub, nor flower, to relieve the eye, had been changed as into a garden of the Lord. The very shore on which I first set my foot bore evidence of the great change. The first object to greet the eye was the great stone church, whose foundations were laid by the veteran Bingham. The barren waste of a few years ago, where was neither tree, shrub, nor flower to relieve the eye, had been changed as into a garden of the Lord.”

Click below to download PDF of Rufus Anderson’s Mission Jubilee report from Hawai‘i

Jubilee Overview of Kawaiahao

 

Reflecting on the current quarantine of Kaua‘i: Looking back to 1853 and how Dr. Smith of Koloa contained a smallpox epidemic

Dr smith

Dr. James Smith of Kōloa Mission Station portrait by Samuel F. B. Morse prior to his departure for the Hawaiian Islands from Boston in 1842.

I have gained a broader perspective on our current quarantine situation here in Hawai‘i, particularly on Kaua‘i, by reading an account of how Kaua‘i missionary doctor James Smith of Kōloa kept Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau from suffering the ravages of a smallpox (mai pu‘upu‘u li‘ili‘i) epidemic in 1853. This plague is considered the most deadly faced by Native Hawaiians since western diseases began decimating the Native Hawaiian population following the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1778.

Below I have taken freely from an account titled The Battle Against Smallpox written by my late wife Evelyn Cook in her book 100 Years of Healing – The Legacy of a Kauai Missionary Doctor. Mahalo to the Smith family for permission to use facts from this material for my post.


Notice of Kauai Quarantine

This broadside printed in Hawaiian and English and posted by the Kauai Commissioners of Health during the 1853 small pox epidemic warned inter-island ship passengers that they were not allowed to sail from Kaua‘i to O‘ahu, nor from O‘ahu to Kaua‘i, essentially quarenting the island from outsiders. The document is dated Nawiliwili July 19th, 1853. The Kauai Commissioners were J. E. B. Marshall, E. P. Bond, and Dr. James Smith of the Koloa Mission Station.  Only “in cases of extreme necessity” would a passenger be allowed. The quarantine worked, a report following the epidemic showed a low death count from smallpox on Kaua‘i, while thousands died in Honolulu and outlying district. (From the Kahn Collection, Hawaii State Archives)

A smallpox epidemic broke out in Honolulu in February 1853, brought aboard an American ship headed from San Francisco to China. Though the ship was quarantined, the deadly disease came ashore and by May was ravaging the people of Honolulu and outlying districts, most of the victims were Native Hawaiians. The epidemic targeted the young and old, and those living in poverty. 

In Honolulu smallpox victims died by the hundreds, then by the thousands. The epidemic spread into the summer and fall of 1853 and didn’t back off until early 1854. Medical reports from that time counted a range of 6,405 to 11,081 cases, and between 2,485 and 5,947 deaths on O‘ahu. The Ewa district out to Waianae was especially hard hit, with an estimate of a loss of half the population. Some 448 deaths were reported on other Hawaiian islands, but Kaua‘i was spared the smallpox onslaught that plagued O‘ahu through the dedication of Dr. James Smith, the resident American missionary doctor stationed at Kōloa. 

Smith took quick action when word of the Honolulu smallpox outbreak arrived at Kōloa. Traveling on horseback and foot, traversing rough trails, streams and steep gulches, and by outrigger canoe to Niihau and remote areas, he vaccinated the entire mostly Native Hawaiian population of both Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. Smith applied his training in scientific medical practices gained at a New York City medical school to alleviate the plague Kaua‘i faced. Only a small number of people living on the island had earlier been vaccinated for smallpox.

Smith later humbly reported to the Hawaiian mission headquarters in Honolulu: “Through a merciful Providence the Small Pox, which produced such frightful ravages on O‘ahu, passed over us very lightly. There were but 5 cases in our district (ed. probably in Kōloa District), only one of which proved fatal.”

The smallpox epidemic of 1853-1854 inspired King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma to open the Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu. Hale Aloha in Lahaina, Maui was dedicated as a memorial to God’s sparing the Maui seaport from the smallpox epidemic. There American Board missionary the Rev. Dwight Baldwin rode his horse across Maui to inoculate the people of that island.  

Outbreaks of smallpox occurred in Hawaii in 1861, 1873, and 1882. Dr. Smith and the doctors who followed him kept inoculating their patients and thankfully the later smallpox epidemics passed lightly over Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

Smith arrived at Kōloa in the early 1840s to serve as a resident missionary doctor. He left behind a lucrative career serving as a physician in New York City for five years. Instead, he used his education at the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons to serve the people of Kaua‘i. 

The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions accepted Smith’s application to be a missionary doctor. He and his wife newly wed wife Melicent sailed from Boston in 1842 as members of the Tenth Company of American Board missionaries sent to Hawai‘i. 

In his application to the American Board Smith noted he was influenced to dedicate his life and skills in a foreign land after meeting a missionary to China. Through that connection he met medical students studying at his medical school who planned to go out as missionary doctors. 

He was inspired to end his practice in New York City in 1839 when he read a notice of the need for a physician for the Sandwich Islands Mission. He then decided dedicate his life as a missionary to the Hawaiian Islands.

He explained in his application, “I feel that I am not my own, that I am the Lord’s, and that every consideration demands I should labor in that part of the vineyard where His providence seems to direct.”

In November 1842 the Smiths landed and settled at Kōloa, Kaua‘i.

Smith went into private practice in 1851, leaving the covering of the Hawaiian mission, though still serving as a missionary at the church in Kōloa. He was later ordained as a minister. Smith became a citizen of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and made a living by charging western residents for his medical services, while freely giving medical care to the Native Hawaiian community for free.