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.

Digging for Treasure in Old Books : Location of burial place of Samuel Mills Jr.

I am adding a new subcategory to obookiah.com I’m calling Digging for Treasure in Old Books. These posts will tell my story behind how I found antiquarian books I have purchased that add new insights to my Christian History of Hawai‘i research.


Location of the burial place of Samuel Mills Jr.

Samuel Mills Jr. of Torringford, Connecticut died at sea on June 14, 1818 off the northwest coast of West Africa aboard the English merchant brig Success during a voyage from Sierra Leone to London. His body was soon buried at sea.

I have a copy of a letter written by the Rev. Ebenezer Burgess, Samuel’s companion on this journey which concluded a surveying tour made south from Sierra Leone earlier in 1818. His journey, though fatal, resulted in the founding of the freed slave nation of Liberia.

Where exactly Samuel was buried has remained a mystery to me. I knew the passage north along the coast of West Africa took about two weeks.

Thanks to a timely recent purchase of a rare book I now know the latitude where Samuel’s body was buried at sea. My purchase of this book was happenstance. I noticed a fair condition copy of a volume of New Haven-published Religious Intelligencer weekly newsletters from 1818-1819 had come up for auction. I knew from experience that the editor of the Religious Intelligencer sometimes received news and letters through Connecticut connections. Often these unique reports failed to appear in the much more widely distributed Boston-published Missionary Herald, the official monthly publication of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Religious Intelligencer photo

My fair-condition copy of the New Haven-published Religious Intelligencer 1818-1819 purchased in March 2020 at a reasonable cost. Inside lay the location of the burial at sea of American foreign missions pioneer Samuel Mills Jr. Author’s photo

Fortunately, perhaps due to condition issues, the bidding was light for my copy of the Religious Intelligencer, an annual bound volume for 1818 with some issues from 1819 tucked in. Some annual volumes of the Religious Intelligencer are available online, and can be key word searched for words like “Obookiah,” “Sandwich Islands,” etc. Some issues in the volume I purchased were unavailable online, thus I wondered what I would find as I scanned through the book

Books from the Second Great Awakening era in New England (approximately 1790-1830) are generally printed on rag paper, that is paper made from recycing rags, rather than from wood pulp. Rag paper lasts fairly well.

I scanned through the old book’s tanned, but still very legible pages, searching for something new for my extensive data base of Christian History of Hawai‘i materials.

In what looks like a New Haven exclusive, in the October 10, 1818 issue of the Religious Intelligencer editor-publisher Nathaniel Whiting printed a brief note sent to the  American Colonization Society from Ebenezer Burgess, posted via an American ship sailing from England. This note alerted New England Christiandom of the death of Samuel Mills Jr. off of West Africa. Mills’ watch may have accompanied the letter, for a rider later approached the Rev. Samuel Mills in Torringford and broke the news of Samuel’s death, producing his son’s watch perhaps to validate the account.

Below is a photo of a selection from the first report of Samuel’s death as it appeared in the issue of the Religous Intelligencer. In the report Burgess carefully notes the latitude of the burial site of Samuel’s remains. The latitude places the burial within nautical minutes of the boundary line of the Tropic of Cancer. Now I knew fairly closely where Samuel was buried, a fact I had never come across in decades of research into the lives of Mills and ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia.

Mills death 1

Mills Death 2

An account of place and date of death of Ameican foreign missions founder Samuel Mills Jr. off coast of West Africa, from October 10, 1818 issue of the Religious Intelligencer.

Samuel passed at age 36. He is a key figure in the Christian History of Hawai‘i. In 1809 he met Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia at Yale and immediately envisioned sending a mission to the Hawaiian Islands. Samuel brought Henry home to Torringford to live in the family parsonage in Litchfield County, Connecticut. The Mills family made Henry a member of their ‘ohana, providing the stability of family life he longed for since the murder of his parents following the Battle of Kaipalaoa in Hilo in 1796.

Samuel and Henry were to lead the pioneer mission to Hawai‘i. But Henry died of typhus fever in Cornwall, Connecticut in February 1818, preceding Samuel in death by about four months.

Samuel led the legendary Haystack Prayer Meeting held at Williams College in 1806 (perhaps 1808) that led to the launching of Protestant foreign missions from the United States. He cofounded the Brethren foreign missions supporting secret society. Samuel petitioned the heads of the Congregational Church in Massachusetts to form a foreign missions board resulting in the creation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. He played a key role in forming the American Bible Society, and he died with hopes of ending slavery in the United States by surveying lands for a freed slave colony in West Africa.


My widespread reading of materials linked to Hawaiian history in print and online often inspires me to purchase my own original copy an antiquarian book, booklet, illustration, tract, sermon or newspaper. To find original copies I search in abebooks.com, I receive key word alerts from eBay, I’m sent online catalogs from antiquarian book dealers like New England maritime specialist Ten Pound Island in Gloucester, Mass. I’m sometimes given a book, or a lead to a book.

I do hit deadends where my searching finds no copies for sale, or am priced out of a purchase.

Sometimes I underestimate the value of a random purchase. I have a pretty beat up copy of a rhetorical Sunday school book that has a mother answering questions posed by her children regarding the Sandwich Islands Mission. There is even a page of questions about surfing in this late 1820s book. I purchased this small leather bound book – which lacks a front cover and is missing the frontispiece illustration – for about $10. A bidder who told me she fell asleep and missed the late night final bidding on the book, sent me an email after the auction and asked if I planned to donate the book to a library collection. In response to this note I did a search in worldcat.org, the online global scholarly book catalog, and discovered my book was a very rare first edition copy, in fact it looks like there is only one other first edition copy in public collections.