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.

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.

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

 

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.