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.

 

 

Commemoration of the Life of Henry ‘Opukaha‘ia

Go to MissionHouses.org for more information.

I am scheduled to speak at the Hawaiian Mission Houses 200th commemorative anniversary of the death of Henry ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia on February 17, 2018. Here is information from Mission Houses website:

On February 17, 2018, Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives will celebrate the life of Henry ‘Opukaha‘ia marking the day he died two hundred years ago. This important celebration honors the man who inspired the Sandwich Island Mission and is the first event in the bicentennial of the arrival of the American Protestant mission to Hawai‘i in 2020.

From 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 17, 2018, the houses and grounds of Hawaiian Mission Houses will be open to the public free of charge. As with our 2 other open houses, historic house tours will be conducted every half-hour, with the first tour at 11 a.m. and the last tour at 3 p.m. The printing press will be continuously operated and interpreted with either the “Ho‘onani,” (Doxology) or the Hawaiian Primer, the first print struck in Hawai‘i, being printed all day for participants to take home. Activities on site will include some of those used in the HMH school program. For example one will emphasize the distance between Hawai‘i and the Eastern U.S. Another will offer the opportunity to create one’s own work on an individual mini printing press, and another will allow users to experience writing with a quill pen while copying a letter from one of the ali‘i from the HMH archives.

At 10 a.m. historic Kawaiaha‘o Church will conduct a special commemorative service and be joined by Royal Societies, Hawaiian Civic Clubs, and other organizations. Concurrent church services in Hilo and on the East Coast will also celebrate the life of ‘Opukaha‘ia and those who attend will learn about his role in inspiring the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) to send missionaries to Hawai‘i to bring Christianity. Audience may or may not choose to attend this service.

The Phenomenal Rise to Literacy in Hawai‘i 1820-1832

An abandoned rock walled Hawaiian language school site just mauka of the coast in Nīnole in Kā‘u, Hawai‘i Island is where speaker Kalei Laimana’s ancestors studied prior to the school being closed down and students moved to an English standard school about 10 miles away in Pāhala. The removal of the native Hawaiian language in such schools helped inspire Kalei in his study of the remarkable rise in literacy in Hawai‘i that began with the arrival of the Sandwich Islands Mission in late March-early April 1820.

John Kalei Laimana, Hawaiian Studies Instructor at Leeward Community College, told of his remarkable findings on the rapid spread of literacy in Hawai‘i from 1820 into 1832 at a talk held at Kaua‘i Community College’s Hawaiian Studies classroom on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. The talk was sponsored by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Kaua‘i Historical Society and Kaua‘i Community College.

Kalei in 2011 submitted his “The Phenomenal Rise to Literacy in Hawai‘i – Hawaiian Society in the Early Nineteenth Century” as his thesis for his Master of Arts degree at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

In his thesis introduction he writes: “…according to my research of missionary accounts, (Hawaiians as a society) appears to have achieved a minimum of ninty-one percent literacy rate in just thirteen years—an achievement that is unparalled in the world.”

Kalei went beyond the historic statistics to primary sources, most notably the journals and letters of American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission missionaries stationed in Hawai‘i. He combed for years such materials in the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society library located in Honolulu near Kawaiaha‘o Church.

The speaker said he found the lives of Calvinist-leaning Sandwich Islands Mission leader Hiram Bingham and his wife Sybil Bingham to grow in aloha towards Hawaiians over their 21 years stationed in Honolulu. He said New England editors of Hiram Bingham’s classic Sandwich Islands Mission account A Residence of Twenty-One Years in the Sandwich Island chose to focus on the stern and controlling character of Hiram, overshadowing the genuine love of Hiram for Hawaiians.


Sybil Bingham, an experienced New England-upstate New York school teacher, used her teaching talent in Honolulu at the outset of the mission’s education work just weeks following her arrival in spring 1820 in Honolulu. An extract from “Mrs. Bingham’s Journal” published in the American Board’s Missionary Herald monthly revival-missions periodical shows she and John Honoli‘i employed the Memoirs of Obookiah in spreading literacy in Hawaii.

July 31, 1820 – In the afternoon about 20 (scholars) were collected, when I read to them in the memoir of Obookiah, having it interpreted by J. Honoree and Sally J. I endeavored also to convey to their dark minds a few simple truths, which the Bible contains. Two hours passed in a most interesting manner. It seemed like being on missionary grounds. There was fixed attention on the part of most. I thought of a remark in a letter from our friend S. Taylor, soon after the death of Obookiah, to this effect, after speaking of the darkness of the providence, which snatched him away :– “but how much good may be done by his memoirs, should they be written, in the hands of missionaries among his countrymen.” Little did I then think that I should be the first to read a page of these memoirs to them. But so, in the mysterious providence of God, it was ordered.