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.

 

 

Yale Indigenous student performers coming to Hawai‘i Island

Ōpūkaha‘ia ohana representative Deborah Lee (second from left) with Emeritus State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni, PhD at Yale University in late January 2017. Bellantoni led the removal of Ōpūkaha’ia’s remains in 1993 from his gravesite in the Cornwall, Connecticut graveyard. (YIPAP photo)

The Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program (YIPAP) is sending students to Hawai‘i Island in March 2017 to view sites related to the life of Ōpūkaha‘ia.

The performing group met in late January with Ōpūkaha‘ia ohana representatives Deborah Lee of Hilo. Deborah led in the returning of Henry’s iwi (remains) in 1993 to Hawai‘i from his 1818 grave site in Cornwall, Connecticut. Deborah traveled to Yale University in New Haven and to Cornwall. At Cornwall, they visited the Steward’s House in Cornwall where Henry once socialized and ate meals.

A post at the YIPAP blog hosted by Yale University details the visit to Cornwall in words and photos.