Commemoration of the Life of Henry ‘Opukaha‘ia

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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.

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.

Upcoming Tours – 200th Anniversary Plans

Plans are underway to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Ōpūkaha‘ia-Henry Obookiah in Cornwall, Connecticut on February 17, 1818.

• Dave Buehring in mid-February held his second annual Hana Hou History Tour on Hawai‘i Island. Dave is taking reservations for the 2018 version of the tour (February 16-19, 2018), which will be tied into local events tied into the 200th anniversary of Henry’s death.

• In advance of the 200th anniversary, Deborah Lee of Ahahui O Ōpūkaha‘ia in Hilo, Hawai‘i, is organizing a tour to Cornwall, Connecticut to mark the founding of the Foreign Mission School where Henry was the star pupil at its opening in 1817, and of the designation of the FMS’s Steward’s House as a National Historical Monument. At the Steward’s House Henry took meals and socialized. The Foreign Mission School academy building burnt down in the 19th century, but the clapboard-faced Steward’s House at 14 Bolton Hill Road in South Cornwall still stands, as do other buildings in Cornwall tied in Henry’s life. The Foreign Mission School steward took care of practical matters at the landmark school. A press release from the National Park Service states: “The Steward’s House was part of a three-building complex that provided an evangelical education for over 100 students from approximately 30 different nations, primarily Asia, the Pacific Islands and North America.”

A report from Brown University, reporting on Brown’s team who wrote the National Historic Site description of the house, mentions that Yale professor and author John Demos played an important role in securing the historic designation. Demos is the author of The Heathen School, a detailed book on the Foreign Mission School that includes an account of Ōpūkaha‘ia.

For those traveling to Cornwall, the National Park Service press release describes the location of buildings connected to Henry’s story, and the story of the Foreign Mission School:

“In the village center is a late nineteenth-century Town Hall and a white carriage house that is now the Cornwall Historical Society. Not far from the Town Hall, off of Bolton Hill Road (historic West Road) and near the intersection with School Road, stands a plaque that marks the FMS’s location. About fifty yards from this marker, lies another plaque that marks Kellogg’s General Store where FMS students (referred to at the time as “scholars”) and school officials purchased supplies and mingled with the community. The Steward’s House also stands in this portion of the present-day village. Together with a few other houses (the Principal’s House; the original residence of the prominent Gold family; and Reverend Timothy Stone’s house), these buildings serve as the school’s physical memory.”

Yale University’s Yale Indian Papers Project blog posted a current photo and brief story on the designation of the building as a National Historic Site.

• Peter Young of the popular Images of Old Hawai‘i blog is posting informative updates on the upcoming series of bicentennial events tied into Ōpūkaha‘ia and the Sandwich Islands Mission pioneer company.

• February 17, 2018 is Ōpūkaha‘ia’s bicentennial of his passing. October 23, 2019, the First Company of Missionaries leave Boston. March 30, 2020, the mission first sights Hawai‘i Island, April 4, 2020, the arrival of the missionaries at the Plymouth Rock of Hawai‘i in Kailua-Kona.

The Story of Mokuaikaua Congregational Church

The Story of Mokuaikaua Church booklet cover

The Story of Mokuaikaua Congreational Church is 32-page booklet I helped create over summer 2016. Mokuaikaua Church ( is located along the waterfront in Kailua-Kona on central west shore of the Island of Hawai‘i. Here the first missionary party sent to Hawai‘i formally landed in early April 1820. Mokuaikaua is the “first-gathered” church in Hawaiʻi, and the “oldest-stand” church building in Hawaiʻi. Construction funded by Hawaiʻi Island Governor Kuakini (John Adams) in 1836 built the stone-and-mortar walled church that still stands today. The church is pictured in the cover illustration above, you can’t miss the church as it then towered over all the thatched hale and wood-frame western buildings of old Kailua town.

Mokuaikaua Church Historian Yolanda Olson wrote the main text of the booklet. I did the background research, editing, graphic design, photography. I contributed a section I call “A New England Church with a Hawaiian Heart.” This contribution details the dual, hybrid New England-Native Hawaiian architectural features found in the Mokuaikaua Church building.

Proceeds from sale of The Story of Mokuaikaua Church are helping to raise funds for a $3 million restoration needed to make the historic church earthquake proof, to replace hardwood ʻōhiʻa beams that date back to the 1820s, and other repairs needed to preserve Mokuaikaua. Go for more details.

Copies of the booklet are available at the Mokuaikaua Church in Kailua-Kona. Check on their website for contact information.