Mayflower of the Pacific

Advancing Ye Kingdom of Christ (a selection from The Providential Life & Heritage of Henry Obookiah)


 An illustration of the Thaddeus taken from a missionary map found in a New England inn. Source: A History of C. Brewer & Company Limited

In New England the brig Thaddeus became known as the Mayflower of the Pacific. The missionary voyage to the Sandwich Islands would sail into Hawaiian waters during the 200th anniversary year of the arrival in America of the ship Mayflower, the Pilgrims landing on Cape Cod in late 1620.

Pilgrim leader William Bradford, in his book History of Plymouth Plantation, the first book written in New England, quoted Pilgrim pastor John Robinson. Bradford, rather than seeing the Pilgrims as fleeing the Old World for religious freedom, portrayed Robinson as sending off the Pilgrims as missionaries. Bradford quoted 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 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.


Moku‘aikaua – The First Gathered Church

A nationally-renowned historical documentary film company traveled to Moku‘aikaua Church in Kailua-Kona Sunday, August 7 for location filming. Great Divide Pictures of Denver is filming for several documentaries, each set at a National Park Service historic site on Hawai‘i Island. Moku‘aikaua, located along the waterfront in Kailua-Kona in leeward Hawai‘i Island, is located along an ancient, shoreline trail that is 175-miles long. Interpreted sections of the trail today are accessible to hikers and part of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail (). Moku‘aikaua is to be featured in the Ala Kahakai Trail feature.

This photo is of Great Divide Pictures Executive Producer/Principal Photographer Chris Wheeler (l.), myself and Chuck Dunkerly (r.) from the Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park who was coordinating the production on-island. Chris and Chuck joined me in this photo taken in front of Mokuaikaua Church along Ali‘i Drive in Kailua-Kona. Sonny Hutchinson, Chris’ partner in Great Divide PIctures, took this photo and handled the audio for the shoot.

The Great Divide Pictures team shot footage of the interior and exterior of Moku‘aikaua. I supplied narrative on the history of Moku‘aikaua Church, which is considered the first Protestant church gathered in all Hawai‘i. The pioneer Sandwich Islands Mission party arrived at Kailua on April 4, 1820. Kuakini, the ruling ali‘i nui of Hawai‘i Island in 1820 greeted the missionaries, aided in securing them permission to reside and establish a missionary station in Kailua-Kona, and built for the missionaries a series of three churches at Kailua-Kona: two thatched churches, the second destroyed by fire in 1835, and the stone-walled Moku‘aikaua Church (built in 1836) which is still actively used as a Congregational church.

I am currently editing and designing a booklet on the history of Moku‘aikaua. The booklet will support an effort to raise funds to keep the almost 200-year-old church earthquake resilient and to repair and restore aging features of the church. Go to for more information. Digital copies of the booklet will be available by this fall on the Moku‘aikaua website.

I am writing an essay to be featured in the booklet on the very interesting vernacular architecture of Moku‘aikaua. The building combines a structure based on a large New England barn of the post-Revolutionary War era, with materials readily available in Hawai‘i: Basalt-lava rock stones, coral heads burnt with firewood to create lime, and tall, sturdy hardwood ‘Ōhi‘a beams and posts. Moku‘aikaua is considered the mother Congregational church of Hawai‘i. Elements of native Hawaiian culture are embedded in the church, including dressed hewn stones used as edge stones stacked up in each corner of the church building to anchor its heavy rock walls. The hewn stones were carried by a long line of workers from the nearby heiau (temple) of the legendary 15th century ruler ‘Umi. ‘Umi moved the capital of Hawai‘i Island from Waipio Valley on its windward side to sunny Kailua. His incredible, mauka (inland) agricultural system stretched south for miles, providing abundant food for ‘Umi’s people. Its rock wall landscape pattern is still visible today.

George Kaumuali’i – Humehume worked as young teen in Fitchburg, Mass.

George Kaumuali‘i - Humehume as drawn by Samuel F. B. Morse prior to departure for Hawai‘i aboard Brig Thaddeus.

George Kaumuali‘i – Humehume as drawn by Samuel F. B. Morse prior to departure for Hawai‘i aboard Brig Thaddeus.

In searching for information on the life of pioneer Sandwich Islands Missionary Asa Thurston I came across new details on the life of George Kaumuali‘i-Humehume, the Prince of Kaua‘i, son of King Kaumuali‘i.

Most accounts of Humehume’s life in New England skip from his being sent aboard the American merchant ship Hazard to Boston by his father at the age of four. The cargo of sandalwood given to Captain Rowan of the Hazard was to pay for his education. Instead, the funds ran out early in his life in the Worcester, Massachusetts region. Usually an account will mention he worked as a carpenter’s helper, and as a hand on a farm, but little else.

These new insights into Humehume’s difficult years in New England were documented in about 1885. An elderly man who as a child knew Humehume well, asked to be heard during a talk before the Fitchburg Historical Society in Fitchburg, Massachusetts on the life of Sandwich Islands Mission missionary Asa Thurston. Asa grew up in Fitchburg, the son of a family of scythe makers who were town pioneers.

The man told of Humehume pulling him to school in a sled on a winter’s day, of the Hawaiian youth working in a tannery, probably in his early teens, of his losing his job due to his behavior, and of his likely hiding on a Fitchburg farm prior to going to sea as a Marine in the War of 1812.

Here’s the account from the 1885 edition of the Proceedings of the Fitchburg Historical Society.

About the year 1812, a boy thirteen or fourteen years of age, by the name of George Prince Tamoree, a native of the Sandwich Islands, was living in Fitch burg. He was the son of King Kaumualii, of the island of Kauai. George, who is called in some histories “Tamoree,” and in some “Kaumualii,” was brought to this country by an American sea captain, to whom he was entrusted by his father, either that he might obtain an education, or because the king’s wife, or more likely one of the king’s wives, was jealous of the boy, and the father wished to remove him from her sphere of influence. At any rate he came, and the captain who had charge of his funds, lost them, and the boy was thrown upon his own resources. Where or how he lived we do no tknow (except that at one time he was a carpenter’s apprentice) until he came to Fitchburg. Here he is known to have been in the family of Rev. Mr. Cutting, a Baptist minister, for a short time. Mr. Alonzo Goodridge remembers that the lad used to draw him to school on a sled, the school  house being located a short distance beyond the poor farm, on the Wanoosnoc Hill road.

Afterward, Mr. Thomas Litch, who was the father of Charles S. Litch of this city, and of A. K. Litch, who formerly kept a hardware store on Main street, took the young fellow and employed him at his tannery, which was located at the intersection of Pearl and Townsend streets. Being punished by Mr. Litch for some fault, George ran away and never again made his appearance in Fitchburg, although Mr. Goodridge’s grandmother Pearce believed him to be in hiding for some time on their farm. He enlisted in the U. S. navy, was wounded in the engage ment between the Enterprise and the Boxer. He after wards went to the Mediterranean and was in an engage ment with an Algerine vessel. When the vessel returned to Charleston, S. C., some friends got him released from service and sent him to the school for heathen youth, at Cornwall, Conn.

George afterward returned to his home in the Sandwich Islands in the same vessel with Asa Thurston and the pioneer mission band. He met with a cordial reception from his father, King Kaumualii, who gave him a post of great importance in the kingdom, and a large and valuable tract of land. The king said, “I love Hoome (Hoome, the name given him by the natives,) very much more than my other children. I thought he was dead. I cry many times because I think he was dead. Some cap tains tell me he live in America. I say no, he dead. He no more come back. But now he come again. My heart very glad.”