Ōpūkaha‘ia Memorial Marker and Charmian London

Charmian London, the wife of acclaimed American author Jack London, visited the Hikiau Heiau at Napo‘opo‘o in 1920. Charmian’s propitious visit fell during the services surrounding the unveiling of a stone marker commemorating the life and legacy of Ōpūkaha‘ia. Jack London died November 22, 1916 at his home in rural Glen Ellen, California north of San Francisco. The couple sailed to Hawai‘i aboard their ketch the Snark in 1907, and returned again in 1915 and 1916.

In her book Our Hawaii (Islands and Islanders) (1922 edition,  pp. 415-419) Charmian wrote:

“Doubtless I heard and listened to the same natives, but in their unlovely modern clothes, at a church convention song-festival in Napoopoo, part of the centennial commemoration of Opukahaia. The best voices on the island were there, sweet, pure, true, melodious. I sat on a bench with my back to the singers, but more particularly, to the glaring lanterns; swinging my feet over a small surf and dreaming into the starry night. ‘What dreams may come,’ when one revisits lands where one’s own romance has been enacted. I thought I saw the Snark’s headsails come questing through the gloom around the point — my little ship of dreams realized.

Charmain-LondonCharmian London (second from left) enjoys a laugh with native Hawaiians during her visit to Hawai‘i in 1907. Photo by Jack London. Public domain, posted by Jack London Society.

“Upon the outskirts of Napoopoo village lie the well preserved remains of Hikiau heiau where the monument to the famous young Hawaii Christian of a century ago was unveiled with day-long song and prayer and genuine Hawaiian oratory. This temple, which has been cleared of debris, shows half a dozen shallow terraces rising to the final shrine. Here one can see the very holes where once stood the idol-posts. In the middle of this level is a divided wall inclosure. A short distance southeast of the savage edifice, one comes upon a small stone platform where was the house of Opukahaia’s uncle, with its family chapel — I should say heiau; and two tall coconut palms which the boy is supposed to have planted.

“The new monument stands hard against the outer southwest corner of the impressive Hikiau temple, that point being nearest to where Opukahaia had lived, and from where he sailed quite literally for the bourne whence there was no return for him. The Anglicized inscription follows:


Born in Kau 1792.
Resided at Napoopoo 1797-1808
Lived in New England Until His Death at Cornwall Conn., in 1818.
His Zeal for Christ and Love for His People Inspired the First American Board Mission to Hawaii in 1820.”

The Ōpūkaha‘ia Memorial Marker stone dedicated in 1920 was moved from the makai side of the Hikiau Heiau to the churchyard of the Kahikolu Church overlooking Kealakekua Bay. The stone now stands alongside the grave of Ōpūkaha‘ia. His remains were returned by his family in 1993 from the Cornwall, Connecticut graveyard. Ōpūkaha‘ia, known as Henry Obookiah in New England, died from typhus fever in February, 1818. Photo by Chris Cook

“Special Providences in the Christianization of Hawaii” – Part 3

Following are articles 5, 6 and 7 in a series of Hawai‘i-missions focused articles published under the heading “Special Providences in the Christianization of Hawaii.” The articles were written by missionary son Rev. Sereno E. Bishop. The series appeared in the January through August 1904 issues of The Friend newspaper published in Honolulu. Bishop served as editor of The Friend from 1888 through 1902. The Friend was founded by the Rev. Samuel Damon in 1843 as a Christian periodical with a temperance theme published for seaman ashore at the port of Honolulu. Damon was the chaplain of the Seamen’s Bethel in downtown Honolulu.

Henry Obookiah-‘Ōpūkaha‘ia is a key figure in Bishop’s articles. Bishop considered Henry as one of the Special Providences that led to the Gospel coming to Hawai‘i.

Sereno Edwards Bishop (1827-1909) was the son of the Rev. Artemas and Elizabeth Bishop. The Bishops arrived in Hawai‘i in April, 1823 as members of the Second Company of the Sandwich Islands Mission. His parents were stationed at Kailua-Kona on the Big Island and Sereno was born in 1827 at the village of Ka‘awaloa, on the point of land on the north side of the entrance to Kealakekua Bay.

Sereno Bishop’s writing reflects his long-life in Hawai‘i. He witnessed first-hand many of the changes Christianity brought to Hawai‘i, the development of sugar cane plantations, the importation of workers from Asia, Portugal and other foreign nations. And he lived through the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and the annexation of Hawai‘i leading to the Islands becoming a Territory of the United States.

5. The Removal of King Liholiho.
Of the singularly co-operating chain of events promoting the entrance of the Gospel into Hawaii, four have been named in consecutive order—the last of which was the demise of Kamehameha, and consequent crumbling of the great system of Idolatry.
A fifth and most timely event, which acted powerfully in favor of the incipient work of the Mission, was the removal by a foreign voyage and death of the youthful King Liholiho, whose dissolute and unreliable character rendered his influence most detrimental to the Gospel work.

Liholiho was a youth of many amiable qualities, and not indisposed to what was right. He was also of a somewhat active nature, and ready to take the initiative when his caprice so led him. His great weakness was that of undisciplined youth, that he was subject to be led by caprice, and to follow the impulse of appetite. He was also much under the influence of evil-minded white men, who systematically plied him with liquor, in order to frustrate the wholesome influence of the missionaries.

During their first three years of arduous effort, the missionaries had made great progress in gaining power over the minds of the many princely chiefs of experience and good sense. The queenmother Keopuolani had joyfully accepted her Savior, and died in faith. The Dowager Kalakua and her husband lioapili were yielding allegiance to the Gospel. Kapiolani was becoming an earnest convert, and soon after signalized her faith by defiantly Hinging stones into the fiery lake of Kilauea, instead of propitiating the dread goddess Pele with ohelo berries. The statesmanlike Kalanimoku was steadily tending towards Christ. And most longed for of all, even the imperious and dreaded Queen Premier Kaahumanu was beginning to listen to the truth, and to learn the palapala, gained over by the tender and affectionate attention of Mrs. Bingham, whom she came ardently to love.

Keopuolani’s death at Lahaina was on the 16th of September, 1823. For a very short time the young king’s heart was softened. But he was soon led astray again by cunning white tempters. Suddenly he adopted the scheme of visiting England, and putting his kingdom under the protection of King George IV. On November 27, regardless of all fears and remonstrances of his chiefs, he embarked for England on board of the English’ ship L’Aigle, Capt. Starbuck, accompanied by his favorite wife Kamamalu, by the princely Boki and his wife Liliha, and by four chiefs of lower grade.

Acting with a council of high chiefs, Liholiho appointed Kaahumanu as Queen Regent, with Kalanimoku as Prime Minister. The young lad Kauikeaouli was designated heir apparent. No better arrangement of the government could possibly have been made than this combination of the imperial and experienced Kaahumanu, with the capable and prudent Kalanimoku. With Liholiho and Boki, the chief elements of disorder and riotousness disappeared beyond the horizon, and the elements of order and stability were established in control.

The royal voyagers arrived at Portsmouth, May 22, 1824. The British Government hospitably entertained them. They received great attention from the nobility. But soon the whole party were attacked by measles. All recovered except the queen, who died on the 8th of July, and the King, who died on the 14th.

“The survivors,” as Alexander records, “were treated with great kindness, and were received by the king, George IV., at Windsor Castle, September 14th, where he advised them to attend to the instructions of the missionaries, and promised to protect them from foreign aggression.”

The coffined remains of the King and Queen, together with the six survivors of the party were sent home on the frigate “Blonde,” commanded by Lord Byron, cousin of the poet. They arrived at Lahaina on the 6th of May, 1825.

These events left the government of the Islands fully established for many years in the powerful hands of Queen Kaahumanu. This royal personage had, after some delay, become thoroughly enlisted on the side of Christ, and rapidly grew into a devoted and earnest believer, although in the great caution of the missionaries, it was not until December of that year that Kaahumanu and six of her fellow chiefs, together with a number of other persons of influence, were baptized and received into the church at Honolulu. For the seven years of her reign, this puissant Queen diligently and energetically exerted her immense influence and authority in repeated journeys throughout the kingdom, to urge the people to learn to read and write, and to turn to Christ. It even became necessary for the missionaries to guard against hypocritical professions of piety from many w:ho sought thereby to gain royal favor.
Thus by the death of Liholiho, the whole current of royal influence became thoroughly enlisted on the side of the Gospel. The vital importance of this became manifest as two hostile elements developed themselves. One was the bitter enmity of depraved resident white men, who revolted against legal restriction upon drunkenness and debauchery. These men found violent allies in whalemen, who were determined to override prohibitions against openly filling their ships with women. Both in Lahaina and Honolulu the houses of the missionaries were attacked by mobs of seamen, led by their officers. They were rescued only by the friendly chiefs. At Honolulu, the mob came from the U. S. man-of-war Dolphin.
The second hostile influence postponed by the death of Liholiho, was the establishment of the Roman Catholic faith, delayed thereby for ten years, until after an enlightened Christianity had become fully established by means of the overwhelming power of the great Revival of 1837-8.

The royal prince. Boki, who went to England with Liholiho. although brother to the wise and pious Kalanimoku, became bitterly opposed to Kaahumanu, and a supporter of the Catholic attempt to gain a footing, which Kaahumanu firmly resisted. Whatever in these days of toleration we may think of such forcible exclusion, it is due to remember that at that time the Catholic church was the unscrupulous and deadly foe to all other forms of religion, and that along the whole coast from California to Chili, a Protestant preacher would have met with instant death. Catholic priests in Hawaii would be at once arrayed against the Protestant Queen and chiefs, and active leaders of political rebellion. Such was the well-founded belief of Kaahumanu. This conflict also was averted by the death of Liholiho.

Thus had another singular interposition of Providence strangely wrought to safeguard the infant growth of Gospel Christianity in Hawaii. In these successive peculiar events we can hardly fail to discern the manifest guidance and protection of the Lord, who had destined Hawaii for early and complete conquest by His Kingdom.

6. The Strange Removal of Boki.
It is very wonderful that in less than fifteen years after the arrival in Hawaii of the Protestant missionaries, the Gospel had gained an unobstructed ascendancy over the whole nation, and that in less than twenty years that ascendancy became thoroughly complete and assured.
We have already described five of a series of very peculiar events, which successively promoted this result, so as to appear as interpositions of the Divine Hand ordering the work.

We now have to note as sixth in order, a most singular event, which made to disappear suddenly the last formidable element of opposition to the teachings of the Missionaries. This was the strange blotting out of Governor Boki from the scene.

Boki was a princely chief of exceptional ability and great force, whose wife, Liliha, was also a princess of strong nature and much fascination. This noble pair had been the chief companions chosen by King Liholiho in his visit to the English Court in 1824. After the sudden death of Liholiho, and their return home in 1825, their superior intelligence and social experience abroad had secured for Boki after the death of his great brother Kalanimoku the highest position in the Government under the Regent Kaahumanu. He became the Governor of the Capital town, Honolulu, with command of the military forces. He was also appointed the Kahu or special guardian of the young King Kauikeaouli, still a tender lad. Occupying these high positions, Boki’s authority and influence were great, and his moral and political attitude grew to the most serious importance.

This personal attitude of Boki rapidly developed into a decided opposition to the influence of the missionaries, and of their ardent friend the Regent Kaahumanu. By 1828, he had become openly allied to the two chief elements of antagonism to the Regent and the missionaries. The leading one of these elements was the combination of lewd and intemperate whites, headed by the British and American Consuls, in order to break down the new laws against prostitution and drunkenness. The other and allied element of political opposition was that of Catholicism, of which Boki and Liliha made themselves the patrons, in opposition to Kaahumanu. Two Roman Catholic priests, Messrs. Bachelot and Short, had landed at Honolulu in 1827. They were very pious and devoted men, but naturally followed the practice of their church in its deadly and destructive opposition to Protestants. This determined their active political alliance to the anti-missionary party.

Quoting Alexander’s succinct account “Meanwhile Governor Boki continued his course of extravagance, intemperance and disloyalty. He set up a tavern on the harbor front, the ‘Blonde Hotel,’ and leased for a distillery a building which Kalanimoku had built for a sugarhouse. To supply sugar-cane for this distillery he leased land in Manoa Valley, but Kaahumanu cancelled the lease, and had potatoes planted instead of cane,

“Instigated by the two foreign consuls, he plotted to destroy Kaahumanu and supplant her as regent. In pursuance of this design, he sounded nearly every high chief in the country without success, and labored in vain to shake the young king’s attachment to the Queen Regent. About the beginning of 1829, he collected armed men at Waikiki, and civil war seemed imminent, when Kekuanaoa, his fellow voyager to England, boldly went alone to his camp, and dissuaded him from his mad designs.”

A very evil additional work of Boki was his misuse of his official influence over the young King to initiate him into the Governor’s own intemperate indulgences, the beginning of habits which became the chief curse of Kauikeaouli’s life.

Meantime the Governor became deeply involved in debt. And in November, 1829, the visit of the U. S. warship “Vincennes,” which strongly supported the laws of Kaahumanu, and the influence of the missionaries, added to Boki’s discouragement.

Just about this juncture, Boki made a great and rash move. The great source of money in Hawaii, sandalwood, had become nearly exterminated. Hearing of an island in the South Pacific which abounded in the precious wood, Boki hastily manned the king’s brig “Kamehameha,” and the “Becket,” the one with 300, the other with 179 men, including nearly the whole company of opposers which he had collected. On December 2d, 1829, they sailed, “touching at the island of Rotuma, where Boki remained four days, and took on board a large number of natives to assist in cutting sandal-wood. The ‘Becket’ lay there ten days longer, and then followed on her way to their destination, which was Eromango, in the New Hebrides.

“Nothing more was ever seen or heard of Boki’s vessel, the ‘Kamehameha,’ and her fate is still a mystery.” The “Becket” lost most of her people by disease and hostile savages, and reached Honolulu after eight months’ absence, with only twenty survivors. Thus suddenly and mysteriously perished the most dangerous opponent of the Gospel in Hawaii.

Liliha continued the opposition of her lost husband. She became the sole chiefish patron of the Catholics during the succeeding years, but her influence upon the nation was nugatory. The work of teaching, printing and preaching the Gospel went forward with accelerating power, and the knowledge of Christ took deep roots in the hearts of the people. The first completed copy of the New Testament in the Hawaiian tongue was bound just in time to be placed in the hands of the dying Regent Kaahumanu in May, 1832. It is one of the present writer’s early memories at the age of five, to have seen that grand woman in her parting hour in Manoa Valley. She left her dear Hawaii already well secured to Christ.

7. The Pentecostal Revival of 1837-8.
We have now to note the seventh and last of that remarkable series of events, which successively contributed to the rapid and early conquest of the Hawaiian nation by the Gospel of Christ, and determined the permanent occupation of this central island group by that Gospel, making it a Christian land.

After the singular removal in Nov., 1829 of the last formidable element of opposition by the strange disappearance of Governor Boki, the work of evangelization and education rapidly progressed among the very receptive people under the fostering support of Queen Kaahumanu and her fellow-chiefs. Added to the vigorous agencies of preaching and publishing was in 1831 supplied a High School for natives at Lahainaluna, where for 45 years, youth were trained in their own tongue in a higher literary education. Many of these in a few years, went forth to become efficient instructors in the common schools, and some of them to be preachers of the Gospel.

During the next seven years, large reinforcements came from home to swell the ranks of the earlier missionaries, including such notable names as Alexander, Armstrong, Lyons, Dibble, Baldwin, Lowell Smith and Coan. A great campaign was in progress, and the Home churches kept the ranks filled with men of power and ardor to support the veterans Bingham, Thurston, Richards and others.

Churches were organized throughout the group, and numbers of promising and earnest converts were baptized and admitted to church fellowship. Up to 1837, the total number of admissions to the church during twelve years had been 1131. But during the three succeeding years, such was the marvelous outpouring of Divine Power that 19,773 were added, or nearly one-sixth of the entire population, while a majority of the adults were unreliable though enthusiastic candidates for church fellowship. The whole nation seemed to press in one body into the fold of the Lord. Enormous congregations everywhere gathered to hang in deep emotion upon the words of the preachers- The entire population for over a year were stirred to their depths.

The result of this mighty Revival was overwhelming upon the national belief and character. Hawaii became at once a thoroughly Christian Nation, completely converted from its decrepit and infecting heathenism to an ardent and devout loyalty to the Gospel of the Redeemer. Practically for a. whole generation the old vile heathenism remained submerged and the whole community lived under a preponderant ascendency of Christian faith and Christian ethics, however imperfectly the latter were practiced in their lives.

This vital regeneration in the hearts of the people began at once to bear fruit in their political life. Under the earnest leadership of King and Chiefs civilized Christian Law began to take shape. Free and just government at once began to displace what had been arbitrary and oppressive. A Liberal Parliamentary Constitution became established and developed during the succeeding ten years. Courts became fully organized. Lands were assigned in fee simple to both chiefs and common people. Justice and security displaced oppression and despotism.
Thus in ten years after the great Pentecostal Regeneration of the Hawaiian nation, a full Christian Civilization had taken completed form resulting in the complete recognition by the Great Powers of the Hawaiian Kingdom as an independent Nation. And in less than thirty years from the first inception of missionary labor, there stood strongly planted in this mid-Pacific a thoroughly Christian State, in the forefront of the great American Christian Civilization, which was beginning to occupy in force the Pacific coast and confront the vast Asiatic Empires of Japan and China. On Hawaii, a point of priceless strategic value had by special Divine Mercy, been occupied in advance to represent to the commerce of the Orient that enlightened American Christianity.

Solitary but central in this vast Pacific, Hawaii stands a bright representative of American Christianity, Civilization and Political Life to confront the mighty Orient with those new elements of Occidental Life. May we not discern beyond a doubt, how Hawaii was specially reserved by a great Divine Purpose, protected and nourished so as in the ripeness of time to fulfill this grand object? The mission of Hawaii on this western boundary of Christendom is indeed a noble and conspicuous one. A loft inspiration here lends itself to the Lord’s people to fulfill a worthy destiny.