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"The baptism of the Prime Minister of the King on board L'Uranie." Artist: Crépin, after the original by Jacques Arago, Freycinet expedition. From Freycinet 1978: 25.


“Kamehameha died on the night of Hoku, May (Ka‘elo) 14 according to the Oahu calendar,” writes Kamakau. “In the meantime when a land was defiled by the corpse of its ruling chief, it was considered in the old days the proper thing for his heir to depart to another district for some days until the bones had been cleaned (ho‘oma‘ema‘e ia), covered with basketwork (ka‘ai ia), and placed within the tower (‘anu‘u) of the heiau, as the corpses of chiefs were prepared in the old days for burial. In the early morning therefore Liholiho [Kamehameha II] sailed and touched at Kawaihae” (Kamakau 1990: 212-3).


“At this time there arrived at Kawaihae a ship from France on board of which was a Roman Catholic priest....

"Kalanimoku, accompanied by John Young and others, went on board. The captain and the clergyman asked Young what Ka-lani-moku's rank was, and upon being told that he was the chief counselor (kuhina nui) and a wise, kind, and careful man, they baptized him into the Catholic Church" (Kamakau 1990: 225, 325-6 ).

Freycinet, the captain of this ship (L'Uranie) wrote in his journal that Kalanimoku was impressed by the uniform of the ship's clergyman, and upon learning the role of this man, "he told him that for a long time he had wished to become a Christian, and that therefore he begged him to be kind enough to baptize him...it was decided that we should proceed with this religious ceremony immediately upon my return from the King's council" (from Freycinet 1978: 24).




Kalanimoku, known as Pitt to Westerners. A. Pellion, artist. From Freycinet 1978.


Very shortly after this visit, the traditional kapu system that served as the religious and legal base of Hawaiian society was overthrown when Liholiho broke the kapu regarding eating. But this was part of a chain of events that ended the kapu of the chiefs, in which those clinging to the old ways fought unsuccessful battles at Kuamo‘o and Waimea to hold on to the old ways.

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Obookiah memoir

Frontispiece to the second edition of the memoir of Henry Opukaha‘ia (Obookiah).


The coming of the American Congregationalist missionaries from New England occurred shortly thereafter. Kamakau writes, "It was on March 30, 1820, after the battle of Kuamo‘o, that the boat anchored at Kawaihae on Hawaii, and the news was conveyed to those on board that Kamehameha was dead, and that Liholiho, the new king, had abolished the tabus and was governing the country in a new way. The missionaries rejoiced, believing that God had blessed their coming, and they sang the hymn, 'Wake, isles of the South! Your redemption is near...' (Kamakau 1990: 246).

“One of my distant cousins, Henry Opukaha‘ia, he’s really responsible for Christianity coming to Hawai‘i” Billy states. “He was related to the Chief Kainakuawalu—his mother comes down from that side. Henry was being trained by his uncle to be the kahuna nui at the Hikiau heiau, which is at Napo‘opo‘o, and he hated human sacrifice. So he left; he got permission from his uncle and aunt to leave on a ship to Boston by way of Canton, China."


"When he got there, he was very intrigued with Christianity because they worship the spiritual God, where he says ‘My people worship wooden god and stone god.’ So he wanted to bring Christianity here.

“The Dwight family saw him crying on the steps of Yale University and they asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and he says, ‘They are learning; I want to learn.’ So they started that foreign mission school there. And there were a few other Hawaiians. Thomas Hopu and several others that came back with the first contingent of missionaries.

“When he died there of typhus fever, the word got out that he had wanted to bring Christianity back here. That’s why the American Board dispatched the missionaries to Hawai‘i—it was his desire. He was buried in Cornwall, Connecticut.

"But he was an amazing individual: while he was there he would learn four other languages besides his native language, and he was starting to translate the New Testament from Hebrew into the Hawaiian language."


Henry Opukaha‘ia. From a portrait in ‘Imiola Church, Waimea.



Waimea 1800s

The Mission Station at Waimea, Kohala, probably mid 1800s. Print from a drawing by Edward Bailey. Bishop Museum Collection.


After they departed from Kawaihae, this first company of American missionaries proceeded to Kailua, where the royal court was in residence. One from among this company was sent a few months later to Kawaihae.

"The first resident missionary at Kawaihae was Elisha Loomis," Marion writes, "a 21-year old printer, who was supported by Kalanimoku. In the summer of 1820, Loomis was given two buildings (a schoolhouse and a dwelling place) and 10 youths to educate" (Kelly 1974: 29-30).

In 1826, another of the company, Artemas Bishop, went to Kawaihae to preach to thousands of people from Kohala and Hamakua, who had assembled there to meet Ka‘ahumanu and other chiefs. Bishop wrote, “I have just returned from the services of this day, where I have preached twice to a congregation of more than ten thousand listening hearers. They were assembled in a cocoanut grove, and I delivered my message to them in the open air” (from Chiogioji & Hammatt 1997: 15).



“It was not until the 1830s that a missionary would be stationed in northern Hawai‘i," Chiogioji & Hammatt write. "At 5 p.m. On July 13, 1832 Lorenzo Lyons and his wife Betsy arrived at Kawaihae by brig from Honolulu to take up residence in Waimea."

Lyons wrote his first impressions of the coastal village: "Kawaihae is about as desolate a place as I have ever seen. Nothing but barrenness, with here and there a native hut" (from Kelly 1974: 29-30).

"Lyons may have been especially critical of the Kawaihae landscape," Chiogioji & Hammatt clarify, "as, three days earlier, he had stopped at Kaawaloa, ‘…the most productive place on the islands, called the Paradise.’ At Kawaihae, Lyons and his wife took lodging in ‘a native house with Mr. Young: who Lyons described as a righteous man, then 87 years old. Young’s wife Ka‘oana‘eha is called a ‘very pious woman, a church member’"(Chiogioji & Hammatt 1997: 15-6).


Reverend Lyons

Lorenzo Lyons and his wife Lucia Garratt Smith Lyons. Daguerreotype ca. 1850. From Missionary Album (1969).



Cover of the Hawaiian hymnal, containing songs translated by Laiana (Rev. Lyons).


“Lyons visited regularly the branch church he had established at Kawaihae Hikina (Kawaihae 2nd) within the lower portion of the John Young homestead, and his journals would include details of events at Kawaihae during those years” (Chiogioji & Hammatt 1997: 15-6).

"Laiana—Reverend Lyons—did a lot of the translation of English hymns into the Hawaiian language," Billy says. "He was there at ‘Imiola Church in the early 1800s, so Waimea grew around the church. And it was a crossroad, and the ranch headquarters. And the climate in Waimea is a healthy place to live.




Keauhou Church at Kawaihae. The original stone church built in 1843 was at a different site, closer to the beach. Photograph courtesy of Ku‘ulei Nagasawa.


"I think Reverend Lyons was well loved by the Hawaiian community in Waimea. He learned to speak the language fluently. Probably his greatest contribution to Hawaii was the translation of hymns from the English language to the Hawaiian. If you look in the Na Himeni, the Hawaiian hymnal, wherever he is listed it’s as 'Laiana.' He’d write in regular music and then they would use the chords for the Hawaiians and they could play their instruments."

“In 1843, the Kawaihae parish erected ‘a very commodious stone meeting house—which is pretty well furnished with seats….’" Marion writes, citing Lyons' journal. "It probably had a thatched roof."



“Churches were built by the labor of the people," Marion continues. "Any funds necessary were raised by the people selling food from their gardens or gathering pulu to be sold, and so it was with the church at Kawaihae. Lyons wrote about seeing church members with donkeys and mules loaded with food they had raised, taking it to be sold for money towards the erection of the meeting houses. Other members spent weeks in the Hamakua mountains gathering pulu to sell to raise funds to build their church. These same people lived in ‘huts of the rudest construction’ and yet spent all their time raising funds for the churches" (Kelly 1974: 30).

Pulu is the brown, silky, fibrous covering found on parts of the Hawaiian tree fern. It was gathered by Hawaiians under contract and shipped to California, where it was used to fill pillows and mattresses. A Mission Station Report from 1843 notes that “This is a very self denying & soul- & body-trying work. It is a tedious work to pick it & dry it, sack it & take it to the water side to be shipped. The people in some districts have to descend precipitous rocks & bluffs to get their bags of pulu to the shore…” (from Kelly 1974: 31).



The soft fibrous covering atop this young hapu‘u fern is pulu.


Lorenzo Lyons

Lorenzo Lyons, later in life. Portrait hanging in ‘Imiola Church, Waimea.


“To construct a stone meeting house," Marion adds, "the people donated their labor to collect stones, harvested coral from the bay, burnt it for lime, and gathered quantities of sand for the mortar. Logs for beams and braces were often hauled from the distant forests. Sometimes, lumber was purchased from Boston or Honolulu, as were the nails, bolts, and other building materials.”

"Missionaries were vectors of change," Hannah remarks. "That coupled with the capitalism is really the salient point of the aggression with which life changed in the latter 19th century."



These changes include the rise of Western economies such as the Sandalwood trade and whaling. This change to a monetary economy was a driving force behind the division of Hawaiian lands, known as the Mahele.



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