Reverend Richard and Clarissa Chapman Armstrong and Reverend William and Mary Ann McKinney Alexander were members of the Fifth Company of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM.)
They sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts, November 26, 1831, whaleship ‘Averick,’ Captain Swain, and arrived at Honolulu, May 17, 1832, a voyage of 173 days.
“Honolulu, Friday, May 18, 1832.-Yesterday morning at day-break I found the island, Oahu, but a few miles distant. With a favorable wind, we rounded Diamond Head, and cast anchor in the outer harbor, before eight o’clock AM. ‘The town looked like a city of hay-stacks; only grass houses were to be seen; I believe there were one or two frame houses’.
“Soon we were surrounded by natives in their canoes, bringing milk and eggs for sale, some of them altogether naked, except the malo.” (Alexander Diary)
“Saturday, May 19.-We were introduced to the young king to-day (not yet king, for there was a regent). He received us very politely, welcomed us to the Hawaiian shores, acknowledged the great good the nation had received from missionary labors, and expressed great pleasure at the increase of their numbers.”
“A short address made to him in the name of the newly-arrived missionaries was interpreted to him by Brother Bingham. Then accompanied by the king and his chiefs we’ walked to the house of Kaahumanu. … She received us with tears of joy. She was very ill and unable to speak much; we therefore soon withdrew.” (Alexander Diary)
Shortly after arrival, Clarissa wrote about a subject most suspect was not a part of the missionary lifestyle … On October 31, 1832, she noted, “Capt Brayton has given me a little beer cask – it holds 6 quarts – Nothing could have been more acceptable.”
“I wanted to ask you for one, but did not like to. O how kind providence has been & is to us, in supplying our wants. The board have sent out hops – & I have some beer now a working. I should like to give you a drink.”
Reverend Alexander visited the Marquesas and the Society Islands with Messrs. Whitney and Tinker in 1832 investigating it as the possible site for a missionary station.
The Alexanders, Armstrongs and Parkers made an attempt to establish a station in the Marquesas, July 2, 1833 – May 12, 1834; that mission was surrendered to the London Missionary Society. (The arrangement had been made that the equator should be the dividing line between the English and American missions.) They returned to Hawai‘i.
After a few mission assignments in the Islands Armstrong was assigned on Maui and built a house, there in in 1836 (the Armstrongs lived there for three years. (The Armstrongs later moved to O‘ahu where he replaced Hiram Bingham as the pastor of Kawaiahaʻo Church in 1840.)
The Armstrong house has walls of field stones 20 inches thick; the coral and sand used in the construction were burned to make lime and hauled to the site from the ocean by ox car. It has ohia rafters. The two-story, stone residence is termed “the oldest building in Wailuku.”
Alexander was stationed at Waiʻoli, 1834-1843, and at Lahainaluna from 1843 to 1856. For reasons of health, 1856, by advice of physicians, Alexander resigned his post at Lahainaluna, after having there labored thirteen years, and took charge for a few months of the ranch of Ulapalakua, as an excellent place to recruit his health.
In 1849, Alexander was granted by the mission one year of respite from school teaching. He spent this year in surveying land for the Hawaiian Government in Kamaole, on East Maui. Here, at an elevation of twenty-five hundred feet above the sea, he lived in a tent, and was engaged in cutting trails through the forest to divide the country into sections for sale to the Hawaiians.
He preached regularly on Sundays in this district. He also did surveying during the vacations of the school, and thereby both recruited his health and obtained the means to educate his children. In 1851 he stopped receiving financial support from the ABCFM, thereafter continuing his work with local recompense.
He worked at Lahainaluna on Saturdays for money to educate his nine children (five sons and four daughters) and when his health failed he did surveying to be out of doors. He accepted a call from the church at Wailuku where he preached first on December 25, 1856 and was installed in January, 1857.
The Alexanders visited the United States seeking funds and a new president (Cyrus Mills) for O‘ahu College (Punahou School), 1858-1860. In 1863 Mr. Alexander founded the Theological School at Wailuku.
He resigned his pastorate in 1869 to give more time to the Theological School, continuing to preach, however, and assisting in the pastoral work of the church. (HMCS) In 1874 he was obliged, by failing health, to relinquish the Theological School, and it was removed to Honolulu.
The quaint old Alexander mansion “became a sort of ideal home, beautiful with many varieties of tropical fruit trees, with palms and ornamental shrubbery and flowering vines, delightful as the center of a large circle of children, dwelling mostly on the same island, and as a place of unbounded hospitality, and attractive by the magnetic kindness, the sunny humor, and the beauty and power of the piety there displayed.”
“In this home the desire long previously expressed by Mr. Alexander, for a reunion of his family, was at length fulfilled; and in 1873 a gathering was held of all his family, the first and the only complete gathering of them ever held, then twenty-nine in number, counting parents, children and grandchildren, amongst whom there had not yet been a single death.” (Alexander)
A long cherished plan of visiting his son Samuel, in California, led Mr. Alexander and his wife to leave Wailuku on the 26th of April, 1884. Mr. Alexander took walks every day, sometimes going a distance of two miles, and was in better health and spirits than for several years previous, until his last sickness suddenly occurred.
“Wednesday, August 13.-The long conflict is over. Father lies by me at rest, not father though, he is above with a crown of victory. Oh, what a terrible long valley of the shadow of death he had to pass through to victory!”
“He kept his consciousness to the last, but his power of speech failed. … He breathed very peacefully at the last, the breath growing fainter and fainter, until we hardly knew when he ceased to breathe.” (Samuel Alexander)
The Armstrong house was the home of missionaries William and Mary Alexander between 1856 and 1884. Sugar planter HP Baldwin married Emily Whitney Alexander in the home in 1879.
After the death of Mr. Alexander the building passed into the hands of Mr. Bailey until 1905, when the property came into the possession of Mrs. HP Baldwin. It had been her girlhood home.
Her children bought it and presented it to her. The house was restored and fitted up to be the parsonage home of the Hawaiian Board’s missionary for central Maui. Rev. and Mrs. RB Dodge lived there.
In 1919, Mrs. Baldwin deeded this property to the Maui Aid Association with the understanding that it should continue to be used as a parsonage for the Board’s missionary. (Gossin, The Friend, December 1, 1922)
The building is currently occupied by the Maui Architectural Group, but is not open to the public. It is located on Main Street near the intersection with High. (Lots of information here is from HMCS, Alexander, Bishop and The Friend, December 1, 1922.)