“Ever since missionaries arrived (1820,) Kapiʻolani has constantly been situated near them, and for nearly two years has listened to the words of eternal life in her own language.” (Bingham)
In 1822, Naihe and Kapiʻolani (husband and wife) were among the first chiefs to welcome instruction and accept Christianity. Kapiʻolani was the daughter of Keawemauhili, who was the high chief of the district of Hilo (the uncle of Kiwalaʻo.) (Westervelt)
Naihe (the spears) was said to be the national orator or best speaker on government affairs among the chiefs. Kapiʻolani (the-bending-arch-of-heaven) was very intelligent, quick-witted, and fearless.
They were both so influential that they were chosen by Kamehameha, as members of his council of chiefs and were retained by his son Liholiho (later, Kamehameha II.) (Westervelt)
“Kapiʻolani was one or the most distinguished of the female chiefs of the Islands. She was the wife of Naihe, a high chief on the island of Hawaii, who was an early convert, and became one of the most influential Christian chiefs, and one of the ablest counsellors of the missionaries.”
“The conversion of Kapiʻolani, and her elevation in character, is perhaps one of the most delightful instances of the results of missionary labour.” (Lucy Thurston)
“She told the missionaries she had come to strengthen their hearts and help them in their work. They rejoiced in the salutary influence which she exerted in favor of education and reform, an influence felt at once and happily continued when she had returned home.” (Bingham)
In February 1824, Chiefs Kapiʻolani and Naihe helped build a church at Kaʻawaloa, the first church in South Kona, near the site of Captain Cook’s demise. They offered this thatched church and parsonage to the Reverend James Ely and his family.
The Ely family accepted the call and arrived in April 1824. Fourteen years later, the Kaʻawaloa Church was moved to Kepulu in order to increase its accessibility. In 1839, missionary Cochran Forbes, with the aid of Kapiʻolani, began constructing a church of stone, it was called Kealakekua Church.
“Kapiʻolani was early converted to the truth, – applied herself to study, – readily adopted the manners and usages of civilized life, – and soon became distinguished for devoted piety, for intelligence, and for dignity of manners.”
“She took a bold stand against the vices and superstitions of her people, and exerted a decided influence in favour of Christianity.” (Thurston)
She won the cause of Christianity by openly defying the priests of the fire goddess Pele in 1825. In spite of their threats of vengeance she ascended the volcano Mauna-Loa, then clambered down to the great lake of fire – Kilauea – the home of the goddess, and flung into the boiling lava the consecrated ohelo berries which it was sacrilege for a woman to handle. (Tennyson)
Missionary son Sereno Bishop recalls visiting Kapiʻolani’s home at Kaʻawaloa as a boy, noting “I was born there at the house of Mr. and Mrs Ely, only a few rods from the rock where Captain Cook was slain, and where his monument now stands.”
“We often visited Kaʻawaloa, probably twice a year, going by water in a double canoe, generally starting two or three hours before daylight, so as to carry the land breeze a good part of the way.”
“We would run up the little bay, and step ashore upon Cook’s rock, whence it was only a few rods to the nice premises of the good Princess Kapiʻolani. These were prettily thatched cottages on a platform of white masonry which was studded with black pebbles.”
“Kapiʻolani’s quarters were neatly furnished within. She was generally there to receive us with the most cordial hospitality.” (Bishop)
Later, daughter of missionaries, Lucy Thurston wrote, “March 3, 1839 … One morning the three families (Thurston, Andrews and Forbes) started at 6 o’clock to visit the residence of Kapiʻolani, about two miles distant.”
“At six o’clock we arrived at her new stone house. … The rooms were neatly furnished in American style. The floors were carpeted with fine mats, and the windows curtained with light calico. A large thatched house stood in the same yard, the one she formerly occupied, which is now converted into a dining-room.”
“A long table was spread for our refreshment … For the accommodation of her visiters during the night, she had three rooms, furnished with two beds, and three settees.” (Thurston)
So rapid was her improvement in knowledge and character, that the missionaries early styled her the ‘admirable Kapiʻolani,’ and have often remarked, that one could scarcely avoid the belief that she was educated among an enlightened people.”
“In 1826, it was said of her, ‘Kapiʻolani is indeed a mother in Israel,’ and this character she has well sustained for sixteen years.”
“She died on the 5th of May, 1841. In communicating the intelligence, Mr. Forbes writes: ‘The nation has lost one of its brightest ornaments.’”
“’She was confessedly the most decided Christian, the most civilized in her manners, and the most thoroughly read in her Bible, of all the chiefs this nation ever had, and her equal in those respects is not left in the nation. Her last end was one of peace, and gave decided evidence that your missionaries have not laboured in vain.” (Thurston)