Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”,) about 184-men and women in twelve Companies served in Hawaiʻi to carry out the mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission (ABCFM) in the Hawaiian Islands.
One of the earliest efforts of the missionaries, who arrived in 1820, was the identification and selection of important communities (generally near ports and aliʻi residences) as “stations” for the regional church and school centers across the Hawaiian Islands.
The missionaries were scattered across the Islands, each home was usually in a thickly inhabited village, so that the missionary and his wife could be close to their work among the people. Meeting houses were constructed at the stations, as well as throughout the district. Initially constructed as the traditional Hawaiian thatched structures; they were later made of wood or stone.
By 1850, eighteen mission stations had been established; six on Hawaiʻi, four on Maui, four on Oʻahu, three on Kauai and one on Molokai.
Very prominent in the old mission life was the annual “General Meeting” where all of the missionary families from across the Islands gathered at Honolulu from four to six weeks.
“The design of their coming together would naturally suggest itself to any reflecting mind. They are all engaged in one work, but are stationed at various and distant points on different portions of the group, hence they feel the necessity of occasionally coming together, reviewing the past, and concerting plans for future operations.”
“Were it not for these meetings, missionaries at extreme parts of the group might never see each other, and in some instances we know that persons connected with the Sandwich Island Mission, have never seen each other’s faces, although for years they have been laboring in the same work.” (The Friend, June 15, 1846)
The primary object of this gathering was to hold a business meeting for hearing reports of the year’s work and of the year’s experiences in more secular matters, and there from to formulate their annual report to the Board in Boston. Annual General Meetings of the mission fixed policy – “the majority ruled”.
The General Meeting was held in an adobe school house (constructed during the period 1833-1835) still standing south of the Kawaiaha‘o Church, on Kawaiaha‘o Street.
An important object of the General Meeting was a social one. The many stations away from Honolulu were more or less isolated – some of them extremely so. Perhaps a dominant influence in the consumption of so much time was the appreciation of the social opportunity, and the unwillingness to bring it unnecessarily to a speedy close. (Dole)
“Often some forty or more of the missionaries besides their wives were present, as well as many of the older children. … Much business was transacted relating to the multifarious work and business of the Mission. New missionaries were to be located, and older ones transferred.” (Bishop)
Mission Houses Annual Meetings
The annual gathering of the Cousins, descendants of the early missionaries, continues. Today, the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society, a nonprofit educational institution and genealogical society, exists to promote an understanding of the social history of nineteenth-century Hawai‘i and its critical role in the formation of modern Hawai‘i.
The annual gathering of the Cousins, descendants of the early missionaries, continues. Hawaiian Mission Houses will be holding its annual meeting on April 25, 2020; however, due to present circumstances it will be held via video conference and not on the Mission Houses grounds, a stone’s throw from the old General Meeting house across Kawaiahaʻo Street.
The Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society, a nonprofit educational institution and genealogical society, exists to promote an understanding of the social history of nineteenth-century Hawai‘i and its critical role in the formation of modern Hawai‘i.
The Society operates the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives, comprised of three historic buildings and a research archives with reading room. The Society also compiles the genealogical records of the American Protestant missionaries in Hawai‘i and promotes the participation of missionary descendants in the Society’s activities.
Through the Site and Archives, the Society collects and preserves the documents, artifacts and other records of the missionaries in Hawai‘i’s history; makes these collections available for research and educational purposes; and interprets the historic site and collections to reflect the social history of nineteenth century Hawai‘i and America. Lots of stuff is online – click HERE.
When we are allowed to reopen, we plan to continue the guided tours of the houses and other parts of the historic site, Tuesday through Saturday, starting on the hour every hour from 11 am with the last tour beginning at 3 pm.