The Second Company of American Protestant missionaries to Hawai‘i left on the Thames from New Haven Connecticut and arrived at Honolulu on April 27, 1823. (The Hawaiians called the missionaries mikanele.)
The members of the first reinforcement were critical in the expansion of the Mission, important relationships with the royal family and, through the efforts of missionary William Richards, the development of a Hawaiian constitutional government.
William & Clarissa Richards and Charles & Harriet Stewart (and their dear friend Betsey Stockton) were assigned a hale pili (thatched homes) on Missionary Row.
“While in America my imagination had often portrayed scenes of the future – the humble cot on missionary ground, and all its appurtenances fancy had dressed in fairy colours …”
“… She had twined around her happy dwelling many romantic sweets, and scattered with a lavish hand the beauties of natural scenery. You will ask if the picture exists in real life. I answer no. I find nothing (of) this kind; but I do find what is infinitely more valuable.” (Charissa Richards Journal, May 1, 1823; Leineweber, Mission Houses)
Despite her initial disillusionment, Clarissa looked with pleasure on her new accommodations. “If our cottage has not all that elegant simplicity about it that I had fancied, it is far more comfortable within.”
“Her husband, William Richards was a little more direct, ‘We are living in houses built by the heathen and presented to us.” Within a grouping of six grass houses were “two … put up for our accommodation before our arrival.” (Leineweber, Mission Houses)
Levi Chamberlain (another member of the 2nd Company, noted, “Monday July 28 (1823.) The wind has been excessively strong today, rendering it very uncomfortable to go abroad, and indeed uncomfortable to be at home from the necessity of having the windows & doors of our houses shut to keep out the dust.”
“Mrs. Loomis, & Mrs. Bishop, & Mr. & Mrs. Ely were obliged to leave their thatched houses & come into the wood house to avoid the dust. which came into their houses in such abundance thay they could not remain with comfort.” (Levi Chamberlain Journal)
“The Hawaiian mode of building habitations was, in a measure, ingenious, and when their work was carefully executed, it was adapted to the taste of a dark, rude tribe, subsisting on roots, fish, and fruits, but by no means sufficient to meet their necessities, even in their mild climate.” (Hiram Bingham)
“(The frame of) the building assumes the appearance of a huge, rude bird cage. It is then covered with the leaf of the ki, pandanus, sugarcane, or more commonly (as in the case of the habitations for us) with grass bound on in small bundles, side by side, one tier overlapping another, like shingles.”
“A house thus thatched assumes the appearance of a long hay stack without, and a cage in a hay mow within. The area or ground within, is raised a little with earth, to prevent the influx of water, and spread with grass and mats, answering usually instead of floors, tables, chairs, sofas, and beds.”
“Such was the habitation of the Hawaiian, – the monarch, chief, and landlord, the farmer, fisherman, and cloth-beating widow, – a tent of poles and thatch-a rude attic, of one apartment on the ground-a shelter for the father, mother, larger and smaller children, friends and servants.” (Hiram Bingham)
Most Hawaiian family hale compounds had several special-purpose hale. This collection was called a kauhale. The household complex was the center of the Native Hawaiian family and household production of the necessities of life. Men and women’s activities took place in different areas. (Leineweber)
Missionary Row was Diamond Head side of the present wood frame building at Mission Houses – it fronted along what is now King Street.
The proposed Richard’s hale pili will be reproduction of a hale that Boki ordered built for the new missionaries arriving as the Second Company in 1823. The hale represents a bridge between cultures and represents support given to the missionaries by the host culture, and the cooperative relationship that existed between the chiefs and the missionaries.
Clarissa Richards dimensioned her house with “one room – 22 feet long and 12 feet wide” with a height of “12 feet from the ground to the ridge pole. … (It) had three windows, or rather holes cut through the thatching with close wooden shutters.” The door was “too small to admit a person walking in without stooping.” (Betsey Stockton)
The interior of each of the houses was one large room with no floors, but the “ground spread with mats.” Most of the furniture in each of the houses had arrived with the individual family in the reinforcement.
Clarissa Richards described the sleeping accommodation in her house, “Mats are fastened over and at the sides of our bed, except the front, which has a tappa curtain.” The rest of the furniture in the Richards’ House consisted of “a bed, two chairs, (one without a back,) a dozen trunks and boxes, and a couple of barrels.” Four large square trunks made a table. (Leineweber)
“Mr. R’s writing desk and the beautiful workbox presented by my beloved Cordelia. Over this table hangs a small looking glass – and on the other table (at) the other side of the window are arranged a few choice books, most of them testimonials of affection from absent friends.” (Clarissa Richards; Leineweber)
When William Richards and Charles Stewart left for Lahaina with Keōpūolani, Maria Loomis moved into one of the vacated houses. “Employed today in assisting Mrs Loomis to remove the furniture of her room into the thatched house recently occupied by Mr. Richards.”
In 1831 with Lorrin Andrews, Richards helped to build the high school at Lahainaluna on the slopes above Lahaina. In 1838 the king asked him to become a political adviser; he resigned his position with the mission and spent his time urging the improvement of the political system.
Richards was instrumental in helping to transform Hawai‘i into a modern constitutional state with a bill of rights (1839) and a constitution (1840). In 1842, he went abroad with Timoteo Haʻalilio as a diplomat seeking British, French and US acknowledgment of Hawaiian independence.
William Richards later became the Minister of Public Instruction in 1846 and worked with the legislature to make education a legal mandate.
Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives is in the process of reconstructing the Richards hale pili. The Hale Pili o na Mikanele is a non-traditional hale, as many activities took place here and missionaries did not separate gender activities into different buildings.
The reconstructed hale pili will not use pili grass for the covering; instead a fire-retardant thatch panel will be used (it is situated next to the oldest wood frame house in the Islands.)