King Kaumuali‘i of Kauai decided to send his son Humehume (George Prince) to America, at least, in part, to receive a formal education. Kaumuali‘i provided Captain Rowan of the Hazard with, reportedly, about $7,000 to $8,000, an amount the king felt sufficient to cover the cost of his son’s passage and the expenses of his education.
George was about six years old when he boarded the Hazard that ultimately sailed into Providence, Rhode Island on June 30, 1805 after a year-and-a-half at sea. Over the next few years he made his way to Worcester, Massachusetts.
Humehume eventually enlisted in the US Navy and was wounded during the War of 1812. After the war ended, he was again thrown upon the world and without any means of obtaining a livelihood, or any one to care for him, ragged, dirty, and in want, he was again enlisted, and employed as a servant to the purser of the Navy Yard in Charlestown.
Humehume was “discovered” and taken under the wing of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). He was sent, along with Henry Ōpūkaha’ia and other Hawaiian youths, to be educated at the Foreign Mission School at Cornwall, Connecticut. (Warne)
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of the American Protestant missionaries set sail on the Thaddeus for Hawai‘i – (two Ordained Preachers, Hiram & Sybil Bingham and Asa and Lucy Thurston; two Teachers, Samuel & Mercy Whitney and Samuel & Mary Ruggles; a Doctor, Thomas & Lucia Holman; a Printer, Elisha & Maria Loomis; and a Farmer, Daniel Chamberlain (and his family.)
With the missionaries were four Hawaiian students from the Foreign Mission School, Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and Humehume (son of Kauaʻi’s King Kaumuali‘i.) They arrived in Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
After the Thaddeus departed, George remained in Kailua-Kona and took Betty Davis, the half-Hawaiian daughter of Isaac Davis, as his wife, or his “rib” as he described her. In a short time they rejoined the missionary party in Honolulu. (Spoehr)
Then, Ruggles and Whitney took Humehume home to Kauai. The following are extracts from the Journal of Mr and Mrs. Ruggles related to the initial days there.
“May 2 (1820). To-day brother Whitney and myself have been called to leave our dear little number at Woahoo, to accompany George P. Tamoree (Humehume) to his native Isle, and to the bosom of his Father.”
“It was trying to us to part from our brethren and sisters, and especially from the dear companions of our bosom, not knowing when an opportunity will offer for us to return, as vessels rarely sail from Atooi (Kauai) to the Windward Isles.”
“But if duly has called us to the separation, we trust that a gracious God will, in his own time, return us again to the embraces of our friends, and permit us to rejoice together in his goodness. We have a fine breeze, which wo expect will take us to Atooi in 24 hours.”
“May 3. Made Atooi at day-light this morning. Like all the other islands, its first appearance was rude and mountainous; but, on approaching nearer, beautiful plains and fruitful vallies present themselves to view, looking almost like the cultivated fields of America, while large groves of cocoanuts and bananas wave their tops, as if to welcome us to their shores.”
“At 11 o’clock came to anchor at Wimai (Waimea) opposite the fort. A canoe came off to us, with several of the king’s men, one of whom could speak English. George had kept himself concealed in the cabin, until we told him that one of his father’s favourite men was on board, and we thought best that his arrival should be made known to him.”
“We then introduced him to the young prince ; he embraced him and kissed him, and then without saying a word, turned round and immediately went on deck, and into his canoe, telling his companions they must go on shore, for their young master had come. A salute of 21 guns was soon fired from the brig, and returned from the fort.”
“Brother Whitney, George, and myself, made preparations and went on shore; on account of the surf, we were obliged to land half a mile west of the king’s house. We were there met by a crowd of natives who would have obstructed our way entirely, had there not been men appointed to clear a passage for us, which they did by beating them off with clubs.”
“When we arrived at the house, Tamoree (Kaumuali‘i) and his Queen were reclining on a sofa; as soon as George entered the door, his father arose, clasped him in his arms, and pressed his nose to his son’s, after the manner of the country; both were unable to speak for some time. The scene was truly affecting, and I know not when I have wept more freely.”
“When they had become a little more, composed, Tamoree spoke, and said his heart was so joyful that he could not talk much till to-morrow; but discovering brother W. and myself, who had tilt then remained almost unnoticed, he inquired who we were. George then introduced us to him as his friends, who had come from America to accompany him home.”
“The old gentleman then embraced us in the same manner as he had done his son, frequently putting his nose to ours, and calling us his hicahe or friends.”
“A supper was soon provided for us, consisting of a couple of hogs, baked whole, after the American manner, several fowls and a dog, cooked after the style of the Island, together with potatoes, tarro, bananas, cocoanuts, and watermelons, brandy, gin, wines, &c.”
“The table was set in good style, and our supper was indeed excellent. A new house was assigned for brother W. and myself during our stay on the Island, a few rods from the king’s, and several men to attend upon us.”
“We shall now retire to rest, after looking up to God with thanks, giving for mercies already received, and humbly praying that a blessing may attend our visit to these heathen. Perhaps it will be the first christian prayer that was ever offered to God on this Island.
“May 4. This morning early, I went to the king’s house, and was met at the door by himself and the queen, who took me by each arm, led me in and seated me between them upon the sofa; and after having several times put their noses, to mine, the king inquired if it was true that I had lived with Hoomehoome (the real name of George) in America …”
“… and eat with him, and slept with him, saying his son had told him many things that he could not fully understand, and that I had been his friend a long time, and would stay here and instruct his people to read. “
“told him it was true, and that the good people of America who loved his son, and loved him and his people, had sent several men and women to instruct his people to read and work as they do in America.”
“When I told him this, he, with his wife, broke out in one voice, ‘miti, miti, nove loah aloha America;’ that is, ‘good, good, very great love for America;’ and then burst into tears. After a short time, he asked me how long I would be willing to stay and teach his island.”
“I told him I wished to spend my life here, and die here. He then embraced me again, and said, ‘kacke vo’u oe, mahkooah oe o-ou wihena o ou mahkooah oe,’ that is, ‘you my son, I you father, my wife you mother.’ I endeavoured to tell him something about God, but the subject was entirely new to him, and he could understand but little.”
“10th. This morning Tamoree sent for me — said his interpreter was going away to be gone several days, and he wished to say a few things to me before he went.”
“I want to know, says he, if you love Hoomehoome, if you love me, if you like to stay here and learn my people, I assured him that I loved his son and him and I wished to spend my life in doing them good, and not only I but Mr. Whitney, and all who came with us wished the same.”
“Hoomehoome tell me so, says he; he then shed tears freely and said, I love Hoomehoome; I love him very much more than my other children. I thought he was dead; I cry many times because I think he was dead.”
“Some Captains tell me he live in America, but I not believe; I say no, he dead, he no come back. But he live, he come again; my heart very glad. I want my son to help me; he speaks English, and can do my business.”
“But he is young; young men are sometimes wild they want advice. I want you stay here and help Hoomehoome, and when vessels come, you and Hoomehoome go on board and trade, so I make you chief.”
“I told him I wished not to be a chief, neither could I do any of his public business, but was willing to advise his son and assist him in every thing consistent with the object for which we came to his Island. He expressed some surprise when I told him I wished not to be a chief, but when I explained to him what we wished to do ; he appeared satisfied and pleased.”
“This afternoon the king sent to me and requested that I would come and read to him in his bible. I read the first chapter of Genesis and explained to him what I read as well as I could.”
“He listened with strict attention, frequently asking pertinent questions, and said I can’t understand it all; I want to know it ; you must learn my language fast, and then tell me all – No white man before, ever read to me and talk like you.” (Ruggles Journal)
Kapule, King Kaumuali‘i’s wife, dictated a letter to Mercy Ruggles’ mother – it was written down verbatim, and copied by herself in a plain legible manner.
“Dear Friend, Atooi, July 28, 1820”
“I am glad your daughter come here, I shall be her mother now, and she be my daughter. I be good to her; give her tappa; give her mat; give her plenty eat.”
“By and by your daughter speak Owhyhee; then she learn me how to read, and write, and sew; and talk of that Great Akooah, which the good people in America love.”
“I begin spell little: read come very hard, like stone. You very good, send your daughter great way to teach the heathen. I am very glad I can write you a short letter, and tell you that I be good to your daughter.”
“I send you my aloha, and tell you I am Your Friend, Charlotte Tapoolee, Queen of Atooi”.