“A few months after (the death of ‘Ōpūkaha‘ia) a book appeared in New England – a thin, brown-covered volume of a hundred small pages. It told, in his own words and the words of those who had known him the story of the boy’s life and death.”
“The printer who set the type, struck off the sheets and bound them together did not know it, but that book was to launch a ship and a movement that was to transform Hawai‘i.” (Albertine Loomis’ Introduction in Memoirs of Obookiah)
“Memoirs of Henry Obookiah by Edwin W Dwight is the story of a young Hawaiian man from 19th century Hawai’i who lived for only 26 years, and yet whose brief existence changed the course of a nation and the people of Hawai‘i.” (Lyon)
“For the boy was ‘Ōpūkaha’ia (his American friends spelled and pronounced it Obookiah), and his life and early death and his hope of taking Christianity to his people were the inspiration for the Sandwich Islands Mission. The ship launched was the Thaddeus, which sailed with the pioneer company from Boston in October, 1819.”
“In the long run, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent eighty-four men and one hundred women to Hawaii to preach and teach, to translate and publish, to advise, and counsel – and win the hearts of the Hawaiian people. …”
“Slender and simple as it was, this book shaped the future of Hawai‘i.” (Albertine Loomis’ Introduction in Memoirs of Obookiah)
“How could such a tiny book containing the biography of a young Hawaiian who died at the age of 26, in 1818, so compel a foreign nation to send its young people thousands of miles to a distant land to be committed to missionary service?”
“(A) young Hawaiian in a foreign land he was instrumental in befriending the very agents who became the cornerstone for the modern Protestant missions movement in America.”
“What had started on the other side of the Atlantic, through the persuasive works of William Carey and the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792, had now spread to America through a student-led movement by Samuel Mills Jr. and others, culminating in the formation of the ABCFM in 1810.”
“The brief life of Henry Obookiah was attributed to his being a catalyst for the founding of the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Connecticut. ‘The interest he [Henry Obookiah] aroused led the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, of Boston, to establish a Missionary School at Cornwall, Conn., for ‘‘the education of heathen youth’.’” (Lyon)
“(T)he intended audience of the Memoirs was the Christian community of New England, and that part of the book’s purpose was to stir the hearts of New Englanders towards the cause of missions in order that they would give both financially and materially to the Foreign Mission School.”
“The final chapter of the Memoirs is divided into three sections. The first section establishes Henry Obookiah as the most promising student at the Foreign Mission School and a model of both scholarship and Christian character.”
“The second section is short and is comprised of two letters written by Obookiah himself. The third section is an account of the sickness and death of Obookiah.” (Lyon)
“The Memoirs tell of the life of Henry Obookiah, how his family was killed by tribal warfare in Hawai’i, and how his life was miraculously saved. The Memoirs go on to describe Obookiah departing from Hawai’i at the age of 16 and arriving in New England.”
“The major portion of the Memoirs traces young Obookiah’s progress and chronicles the fact that he studied and boarded with a succession of Congregational ministers in New England. The effect of his studies and the living arrangements with such pious Christians had a most profound effect upon Obookiah, leading to his conversion to the Christian faith.
At the opening of the final chapter of the Memoirs, young Obookiah is a model student at the Foreign Mission School and the hope of the mission to the Hawaiian Islands.” (Lyon)
“If the churches of New England, knowing the purpose of God concerning Obookiah, had chartered a ship and sent it to Owhyhee, on purpose to bring him to Christ, and fit him for heaven; it would have been a cheap purchase of blessedness to man, and glory to God: …”
“… and were there no expedients now to rescue his poor countrymen, for whom he prayed, the end would justify the constant employment of such means, to bring the sons and daughters of Owhyhee, to glory.”
“But besides his redemption, God by his Providence towards him, has illustrated his government of the moral World, and added new evidence to the truth of the declaration, ‘All that the Father hath given unto me shall come.’” (Portion of Eulogy at the Funeral of Obookiah, Rev Lyman Beecher)
‘Ōpūkaha’ia Inspired the American Protestant Mission to Hawai‘i.
Ōpūkaha’ia, inspired by many young men with proven sincerity and religious fervor of the missionary movement, had wanted to spread the word of Christianity back home in Hawaiʻi; his book inspired missionaries to volunteer to carry his message to the Hawaiian Islands.
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) from the northeast United States, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Hawaiian Islands.
There were seven couples sent in the Pioneer Company of missionaries to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity. These included two Ordained Preachers (note: Bingham and Thurston were ordained as missionaries at Goshen, a more complex position than preacher), Hiram Bingham and his wife Sybil and Asa Thurston and his wife Lucy; two Teachers, Mr. Samuel Whitney and his wife Mercy and Samuel Ruggles and his wife Mary; a Doctor, Thomas Holman and his wife Lucia; a Printer, Elisha Loomis and his wife Maria; a Farmer, Daniel Chamberlain, his wife and five children. They landed at Kailua-Kona, April 4, 1820.
Among the other Hawaiian students at the Foreign Mission School were Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and George Prince ‘Humehume’ (son of Kauai’s Kaumuali‘i).
By the time the Pioneer Company arrived, Kamehameha I had died and the centuries-old kapu system had been abolished; through the actions of King Kamehameha II (Liholiho), with encouragement by former Queens Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani (Liholiho’s mother), the Hawaiian people had already dismantled their heiau and had rejected their religious beliefs.
“Memoirs of Henry Obookiah is a truly significant work in relation to both the history of the nation of Hawai‘i, which later was annexed by the United States, and the profound impact that it had upon American evangelical Protestant missions. It is rare that an individual such as Henry Obookiah would be a vessel chosen to affect two nations so profoundly.” (Lyon)
On August 15, 1993, ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s remains were returned to Hawai‘i from Cornwall and laid in a vault facing the ocean at Kahikolu Church, overlooking Kealakekua Bay.
Commemoration of Bicentennial of ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s Death – February 17, 1818 – February 17, 2018 – The following are some of the commemoration events planned in the Islands and on the continent.
- 10 am (HST), February 17, 2018 State-wide bell ringing;
- 10 am, Feb 17, Haili Church, Kawaiaha’o Church & Hawaiian Mission Houses;
- 10 am, Feb 17, Mokuaikaua Church, Memorial Dedication plaque to Henry Obookiah;
- 10:15 am, Feb 17, Mokuaikaua Church, Henry ‘Ōpūkaha’ia Memorial Concert;
- 3 pm (Eastern) Feb 17, Remembrance at the original ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s gravesite at Cornwall, CT;
- 9:30 am, February 18, 2018, commemoration services at Kahikolu Church;
- 9 am & 11 am, Feb 18, Mokuaikaua Church Services, Guest Speaker to discuss Life of ‘Ōpūkaha’ia;
- 10 am, Feb 18, service at Henry ‘Ōpūkaha’ia Memorial Chapel/Hokuloa Church, Punalu‘u;
- 10 am (Eastern), February 18, 2018 Services at UCC Cornwall;
- 6 pm, February 17, 18, 24, 25 at Kalihi Union Church, ‘Glory In His Soul’, a musical drama on life of ʻŌpūkahaʻia.