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 Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.)
The Prudential Committee of the ABCFM in giving instructions to the pioneers of 1819 said: “Your mission is a mission of mercy, and your work is to be wholly a labor of love. …”
“Your views are not to be limited to a low, narrow scale, but you are to open your hearts wide, and set your marks high. You are to aim at nothing short of covering these islands with fruitful fields, and pleasant dwellings and schools and churches, and of Christian civilization.” (The Friend)
“Mr. Evarts, the treasurer, having engaged a passage for the mission on board the brig Thaddeus, Captain Blanchard, for $2,500, exclusive of provisions for a long voyage, she was made ready for sea, by the 23d of October.”
“In the forenoon of that day, Mr. Thurston gave the parting address of the mission to its friends, at Park St. Church, that monthly concert temple dear to many a missionary heart. They repaired together to the wharf, where they united in a parting hymn, pledging a close and permanent union though far and long separated.”
“A fervent and appropriate prayer was offered by the Secretary of the Board, and the mission was affectionately commended to the grace of God, and immediately conveyed to the brig by a barge furnished for the purpose by a U. S. Naval officer, they being still accompanied by the Secretary and Treasurer and a few other friends.”
“When these had given the parting hand and benediction, they descended into the boat and began to move off. The tender and benignant look of Dr. Worcester, as the boat left our vessel, turning his eyes upon the little band looking over the rail, as if he would say, my love be ever with you, will not soon be forgotten.”
“When they had reached the wharf, the brig weighed anchor and set sail, and as we dropped down the stream, they waved their handkerchiefs, till out of sight. Though leaving my friends, home and country, as I supposed for ever, and trying as was the parting scene, I regarded that day as one of the happiest of my life.”
“But loosing from our beloved country, and not expecting ever to tread its shores or look upon its like again, with what intense interest did we gaze upon its fading landscapes, its receding hills and mountains, till the objects successively disappeared In the distance, or sank below the horizon.” (Hiram Bingham)
There were seven couples sent to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity. These included two Ordained Preachers, 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.
Along with them were four Hawaiian youths who had been students at the Foreign Mission School at Cornwall Connecticut, Thomas Hopu (his friend on board the ship when he first left the Islands,) William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and Prince Humehume (son of Kauaiʻi’s King Kaumuali‘i and also known as Prince George Kaumuali‘i.)
After 164-days at sea, on April 4, 1820, the Thaddeus arrived and anchored at Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaiʻi. Hawai‘i’s “Plymouth Rock” is about where the Kailua pier is today.
Collaboration between native Hawaiians and the American Protestant missionaries resulted in, among other things:
• The introduction of Christianity;
• The development of a written Hawaiian language and establishment of schools that resulted in widespread literacy;
• The promulgation of the concept of constitutional government;
• The combination of Hawaiian with Western medicine; and
• The evolution of a new and distinctive musical tradition.
Over the course of a little over 40-years (1820-1863 – the “Missionary Period”,) about 180-men and women in twelve Companies served in Hawaiʻi to carry out the mission of the ABCFM in the Hawaiian Islands. (The image shows the departure of the Second Company.)