Hopu, “was born about the year 1795, in Owhyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands. After my mother had left me, she went and told one of my sisters to take my life away … (however, his) aunt took a blanket with her … (took him in her arms and took him) into her own brother’s house.” (Hopu)
“Then her brother said unto his wife, this child shall be our son, for his name shall be called Nauhopoouah Hopoo, and we will be his feeders. So they nourished (him)”. He lived with his uncle until he was four; then returned to his parents until he was eight (later living with his brother.)
“Among the American traders who frequently visit the Sandwich Islands, was Captain Brintnal, of New-Haven, (Conn.) who in 1807, touched and tarried some time at Owhyhee, one of these Islands.” That year, Hopu and Henry ʻŌpūkahaʻia sailed with Captain Brintnall on the ‘Triumph.’
The Triumph set sail for the Pacific Coast of North America to pick up sealers, one of whom, Russell Hubbard, was a Yale student from Connecticut. Six months later the ship returned to Hawaiʻi, then went on to China, and finally New York. During the long voyage Hubbard tutored Henry and Hopu in English, and taught them about the Bible. (Cook)
The ship returned to America by the way of China, and arrived at New-Haven early in the fall of 1809. On their arrival on the continent, Hopu was given an additional name Thomas.
“After Hopoo had lived for a season in New-Haven, his disposition seemed inclined rove than to study. He rejected an invitation of Obookiah to go with him to Andover and be taught.” (ABCFM) However, he learned to write and spell some basic words. He chose the life of a sailor – he served on an American ship in the War of 1812.
After returning from his last voyage, he hired himself out in several families as a servant or coachman. For about nine months, Hopu settled down with a Grangor family at Whitestown, NY. He lived with various families, until September 1815, when he returned to New-Haven, joined ʻŌpūkahaʻia and resumed his studies, including religious instruction. (Narrative of Five Youth, 1816)
“In this place I become acquainted with many students belonging to the College. By these pious students I was told more about God than what I had heard before … I could understand or speak, but very little of the English language. Friend Thomas (Hopu) went to school to one of the students in the College before I thought of going to school.” (ʻŌpūkahaʻia)
Hopu and ʻŌpūkahaʻia stayed together in school at Litchfield Farms from the late-1816 until April 1817, when they started their training at the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall. Of the four Hawaiian boys who came with the pioneer party, Hopu was best prepared to serve, for he had proved a good scholar, even in theology. (Kelley)
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries set sail on the Thaddeus for the Islands. 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.
With the missionaries were four Hawaiian students from the Foreign Mission School, Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and Prince Humehume (son of Kauaʻi’s King Kaumuali‘i.) (Unfortunately, ʻŌpūkahaʻia died suddenly of typhus fever in 1818 and did not fulfill his dream of returning to the islands to preach the gospel.)
They reached Hawaii on March 30, 1820. When the boat which they had sent to a landing on the Kohala coast, returned to the vessel, these were the tidings given to the missionaries: “Kamehameha is dead; his son Liholiho is king. The tabus are at an end; the idols are burned; the temples are destroyed. There has been war. Now there is peace.” (HEA) They later landed in Kailua-Kona, April 4, 1820.
Hopu and Kanui remained with the Thurstons and Holmans at Kailua to serve as interpreters and aides to the king. Hopu was reunited with his father, who moved his family to Kailua, where Hopu cared for him teaching him to know Jesus and praying with him faithfully. He also served the king’s household and aided Thurston by translating his teachings and preaching. (Kelley)
Later at Lāhainā, “Hopu, in visiting the back part of Maui with the king, was particularly attracted by one of the daughters of the land. When he returned to Honolulu, he brought to our cottage the girl of eighteen, wishing to commit her to me for special training.” (Thurston)
Hopu declared “since the Almighty has excited in my heart such yearnings for her, I think it is his will that I marry her.” Lucy Thurston named her Delia.
“Their marriage (August 11, 1822) was publicly solemnized in the church. The king and principal chiefs were there. (It was the first Christian marriage in the Islands.)”
“Hopu appeared as usual in his gentlemanly black suit. By his side stood Delia, dressed in a … complete and fashionable dress in white, was added a trimmed straw bonnet. It was the first native woman’s head that had been thus crowned.” (Thurston)
After helping Bingham in Honolulu for some time, Hopu settled in Kailua where he kept busy teaching, holding Sabbath meetings for the governor, assisting in translating the Bible, and caring for his father (who died after four years at the age of 80. His funeral service was the first missionary one to be held in Hawaiʻi.) (Kelley)
Throughout those early missionary years in Hawaiʻi, Hopu appears here and there preforming his duties; forcibly delivering a sermon, spreading cheer, comforting and aiding to those suffering.
Chester Lyman, visiting the islands in 1846 found Hopu working in a store in Honolulu. He reports he was over 50 and an interesting man. He has been a consistent and useful man since he returned and is now one of the deacons of the Kailua Church where he resides. (Kelley) The image shows Thomas Hopu.