Andrew Johnstone, born in Dundee, Scotland in 1794, came to the US in 1813; he and his wife (Rebecca Worth Johnstone) were members of the Fourth Company of missionaries to the Islands, arriving on June 7, 1831. (Mission Houses)
The missionaries stationed at Honolulu were overwhelmed with working with the native Hawaiian population, preaching, translating the Bible, preparing text books and superintending the Hawaiians in schools. (Alexander)
The missionaries taught their lessons in Hawaiian to the Hawaiians, rather than English. In part, the mission did not want to create a separate caste and portion of the community as English-speaking Hawaiians.
Johnstone, by a previous understanding, devoted part of his time to visiting seamen and distributing Bibles and other books among them. During one of these visits, he met the 12 or 14-year-old son of Captain Carter, commanding the English Cutter ‘William Little’ then in port.
Johnstone offered young Carter some books and invited him to his house; in a day or two he brought with him another lad, the son of a foreign resident, who asked Johnstone to teach him to read.
Johnstone agreed, and very soon one and another boy came asking the same favor, to the point where a regular class was formed. (Alexander)
Meanwhile, “(m)arriages between foreigners and Hawaiians appear of late to be rapidly increasing, and it has been the custom of many parents to send their offspring to the United States to receive an education.” (Polynesian, April 10, 1841)
Some of the parents of half-Hawaiian/half-foreign children wanted their children to learn the English language. There was an evident and growing need for an English language school. (Polynesian, April 10, 1841)
Soon, a subscription was opened to raise funds for the creation of a school house for the instruction of English-speaking children. Generous donations were made by some of the residents, and an orphan-school fund was created. This led to the establishment of the ‘Oʻahu Charity School.’
The missionaries supported Johnstone’s efforts at their June 1832 ‘General Meeting,’ resolving “That the Mission approve of Mr and Mrs Johnstone’s continuing their attention to the instruction of the children of foreigners, making annually such a report to the Mission of the school and their labors, as is required of the rest of our number in our respective spheres of action.”
The King granted a lot for the school in an area of Honolulu known as Mililani. On September 3, 1832, the subscribers met and approved the construction of a schoolhouse. (Polynesian, April 10, 1841)
“It is a neat substantial building of stone, 56 feet long and 26 feet wide, fitted up with benches, and other conveniences, for a school-room”. (Sailor’s Magazine, August 1838) (It stood in a lane running from King to Queen Street near the Waikiki end of the Judiciary building. (Goodale))
“On looking around the room, it appeared well furnished with cards, maps, books, slates, &c, of an excellent character and in sufficient variety.” (Polynesian, November 14, 1840)
“Thirty five children of both sexes having been admitted, the school was opened on the 10th Jan. 1833. … The children were all beginners, and nearly all entirely ignorant of the language of their teachers.” (Polynesian, April 10, 1841)
“Until the establishment of this institution, the education of (the children of Hawaiian mothers and foreign fathers) was almost entirely neglected, but now they appear to be in a fair way to become fitted for stations of usefulness and respectability in life.) (Polynesian, November 14, 1840)
Oʻahu Charity School was the first school in the Islands and the first school on the Pacific where the English language was used (it was one of six English language schools west of the Rockies.) In fact, it received pupils from the US, Alaska and Mexico. (NEA, February 1922)
In 1842, nine boys from the best families of California were sent here to be educated at the Oʻahu Charity School. One of these boys was José Antonio Romualdo Pacheco, Jr. He came to the Islands when he was 7-years old, and was in the Islands for five years. He later became the 12th-Governor of American California.
The School continued to increase in numbers and usefulness; however, there was a falling out and the Johnstones left (January 22, 1844) and formed their own school.
During the years Pacheco attended the School, its good reputation and numbers steadily increased. Students were arriving from the Russian settlement of Kamchatka, while others were coming from California and the other Hawaiian Islands.
The school had dormitories for the students who were either orphans or who had been sent from distant places. The curriculum was comprehensive and substantial, including classes to teach the Hawaiian language, writing, reading, mathematics, sciences, the arts and geography. (Hartmann & Wright)
Later, other schools offered English language education. Oʻahu Charity School experienced financial difficulties, with the rise of various competing private schools, and in 1851 was provided with public assistance.
A special tax was imposed on all foreigners of legal age residing in Honolulu: $3 for every individual without children, and $5 for every individual having children within the school age. This plan met with general approval. (Alexander)
The school’s name then changed to the Town Free School, but its board maintained control over the school until 1859, when it passed into the Superintendent of School’s domain. (NPS)
In 1865, the Board of Education split the school into separate boys and girls (the Town Free School became Mililani Girls School.) In 1874, that school closed and the girls went to a new school called Pohukaina. (Alexander)