“Very soon I gathered up 12 or 15 little native girls to come once a day to the house so that as early as possible the business of instruction might be commenced. That was an interesting day to me to lay the foundation of the first school ever assembled”. (Sybil Bingham)
“Mother Bingham … teaching at first in her own thatched house, later in one room of the old frame house still standing on King Street … until the station report of 1829 finally records, in the Missionary Herald of September, 1830:”
“As evidence of some progress among the people, we are happy to mention the erection of a large school house, 128 feet in length by 37 feet in breadth, for the accommodation of our higher schools, or classes, on the monitorial plan.” (The Friend, December 1, 1924)
“That such structures of native thatch were frail and temporary is evidenced by the next mention of this huge school house which was more than twice as long as the present one, its successor.”
“The fine large school house built at our station was blown down last fall and all the benches, doors, etc., were crushed in the ruins. It was altogether too large, 120 feet long – badly lighted, having no glass windows, the seats and desks of the rudest kind imaginable”.
“Mr Bingham has succeeded in inducing the natives to rebuild it, and when I left home, the work had commenced. It will he almost 66 feet by 30. It will be more permanent than before, and as it is for the accommodation of the weekly meetings, it will be a very useful building.” (Judd, October 23, 1833; The Friend)
“When I was little, very little, I mean, we always spoke of that adobe school house as Mrs Bingham’s school house. The Hawaiians and everybody always thought of it and spoke of it as her school house, because she was the only one of the mission mothers who could manage to carry on school work even part of the time.” (The Friend, December 1, 1924)
“I cannot tell you when the old school house was first opened for a Hawaiian school. It must have been when I was very little, perhaps even before I was born. But I do know that Mrs Bingham and occasionally some of the other ladies taught the Hawaiian Mission School there all the year, until it came time for the general meeting of the Mission in May or June.”
“That was the time when the whaleships might be expected from around the Horn, and if there was to be a reinforcement of the mission, it was appropriate to have it arrive when all the members of the mission were gathered at Honolulu.” (Henry Parker, Pastor of Kawaiahaʻo Church; The Friend)
“We have a very good school house built of mud and plastered inside and out with lime made of coral. It is thatched with grass, has a floor, seats and benches in front to write upon… All our scholars assemble in it and after prayers the native teachers take their scholars into the old grass meeting house, leaving us with about 60, which we manage ourselves.” (Juliette Cooke; The Friend)
“(T)his old room speaks so unmistakably of other days, of other modes of building as of other modes of thought, that one is led instinctively to make inquiry into its origins.” (Ethel Damon; The Friend)
“The desks were long benches, running from the center aisle to the side of the long single room of the building. Attached to the back of each seat or bench was the sloping desk or table, at a proper height for the sitter, and under this desk, was a shelf for books, slates, etc.”
“The school furniture was all made of soft white pine and it was not long before it began to show that not even missionary boys with sharp knives could resist the temptation to do a little artistic carving.” (William Richards Castle; The Friend)
The early Mission School House, built about 1833-35 was also the regular meeting place of the annual missionary gathering, known as the “General Meeting.” This building stood south of Kawaiahaʻo Church, at the foot of a lane. (Lyons)
Very prominent in the old mission life was the annual “General Meeting” where all of the missionary families from across the Islands gathered at Honolulu from four to six weeks.
“The design of their coming together would naturally suggest itself to any reflecting mind. They are all engaged in one work, but are stationed at various and distant points on different portions of the group, hence they feel the necessity of occasionally coming together, reviewing the past, and concerting plans for future operations.” (The Friend, June 15, 1846)
The primary object of this gathering was to hold a business meeting for hearing reports of the year’s work and of the year’s experiences in more secular matters, and there from to formulate their annual report to the Board in Boston.
Another important object of the General Meeting was a social one. The many stations away from Honolulu were more or less isolated-some of them extremely so. (Dole)
Later (1852,) the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society (HMCS – members were typically referred to as ‘Cousins’) was formed in the Old Mission School House as a social organization, as well as to lend support for the Micronesian mission getting started at the time. (Forbes)
At its first annual meeting its president spoke of its year’s survival as having been “amid the sneers of a few, the fears of some, and the ardent hopes and warm good wishes of many.” It is pleasant to feel that sneers have been hushed, fears have been banished and that hopes have been largely realized. (Annual Report of HMCS, 1892)
In 1855, Ann Eliza Clark became a bride in the old school house to young Orramel Gulick, the second president of HMCS. “I was only seven or eight, too little to be allowed to take any part; but I can tell you it was the most wonderful wedding I ever saw in all my life.”
“I can remember all of the bride’s party. There was Charles Kittredge and William Gulick, and Caroline and Sarah Clark. The two girls wore little leis of papaia buds in their hair. I had worked hard all day stringing those leis, so that they should be just right, without any broken petals.”
“I was too little to be privileged to adorn the bride with jasmine buds and her veil, but I remember her lei, too, just as well as if I had strung it myself – it was made of jasmine, of the just-opening buds. And that wedding was the most wonderful one I ever saw in all my life.” (Julia Ann Eliza Gulick, sister of the groom; The Friend)
In 1895, the Free Kindergarten and Children’s Aid Association was formed, one of Hawaiʻi’s first eleemosynary organizations. It offered the first teacher training program and free kindergarten to all of Hawaiʻi’s children.
Some of the children were taught in the old Mission School House, “the great single room … on Kawaiahaʻo Street. Cool, spacious, dignified, generous in the proportions of its ample length and breadth, of its lofty ceiling, of its deeply recessed windows….” (The Friend, December 1, 1924)
The teacher training program was eventually moved to what became the University of Hawaiʻi, and the kindergartens were taken over by the Territorial Department of Education. The image shows the Old Mission School House.