“June 29th. A busy day. – – – -”
In part, the sole entry for that day in Sybil Bingham’s journal (1820) helps to describe what life was like for the families of the early missionaries in Hawaiʻi.
The missionary family’s day began at 4 am (… it continued into the night, with no breaks.)
The mission children were up then, too; in the early morning, the parents taught their children. “We had one tin whale-oil lamp between us, with a single wick…. Soon after five we had breakfast.” (Bishop)
By 9 am, after accomplishing all domestic duties and schooling of the children, the wives would begin the instruction of the Hawaiian children – and taught them for six solid hours, occasionally running into the house to see that all was straight.
“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)
“It has been a busy day – have done fitting work, of gowns, for two or three native women, – attending to the reading of others, – instructing our school children, entertaining Mr. Allen, and his little Peggy who has been with us through the day, writing a little, etc., etc. The days glide smoothly with us inwardly.” (Sybil Bingham)
The missionaries were scattered across the Islands, each home was usually in a thickly inhabited village, so that the missionary and his wife could be close to their work among the people.
By 1850, eighteen mission stations had been established; six on Hawaiʻi, four on Maui, four on Oʻahu, three on Kauai and one on Molokai.
Meeting houses were constructed at the stations, as well as throughout the district. Initially constructed as the traditional Hawaiian thatched structures; they were later made of wood or stone.
Life on the Neighbor Islands
“Visits To Kaawaloa … Our nearest missionary neighbor outside of the town of Kailua were the Ruggleses, who lived at Kaawaloa, twelve miles south. Their dwelling was at Kuapehu, two miles up the mountain, a most verdant and attractive spot.”
“It later became the residence of Rev. John D. Paris. Kaawaloa proper was a village on the north side of Kealakekua Bay.”
“We often visited Kaawaloa, probably twice a year, going by water in a double canoe, generally starting two or three hours before daylight, so as to carry the land breeze a good part of the way.”
“Missionary Visits To Kailua … Some mention should be interesting of memories of visits at Kailua from various missionaries. Such visits were always delightful to us.”
“Yet the ladies and sometimes the children were apt to be landed from their schooners in sad plight, after the hardships of the voyage. I remember two fair young women being brought in in fainting condition in the litters which they had occupied on the deck of the vessel.”
“These were Mrs. Dr. Chapin and Mrs. Ephraim Spaulding. The Spauldings made us a long visit, during which I formed an intense childish attachment to Mr. Spaulding, who was a sweet and devout man. An earlier visit is recalled made by the Bingham family about 1833. Most of their time was spent on the upland above us.”
“Mrs. Bingham was much of an invalid. Father Bingham was a somewhat stately, courteous gentleman, for whom I had much liking and a little fear. The Baldwins repeatedly visited us from Waimea. Dr. Baldwin we all liked. He was personally active, even breaking into a run, something rarely seen in grown men in Kailua.”
“My childish impressions of all these friends was wholly favorable, accompanied by the utmost reverence for their spirituality and devoutness.”
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.
“Often some forty or more of the missionaries besides their wives were present, as well as many of the older children. … Much business was transacted relating to the multifarious work and business of the Mission. New missionaries were to be located, and older ones transferred.” (Bishop)
“That was an annual assembling at the capital of all the missionary families, occupying from four to six weeks. The hospitality of the missionaries residing at Honolulu was severely taxed in entertaining their rural associates.” (Bishop)
“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.”
“Were it not for these meetings, missionaries at extreme parts of the group might never see each other, and in some instances we know that persons connected with the Sandwich Island Mission, have never seen each other’s faces, although for years they have been laboring in the same work.” (The Friend, June 15, 1846)