Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives (Mission Houses) collaborated with Awaiaulu Foundation to digitize, transcribe, translate and annotate over 200-letters written by 33-Chiefs.
The letters, written between 1823 and 1887, are assembled from three different collections: the ABCFM Collection held by Harvard’s Houghton Library, the HEA Collection of the Hawaii Conference-United Church of Christ and the Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society.
These letters provide insight into what the Ali‘i (Chiefs) were doing and thinking at the time, as well as demonstrate the close working relationship and collaboration between the aliʻi and the missionaries.
In this letter, Kapiʻolani writes to Reverend Samuel Ruggles and his wife about progress at Kuapehu, Hawaiʻi Island, and her wish for them to visit or write.
The letter is addressed to Keiki ma. Keiki was an affectionate nickname given by the Hawaiians to Rev. Samuel Ruggles. “Keiki mā” refers to Samuel Ruggles and company, in this case, probably his wife, Nancy Wells Ruggles.
In 1822, Naihe and Kapiʻolani (husband and wife) were among the first chiefs to welcome instruction and accept Christianity. Kapiʻolani was the daughter of Keawemauhili, who was the high chief of the district of Hilo (the uncle of Kiwalaʻo.)
“Ka‘awaloa, Kuapehu, January 17, 1840”
“Greetings to the two of you, Reverend and Mrs. Ruggles,”
“Here is a message to you two to tell of the events of these years. The love of the Lord has been great in these years, converting many persons to his church through his love for us.”
“Here too, a church was one of our endeavors. Parts of it are complete and others are not. The intention is, however, to complete it, for our teacher might not find physical comfort in a house that is bad, or might get sick.”
“Listen, all of you, generate some compassion for us, those in need, for the minds of those in the land of ignorance have not matured to know righteousness, but the Lord sees the fruition of some, and others truly strive, so if the Lord sees it, that is good.”
“There is also this: Namakelua is holding school here at Kuapehu. Also, all the chiefs have died; Kinau passed away, Lililiha died, Hoapili Kane has died, Keano is dead.”
“I beseech you two to pray diligently for us so we may all live together in a good place. Thus I abide, yearning to meet together in a good place.”
“Listen, both of you, you should generate love in the hearts of the brethren with my message. An expression of affection is my message to all of the brethren in America.”
“Here is another message for you two, that I have no bundle to send to the two of you, it remains here in Kuapehu. On Sunday, I will go down and come back when that is done.”
“All of you should know that Mr. Forbes and his wife are diligent in the work of the Lord, tender sometimes and forceful at other times.”
“We also have new teachers, Mr. Ives and others, so the Lord has not deserted us here.”
“Also, we have plans we are working on for our livelihood. We have planted sugar cane and the mill is processing, we planted cotton, but it is not certain. We are planting coffee again. The grape vines did not bear much fruit due to improper cultivation.”
“You should write to me again about other good crops to plant so things flourish again here in Kuapehu.”
“Why are you two not writing to me?”
“You should both write. Hale sends regards, Kamuela sends regards, Naihe sends regards, our mother/aunt sends regards.”
“Say, you should sail here again and then return there. There are great efforts that our teacher is striving to do.
“Assisting in the new garden for the school teachers, that is up to the women, and as for the men, there is firewood for the church and other needs within the works of the Lord.”
“Kapiolani Love to all the people”
Here’s a link to the original letter, its transcription, translation and annotation:
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US, led by Hiram Bingham, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) They arrived in the Islands and anchored at Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
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 American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) in the Hawaiian Islands.
One of the earliest efforts of the missionaries, who arrived in 1820, was the identification and selection of important communities (generally near ports and aliʻi residences) as “stations” for the regional church and school centers across the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaiian Mission Houses’ Strategic Plan themes note that the collaboration between Native Hawaiians and American Protestant missionaries resulted in the
• 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 (with harmony and choral singing).