One of the earliest names for the church at Kawaiaha‘o was the King’s Chapel. Kawaiahaʻo Church was commissioned by Queen Kaʻahumanu during the reigns of Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III.
The current building replaced previous thatched churches and was designed by Rev. Hiram Bingham. The church was constructed between 1836 and 1842 of 14,000 slabs of coral rock quarried from an offshore reef on the southern coast of Oʻahu. (Kawaiaha‘o)
Perhaps the greatest occasion of all occurred on June 5, 1825 when ten Hawaiians made “a full declaration of their desire to be numbered among the disciples of Christ.”
These were Kalanimōku, Ka‘ahumanu, Kapule, Kapi‘olani, Keali‘iahonui, Kalakua, Namahana (or Opi‘ia,) Kaiu, La‘anui and Richard Kala‘aia‘ulu (who had arrived from the Cornwall School in 1823.)
A probation period of six months was set for these candidates. (Damon)
By the time a newly constructed thatched church was nearly finished, “Sabbath Decr. 4th. This has been a day of uncommon interest; and the transactions of it form an era in the Sandwich Island Church.”
“Eight persons who have for more than six months stood as candidates for admission and who have given as satisfactory evidence of personal piety as the nature of their circumstances will admit, came forward & united themselves to our number …”
“… and entered into a solemn covenant to walk in all the ordinances of the Gospel; and subscribed with their own hands unto the Lord, binding themselves by the most solemn engagements to be his forever.”
“Seven of the candidates received baptism – Karaimoku having been baptized a number of years ago by a French Chaplain, only brought forward his little son, which it was a pleasing sight to witness in the arms of his father to be presented for Christian baptism – He received the name of Joseph Leleohoku.”
“Ka‘ahumanu was baptised by the Christian name of Elizabeth. – Opi‘ia by that of Lydia; Tapule Deborah; Keri‘iahonui – Aaron; La‘ahui – Gideon; Kaiu – Simeon. Kara‘aiaulu – Richard.” (Levi Chamberlain Journal)
The Kawaiaha’o Church register lists the names of those who, beginning on December 4, 1825, took their vows, and were baptized. Their signatures are on the church charter.
These were not just any Hawaiians, they represented the high chiefs at the time. They were the Ali‘i Founders of Kawaiaha‘o.
Kalanimōkū was a trusted and loyal advisor to Kamehameha I, Liholiho (Kamehameha II) and Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III.) “Kalanimōku was prime minister of the king, and the most powerful executive man in the nation.” (Lucy Thurston) (Kalanimōku died February 7, 1827 at Kamakahonu, at Kailua-Kona.)
Kaʻahumanu, the favorite wife of Kamehameha I, was one of the most powerful people in the Islands at the time of the arrival of the missionaries. There were those who were higher by birth, and there were those who were higher by title, but there was probably none who held greater influence. (Ka‘ahumanu died June 5, 1832 at her home, Puka‘oma‘omao in Mānoa.)
Namahana (or Opi‘ia or Pi‘ia) was Ka‘ahumanu’s sister and former wife of Kamehameha I. When the missionaries first arrived in the Islands, they stopped at Kawaiahae. Namahana boarded the Thaddeus and sailed with them to Kailua-Kona. (She died in 1829.)
“Laʻanui was the paramount chief of the Waialua division from 1828 to his death in 1849, as well as the particular ‘lord’ (hakuʻāina) of Kawailoa, the district (ahupuaʻa) corresponding to the Anahulu River valley.” (Kirch) Laʻanui and Namahana (Piʻia) were one of the first couples to be married by Hiram Bingham. (La‘anui died September 12, 1849.)
Kauai Chiefess Kapule was wife of Kauai’s King Kaumualiʻi. Kaumuali‘i died May 26, 1824; she then married Kaʻiu, Kaumualiʻi’s half-brother. When Humehume’s (Kaumualiʻi’s son) men arrived at the Russian Fort to try and reinstate the Kingdom of Kauaʻi, Kapule fought against them. She was the most prominent person of rank to remain on Kauai after the rebellion. (Joesting) (She died on August 26, 1853.)
Ka‘iu was a devout Christian; he joined a delegation to the Marquesas Islands to determine the possibilities for missionary expansion there. (Joesting) (Ka‘iu died on September 11, 1835.)
Keali‘iahonui was a son of Kaumuali‘i; he first married Kapule, but then Ka‘ahumanu took him as husband, but when she became a Christian, she gave up Keali‘iahonui to conform with her new religious beliefs. Keali‘iahonui later married Kekauōnohi. (He died June 23, 1849.)
“Kalākua, (was daughter of Keʻeaumoku, a chief from Hawaiʻi Island and) a widow of Kamehameha (joined Namahana in boarding the Thaddeus at Kawaihae when the missionaries first arrived.) (On board, she) asked (the missionary women) to make a gown for her in fashion like their own.” (Bingham) “(She) was told that it was the Lord’s day, and that they would make it tomorrow.” (April 2, 1820, Thaddeus Journal) (Kalākua died January 16, 1842.)
Kala‘aia‘ulu had been in American and was a student at the Foreign Mission School at Cornwall Connecticut. He came back to the Islands with the Second Company of missionaries, arriving on April 27, 1823. Back in the Islands, he served as an assistant teacher and interpreter.
The image shows a portion of the page of Hiram Bingham’s Baptismal Book (written by Bingham on December 4, 1825,) noting these names, the first members of Kawaiaha‘o Church: Kalanimōku, Ka‘ahumanu, Namahana, La‘anui, Keali‘iahonui, Kapule, Kaiu and Kala‘aia‘ulu (from Kawaiaha‘o Church)