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, John Papa ʻĪʻī writes to Amos and Juliette Cooke at the Chief’s Children’s School in Honolulu, informing them about things in Lahaina, where he and Dr. Judd are traveling with students from the school.
John Papa ʻĪʻī began his service in the royal court when he served as an attendant to Liholiho, Kamehameha II. Īʻī later became a trusted advisor and chief in the court of Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III and continued to serve the sovereigns of Hawaiʻi until his death in 1870. At the time of this letter, he is escorting the boys from the Chiefs’ Children’s School as they travel in Lahaina.
Mr. Amos Starr Cooke was a missionary with the eighth company. He and his wife, Juliette Montague Cooke, ran the Chiefs’ Children’s School. Sarai, the wife of John Papa ‘Ī‘ī at the time of this letter, assisted at the Chiefs’ Children’s School.
In part, the letter notes:
“Wainee, April 10, 1843”
“Greetings to you two, Mr. and Mrs. Cooke,”
“Because we are apart these days, unable to converse one mouth to another, it is necessary to clarify by letter the various aspects of our stay. Because of that, I am informing you about us and the boys of ours.”
“From the first day of our stay here until now, it has been as it is when we all stay together, either there or here. They do not resist, and they are not a burden; our stay here is pleasant.”
“The domicile is peaceful, staying here at the house and going to the ocean to swim last Saturday, horseback riding that evening, and going to church yesterday.”
“The boys went to English-language services twice, all of us in the morning and then just Dr. Judd and the four boys went again.”
“And that night we sailed to the ship, the four boys and the two of us. Dr. Judd took over Sunday School. We saw someone talking with Dr. Judd, possible help for all of us, however it was not clear. …”
“We miss you folks very much and pray to God on your behalf, to help you folks and us as well. Much affection to the two of you and the young girls”.
Here’s a link to the original letter, its transcription, translation and annotation (scroll down):
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).