On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US set sail on the Thaddeus for the Hawaiian Islands. There were seven American couples sent by the ABCFM to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity in this first company.
“(A)s the mission period progressed (the) missionaries developed a close association with ali‘i …The relationships constituted around gift giving and exchange created a necessary favorable link between American missionaries and ali‘i in this period.” (Thigpen)
The missionaries had to adapt to a new diet; for the most part, the missionaries had a very Hawaiian diet. Fish (i‘a), taro (kalo), poi, pigs (pua‘a), chickens (moa), bananas (mai‘a), sweet potatoes (‘uala) were regular parts of the missionary diet. (HMCS)
“Their manner of eating is something singular. They spread a mat on the floor, then, seat themselves on it in a circle & eat with their fingers. They have three kinds of poe, which is made of tarrow.”
“One is about as thick as starch which we use on muslin, and something resembles it. This is eaten with one finger. They get their finger in and turn it round to make it stick to it, then put it in their mouth and suck it off. When one has dipped in his fingers, the dish is passed to the next & so goes round.”
“The second kind which is thinner, is eaten in the same manner except with two fingers. The third which is still thinner with three. With this they eat fish, hogs and dogs.”(Mercy Whitney Journal, April 4, 1820)
“For their breakfast, one of the natives killed a hog by tying a rope around its neck and choking it. They dug a hole in the ground sufficiently large to put in the hog & when they had singed off the hair over a slow fire & took out the intestines, they filled the body with hot stones, putting it into the hole with hot stones both beneath & over it & then covering it with dirt.”
“In almost an hour they took it out & put it on a board to carve it. They had no knife to dress it with except a jackknife which one of the men had in his pocket. One of the natives took a dirty handkerchief off his neck put in some sugar-cane & squeezed it into a little chocolate which they had for drank. This they drank out of a gourd shell.” (Mercy Partridge Whitney Journal, April 8, 1820)
In addition, the missionary diet included: melons, squashes, cabbages, cucumbers, green corn, beans, fresh pork, goat, goat’s milk, bread, rice, mountain apples, bananas, pineapples, butter, wine, plus spices such as cinnamon and allspice, beef, and fish.
The missionaries also ate New England foods shipped to them: dried apple rings, sea biscuits, salted beef and pork, and things made from wheat flour. (Smola)
Some food came from the missionaries buying food with money, from trading or bartering items like cloth and books, and from agricultural land given to the mission.
The items of New England food that they got came by supply shipments from the ABCFM usually brought out in whale ships or merchant ships that were already headed to Hawai‘i or were brought here to be planted once the missionaries landed. (HMCS)
Much of the food came in the form of gifts from the ali‘i. According to the account books, these gifts of food from the ali‘i occurred virtually daily for over 10 years. (HMCS) They also received land in order to grow food.
“On Monday the 2d, Krimakoo (Kalanimōku) and the king’s mother granted to the brethren three small pieces of land cultivated with taro, potatoes, bananas, melons, &c. and containing nineteen bread-fruit trees, from which they may derive no small portion of the fruit and vegetables needed by the family.”
“They proposed also to build, without delay, a thatched dwelling house for each of the two brethren, and a house for public worship.”
“It is interesting and worthy of our grateful remembrance, that these overtures were made known to the brethren at the time, when the Christian world were presenting their united supplications before the throne of grace for the blessing of heaven upon the efforts of missionaries.”
“Several brethren went to see the land, in the back part of Witeete (Waikiki), appropriated, some time since, by Krimakoo, to the use of the mission.”
“It contains two or three acres of upland on the side of the hill called Uala-kaa [Rolling potato] and an acre and half of low taro ground in a well watered valley of 600 acres.”
“On one side of this secluded valley they visited an old heiaoo (heiau) or place of worship in Tamahamaha’s time, consisting now simply of a stone wall from three to six feet thick, and from six to twelve feet high, enclosing a small area about twenty feet square.”
“They walked over these deserted grass grown ruins … After giving some directions to the tenants of our land, the brethren ascended, with some difficulty, a mountain, at the head of the valley, supposed to be about 3000 feet high, where they enjoyed an interesting and extensive prospect of the valley …”
“… the village and harbor of Honorooroo, the bay and district of Witeete, the salt lake at Moonarua, Pearl River or WaiEva, with its bays and plantations, the Alpine pass, called the pare (pali), between Honorooroo and Koolou, and the valley and ocean beyond …”
“… the craters of Diamond and Punchbowl Hills, many deep ravines, sharp ridges, and lofty mountains in the island of Woahoo, together with the islands of Ranai, Morokai, Mowee, and, as they believed, the more majestic heights of Maunakea, and Mounaroo on Owhyhee, at the distance of 130, or 140 miles.”
“Their assent to this commanding point occupied three hours, and was attended with some difficulty from the ruggedness of the way, the steep ascent of the rocks in some places, and the denseness of the shrubbery and vegetation in others.” (Journal of the Mission, June 4, 1823)
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.
Collaboration between native Hawaiians and the American Protestant missionaries resulted in, among other things, the introduction of Christianity; the creation of the Hawaiian written language and widespread literacy; the promulgation of the concept of constitutional government; making Western medicine available; and the evolution of a new and distinctive musical tradition (with harmony and choral singing.)
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