“The name ‘Cousins’ Society’ was given by Mr. Orramel Gulick, who said that as the fathers and mothers spoke constantly of each other as ‘brother’ and ‘sister,’ their children were cousins – hence ‘Cousins’ Society’ became the common name.”
“The children of missionaries on these islands have formed an association among themselves which they call the ‘Cousin’s Society.’” (Anderson)
“The society was organized on June 5, 1852, by the young people of Honolulu. These young folk had assembled informally two weeks before, on May 22, at the old adobe school house – still in Kawaiaha‘o Lane”. (Andrews, Mid-Pacific Magazine, December 1913)
It Started as a Social Society
In 1852, the initial Constitution of the organization noted in its preamble, “We the children of the American Protestant Mission to the Hawaiian Islands, desiring to strengthen the bond of union that naturally exists among us, and to cultivate the missionary spirit among ourselves … do hereby organize ourselves into a Social Missionary Society …”
That initial constitution noted that, “The design of this Society is to cherish and promote union among its members, to cultivate in them an active missionary spirit; to stir them up to good works, and more especially to assist in the support of those children of Missionaries who may go forth from these islands on Christian Missions.”
“At the time our Society was organized June 5, 1852, there were no places of entertainment, for social enjoyments or organized mission work, or any society for the missionary children, no uplifting influences at their disposal. The family rules were strict.”
“Native prayer meetings at five o’clock in the morning and long Sunday services, mostly in Hawaiian, were the only change the poor children had, and the formation of the HMCS was a beautiful and wise undertaking. It has done its work faithfully and well.” (Cooke, 1900)
“Meetings were appointed for ‘the last Saturday evening of each month,’ which time was soon changed to ‘the Saturday evening of each month nearest the full moon.’”
“These meetings were opened by prayer and singing, and closed with the missionary hymn, ‘Waft, waft ye winds His story,’ and a collection for their missionary was taken up. Otherwise the meetings were social, literary and musical.”
“The first entertainment consisted of essays … The social attractions were perhaps even greater than the literary, as the ‘veranda brigade,’ men and women now in middle life, then belonging to the younger set, can aver. Lifelong friendships were made, and at least one marriage, that of OH Gulick and Annie Clark occurred at a ‘cousins’ meeting’ in that same adobe schoolhouse …”
“At the time of the organization of this society there were perhaps not more than twenty white families outside the mission circle. As the monthly ‘cousins’ meeting’ was about the only social function in Honolulu society, other people of refinement were very glad to receive invitations to these meetings.”
“Many of them became annual members, and some secured a life membership and became, and are still, as devoted adopted cousins, as loyal as are those born into the mission.” (Andrews, Mid-Pacific Magazine)
HMCS Transitioned into an Educational Institution
“But the years went by. The original members were scattered. A new generation arose. Society’s demands were many and moonlit Saturday nights were wanted for other meetings. … The society seemed to have outgrown the purpose for which it had been organized, and there was talk of disbanding. (Andrews, Mid-Pacific Magazine, December 1913)
In the 1900 annual meeting of the HMCS, retiring President, AF (Amos Francis Cooke, known as A Frank) Cooke gave his ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ address. In it, he challenged, “Having fulfilled its original design, let us now form a new society with broader aim, and with a more extended scope for membership, and plan to become a historical centre for all missionary efforts in the wide Pacific.”
“A historical or commemorative society offering occasion for missionary intelligence and personal reminiscences of the lives of our fathers and mothers on special or appointed days, would give to us and to our children and to the Christian world, a most valuable record and much history might be preserved that would otherwise remain unknown.
In 1904, the Constitution was changed, and the purpose expanded, “The design of the Society shall be to perpetuate the memory of the missionary fathers and mothers who brought Christianity to these Islands, also to promote union among its members, to cultivate in them an active missionary spirit, stir them up to good deeds, and to assist in the support of Christian work.” (Noted in the HMCS Annual Report 1904)
“Today (amended in 2015) the Society, preserves the memory and spirit of the original mission, promoting union among its members, stirring them up to good deeds, assisting in the support of Christian work, collecting, preserving, and interpreting archival and library materials, buildings, objects, historic fencing, and the grounds …”
“… at a historic site and library relating to the history of American Protestant Missionaries to Hawai`i and their descendants and relationships with the peoples of Hawai`i, and caring for, regulating and preserving the Mission Cemetery at Kawaiaha‘o.” (HMCS Constitutional Provisions 2015)
Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives
A 501(c)3 non-profit educational institution, Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society was founded in 1852, incorporated in 1907, and has no religious affiliation. It acquired the 1821 Mission House in 1906, restored and opened it in 1908. (HMCS now operates as Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives.)
Mission Houses Museum was established in 1920, and in 1974, the museum was granted full accreditation by the American Association of Museums (AAM). The property was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965.
The historic site, one acre in the middle of downtown Honolulu, includes Hawai‘i’s two oldest houses, the 1821 Mission House and the 1831 Chamberlain House, a bedroom annex interpreted as the Print Shop (1841), the Mission Memorial Cemetery, and a building which houses collections and archives, a reading room, a visitors’ store and staff offices.
A coral and grass stage, Kahua Ho‘okipa, was added in 2011; addition of a reconstructed grass dwelling is in permitting process. This was the headquarters for the American protestant Sandwich Island Mission established here from 1820 through 1863.
The organization developed a professional staff in 1970 and named the public program component Mission Houses Museum. An extensive strategic planning process culminated in early 2012 with a new name, Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives.
The archival collections include more than 12,000 books, manuscripts, original letters, diaries, journals, illustrations, and Hawaiian church records.
Hawaiian Mission Houses owns the largest collection of Hawaiian language books in the world, and the second largest collection of letters written by the ali‘i. The size and scope of these collections make Hawaiian Mission Houses one of the foremost repositories for nineteenth century Hawaiian history.
Visit the website at www.missionhouses.org