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 ABCFM in the Hawaiian Islands.
One of the first things the first missionaries did was begin to learn the Hawaiian language and create an alphabet for a written format of the language. Their emphasis was on preaching and teaching.
The missionaries established schools associated with their missions across the Islands. This marked the beginning of Hawaiʻi’s phenomenal rise to literacy. The chiefs became proponents for education and edicts were enacted by the King and the council of Chiefs to stimulate the people to reading and writing.
However, the education of their children was a concern of missionaries.
There were two major dilemmas, (1) there were a limited number of missionary children and (2) existing schools (which the missionaries taught) served adult Hawaiians (who were taught from a limited curriculum in the Hawaiian language.)
“During the period from infancy to the age of ten or twelve years, children in the almost isolated family of a missionary could be well provided for and instructed in the rudiments of education without a regular school … But after that period, difficulties in most cases multiplied.” (Hiram Bingham)
Missionaries were torn between preaching the gospel and teaching their kids. “(M)ission parents were busy translating, preaching and teaching. Usually parents only had a couple of hours each day to spare with their children.” (Schultz)
“(I)t was the general opinion of the missionaries there that their children over eight or ten years of age, notwithstanding the trial that might be involved, ought to be sent or carried to the United States, if there were friends who would assume a proper guardianship over them”. (Bingham)
“This was the darkest day in the life history of the mission child. Peculiarly dependent upon the family life, at the age of eight to twelve years, they were suddenly torn from the only intimates they had ever known, and banished, lonely and homesick, to a mythical country on the other side of the world …”
“… where they could receive letters but once or twice a year; where they must remain isolated from friends and relatives for years and from which they might never return.” (Bishop)
During the first 21-years of the missionary period (1820-1863,) no fewer than 33 children were either taken back to the continent by their parents. (Seven-year-old Sophia Bingham, the first Caucasian girl born on Oʻahu, daughter of Hiram and Sybil, was sent to the continent in 1828. She is my great-great-grandmother.)
Resolution 14 of the 1841 General Meeting of the Sandwich Islands Mission changed that; it established a school for the children of the missionaries (May 12, 1841.) Meeting minutes note, “This subject occupied much time in discussion, and excited much interest.”
The following report was adopted: “Whereas it has long been the desire of many members of this mission to have a school established for the instruction of their children, and this object received the deliberate sanction of our last General Meeting; and”
“(W)hereas the Providence of God seems to have opened the way for this undertaking, by providing a good location for the school, suitable teachers to take charge of it, and a sufficiency of other means for making a commencement. Therefore,”
“Resolved 1, That the foundation of this institution be laid with faith in God, relying upon his great and precious promises to believing parents, in behalf of their children, commending it to his care and love from its commencement, and looking unto him to build it up, cherish it, and make it a blessing to the church and the world.”
“Resolved 2, That the location of the school be at Punahou, in the vicinity of Honolulu.”
“Resolved 3, That $2,000 be appropriated from the funds of the mission, to aid in erecting the necessary buildings, and preparing the premises for the accommodation of the school, as soon as possible; but as this sum is inadequate to the wants of the school, even in its commencement, that it be commended to the private patronage of the brethren of the mission.”
“Resolved 4, That a Board of five Trustees be chosen, of whom the teacher shall be one, ex officio, whose duty it shall be to devise a plan for the school, carry it into operation, as soon as possible, watch over its interests, and regulate its affairs generally.” (Resolution of the General Meeting of the Sandwich Islands Mission, 1841)
A subsequent Resolution noted “That Mr (Daniel) Dole be located at Punahou, as teacher for the Children of the Mission.”
On July 11, 1842, fifteen children met for the first time in Punahou’s original E-shaped building. The first Board of Trustees (1841) included Rev. Daniel Dole, Rev. Richard Armstrong, Levi Chamberlain, Rev. John S Emerson and Gerrit P Judd. (Hawaiian Gazette, June 17, 1916)
By the end of that first year, 34-children from Sandwich Islands and Oregon missions were enrolled, only one over 12-years old. Tuition was $12 per term, and the school year covered three terms. (Punahou)
By 1851, Punahou officially opened its doors to all races and religions. (Students from Oregon, California and Tahiti were welcomed from 1841 – 1849.)
December 15 of that year, Old School Hall, “the new spacious school house,” opened officially to receive its first students. The building is still there and in use by the school.
“The founding of Punahou as a school for missionary children not only provided means of instruction for the children, of the Mission, but also gave a trend to the education and history of the Islands.”
“In 1841, at Punahou the Mission established this school and built for it simple halls of adobe. From this unpretentious beginning, the school has grown to its present prosperous condition.” (Report of the Superintendent of Public Education, 1900)
The curriculum at Punahou under Dole combined the elements of a classical education with a strong emphasis on manual labor in the school’s fields for the boys, and in domestic matters for the girls. The school raised much of its own food. (Burlin)
Some of Punahou’s early buildings include, Old School Hall (1852,) music studios; Bingham Hall (1882,) Bishop Hall of Science (1884,) Pauahi Hall (1894,) Charles R. Bishop Hall (1902,) recitation halls; Dole Hall and Rice Hall (1906,) dormitories; Cooke Library (1908) and Castle Hall (1913,) dormitory.
Dole Street, laid out in 1880 and part of the development of the lower Punahou pasture was named after Daniel Dole (other nearby streets were named after other Punahou presidents.)
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