“Conceiving it to be my duty to serve the Lord with all my might, and to engage in whatever business that would serve to promote the cause of the Redeemer, I last spring offered myself to the Board of Commissioners. as a printer to go the Sandwich Islands.”
“I proceeded to Brookfield, Mass. where I received the information that the Board had determined on my going in the mission this year. This I did not desire, as I had no female companion.”
“Disappointed in my expectation of finding one at Brookfield, Mass, I resolved to return home, make what preparations I could, and go out single, trusting that providence would, if it should be best, provide a companion.”
“Little did I think then, that God had prepared and help meet for me. A young lady of Utica, had for a considerable time been wishing to engage in a mission. By a remarkable Providence I became acquainted with her. … She had long been wishing to engage in a mission. Had frequently spoken of the Owhyean Mission.”
“I have now spent several days with her … Tomorrow I leave this village for Canandaigua expecting to return as soon as possible and be joined in marriage with Miss Maria Sartwell. (They wed September 27, 1819.) With her I shall proceed to Boston in time to embark with the mission.” Elisha Loomis to Samuel Worcester of the ABCFM, September 16, 1819)
He and Maria Loomis were in the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries, who left Boston on October 23, 1819 and arrived at Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820.
Elisha Loomis was born December 11, 1799, son of Nathan and Dorcas Pratt Loomis at Middlesex Township, Ontario County, New York. He was a printer by trade.
“The first printing press at the Hawaiian Islands was imported by the American missionaries, and landed from the brig Thaddeus, at Honolulu, in April, 1820.”
“It was not unlike the first used by Benjamin Franklin, and was set up in a thatched house standing a few fathoms from the old mission frame house, but was not put in operation until the afternoon of January 7, 1822.” (Hunnewell)
“On the 7th of January, 1822, a year and eight months from the time of our receiving the governmental permission to enter the field and teach the people, we commenced printing the language in order to give them letters, libraries, and the living oracles in their own tongue, that the nation might read and understand the wonderful works of God.”
“The opening to them of this source of light never known to their ancestors remote or near, occurred while many thousands of the friends of the heathen were on the monthly concert, unitedly praying that the Gospel might have free course and he glorified.”
“It was like laying a corner stone of an important edifice for the nation.” (Bingham)
“Gov. Cox (Ke‘eaumoku), who seems to take as friendly and lively an interest in our work as any of the windward chiefs, was present, and assisted with his own hands in composing a line or two and in working a few copies of the first lesson of Owhyhee syllables, having the composing stick put into his hands, and being shown when to take and how to place the types, and then to pull the press.” (Mission Journal)
Later, “Liholiho, Kalanimōku, Boki and other chiefs, and numbers of the people, called to see the new engine, the printing-press, to them a great curiosity. Several were easily induced to undertake to learn the art of printing, and in time succeeded. Most of the printing done at the islands has been done by native hands.” (Bingham)
“The first lessons printed were eagerly received by those natives who had learned to read from manuscripts. For many years all the printing on the islands was done by the Hawaiians who had been taught by Mr. Loomis.”
“A few years later, when another printing press had been received, the first machine was taken to Oregon by a successor to Mr. Loomis, Mr. Edwin O. Hall, and was the first printing press seen west of the Rocky Mountains.” (Gulick)
On July 16, 1820, Elisha and Maria Loomis had a son, Levi Sartwell Loomis, the first white child born in the Hawaiian Islands.
Elisha and Maria would spend seven years in Hawai’i as missionaries. With his health failing, on January 6, 1827, they returned to New England but took up a new missionary post out in the Old Northwest – Mackinac Island – among the Ojibwe people. After two years in that missionary field they would return to New York. (Smola)
He recovered sufficiently to continue printing Hawaiian books in New York State, many for the American Bible Society and the American Tract Society. These books were sent to the Sandwich Islands with later missionary companies. (Judd)
Ka‘ahumanu wrote to Loomis, asking him to print and send her portions of the Bible, “Sincere love to you two Mr. & Mrs. Loomis – I have affection for you, my friends on account of your returning to America. To see all our friends there. Herein is my affection towards you. When you arrive in America, think of my love. Do not forget in the least.”
“This is what I desire, when you print; Do you print together the gospel of Matthew with John and Luke and Mark and Adam, and the Acts of the apostles, and the Epistles, and indeed the whole of the word of god. Let none be omitted.”
“There (with the scriptures) are my affections forever. Our thoughts centre in the love of God. I say unto you, give my love to all the chiefs in America. Together with all friends there: for the refreshing breeze now blows here even from the presence of God.” (Letter from Kaahumanu to the Loomis, June 3, 1827)
After Elisha’s death on August 27, 1836, Mrs. Loomis returned west to Ypsilanti, Michigan. She would spend the rest of her days there until she died in 1862. (Smola)
The mission press printed 10,000-copies of Ka Palapala Hemolele (The Holy Scriptures.) It was 2,331-pages long printed front and back.
Mission Press also printed newspaper, hymnals, schoolbooks, broadsides, fliers, laws, and proclamations. The Mission Presses printed over 113,000,000-sheets of paper in 20-years.
A replica Ramage printing press is at Mission Houses in Honolulu (it was built by students at Honolulu Community College in 1966.) Likewise, Hale Pa‘i in Lahainaluna has early Hawaiian printing displays.
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