Hostilities of Kamehameha’s conquest on Hawai‘i Island supposedly ended with the death of Keōua at Kawaihae Harbor in early-1792 and the placement of the vanquished chief’s body at Puʻukoholā Heiau at Kawaihae.
The island was under the rule of Kamehameha. However, after a short time, another chief entered into a power dispute with Kamehameha; his name was Nāmakehā.
In 1795, Kamehameha asked Nāmakehā, who lived in Kaʻū, Hawai‘i, for help in fighting Kalanikūpule and his Maui forces on O‘ahu, but Nāmakehā ignored the invitation. Instead, he opted to rebel against Kamehameha by tending to his enemies in Kaʻū, Puna and Hilo on Hawai‘i Island.
Hostilities erupted between the two. The battle took place at Hilo. Kamehameha defeated Nāmakehā; his warriors next turned their rage upon the villages and families of the vanquished. The alarm was given of their approach.
A family, who had supported Nāmakehā, the father (Ke‘au) taking his wife (Kamohoʻula) and two children fled to the mountains. There he concealed himself for several days with his family in a cave. (Brumaghim) The warriors found the family and killed the adults.
A survivor, a son, ʻŌpūkahaʻia, was at the age of ten or twelve; both his parents were slain before his eyes. The only surviving member of the family, besides himself, was an infant brother he hoped to save from the fate of his parents, and carried him on his back and fled from the enemy.
But he was pursued, and his little brother, while on his back, was killed by a spear from the enemy. Taken prisoner, because he was not young enough to give them trouble, nor old enough to excite their fears, ʻŌpūkahaʻia was not killed.
He was later turned over to his uncle, Pahua, who took him into his own family and treated him as his child. Pahua was a kahuna at Hikiʻau Heiau in Kealakekua Bay.
When Captain Vancouver visited the islands in the 1790s, he provided the following description of Hikiʻau:
“Adjoining one side of the Square was the great Morai (heiau,) where there stood a kind of steeple (‘anu‘u) that ran up to the height of 60 or 70 feet, it was in square form, narrowing gradually towards the top where it was square and flat; it is built of very slight twigs & laths, placed horizontally and closely, and each lath hung with narrow pieces of white Cloth.”
“… next to this was a House occupied by the Priests, where they performed their religious ceremonies and the whole was enclosed by a high railing on which in many parts were stuck skulls of those people, who had fallen victims to the Wrath of their Deity. …. In the center of the Morai stood a preposterous figure carved out of wood larger than life representing the … supreme deity… .”
John Papa ʻI‘i wrote that in ca. 1812-1813, shortly after Kamehameha’s return to Hawai‘i, the king celebrated the Makahiki and in the course of doing so he rededicated Hikiʻau, “the most important heiau in the district of Kona”.
This is the same place where Captain Cook landed on the Island of Hawaiʻi, across the bay from Hikiʻau Heiau is where Cook was later killed.
ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s uncle, wanting his nephew to follow him as a kahuna, taught ʻŌpūkahaʻia long prayers and trained him to the task of repeating them daily in the temple of the idol. This ceremony he sometimes commenced before sunrise in the morning, and at other times was employed in it during the whole or the greater part of the night.
ʻŌpūkahaʻia was not destined to be a kahuna.
He made a life-changing decision – not only which affected his life, but had a profound effect on the future of the Hawaiian Islands.
“I began to think about leaving that country, to go to some other part of the globe. I did not care where I shall go to. I thought to myself that if I should get away, and go to some other country, probably I may find some comfort, more than to live there, without father and mother.” (ʻŌpūkahaʻia)
In 1807, he boarded an American a ship in Kealakekua Bay, the Triumph, under the command of Captain Brintnal; also on Board was Thomas Hopu. They set sail for New York, stopping first in China (selling seal-skins and loading the ship with Chinese goods.)
Also on Board was Russell Hubbard, a son of Gen. Hubbard of New Haven, Connecticut. “This Mr. Hubbard was a member of Yale College. He was a friend of Christ. Christ was with him when I saw him, but I knew it not. ‘Happy is the man that put his trust in God!’ Mr. Hubbard was very kind to me on our passage, and taught me the letters in English spelling-book.” (ʻŌpūkahaʻia)
In 1809, they landed at New York and remained there until the Captain sold out all the Chinese goods. Then, they made their way to New England.
“In this place I become acquainted with many students belonging to the College. By these pious students I was told more about God than what I had heard before … Many times I wished to hear more about God, but find no body to interpret it to me. I attended many meetings on the sabbath, but find difficulty to understand the minister. I could understand or speak, but very little of the English language. Friend Thomas (Hopu) went to school to one of the students in the College before I thought of going to school.” (ʻŌpūkahaʻia)
ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s life in New England was greatly influenced by many young men with proven sincerity and religious fervor that were active in the Second Great Awakening and the establishment of the missionary movement. These men had a major impact on ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s enlightenment in Christianity and his vision to return to Hawaiʻi as a Christian missionary.
He was taken into the family of the Rev. Dr. Dwight, President of Yale College, for a season; where he was treated with kindness, and taught the first principles of Christianity. At length, Mr. Samuel J. Mills, took him under his particular patronage, and sent him to live with his father, the Rev. Mr. Mills of Torringford.
By 1817, a dozen students, six of them Hawaiians, were training at the Foreign Mission School to become missionaries to teach the Christian faith to people around the world.
ʻŌpūkahaʻia improved his English by writing; the story of his life was later assembled into a book called “Memoirs of Henry Obookiah” (the spelling of his name based on its sound, prior to establishment of the formal Hawaiian alphabet.) ʻŌpūkahaʻia, inspired by many young men with proven sincerity and religious fervor of the missionary movement, had wanted to spread the word of Christianity back home in Hawaiʻi; his book inspired 14-missionaries to volunteer to carry his message to the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawaiʻi.)
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of missionaries from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) from the northeast United States, set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.)
There were seven couples sent to convert the Hawaiians to Christianity. These included two Ordained Preachers, Hiram Bingham and his wife Sybil and Asa Thurston and his wife Lucy; two Teachers, Mr. Samuel Whitney and his wife Mercy and Samuel Ruggles and his wife Mary; a Doctor, Thomas Holman and his wife Lucia; a Printer, Elisha Loomis and his wife Maria; a Farmer, Daniel Chamberlain, his wife and five children.
Along with them were four Hawaiian youths who had been students at the Foreign Mission School at Cornwall Connecticut, Thomas Hopu (his friend on board the ship when he first left the Islands,) William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and Prince Humehume (son of Kauaiʻi’s King Kaumuali‘i and also known as Prince George Kaumuali‘i.)
Unfortunately, ʻŌpūkahaʻia died suddenly of typhus fever in 1818 and did not fulfill his dream of returning to the islands to preach the gospel. (The bulk of the information here is from ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s “Memoirs of Henry Obookiah” and Papaʻula, 1867 in Brumaghim)
The image shows ʻŌpūkahaʻia. In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.