“Scrawls on a hand-drawn map by Brintnall told of the murder of his officer Elihu Mix, who died aboard the Triumph in Honolulu Harbor after allegedly eating a poisoned fish dinner sent to the ship.” (Cook)
Family tradition suggests Mix was not the target – rather, the Triumph’s ship captain, Brintnall was intended to be killed; “Luckily for Brintnall, he was ashore and missed the dinner.” (Cook)
Let’s take a closer look …
“My father traced his descent back to Caleb Mix, one of the founders, or at least earliest settlers, of New Haven. Caleb, the second, born 1687, had a son Thomas, who in 1770 married Mehitable Beecher.”
“They had six children, the eldest being Elisha. He was, I judge, a man of means and a merchant, trader, etc. His eldest son, Elihu, was my grandfather; he married Nancy Atwater, of New Haven.”
“They had three children: Edward H, Elihu L Mix, and Margaret M Mix; Mr Elihu Mix, of Westville, only surviving at this time.”
“My grandfather (Elihu) was engaged in the shipping business at early part of this century and sailed from New Haven in the little ships of those days, circumnavigating the globe.”
“In one of these adventurous voyages, in the seal fishery and China trade interest, in 1808, his ship touched for stores at the Sandwich Islands, and while there he was poisoned by the Queen of the Islands (Kaʻahumanu.)”
“The king (Kamehameha I) wished his young sons to come and it was understood the queen, to defeat their object, caused the baked fish she had sent to the officers to be poisoned. Accidentally the others were absent and Captain Mix only partook of the fatal dish.” (Jonathan Mix of New Haven, 1886-Appendix)
It seems, in January 1808, Kamehameha made arrangements with Captain Caleb Brintnall, Master of the Triumph out of New Haven, to take his 12-year old son and heir apparent, Liholiho, to New England for his education.
A few years earlier, Kaumuali‘i of Kauai had sent his son Humehume to New England for school and Kamehameha wanted his heir to equal to his rival’s in Western education.
However, Kaʻahumanu saw Kamehameha’s plan for the boy as a threat to her influence and political hold. So she sent an outrigger canoe with a mullet dinner out to Brintnall’s ship in Honolulu Harbor – a gift for the Captain and his officers.
In the Hawaiian tradition of ‘apu koheoheo (the poison cup) the fish had been basted with the deadly toxins of the keke (puffer fish.) However, Brintnall and most of his officers were on shore at Honolulu. Mix was the only officer on board who had dinner and then died from the poisoning. (Wehrheim)
This may have changed the course of history in the Islands.
Following this, Brintnall sailed on to Kealakekua, the same place where Captain Cook landed on the Island of Hawaiʻi; across the bay from Hikiʻau Heiau is where Cook was later killed.
Brintnall met ʻŌpūkahaʻia. Both of ʻŌpūkahaʻia’s parents had been slain during the battles on the island. 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.
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)
He boarded Brintnall’s ‘Triumph’ in Kealakekua Bay; also on Board was Hopu. They set sail for New York, stopping first in China (selling seal-skins and loading the ship with Chinese goods.)
Russell Hubbard, a son of Gen. Hubbard of New Haven, Connecticut was also on board. “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 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 in a book called “Memoirs of Henry Obookiah” (the spelling of his name prior to establishment of the formal Hawaiian alphabet, based on its sound.) ʻŌpūkahaʻia died suddenly of typhus fever in 1818. The book about his life was printed and circulated after his death.
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.
Among the other Hawaiian students at the Foreign Mission School were Thomas Hopu, William Kanui, John Honoliʻi and Prince Humehume (son of Kauai’s Kaumuali‘i.)
After 164-days at sea, on April 4, 1820, the Thaddeus arrived and anchored at Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaiʻi. Hawai‘i’s “Plymouth Rock” is about where the Kailua pier is today.
By the time the Pioneer Company arrived, Kamehameha I had died and the centuries-old kapu system had been abolished; through the actions of King Kamehameha II (Liholiho,) with encouragement by former Queens Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani (Liholiho’s mother,) the Hawaiian people had already dismantled their heiau and had rejected their religious beliefs.