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The Micronesian Mission from 1852-1872
Rev. Tuck Wah Lee
THE MICRONESIAN MISSION
Religious efforts that are purely domestic are not enough to keep the graces of a strong church in vigorous exercise, much less to raise up infant and feeble churches. This is strikingly seen at the Sandwich Islands, (Hawaiian Islands) where experience has shown the impossibility of developing the graces of the native churches, as they need to be, without constantly directing their attention to foreign objects. So evident is a foreign missionary spirit indispensable in those churches that members of the Sandwich Islands mission have proposed the forming of a new mission in one of the numerous groups of coral islands lying some two thousand miles farther west, -- either in the Caroline or in the Kingsmill group, - to be sustained, in part, by contributions and laborers from the native churches at the Sandwich Islands, … And the Prudential Committee, entering fully into these views, have recommended to the Sandwich Islands mission to take the subject into immediate consideration, and, if the thing be as practicable as it appears to be, to propose such a mission to the native churches.
These profound statements emphasize true nature of the missionary spirit, and the response made by the Hawaiian to the great evangelization imperative of Jesus, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:19-20)
The Micronesian mission had its beginnings in the Hawaiian Islands as has been revealed by this excerpt taken from the “Minutes of the 41st Annual Meeting of the ABCFM, 1850 (p. 181). But, the idea of establishing this Mission was originated by the Rev. Messrs. Paris and C.B. Andrews. From a letter by E. Bong, serving as a missionary in Kohala, Hawaii we get the following excerpt, dated October 3, 1850.
The letters addressed to the Prudential Committee (of the ABCFM) by Rev. Messrs. Paris and C.B. Andres I found in duplicate at our Depository in Honolulu. The proposition or suggestion made by them of a Mission to the Caroline and Kingsmill Group, now called the Gilbert Islands, struck me as excellent, and we as a church in Kohala would pledge ourselves to supply our proportion of the funds needed for the enterprise…
The idea of Messrs Paris and Andrews was taken before the Mission Headquarters in Honolulu which recommended that during the year 1852, Providence permitting, an expedition be fitted out for the purpose of exploring the groups of Micronesia and, if practicable, of establishing a Mission on one of the Caroline Islands as a central position from which the Gospel may be sent to the other Islands of that and other groups. This committee also recommended that an Auxiliary Missionary Society be formed at the Sandwich Islands to cooperate with the ABCFM in the support of the Gospel in the Hawaiian and other Islands of the Pacific and that contributions be solicited for the objects of the Society.” 1
These early ideas on the formation of the Micronesian Mission finally came to fulfillment, when on the 18th of November, 1951, the following persons sailed from Boston in the ship Esther May, Captain Howes, for Honolulu – Mrs. Lucy G. Thurston, Rev. John D. Paris, Rev. Claudius B. Andrews, Mr. Abner Wilcox, all of the Sandwich Islands mission (Hawaiian Islands), Mrs. Mary C. Paris of New York, Mrs. Anna Andrews of Proctorsville, Vermont, Rev. Benjamin G. Snow of Brewer, Maine, Mrs. Lydia Snow of Robinston, Maine, Rev. Luther H. Gulick, M.D., of the Sandwich Islands, and Mrs. Louise L. Gulick of New York.
Of this group Messrs. Snow and Gulick, with their wives expected to commence the new mission in Micronesia. Mr. Snow was a graduate of Bowdoin College and Bangor Seminary. Mr. Gulick received his medical diploma from New York University; his academical and theological studies he pursued with private teachers. His father had labored long in the Hawaiian Islands.
On the 17th of January 1852, Rev. Albert A. Sturges and Mrs. Susan Mary Sturges, of Granville, Ohio, sailed from Boston for the Hawaiian Islands, in the Snow Squall, Captain Bursley, in the expectation of proceeding to Micronesia with the missionaries destined to those islands. (Mr. Sturges pursued his academical studies at Wabash College, and his theological at Yale College.)
In regard to the selection of other missionaries, Mr. L. Smith, pastor of the Second Church in Honolulu, wrote to the ABCFM; (in part)
Two of my best native school teachers, graduates of the seminary at Lahainaluna, presented themselves as candidates for the new mission; and subsequently two of my deacons came to me on the same errand… Mr. Clark had a candidate in his church, Mr. Bishop – another, and Mr. Emerson – another. The brethren from the other islands were not prepared with candidates, and, being away from their people, of course they had no good opportunity to lay the matter before them.
The committee at length decided to take one of the schoolteachers and one of the deacons who had offered themselves from my church. The name of the schoolteacher is Daniela Opunui; and his wife’s name if Doreka (Dorcas) Kahoolua. The deacon’s name is Berita Kaaikaula; and his wife’s name is Debora Kimiala.”
The first company that sailed from Boston in the Esther May on November 18th, arrived in Honolulu March 29, 1852, having had a rough, but speedy passage. And, on July 11, 1852, these missionaries to Micronesia were installed at an impressive ceremony which included the formation of the fist Mission Church of Micronesia. Here are excerpts of the Exercises at the Seamen’s Chapel. (p. 26 of the Friend, August 1852)
The order of worship which was held in the Seamen’s Chapel, Honolulu on the Sabbath evening, July 11, 1852, was as follows:
1. Invocation Rev. T. W. Taylor
2. Singing “Wake isles of the South”
3. Reading the minutes of the council S. C. Damon, Scribe
(for the organization of the “Mission Church of Micronesia”)
4. Reading articles and covenant Rev. L. Smith
5. Consecrating prayer Rev. R. Armstrong
6. Fellowship of the churches Rev. S. C. Damon
7. Charge and instructions Rev. E. W. Clark
8. Remarks in native Rev. Mr. Kekela
9. Remarks Rev. L. H. Gulick
10. Singing “Ye Christian Heroes, Go Proclaim”
The covenant that was read by Rev. L. Smith and assented to by the missionaries to Micronesia is as follows:
Under the name of the Mission Church of Micronesia – We covenant and engage as fellow Christians of one faith, and partakers of the same hope and joy, to give up ourselves unto the Lord, for the observance of the ordinances of Christ together in the same society, and to unite together in one body – for the public worship of God – for the mutual edification one of another in the fellowship of the Lord Jesus, and for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom.
Of special interest to this writer are two extractions; one from the “Charge and instructions” and the other from the Remarks in native. The first was made by Rev. E. W. Clark, corresponding Secretary of the newly organized Hawaiian Missionary Society, and the second extraction is from the Remarks of Rev. Mr. Kekela.
In regard to myself, I will only say, that I would gladly be excused from the service which has been developed upon me in connection with this work, but as the way of others better qualified for the service, seemed in a measure, hedge up I did not feel at liberty to refuse the call to accompany these brethren on this errand of mercy, however trying to flesh and blood. I have seen too much of their realities of missionary life to look upon this enterprise with feelings of romance. To me it will be a work of stern self-denial. But I cheerfully leave for a time, and perhaps forever, all I hold dear in this world for this self-denying service. We go, not knowing the things that shall befall us there. But “Lo I am with you,” will be our trust, our sure support. And should we be engulphed in the Ocean, or cut off by the hand of violence, let no one regret this attempt to save the perishing: --let no one say the sacrifice was all in vain. The enterprise, we believe, is of the Lord, and we cheerfully leave the results in His hands.
I am a native of these islands. My parents were idolaters, and I was born in times of darkness… But a great light has arisen over us. It is the light of this Holy Book… A great many of our people pray to God and love Him. The word of God has been the source of our choicest blessings. What then is more reasonable than that we Hawaiians should extend to other nations in this ocean, the blessings of the gospel? These tribes are now what we were a short time ago, degraded, wretched idolaters. Shall we not have pity on them, as the people of God in the United States have had pity on us? I go to do what I can and return. All cannot engage personally in the work; this but few can do. But those who remain have their part also to perform. They can pray and they can give of their substance to aid the cause, and thus all do something, and share in the blessings that will follow. Now then, as we go from you, let us be remembered in your prayers; pray that the Lord will go with us, and sustain us and give us success.
With the blessings of the ABCFM in Boston and the Hawaiian Missionary Society, the missionaries to Micronesia were ready to sail, except for a minor detail. The Rev. E. W. Clark, the first secretary of the Hawaiian Missionary Society emphasizes the importance of this detail in a letter to the ABCFM in Boston in a letter dated July 10th.
I suggested to Mr. Armstrong a few weeks ago, that a letter from the King to the authorities in those islands might prove of service to us. We have just received a letter, signed and sealed by his Majesty, of which the following is the English:
“Kamehameha III, of the Hawaiian Islands, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau, King sends greeting to all chiefs of the islands in this great ocean to the westward, called Caroline Islands, Kingsmill group, etc. Peace and happiness to you all, now and forever.
Here is my friendly message to you. There are about to sail for your islands some teachers of the Most High God, Jehovah, to make known unto you His word for your eternal salvation. A part of them are white men from the United States of America; and a part of them belong to my Islands. Their names are as follows: B. G. Snow and wife, A. A. Sturgis and wife, L. H. Gulick and wife, W. W. Clark, J. T. Gulick, Opunui and wife, Kaaikaula and wife, and Kekela. H. Holdwoth is captain of the vessel.
I, therefore, take the liberty to commend these good teachers to your care and friendship, to exhort you to listen to their instructions, and to seek their acquaintance. I have seen the value of such teachers. We here on my Islands once lived in ignorance and idolatry. We were given to war, and we were very poor. Now my people are enlightened. We live in peace, and some have acquired property. Our condition is very greatly improved on what it once was; and the word of God has been the great cause of our improvement. Many of my people regard the word of God Jehovah, and pray to Him: and He has greatly blessed us. I advise you to throw away your idols, take the Lord Jehovah for your God, worship and love Him, and He will bless and save you. May He make these new teachers a great blessing to you and your people, and withhold from you no good thing.” Signed, Kamehameha.
The Friend, a newspaper in Hawaii, in its August 1852 issue gives a touching account of the sailing of the Caroline:
On the 15 ultimo, sailed the missionary schooner Caroline, bound for the Micronesian Islands. A large concourse of foreigners and natives assembled upon the wharf to witness the interesting scene. Prayer was offered in native by the Rev. L. Smith, and in English by the Seamen’s Chaplain, after which one of the new missionaries, led in signing the last verse of the Missionary hymn, “Waft – waft, ye winds! His story…” In a few minutes the order was given to cast off, and the vessel glided gracefully out of the harbor and started on her heavenly mission….
And thus, it was that the first company of missionaries sailed from Hawaii. That company consisted of B. G. Snow and wife, A. A. Sturgis and wife, L. H. Gulick and wife, Opunui and wife, Kaaikaula and wife. Mr. E. W. Clark, J. T. Gulick, and Kekela went on this initial trip as observers who were to return on the Caroline and make reports to the people in Hawaii and to the ABCFM on the establishment of the Micronesian Mission.
The Friend, in the December 1852 issue, reported the arrival of the missionaries in Micronesia:
It affords us great delight to announce the safe arrival of the Missionary schooner, “Caroline …(on August 2, 1852). They had a pleasant passage of 17 days, from Kauai (an island in the Hawaiian group), to Pitt’s Islands, the most northerly of the group… (The Caroline next proceeded to Strong’s Island, where King George (a native chieftain), gave them a cordial reception, and from thence to Ascension, touching at one of two small islands… Rev. and Mrs. Snow are located at Strong’s Island; and Rev. Messrs. Gulick and Sturges, with their wives at the lee harbor of Ascension. One Sandwich Island (Hawaiian) family is located at each station.
After landing safely the Reverends L. H. Gulick, Snow, and Sturges each wrote letters to Mr. Damon about their trip and first impressions of the Micronesian islands. Of these three men, Rev. Mr. Sturges writes the most stirring account of his observations. Here is an excerpt of his letter dated September 28, 1852.
Dear Brother Damon: (Seamen’s Chaplain in Honolulu) Knowing the deep interest you and your people feel in our enterprise, I send you a few facts respecting its progress thus far. Everywhere the Providence of God anticipated our coming, removed obstacles, and opened before us wide and promising fields. Thousands and tens of thousands have come up to us from their homes of darkness. The isles literally wait for God’s law.
At the Kingsmill group is an important field. Fifty thousand, in the most deplorable condition, appear to be in a state of readiness for the Gospel. They are tired of their old religion; they are falling before their vices – they are interested in what has been done for other islands, and now wait in this anxious state for something new. Shall we give them the Gospel? They must and will have this something soon… Who will come to their rescue? Is not this the very field for your Hawaiian Churches? Will not some of your young converts come to the rescue? ….
Mr. E. W. Clark, who went to Micronesia and back to Hawaii, wrote a letter to the editor of the Missionary Herald about his observations. One particular observation of importance that he mentioned was the observance of the Sabbath for the first time in Micronesia.
The next day was the Sabbath. Mr. Randall, (an Englishman who represented a coconut oil firm on Pitt’s Islands), with several foreigners, attended public worship on board the Caroline in the morning. A number of the natives were also present, and appeared to be greatly interested. In the afternoon Mr. Snow preached on shore to a congregation of thirty-four, about one half natives. “It was the first sermon ever heard on this island!”
After visiting two of the Gilbert Islands they arrived at Kusaie on the 21st of August, and were piloted into the harbor by a Mr. Kirkland, one of the three foreigners residing on the island. They found the king dressed in a faded flannel shirt, while his wife wore a cotton gown; and they observed that the natives treated him with great respect, crouching on their knees as they approached him. The foreigners called him “Good King George,” and had reason to thus name him; for he ruled his people well, and forbade the manufacture of intoxicating toddy from coconuts. Mr. Clark in one of his letters mentions his meeting “King George”:
On asking him what I should say to our Hawaiian King, in reply to his letter of introduction, the answer was, “Tell him, I will be a father to Mr. and Mrs. Snow.” I had repeated interviews with him, and was surprised to discover his high tone of feeling on moral subjects such as intemperance, breaches of the seventh commandment, etc.
After reading from a Bible at the request of the King, Mr. Clark had a short talk with the queen who told him in her broken English, “The King speak me; he like your talk very much. He says, very straight, very good.
With this friendly relationship established with the King, Mr. and Mrs. Snow and Opunui and his wife who volunteered to serve on this island began a successful task from the very beginning. The king faithfully assisted Mr. Snow and finally united with the church. Mr. Snow also received the cooperation of Mr. Kirkland, the man who had guided the Caroline into Kusaie. Mr. Snow in a letter to Mr. Damon wrote this bit of amusing experience:
As King George has no chapel built yet; I incline very much to occupying Mr. Kirkland’s bowling alley for a chapel, especially as he never allows any gambling in it, nor allows any rolling on the Sabbath. Are the alleys at Honolulu as “moral” as at Strong’s Island? I preached to a respectably large and very attentive congregation in a bowling alley at Ascension. If swords are going to be beaten into plowshares, why not bowling alleys be converted into chapels?
On the 28th of August the Caroline left her anchorage, passed around the southern part of the Island of Kusaie which was found to be about thirty miles in circumference, and then bore away for Ponape. On the 6th of September the Caroline arrived at Ponape. There were 100 foreigners at that time residing on this island, who on a count of their dissolute character might well have been called, according to the Chinese style, “Foreign Devils.” It was a fortunate thing that the natives soon distinguished the missionaries from them, as the Chinese also have learned to do, calling them “Jesus Men”
As to the promise of this new field, Dr. Gulick wrote, “We think there is as much reason for anticipating beneficial results from missions among this people, as in any other part of the world. They are enterprising and open to new impressions. We see nothing to discourage us, save what may be found among all the fallen children of
Messrs. Sturges and Gulick, with their wives took possession of their new home on the Island of Ponape through the courtesy of the Nanakin or ruler of the tribe. Mr. Sturges made an interesting note of one of their experiences on this island.
At this early stage of our enterprise, you will expect but little of interest in our field. An incident occurred yesterday, however, which we think worthy of record. Early in the morning, a message came from the Nanakin of his tribe, requesting us to hold service for his people in his feasting house. At the appointed time we went, and found a large crowd of natives, which some foreigners, all of whom seated themselves in good order. For our text we took the words: “Fear not; for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people!” Wishing to meet the designs in coming hither to excite fears of us, and also to explain our real designs in coming hither, we spoke of the “tidings which we have brought, and endeavored to show why they were ‘good.’ The Nanakin, his chiefs, and his people generally, were attentive. The first, particularly, seemed anxious to understand every word. His meditative look; his repeated request for the preacher to stop for the interpreter to explain; his significant “very good”; his assurances that he had no fears of our designs, and that he regarded our coming as for good; his telling us not to listen to what wicked men say, for he did not; convinced us that our enterprise had taken a strong hold upon his mind and heart, and that raised him especially for our work.
This was a good sign for the missionaries, but, because of their desire to help the Nanakin in more than one way, their relationship with certain white men were strained to the breaking point. It started when the Nanakin brought a deed to the missionaries to be examined. Mr. Gulick discovered that the Nanakin “had been grossly deceived as to the content of the deed. It contained clauses that would give them (two captains on trading schooners) the whole control of the Metalanim harbor; that the Nanakin would make restitution for thefts suffered by the traders; that an island would be turned over for their use and freed from the laws of Ponape; that the traders would receive the sole right of trading with the natives;” All this in exchange of five muskets, five pieces of cloth, five iron pots, a keg of tobacco, a keg of powder, ten knives, and $10.00 per month in money or trade.
Nor was this all, writes Mr. Gulick. “When we examined the deed we discovered the Nanikin’s mark, already there; though he himself, and every one else affirmed that the had not signed it.” This was too much for the chief; he utterly refused to have any thing more to do with the traders. This affair made the traders our bitter and open enemies.
Two days after the writing to the above letter, Mr. Sturges wrote again; concerning two marriage ceremonies, and an appeal for additional workers.
This morning two couples presented themselves for marriage. Their husbands are foreigners, the wives being natives. They gave good evidence of their honest intentions, and of their correct views of the marriage relation. Many of the natives were present to witness the service… We feel greatly encouraged, not doubting that a better day is dawning upon Ascension Island.
But we need more missionaries. Your patrons have long prayed that God would open doors of access to the heathen. He has answered these prayers, and has spread out before them important and promising fields. Why are they not possessed? The churches, it would seem, must cease praying, or do more!!!! They must not ask for blessings, unless they are prepared to receive them!!!! (The 4 exclamation marks after the last two sentences are mine!) Would that some of our young men and women at home could have but a glimpse of heathenism, as we see it! How soon would the gospel be sent to all these lovely gems of the ocean.
On the 13th of November 1852, Mr. Snow took possession of a thatched house erected for him by the King and chiefs; and on the second Sabbath in December he held his first public service with the natives at his home. After about two months, the place of meeting was changed from Mr. Snow’s house to a large cook-house, belonging to the King; The King set the example of always being present, with his wife and family, unless some special hindrance prevented him. At the close of his first year, Mr. Snow said, “It has not become so far an established custom with the people to regard the day, that externally it is kept with as much propriety as in many of our religious communities at home.”
On the island of Ponape, the situation was radically different from Kusaie. During the month of November, the whole island was in a war ferment… The assassination of a few seemed to satisfy all parties. “Gradually the flames subsided,” says Dr. Gulick, “and within a few days, I understand, the Kittie and Matalanim tribes have exchanged awa as a ratification of peace. It is clear, however, that peace can be but temporary, so long as the passions of all are not under the control of the gospel; and it is more than probable that we shall yet pass through several such scenes; though we may hope soon to acquire influence sufficient to check such war.”
Now that the missionaries had established their home – Mr. and Mrs. Snow and Opunui and his wife were on the island of Kusaie; Mr. and Mrs. Gulick, and Mr. and Mrs. Sturges on the island of Ponape, they made survey trips to the other islands nearby their home base. Mr. Gulick on one of these survey trips reports that “I was not at all dependent on the interpretations of foreigners, for I found several natives sufficiently familiar with English for my purpose. This was to me a great relief. The Nanamarki of the Warnega tribe said before I left that they had thought missionaries were bad men, but now they knew better.”
Under date of January 12, Dr. L. H. Gulick spoke of Mr. Sturges as “occupying a temporary house at the mouth of the Rono Kittie River.” Captains Gorham and Rowley, knowing that Dr. Gulick was anxious to obtain a temporary residence at the same place, with the twofold intent of giving him a home, as long as he should please, and of converting a bowling-alley into a seamen’s chapel.
The Gulicks and the Sturges were fortunate in one particular respect. Fifteen vessels anchored in the harbor of Ponape. This kept them in closer contact with people in the United States. Yet, these ships brought its almost inevitable train of “abominable sins.” And the effect on the females was deplorable. The population in this vicinity was more hardened, comparatively, from having come into more frequent contact with civilized wickedness. Yet, the general situation was not too deplorable. Mr. Gulick writes, “In regard to the general treatment which we have received from natives and resident foreigners, we have only to say, that it has been respectful and kind. Our property had been safe; for we have lost by theft scarcely anything; and we have not had the remotest thought of danger to our lives by violence.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Snow also made good progress on Kusaie. At the close of his first quarter on Ponape he reported to the ABCFM:
On the third Sabbath in December, the people came rather late; but they were attentive to the Word. After the service they left immediately, and soon returned with many others, each bringing his basket of cocoa-nuts, or cooked bread fruit, or both, enough to feed a hundred or more … What should have induced them to do so, I cannot say. They seemed to enjoy it very much; and as an expression of their interest in the missionaries, it was very pleasant. But they took me so completely by surprise, that I was quite at a loss to know what to do; but I thought it best to distribute the gifts among the donors, for the most part; and the King called one of the chiefs to act as my steward.
On a Sunday in January, Mr. Snow preached on the Ten Commandments. “I read and talked to them about the Ten Commandments, in which they seemed to be much interested, especially the sixth, seventh and eighth … I spoke very strongly on the importance of keeping their women from sailors; to which they gave a very cordial and hearty response, as though they stand, but had not sufficient courage to do it … It was for what I had said upon this point, that the old King came to me after service, before the audience had left, and with tears in his eyes grasped my hand, and said, “We thank you, Mr. Snow; plenty thank you; very much thank you.” In which the Queen joined, with equal warmth, to Mrs. Snow, not only for herself, but in behalf of the native women. “Every woman, every gal like plenty hear Mr. Snow talk all same.
“But there are dark things also,” wrote Mr. Snow. The King, in his younger days, was much given to dissipation. “I think he is trying to improve; and evidently he has greatly reformed. But the other day an English schooner came here from Oahu, with brandy and other liquors on board; some of which was given to him one Sabbath morning for piloting; and, as a consequence, he came to meeting intoxicated. In the course of my sermon, he interrupted me with a short speech on temperance. It was pithy and to the point, making a clean sweep of tobacco and all; but I fear that it was not very effective for good.”
A greater source of sorrow was to come in a short while. Opunui, Mr. Snow’s Hawaiian associate died after a short but severe sickness on August 4, 1853. Mr. Snow writes about the day of Opunui’s death.
The natives were kind and attentive; the foreigners did what they could; but where was the Christian friend to sympathize and to help? Where the brother with whom to counsel? No physician can be called; for the nearest is three hundred miles off, and we have nothing but a boat to reach him over the pathless deep. I will not describe his sickness. It was not long, but it was severe. He left us at the lovely hour of sunset. His was that happy sleep, which the righteous have while passing through the dark valley. (During Opunui’s last hours on earth, the King came, and others came to comfort and to help.) Mrs. Snow continued, “They remained until he died, and helped me to lay him out. As I closed his eyes, the King perceived that his head was not properly adjusted, and change it, with the greatest propriety and gentleness. Mr. Covert noticed his continued breathing, and kindly moistened his dying lips. Four or five natives, by the King’s direction, watched the corpse during the night. We were too weary, from watching and from anxiety, no less than from grief, to allow us rest, much less to obtain refreshing sleep.”
Early the next day, Mr. Snow got his few tools together and started to build the coffin, but was relieved by a carpenter who had come from a neighboring island to pay his respects. After the funeral services, Mr. Snow described the funeral procession, which in the opinion of this writer is a masterpiece of vividness that can arise only from the heart of one who has seen the true depths of living.
How kind that our Father should have sent us a pleasant day! It looked dark and lowering in the morning, fit emblem of the feeling within. But it brightened up; not to a burning sun, for nature kept a veil for us; and the wind hardly rippled the waters. Between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, the remains of Opunui were passed gently into the boat, accompanied by several natives and three foreigners. Then followed our bereaved sister, leaning upon our arms, as on the evening before, observing her Hawaiian custom in wearing white rather than black. And hers was the dress of her bridal eve. How unlike were the scenes! And yet again how like! We took another boat, with our little family of native children, with the King and a few natives to paddle the boat. Hardly a whisper was heard; and the paddles scarcely stirred the quiet waters with their gentle touch, as we passed along to the resting place of the dead. We climbed the hill, saw the sacred trust deposited, breathed out the burial prayer, spoke cheerfully of the beautiful place. Mrs. Snow, speaking to the King with a trembling voice and a smile, said, “I should love to have just such a spot for my last home.” While returning, she remarked, in the words of another, “The peace of the scene passed into my heart,” and turned to wipe away her tears.
A few days after the death of Opunui, the missionaries on Ponape were also called to mourning by the death of Mr. Louis Corgat, their most devoted friend among the foreign residents. He had many excellences of character, and, though a Roman Catholic had rendered the missionaries very important assistance. “Without him,” says Dr. Gulick, “it is impossible to say what the past history of our residence here might have been. With him we have lived in the most perfect security during the most critical period of our mission. He seems to have been preserved just long enough to assist Mr. Sturges and myself in getting comfortably settled.”
The passing of loved ones was a strain upon the missionaries, for then their work became all the more harder. Mr. Sturges commented on this matter in a letter to the American Board.
In our appropriate work as missionaries, we can only say that we are making but little progress. We hope, however, that we do not live here in vain. We seem to have the entire confidence of the powers that be, who afford us complete protection. Our families have been remarkable blessed with health. The good Shepherd has kept us safe. We feel that our cause is of the Lord, and we know it must prevail.
And indeed their cause was of the Lord. In the Hawaiian Islands, plans were being inaugurated to strengthen the cause in Micronesia. Mr. Titus Coan writes about the plans of his church. “This church (Haili) supports the Rev. Samuel Kauwealoha at Fatuhiva; as he is from the Hilo church, and his good old father is still one of our deacons. It is also expected that another member of this church, Hanaloa, will soon join in the Micronesian mission; and we shall hope to support him.”
In June Messrs. Doane and Shipman, with their wives, embarked for Micronesia. Not long afterwards, Mr. and Mrs. Pierson also sailed for the Micronesian mission. This was indeed good news, and it came at an opportune time, for catastrophe had struck in Micronesia. On the 19th of February 1854, the ship Delta, arrived with two men sick of small pox, contracted at Honolulu. The captain put them ashore on the Paniau Island, a little island near Ponape, in order to care for them there in seclusion; but the Ponape natives stole their blankets and thus propagated the disease. The foreigners then informed the natives that it was caused by the missionaries. Dr. Gulick had obtained vaccine matter from Hawaii, but it proved worthless; he therefore attempted inoculation, and was generally successful in saving the lives of the natives on whom he operated. In May 1854, Mr. Sturges said that the population of the tribe in which Mr. Sturges resided was 2,156, but in October, after the epidemic struck, the population dwindled to 1,039! Added to the destructiveness of the disease, there were only seven births in the district in two years. So strong was the feeling that the race was about to disappear that the natives exhibited a recklessness wholly unknown before.
At the close of the year 1854, Dr. Gulick wrote that they had much to be thankful for. They had managed to survive the destructiveness of small pox, and they had managed to save the lives of many of the natives. Though their school had been closed, though Mr. Sturges’ home was destroyed by fire, though the natives had resigned themselves to living recklessly in the face of eminent death through disease and low birthrate, the missionaries still felt that the Gospel alone was the last ray of hope for the entire missionary enterprise in Micronesia!
Mr. and Mrs. Doane arrived at Ponape in February 1855, with Kamakahiki and his wife. In May 1856 he wrote,
At present we have nothing exciting among us. All the tribes, I believe, are at peace with each other. At least we hear of no wars, nor “rumors of wars!” We find it perfectly safe to pass now to all parts of the Island. Dr. Gulick referring to Mr. Doane’s settlement in the Jekoits tribe said: “Many favorable providences encourage our hearts, in connection with his settlement there, which we gratefully acknowledge. We do not consider it certain that he is permanently located, for he may, we think, be called to move westward when our missionary vessel, “The Morning Star” dawns upon us.
The Morning Star, the ship that served as a lifeline for the missionaries had its humble beginnings in the mind of E. W. Clark, the Secretary of the Hawaiian Missionary Society. On March 30, 1855, he wrote,
My mind had long been made up that we should not attempt a mission on the islands of Micronesia without a missionary vessel adapted to the purpose. If we put missionaries on any of those low islands, provision must be made for visiting them once or twice a year without fail. I should think it unwise to send even native missionaries there without such a provision. With such an arrangement I see not why missionaries may not reside on some of those islands with comparative comfort” …
In view of this subject the following resolution was presented to a late meeting of the Directors of our Society (The Hawaiian Missionary Society): “Resolved, that we regard it essential to the further extension of missionary operations in the North Pacific that a Missionary Vessel be procured for this work. We, therefore, cordially approve the request, which had been forwarded to the ABCFM, for such a vessel, by the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, and recommend that the vessel be owned by the American Board and under the direction of the Home Missionary Society of the Hawaiian Islands.” Mr. Clark continued his letter to the ABCFM, “At a late missionary meeting in my congregation the subject of a vessel was taken up and about one thousand dollars was pledged for the object. Most of it will be paid if a vessel should be forthcoming. Will not the children of America, as well as of England, take hold of this subject? If a vessel is sent we shall want some more men for Micronesia.”
It was worth considering. Titus Coan proposed that the American Board be asked to invite the children of the United States to take ten-cent shares of joint ownership in such a missionary vessel, to be called “Day Star,” and he was instructed to write the proposal to Boston. The proposal was favored, with but one change; the name to be “Morning Star.”
The appeal was made in August 1856. Actual shares in a vessel going among distant islands on Christian errands speedily became very popular in many states. And in one Hawaiian Sunday School the children took about 300 shares. The money was raised and the Morning Star was built in three months at Chelsea, adjoining Boston. She was a hermaphrodite brig weighing 156 tons. She was launched November 12, 1856 and cost $18,351. Manned and provided, she sailed from Boston on December 2, 1856, under Captain Samuel G. Moore, with the prayers and wishes of a multitude, and the old song, “Waft, wart, ye winds His story.” It left the Hawaiian Islands on August 7, 1857 with Mr. and Mrs. Bingham on board. Passing between Radak and Ralik Islands, she reached Kusaie on September 8. There she took on board Messrs. Snow and Pierson, and anchored at Ponape, on September 23. She stayed there until after the general meeting of the Micronesian mission, and then she returned leaving Mr. Snow again at Kusaie. She next proceeds to a station on Apia where the following left the ship: Mr. and Mrs. Bingham and a married Hawaiian helper. Next she proceeded to Ebon dropping off Messrs. Doane and Pierson and their wives, and finally sailed for Honolulu arriving there on January 28, 1858.
In a letter dated January 1, 1857, Dr. Gulick reported that the progress of the past year.
We are conscious of being more and more beyond the malign influence of foreigners. We feel that the influence of persons of this class long resident here is waning, while ours increases monthly. The chiefs come to us more and more for information, and in many little ways that show an increasing confidence. Their dislike and their fears are by no means gone, but they are going. In my own tribe, there is among the females a desire, unknown before; to wear dresses … There is also a growing desire for money. Much of my work is already paid for in money which results from continual efforts on my part to introduce it, particularly during the past year … Mrs. Gulick has, within the year, taught a number to write in their own language … There is a growing desire to learn. So, soon as we can have printed primers, I think we shall be able to build schools at several different places in the tribe, in which many adults as well as children will be more than ready to commence learning. My highest joy, however, comes from the hope that some of the Bible truth I have this year scattered abroad will be made to germinate. My medical practice continues about as last year. My stock of medicines is so low, that I cannot do much.
Mr. Sturges, in a report dated January 28, 1857 reported that there was nothing of special interest on his island. Shipping was heavy and the natives were easily tempted. He writes:
At this place there are four houses for the accommodation of beastly sailors, all kept by foreigners, the chief of which is from New England. … He, and a company of kindred spirits, with loaded muskets pursued the fugitives, and captured them. This violent mode of getting victims for licentious captains and sailors is not the only effectual one! He has repeatedly threatened us, but the good hand of the Lord has suffered no evil to come upon our persons from him. … We feel that the present are responsible times. Our people have lost their dread of their own spirits, and they do not seem to care much for the true God. We much desire the prayers of all Christians, for special grace to be granted us, that we may meet wisely the responsibilities coming upon us.
In 1857 mission work was begun in the Gilbert and Marshall groups; in the former by Rev. H. Bingham, son of the pioneer missionary of that name in Hawaii. The first station in this group was made at Apaiang. Kanoa, the Hawaiian helper of Mr. Bingham aided in the work on that island. After seventeen years working in this field, Mr. Bingham was obliged to return to Honolulu because of failing health. There he completed the translation of the Bible into the Gilbertese language.
The occasion of the mission work on the Marshall Islands was the arrival of a hundred storm-driven natives of Ebon who landed on Kusaie. They had expected to be killed by the natives of Kusaie, but instead they were rescued by the missionaries, Rev. G. Pierson and the Rev. E. Doane. These natives later returned to their island unmolested. So interested were both missionaries in these natives of Ebon that they took passage on the Morning Star to labor among them. They were warned by sea captains that it was dangerous to visit the islands, as the natives were treacherous and ferocious. As they approached the islands, the missionaries noticed 17 canoes with six men in each coming toward the ship. Mr. Pierson, addressed them in halting Marshallese words that he had learned and to his surprise, one of the natives exclaimed repeatedly in great joy, “Doketur, Doketur!!” The news spread like wildfire that the white men who had rescued the 100 storm-tossed men at Kusaie had come to visit them. On December 6, wrote that the natives had erected a native house for Dr. Pierson, and that they had also helped him build a home for himself.
Meanwhile on Ponape, Dr. Gulick accomplished a feat worthy of note. On the 18th of January he stated that they had printed four small pages of a Ponape Primer with an old press set from the Hawaiian Islands! With reading material available, the school on that Island grew to include 112 natives and some foreigners in a few months! The work on Shalong Point where Mr. Gulick was stationed was augmented by the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Ephraim P. Roberts. They had arrived on July 1858. Though the work on one island was strengthened, the work on the other section of the island of Ponape, Ronkitti, suffered. Sometimes the early part of January 1859, Kaaikauka, the Hawaiian assistant to Rev. Sturges died after a recurring stomach illness.
In a general meeting of the missionaries of Micronesia, several important questions were discussed. After reviewing the labors of the year, the brethren remarked:
We feel that no year of our missionary life has been more important than the last, and from it begins what is in many respects a new stage in the Micronesian mission. During no year have we made such progress, and during no year have we enjoyed richer pleasure in our missionary efforts (than the present year).
This optimistic report failed to mention some of the greater accomplishments of the Micronesian missionaries, such as: decreasing the influence of foreign whites upon the natives; setting up new missions fields in the Marshall islands and the Gilbert Islands; and improving the morality of the natives.
A Hawaiian couple, Mr. and Mrs. Mahoe arrived and were set to work in the Gilbert Islands. There they helped Mr. Bingham and Kanoa and his wife spread the Gospel to the natives. Mahoe became the first to be ordained to the ministry in Micronesia! This was a great event for the missionaries for now they had hopes of establishing new outposts in the ‘surrounding darkness’. The field that they had reference to was Tarawa, the largest of the Gilbert Islands.
Hopes ran high for Mahoe, but not for some of the other missionaries: Dr. Gulick had to leave Micronesia because of ill health; Mr. Sturges underwent a sorrowful experience. His little ‘Ella’ of three years and ten months, became ill. On the third day of this illness, she was asked if she would rather get well and go to America and see grandma, or die and go to heaven and see Jesus. She replied, “If God wants Ella to get well, Ella would like to, and go see grandma.” After a few days and nights of constant vigil, the mother and father of ‘little Ella kneeled in submission and prayer; and as her spirit went back to its native place, they thanked God for another child in heaven forever safe from sin in the Savior’s bosom.’
Mr. Roberts and his family, Mrs. Doane with two children, and Mrs. Sturges and daughter, returned on the Morning Star to the Hawaiian Islands. Mr. and Mrs. Roberts left the Islands for Oregon, while Mrs. Sturges and little Hattie, and Mrs. Doane sought rest and recuperation in the Hawaiian Islands. On February 16, 1861 Mrs. Sturges ‘peacefully fell asleep in Jesus’, and within a few weeks her babe was also taken into rest.
In 1862, Kanoa returned to Hawaii because of ill health, and in his place two other Hawaiian, Kapali and Aumai, went to Micronesia with their wives. Upon the arrival of the Morning Star, Mr. Snow left Kusaie for services on Ebon. He was fortunate in having as a helper, Aiea, the Hawaiian who helped tremendously in the establishment of the successful school system and the preparation of natives for church membership.
In 1863, Mr. Doane left Ebon for Hawaii, only to find that his wife who had preceded him to Hawaii had passed away. Mr. Snow, Kapali and another helper continued to work on the island of Ebon. During this same year, Mr. Snow made a visit to Kusaie. To his surprise he found that the work there was progressing very nicely. On Communion Day, he admitted 11 new members into the church on Kusaie, including two young chiefs and the wife of one of them.
The Morning Star left Honolulu on her ninth voyage in September, 1864, and returned in the January following bringing as passengers; Mr. and Mrs. Snow, Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, and the eldest daughter of Mr. Sturges. Meanwhile, at Ponape, Mr. Sturges underwent a great trial. After what he thought was the best Sabbath service that he ever conducted on Ponape, the drunken Nanakin with a howling mob, came through the woods and applied a flaming torch to the thatching of the church. In a few minutes the whole place was aflame. But something remarkable happened. A hundred or more native friends came from other parts of the Island to guard him from further danger. He wrote, “After two nights of suspense, surrounded by howling savages, it was good to grasp the hand of love, and see the sympathy and resolve beaming in so many faces, even if these are the faces of heathens.”
In 1867 the Rev. J. W. Kanoa, returned to his first missionary field on Kusaie, while in other areas of the Micronesian mission, other Hawaiians were contributing to the missionary cause. In the Marshall Islands at Ebon, H. Aea, and R. Maka and their wives worked under the Rev. B. G. Snow. J. S. Kaelemaukula and his wife were also under the supervision of Mr. Snow, but they resided on the Island of Namarik. Rev. D. Kapali and his wife and T. Kealakai were also under the supervision of Mr. Snow with their base of operation on Jaluit.
In the Gilbert Islands on Apaiang (Charlotte’s Island) the Rev. W. P. Kapu and his wife, Dr. P. Aumai and his wife contributed to the cause, while on Tarawa of the Gilbert Islands, Rev. J. H. Mahoe and wife, G. Haina and wife carried on the work.
Still the call went out for more Hawaiian missionaries to Micronesia. In 1867 three young men and their wives were selected to go there. They were G. Leleo, Haulu, and Kiniakua. 1869 was a unique year for the Hawaiians; they were nearly in complete charge of the Micronesian mission! The American missionaries had left for the United States or Hawaii either temporarily or permanently. In 1870 a new Morning Star was built through the subscription of $8,800 by the children of the United States and Hawaii. In addition to this sum, $18,000 was received from insurance money. The Morning Star sailed to Hawaii in February, and left for Micronesia on July 22nd with Mr. Sturges, Mr. and Mrs. Snow, Mr. and Mrs. Whitney, and Mr. Doane, and the three newly appointed Hawaiian missionaries and their wives. Mr. and Mrs. Bingham had already left Honolulu in April of that same year aboard the U.S. sloop of war Jamestown. They were headed for Tarawa.
So ends the story of the Micronesian mission for the first twenty years of its existence. Its first twenty years were rewarding years, for it grew from a staff of five missionaries and their wives to a staff of 5 American and 6 Hawaiian missionaries; 9 Hawaiian male assistant missionaries; 1 native pastor; 1 catechist; and 4 native teachers. Truly God works in mysterious ways!
STAFF OF THE MICRONESIAN MISSION 1852-1872
Sturges, A. A. Ponape 1852;
Gulick, L. H. Ponape 1852; Resigned 1860
Kaaikaula, B. Ponape 1852: Died 1859.
Snow, B. G. Kusaie 1852; Ebon 1862
Opunui, D. Kusaie 1852; Died 1853.
Doane, E. T. Ponape 1855: Marshall Is. 1857 (Ebon); Ponape 1865
Pierson, G. Kusaie 1855: Marshall Is. 1857 (Ebon); Resigned 1860
Kanoa, J. W. Kusaie 1855: Apaiang 1857; Hawaii 1862; Butaritari 1863;
Kusaie 1867; Apaiang 1872
Kamakahiki Ponape 1855;
Bingham, H. Jr. Apaiang-Gilbert Is. 1857; Hawaii 1864; Apaiang 1868
Aumai, D. P. Apaiang-Gilbert Is. 1857; Hawaii 1867
Mahoe, J. H. Apaiang 1857; Tarawa 1860
Roberts, E. Ponape 1858; Resigned 1861
Kapali, D. Ebon 1862
Aea, H. Ebon 1862; Hawaii 1869
Haina, S. Tarawa 1864; Apaiang 1872
Kapu, W. P. Apaiang 1864; Tapiteuea 1872
Kaelemakula, J. A. Namarik (Marshall) 1865; Mille (Marshall) 1872
Maka, R. Butaritari (Gilbert) 1865
Leleo, G. Tapitenea (Gilbert) 1869
Kanoho, D. Tarawa 1869; Marakei 1871
Ahia, J. D. Tarawa 1869; Apaiang 1872
Whitney, J. F. Ebon 1871
Nalimu, H. B. Tapiteuea 1872
Nono, W. N. Maiana (Gilbert) 1872
Kaehuaea, T. Nonout (Gilbert) 1872
Nanikanoelo, M. Maiana 1872
Kaaia, S. P. Namarik 1872
Staff of the Micronesian Mission – 1865
Ponape – A. A. Sturges, E. T. Doane
Ebon – B. G. Snow, H. Aea
Namarik – J. A. Kaelemakule
Jaluit – J. Kapali
Tarawa – J. H. Mahoe, G. Haina
Apaiang – W. P. Kapu, D. P. Aumai
Butaritari – J. W. Kanoa, R. Maka
Staff of the Micronesian Mission – 1871
Kusaie – Likiak Sa, native pastor
Wellington Is. – two Ponape teachers
Ponape – A. A. Sturges, E. T. Doane
Gilbert Islands – H. Bingham Jr.
Ta[oteuea – W. B. Kapu, H. B. Nalimee
Nonout – G. Leleo, T. Kaehuaea
Maiana – W. N. Lono, M. Nanikanoelo
Apaiang – J. D. Ahia, G. Haina, J. H. Mahoe, J. W. Kanoa
Tarawa – vacant
Marakei – D. Kanoho
Butaritari – R. Maka
Namarik – S. P. Kaaia
Jaluit – one Marshall Is. teacher
Mille – P. Kahelemauna
Majuro – one Marshall Is. teacher
Ebon – D. Kapali