The first Christian missionaries from the
U.S. mainland reached Hawaii in 1820, just after the death of King
Kamehameha I and the subsequent collapse of the native Hawaiian
religion. The missionaries thus seem to have arrived at just the
right time. They settled first in Oahu, then quickly moved on to
each of the neighboring islands. By 1835, many of Hawaii's chiefs
had converted to Christianity, instructing their people to follow
Landmarks of the
missionary past are to be found on all of the
main islands, in old churches and mission schools, in missionary
homes that restore a sense of the past and in the printing houses
where the kingdom's first books, maps and monetary notes were
printed in the 1830s.
influence went well beyond religion. The missionaries quickly
established schools throughout the Islands, providing the native
Hawaiians with a written language, printed books and training in
the skills and trades suited to changing times.
There are scores of
places across Hawaii where the state's missionary past can be
studied by visitors. A sampling follows.
about 20 minutes from Waikiki, is home to several of Hawaii's most
significant missionary landmarks.
Foremost is the New
England-style home built in 1821 by missionary Levi Chamberlain.
Along with later additions, it is part of the Mission Houses
Museum, which offers daily guided tours of the property.
Kawaiahao Church, completed in 1842 and still in use. It is open
daily and welcomes visitors to Sunday services. Many missionaries
and other 19th century luminaries are buried in its
By the 1830s,
missionaries had settled on Maui in Lahaina, Wailuku and Hana,
where churches and schools were established. Many churches survive,
most prominently Kaahumanu Congregational Church in Wailuku, and
the series of 19th century churches along the Hana Highway,
including Wananalua in Hana Town, which welcomes visitors to Sunday
Two mission homes
also survive, both open to visitors. The Baldwin Home in Lahaina
was completed in the early 1830s by medical missionary Dwight
Baldwin, whose professional tools are on display.
Just uphill from
town, on the grounds of the missionary-founded Lahainaluna School,
lies Hale Pai, the printing house where many examples of
missionary-era printing are on display.
In Lahaina, Hale
Aloha, completed in 1858 as a church meetinghouse, is open to
The Maui Historical
Society is headquartered in Hale Hoikeike, the Wailuku home of the
missionary Bailey family. Completed in 1850, it is within a short
walk of Kaahumanu Church.
The North Shore
town of Hanalei is home to a missionary residence and adjacent
mission meetinghouse, both dating to the early 19th century. Small
group tours of the Waioli Mission House, built in 1836 by
missionaries Abner and Lucy Wilcox, are offered.
The complex sits in
an exquisite setting of wide lawns, towering trees and magnificent
mountains. The Meeting House, the only one to survive from the
early missionary era, is still in use for church and community
The Lyman House
Museum, completed in 1839 when Hilo's port made it the hub of the
Big Island, is elegantly furnished for its time and place. Guided
tours are offered daily, and visitors are welcome to explore the
adjacent museum, with its exhibits of local history and
In North Kohala,
the Bond Estate is a marvelously preserved missionary compound
dating to the mid-1800s. A missionary-run girls' school nearby has
been restored for private use.
The Bond homestead,
a short drive up a dirt road from Highway 270, is not currently
open to visitors. The adjacent church, which dates back to the
1850s, is still in use.
contact reporter Allan Seiden, send e-mail to [email protected].