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THE STORY OF
THE MORNING STAR

PART 2

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ARCH 16, 1858, the Morning Star commenced her second voyage to the Marquesas. She carried a Hawaiian missionary and several teachers to those islands; also Reverend Mr. Bishop from the Hawaiian Missionary Society. On the 25th April, they reached the station at Omoa Bay in Fatuhiva, and were welcomed by the people.

Mr. Bishop in one of his letters wrote, "The arrival of the Morning Star was a great event to the natives. On every side were greetings and expressions of cordial esteem which I had never expected to witness. Breadfruit, coconuts and bananas were brought in, more than the missionaries and their families could possibly consume. The surplus was sent off to the vessel, and we were all supplied in the greatest profusion as five years had passed since the commencement of the mission at Omoa and during that time a little community had come together."  

One of the first difficulties the missionary encounters, as he enters his field of labour, arises from the language. This is all new to him. He finds no written language at all, no grammar, no teacher. In some instances, months, and even years, have not sufficed to overcome these difficulties and enabled him to preach without an interpreter. The way he is compelled to learn the language is as follows:-

When the natives talk, he endeavours to remember and write down the words they used. Then, as he has opportunity, he inquires what these words mean. Perhaps the people talked too fast that they do not speak the words distinctly, and so is not able to repeat properly what he has but half heard, and gets laughed at for his pains. At other times, when the meaning of a word is asked, the natives nod their heads in a peculiar way, and say they do not know. The missionaries are therefore obliged to follow them about from place to place, hoping at last to get some clue to what they are seeking. This process of learning a language must be very tedious.

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After remaining nearly two months at the Marquesas, the Morning Star bade them farewell, and arrived in Honolulu on May 20th. Some repairs were found to be necessary, and after these were completed, she would be ready to depart again for Micronesia. At this time also, Captain Moore, relinquished his command of the Morning Star, and returned to America.

When the necessary repairs had been made, the Morning Star set forth on her second voyage to Micronesia on the last day of June 1858. She was now commanded by Captain John Brown who had been sent out by the American Board for that purpose. On board were Mrs. Gulick,wife of Dr. Gulick who, with here children, were now returning to their field of labour. Also on board were Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, who had recently arrived from America to join the Micronesian Mission along with them were some native helpers.

After a pleasant passage of fifteen days, they arrived at Abaiang on the 14th July 1858. This was the island where Mr. and Mrs. Bingham, with Kanoa and his wife were left the previous year. They have found the people very friendly, thought they would steal from them whenever an opportunity present it.

We had hardly been in our new home three months when a party of Gilbert Islanders from Tarawa made an attack upon our people in a fleet of 100 proas. The King who had befriended us when we landed was killed but his people were victorious. The next morning Reverend Bingham visited the battleground and there he saw among the dead six women who had helped their husbands in the fight.

The Gilbertese people were armed with spears containing shark's teeth - these spears are almost twenty feet long. To protect themselves, they had a kind of armour made of coconut fibre cord. A part of this resembles a great-coat; and it comes up behind their heads, to shield them from behind, or when they run. They also make coverings for their legs, arms, and head, of the same material, and still another covering for their head, of the skin of the porcupine-fish.

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Gilbert Islands warriors

Immediately after his arrival, Mr. Bingham began the study of the language. He first formed an alphabet, and commenced teaching it to some bright young boys who came about the house. In less than three months, some of them could read words of one syllable. By picking up one word after another Mr. Bingham at length collected about 1,100 words in all. Assisted by Kanoa, he commenced public worship on the Sabbath seven months after his arrival.

On Sabbath morning, Mr. Bingham held a regular service at Koinawa, the residence of the king: in the afternoon, at Ewena, distant a few miles in another direction. In those labours Kanoa assisted him, and at the conclusion of the preaching service, a Sabbath school was held. Mr. Bingham would sit down near the king, and taught all those who would listen; and though not addressing the king directly, the latter could not fail to share in the instructions.

Abaiang produces three kinds of fruits, coconuts, pandanus nuts and a course kind of root called ti-poi-poi. Bread fruit, yams and other vegetables which grow in abundance on Strong's Island are not found here. Rice, flour and salt beef were the chief requirements of the missionaries. Mr. Bingham had made a fair experiment of planting bananas, sweet potatoes, onions, squashes and pumpkins but with the soil consisting of coral sand they lived but did not grow.

After a short in Abaiang , the Morning Star went to Ebon. Though Ebon had been considered  one of the most barbarous of the Pacific Islands, the missionaries had lived there in perfect safety. They found that their lot had been cast among some interesting people, and that the field was in every way a desirable one.

The Morning Star, having completed her visit here next proceeded to Strong's Island taking Dr. and Mr. Pierson with Mr. Doane remaining at the stations. They arrived at the island on August 7th and had expected to proceed to Ascension Island to hold the general meeting there; but Mrs. Bingham, who had not been well for some days was sick with fever upon her arrival at Strong's Island. So it was decided that the general meeting could be held there, and that the Morning Star should go on to Ascension for Messrs Sturgess and Gulick. This was done and the Morning Star return with them on the 27th.

Opunui, the Hawaiian teacher who assisted Mr. Snow had died some time previously, and Mr. Snow now laboured alone. Opunui loved his work; his whole soul was engaged for the good of the people to whom God had sent him. His widow was a great comfort and assistance to Mr. and Mrs. Snow, both in teaching the natives and attending to the affairs of the household.

The night after the arrival of the Morning Star, the King, who had been sick for some time, died, being the third King who had deceased while Mr. Snow had resided on the island. He was an efficient man and always treated the missionaries with kindness.

Soon after Mr. Snow began his labours, he taught the natives of the impropriety of their attending public worship without clothing. He had received a box from some friends of missions, in which were a considerable number of shirts. These were distributed among the people, and he wrote back to the donors, that if they could only see that fine array of white cotton shirts at church on the Sabbath, they would be delighted, and encourage to even greater effort. After this, the standing excuse for absence was, "me got no shirt".

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While the general meeting was in session at Strong's Island, the missionary was surprised to see so much interest manifested by the people in their deliberations. On one of the days all the high chiefs were present, and remained during the exercises. These people felt that their deliberations affected them, and began to appreciate the labours of those who had given up the enjoyment of civilised life, to teach them the way to heaven.

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After the business of the general meeting was concluded, the Morning Star went again to Ascension, to carry home Messrs. Sturgess and Gulick. Dr. Pearson and his wife also left for Ebon, in another vessel that had stopped at Strong's Island rather than wait for the return of the Morning Star. About the time Dr. Pierson returned to Ebon, a trading vessel lay off the island, and when her boat came ashore, it was armed. The mate visited the mission house, attended by a man carrying a pistol; and as he walked about the premises, he dared not take a step without its protection. He was astonished to find the missionaries unarmed, and could not believe them when they said it was perfectly safe to go anywhere on the island.

The Morning Star was now ready to return to Honolulu. Before she did this, however, Captain Brown, in accordance to instructions he had received, determined to spend a few weeks in exploring some of the adjacent islands. Accordingly, accompanied by Mr. Doane, he left Abaiang on November 14th for Mille, one of the Marshall Islands where they arrived three days later. They found a large quiet lagoon, which they entered by a ship channel on the north side, the lagoon being surrounded by many small islets.

On November 29tb they sailed to Mille to Majuro which they reached the next day. Captain Brown wrote, "This is a magnificent island. It has elegant forest of breadfruit; and pandanus trees and coconuts of course, abounds. We walked across the island, escorted by three or four hundred natives, men, women, and children, who appeared to be filled with wonder and joy. On the shore of the lagoon the prospect was most delightful.

The vessel returned to Ebon on December 15th. Mr. Doane found his family well, and after this pleasant little tour, he resumed his labours with renewed strength and vigour. Having now completed all the purposes contemplated in this second crew to Micronesia, the Morning Star left Ebon and arrived in Honolulu January 23rd 1859. When the Morning Star reached Honolulu, a part of the vessel was found to be much out of repair. The "dry rot," which frequently attacks vessels in tropical regions, had got into the timbers and planks of the stern, causing havoc among them. So the little craft had a thorough overhaul with decaying timber replaced with new. She also received a new coat of paint throughout. On the 25th April, she was in perfect order, and with her cargo on board, she sets sail for the Marquesas. A severe storm came on however and she was obliged to return to Honolulu.

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The wreck of the Twilight

She sailed again on May 3rd, calling by the way at Kealekua, on the island of Hawaii. When the Morning Star arrived at Omoa, it was ascertained that an American whale ship the Twilight, was wrecked on June 1st off the island of Hivaoa. When Captain Brown was made acquainted with the shipwreck, he did not wait to discharge his vessel, but, ever ready in the course of humanity hastened to the scene of the disaster, and immediately commenced taking in the wreck's goods that remain. A salvage of 30 per cent was awarded to the owners of the Morning Star, on her return to Honolulu. The Morning Star reached Honolulu on her return to the Marquesas on July 23rd 1859.

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The station at Abemama in Kiribati had been isolated more than perhaps any other with September now coming and the Morning Star having been looked for by the locals since the 1st July.

They had not learned of the detention at Honolulu for repairs, and began to feel much anxiety fearing that some accident had befallen her, or that she was lost altogether. At last on the 9th September the Morning Star entered the lagoon at Abaiang, and proved to be the long looked-for vessel. Mr. Bingham, with Kanoa and Mahoe, put off in a boat to welcome Captain Brown and the new Hawaiian helpers for whom they have sent. They soon returned, bringing a precious load of letters and papers; but they came alone as no help had arrived.

Mr. Bingham had commenced the translation of the Scriptures and some of the people were now reading Christ's sermon on the Mount. Mahoe endeavoured to take a census of the population, but found that some, distrusting his motives, were unwilling to tell him the number in their families.

When the Morning Star was last at Honolulu, three of the sailors which he had brought from Micronesia came to Abaiang. One of these was Rolua who several years before left one of the small islands in the Caroline Group to go via canoe to the Ladrones, for the purpose of buying tobacco. A storm arose and the canoes were separated and all of them were lost, except Roluas, which drifted several hundred miles until it reached the Mulgraves. Captain Moore found Rolua at Ebon, and hide him as a sailor to go to Hawaii, where Captain Brown found him. Captain Brown had asked him how he knew which way to steer without any compass or guide. "Oh," he said, "Look at the stars." "Suppose it is dark and there are no stars?" "Then look at the water" - meaning that they could tell by the currents which way to direct their course. Having finished her third voyage to Micronesia, the Morning Star reached Honolulu on January 11th 1860.

Leaving Honolulu, on February the 28 1860, the Morning Star departed on her fourth voyage to the Marquesas, having on board Reverend Mr. Coan of Hilo, as delegate from the Hawaiian Missionary Society. After a passage of 24 days, she dropped anchor at Vaitahu, on the island of Tauata, about thirty miles south-west of Hivaoa. For more than sixty years, this island had been at intervals the seat of missionary operations by the English and French, but was now entirely abandoned by them. Reverend Levi Kaiwi, a Hawaiian missionary was stationed there. The people seemed indifferent to instructions, but about twenty five who attended school and two, who could read, gave some evidence of conversation. After receiving Kaiwi on board the Morning Star went to Hivaoa and stopped at the beautiful little bay where Kawealoha was pastor. From there our vessel proceeded to Omoa Bay on Fatuhiva where they found Abraham Natua and Rebecca Hoheniho his believing wife. In the school at Omoa, there were thirty-eight readers and twenty-five writers besides several who studied arithmetic, geography and other lessons.

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Converts from Oceania

Paumau was the next station visited by the Morning Star. Mr. Kekela and his wife Naomi had spread a bountiful table for the visitors and awaited their arrival. They lived in a thatched house without floor or glass windows, but expected soon to build a stone house. There were twenty-six scholars at the school four of them were good readers and the others were progressing. The Morning Star then proceeded to Hanatapa, the station of Reverend Mr. Kaukau where the general meeting of the mission was to be held. All the missionaries having assembled the meeting commenced on April 25th. Reports from the station were read, committees appointed, subjects discussed, obstacles and encouragements were considered. After adjourning the convention until 1861 a farewell prayer meeting was held. On arrival at Honolulu on May 16th Captain Brown relinquished the command of the Morning Star. He was succeeded by Captain Gillet who was a well known and experienced ship master. Both these gentlemen were trained in the American whaling service which is considered the best of all schools in which to learn practical navigation in the Pacific.

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At this point in time, Mr. and Mrs. Bingham were still at Abaiang. Near Mr. Bingham's house on the right is a neatly thatched cottage occupied by Noa and Hina. On the opposite side of Mr. Bingham's house and nearest the village of Koinawa, are the two dwelling of Kanoa and Mahoe, in an enclosure by themselves. Near these is the boat house in which is sheltered a canoe and the Alfred, a small boat presented to Mr. Bingham for his own use by Captains Coffin and White.

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There are no wells on Abaiang. The mission family are supplied with rain water which is caught in two large casts. When these fail, it is obtained from the taro patch, by digging in the ground. This last one is somewhat brackish and certainly not very nice.

When the Morning Star reached Abaiang on her third voyage, the families were destitute of almost all provisions except flour; but by Mrs. Bingham's good management, they had not suffered. Mr. Bingham had been repeatedly urged to return to Honolulu, and become a pastor there, but he gave himself at first to the Kingsmill Islanders, and with them he decided to live and die.

Mr. Bingham is a physician as well as teacher. A native has perhaps been suffering all night from toothache, and early in the morning comes to have the tooth extracted. This has been done so often that Mr. Bingham had become very expert in this branch of dentistry. One day a wife of one of the high chiefs presented herself at the house in a sad condition. She had a terrible gash, about five inches long across one shoulder, and another not quite as long on her breast. These had been made by another wife in a fit of anger using a knife. Mrs. Bingham prepared sticking plasters, and Mr. Bingham sewed up the wounds and dressed them and the poor woman thankfully departed to her home.

Mrs. Bingham taught sewing and making of garments too to all who were willing to learn. Some friends in Honolulu sent a few calico sack to Mrs. Bingham for her pupils. These sacks were turned into such pretty dresses that others were induced to sew too.

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JANE RESTURE'S CLOSING COMMENTS

The advent of the missionary into the island states of Oceania has had certain effects that even now have not been fully understood. One can no doubt sympathise with missionaries who came to these islands with little more to offer than their own beliefs. Forced to learn the language of the people and to survive in an alien environment would certainly put their faith very much to the test. Indeed, their early needs were in non-religious matters such as learning the language and teaching the rudiments of western knowledge to the local people. It was only after these things have been done that they were able to preach the gospel. Indeed, the missionaries also had to assume the role of doctors, nurses, teachers and public works administrators.

Certainly, the strong religious following in our island society today are testament to the perseverance of these early missionaries. Indeed, the church still continued to have an important role not only in the religious education but in the general education of so many of our people. In many cases, this has been given generously but in others in the past it has appeared to place an unnecessary impost on the local island communities. Captain Davis, in 1892, was quite critical of many of the activities of some of the missionaries on the islands he visited.

While providing useful documentation, the missionary writings on the Morning Star could by no stretch of the imagination be considered to provide an objective view of island life during this period. Certainly, there is a marked lack of balance in comments made about our island people. For example, the ruins of Nan Madol, Pohnpei (Ponape), Federated States of Micronesia, are considered to be some form of pagan, heathen temples rather than the significant place that it holds in the evolution of Micronesian people. Indeed, so much island culture had been destroyed as it was not pleasing to the missionaries and as such so many of our children will be deprived of certain aspects of our culture that were enjoyed by their forefathers. Perhaps the new nationalism among island people will go part or all of the way to restoring these cultural losses.

It is probably premature at this time to endeavour to draw lasting conclusions on the merits of the missionaries' intervention into Oceania. Clearly there have been gains and similarly there had been losses. Perhaps the gains in the form of education and language translation can one day be balanced against the loss in so many important aspects of our cultural heritage ... let us hope so!

The History of The Morning Star
 
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