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My Introduction to the Hawaiian Islands

From Mission Life (periodical), Vol. V (1874), pages 601-605.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of Melanesia, 2006


BY THE REV. J. BRIDGER, Missionary at Wailuku.

I HAVE somewhere read of the above group being a chain of rich, beautiful, and interesting islands. The last two adjectives are undoubtedly correct; but I must certainly take exception to the first of the three--not but what it is true in a certain sense, but in the ordinary acceptation of the term "rich" it is certainly rather misleading. The soil, so far as it has been put into cultivation, is very fertile; and having said this I have recounted all the "riches" of this charming group. Possibly at no previous time has there been such a stagnation in the trade of these islands, and consequently the inhabitants have never before been so poor. The staple production--sugar--is selling for a merely nominal sum; and it is to this, and the uncertainty of the future of this little kingdom, we owe the present rather unhappy condition. I have mentioned this state of things temporal because it influences things spiritual, more particularly when our Church has, in these islands, to look to the people for a large portion of its maintenance. I am bound, however, to confess that the foreigners (i.e., the white population, chiefly from the United States) really do a great deal for the support of the clergy. There appears to be a desire in these islands, and in the States, for the laity to do whatever is possible to assist ministers generally. I had not been in the States many days before I experienced this. I had occasion to stay in New York a few days, and took apartments at a private boarding-house. When leaving I called for my bill, and found that it amounted to $24, quite a reasonable charge. When handing over the money, the lady of the house said that she [601/602] would only take $10, as she wished to give the rest to the Mission with which I was connected. Now I was a total stranger to this kind person, had never seen her before, and possibly may not meet her again in the flesh, and I could not help thinking that it would be a long time before some of mine own nation would thus, off-hand as it were, make a gift for Mission purposes of nearly £3.

This kindness, I am thankful to say, has followed me to my present cure. The foreigners, mostly from the States, as I have mentioned before, are doing everything possible to assist me; and when it is considered that most of these white people belong to other denominations than the Anglican Church, their generosity is beyond all praise.

As you approach these beautiful islands you are struck with the somewhat bare appearance presented to your view. It is true that I had not a very good chance of having a fair sight, as by the time we were close in it was quite dark. It is always dark when I arrive at the end of any of my journeys. I went out to South America a few years ago. I arrived in the night. Not long ago I returned to England, and arrived at Southampton at night. On coming to these islands I arrived at New York in the night. So, when crossing from this latter place to the Sandwich Islands, and when speculation was rife as to the time of day we were likely to be at Honolulu, I confidently predicted (as well I might) that we should arrive at night. Just so it happened, for about eleven o'clock one Friday night in June we were slowly steaming into Honolulu harbour. But to return to my subject. Although arriving so late, I was met and heartily welcomed by the Bishop. We landed early on Saturday morning, and almost the first question asked me by his Lordship was, should I be ready to accompany him on Monday to my new field of labour on one of the other islands? As this involved another journey by sea and land, I could but think that the Bishop's energy had not at all evaporated by two years of real hard work in the tropics. On Monday afternoon we (i.e., the Bishop and myself) were both on board the little steamer which runs between the islands. We travelled all night; and oh, the horrors of that night! I had travelled the whole of the way from England without being at all unwell; but on this little steamer I was a doomed man. I must draw a veil over my sufferings on that terrible night. . . . . .

We arrived at Wailuku, on the island of Maui, my new post, about the middle of the next day. I was struck with the beauty of the place. The Mission house is commodious, with extensive grounds attached, and finely situated. A magnificent mountain, 10,000 feet [602/603] high--an extinct volcano--is immediately in front of you; on the left and behind you are the blue waters of the Pacific; and on the right is a pretty chain of mountains, on which the clouds are constantly settling. The scenery altogether is most charming. Shortly after our arrival we started off to visit one of the outposts of my Mission, a place twenty miles distant. We mounted our mules, and set out. For the first ten miles the road is pretty good, the only unpleasantness being the fact that you are either choked with dust or covered with mud. For about seven miles the road is up the mountain's side, and this part of the journey is most trying. We arrived safely at our destination. The place--a very beautiful spot--is owned by a gentleman who has built a pretty chapel on his own grounds. Prayer is daily offered up here, and once a fortnight I am to visit and give the Church's full service. Would that more felt it their duty to do as this good man has done, in providing a suitable place for the worship of Almighty God! We were most hospitably received, and left after staying two days. The second evening after our arrival at the above place we had full evensong, the Bishop preaching. On the Sunday I had service, and preached in what may be termed my parish church at Wailuku. The Bishop had gone off early in the morning to hold service at Haiku, another of my outposts, fifteen miles distant; he returned, however, in time to preach at the evening service in the church--not a bad day's work, riding thirty miles and holding two services. The Bishop went again to this place the next day, taking me with him. Here I found a small native school, and preparations made for a feast for the children. It was certainly astonishing to see the joints of meat disappear; it would horrify an economical housekeeper in England to see so much animal food consumed; but when one is told that prime mutton and beef can be purchased for 2d. per pound it is easily seen that, after all, this is the cheapest kind of food. After spending a day at this place we returned to Wailuku. The day after we again mounted, this time on horses, to ride over the mountains to Lahaina, a distance of at least twenty miles. The roads were something dreadful. It seemed almost impossible for the horses, in some places, to keep their feet. No doubt, as I was unaccustomed to mountain travelling, the difficulties appeared to me greater than they really were. When we were about half way over the mountain the Bishop's horse gave out, and he had to dismount and tie the animal to my saddle, the Bishop meanwhile running behind and urging the horse on, precisely in the same manner, but in a milder degree, which the drivers of a less noble animal adopt. I was desirous of changing places, and taking my turn at trudging along on foot, but was not allowed, the Bishop saying, that he was more accustomed than I could be to this method of [603/604] traveling, as on other occasions, when making long journeys, he has had to take, as it were, the horse, instead of the horse taking him. After a tiring journey of five hours we reached Lahaina. Having spent a day at this once flourishing, but now somewhat deserted place, we left by steamer for Honolulu, I certainly not feeling any the worse for riding nearly 100 miles so soon after my voyage from England. Thus ended the introduction to my work in the Hawaiian Islands. After remaining about another week in Honolulu I again left, and have taken up my permanent abode at Wailuku.

I was much struck at the intimate knowledge possessed by the Bishop of the nooks and corners of these islands. I think that he must have ridden over nearly every part of them. He sets us all a bright example of hard work and self-denial, both of which are very necessary to the Church here, as it has a terrible up-hill task before it. But "Work and Wait" must be out motto, and in due time we shall reap if we faint not.


We take the opportunity afforded by Mr. Bridger's paper of inserting the following extracts from the Occasional Paper recently issued by the Hawaiian Committee:--

"The assistance of all friends of the Hawaiian Mission is now most anxiously appealed for by the Bishop of Honolulu. Letters received at intervals during the past twelvemonths have made only too plain the great need of further help that will now be required from England. When the last Occasional Paper was issued (February, 1873) to the friends of the Mission, the first difficulties that have since beset it were as yet only feared, but the fluctuations of Government and the succession of two native kings within fourteen months, have resulted, as far as the Hawaiian Mission is concerned, in the complete loss of the royal grant of £400 per annum. The endowment, therefore, of the See of Honolulu is a matter of the utmost pressing necessity, in order that the Bishop may be enabled to remain in the islands.

"Since the death of Kaméhaméha IV. the progress of Mission work in the islands has been steadily pursued. During the year 1873 Mr. G. Ditcham sailed, after studying at St. Augustine's College, in order to work at the station of Waialua, a village on the island of Oahu, and distant about twenty-eight miles from Honolulu itself. He was shortly followed by Mr. W. Calder, who had gained experience in the course of some years' work as a lay reader in the dioceses of London and Lichfield, and was admitted to deacon's orders shortly after his arrival. Mr. L. Denn offered his services as a carpenter to the Mission, and his connection with the Bishop's English parish rendered his arrival welcome as a lay-helper. Finally, the Rev. [604/605] Robert Dunn, Vicar of Ampney Crucis, resigned his living and accepted the appointment of senior priest at the Cathedral of Honolulu. Mr. Dunn sailed at the beginning of 1874, and arrived in the islands at the very time of the election of a new king. During the present year the Rev. J. Bridger, formerly of Port Mourant, Berbice, sailed to Honolulu to undertake the charge of the Mission station at Wailuku, on the island of Maui. He has been followed by Mr. A. Clark, formerly a pupil teacher under the Bishop, who has taken charge of the station and school commenced by Mr. Ditcham at Waialua, and Mr. Ditcham has been thereby enabled to assist Mr. Bridger in extending his work at Waialuku.

"The incomes of six clergymen and our schoolmasters have to be provided for annually by the Bishop, with the help of the Special Fund of S.P.G, and an annual grant of £400 from the general fund of that society. Little can be raised at present in the islands, and the income of the See is yet unprovided for. Any subscriptions or donations to these objects will be thankfully received, and should be paid either to the Hawaiian Special Fund, or to the Bishop's Commissary, the Rev. Walter Scott, Vicarage, Boughton Monchelsea, Maidstone."

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