August 20, 1824 – School for Commoners

He Huliau: Intersecting Worlds 1820 – 1825

“… the maka ainana, or farmers of Lahaina: … application was made by them to us for books and slates, and an instructor; and the first school, consisting of about thirty individuals, ever formed among that class of the people, has, within a few days, been established in our enclosure, under the superintendence of B_ [Betsey Stockton], who is quite familiar with the native tongue.”
— Charles S. Stewart, A Residence in the Sandwich Islands, p. 319


Betsey Stockton, c 1863, photographer unknown.

Missionaries, after arriving in 1820, quickly began teaching reading and writing. Instruction was initially in English, and limited to only the ali‘i, under orders of Liholiho. At each new mission station, one-on-one instruction and small schools were established. Individual ali‘i often selected their preferred teachers. Lucy Thurston noted in her diary that Kalanimoku, “the great warrior … passed by educated men and chose little Daniel Chamberlain, five years old, to be his teacher in learning the English alphabet.”1 It wasn’t until 1824, that the ali‘i determined the whole population should be educated. Betsey Stockton, a formerly enslaved person who arrived with the second company of missionaries, is credited with starting the first school for commoners in Lahaina, initially for 30 farmers. The location is believed to be the eventual site of Lahainaluna Seminary.

“It is a matter of grief and amazement, that when the people were so ready to be instructed, there were so few to teach them, and so great a lack of stationery and printing and binding materials, or of funds to procure them. … [Artemas] Bishop wrote me as follows: … ‘From Waipio on the north, to Puna on the south-east, the cry comes up to us. Kamakau tells us he wants four thousand books to send to Kau, where Naihe and Kapiolani are sojourning. Gov. Adams wants a kini, forty thousand books for his and Kaahumanu’s people. But we have not one on hand! … Not half the applications from distant places have we been able to answer.’”
— Hiram Bingham in A Residence of Twenty-one Years in the Sandwich Islands, p. 257

1 Thurston, Lucy G., Life and Times of Mrs. Lucy G. Thurston, p. 275.

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