Life in Hawaii, by Titus Coan
Copyright ©1882, 1997 (electronic edition by Edward J. Coan)

Chapter XIV.

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Second Visit to the MarquesasThe Paumotu ArchipelagoArrival at UapouAn Escape by Two FathomsNuuhivaHivaoaKekela’s Trials Savage SeducersA Wild Audience.

ON the 3d of April, 1867, I embarked again, on board the Morning Star No. 2, to revisit our Marquesan mission. The Star was commanded by the Rev. Hiram Bingham, Jr., who had brought her out from Boston, and who was still her captain. My associate delegate was Rev. B. W. Parker, and we had for fellow-passengers Mrs. Bingham and Mr. Parker’s daughter, and a daughter of our missionary Kekela.

We also had on board the body of Joseph Tiietai, one of the first converts of Omoa, who had died at Honolulu while on a visit there.

In 1865 Mr. Bicknell left the Marquesas and returned to Oahu, bringing with him seventeen Marquesans, male and female, in order to train them on the Hawaiian Islands, and then return them to teach their people. Of these seventeen, nine died within two years, and the eight who survived were anxious to return to their old homes. We therefore took them on board. They were all baptized before they left Oahu, Mr. Bicknell recommending them as converts to Christianity. On our eighth day from Hilo, Meto, the wife of one of the returning Marquesans, died after a sickness of several weeks, professing her faith in Jesus. At four P.M. the corpse, having been prepared for burial, the Morning Star, as she was rushing along at the rate of nine knots an hour, was hove to, and lay quietly on the bosom of the deep, as if conscious of the power, and listening to the voice of Him who "rules the raging of the sea." All hands were assembled in the cabin, and appropriate services were held, when the remains of the poor woman were committed to the deep, to be seen no more until "the sea shall give up her dead."

It was a solemn scene, and the first of the kind I had ever witnessed. All the attendant circumstances of committing a fellow-being to a lone grave in the deep and dark waters of a vast ocean combined to impress us with the worth of man. The winds, the waves, the inanimate ship, and all surrounding objects, seemed to pause, and, with rational beings, to bow in silent reverence before Him whose high behest remands our bodies to the grave and calls our spirits before His bar.

Sleep, Meto, in thy cold and silent tomb, and let the waves of mid-ocean roll over thee! They shall not disturb thy quiet slumbers until the voice of the archangel calls thee from thy long repose. Thou west once blind, and a savage, but "the day-spring from on high" dawned upon thee ere thou wast called away, and we have hope for thee that thou wilt appear a shining angel among the joyous throng who have been redeemed from among all nations and kindreds and peoples and tongues.

On the 21st of April we made the Paumotu Archipelago, a group of about one hundred atolls, or coral reefs, enclosing lagoons. This group lies between the Marquesas and the Society Islands. Their name, Paumotu, signifies "all islands." Those that we sighted were Taroa and Taputa, in lat. 14° 22' south, and ion. 144° 58' west. We sailed within two miles of the shore, and saw the beautiful islets resting like swans upon the smooth water, while the rippling wavelets lapped the white beach, and the palm and emerald shrubbery adorned the coral ring.

Different islands of this archipelago were discovered by different navigators and at various times: by Quinos, in 1606; Maire and Schouter, in 1616; Roggewein, in 1722; Byron, in 1765; Wallis and Carteret, in 1767; Cook, in 1769, 1773, and 1774; Bougainville, in 1763; Boenecheo, in 1772 and 1774; Edwards, in 1791; Bligh, in 1792; Wilson, in 1797; Turnbull, in 1803. Later and more careful observations have been made on this beautiful group by Kotzebue, in 1816; Bellingshausen, in 1819; Duperry, in 1823; Beechey, in 1826; Fitzroy, in 1835; and Wilkes, in 1841. Wilkes estimated the population at 10,000. The people were represented as in a semi-savage state. The islands are all of coral formation, and were built up by that silent and wonder-working architect, the so-called coral insect.

Our view of these islands, garlanded with green, and shining under a tropical sky, was enchanting, but the moral picture was dark. Why are these thousands of immortal beings left to perish in ignorance, poverty, and paganism?

The Star went about and stood off from the shore, and in a short time these beautiful gems of the Pacific, with their white beaches, their silvery lagoons, and their emerald chaplets sunk below the horizon and disappeared, and we bade adieu to the charming sight with a sigh.

Our first anchorage at the Marquesas Islands was on the 28th of April, in the bay of Hakahekau, island of Uapou. The Rev. Samuel Kauwealoha, whom we left in 1860 in his beautiful valley and nice stone house at Hivaoa, and who, as before reported, was driven out by savage war, had come with his wife and a few Marquesan friends to this island, which had not been occupied before by our missionaries.

Before we had anchored he came on board the Star, and in an ecstasy of delight, welcomed us to his simple home. He piloted our vessel into the harbor, where she was anchored. We sat down to dinner after prayers and thanksgiving, supposing that all was well. On rising and going on deck, Capt. Bingham perceived that the Star had dragged her anchor. The current was strong, and the wind was blowing in squalls from one side of the bay to the other. Every strong gust caused the anchor to drag, and we were going slowly but surely toward a jagged and rock-bound shore. All hands were called, a kedge was carried out from the bows and planted in the bay, to check the drag; but anchor, kedge, and schooner were all moving at every gust toward the shore, on which the vessel must, if not arrested, be smashed like a cockle-shell.

A line was coiled into the boat, with one end fastened to the capstan, and with this the men in the boat struggled for an hour or more against the wind and current, before they could reach the opposite shore. At last they gained it when the stern of the vessel was only about two fathoms from the frowning rocks, on which the surf dashed high and fearfully. They made the line fast to the rocks on shore; and men at the capstan began to turn, slowly and carefully at first, fearing that the line would part which would have resulted in sure and swift destruction to our beautiful Morning Star. But she began to move slowly to the windward, and our hearts beat with hope and joy at every foot gained. At length she was moored by a hawser to the rocks on the windward shore of the harbor and our agony was over. It was near night, and the natives on shore had waited in vain to welcome us, and to attend divine service, it being Sunday; several, however, came off in their light canoes to help us. The tact and great strength of Kauwealoha, and the help of his boat and crew, were of great service to us; indeed without this help our escape might have been impossible.

At evening we went on shore and held service in the missionary’s house. On the next day we explored and admired the beautiful valley of Hakahekau. It is three miles long and one-fourth of a mile wide, with a limpid brook babbling through its whole length. The whole valley is crowded with magnificent trees, evergreen vines, and shrubbery.

The mountains, hills, ridges, spurs, domes, and lofty cones of this island are very grand. Within a vast amphitheatre of rugged hills which send down their spurs to the shore, buttressed by lofty precipices, are eight remarkable columns, two hundred to three hundred feet high, and fifty to one hundred feet in diameter, rising in solitary grandeur, and standing against the sky. They give the island the appearance of a castellated fortress, and are landmarks which may be seen far at sea, marking the bay. The fantastic mountain forms in the Marquesas Islands are amazing.

The population in 1853 was supposed to be 1,000 but ten years later the small-pox carried off most of the people, so that only 300 remain, and this luxuriant valley is nearly depopulated. Not a house remains in the upper part, and only five or six are clustered along the shore. Thousands of ripe cocoa-nuts and breadfruits fall to the ground and rot, for want of hands to gather and mouths to eat them. Solitude and silence reign in the old heiaus, and on the grounds where midnight fires once burned, where human sacrifices were offered, where the lascivious dance and the wild orgies of heathen souls made the groves resound, where the shouts of the warrior were heard, where the hulahula drum beat during the livelong night, and where dark savage forms move like ghosts amidst the spectral gloom. Those baleful fires are extinguished, and the voice of revelry is hushed in death. But, alas! darkness still broods over the few who remain on this island. We will, however, hope and pray for brighter days.

Leaving Uapou, we crossed the channel twenty-two miles and anchored in Taiohai, Nuuhiva. We had heard that the French government in Tahiti was displeased because Mr. Bicknell had taken a number of Marquesans to Oahu, without first asking leave. Our mission at this time was to explain to the governor that the Marquesans had been taken to Honolulu only to be instructed, and the explanation satisfied his excellency.

On the 30th of April we sailed from Uapou to Nuuhiva, twenty-two miles due north. At Taiohai, or Port Anna Maria, the principal harbor of the island, we took a French pilot, Mr. Bruno, who brought us to anchor at 5 P.M. Taiohai is a noble bay and safe harbor, some two miles deep and one mile wide, but narrower at the entrance. The views in this bay are enchanting. The peaks of the island rise to the height of 3,860 feet. Almost every pinnacle is carpeted with grass and mosses, or festooned with vines; even on the perpendicular walls of the precipices a tapestry of shrubs and verdure hangs. This is the harbor where Capt. Porter, of the Essex, reveled in 1813. From this bay, in 1842, the gifted Herman Melville, with his friend Toby, absconded to the hills, and made his devious and toilsome way to the Taipi valley, from which, in spite of its paradise-like beauty and its bewitching enchantments, he was but too glad to escape. I saw the valley he threaded, the cane-brake through which he struggled, the ridge he bestrode, the jungle where he concealed himself, and the towering summit over which he passed. Melville lost his reckoning of distances as well as his track. The enchanted valley of Taipi, Melville’s "Typee," is only four hours’ climb by the trail from Taiohai; and from ancient times there has been a well-known trail from the head of one valley to the other. This of course the young fugitive did not find. The distance is not over five miles, and the Marquesans walk it, or rather climb it, in three or four hours. The valley of Hapa, (Mr. Melville’s Happar) lies between Taipi and Taiohae, and is only two or three hours’ walk from the latter. These three valleys are all on the south side of the island, and adjoin each other. During all his four months of romantic captivity, the gifted author of "Typee" and "Omoo" was only four or five miles distant from the harbor whence he had fled.

We called on the bishop, who received us politely, and entered into free conversation with us, and with two English gentlemen, residents, we visited the French nunnery. The Lady Superior received us with great urbanity, and introduced us to the two Sisters. The Superior was a large woman, of fair complexion and dignified bearing. All of the ladies were ideals of scrupulous neatness in their attire. Their institution was inclosed with a high wall of basalt, in which two buildings of thatch, some sixty feet each, were erected, with school-rooms, dormitories, kitchen, and chapel. The grounds were ample and well kept, and there was an air of neatness about the whole establishment. The number of girls was reported to us as sixty, ranging in ages from four to fifteen years. They are taught to read and write, to sew and embroider, and to gather breadfruits, cocoa-nuts, etc., and to cook their own food. The expenses of this institution are borne by the French Government, and the annual estimate is $120 for each girl.

The island of Uahuna is thirty miles east of Nuuhiva. Here, on the 3d of May, our missionaries, Laioha and his wife, welcomed us to their thatched cottage, and the people were called together by the sound of the horn. Donning their light tapes, they came streaming in from all the jungle trails of the valley, bringing their children for examination. Boys, girls, and adults gathered around us with beaming faces, grasping our hands and saluting us with their melodious "Kaoha." Thirty-two pupils were examined, after which we held religious services, and celebrated the Lord’s supper as was our habit at the various stations. We then returned to the Star, taking with us Laioha, and José, a Peruvian whom I had baptized at Puamau in 1860, when he took the name of David.

The history of this David José after his baptism was interesting. Desiring to labor for Christ, he went of his own accord in 1863 to Hooumi, a valley adjoining Taipi, on Nuuhiva, where he labored earnestly and without pay to convert the people to Christ, working with his own hands to supply his bodily wants. He collected thirty pupils, who were greatly attached to him, and for whom he had high hopes.

Soon the small-pox struck the people with the blast of death. Consternation seized the multitude, and leaving friends and relatives to their fate, many fled to the mountains or wherever else they might hope for shelter. And faithful David had forty cases under his care with no one to help him. Of these, twenty died, and he buried them all with his own hands. He labored on until 1866, when the French sold the valleys of Hooumi, Taipi, and Hapa, adjoining one another, to a company who ordered David to leave.

Again we crossed the channel to the valley of Hanamenu, on the island of Hivaoa. Here we landed the six surviving Marquesans, brought from Honolulu, who belonged to this place. On landing, there was a rush to the shore and a great wailing. Fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters wailed fearfully for their kindred who had died on Oahu. Soon, however, were heard the thuds of the falling breadfruits, and the squealing of pigs, and a great feast was prepared in a short time.

Mr. Bicknell had made Hanamenu one of his stations, and had labored earnestly with the people. Kekela also, and Kanwealoha had visited this beautiful valley, and many of the people seemed tamed. A Marquesan catechist was stationed here, and taking the old hopeful converts, and those just returned from Oahu, we were requested to organize a church at this station. This was done, and Kekela was chosen pastor for this church of ten members, seven men and three women.

On our way from Taiohai to Puamau we had heard of savage war in this valley, and had been warned to approach it carefully. Kauwealoha and others advised us not to land until Kekela came on board to report, as the only safe landing-place had been in the hands of savages hostile to the friends of Kekela. So we kept off and on, outside. At length two boats came out of the harbor; one steering westward soon disappeared, and Kekela came alongside in the other, informing us that the westward-bound boat was the last of a large fleet of war canoes returning to their own valleys. Kekela leaped on board with tears, and was surprised to find his daughter, who came passenger with us, weeping on his neck.

He told us that the war had just ended, that the last fighting had been three days before, that the people who for months had been hidden in caves and in fastnesses, were now crawling out, and that the cannibal chief who had been so eager to eat Mr. Whalon was shot dead on the previous Sunday. So the door was opened to us, and just in time for our entrance.

Kekela seemed discouraged. The war had demoralized his people. He had no church, his school was broken up, his congregation dispersed, his pigs and potatoes were stolen, his mules and donkey killed and eaten, and one of his out-houses burned; bullets had struck his house, and several nocturnal attempts had been made to burn his large stone dwelling, and this had been saved only by vigilant night-watching. After doing what we could to calm and encourage the peace party, we took Kekela and wife with four children and sailed for Atuona, a station on the south side of Hivaoa, and occupied by Mr. Hopuku and wife.

We examined a school, organized a church of five members, found an interesting people and good working missionary and his wife, and left the valley, impressed with the great romantic beauty of its natural scenery and its luxuriant growth of tropic trees, and with a hope in its moral advancement. We sailed the same evening for Omoa, Fatuiva, where we were to carry the remains of Joseph Tiietai, one of their chiefs and an early convert to Christianity. Here again we had been warned to approach the bay with caution, because it had been reported that the people were greatly exasperated at the death of this chief, and of a number of others of the valley, in Oahu. The Star was kept out at a good distance from land to watch the movements on shore, for it was said that armed boats and canoes would come out to take her. Soon, however, Kaivi’s boat was alongside, bringing good old Abraham, a brother of Joseph, and several others. By them we were assured that it was safe to land, as they had succeeded in quieting and reassuring the people, who had been very angry and threatening.

The remains of the chief were taken on shore and received by his friends with loud wailings. All the night after the funeral exercises were held, the most fearful wailings were kept up, especially by his sister. Men and women tore their hair, and cut themselves with sharp bamboos till they were smeared with blood.

The next day, May 12, being Sunday, we sat up until midnight to converse with the people who came in, to examine candidates for the church, and Mr. Hapuku for ordination. On the morrow the ordination took place; seventeen candidates were baptized and received to the church on profession of faith, and one by letter. Ten had been received before, making the whole number gathered into this church twenty-eight. Of these four had died. The Lord’s supper was then administered to about forty communicants, representing seven nationalities.

The decrepit Eve Hipahipa of fourscore years was brought in the arms of friends. She clasped our hands in both of hers, and with tears and a fervent kaoha laid them on the top of her head as if to ask a benediction.

At the general meeting held in this place, where the Star remained five days, it was resolved that Mr. Kekela endeavor at once to establish a boarding school for boys, and Mr. Kanwealoha one for girls, at their respective stations. The Omoa school was examined. It had gained since our former visit fifteen pupils and sixteen readers.

On Friday, May 17th, there was a rush and roar of the savages, and we were startled by loud shouts coming down the valley. On looking out I saw a large company of tattooed savages carrying a canoe to the sea. It was covered with a broad platform of bamboo, on which was erected a small round house covered with mats. In the canoe were a live pig, a dog, and a cock, and breadfruit, cocoanuts, poi, etc. The canoe was ornamented with trappings, and rigged with a mast, a sprit, and a sail of kapa. Naked swimmers, with much noisy demonstration, launched this singularly equipped craft, and pushed it out, through a roaring surf, into the open sea. There the swimmers left it, and returned to the shore. The canoe, left to the tide, drifted slowly, out of the bay. But the wind not being favorable, it struck on the northern headland of the harbor, advancing upon the rocks and then receding; borne, like a ram, by the rush and the retreat of the surf. Seeing the danger it was in, a native ran to the point and shoved off the struggling craft, when, the wind filling its sail, it headed out seaward, moved off, and disappeared.

I had a long talk with Teiiheitofe, a high chief, about the ceremonial of this canoe. He said that it was a last offering to their god, Kauakamikihei, on the death of the prophetess or sorceress, and that this sacrifice propitiated the god, expiated their sins, and closed the koina, or tabu, which had then lasted six weeks. During this koina "all servile work and vain recreations are by law forbidden."

While the Star was at Omoa, I revisited Hanavave on a sad and fruitless errand. The wife of one of our missionaries had been enticed by two young savages, brothers, and she was living with them among the trees up the valley. Although warned of danger, as these seducers were desperate, I was determined to seek for her, and beg her to go with me to the Star and to her husband and children. I found her forlorn and desiring to return; but she said she feared her seducers, as they would surely kill her before they would let her go. While we talked, the young savages came in, armed with sheath knives, and took seats so as to look her full in the face, keeping their keen eyes fixed on her. She dared not speak again. Through an interpreter I labored with them, but they were relentless, and their prey was fast. I left them with a heavy heart, wishing that some power might release her from their grasp. Poor woman! she died in misery not long after.

It is sad to relate that the wife of Kaivi of Tahuata came to a similar end.

The Star returned to the stations of Hapuku and Kekela to land these brethren, and at Puamau, it being Sabbath morning, Mr. Parker and I went on shore to attend service, while the Star remained outside. We were happily surprised to find more than a hundred collected under some large trees to hear the Gospel. It was a wild group. Just from the war, many of the men were still armed with their formidable weapons. Before service, Kekela’s house was jammed full of men, women, and children, filling every room with their grotesque figures and the odors of their pipes. They were like the frogs of Egypt; no place was sacred.

We had much talk with groups and individuals. One old warrior, Meakaiahu, heavily tattooed, held quite an earnest debate with me. When I spoke to him on the beauty of peace, and said that we should love our enemies, he answered, "No, no; we should hate our enemies and kill them." When I urged the example and teachings of Christ, he shook his head, and said, "What if I love my enemy and he shoot me?"

I urged and illustrated the reciprocal law of love, and how it begets love. He seemed to feel the truth, and began to yield. He said, "I have killed five men; I have a bullet in my body, but I will listen to you and fight no more."

He then requested me to talk with his chief and persuade him to give up fighting. He took my hand, pressed it hard, looked up into my face from under a great leaf which screened his eyes. and said with emphasis, "Kaoha oe," "love to thee." Holding on to my hand, he led me through a crowd of steaming natives to his chief, a tall, old man named Moahau, introduced me to him, and watched our conversation with eager interest. The old chief was friendly, but witty and skeptical. When urged to abandon his former habits and become a Christian, he replied: "I am too old to change my life; let the children go with the missionaries; it is too late for us old folks."

When told that Jesus loved all; that He died for the old and the young; that He would take all who obeyed Him to heaven, where there is no hunger, no sickness, no war, no bullets or barbed spears, or death, he replied, with a twinkle of the eye: "That will be a good place for cowards and lazy folks who are afraid to fight and too lazy to climb breadfruit and cocoanut trees." This shrewd wit excited a laugh in the listening crowd. But order was soon restored, and taking the old man’s hand in one of mine, and the warrior’s in the other, I begged them to unite on the side of the Prince of Peace, and to use their influence to prevent wars, cannibalism, and idolatry, and to cheer and help their good teachers, Kekela and Naomi. The old man yielded and said: "I will stand by my friend, the warrior, and by Kekela; and now let us go out and hear you talk to us under the trees."

The horn sounded and the people flocked together, and for an hour, while Mr. Parker and myself addressed them, the attention was unusually marked. When we pronounced the services ended, tile old chieftains shouted out: "No! no! We are not weary We want to stay and talk with you." To this call there was a hearty response from all, and we remained until near sundown, while hands were raised from all parts of the group, and voices called out, "Come here, come to me, come and talk to us." The scene was marvelous, and we felt that the Lord was there.

Kekela, who had been greatly depressed and had well-nigh given up all hope, was wonderfully encouraged. He proposed a meeting in the evening and the communion of the Lord’s supper, saying: "I have seven candidates for the church of long standing, but the war and the confusion had so disheartened me, that I was on the point of giving all up as lost."

The seven were examined, approved, and baptized, and with those who had been baptized five to seven years before, making ten in all, we commemorated the death of our Lord. It was a precious season, "a night long to be remembered."

The French have made several wholesome laws for the islands, forbidding wars, murder, cannibalism, sorcery, etc., on the leeward, or northwest islands, including Nuuhiva, Uapou, and Uahuna. These laws were beginning to take effect.

We had to carry back Laioha and Kauwealoha, who had been with us all the time among the islands as guide, interpreter, and companion, to their stations. When this was done, we offered thanksgivings to God for our safe and prosperous voyage; and then, with all sails set, the prow of our good vessel was turned to the northwest, and we left the Marquesas, where we had spent twenty-three days. We anchored at Hilo on June 6, 1867.

The number added to the Marquesan churches during this visit of the Star was forty-eight. The whole number from the beginning was sixty-two.

In closing the history of my visits to this group, I can not forbear expressing regrets that the mission has been so depleted. In September, 1880, we had only three laborers with their wives in that field. The broad opening to the west, the call for laborers, for funds, and for the services of our missionary packet, have led many of the friends of missions on our islands to feel that we can not afford to send out reinforcements to the Marquesas, or to spare the Morning Star to make an annual or biennial trip with a delegate to that group, and so out of ten stations which we once occupied only three remain with teachers.

The commencement of our work there was auspicious, and its progress and fruits were encouraging, more so than of the mission to the Society Islands or to China, or to many other parts of the world.

But as it is said in Scripture, "The destruction of the poor is his poverty," so we must say of our work. And this is the wail over all the earth,want of laborers to gather the harvest, and want of material means to give strength, courage, and due success to the weary toilers in the field. Our three missionaries in the Marquesas are doing what they can, and there is still encouragement that war, idolatry, and cannibalism would soon cease, could we but continue the Gospel work among that people.


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