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'Iolani School Archives: Early Anglican Mission & Context

The ‘Iolani School Archives collects, organizes, preserves and provides access to historical records of ‘Iolani School.

'Iolani School Archives


The ‘Iolani School Archives collects, organizes, preserves and provides access to historical records of ‘Iolani School.

Local Context & Anglican Mission Beginnings

Despite interest in the Church of England since Kamehameha I's (Pai'ea) interactions with Captain George Vancouver (1792 - 1794), there was still no presence of that church in the Hawaiian Kingdom when King Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho 'Iolani) ascended the throne in 1855.

Instead, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) began their presence and influence in the islands in 1820 through Congregationalist and Presbyterian missionaries. Although other religious denominations also came to have a presence in the Kingdom, American Congregationalists exerted primary influence over local religion and politics.

King Kamehameha IV, having traveled to England and the United States, preferred the customs and teachings of the English Church as did his wife Queen Emma (Emma Kalanikaumakaʻamano Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke). Upon being blessed with child, and desiring young Prince Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Leiopapa a Kamehameha to be educated in the ways on the Church of England, the King and Queen requested that a mission be sent to their Kingdom.

In response to the request, Thomas Nettleship Staley was appointed the first Bishop of Honolulu.

First, then, as regards the native population. We shall have to remind them of those Divine truths, which have been hitherto sadly overlooked in the system of Christianity familiar to them; that by His Incarnation the Son of God has made Himself one with them, entered into all their sufferings, temptations, and joys; that in Him all manly, all tender graces combine; that the more they grow into His image, the purer, the braver, the truer, the more loving will they become; that religion was never designed to make their innocent pleasures the less; that it is compatible with the free indulgence in all manly and athletic exercises, being not designed to crush their natural instincts, nor to form, as unhappily all admit it has hitherto done, a sort of crust around and external to their daily life, but rather to work with those instincts and hallow that daily life..."
Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley. "The Waiting Isles," July 1862, Westminster Abbey, London, England.

Bishop Staley together with Archdeacon George Mason and Rev. Edmund Ibbotson, and their families, arrived in October 1862. They were greatly enthused by the Hawaiian Language translation of the Book of Common Prayer which King Kamehameha IV completed himself. In fact, they had utilized the time in voyage to study the language; also, soon after arrival, they began taking Hawaiian language lessons and offering Hawaiian language service.

"And we come in all love and good will to those who have been labouring [sic] here before us. However much we may conscientiously differ from them, we desire not to ignore the work which they have done to the best of their ability, nor withhold from them the credit they deserve. In turn we claim the same consideration and forbearance. There is the more need to ask this because in many important points our Church differs from the sects professing Protestant Christianity no less than from the Roman Church. And consequently there will be parts in her worship and teaching, which will seem strange to those who are only familiar with the former. At the Reformation she avoided the two extremes of a slavish adhesion to the existing order on the one hand, and of irreverence for Catholic antiquity and practice on the other."

"Surely Christianity is not all sourness, all taboo! God would have us use thankfully and in moderation all the gifts He has given us, not abstain from them altogether. This is true self restraint, this real temperance."
Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley, "Inaugural Sermon," October 1862, Honolulu, Hawai'i.

Timeline of a Request

Alexander Liholiho 'Iolani ascended the throne as King Kamehameha IV in 1855 and reigned until his death on November 30th, 1863. He and his wife, Queen Emma, preferred the religious teachings of the Church of England.

When they had a child, Prince Albert, they desired him to be educated with those teachings as foundation. After several requests, the first Anglican bishop and priests arrived to establish a mission of the Church of England in October 1862.

"I may mention a very interesting fact, in connection with the subject, that your Majesty is the first independent sovereign who has invited an English Church Establishment into his dominions."
Manley Hopkins to King Kamehameha IV, 9 March 1860, Box 1, Folder 3, MS 127 Manley Hopkins Letters to Kamehameha IV 1858 - 1862, Bishop Museum Archives.

Unfortunately, the four-year-old Prince Albert fell ill and died before the clergymen arrived, sending a nation into mourning.

In 1863, Bishop Thomas Nettleship Staley and Archdeacon George Mason, with the patronage of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma, began St. Alban's College. This is the beginning of what would become 'Iolani School. More about the history of 'Iolani School can be found at School History.


October through December 1862, missionaries arrived, founded the church in the islands, and prepared to open the school.

  • 10/11/1862 - Bishop Thomas N. Staley, Archdeacon George Mason, Rev. Edmund Ibbotson arrive. Rev. William R. Scott arrives soon after.
  • 10/12/1862 - First service in the Hawaiian Kingdom
  • 10/25/1862 - Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church charter accepted at the courthouse
  • 11/08/1862 - Notice in the Polynesian newspaper that a "Collegiate Grammar School for Young Gentlemen" would be opening soon.
  • 11/09/2024 - First Hawaiian language service.
  • 12/14/1862 - First service in Lahaina, Maui
  • 12/27/1862 - Polynesian newspaper announcement that school will start January 12, 1863 at the Parsonage House, Kukui Street (behind the temporary cathedral; temporary; Mason residence; beginning of St. Alban's College). "The Warden will receive a limited number of boarders."
  • Summer 1863 - Rev. Scott establishes an English day school for boys in Lahaina, Maui

Mission Governance

Upon establishment of the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church, as the mission was named through the Hawaiian Court, a synod (council) was formed for its governance- the members of which were the trustees of the church buildings and property:

  • Governor M. Kekuanaoa (the King’s father)
  • Judge Robertson
  • C. C. Harris, Attorney-General
  • T. Brown, Esq.
  • Bishop T. N. Staley
  • mission clergy

English to American

In 1902, the American Episcopal Church assumed jurisdiction of the Missionary District of Honolulu.
For information about the establishment of the American Episcopal Church see:

Clipping, 1862 announcement, future school opening

Funding the Mission

Polynesian, April 19, 1862.

The followoing provided funding, property and goods for the mission's establishment and early years:

  • King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma made personal contributions (private means, not from Kingdom government funds or property)
  • committee for promoting the establishment of a Church in Honolulu- comprised of Church dignitaries, noblemen, gentlemen (several members of the following mentioned Societies)
  • donations from parishioners of the Church of England in England
  • Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (Church of England) committed funding for five years
  • Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (Church of England) committed funding for three years and the stipend of two clergymen
  • interested residents of Hawai’i formed a committee to raise funds and other details prior to the arrival of the English missionaries (see above news clip)
  • upon establishment of the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church, as the mission was named through the Hawaiian Court, a synod (council) was formed for its governance- the members of which were the trustees of the church buildings and property
  • in addition to his labors, Bishop Staley would forego a portion of his stipend
  • after the Civil War, in 1865, the American Episcopal Church sent and supported two clergymen
  • in May 1865 Queen Emma left Hawaii and in July arrive in England in-part to raise funds for the mission; the original plan had included the late King


On the 5th of December, 1859, Mr. Wyllie communicated to His Majesty’s representative in London, the desire of the King and the Queen to have a church erected in their capital; towards the support of which the King offered on his own behalf and that of residents who desired the church’s services, a certain income. His Majesty devoted a piece of land for the church, and to erect a house.
In another letter it is explained that under the second article of the constitution no national or state religion is to be adopted; but all Christian denominations are placed on an equal footing of right, and possess a perfect freedom of religious worship. Hence no special appropriation could be made by government towards the Episcopal Church.
Manley Hopkins, Hawaiian Consul-General
Hawaii: the Past, Present, and Future of its Island-Kingdom, 1866.

Anglican Mission Rare Book Collection at 'Iolani School Archives

The Anglican Mission Rare Book Collection (MS-017) contains volumes discussing early mission life and activities in the Kingdom of Hawai'i. Established as the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church, it later became the Anglican Church of Hawai'i.

Available digitally via Google Books:
Mission Life: A Magazine of Information About Church Missions, and the Countries In Which They Are Being Carried On, Vol. I
by ed. Rev. J.J. Halcombe
Publication Date: 1866

Available digitally via University of North Dakota, UND Scholarly Commons:
The Net Cast in Many Waters Sketches from the Life of Missionaries for 1866
by ed. Anne Mackenzie
Publication Date: 1866
Part of the Settler Literature Archive.

Available digitally via Google Books:
The Net Cast in Many Waters Sketches from the Life of Missionaries for 1867
by ed. Anne Mackenzie
Publication Date: 1867

Available digitally via HathiTrust:
Hawaii 1778 - 1920 from the Viewpoint of a Bishop
by Rt. Rev. Henry Bond Restarick, D. D., Retired Bishop
Publication Date: 1924


For More Information

The trivia appearing on this page were taken from various sources in the 'Iolani School Archives. For more information, schedule an appointment to conduct your research. Please note the Archives' open hours on the Welcome tab of this guide.

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