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THE STORY OF
THE MORNING STAR

This Web site is the first of two Web sites dealing with the missionary vessel the Morning Star. Perhaps it may be more appropriate to refer to them as vessels as in the end there were three of them all bearing the same name. This site covers the period from 1819 to 1861 when the first Morning Star was utilised to establish a  mission station on Abaiang. The information has been based on the records of Reverend Hiram Bingham and Jane Warren and as such the narrative occasionally changes to the first person. Their records are a useful window through which one can view life in Oceania during this period.

All these vessels were paid for by issuing ten cent shares to the children of America. Below is a share certificate for the third Morning Star.

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In 1819, a company of fourteen missionaries left Boston to the Sandwich Islands, and after a pleasant passage of six months, arrives safely at Honolulu. After the King had given them leave to come on shore, some foreigners, who lived on the islands gave up three huts thatched with grass, for their use; but in them was neither floor nor ceiling, chimney nor furniture. They were destitute likewise of furniture. When the barrel of crockery they brought with them was opened, it was found to be all broken; but the cooking stove was whole, and that was set up near one of the huts, with the fence of pole around it. Here the ladies did their cooking, washing, and ironing, while the crowd of natives would stand about it all day to watch them work, which seemed to be very curious to them.

Meetings were held, and Sabbath schools and day schools commenced for all who were willing to attend. To enlist the cooperation of the people in the schools, public examinations were held, and parents and children appeared to take a great deal of pleasure in them.

In order to gain easier access to all the people, the missionaries went to live on different islands. Daily intercourse with the people, as well as schools and religious teachings, in due course produce perceptible effects.

The year 1838 was emphatically a year of revivals on the islands. The year of jubilee had indeed come and the harvest which has been so long waited for was gathered. In 1840, a written constitution and laws were adopted by the people, which secured to them their rights, encouraged industry, and punish vice. The year 1849 completed thirty years from the commencement of the mission, with the whole number of members in the churches now being in excess of twenty-three thousand.

The people of Hawaii now felt they have received great blessing and they began to think that they ought to do something to give the gospel to others. Nearly two thousand miles southwest of them, were several clusters of islands called the Micronesian Islands. The Hawaiian Christians thought they would undertake to send a mission to this island and for this purpose they formed a society at Honolulu called the "Hawaiian Missionary Society". A vessel was chartered called the Caroline, and in July, 1850, it started on its voyage to Micronesia. It carried Reverend Messrs. Snow, Sturgess, and Gulick, with their wives, and two Hawaiian assistants with their wives.

           

The little company of missionaries reached their destination safely, and began their labours among the people of Micronesia. The report which was brought back to Honolulu very much interested the Hawaiian Christians in the undertaking. After a few years, they enlarged their contributions to the Hawaiian Missionary Society and determined to send two more native missionaries to Micronesia.

But these Micronesian Islands were a great way off. A year often passed, and sometimes two, without the visit of any vessel. This that did stop were nearly all whale ships, and the captains would seldom be persuaded to go out of their course either to carry missionaries or to get the supplies to the mission. It was concluded by the Board that a little vessel must be provided for the purpose and send out for the use of the Micronesian missions. And this was why the Morning Star was built.

The American Board then must look somewhere for the means to build the missionary vessel. In England, they had built the mission ship John Williams using money raised by the children. It was wondered why could not other children build the ship. It was estimated that the vessel would cost about twelve thousand dollars. This amount, was divided into one hundred and twenty thousand shares of ten cents each, so that a great many children could have the pleasure of being part owners in the concern. Each one was given a certificate of stock when the money was paid.

And what was the ship to be called? It was going to bring the life of salvation to the islands in the west, rising upon them like a beautiful star. It was therefore called the Morning Star.

The money came from all directions, children from California, Oregon, and all the states of the Union sent their funds to the Board; some of their abundance, others from the depths of poverty and wants, but none willing to be left out. Contributions were not confined to America but came also from Turkey, Syria, China and Hawaii. The contributions to the Morning Star came into the treasury in such abundance, that notice was given that no more was needed but still the money came until it amounted to a full thirty thousand dollars. All that was not required to building the vessel was put aside for sailing it and for repairs.

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The Morning Star was built in about twelve weeks and from the laying of the keel she was ready to be launched. She was of one hundred and fifty tons of burden, and her form was one of great beauty. When the day of the launching came, three or four thousand men, women, and children were assembled to see the vessel glide into the water. Every face was full of smiles and everybody was happy.

Before she sailed on her long journey, the Morning Star was furnished with everything convenient as well as necessary. She was fitted with a spare set of sails and a spare set of spars and ropes.

When the Morning Star was about to sail, there was another gathering at India Wharf, Boston, where she lay. This was on the first day of December 1856 at 10.00 a.m. The passengers and crew were all on board. The name of the Captain was Samuel G. Moore, and the crew consisted of two mates, a steward and six seamen. They were to carry out as passengers Reverend Hiram Bingham Jr. and his wife, destined to Micronesia as missionaries. Mr. Bingham was the son of the Reverend Hiram Bingham who was one of the first missionaries who went to the Sandwich Islands thirty seven years before. Another passenger was Mrs. Jackson, wife of the Postmaster at Honolulu. Prayers were offered by Reverend Mr. Bingham Sen. He had seen many great things and could pray that his son may see greater things than these. Then the last two verses of the missionary hymn were sung and the congregation departed.

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The New Flag for the
Morning Star

On the 1st December 1856 the Morning Star sailed out of Boston Harbour; but, not long after, a dreadful storm came upon the Morning Star forcing the Captain to anchor under the lee of Cape Cod where the ship and the passengers remained for three days. Afterwards a steamer from Boston came to their assistance and towed the Morning Star around Cape Horn. On the 24th February 1856, the Morning Star passed Cape Horn and headed for the Sandwich Island.

On the 20th April 1857, they had the first view of the snow-capped mountains of Hawaii more than 100 miles away. The Morning Star passed Hawaii on the left and the next morning had Maui and Molokai in full view. Not long after they had been in Honolulu they were presented with a new flag for the Morning Star which was hoisted to the mast-head by Captain Moore.

The Morning Star was first sent to the Marquesas Islands to take provisions to the Hawaiian missionaries who were living there. By August 7th, the Morning Star was ready to start for Micronesia. On the way, the ship touched twice at Kauai, one of the Hawaiian islands and held meetings there. After the ship had been fourteen days without sight of land, the passengers and crew were looking forward to catching a first glimpse of Micronesia. It was Reverend Bingham who was the first one to shout "Land Ho!" and instantly the word was taken up by almost everyone on board. Two days later, they passed near Mentchikoff Island and they could see the men, women and children upon the beach. It was not long before several of them pushed off in a proa to visit us. Bingham observed them to be strange looking men with the strangest thing about them being the pair of earings that they wore.

One of the men who came off to us, asked for a knife and tobacco, the latter of which the Morning Star had not for sale. He offered in return mother of pearl fish hooks, and neatly finished a few coconuts and several broken sea shells. Although it was only 350 miles from Mentchikoff Island to Kusaie, we were ten days in making the passage owing to calm weather and adverse head winds. On the 8th September, the Morning Star dropped anchor in one of the beautiful harbours of Kusaie. On a lovely islet, which the missionaries called "Dove Island," stood the cottage of Mr. Snow; and not far off were the houses of Dr. Pierson and Kanoa. Taking Mr. Snow and Dr. Pierson with their families, we set sail for Ponape on September 15th to visit the missionaries there, and to hold a meeting of the Micronesian mission to decide what new stations to be occupied, and what men should commence them.

On 23rd September, the Morning Star entered the Metalanim Harbour on the east side of Ponape. At Shalong, near this harbour was the home of Dr. Gulick. Missionary life on Ponape had always been one of much hardship. While the Morning Star lay in the harbour a meeting was held on board her for the sake of giving the missionary at Shalong a public opportunity to testify their joy, and also to impress on the natives the nature of the work which they were doing. From Metalanim Harbour, the Morning Star proceeded to Mr. Doane's station, in the Jokoij tribe, on the northwest side of the island to take on board his goods. From this station, they proceeded to Ron Kiti, the residence of Mr. Sturgess.

It had been decided to commence new stations on the Marshall and Gilbert Islands. Although there were some 5,000 people on Ponape, even after the terrible ravages made by small-pox, it was thought best to send Dr. Pierson and Mr. Doane to the Marshall Islands, and also Kanoa and myself to the Gilbert Islands. On the 15th October, the Morning Star set sail and entered the Metalanim Harbour to take on board Mrs. Gulick (with three children), who was going to the Sandwich Island for her health.

The Morning Star touched at Wellington and McAskill Islands, and then at Kusaie to return Mr. and Mrs. Snow to their home. Though the Morning Star sailed from Kusaie for the Gilbert Islands, she was compelled by the winds to pass near Ebon. It was on 13th November that Reverend Bingham climbed almost to the top of the mast, and caught first sight of what proved to be for so many years, their island home. It was Apaiang (Abaiang) a low coral reef some 50 miles in circumference and enclosing a great lagoon. On the 17th November, the Morning Star entered the lagoon and came to anchor near Koinawa, the King's village on the eastern side.

The next morning, the King, at our request came on board and learning something of our wishes from the Gilbert Islanders with us made arrangements for some land to be made available for our station. Accordingly in the afternoon, a party consisting of Captain Randall, Mr. Doane, Dr Pierson, Mr. Bingham, Kanoa, Noa, and Kaiia, the chief went ashore to find a suitable place for the mission premises.

On the 2nd December, 1857, just one year from the day of our departure from Boston, the Morning Star was ready to make her departure from Abaiang. As soon as we were left upon Abaiang, we began to learn the language which we were to use; but, as none of the people spoke English, it was slow work.

Abaiang is one of the Kingsmill Group which contains fifteen or twenty islands, with hundreds of smaller islets, and was considered to be one of the most populous in Micronesia. It was decided by Mr. Bingham that this would be the field where the Hawaiian missionaries will probably labour and where most of them will for years to come. Our voyagers considered it providential that they should meet Captain Randall, an Englishman who traded on the island and who had a good command of the local language.

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

Although many things remained to be done before our missionary families could be fully settled it was thought advisable not to detain the Morning Star any longer at Abaiang. Accordingly, orders were given to proceed to Ebon to establish Mr. Doane and Dr. Pierson. The farewell services being held on shore, she passed slowly out of the lagoon; all sails were spread and soon she was out of view.

     

Reverend and Mrs. Hiram Bingham and the Church at Apaiang (Abaiang), Gilbert Islands

Some comments about the people of Abaiang. They very much resemble the Hawaiian race - are indolent, healthy, fat, and thievish. Both males and females wear the malo which is made of grass or leaves; but children under 10 or 12 years of age and many grown persons go entirely naked. All have large holes in their ears, in which various ornaments are inserted.

One morning, as Captain Moore went up from his cabin, he found several of these naked beings on deck, and taking a role of calico, he called one after another and fastened a piece about their waists like a malo. Proceedings in this way sometime, with new applicants constantly approaching, his suspicions were aroused. On inquiry, he found that as soon as one received a piece, he went forward, took it off, dropped it into his boat, and came back for more. When they found themselves detected they gave way to boisterous merriment.

Coconut oil which is almost their only article of traffic, is bartered for tobacco, of which they are fond. No domestic animal of any kind except dogs, were found on the island. Mr. Bingham brought with him goats, pigs, and fowls.

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