Thursday, January 8, 2015

Harvey Rexford Hitchcock

Harvey Rexford Hitchcock, the oldest son of eleven children of David (a shoemaker and author of several books) and Sarah (Swan) Hitchcock, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, March 13, 1800.

Hitchcock joined the Congregational church in Great Barrington, January 5, 1817. He entered Williams College as a Junior in 1826; he graduated on September 3, 1828.

After graduation, Hitchcock studied theology at Auburn Seminary, where he was graduated in 1831.  On August 26, 1831, he married Miss Rebecca Howard of Auburn, New York.

Within a couple of months, he sailed as a missionary with the Fifth Company of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.  They sailed aboard the Averick, leaving New Bedford, November 26, 1831 and arriving in Honolulu, May 17, 1832.

Others in the Fifth Company included Rev. William P Alexander, Richard Armstrong, John S Emerson, Cochran Forbes, David B Lyman (Hitchcock’s college classmate,) Lorenzo Lyons, Ephraim Spaulding (their wives and others.)

He was assigned to Molokai and established the first permanent Mission Station on the Island at Kaluaʻaha in 1832.  Rebecca Hitchcock noted shortly after their arrival that there was not a foreigner on the island and no horses except for a lame one belonging to a chief.  (Curtis)

In 1834, the Hitchcocks received additional help with the arrival of Rev and Mrs Lowell Smith (Smith was a college mate of Hitchcock – who arrived on the Sixth Company in 1833.)

 The expanding mission was growing close to 500 members and two outstations, one in the east and one in the west, had been established.

Smith gave this description of the Island and its people: “The people reside mostly on the eastern part of the island, on the north and south sides; but the greater number are on the latter.” (The estimated Island population was about 6,000.)

“Their houses, many of them, are no more than five or six feet long by four wide and five feet from the ridge-pole to the ground; and these are not unfrequently the habitations of two, three, and sometimes more individuals of both sexes.”  Each is “But one apartment, no floor, no window, no chimney, except the humble door at which you enter.”

“The name of the elation is Kaluaʻaha; it is owned by the best and one of the most pious high chiefs on the islands, who desired us to take it as our station, assuring us at the same time, that she would act the part of a parent to us. We have fenced off about two acres of land as a door yard and garden, and might have extended our limits much farther had we chosen. “

“There is a delightful cluster of shade trees before our door, which was formerly a favorite resort of the chiefs; and under it, for several successive weeks, we met for the worship … On our arrival, there was no house of any importance, and few of any kind in the vicinity.”

“During the year, however, many comfortable houses have been built, with sleeping apartments, and other accommodations which give to them an air of neatness and comfort hitherto unknown on the island.” (Smith; Missionary Herald)

Hitchcock preached his first sermon in Hawaiian the last week of September 1832 in the open air. In the Molokai Station Report, Hitchcock wrote, “in about two months a meeting house was finished 30 feet by 120.” It was probably built of thatch.  (HABS)

“A spacious school-house is nearly completed, so that the station begins to assume the appearance of a small village.”  (Smith; Missionary Herald)

Nearby was Pukoʻo; it had a natural break in the reef with a perfect beach for landing canoes.  Hitchcock’s early church records often mentioned this location as the most convenient for travel to Lāhainā.  (Curtis)

In a January 1840 letter from Hitchcock, we get a glimpse of his daily life, “I hope to continue without interruption my present system of labors; that is, to hold a Bible class Sabbath morning of twenty-five girls, preach at ten o’clock, have an adult Sabbath-school at noon, and preach again at four.”

“My week-day labors are as follows, - a Bible class daily with the above-mentioned company of females, who are committing Matthew to memory at the rate of six verses a day. I spend some time with them in teaching singing.”

“On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I preach at sunrise, and preach regularly on Wednesday afternoon. Saturday evening I have a lecture for the church. Once in two weeks on Friday I address the men's benevolent society, or catechise them on the New Testament; and on Tuesday have a Bible class of adults.”

“I make it a point, as far as possible, to visit some parts of the parish daily, and hold direct religious conversation with the people. In these visits I am happy to say that I am received with respect, and listened to by the people. Rarely have I gone to one house and commenced conversation, without drawing around me others, particularly the aged.”

“My miscellaneous labors consist in conversing with those who resort to my study for the purpose, and giving out medicine for the sick. I am trying also to crowd in a weekly lecture on the most important points in theology, designed for several of the most pious and intelligent members of our church, in order to enable them to become more efficient helpers in the great work.”  (Hitchcock, Missionary Herald)

In the mid-1840s, they were working on building a new church; “Our main work the past year has been the erection of a permanent house of worship … Preparing most of the timber and getting it onto the ground from the distance of ten miles or more, procuring many of the stones for building …”

It was dedicated on April 3, 1844; “The house has been completed nearly two months. It is 100 feet long by 50 broad outside; walls 2-1/2 feet thick and 18 feet high. …. The thatching is pilimaoli. It leaks but little; has 4 doors three of which are 7 feet high and about as wide…”  (Hitchcock; HABS)  (Remnants of the church are still there; in 2009, a new roof was built inside the walls of the existing church.)

Hitchcock died August 29, 1855 … “for 23 years he has labored with unusual devotion, zeal and earnestness to enlighten, purify and elevate the people … He lived to see his labors crowned with wonderful success.”

“His great work was indeed the preaching of the gospel; yet in the infant state of the people, he had to superintend every thing, schools were to be created and managed; the sick, the aged and the destitute to be cared for; civil officers to be advised, the whole people clad and civilized and their souls saved.”

“He gave himself heartily to his work and made an unreserved consecration. … He did desire to live longer, not however for any selfish end, but that he might preach the gospel.”  (The Friend, September 29, 1855)  (His grandson was David Howard Hitchcock, the notable artist in Hawaiʻi.)

The image shows Harvey Rexford Hitchcock.  In addition, I have added other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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