Missionary to Hawaii, Amos Cooke

A collection we have had for a while but has never been fully processed consists primarily of letters from missionary Amos Starr Cooke and his wife Juliette to Amos’s sister Mary Keeler Seeley of Danbury, Conn. The letters from Hawaii start in 1837 and the last one is dated 1854, although Amos did not die until 1871. I found several of his commentaries very interesting. Evidently, the mission school in which Amos taught was financially supported by the Hawaiian King and his chiefs, not strictly by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). While he missed his family in Connecticut, Amos insisted he would stay in Hawaii to do his duty, but also because he had heard that missionaries were not always welcomed when they returned home. That brought to mind how many returning veterans feel, regardless of the conflict in which they served. So is being a missionary akin to being in combat??

In March 1845 Amos noted that the King ceded the Hawaiian island to England. According to Amos, the King “was forced to do so by the exorbitant demands of the acting consul, Alexander Simpson.” That same year (1845) there was an outbreak of influenza; in 1848 measles killed thousands of natives; in 1853 smallpox panicked the residents bringing business to a stand still. In his letters of 1850 he complained that native servants were demanding too high wages and also that they generally were lazy. His wife Juliette was a bit more outspoken about religion. She asserted that once natives became Catholic, they were “forbidden to speak with their former missionaries and avoid them, and if spoken to, answer not and remain as if they heard them not.”

I am sure there is a lot more to be gleaned from these letters, particularly about religious revivals in Connecticut and the education of native children in Hawaii. Now that they are arranged more coherently, I hope they get used for some fascinating research.


12 thoughts on “Missionary to Hawaii, Amos Cooke

  1. aloha from Mau’i
    I am of the 5th generation born in the Islands descending from
    Amos Starr Cooke [1810-1871], and Juliette Montague Warner -Cooke [1812-1896].
    I have been gathering and researching for many years and am thrilled to learn of the letters in your care….I wish I were closer so I could come in this week! Please let me know how I might
    access them from an ocean away…have any been digitized, I wonder?
    Looking forward to your reply

    • Hallo, I am also related to Amos Cooke and Juliette. I’m 6th generation and am also doing a lot of research on the family.

      I know about 2 books that might be helpful to your research. One is titled:

      Amos Starr Cooke and Juliette Montague Cooke, Their Autobiographies Gleanedfrom Their Journals and Letters
      (written by Mary A. Richards)

      and the other is titled:
      To Raise a Nation
      (written by Mary Salisbury Cooke, my grandmother)

      I would very much like to be in contact with both you Laurel and Chandler. Is there any way we could send emails and talk a bit about the family?

      All the best,
      Jessica Cooke

  2. Brandon,

    Thanks for letting me know of your relationship to the Cooke’s. What kind of information do you have on the family? Do you need any information from us here at CHS?

  3. I have a book on them and I am doing a project on Amos Starr Cooke so if you have any more information on him that would be nice. Thanks!!!

    • Hallo Brandon! I am also 6th generation from Amos Cooke (I think its 6th generation), I would love to exchange emails so we can talk more about the family.

      I am planning a trip to hawaii this year with my father, maybe we could even arrange a gathering of the family!

      All the best,
      Jessica Cooke

  4. Hi cousin Brandon….

    I would be happy to share any knowledge I have that you might be interested in having….just let me know.

    Also wondering from whom do you descend…?

    I descend from Amos and Juliette’s daughter, Juliette, [B 1843]
    who married J B Atherton [1837-1903]….in Honolulu in 1865.

    aloha from Maui,

  5. Laurel: If your ancestor was Charles Henry,the child of JB Atherton, then we are indeed cousins–albeit some 10 or so generations removed. Charles Henry maried Minnie Myrtle Merriam from Oberlin, Ohio. Heb Case of Maui maried her sister, Kittie May. I can direct you to details if you wish. Bob

    • I have a bunch of info regarding this relationship between the Merriams and Athertons, as well as old photos. Also an old autograph book from when Charles was at Oberin when he met Minnie. Some photos of Bartholomews which were Minnie’s relatives on mother’s side, I believe.

      • Dear Douglas,
        This is from your old friend Kristin Pflueger. I am very eager to speak to you about a book I have written about old Hawai’i , TH.
        I want to call and ask you a couple of questions and am hoping tthat you may have some suggestions for me. I will possibly call next week if that is alright. Please let me know.
        Mahalo Nui Loa me ke Aloha Pumehana….
        my email is kristinpknight@gmail,com
        knightwriter.kristin@gmail.com or
        ph. # is 626-437-6160

        I would really appreciate a short conversation and am eager to hear about all of your grandchildreb etc.

  6. Pingback: An Archival Trip to Hawaii | inside the CHS

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