Visit to Ahuimanu College and impressions of Joseph Mokuohai Poepoe, 1873.

Ahuimanu College.

During our vacation, our pleasant diversion was a visit to the other side of the island to attend the examination of the Catholic Seminary, known as Ahuimanu College. The trip to that point takes us over celebrated Pali, the pass and precipice which afford such a noble view of the lovely landscape on the northeaster side of the island. We went in state to the Pali with a four in hand, driven by mine host of our Hotel, who is as good a whip as he is a caterer. We partook of a dejeuner upon a knoll which overlooks the enchanting view; and then descended on foot the steep stairway of the mountain. The slope would not be so very difficult if the constant winds driving through this gorge of the mountain did not compel, sometimes, gentlemen to hold on to their hats, and ladies to hats and skirts, with both hands. The cavern of the winds seems situated hereabout, and Eolus and Boreas try to crack their cheeks in blowing on every passer-by. At the foot of the Pali we found friend Doiron awaiting us with a good vehicle and a stout horse, and having also the assistance of two boys on horseback, who attached their lariats to the shafts of our buggy, to help over the hills, away we went, a merry company of six in a trap made to carry four, and at noon on the third instant we arrived at the lovely retreat of Ahuimanu.

Father Lieven, the Principal, a stout hearty gentleman, of about forty years of age, gave us a welcome; which was heightened by meeting his coadjutor Father McGinniss, a genial son of the Isle of Faith. In the course of the day, the Venerable Bishop Monseigneur Maigret, accompanied by Father Aubert of Lahaina, arrived; and subsequently we had the honor to meet for the first time Father Damien, our hero who has devoted his life to the lepers. And soon, with this intelligent, cultivated and chatty company of Reverends, we found ourselves very pleasantly at home.

The situation of Ahuimanu is very fine. It is in a basin formed by volcanic action. The sea is in the foreground; and its background is a lofty mountain ridge, eight hundred feet high, which is a very wall, whose coping stones are ever in the clouds, and whose foot is buttressed by outreaching spurs, like the everlasting ramparts made by the hand of God. The men of faith who claim that their church is founded on a Rock, have founded this establishment within a “munition of rocks,” from whose fissures there gush forth sweet cool streams in refreshing bounty flowing like waters of life over a hungry land. This ample irrigation feeds redundant taro patches, well burthened banana groves, well loaded peach orchards, producing the most delicious fruit we have eaten in those isles; also groves of mangoes, chirimoyas, rose apples, Tahitian wi, and other choice fruits of tropic lands.

You will not begrudge these luxuries to these men, when you know that they produce them by the sweat of their own brows. The Venerable Bishop has built his own vineyard, and planted his own orchard with hands that have had their long battle with time. His retreat in the mountain, his “garden in the air,” as he terms it, is a pleasant and a profitable sight. There are eight graded patches, say, on an average, sixty feet square, with stone walls, four to five feet high, that are filled with fruit trees and standing in the midst is a small stone walled cottage about fifteen feet by ten, and every stone of all these structures…

(Nuhou, 7/15/1873, p. 2)


Nuhou, Volume II, Number 1, Page 2. July 15, 1873.

…and every spadeful of soil in the grading and planting has been moved and placed by the hands of this Venerable Pastor, who evidently seeks no reward here, but whose hope is in another world with the Great Husbandman, the planter of the True Vine.

But we must speak of the boys, because to see and hear them was the object for which we came. There are now about forty at the College, which is considerably below the number heretofore in attendance at this institution. The exercises commenced at 10 A. M. on the Fourth of July, and were presided over by Mons. Maigret, and Mons. Ballieu, Commissioner of France. A capital brass band, composed of seven pieces saluted the Hawaiian Flag when hoisted, which towered loftily over a spacious, umbrageous lanai, or leafy frame-work screen, to shade off the sun. Father Lieven showed that he had his small boys well in hand, and their reading and spelling in English were very good; possibly better than that of some of their visitors who have grown gray in science, law, war and diplomacy, as was proven by a dispute among the examining gentlemen, in respect to the spelling of the famous sparkling wine of France; it being contested for by one who has taken part in many a campaign that it ought to be spelt “champain.” When the big boys showed off their Latin, Astronomy and Algebra, we deemed it prudent, when invited to examine, not to be asking too many questions, as we might be interrogating our masters. We remembered something about “arma virum que cano,” something about real and apparent motion of heavenly bodies, and something about x + y = z; but we felt at the same time an internal consciousness that we would get into deep waters, if we followed up those boys too close, and so we preserved a dignified and silent air of approval, and at the same time our reputation for scientific and scholastic acquirements.

One bright fellow, a Hawaiian, named Iosepa Poepoe, shone conspicuously. He spoke French like a native of—la belle France, he spoke English better than his teacher; he talked of the stars as though at home in the celestial spheres, and handled algebra with that aptitude for mathematical calculation so noted in his race. He as the most advanced pupil of the institution received a valuable prize, the gift of the Commissioner of France. We may mention Manuel, Clement, and other promising pupils, who, in their rendering, “Dieu Createur,” “The Importance of Mental Philosophy,” both very superior compositions; and in the dialogue between Alexander and the Robber in English and in Hawaiian, evinced talent and most careful training.

Notwithstanding the interesting character of the examination, yet after its continuation for about four hours, there was an interest manifested in behalf of an adjournment to dinner, for which change of exercise no one showed a livelier appreciation than the Venerable Bishop. The stern Principal had kept us vigorously to our tasks till all were completed; but at last, Bishop, boys, and visitors thronged joyously around a well supplied board, at which one hundred sat down. It was a genial feast. The hilarity of these hard working, self-denying priests was only equaled by the sprightly chat of the ladies. The lawyer, the merchant, and the journalist present, helped to pass the fun around, children and parents did their share to promote the general mirth and with music and song, the pleasant day passed on, and after the band had played many national airs this innocent carouse was closed with the following original song for Lunalilo:

God Save the King


Come students, let us sing
God Save our Gracious King,
For whom we pray;
Let Him smile on our strand
By leading with His hand
The ruler of this land,
And bless his Sway.


May, grateful for their lot,
His people pray to God
To keep him from wiles;
And may Ahuimanu
Be ever leal and true,
To him who rules anew,
These fruitful isles.


May, during his long reign,
The islands of this main
With wealth be rife;
And may his fame abroad
Be such as good men laud,
And will lead to rest with God,
And endless Life.

The French Commissioner, his lady, and all the foreign visitors present were highly delighted with the exercises of the pupils, and with the hospitality of the fathers; and when we consider that three-fourths of these students are educated gratuitously, we must regard Ahuimanu as one of the most praiseworthy institutions of this Kingdom.

(Nuhou, 7/15/1873, p. 3)

[Hauoli la hanau ia oe, e Iosepa Mokuohai Poepoe!]


Nuhou, Volume II, Number 1, Page 3. July 15, 1873.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s