By Bob Krauss
Missionaries must be prolific. The Hawaiian Mission Children's Society celebrates its 150th anniversary this year with a paid membership of 5,341.
This has to be one of the biggest "families" in Our Honolulu. Members think of themselves as "cousins" because the original missionaries called each other "brother" and "sister."
Like most families, it's quite competitive. For more than a century, the Cookes and the Judds have been trying to outproduce each other. One year the Judds would be leading, the next year it's the Cookes.
While enrollment was under way at one annual meeting, a mother ran home to get a baby because her branch was falling behind in the cousins count.
Membership coordinator Morisa Toma has the numbers for last year, when the Cookes squeaked out a victory. Here, in order, are the top 10 families: Cooke, with 24 members; Judd, 22; Rice, 15; Baldwin, 10; Smith, eight; Bingham, seven; Alexander, six; Lyman, six; Wilcox, five; and Locke, five.
It is not a good idea to arouse the ire of the Cousins Society. Remember what happened to Jim Michener. After he wrote the best-selling novel "Hawaii," the cousins issued an eight-page pamphlet calling the book inaccurate and unfair to missionaries.
The pamphlet points out that Hawai'i was not the paradise that the novel and the movie portrayed, and that the evils blamed on the missionaries were already here. Michener left town for Maine and Texas.
For the anniversary, the society has published a booklet about its activities. The booklet makes clear that members of this family are not couch potatoes.
They organized in 1852 to support missionaries from Hawai'i in the Marquesas and Micronesia. Children collected pennies to build a mission ship.
From the beginning, the cousins saved stuff that you see today on "Antiques Roadshow." One of the cousins founded the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The cousins were the first historic preservationists in Hawai'i.
As far as I can tell (nobody has researched this) it started with old mission houses. The one in Honolulu was built in 1820, the oldest frame house in the Islands. According to a story in The Advertiser on April 14, 1967, there was talk of destroying the house in 1896 when the Cooke family owned it.
Apparently, they had leased the property to Kim On Chang, a merchant, who moved his family into the old mission house and built a feed-grain and grocery store in front on King Street. Two of Mrs. Chang's children were born in the mission house.
The Changs subleased to somebody who built a laundry beside the feed store.
Annual reports of the cousins indicate that by 1907-08 they had torn down the store and laundry, and were renovating the historic buildings. I haven't heard of an earlier restoration in Hawai'i.