Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston

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Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston
Asa and Lucy Thurston (full).jpg
From a daguerreotype circa 1864
Born(1787-10-12)October 12, 1787
Fitchburg, Massachusetts
(1795-10-29)October 29, 1795
Marlborough, Massachusetts
DiedOctober 13, 1868(1868-10-13) (aged 81)
March 11, 1876(1876-03-11) (aged 80)
Honolulu, Hawaii
NationalityUnited States
ChildrenPersis Goodale, Lucy Goodale, Asa Goodale, Mary Howe, Thomas Gairdner
Signature of Lucy G Thurston.svg

Asa Thurston (October 12, 1787 – March 11, 1868) and Lucy Goodale Thurston (October 29, 1795 – October 13, 1876) were in the first company of American Christian missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands.

Asa Thurston[edit]

Born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, on October 12, 1787, Asa Thurston worked as a scythe maker until he was 22 years old. His parents were Lydia (Davis) and Thomas Thurston. He attended Yale College, where he was a member of the Linonian Society and graduated in 1816, and completed Andover Theological Seminary in 1819.[1]

He married Lucy Goodale, and together they went as missionaries by the Congregationalist Church to the Sandwich Islands in 1820. Thurston worked as a Protestant missionary in Hawaii for forty years, returning to New England only for the period 1840 to 1842. He also traveled to California in 1863. They saw religion and education as closely linked.

In Hawaii Thurston built churches and schools, and had a following among the people. He was one of the first to translate the Bible into the Hawaiian language. Together with the English missionary William Ellis, he explored the islands and viewed the volcano Kilauea.

After suffering a series of strokes, he began speaking in a mixture of English, Hawaiian, and Latin. He was moved to Honolulu, where he died on March 11, 1868.

Legacy and honors[edit]

Lucy Goodale Thurston[edit]

Lucy Goodale was born on October 29, 1795, on the Goodale Homestead in Marlborough, Massachusetts, in what would later become Hudson, Massachusetts. Her father, Abner Goodale, was a deacon and American Revolutionary War veteran. She graduated from Bradford Academy and became a school teacher. The Thurstons, unlike most missionary couples, spent most of the rest of their lives in the islands. Lucy compiled her letters and other writings (completed by her daughter Persis Goodale Taylor and Walter Freer, and published under the title of Life and Times of Mrs. Lucy G. Thurston in Ann Arbor in 1876)[2] into one of the most vivid accounts of the early mission days. As treatment for breast cancer, she had a mastectomy in 1855, although anaesthetic had not been developed.[3] She died on October 13, 1876 in Honolulu.

Mokuʻaikaua Church today


A native Hawaiian named Opukahaia, orphaned by the islands' wars, traveled to New England in 1809 (there is a monument to him in Punaluʻu) and learned to speak English. In 1818 his stories (along with a few other companions) about the islands convinced the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to send a company to Hawaii. Thurston and Hiram Bingham I, with whom he was ordained, were selected as leaders of the group which included a farmer, physician, three teachers, and a few native Hawaiian assistants. On October 12, 1819 he married Lucy Goodale, a cousin of a classmate. They set sail a few weeks later on October 23, 1819 from Boston for a five-month voyage on the small merchant ship Thaddeus.

After landing at Kawaihae harbor on March 30, 1820 the Thurstons went first to Kailua-Kona, arriving there on April 12, 1820.[4] where they consulted with the British sailor John Young who was an advisor King Kamehameha I. They found the Hawaiian Religion in turmoil, due to the death of Kamehameha I, and the ending of the Kapu system by Queen Kaʻahumanu and King Kamehameha II.

They then traveled to Mauʻi, then to Oʻahu, and finally back to Kailua-Kona in 1823. With the blessing of Royal Governor John Adams Kuakini, he set up his congregation in a series of thatched huts. From about 1835 to 1837, he supervised the construction of the Congregationalist Mokuʻaikaua Church, made from stone, which still stands today. The Thurstons with five children began a family prominent in the history of the islands up to the present: Persis Goodale born September 28, 1821, Lucy Goodale born April 25, 1823, Asa Goodale born August 1, 1827, Mary Howe born June 3, 1831, and Thomas Gairdner born May 9, 1836.[1]

Hawaiian bible[edit]

Together with the group of the missionaries, that consisted of Hiram Bingham and others, Asa Thurston translated in 1832-1839 the Christian Bible into Hawaiian, Ka Baibala Hemolele. His translation was 25 percent of the New and Old Testaments, which was the largest contribution among the group[5].


Their first daughter Persis Goodale Thurston Taylor (1821-1906), born in Hawaii, became a painter and sketch artist and married Reverend Townsend Elijah Taylor. Their second daughter Lucy Goodale Thurston (1823-1841) came to New England to obtain a higher education but died from pneumonia soon after their arrival to New York. Their third child, Asa Goodale Tyerman Thurston (1827-1859) married Sarah Andrews. Their fourth child, Mary Howe Thurston (1831-1876), married Edwin A. Hayden and Marcus Benfield. Their fifth child, Thomas Gairdner Thurston graduated from Yale in 1862, studied theology, and returned to Hawaii, where he preached until the time of his death in 1884. Thomas Gairdner Thurston married Harriet Frances Richardson and Alice Gasking.[2] Their son Asa Goodale Thurston married Sarah Andrews, daughter of the missionary Lorrin Andrews of Maui. One of their children was Lorrin A. Thurston (1857–1931), who was a leader of the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. A great-great grandson is Thurston Twigg-Smith.


  1. ^ a b Thurston, Brown (1892). Thurston genealogies (2nd ed.). Portland, Maine. p. 288.
  2. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1889). "Thurston, Asa" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  3. ^ "Letters of Note: Deep sickness seized me". Retrieved 27 February 2012.
  4. ^ Titus Coan Memorial Library, Rev. Asa Thurston - 1st Missionary Company 1820, retrieved March 11, 2019
  5. ^ No ka Baibala Hemolele: The Making of the Hawaiian Bible1 (Jeffrey Lyon, 2018), p. 124

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]