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ISLAND HISTORY: American Protestant missionaries William Harrison Rice and Mary Sophia Hyde Rice of Koamalu, Kaua‘i

Missionary teacher William Harrison Rice and his wife, Mary Sophia Hyde Rice, were born in rural New York — he in 1813 at Oswego, and she in 1816 at Seneca Village, and both were educated in New York State.

They arrived in Honolulu on May 21, 1841 aboard the ship “Gloucester” as members of the Ninth Company of American Protestant missionaries and were assigned to the Hana, Maui Mission.

Three years later, they were stationed at O‘ahu College, later renamed Punahou, which had been established in 1842 for the purpose of educating missionary children.

Mr. Rice, a farmer at heart, was placed in charge of outdoor work, while Mrs. Rice became housemother to boarding pupils.

In 1852, while the Rices were still at Punahou, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions at Boston, which had been funding the Hawaiian missionaries, decided to eventually make the Hawaiian missions self-supporting.

Since Hawaiian congregations were poor — only a few could support a missionary — the Board’s action meant that most missionaries would be required to earn their own living in Hawai‘i.

Mr. Rice, by that time ill with tuberculosis and worried that his family would sink into poverty, decided to retire from mission support in 1854 to accept the managership of H. A. Peirce &Company (renamed Lihu‘e Plantation Company in 1859) at $400 per year.

On Kaua‘i, the Rices and their five children lived at Koamalu in a long, low-gabled house with teakwood paneling that stood until 1875 and was located where the old Lihu‘e Plantation manager’s house now stands next to Aloha Church in Lihu‘e.

As manager, Rice soon went to work building an irrigation ditch from its source at Hanama‘ulu Stream to supply water to his cane fields.

Completed in 1857, it was the first irrigation ditch built in Hawai‘i to carry water to sugarcane fields.

After Mr. Rice’s death from tuberculosis at Lihu‘e in 1862, Paul lsenberg became manager and built Lihu‘e Plantation into a profitable sugar company, earning a fortune in the process.

Mrs. Rice passed away in Lihu‘e in 1911.
Source: The Garden Island

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