On Friday, January 24, the Kamehameha Schools ‘ohana will celebrate the birth of Charles Reed Bishop – husband of Ke Ali‘i Pauahi, and a driving force behind the creation of KS.
Bishop believed in the transformative power of education and supported many other schools in shaping the future of education in Hawai’i. The schools included Punahou School, Mills Institute (now known as Mid–Pacific Institute), St. Andrew’s Priory, Sacred Hearts Academy, Makawao Female Seminary, and the Hilo Boys’ Boarding School.
Bishop was a statesman who served the Hawaiian Kingdom as foreign minister, president of the Board of Education, and chairman of the Legislative Finance Committee under four kings: Kamehameha IV, Kamehameha V, Lunalilo and Kalākaua. He was also a trusted advisor to Queen Lili‘uokalani.
He founded the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in 1889 as an enduring memorial to his wife to safekeep the mea makamae – treasured heirlooms – of the Kamehamehas. Bishop hoped the museum would serve as a facility extension for Kamehameha Schools to allow haumāna to use it as a classroom and draw pride from their cultural heritage.
After the passing of his beloved Pauahi in 1884, Bishop, as one of five trustees of her estate, set in motion the establishment of Kamehameha Schools. Because Pauahi’s estate was land rich, but cash poor, he contributed his own funds for the construction of the schools' first buildings on the open plains of Kaiwiʻula in Kapālama.
Here are some additional facts about Bishop in honor of his lā hānau:
- Bishop was born on January 25, 1822 in Glens Falls, New York and grew up on his grandfather’s farm caring for sheep, cattle and horses.
- He completed his formal education in the eighth grade then worked at local businesses clerking, bartering and bookkeeping.
- Looking to broaden their horizons, he and his lawyer friend William Little Lee boarded a ship bound for Oregon in 1846. When the ship stopped in Honolulu for provisions, Lee convinced Bishop to stay on with him.
- Due to his previous experience as a bookkeeper and business clerk, Bishop easily found employment at a mercantile and trading company, then the U.S. Consulate. In 1849, Bishop signed an oath of allegiance to the Hawaiian Kingdom and was appointed its collector of customs.
- Bishop met Princess Pauahi in 1847 during a visit to the Royal School. Three years later, they wed. Through their 34 years of marriage and up until his death, he steadfastly advanced their shared vision.
- The Bishops attended church regularly, enjoyed concerts and traveling. They also practiced ho‘okipa – hospitality – within their home, welcoming guests including royalty, merchants, scholars and scientists.
- In 1858, he founded Bishop and Company, the forerunner of First Hawaiian Bank. An astute financial businessman, he was asked to integrate financially prudent systems of banking, agriculture, real estate and investments for the kingdom.
- When Pauahi passed away, the Royal Mausoleum at Mauna ‘Ala was crowded with caskets. So Bishop built an underground vault for Pauahi and more than 20 members of her royal ‘ohana – the Kamehameha dynasty. The family was ceremoniously interred there together in 1887.
- Bishop passed away in San Francisco on June 7, 1915 at the age of 93. His ashes were returned to Hawaiʻi and were placed in the vault of the Kamehamehas, reunited with Pauahi for eternity.
- A year later, a stone monument was erected adjacent to the Kamehameha tomb to honor his life and memory. It was inscribed: “Charles Reed Bishop… Builder of the State – Friend of Youth – Benefactor of Hawai‘i.”
- A benevolent man, Bishop established the Charles Reed Bishop Trust in 1895 to sustain several significant endeavors that he pursued in Hawai‘i. Today, the beneficiaries of the trust include: Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, Mauna ‘Ala, Central Union Church, Kaumakapili Church, Kawaiaha‘o Church, Kamehameha Schools, Mid-Pacific Institute and Lunalilo Trust.
More information about Charles Reed Bishop is available at the Charles Reed Bishop Trust website.