Rev. Asa Thurston

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Rev. Asa Thurston

Birthdate: (80)
Birthplace: Fitchburg, Massachusetts, United States
Death: March 11, 1868 (80)
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Place of Burial: Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Thurston and Elizabeth Lydia Thurston
Husband of Lucy Thurston
Father of Persis Goodale Thurston Taylor; Lucy Goodale Thurston; Asa Goodale Thurston; Mary Benfield (Thurston) and Thomas Gairdner Thurston
Brother of Thomas Thurston, Jr; Hannah Farwell; Elizabeth Lydia Thurston; Ebenezer Thurston; Polly Thurston and 4 others

Occupation: Reverend (missionary to Hawaii)
Managed by: Erin Spiceland
Last Updated:

About Rev. Asa Thurston

Asa Thurston (1787–1868) and Lucy Goodale Thurston (1795–1876) were in the first company of American Christian Missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands.

Asa Thurston

Born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, on October 12, 1796, Asa Thurston worked as a scythe maker until he was 22 years old. His father was Thomas Thurston and mother was Lydia Davis. He then attended and graduated from Yale College in 1816 and Andover Theological Seminary in 1819.

He worked as a missionary for forty years, returning to New England only for the period 1840 to 1842, and went once to California in 1863. He built churches, schools, and had a following among the people. He was one of the first translators of the Bible into the Hawaiian language. He explored the islands with English missionary William Ellis, including viewing the volcano Kilauea. The Thurston lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is named for his family. He suffered a series of strokes, and began speaking in a strange mixture of English, Hawaiian, and Latin. He moved to Honolulu and died on March 11, 1868.

Lucy Goodale Thurston

Lucy Goodale was born on October 29, 1795, daughter of Abner Goodale, a Deacon in Marlborough, Massachusetts. 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) into one of the most vivid accounts of the early mission days. She underwent a mastectomy without anaesthetic in 1855. She died on October 13, 1876 in Honolulu.


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, 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 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.


Their daughter Persis Goodale Thurston Taylor (1821-1906) was a Hawaii-born painter and sketch artist. Their grandson Lorrin A. Thurston (1857–1931) was son of Asa Goodale and Sarah Andrews, daughter of missionary Lorrin Andrews of Maui. He was a leader of the 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Their great-great grandson is Thurston Twigg-Smith.

Reverend Asa Thurston was a graduate of Yale College and Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. He and his wife were members of the Pioneer Company which sailed from Boston in October of 1819 and arrived in Hawaii in April of 1820. He was Minister of Kailua Kona Church in Hawaii. Only after repeated strokes of paralysis had rendered him incapable of any service did Asa consent to retire. His knowledge of the native language was thorough. He and Lucy had five children: Persis Goodale, Lucy Goodale, Asa Goodale Tyerman, Mary Howe and Thomas Gairdner.

 James Mitchner's book "Hawaii" describes this family and the group of missionaries they arrived with.

Inscription: Rev. Asa Thurston One of the Pioneer American Missionaries to These Islands. Arrived here 1820. After toiling 48 years Enter into Rest 1868 Aged 80 years

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Rev. Asa Thurston's Timeline

October 12, 1787
Fitchburg, Massachusetts, United States
September 28, 1821
Age 33
Kailua, Kona, Hawaii, United States
April 25, 1823
Age 35
Kailua, Kona, Hawaii, United States
Age 39
Kailua, Kona, Hawaii, United States
June 3, 1831
Age 43
Maui, Hawaii, United States
May 9, 1836
Age 48
Kailua, Kona, Hawaii, United States
March 11, 1868
Age 80
Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, United States