Levi Parsons Bingham


Levi Parsons Bingham


Levi Parsons Bingham


An unobtrusive gravestone commemorates the first burial in the Kawaiaha‘o Cemetery missionary plot. A white common stone rectangle about 18 inches tall is marked with an inscription chiseled by a stone worker with the words of pioneer Hawai‘i missionary company leader Hiram Bingham. The graceful lettering reads in part: “LEVI PARSONS, died Jan. 16, 1823, aged 16 days.”
The death of new-born Levi Parsons Bingham, the first-born child of the Rev. Hiram Bingham and his wife Sybil Moseley Bingham, resulted in a key turning point for the good in the relationship of the royal Hawaiian ali‘i and the early missionary families stationed in Honolulu.
The Binghams baptized the child, suffering from jaundice, a day before his death. The Sandwich Islands Mission Journal for January 15, 1823 reads: “At a meeting of the family, the king, queen and several chiefs, brother and sister B’s babe, called Levi Parsons was dedicated to Christ, by baptism. It was a truly interesting scene.” Kuhina nui Ka‘ahumanu and her husband King Kaumuali‘i offered condolences to the Binghams when Levi Parsons Bingham died the next day.
Hiram’s journal gives us a clue to the story behind his son Levi’s name. “L. Parsons Bingham, at the age of sixteen days, passed away suddenly, as did the dear missionary in Alexandria, whose name he was expected to bear, and by which he had been baptized.”
Levi Parsons earned a foreign missions minister-qualifying degree along with Hiram at Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts. But their most poignant tie lies in the life of a missions-minded school teacher named Sybil Moseley from Westfield, Massachusetts. Sybil and Hiram’s daughter Lydia Bingham Coan remembered the story of her mother meeting Hiram at Goshen: “The name attracted him at once. A fellow student at Andover designated to the mission in Palestine to which it was not thought wise by the ABCFM to send married men had told him that if he were allowed to take a wife Miss Sybil Moseley would be his choice. As the young man now heard the name, he earnestly scanned her face and mentally queried if it could be possible that the lady so esteemed by his friend, but supposed to be at the far west was here before him! Ah, yes! The Lord had led her there. Providence was wondrously opening another door.”
Levi Parsons and his fellow missionary Pliny Fisk were the sole members of the pioneer Palestine Mission of the ABCFM. Levi died of consumption in Alexandria, Egypt on February 5, 1822 at age 29. His body was interred in the church yard of a Greek Orthodox convent in Alexandria alongside the dead of the English expatriate community who dwelt in Alexandria. News of his death reached the Binghams almost a year later in Honolulu through a report in a copy of the Missionary Herald sent aboard a ship carrying mission supplies headed for Hawai‘i.

Hiram wrote of his son’s burial, “As strangers and sojourners…we felt the affecting necessity of asking of the rulers a burying-place among them. A spot of ground near the church was, according to our wishes, readily granted us. There, with mournful but not desponding feelings, we broke the ground to deposit the beautiful flower that had fallen, where we expected the mission family would, one after another, be gathered around it, and where we should choose to be buried when our work is done. The funeral services and burial took place on the Sabbath, the 19th of January. The king and his principal chiefs, male and female, several foreign residents and others, assembled at the mission house and walked in procession to the church, where Mr. Thurston preached an appropriate sermon. We then drew around the grave, and with tenderness laid the little sleeper in its lonely, silent bed….”
Thus was established the site of today’s Kawaiaha‘o missionary cemetery plot.
The image is of Levi Parsons, American Missionary to Palestine (1792-1822), for which Levi Parsons Bingham is named after.


Hawaiian Mission Children's Society Library at the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives.


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Levi Parsons, American Missionary to Palestine (1792-1822)


“Levi Parsons Bingham,” Hawaiian Mission Houses Digital Archive, accessed May 20, 2022, https://hmha.missionhouses.org/items/show/14002.

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