John Williams, LMS missionary to the Pacific

Born 29 June 1796 London, died 20 November 1839, Erromanga, Vanuatu.

Williams and his wife Mary arrived in Tahiti in 1817. Based in Raiatea (Tahiti), the Cook Islands, and later Samoa, he built and sailed ships to transport Polynesian Christians as teachers and missionaries across the Pacific. He was a leading figure among a generation of explorer missionaries whose curiosity and sense of strategy were foundational for the church in the Cook Islands and Samoa. On a successful visit to England (1834-38) he oversaw the printing of the Rarotongan New Testament. After returning to the Pacific he was killed trying to land in Vanuatu as part of a strategy to take the Gospel to Melanesia.

In the Cook Islands, the date of his arrival on Aitutaki with missionaries from Raiatea, 26 October 1821, remains a national holiday.

John Garrett, To live among the stars, Christian origins in Oceania, 1982

Neil Gunson, John Williams 1796-1839, Australian Dictionary of Biography

School of Oriental and African Studies, London, LMS/CWM archives, catalogued in Mundus.

Sibree, James. London Missionary Society : A Register of Missionaries, Deputations, Etc. From 1796 to 1923. Fourth ed. London: London Missionary Society, 1923.

John Williams, Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands, 1837.

John Roxborogh