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John Williams

1796-1839. Protestant missionary, known as “the Apostle of Polynesia.” He and his wife were sent out by the London Missionary Society in 1817 to Eimeo, one of the Society Islands near Tahiti. In 1823 he discovered Rarotonga and founded a mission there. He later translated parts of the Bible and other books into Rarotongan. He was a born leader and a man of great zeal. A training school to augment the missionary force for carrying the Gospel to other islands was launched by Williams. He built a vessel, The Messenger of Peace, to be used in evangelizing the South Sea Islands. By 1834 no island of importance within 2,000 miles of Tahiti had been left unvisited. From 1834 to 1838 he returned to the British Isles to conduct an extensive speaking tour, familiarizing many with the evangelistic opportunities in the South Seas* and creating much enthusiasm. His Narrative of Missionary Enterprises in the South Sea Islands (1837) helped in this. Returning there on 20 November 1839, he landed at Dillon's Bay, Erromanga, in the New Hebrides, to be met by savages, killed, and eaten, in return for cruelties previously inflicted by British sailors. Thousands of converts mourned his martyrdom. A new burst of enthusiasm for missions was generated, and a succession of ships bearing the name John Williams was employed in evangelizing the area for many years.