By JARED G. SMITH
Kailua, principal port of Kona, Hawaii is rich in historical lore for it was here that Kamehameha the Great, founder of a dynasty which lasted until 1874, spent most of his life. He lived apart, the great stone platform where his immediate entourage resided being a few hundred yards westward from the present wharf beyond the great heiau, the station of his priesthood. The alii, or chiefs, his Court, were domiciled along the bay, eastward.
Kailua was a considerable settlement when Asa Thurston and his little band of missionaries landed here in 1820 to fulfill the promise given by the American Board of Foreign Missions [ABCFM], back in Boston, that competent persons would be sent to teach the Hawaiians to read and write.
There were white men here before the missionaries came but few who thought the natives other than ignorant folk to be used or exploited although we know that some, even then, were men of decent manners and good character. Kamehameha had attached these to his Court as advisers, counsellors and interpreters in his dealings with ship captains, calling in increasing numbers in the years following 1800.
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The King had died before the bark Thaddeus arrived, leaving the affairs of his kingdom in the hands of Kaahumanu, his favorite queen, and her brother, Governor John Adams Kuakini. Kuakini was born during the administration of the second President of the United States, which is why he was christened “John Adams.” Our second President had recognized the sovereignty of Kamehameha I, which explains why the American influence was strong among the Hawaiians long, long ago. I’ll bet a lot of other boy babies of 1799 or thereabouts were named John Adams.
Kuakini, then 22 or 23, was one of the first pupils of the missionary school. An apt scholar, he absorbed their religious teachings while learning the three Rs of primary English instruction way of life and putting into practice many new ideas. He built the first roads, set the example of erecting stone walls around houses and cultivated areas, to keep out the wild cattle, —a bit of New England common sense—and adopted other “foreign” ways that he deemed conducive to the common welfare.
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The missionaries having taught him to make mortar out of lime and sand, he built the big Mokuaekaua Church [Mokuaikaua Church] at Kailua, a sturdy masonry edifice which has changed little except for the loss of its original thatched roof and is still the largest church in West Hawaii.
After Mokuaekaua was dedicated in 1836, Kuakini laid the foundations of Hulihee, a two-story royal residence for his own use, near the beach. This stands as a monument to the craftsmanship of the Hawaiian masons of more than 100 years ago for the stout walls of black lava have stood unscathed the countless earthquakes which rock the Kona coast.
(Advertiser, 6/18/1944, p. 24)