Reminiscences of the Hui Kawaihau, 1916.


There were several unusually interesting papers read at the last meeting of the Kauai Historical Society. Among them was one by Judge Charles S. Dole on the above subject which was as follows:

In the years from 1877 to 1881 the Hui Kawaihau, an organization of certain prominent Hawaiians and their friends, was one of the leading communities of the eastern side of the island of Kauai.

They were a body of men—most of whom came from Honolulu, with their families, where many of them were high officers in the Government—who went to Kapaa under the patronage of King Kalakaua, whose reign had then lasted for several years, for the purpose of establishing an association of congenial and intelligent farmers on the fertile cane lands at Kapahi, above Kapaa, in the year 1877.

The Hui Kawaihau was originally a choral society, of fifteen members, with social rather than business aims, and was first organized by Prince Leleiohoku, the Heir Apparent to the throne, in the year 1876—just before King Kalakaua’s coronation day, which was February 12th of that year.

The name “Kawaihau” (meaning “ice-water”) was originally derived as the nick-name of a lady residing in Honolulu at that time, a white woman, who was a friend of the King, but who did not court some of his royal favors and in the matter of liquid refreshment would drink only pure ice-water, in preference to the fiery gin which was usually dispensed from His Majesty’s sideboard. This choice of the lady was not understood by certain members of the royal court, and in derision they gave her the title “Ka Wahine o Kawaihau” (“The Lady of the Icewater”), and she became commonly known by the shorter appellation of “Kawaihau.”

Prince Leleiohoku died,  however, in April of the following year, 1877, at Iolani Palace, and the choral society would doubtless have disbanded but that King Kalakaua decided that it might be a good opportunity to establish some of his royal retainers—upon whom the dissipating court life was beginning to pall, or rather, perhaps, was beginning to produce disastrous results—in the beautiful climate and fertile lands of the district above the village of Kapaa, on the eastern coast of Kauai.

Another reason for the royal strategem was said to be that, although many of the prospective farmers were intelligent and industrious men, there were quite a number of them who were courtiers and hangers-on at Kalakaua’s palace, whom the King was glad to establish on another island—distant from Honolulu and the charms and temptations of court life.

So the Hui was reorganized, in the month of June, 1877, and among the twelve members who were its charter members are the well known names of King Kalakaua, Governor Dominis, the King’s brother-in-law; Colonel George W. Macfarlane, one of the leaders in the court circles of that day; Captain James Makee, who had often entertained the members of the Royal family at his beautiful residence at Ulupalakua, on the island of Maui; Governor John M. Kapena, of the island of Oahu; J. S. Walker and C. H. Judd, two men prominent in the court and government communities of Honolulu; and Koakanu, a high chief of Koloa, on Kauai.

These twelve organizers were the ones who set in motion the wheels of business of the Hui o Kawaihau, in the year 1877, their first important official act being to sign a contract with the resident members of the Hui, thirty-two in number, for the cultivation of the lands of Kapaa, on Kauai, to sugar cane.

Of the thirty-two original resident members of the Hui there are but seven living, so far as is known, these being: Judge James H. K. Kaiwi, of Lihue, who is with us tonight, a member of this Society, and is the sole member of the Hui Kawaihau left on the island of Kauai; Edward K. Lilikalani, of Honolulu; Frank K. Archer (also known as Kelinohopono), of Pearl City, Oahu; Ekela Mahuka, of Honolulu; John Wallace, of Honolulu; James Hauola Makekau, of Lahaina, Maui; and the Reverend Isaac Iaea, of Kaluaaha, on the island of Molokai. Besides these there are four widows of the original members of the Hui, viz.: Mrs. Pipili Pakaua Polani, of Waipouli; Mrs. Kaupena Uka, of Hanalei; Mrs. Hana Kaiwi, of Honolulu;…

(Garden Island, 11/28/1916, p. 2)


The Garden Island, Volume 12, Number 48, Page 2. November 28, 1916.

…and Mrs. Lima Naone, of Honolulu.

Captain James Makee, about the same time the Hui was started, obtained a concession from the King to build a sugar mill at Kapaa and establish a plantation there; which he organized and started in the year 1877. He was the first manager of the plantation, and had agreed with Kalakaua to grind in his mill all the cane which should be grown by the Hui.

So about the middle of the year 1877 the district of Kawaihau was set apart by the King, who gave that name to the country lying between the Wailua river and Moloaa valley, near Kilauea, the official boundaries of the district being determined the following year, when Hon. G. B. Palohau, the representative from eastern Kauai, introduced a bill in the Legislature setting aside this section for the fifth district of Kauai. The district was formed by cutting off the eastern end of Hanalei district, which until then had joined the northern boundary of Lihue district just north of the Wailua river; and the modified district of Hanalei, comprising the northern section of this island—the greater part of which was included under the name of Koolau, was established, with the same boundaries which now limit it.

About the first of August, 1877, the members of the Hui—over twenty men, with about the same number of women and children—set out from Honolulu, in the steamer “Kilauea,” on the voyage to their new home on Kauai. They landed at Kapua’iomalahua, at the north end of the beach at Wailua (that being the usual landing for steamers in those days), the morning after they started—about forty in all, with their equipment—lumber, tools, tents, food, etc. Included in the party of emigrants were five members of the original “Organization Committee,” viz.: the King, and Governor Kapena; Koakanu, the high chief from Koloa; Curtis Iaukea, Charles H. Judd of the King’s Privy Council; and John K. Unauna, a high chief of Lahaina, Mau, the father of Mrs. Kaili, of Honolulu.

The arrival of this prospective company of amateur cane planters was regarded with a good deal of amusement by the good people of Kauai, who understood that its members were all accustomed to city life, with little or no experience in farming, and were most of them friends or proteges of the King, whom he was sending away from  Honolulu because he found that they suffered from faults which rendered them distasteful to the Court officials—some were hard drinkers, some were spendthrifts, all of them were shiftless and improvident, and he found it too much of a burden on even his large resources to guarantee support for them all. So the Kauai residents smiled at them, and prophesied a speedy and inglorious ending of the Hui’s ambitious plans for the colony at Kapahi.

The agreement, or contract, with the Makee Sugar Company, under which the members of the Hui had come to Kauai, signed separately by each member, with the plantation, required them to plant two hundred and forty acres of cane the first year, and they were to receive, in payment for their cane, two-fifths of the returns from the sale of the sugar obtained from it.

Each planter was required to plough his own portion of the tract and to buy his own seed-cane for planting. The latter they obtained—a portion of it—from Lihue plantation, the neighboring plantation, ten miles to the southward, and the balance they brought from Lahaina, on the island of Maui.

This land planted by the Hui members was the first land ever planted to cane for the Makee Sugar Company.

As soon as the expedition arrived on Kauai, steps were immediately taken to organize the Hui, and the first election of officers was held, the following being chosen—all being from among the more levelheaded citizens who had been pursuaded by the King to accompany his young proteges to their new field, in order that their irresponsible youth might have some safeguards:

Manager, or Luna Nui—John Kauai (who has just died, during the past year), who was, at the time of his election as Luna Nui, head gardener, in Honolulu, for the two young Princes of the Royal Family—”Cupid” Kalanianaole and David Kawananakoa.

Secretary and Treasurer—Edward K. Lilikalani, who was also  holder of the honorary title of “Keeper of the Roll” of the Hui. He is at present living in Honolulu, where he is connected with the Tax Office.

Superintendent—James H. K. Kaiwi, now residing in Lihue, where he is Second District Magistrate. His position in the Hui gave him supervision over all the tools, provisions, horses and wagons, houses, laundry, etc.

Directors—King Kalakaua and Colonel C. H. Judd (the King’s Chamberlain).

John Kauai, the first Luna Nui, or Manager, was a prominent man in the Hui, and was a large, fine-looking man, with great influence among the other members. He was on of the “Aipuupuu” (family retainers) of King Kalakaua.

He was succeeded, after his term of office expired, by John Kalino, who occupied the position for only a brief period, then the secretary and treasurer, Edward K. Lilikalani, was elected Manager, and he held the position for nearly two years—until late in the year 1880.

There is said to have been considerable politics, jealous bickerings, and administrative “coups,” especially among the younger members, in the choosing of the Luna Nuis, several of whom were retained in that responsible position for but very brief periods.

The Hui occupied the row of houses in Kapahi now used as a plantation camp, which is about two and a half miles from the coast and is guarded in the rear by the forest-clad mountain “Makaleha,” over three thousand feet high. There was a large house in the middle of the row, built in the form of an octagon, which was the main hall of the Hui, and was used as the office, and also for their social gatherings—the feasts which they sometimes gave and other entertainments. It has since been removed, by the plantation, in adapting the quarters to the requirements of a laborers’ camp.

In this hall were held the many heated debates, sometimes lasting until long into the night; acrimonious discussions; and close-fought elections, which characterized the life of the Hui—with its large number of trained city politicians, who found it hard to settle down to a quiet farming life.

After several of these quarrelsome debates there was considerable discouragement among the members. Colonel Spalding several times advised them to sell out to the plantation, and thus end all their troubles; but they would not consent to such a course.

Then the King came down to Kauai, several times, and, in company with Governor Kanoa, of Kauai, a Mr. George H. Dole, manager of the plantation, tried to smooth things over and advise the members what they should do to make their plans succeed. After these visits things would progress favorably for a while, but the improvement never lasted long, and the bitter wrangling which so often prevailed was no doubt partially responsible for the ultimate disruption of the Hui.

I remember well the grand “housewarming” which the Hui gave to celebrate its entry into the life of Kauai, in 1878, which was one of the notable functions of that period on Kauai. It was attended by most of the leading residents of the island, and the King, Kalakaua, was also present, together with other notables from Honolulu; and altogether it was quite a gala occasion—beginning with the sumptuous “luau” in the “Octagon,” followed by a few addresses, and shorter talks, by the notables present; then games of croquet, and other sports, were enjoyed on the lawn outside; and the sun had set before all the fortunate guests had taken their departure, after the pleasurable afternoon.

In spite of the auspicious opening of the enterprise, however, it soon encountered dark days. Beginning with their arrival in ’77, the members labored to make a success of the undertaking, for nearly four years; but its troubles were all the time increasing.

Their greatest loss seems to have been the death of Captain Makee, after they had carried on their operations for several years. The whole plantation had by this time been transferred to Col. Z. S. Spalding, Makee’s son-in-law, who obtained title to the “ahupuaa” of Kealia, a large tract of fine cane land adjoining Kapaa; and it was not long before Saplading, who had already built a second mill at Kealia, a mile and a half from the Kapaa mill, tore down the latter and transferred all the milling operations of the two plantations to Kealia, and later, the two plantations were combined under the original name of the Makee Sugar Company.

Colonel Spalding lacked the kindly “aloha” for the Hui members which Captain Make had had for them, and which had caused the latter to assist them in every way possible to accomplish their ideals and ambitions; and was, on the other hand, unsympathetic and strictly business-like in his dealings with them. This changed spirit on the part of the management created consternation and discouragement in the ranks of the Hui members, and it was the beginning of the end of their ambitious attempts at “small farming,” as it took only a year or two more to make the members realize that they were not wanted there any longer, and they gradually drifted away to other parts of the island and Kingdom.

E. K. Lilikalani, the first secretary and treasurer of the Hui, and later Luna Nui, was also the first district magistrate of Kawaihau, being appointed by Governor John E. Bush, of the island of Kauai, in 1878, under the new law creating the district, which had just been passed by the Legislature, as I have already mentioned. Governor Bush was also one of the sponsors for and was very friendly to, the Hui organization, and later was a member of it. He was one of the individuals who planted cane for the plantation, on his own account.

Lilikalani returned to Honolulu in 1880, when he was requested by King Kalakaua to take the position of private secretary to Her Majesty Kapiolani, the queen.

His position as magistrate was then filled by James H. K. Kaiwi, Esq., another prominent member of the Hui, who was one of the leaders in the newly formed district in its church and Sunday-school work, as he had been, previously, in the Kawaiahao and Kaumakapili churches, in Honolulu.

One of the important acts of the Hui members was to move from Wailua-kai, from the middle of the tract where the cocoanut grove now grows—the kuleana where Mrs. Puni’s cottage is standing—the church building which, slightly enlarged and altered, is still used as the Kapaa church. The stalwart Hui members, aided by the bullock teams of George Charman, of Koloa, and W. H. Rice, of Lihue, hauled the building over the rough roads of that time, the two and a half miles to its new location on the Kapaa flat, where it now stands.

The Hui members all worked hard with their plantation—cultivating, irrigating and weeding the sugar cane under their supervision, and attending as well as they were able to the different branches of its culture. They were all new to the business of growing cane—being mostly city men from Honolulu—all clerks and office men, etc.; and the plowing, harrowing, and hoeing the “auwaha” (furrows) was a novelty to them which would have discouraged planters of much larger experience than they had had. But it was in the days of their youth, they were very hopeful, and for the first few years they went at their labors with the greatest enthusiasm, in spite of the set-backs they had.

But after they had—as Lilikalani expressed it, in my interview with him, in Honolulu—”hoomanawanui’d” for three years, and maintained an ambitious and hopeful attitude for that length of time, the fourth year arrived, and found them with the discouragements still piling up for them.

The first crop was quite successful, netting the Hui over $17,000.00 clear, from which was deducted the expense paid by the King for the Hui’s transportation to Kauai, and the preliminary operations there—about $5000.00—which left enough to give the members nearly $500 apiece, after paying the expenses.

In the second year, however, over a third of their sugar cane, about a hundred acres, was burned up and destroyed, leaving less than two hundred acres to be harvested.

But they went at it again, with the ratoon crop, and made a desperate attempt to succeed with that, only to find that, after it reached the mill, their profits were nearly all  used up in the milling and marketing of the crop, and there was only Five or Six Thousand Dollars for them, after paying the plantation its share.

Then they all—to use the characteristic expression of Lilikalani—went into “poho” (mire) and were “nui  loa pilikia” (in a great deal of trouble).

By 1881, four years after the favorable opening of the Hui’s plantation efforts, the members disheartened and discouraged had all drifted away, their property and leasehold rights, etc., passing into the hands of Colonel Spalding, the successor of Captain Makee, as the head and principal owner of the Makee Sugar Company, and the Hui Kawaihau of Kauai had passed into history.

(Garden Island, 11/28/1916, p. 7)


The Garden Island, Volume 12, Number 48, Page 7. November 28, 1916.

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