Around the 1400-1500s, the land was broken down into ahupuaʻa, ʻili and other physical subdivisions. All of the land was owned by the ruling chief. Each ahupuaʻa in turn was ruled by a lower chief, or aliʻi ʻai. He, in turn, appointed an overseer, or konohiki. (The common people never owned or ruled land.)
Each ahupuaʻa had its own name and boundary lines. Often the markers were natural features such as a large rock or a line of trees or even the home of a certain bird. An ahupuaʻa in a valley usually used its ridges and peaks as boundaries.
In ancient Hawaiʻi, there were no “towns,” “villages” or “cities,” in the modern context. Over the years, communities across the Islands grew. Here, the focus is on an area of South Kona on the Island of Hawai‘i.
Kealakekua translates as ‘pathway of the gods’ and is one of the most significant historic and cultural places in Hawaiʻi. It was selected by the aliʻi as one of the seven royal centers of Kona in the 1700s, because of its sheltered bay and abundance of natural resources.
Kaʻawaloa (meaning ‘the distant ʻawa plant’ and another Royal Center) has a flat, fan-shaped lava peninsula near sea level, which rises gradually to the edge of the 600-ft Pali Kapu O Keoua. These forty acres of land define the northwest side of Kealakekua Bay. It was where Cook was killed.
An obelisk monument commemorating Captain Cook was constructed in 1874, near the spot where Cook died. (Contrary to urban legend, the monument site is not owned by the British Government; ownership is in the name of the British Consul General (the individual) – a representative would check in with DLNR, from time to time.)
About 40-years after Cook’s death, the American Protestant missionaries arrived and established one of the earliest mission stations in Hawai‘i at Kaʻawaloa in 1824.
In the early 1830s it took one year or more for mail to reach the Islands from the continent, coming by way of Cape Horn. When the transcontinental railroad was built, it took about a month.
Prior to 1854 there was no regular mail service on the Islands. Letters were forwarded by chance opportunities. With expanding mail volumes, post offices were set up, often in a central store or business in the community. With growing communities, there was some uncertainty over postal facility names, apparently creating some confusion.
In the mauka area of Kealakekua and Ka‘awaloa, coffee started to thrive. “Coffee … since there weren’t very many other opportunities, was hung on to desperately by the farmers”. (Sherwood Greenwell – A Social History of Kona)
Coffee plants came to Kona via Hilo. In 1825 an English agriculturist named John Wilkinson, who in his younger years had been a planter in the West Indies, arrived at Honolulu on the frigate Blonde – along the way, he left some plants in Hilo. (Kuykendall)
Wilkinson planted coffee in Mānoa Valley in the vicinity of the present UH-Mānoa campus; from a small field, trees were introduced to other areas of O‘ahu and neighbor islands.
In 1828, American missionary Samuel Ruggles took cuttings from Hilo and brought them to Kona. Henry Nicholas Greenwell grew and marketed coffee and is recognized for putting “Kona Coffee” on the world markets.
At Weltausstellung 1873 Wien (World Exhibition in Vienna, Austria (1873,)) Greenwell was awarded a “Recognition Diploma” for his Kona Coffee. (Greenwell Farms)
Writer Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) seemed to concur with this when he noted in his Letters from Hawaiʻi, “The ride through the district of Kona to Kealakekua Bay took us through the famous coffee and orange section. I think the Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other, be it grown where it may and call it what you please.”
Then, “Captain Cook’s name has received a new honor. The Captain Cook Coffee Company, of Kealakekua, Hawaii, has filed articles of incorporation, with capital stock of $60,000, of which $50,000 are subscribed.”
“Accompanying the articles is a list of property of WW Bruner acquired by the new corporation, in which the copyrighted name of “Captain Cook Coffee” Is set forth at a valuation of $2,000.”
“The company consists of W. W. Bruner, president and treasurer; AWT Bottomley, WL Stanley, WT Lucas, Thomas A. Honan, secretary, and M. R. Jamieson, auditor; all being stockholders except the latter.”
“Bruner owns 2196 of the 2500 shares subscribed and the rest own one each. The Bruner property, including a coffee ranch, etc, is taken over at a valuation of $50,000 including the $2,000 Captain Cook trademark.” (Hawaiian Star, July 22, 1905)
Captain Cook Coffee Co Ltd is one of the oldest existing coffee companies in Hawai‘i. Since the 1880s, Captain Cook has been growing and processing raw green Kona coffee. (CCCC)
Captain Cook Coffee Co. Ltd and H Hackfeld and Co. (later American Factors, Amfac) acted as the “middle men” or factors between the local farmers and the world coffee market.
American Factors advanced farm necessities and foodstuffs through affiliated stores (mostly operated by Japanese merchants) under the condition that farmers were to pay for their merchandise in coffee once the harvest was complete.
All this coffee was processed at company mills, American Factors’ in Kailua and Captain Cook’s at the mill on Napo‘opo‘o Road. In this way, two companies dominated the industry with the farmer having no control over the value of his crop. (Kona Historical Society)
Back to mail … “And the mail used to be quite an excitement. The old post office used to be – when I was a kid – in the old People’s Bank of Hilo building which is where the Bank of Hawai‘i is today. … And everybody would come to the post office to get their mail. Mail was quite an experience….”
“Eventually it was found that it would be practical or be convenient for the people up here to have another post office and so a post office was (opened) in the Captain Cook Coffee Company building. And the postmaster was the bookkeeper of Captain Cook Coffee Company.”
“And the name became Captain Cook (post office) because it was in Captain Cook Coffee Company’s building and was run by Captain Cook Coffee Company.”
“It could have been called Ka‘awaloa (post office) if they wanted to name it the name of the land.” (Sherwood Greenwell – A Social History of Kona)
It’s like “Up in Waimea, it’s called ‘Kamuela’ because the post office is called ‘Kamuela’ (even though) the place is called ‘Waimea.’ But (the post office) couldn’t be called ‘Waimea’ when they put a post office in because there was already a Waimea post office on Kauai.” (Sherwood Greenwell – A Social History of Kona)
By the 1930s there were more than 1,000 coffee farms and, as late as the 1950s, there were 6,000-acres of coffee in Kona. But in the mid-1950s, Captain Cook Coffee Co and American Factors got out of the coffee business.
Several coffee cooperatives formed to market Kona’s crop, among these being Sunset Co-op , which took over operations at the Napo‘opo‘o Mill, which is currently run by Kona Pacific Farmers Co-op. Mountain Thunder Coffee took over Captain Cook Coffee’s building in Kainaliu. (Kona Historical Society)
So, what is now known as the community of ‘Captain Cook’ was named for its post office, in the premises of the Captain Cook Coffee Co. Ltd. (The only place in the United States where coffee is grown commercially is in Hawaiʻi.)