Don Francisco de Paula Marin (known to the Hawaiian as “Manini”) was a Spaniard who arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1793 or 1794 (at about the age of 20.) Manini’s nickname appears to be the closest way that the Hawaiians could pronounce his name.
His knowledge of Western military weapons brought him to the attention of Kamehameha, who was engaged in the conquest of O‘ahu. Marin almost immediately became a trusted advisor to Kamehameha I.
Marin spoke four languages (he arrived fluent in Spanish, French and English, and learned Hawaiian) and was employed by Kamehameha as Interpreter, Bookkeeper and part time Physician (although he had no formal medical training, he had some basic medical knowledge.) He also served as purchasing agent for the arms that proved decisive to Kamehameha’s victory of the Battle of Nu‘uanu (1795.)
Kamehameha granted Marin a couple acres of land Ewa of the King’s compound on the Honolulu waterfront (near Nu‘uanu Stream.)
Marin then proceeded over the next several years to erect the first stone house built in Hawai‘i on the property, pre-fabricated wooden houses imported from New England, a cut coral breakwater wall, a wharf, storehouses, bullock pen and stone perimeter fencing.
Kamehameha also rewarded him with large tracts of land, including Ford Island in Pearl Harbor, which Marin used to raise cattle.
He was known for his interest in plant collecting and brought in a wide variety of new plants to Hawai‘i. His gardens were filled with trees, vines and shrubs.
He turned this hobby into a “ship supply” business and provided fresh fruits and vegetables to the crews of ships docked at Honolulu Harbor.
Marin was responsible for introducing and cultivating many of the plants commonly associated with the Islands. To name only a few, here are some of the plants he introduced and/or cultivated in Hawai‘i: pineapple, coffee, avocado, mango and grape vines.
He also successfully cultivated and raised oranges, figs, roses, beans, melons, turnips, tobacco, wheat, barley, cloves, tomatoes, saffron and cherries.
Marin also planted lots of potatoes, yams, breadfruit, melons, cabbage, onions, celery, and garlic, as well as wheat, rice and Indian corn. He made castor oil, soap, molasses, pickles, sugar, butter, cigars, coconut oil, candles and hay.
Hawai‘i’s first accommodations for transients were established sometime after 1810, when Marin “opened his home and table to visitors on a commercial basis … Closely arranged around the Marin home were the grass houses of his workers and the ‘guest houses’ of the ship captains who boarded with him while their vessels were in port.”
He fermented the first wine in Hawai‘i and distilled brandy. He also made rum from sugarcane and brewed beer, all of which he sold at his boarding house-saloon near the waterfront.
Marin Street near Honolulu Harbor was named for him and the Marin Tower, built in 1994, occupies the site of his boarding house.
His “New Vineyard” grapevines were located Waikiki side of Nu‘uanu Stream and makai of Vineyard Street; when a road was cut through its mauka boundary, it became known as Vineyard Street.
In April of 1819, Marin was summoned to the Big Island of Hawai‘i to assist Kamehameha, who had become ill. Marin was not able to improve the condition of Kamehameha, and on May 8, 1819, King Kamehameha I died.
Marin died in Honolulu on October 30, 1837.
Marin’s contributions are best noted by Robert C. Wyllie, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, when addressing the Royal Agricultural Society of Hawai‘i in 1850, saying:
“From the brief accounts of the life and works of the don in 1809 to 1820, few of you will doubt that most of the present wealth of these islands is owing to the seeds, roots and plants introduced by Francisco de Paula Marin, and to whom the Hawaiian people are so greatly indebted.”