It’s hard to tell the story of John Young without including Isaac Davis.
They arrived in Hawai‘i at the same time (on different boats) and they served Kamehameha I as co-advisors. I’ll try to keep the focus on Young, here (but remember, their roles in Hawai‘i are pretty similar.)
John Young, a boatswain on the British fur trading vessel, Eleanora, was stranded on the Island of Hawai‘i in 1790. Kamehameha brought Young to Kawaihae, where he was building the massive temple, Pu’ukoholā Heiau.
For the next several years, John Young, and another British sailor, Isaac Davis, went on to assist Kamehameha in his unification of the Hawaiian Islands.
Because of his knowledge of European warfare, Young is said to have trained Kamehameha and his men in the use of muskets and cannons. In addition, both Young and Davis fought alongside Kamehameha in his many battles.
With these powerful new weapons and associated war strategy, Kamehameha eventually brought all of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule.
Young was instrumental in building fortifications throughout the Islands, which included the conversion of Mailekini Heiau (below Pu‘ukoholā Heiau) into a fort, which he armed with as many as 21 ship cannons.
Because of his common practice of yelling “All Hands!” during battle and training, the Hawaiians came to know Young by the name Olohana, a Hawaiian use of this English phrase.
Young also served as a negotiator for the king, securing various trade and political agreements with many of the foreigners that visited the Islands.
When Captain George Vancouver visited Hawai‘i Island in 1793, he observed that both Young and Davis “are in his [Kamehameha’s] most perfect confidence, attend him in all his excursions of business or pleasure, or expeditions of war or enterprise; and are in the habit of daily experiencing from him the greatest respect, and the highest degree of esteem and regard.”
Of all the lands given to Young (on various islands,) he chose a homestead near Pu‘ukoholā Heiau in Kawaihae to raise his family; he called it Pahukanilua. He built his houses of basalt, the heavy, dark lava rock readily available near his site.
Young also had coral blocks brought by canoe from the reef at Puako, dried them, and made a plaster of sand and burnt coral mixed with poi and hair.
Kamehameha appointed John Young as Governor of Kamehameha’s home island, Hawai‘i Island, and gave him a seat next to himself in the ruling council of chiefs.
In 1819, Young was one of the few present at the death of Kamehameha I.
He then actively assisted Kamehameha II (Liholiho) in retaining his authority over the various factions that arose at his succession to the throne.
Young was also present for the ending of the kapu system in 1819 and, a few months later, advised the new king to allow the first Protestant missionaries to settle in the Islands
He was married twice. His descendants were also prominent in Hawaiian history. The most prominent of his descendants was his granddaughter, Queen Emma.
Besides her most notable accomplishment, the founding of the Queen’s Hospital, which still serves the people of Hawai‘i, she gracefully represented the Kingdom throughout the world, making official visits to the White House and Buckingham Palace.
Both Davis and Young lived out their lives in the Islands. When Davis died in 1810, Young adopted the Davis children.
Finally, in 1835, at the age of 93, John Young, statesman, high chief, friend and advisor to Kamehameha the Great, died at his daughter’s home on O‘ahu.
Although Young had died by the time of the Great Māhele land division, his property was awarded to his wife and children, including the children of Isaac Davis. His service to Kamehameha was considered to be so great that Young’s heirs did not have to pay commutation for their māhele awards.
John Young and his granddaughter Emma are buried at Mauna ‘Ala (the Royal Mausoleum on O‘ahu,) the final resting place of the high chiefs and royalty of the Kamehameha and Kalākaua dynasties.
The image is of John Young, a colorized drawing initially by Jacques Arago. I have also added some additional images related to John Young (including his granddaughter Queen Emma and Queen’s Hospital) in a folder of like name in the Photos section of my Facebook page.