“Morotoi is only two leagues and a half from Mowee to the West North West. The South Western coast, which was the only part near which we approached, is very low; but the land rises backward to considerable height; and, at the distance from which we saw it, appeared to be entirely without wood.”
“Its produce, we were told, consists chiefly of yams. It may, probably, have fresh water, and, on the South and West sides, the coast forms several bays that promise good shelter from the tradewinds. (King, Voyages of Cook, 1784)
Subsistence farming likely focused on coastal resources, as the region is too dry for wetland agriculture. Dryland agriculture, focusing on sweet potato cultivation, was likely practiced on the slopes. Cultivation of crops occurred in spring-fed areas.
The country … rises from the sea by an ascent, uninterrupted with chasms, hills or vallies, this uniform surface, on advancing to the westward, exhibited a gradual decrease in population; it discovered an uncultivated barren soil, and a tract of land that gave residence only to a few of the lower orders of the islanders, who resort to the shores for the purpose of taking fish, with which they abound.”
“Those so employed are obliged to fetch their fresh water from a great distance; none but which is brackish being attainable on the western parts of Morotoi (Molokai.) This information I had before gained from several chiefs at Mowee …”
“(Heading to the west end) …The country had the same dreary and barren appearance as that noticed on the south side, and I was informed it was equally destitute of water.”
“(We) proceeded to the bay at the west end of the island, for the purpose of seeing if, contrary to my former observations, it was commodious for the refitting of vessels, as it had been reported.” (Vancouver, 1798)
Vancouver must have seen Kaunakahakai (“resting (on) the beach” or “beach landing” (other explanations of the name include “to go along in the company of four” and “current of the sea”) – it’s an earlier name of what we now call ‘Kaunakakai,’) as it was a landing place for the fishing canoes which were attracted by the multitude of fish in the area. (McElroy)
When Kamehameha became a man he sailed with a great many people on one hundred canoes; the kind of sails used was mats braided round and flat. They landed at Kaunakahakai and lived there. The reason for this coming was because the king was fond of maika, that is, rolling a stone which was made round with flat sides. (Fornander)
He sent a friend to get stones from Kahekili (reportedly Kamehameha’s father) who was living on Oʻahu. Kahekili inquired: “What does the chief desire that he sent you to me?” Kikane answered: “I came to get the stone for a plaything for your child; we came together and he is now residing at Kaunakahakai, Molokai; he sent me to come to you.” (Fornander)
Kahekili again inquired: “What stone does he desire?” He replied: “The stone at the flap of the malo.” The meaning of this is that it was a peerless stone, and was carefully guarded.
Kahekili handed over the stones saying: “This, the stone called Hiupa, is not to be cast on the windy side, lest it be struck by the force of the wind and be unsteady in its rolling, for it is a light stone; it is to be cast on the calm side; but this, Kaikimakua, is to be cast on the windward side for it is a heavy stone. The names of these stones are Hiupa and Kaikimakua.” (Fornander)
As part of Kamehameha’s later conquest of the Islands, Kamehameha defeated (but did not kill) Kahekili’s son, Kalanikūpule, at the battle known as Kepaniwai (in ʻĪao Valley, Maui.) Kalanikūpule fled to Oʻahu; Kamehameha and his four “Kona Uncles” (Keʻeaumoku, Keaweaheulu, Kameʻeiamoku and Kamanawa) followed Kalola (Kahekili’s sister) to Molokai and landed at Kaunakakai.
Kalola, who was dying, agreed to give Kamehameha Keōpūolani and her mother Kekuʻiapoiwa Liliha, if he would allow the girls to stay at her death bed until she passed. Kamehameha camped on Moloka’i until Kalola died, and returned to Kona with his high queen Keōpūolani (and later mother to Kings Kamehameha II and Kamehameha III.)
At Kalola’s death, “They wailed and chanted dirges, and some were put to sleep with the dead, and the chiefs tattooed themselves and knocked out their teeth. Kamehameha was also tattooed and had his eyeteeth knocked out, and the chiefs and commoners acted like madmen.” (Kamakau)
Kamehameha then formally took charge of and returned to Hawaiʻi with her daughter and granddaughter, not only as a sacred legacy from Kalola, but as a token of reconciliation and alliance between himself and the elder branch of the Keawe dynasty. (Kalākaua)
Back to Kaunakakai …
King Kamehameha V (Lot Kapuāiwa) sometimes spent his summers on Molokai at a home in Kaunakakai. The main street of Kaunakakai, Ala Mālama Avenue, was named after the king’s summer home.
“West of the approach to the Kaunakakai wharf is a built-up platform, the name of which is Ka Lae O Ka Manu, the point of the birds. On this site King Kamehameha V had a home, ‘Mālama’ which was still standing in 1908. “ (Cooke; Hart)
George P Cooke also noted a large bathing pool of King Kamehameha V (filled with dirt now) and a spring near that pool. Reservoirs were dug and the water was well suited for the growing crops; they pumped thousand gallons of water every 24 hours. (Nupepa-Hawaii, Hoku O Hawaii, April 6, 1922)
“The Reverend Isaac D. Iaea told me that there was a spit of sand beyond this platform where the plover used to settle in the evenings, hence the name, Ka Lae O Ka Manu.” (Cooke; Hart)
The beach in front of this site was used exclusively by the aliʻi for sun bathing. (McElroy) Kamehameha V’s property passed to Princess Ruth and later became part of Bishop Estate.
Historic use of Kaunakakai focused on agricultural interests: cattle, sugar and pineapple. In 1897, a group of Honolulu businessmen (including Judge Alfred S Hartwell, Alfred W Carter, and AD McClellan) purchased 70,000-acres from the trustees of the Bishop Estate and leased another 30,000-acres from the Hawaiian government. At that time, American Sugar Company began sugar cane production on the lands.
About 10 years later, the land was bought out by Charles M Cooke and under his son, George P Cooke, they raised cattle, planted sweet potato and wheat crops and produced honey. It became the second largest cattle ranch in Hawaiʻi and a major producer of beef.
In 1898, the American Sugar Company, a subsidiary of Moloka‘i Ranch, was formed and the coastal area was used extensively. The need to transport sugar and cattle prompted the construction of a wharf at Kaunakakai.
Construction of Kaunakakai Harbor began in 1899 with construction of a pier that extended about 1,300-feet seaward from the shore. At that time, a small landing on the end of the mole could accommodate two boats.
In 1921, this mole was extended another 700-feet from the shore. A narrow gauge railroad track, extending from the interior plantation lands ran to the end of the pier.
Soon after, sugar cane cultivation was abandoned when well water pumped upslope to the plantations was too saline and killed the cane. Between 1923 and 1985, several thousand acres were leased to Libby and Del Monte for pineapple cultivation.
During those years, pineapple was an economic mainstay for Molokaʻi; pineapples were shipped to their Honolulu cannery from Kaunakakai.
The town was made famous by R Alex Anderson’s song “The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai”, beginning an ongoing tradition of designating an honorary mayor for the town.
The 1935 song was in honor of actor Warner Baxter, the first honorary Mayor of Kaunakakai (also winner of the 2nd Academy Award for best actor for his role as The Cisco Kid in In Old Arizona, and later honorary Mayor of Malibu, CA;) he was followed by boxer Jim Balukevich as the wartime Cockeyed Mayor. (Congressional Record)
Kaunakakai is an ahupuaʻa in the Kona Moku (district) on the Island of Molokai. Kaunakakai is also the largest town and commercial center on the island of Molokai, with a population of 3,425, nearly half of the Island’s population (7,345.) (2010 Census)
The image shows a a portion of an 1882 map, noting Kaunakakai and the Kamehameha V (noted as “Ruth’s”) home. In addition, I have included other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.