“Ulumāheihei knows everything inside and outside” was the saying, alluding to matters that came up at the court of the chiefs and elsewhere.
When Kamehameha I was king, Ulumāheihei was a trusted advisor. In the time of Kamehameha II he had suppressed Kekuaokalani in a rebellion after Liholiho broke the ʻai noa (free eating) kapu; he commanded the forces against a rebellion by Prince George Kaumualiʻi on Kauaʻi. Ulumāheihei became noted as a war leader for his victory over the rebels.
Ulumāheihei was a learned man skilled in debate and in the history of the old chiefs and the way in which they had governed. He belonged to the priesthood of Nahulu and was an expert in priestly knowledge. He had been taught astronomy and all the ancient lore. It was at the court of Ulumāheihei that the chiefs first took up the arts of reading and writing. (Kamakau)
He was born around 1776 (the year of America’s Declaration of Independence.) At the time, the leading chiefs under Kamehameha were Keʻeaumoku (the father of Kaʻahumanu,) Kameʻeiamoku, Keaweaheulu and Kamanawa. (Bingham)
Ulumāheihei’s father High Chief Kameʻeiamoku was one of the “royal twins” who helped Kamehameha I come to power – the twins are on the Islands’ coat of arms – Kameʻeiamoku is on the right (bearing a kahili,) his brother, Kamanawa is on the left, holding a spear.
In his younger years Ulumāheihei was something of an athlete, tall and robust with strong arms, light clear skin, a large high nose, eyes dark against his cheeks, his body well built, altogether a handsome man in those days. (Kamakau)
After the conquest of Oʻahu by Kamehameha I, in 1795, he gave Moanalua, Kapunahou and other lands to Kameʻeiamoku, who had aided him in all his wars. (Alexander)
Kameʻeiamoku died at Lāhainā in 1802, and his lands descended to his son, who afterwards became governor of Maui. Ulumāheihei’s first marriage was to Chiefess Kalilikauoha (daughter of King Kahekili of Maui Island.) Liliha his daughter/hānai was born in 1802 or 1803.
Ulumāheihei later earned the name Hoapili (“close companion; a friend.’)
Hoapili resided several years at Punahou near the spring, from 1804 to 1811. Hoapili gave Punahou to his daughter/hānai Liliha, who married Governor Boki. In December, 1829, just before starting Boki’s fatal sandal-wood expedition, the Punahou land was given to Rev. Hiram Bingham, with the approval of the Queen-Regent, Kaahumanu. (Alexander)
Testimony before the Land Commission notes, “The above land was given by Boki to Mr. Bingham, then a member of the above named Mission and the grant was afterwards confirmed by Kaʻahumanu.“ “This land was given to Mr. Bingham for the Sandwich Island Mission by Gov. Boki in 1829… From that time to these the SI Mission have been the only Possessors and Konohikis of the Land.” (It was considered to be a gift from Kaʻahumanu, Kuhina Nui or Queen Regent at that time.)
By 1815, Kamehameha had established succession with two sons, and entrusted Ulumāheihei (Hoapili) with the care of their mother, Queen Keōpūolani. This made Ulumāheihei stepfather to Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena. (Ulumāheihei (Hoapili) was spouse to Kalilikauoha, Keōpūolani and Kalākua.)
Like his father, he was a devoted and trusted advisor and chief under Kamehameha. Hoapili was with Kamehameha when he died on May 8, 1819 at Kamakahonu at Kailua-Kona.
“Kamehameha was a planner, so he talked to Hoapili and Hoʻolulu (brothers) about where his iwi (bones) should be hidden,” noting Kamehameha wanted his bones protected from desecration not only from rival chiefs, but from westerners who were sailing into the islands and sacking sacred sites. (Bill Maiʻoho, Mauna Ala Kahu (caretaker,) Star-Bulletin)
Hoapili had accepted the word of God because of Keōpūolani. After her marriage with Hoapili she became a steadfast Christian. (Kamakau) To Kalanimōku and Hoapili (her husbands) she said, “You two must accept God, obey Him, pray to Him, and become good men. I want you to become fathers to my children.”
Hoapili welcomed the missionaries to the island and gave them land for churches and enclosed yards for their houses without taking any payment. Such generosity was common to all the chiefs and to the king as well; a tract of a hundred acres was sometimes given. (Kamakau) (Prior to the Māhele, title didn’t pass when land was given:title was later affirmed by the Land Commission.)
While Kamehameha was still alive he allowed Keōpūolani to have other husbands, after she gave birth to his children; Kalanimōku and Hoapili were her other husbands. In February 1823, Keōpūolani renounced the practice of multiple spouses for royalty, and made Hoapili her only husband.
In May 1823, he and Keōpūolani moved to Maui and resided in Lāhainā; they asked for books and a chaplain so they could continue their studies. Hoapili served as Royal Governor of Maui from May 1823.
She became very weak and Rev. William Ellis baptized her by the name of Harriet Keōpūolani. Before the end of the day she was dead. Thus the highest tabu chiefess became the first Hawaiian convert. (Kamakau)
In September, the king was summoned to Maui where the queen mother, Keōpūolani, lay dying. At her death, September 16, 1823, in Lāhainā, the chiefs and people began to wail and carry on as usual, but Hoapili forbade the custom of death companions and boisterous expressions of grief, saying, “She forbade it and gave herself to God.” (Kamakau)
After the death of Keōpūolani, her husband, Hoapili, was the leading representative of the Christian faith.
Later Kaʻahumanu and Kalanimōku and their households followed suit. (Kamakau) On October 19, 1823 Hoapili married Kalākua who became known as “Hoapili-wahine.”
In 1823, Kalākua Kaheiheimālie (ke Aliʻi Hoapili wahine, wife of Governor Hoapili) offered the American missionaries a tract of land on the slopes surrounding Puʻu Paʻupaʻu for the creation of a school. Betsey Stockton founded a school for makaʻāinana (common people) including the women and children. The site of the school is now Lahainaluna School.
Another good work for which Hoapili is celebrated was the building of the stone church at Waineʻe The cornerstone was laid on September 14, 1828, for this ‘first stone meeting-house built at the Islands’; it was dedicated on March 4, 1832 and served as the church for Hawaiian royalty during the time when Lāhainā was effectively the Kingdom’s capital, from the 1820s through the mid-1840s (it was destroyed by fire in 1894.) In addition, he erected the Lāhainā fort to guard the village against rioting from the whalers off foreign ships and from law breakers. (Kamakau)
Hoapili is also credited with improving the King’s Highway (portions also called Hoapili Trail, initially built during the reign of Pi‘ilani;) it once circumnavigated the whole island. Hoapili commissioned road gangs for the work. The Rev. Henry Cheever noted that these road gangs were largely composed of prisoners who had been convicted of adultery; Cheever called it “the road that sin built.” (Samson)
On January 2, 1840, Ulumāheihei (Hoapili) died in the stone house at Waineʻe. The image shows a drawing of Hoapili by CC Armstrong.