The original name of the peninsula “Moku-Kapu” was derived from two Hawaiian words: “moku” (island) and “kapu” (sacred or restricted.) “Mokapu” is the contraction of “Moku Kapu” which means “Sacred or Forbidden Island.”
Mokapu Peninsula was divided into three ahupua‘a – Kailua, Kaneʻohe and Heʻeia – these were extensions of the ahupua‘a across the large basin of Kaneʻohe Bay. Dating back to 1300-1600 AD, three fishponds separated Mokapu Peninsula from the rest of Kaneʻohe.
Hawaiians lived on Mokapu Peninsula for at least 500 to 800 years before Western Contact. Farmers cultivated dryland crops like sweet potato for food, and gourds for household uses.
There were at least two small villages on the peninsula, as well as scattered houses along the coastline. They tended groves of hala trees (pandanus) for the leaves to weave into mats and baskets, and wauke plants for kapa (paperbark cloth.)
The highly prized wetland taro might have been grown in the marshy area at the center of the peninsula. Mokapu people fished in the protected waters of Kaneʻohe Bay, in Kailua Bay, and in the deep ocean to the north; and took advantage of the rich shore resources. (MCBH)
On July 7, 1827, the pioneer French Catholic mission arrived in Honolulu. Their first mass was celebrated a week later on Bastille Day, July 14, and a baptism was given on November 30, to a child of Don Francisco de Paula Marin.
The American Congregationalists encouraged a policy preventing the establishment of a Catholic presence in Hawaiʻi. Catholic priests were forcibly expelled from the Islands in 1831. However, on June 17, 1839, King Kamehameha III issued the Edict of Toleration permitting religious freedom for Catholics.
When the Vicar Apostolic of Oriental Oceania was lost at sea, Father Louis Désiré Maigret was appointed the first Vicar Apostolic of the Sandwich Islands (now the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu.) They sought to expand the Catholic presence.
Maigret divided Oʻahu into missionary districts. Shortly after, the Windward coast of Oʻahu was dotted with chapels.
A Catholic church was established on Mokapu peninsula in the late-1830s or early-1840s. According to the records of the Catholic diocese, the first baptismal ceremony at Mokapu took place in 1841. (Tomonari-Tuggle)
Parish tradition suggests a village chief had gone to a Protestant Missionary asking for lamp oil. The missionary could not give him any oil. The chief then went to the Catholic mission (at that time located at Mokapu Point) and received his oil. In gratitude, the chief gave the missionaries a piece of property. (St Ann’s)
In the mid-1840s Father Robert Martial Janvier, the Catholic missionary in Heʻeia, built St Catherine’s Church on top of the Mokapu heiau. (Klieger)
In 1844, the stone edifice of St Catherine’s Church rose on the high ground of Keawanui on the western edge of Mokapu (in the area now called Pali Kilo.) The Catholics were attracted to Mokapu because it had a large population. (Devaney)
St Catherine’s was abandoned in the late-1850s after plague and migration decimated the peninsula population. The church was moved to a location at Heʻeia across the bay.
Church members, friends, and family carried coral stones and blocks by hand and canoe from the Mokapu site to the new church, what is now St Ann’s Church. (Tomonari-Tuggle)
Saint Ann’s Catholic Church and schoolhouse grounds included “a large priest house, comprising 13 small rooms, a kitchen, a dining room and a community room”.
It is also noted, “… the little monastery was ideally situated in a large French garden replete with flowers, green shrubbery, and a great variety of trees ….” (Cultural Surveys)
“The schoolhouse was built near the church. On the outskirts of the five acre property …Catholic Hawaiians had dug four large ponds in which taro was raised in sufficient quantity to feed the 150 schoolchildren and a number of women occupied in the workshop.”
“Father Martial’s first work was to build a school, native style, and also a hall 70 feet long, which he opened as a workshop for women…The success of the womens workshop was very encouraging for Father Martial, so much …(he) planned a similar shop for men and boys.”
A new schoolhouse was built in 1871 close to St Ann’s Catholic Church. The new St Ann school became “the best school in Koolau District”. After 1927, five classrooms were added to the schoolhouse, which had consisted of two classrooms plus one small building. (Cultural Surveys)
The US military first established a presence on the Mokapu peninsula in 1918 when President Woodrow Wilson signed an executive order establishing Fort Kuwaʻaohe Military Reservation on 322-acres on the northeast side of Mokapu.
The Army stayed there until August 1940 when the Navy decided to acquire all of Mokapu Peninsula to expand Naval Air Station Kaneʻohe; it included a sea plane base, it began building in September 1939 and commissioned on February 15, 1941.
Between 1939 and 1943, large sections of Kaneʻohe Bay were dredged for the dual purposes of deepening the channel for a sea plane runway and extending the western coastline of the peninsula with 280-acres of coral fill.
As of December 1941, two of five planned, steel hangars had been completed, each measuring 225-feet by 400-feet.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, two waves of Japanese Imperial Navy aircraft bombed and strafed Kaneʻohe Naval Air Station, several minutes before Pearl Harbor was attacked.