Portuguese began arriving in Hawai‘i in large numbers to work on plantations in 1879. Many continued to be employed by the plantations even after their contracts had been fulfilled. Others, however, sought to take up independent work and on Maui turned especially to farming and ranching. The middle slope of Haleakala is an exceptionally fertile region and many people of Portuguese ancestry settled here, some homesteading the land.
Before long, this growing Catholic community felt the need for a priest. In 1882 James Beissel, a priest from Prussia, was assigned to Makawao, and his district extended from Ulupalakua around to Huelo. At some time between 1894-1897, he designed the Holy Ghost Church in Kula and supervised its construction (the only known nineteenth-century octagonal-shaped building in Hawai‘i). The two acres of land on which it was built were donated by Louis and Randal von Tempsky in Waiakoa, and the building was financed by weekly auctions of cattle by local ranchers.