John Joseph Halstead was born on October 30, 1808 in a notable New York City family of the early Colonial days. He went to sea in a whaler. In 1840 Halstead sailed to Hawai‘i bringing with him carpentry and cabinet-makings skills. He set up a shop in Lāhainā making furniture, working exclusively with koa. He is reportedly the first to put up a frame house in Lāhainā.
He married ‘Uwaikikilani, a granddaughter of Isaac Davis (who helped Kamehameha in his conquest.) He and his family moved over to Kalepolepo, along the Kihei shoreline, and shortly thereafter built a new house made entirely of koa. His house/store was nicknamed the ‘Koa House.’ In 1876, Halstead closed his store and moved to ʻUlupalakua, where he died on May 3, 1887.