Nāpō‘opo‘o and Ka‘awaloa represent the two major settlements along the northern and southern sides of Kealakekua Bay with continuity in occupation from the pre-contact period, around 1600 and earlier, into the 20th Century.
At the time of Cook’s arrival in 1779, high chief Kalani‘ōpu‘u had his chiefly residence at Ka‘awaloa while the priests associated with this chiefly complex had their residences across the bay at Kekua (Nāpō‘opo‘o). Kamehameha I was also residing at Nāpō‘opo‘o in 1779.
The priestly compound at Nāpō‘opo‘o consists of Hikiau Heiau, Helehelekalani Heiau, the Great Wall, the brackish pond to the north of Hikiau Heiau, and the housesites of the priests, including Hewahewa, high priest to Kamehameha I.
Hikiau Heiau was the state-level religious center for this chiefly complex at Kealakekua Bay. The Great Wall marks the mauka (eastern) boundary of this priestly compound. The annual tour of the island associated with the Makahiki season began and ended at Hikiau Heiau. (DLNR)
“During the time when Kalaniʻōpuʻu was in the process of building the Hikiau Heiau, he asked Hewahewa to build him a fish pond. Hewahewa gathered certain men of the ali‘i clan than had his fish pond build.”
“Hewahewa lived across the pond. This pond was filled with fish for only the ali‘i to eat. (The name of the ‘old fishpond’ is Li‘iloa and/or Luali‘iloa.)
“‘Ala rocks (dense waterworn volcanic stones) were gathered from across the bay and was used to cover the bottom of the pond. Every rock was set in place and fitted a certain way until it was completed.” (‘Aunty Mona’ Kapapapkeali‘ioka‘alokai Kapule-Kahele, Maly; DLNR)
“West (north) of the morai (heiau) was the residence of the priest that conducted the ceremony. It consisted of a circle of large cocoanut and other trees that stood upon the margin of a pond of water in the center of which was a bathing place.”
“Upon the north (east) side of the pond were a row of houses standing among the trees and were most delightfully situated. These houses extended almost to the morai, nearest which was that of the priest who was the lord of this beautiful recess.”
“Between the houses and the pond were a number of grass plots intersected by several square holes with water in them which were private baths. On the east (south) side under the wall of the morai was a thick arbour of low spreading trees …”
“… and a number of ill carved images interspersed throughout, to this retreat we were all conducted, and Capt Cook was placed by one of those images which was hund round with old pieces of their cloths and some viands.” (Ledyard – Cook’s crewman)
Vancouver arrived at Kealakekua in 1793 and also noted the priest’s settlement around Hikiau Heiau and the pond. He recorded 200 houses along the 0.5-mile of beach at Nāpō‘opo‘o, as well as, the residence of Kamehameha I located behind the pond.
But by 1814, Kamehameha’s residence was reported as empty and “uncommonly filthy”. Four years later, in 1818, Capt. Golovnin of the Russian ship Kamchatka visited Kekua and “near the pond we saw the ruins of the former houses of the King surrounded by tall shady trees”. (Golovnin; DLNR)
The missionaries arrived at Kealakekua Bay in 1824 and established a mission at Ka‘awaloa Flat. Because of the heat, the missionaries moved the mission upslope to Kuapehu in 1827. However, many of the Hawaiians continued to live along the coast and Rev. Forbes decided to move the mission station to Nāpō‘opo‘o in 1838 and constructed the first Kahikolu Church in 1840.
In the 1850s, the government leased land behind the pond and restored the stone prison originally built by Kapi‘olani in the 1830s. Deputy Sheriff Preston Cummings leased the pond and the adjacent land to support the prison population in the late 1850s.
In the mid 1860s, Mr. Logan purchased the ahupua‘a and developed a sugar plantation while the makai lands and 5 coconut trees were leased by S. Kekumano, the jailer. Pineapple and sugarcane were planted and cultivated by the prisoners. The prison was used until around 1875.
By 1875, the ahupua‘a had been bought and sold a number of times. J.D. Paris, Jr. was the owner of the ahupua‘a, leasing the flat around the bay, the pali, and coconut trees to H. Haili, grandson of konohiki Nunole. Jailer Kekumano still held the pond lease, even though the prison was seldom used by this time.
An 1883 map by George Jackson recorded both ocean depths and land features. Jackson’s map shows the pond and Hikiau Heiau as the prominent features of Nāpō‘opo‘o.
There are 3 houses and numerous coconut trees around the pond (Photo 8). The map also shows the wall defining the southern and eastern boundaries of the subject parcel adjacent to the heiau.
In 1881, H.N. Greenwell purchased the land from Paris and began cattle ranching in the area. H. Haili retained the lease on the flat land around the bay, the pali, and the pond. Evidently, Greenwell had an interest in the pond as “they had kept it stocked with fish and used it”.
However, as a result of cattle overrunning the pond and spoiling it for raising fish, Haili paid a reduced rent for the pond (Haili 1892: 69). In 1892, the lawyer for the Greenwells wrote that the pond was valued as a watering hole. (DLNR)
“(A) Japanese couple had come here. They built a house on the north side of the fishpond. This pond was than neglected. This Japanese family cleaned It up and raised shrimps in it.”
“They kept the pond clean. Shrimps were many were many. I remember the Japanese women going from house to house with her bucket of shrimp to sell. For ten cents you got a bowl full of shrimps. My tutu use to dry them and only eaten when there were no fish in the house.” (‘Aunty Mona’ Kapapapkeali‘ioka‘alokai Kapule-Kahele, Maly; Louis)
The Greenwells gave the pond the name Kalua‘opae and that name became a part of the collective memory of the community. (Louis)
“Soma years ago, some people wanted to dredge that pond but instead the heavy equipment got stuck in the sand and mud that they had to get another machine to pull the other out. What is the mystery, nobody knows. Only the people of the past knows what and how it was built.”
“Perhaps it is better that way for people to see or for those who remember seeing the fishes there.” (‘Aunty Mona’ Kapapapkeali‘ioka‘alokai Kapule-Kahele, Maly; Louis)