“The first symptoms of the fever is a restless sensation – an excited state of the system – a wild expression of the eye – and a light and elastic tread. These symptoms are followed with a desire to obtain implements for digging and washing …” (Polynesian, July 15, 1848)
There are “fearful ravages of a terrible fever which has nearly depopulated all the seaport towns and caused general rush to the interior. It is not exactly the yellow fever, but a fever for a yellow substance, called gold.”
“An exceedingly rich gold mine has been discovered in the Sacramento Valley, and all class all sexes have deserted their occupation and rushed en masse to the mines to make their fortune.”
“The gold taken from this newly discovered mine is not gold ore, but pure virgin gold. It is procured by the simple process of digging and washing, and is obtained at the rate of from two to four ounces per day by each laborer.” (Polynesian, June 24, 1848)
The great California gold rush began on January 24, 1848, when James W Marshall discovered a gold nugget in the American River while constructing a sawmill for John Sutter, a Sacramento agriculturalist. News of Marshall’s discovery brought thousands of immigrants to California from elsewhere in the United States and from other countries.
At first, there were only two routes. The first entailed a six-month sea voyage from New York around the tip of South America to San Diego or San Francisco. Rampant seasickness, bug-infested food, boredom, and high expense made this route unattractive for many would-be prospectors.
The second route brought travelers over the Oregon-California Trail in covered wagons—over rugged terrain and hostile territory. This journey also averaged six months’ duration.
By 1850, the length and difficulty of both routes had inspired the construction of the Panama Railway, the world’s first transcontinental railroad. Built across the isthmus of Panama by private American companies to speed travel to California, the railroad helped to shave months off of the long voyage around South America.
In addition to massive emigration from the eastern US, the California gold rush triggered a global emigration of ambitious fortune-seekers from China, Germany, Chile, Mexico, Ireland, Turkey, and France. The number of Chinese gold-seekers was particularly large, though many Chinese did not intend to settle in the United States, which they called “the Gold Mountain.” (harvard-edu)
It is estimated that not less than two hundred foreigners have left the Sandwich Islands for the gold mines in California.— Others it is rumored will soon follow. At the latest intelligence from the gold region there was no falling off in the amount of gold that rewarded the labors of the miner …” (the Friend, September 1, 1848)
“The rush, to that part of the world, flows in unabated. One hundred and eight vessels, are reported to have left the Atlantic States, for San Francisco, during the month of December. … The mines continue to yield the usual amount of gold, and no sign of being exhausted. The freshet and overflowings of the numerous streams and rivers, are reported to increase the amount of gold in the ‘diggings.’” (The Friend, April 1, 1850)
And, they came from Hawaiʻi … hundreds of Hawaiians came to California to work in the mines. Remaining place names, Kanaka Creek and Kanaka Bar remind us of their early presence in the gold country.
Others from Hawaiʻi, even some of the missionaries, joined in the quest for gold.
“Several other vessels left port some for California, which has become a very interesting quarter, since the reports have reached us of the gold mines.” (August 1, 1848) “Comore. Jones has gone to St. Francisco and it is said he will put a stop to the private operations in the gold district, and will claim the district & the gold for the U. S. government.” (Levi Chamberlain, August 8, 1848)
“There is at present a great excitement here about digging gold in California. … Mr. Douglass and Mr. Lyman of whom you have heard as former assistants in our school are both there, also — Mr. Ricord, the former attorney general. … Men, women, and children are all absorbed in it, the one great thing Gold.” (Julia Cooke, September 21, 1848)
Reverend Damon of the Seamen’s Bethel Church and publisher of The Friend travelled the area – not as a miner, but an observer of the activities there.
“In travelling through the country I have met scores of seamen with whom I had become acquainted while at Honolulu. I was cordially welcomed, although in more than a single instance they exclaimed ‘you are the last man that we expected to see at the mines.’ A few words of explanation were however sufficient to set the matter right.” (Damon, The Friend, December 1, 1848)
Thomas Hopu and William Kanui, who returned to the islands with the Pioneer Company of missionaries in 1820, joined the gold rush. Damon saw them in Sacramento on his journey through the area.
John Thomas Gulick, son of the Gulick missionary family, joined the rush after seeking his parents’ permission. By June 1849, his prospecting was reasonably successful, but after having his money stolen, he returned to Hawaii a few months later after having recovered his finances through various trading ventures. (Bennett)
Likewise, the Reverend Lowell Smith, the first minister of Kaumakapili Church, sailed to San Francisco for a rest because of poor health. He visited the California gold fields.
“Kamae went immediately to speak to the Hawaiians in other places to come so we might be together for the week. I witnessed their work in the gold fields …. They were not able to obtain much on account of the scarcity of water. Some made a dollar a day, others two dollars, and still others, nothing.” (Smith; Kenn, HHS)
The California Gold Rush drawing Hawaiians to the continent was not its only effect on the Islands; the Hawaiian economy was affected in several ways – good and not-so-good.
Prior to the Gold Rush, supporting the Pacific whaling and trading fleets and trade between the West Coast and Hawaiʻi was the scale of the Hawaiʻi participation. The scale of that significantly changed with the Gold Rush.
Hawaiʻi was only three to five weeks away, and with the growing population drawn to the gold fields, in addition to provisioning ships, Hawaiʻi farmers were feeding the gold seekers on the continent.
There were some down sides; this also brought a marked increase in the prices of consumer goods, especially food, caused by the great increase in agricultural exports to California, which offered very profitable new markets. (Rawls)
Likewise, the exodus to the continent created a critical labor shortage in Hawaiʻi, where a sizeable number of sugar plantation workers migrated to the California gold fields.
The parting of workers from the plantations between 1848 and 1853 was so large, Hawaiʻi sugar producers began to seek Chinese immigrants to fill the gap. (Rawls) The image shows miners in the California gold fields.
On October 23, 1819, the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries from the northeast US set sail on the Thaddeus for the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawai‘i.) There were seven American couples sent by the ABCFM in this first company.
These included two Ordained Preachers, Hiram Bingham and his wife Sybil and Asa Thurston and his wife Lucy; two Teachers, Mr. Samuel Whitney and his wife Mercy and Samuel Ruggles and his wife Mary; a Doctor, Thomas Holman and his wife Lucia; a Printer, Elisha Loomis and his wife Maria; and a Farmer, Daniel Chamberlain, his wife and five children.
By the time the Pioneer Company arrived, Kamehameha I had died and the centuries-old kapu system had been abolished; through the actions of King Kamehameha II (Liholiho,) with encouragement by former Queens Kaʻahumanu and Keōpūolani (Liholiho’s mother,) the Hawaiian people had already dismantled their heiau and had rejected their religious beliefs.
One of the first things the missionaries did was begin to learn the Hawaiian language and create an alphabet for a written format of the language. Their emphasis was on teaching and preaching.
The first mission station was at Kailua-Kona, where they first landed in the Islands, then the residence of the King (Liholiho, Kamehameha II;) Asa and Lucy Thurston manned the mission, there.
Liholiho was Asa Thurston’s first pupil. His orders were that “none should be taught to read except those of high rank, those to whom he gave special permission, and the wives and children of white men.”
James Kahuhu and John ʻlʻi were two of his favorite courtiers, whom he placed under Mr. Thurston’s instruction in order that he might judge whether the new learning was going to be of any value. (Alexander, The Friend, December 1902)
In 1820, Missionary Lucy Thurston noted in her Journal, “The king (Liholiho, Kamehameha II) brought two young men to Mr. Thurston, and said: ‘Teach these, my favorites, (John Papa) Ii and (James) Kahuhu. It will be the same as teaching me. Through them I shall find out what learning is.’”
“To do his part to distinguish and make them respectable scholars, he dressed them in a civilized manner. They daily came forth from the king, entered the presence of their teacher, clad in white, while his majesty and court continued to sit in their girdles.”
“Although thus distinguished from their fellows, in all the beauty and strength of ripening manhood, with what humility they drank in instruction from the lips of their teacher, even as the dry earth drinks in water!”
“After an absence of some months, the king returned, and called at our dwelling to hear the two young men, his favorites, read. He was delighted with their improvement, and shook Mr. Thurston most cordially by the hand – pressed it between both his own – then kissed it.” (Lucy Thurston)
Kahuhu was among the earliest of those associated with the chiefs to learn both spoken and written words. Kahuhu then became a teacher to the chiefs.
In April or May 1821, the King and the chiefs gathered in Honolulu and selected teachers to assist Mr Bingham. James Kahuhu, John ʻĪʻi, Haʻalilio, Prince Kauikeaouli were among those who learned English. (Kamakau)
On October 7, 1829, it seems that Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) set up a legislative body and council of state when he prepared a definite and authoritative declaration to foreigners and each of them signed it. (Frear – HHS) Kahuhu was one of the participants.
King Kamehameha III issued a Proclamation “respecting the treatment of Foreigners within his Territories.” It was prepared in the name of the King and the Chiefs in Council: Kauikeaouli, the King; Gov. Boki; Kaʻahumanu; Gov. Adams Kuakini; Manuia; Kekūanāoʻa; Hinau; ʻAikanaka; Paki; Kīnaʻu; John ʻIʻi and James Kahuhu.
In part, he states, “The Laws of my Country prohibit murder, theft, adultery, fornication, retailing ardent spirits at houses for selling spirits, amusements on the Sabbath Day, gambling and betting on the Sabbath Day, and at all times. If any man shall transgress any of these Laws, he is liable to the penalty, – the same for every Foreigner and for the People of these Islands: whoever shall violate these Laws shall be punished.”
It continues with, “This is our communication to you all, ye parents from the Countries whence originate the winds; have compassion on a Nation of little Children, very small and young, who are yet in mental darkness; and help us to do right and follow with us, that which will be for the best good of this our Country.”
The Hawaiʻi State Archives is the repository of significant historic documents for Hawaiʻi; reportedly, the oldest Hawaiian language document in its possession is a letter written by James Kahuhu.
Writing to Chief John Adams Kuakini, Kahuhu’s letter was partially in English and partially Hawaiian (at that time, Kuakini was learning both English and written Hawaiian.)
Below is a transcription of Kahuhu’s letter. (HSA)
Oahu. Makaliʻi 12, 1822.
My Dear Chief Mr. John Adams Kuakini. I love you very much. This is my communication to you. Continue praying to Jehovah our God. Keep the Sabbath which is God’s holy day. Persevere in your learning the good Gospel of Jehovah. By and by perhaps we shall know the good word of Jesus Christ. Then we shall know the good word of God.
A few begin to understand the good word of God. I am very pleased with the good word of God which has been brought here to enlighten this dark land. Who will save our souls and take them up to heaven, the place of eternal life. I am presently teaching Nahiʻenaʻena. I am teaching seven of them. Nahienaena, Kauikeaouli, Halekiʻi, Ulumāheihei Waipa, Ulumāheihei a Kapalahaole, Nakapuai and Noaʻawa are the students I am teaching. I may have more in the future. You must obey your good teacher, Hopu. Persevere with him and don’t give up.
Keliʻiahonui has learned to write quite well, he sent a letter to Oahu. Tell Hopu that Keliʻiahonui misses him. The King is learning to write from Mr. Bingham. Kalanimōku, Kīnaʻu and Kekauōnohi are learning to write Hawaiian. Mr. Thurston is their teacher. Here is another word to you, if you see Kalapauwahiole tell him to come to Oahu as I would like very much for him to come to Oahu.
(Makaliʻi was the name of a month: December on Hawai‘i, April on Moloka’i, October on Oʻahu. (Malo))
The image shows the first page of the Kahuhu letter to Kuakini (HSA.) In addition, I have included other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
The 1821 Frame House at Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives was one of Hawaiʻi’s early prefab houses. They precut the lumber on the continent, then delivered it to Hawaiʻi and erected the house. It’s still there.
The timbers of Maine white pine were cut and fitted in Boston in 1819 and came around the Horn on the brig Thaddeus with the Pioneer Company in April 1820, arriving first in Kona. The frame of the house arrived in Honolulu on Christmas morning of that year on board the ship Tartar.
Construction of the house wasn’t necessarily smooth – it was some weeks before the King would permit its erection. Construction did not begin until April, and the frame had by that time been injured by exposure to the tropical sun.
The boards for the roof could not be found, and it was concluded that they were never put aboard ship. Other lumber had been damaged enroute, and some was stolen after arrival at Honolulu. The balance had to be eked out by boards purchased locally.
During the shingling, the scaffolding collapsed, injuring one of the men. The siding of rough feather-edged boards proved leaky, and attempts were made to stop the cracks with rags soaked in tar. (Mission Houses; Peterson)
The Frame House was used as a communal home by many missionary families who shared it with island visitors and boarders. It is the oldest wood frame structure still standing in the Hawaiian Islands.
It wasn’t until the California Gold Rush (1848) that prefab housing started to really catch on, on the West coast of the continent and elsewhere.
As news spread of the discovery, thousands of prospective gold miners traveled by sea or over land to San Francisco and the surrounding area; by the end of 1849, the non-native population of the California territory was some 100,000 (compared with the pre-1848 figure of less than 1,000.) They needed places to stay.
Ralph Waldo Emerson noted the gold seekers brought ‘framed houses’ with them, “Suddenly the Californian soil is spangled with a little gold-dust here and there in a mill … the news flies here and there, to New York, to Maine, to London, and an army of a hundred thousand picked volunteers”.
“(T)he ablest and keenest and boldest that could be collected, instantly organize and embark for this desart, bringing tools, instruments, books, and framed houses, with them. Such a well-appointed colony as never was planted before arrive with the speed of sail and steam on these remote shores, bringing with them the necessity that the government”. (Emerson, 1849)
Framed houses were also an early article of overseas trade, and before long the American colonies, in their turn, were making and shipping houses to the Caribbean sugar islands. After that both Europe and our Eastern Seaboard produced them for the settlement of Australia and California.
At the height of the Gold Rush in 1849 port cities around the world were sending large numbers of buildings to San Francisco. Hawaiʻi – and especially Honolulu – was soon to share them. (Peterson)
The Polynesian notes, “A New Article in Commerce. From all parts of the world we hear that HOUSES, in perfect order to be set up in a short time, are being constructed for California. From the humble wooden tenement of a single room, to immense iron and framed buildings of three stories”.
“Belgium, France, England, the British Colonies the South American States and China, are all sending their quota … from New York and immediate vicinity alone, 5,000 houses have been … shipped for El Dorado.” (Polynesian, March 2, 1850)
A century later, the Islands saw the proliferation of ‘pre-designed’ homes built by Harold Hicks. In 1949, Hicks brought his family to the Islands and started his own residential construction company in the laundry room of his house.
Hicks designed and built homes for the ‘First Time Buyer,’ as well as for subdivision developers. He wanted to offer affordable homes to the working families of the islands and would build one home or 100 at a time. (BIA)
One dozen efficient model home designs offered the homeowners a range of flexibility in bedrooms and bathrooms. Sizes ranged from a one-bedroom 576-SF model to a four-bedroom 1,208-SF home.
Consistent features in a Hicks’ home include clear heart redwood interior and exterior single walls, oak flooring and jalousie windows … and the white roof (no matter the model or square footage, the roof was always white.)
Hicks wanted his customers to be able to “select a home model just as a shopper could select items in a department store”. Since 1950, 17,000 Hicks homes have been built in the islands and the working families of Hawaiʻi have experienced their homes for generations. (BIA)
The image shows the 1821 Frame House at the Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives. (1907) In addition, I have included other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
The early Polynesian settlers to Hawaiʻi brought sugar cane with them and demonstrated that it could be grown successfully. In 1802, sugar was first made in the islands on the island of Lānaʻi by a native of China.
He came here in one of the vessels trading for sandalwood, and brought a stone mill and boilers and, after grinding off one small crop and making it into sugar, went back the next year with his fixtures, to China.
But it wasn’t development of a sweetener that was one of the first popular uses of the canoe crop (that later ended up changing the landscape and social make-up of the Islands.)
“In short it might be well worth the attention of Government to make the experiment and settle these islands by planters from the West Indies, men of humanity, industry and experienced abilities in the exercise of their art would here in a short time be enabled to manufacture sugar and rum from luxuriant fields of cane equal if not superior to the produce of our West India plantations.” (Menzies, 1793)
Rum is a beverage that seems to have had its origins on the 17th century Caribbean sugarcane plantations and by the 18th century its popularity had spread throughout world. Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane byproducts by a process of fermentation and distillation.
The origin of the word ‘rum’ is generally unclear. In an 1824 essay about the word’s origin, Samuel Morewood suggested the word ‘rum’ might be from the British slang term for ‘the best,’ as in “having a rum time. … it would be called rum, to denote its excellence or superior quality.” (Samuel Morewood, 1824)
According to Kamakau, “The first taste that Kamehameha and his people had of rum was at Kailua in 1791 or perhaps a little earlier, brought in by Captain Maxwell. Kamehameha went out to the ship with (John) Young and (Isaac) Davis when it was sighted off Keāhole Point and there they all drank rum.”
“Then nothing would do but Kalanimōku must get some of this sparkling water, and he was the first chief to buy rum.”
Shortly thereafter, while in Waikīkī, after having tasted the “dancing water,” Kamehameha I gained the apparent honor of having spread the making of rum from Oʻahu to Hawaiʻi island. (Kanahele)
After he saw a foreigner make rum in Honolulu, he set up his own still. Spurred by his own appetite for rum, he soon made rum drinking common among chiefs and chiefesses as well as commoners. (Kanahele) Many of the subsequent royalty and chiefs also drank alcoholic beverages (several overindulged.)
Within a decade or so, Island residents were producing liquor on a commercial basis. “It was while Kamehameha was on Oʻahu that rum was first distilled in the Hawaiian group,” wrote Kamakau.
“In 1809 rum was being distilled by the well-known foreigner, Oliver Holmes, at Kewalo, and later he and David Laho-loa distilled rum at Makaho.” Several small distilleries were in operation by the 1820s.
By November 1822, Honolulu had seventeen grog shops operated by foreigners. Drinking places were one of the earliest types of retail business established in the Islands.
“For some years after the arrival of missionaries at the islands it was not uncommon in going to the enclosure of the king, or some other place of resort, to find after a previous night’s revelry, exhausted cases of ardent spirits standing exposed and the emptied bottles strewn about in confusion.” (Dibble)
In 1825 an English agriculturist named John Wilkinson, who in his younger years had been a planter in the West Indies, arrived at Honolulu on the frigate Blonde. He had made some arrangement with Governor Boki, while the latter was in England, to go out and engage in cultivating sugar cane and coffee and in making sugar and, probably, rum. (Kuykendall)
A plantation was established in the upper part of Mānoa valley. Six months after beginning operations Wilkinson had about seven acres of cane growing, Untimely rains raised the stream and destroyed a dam under construction at the mill site. (Kuykendall) His partners constructed a still and began to make rum from molasses. (Daws)
Boki’s trade in entertaining the visiting ships and distilling liquor ran him afoul of the missionaries and Kaʻahumanu. Kaʻahumanu had him fined in 1827 for misconduct, intemperance, fornication and adultery, apparently in connection with his brothels and grog-shops. (Nogelmeier)
Kaʻahumanu ordered the sugar cane on his Mānoa plantation to be torn up when she found it was to be used for rum. When Boki could no longer provide the cane for distilling and Kaʻahumanu had the sugar crop destroyed, Boki turned to distilling ti-root. (Nogelmeier)
But the missionaries apparently also shared in the libations. As late as 1827, the Honolulu missionaries ran in effect a liquor store for its members. From May 15, 1826 to May 2, 1827, Hiram Bingham bought on his personal account 7 ½ gal of wine, 6 ¾ gal, 1 pt and a bottle of rum, 4 gal of brandy, 1 doz bottles of porter and 4 bottles of port. (Mission Account Book, Greer)
The Binghams were not the only missionaries to imbibe. Elisha Loomis bought 8 gal, 1 pt of wine, 1 gal of rum, and 1 ½ gal of brandy. Abraham Blatchley bought 4 gal of brandy, 2 gal of rum, and 2 gal of gin. Joseph Goodrich bought 2 ½ gal of wine and 1 qt of rum. Samuel Ruggles bought 1 ¼ gal of brandy and 2 ¼ gal of wine. Levi Chamberlain bought 3 qts of wine and 2 qts of brandy. The Medical Department drew 4 gal of rum. (Mission Account Book, Greer)
In March 1838, the first liquor license law was enacted, which prohibited all selling of liquors without a license under a fine of fifty dollars for the first offense, to be increased by the addition of fifty dollars for every repetition of the offense. (The Friend, December 1887)
All houses for the sale of liquor were to be closed at ten o’clock at night, and from Saturday night until Monday morning. Drunkenness was prohibited in the licensed houses under a heavy fine to the drinker, and the loss of his license to the seller. (The Friend, December 1887)
In 1843, the seamen’s chaplain, Samuel C. Damon, started ‘The Temperance Advocate and Seamen’s Friend;’ he soon changed its name to simply “The Friend.” Through it, he offered ‘Six Hints to seamen visiting Honolulu’ (the Friend, October 8, 1852,) his first ‘Hint,’ “Keep away from the grog shops.”
However, that was pretty wishful thinking, given the number and distribution of establishments in the early-years of the fledgling city and port on Honolulu.
In 1874, a legislative act was passed that allowed distillation of rum on sugar plantations. According to a report in ‘The Friend,’ “the only planter in the Legislature voted three times against the passage of the Act.” The first export of Hawaiian rum was made on May 15, 1875 – the product of Heʻeia Plantation. (Today, others are making a comeback.)
The sweetener production focus of sugar caught hold. The first commercially-viable sugar plantation, Ladd and Co., was started at Kōloa on Kaua‘i. On July 29, 1835 (187 years ago, today,) Ladd & Company obtained a 50-year lease on nearly 1,000-acres of land and established a plantation and mill site in Kōloa.
Hawai‘i’s economy turned toward sugar in the decades between 1860 and 1880; these twenty years were pivotal in building the plantation system. A century after Captain Cook’s arrival in Hawaiʻi, sugar plantations started to dominate the landscape.
At the industry’s peak in the 1930s, Hawaii’s sugar plantations employed more than 50,000 workers and produced more than 1-million tons of sugar a year; over 254,500-acres were planted in sugar. That plummeted to 492,000 tons in 1995.
With statehood in 1959 and the almost simultaneous introduction of passenger jet airplanes, the tourist industry began to grow rapidly. A majority of the plantations closed in the 1990s. As sugar declined, tourism took its place – and far surpassed it. Like many other societies, Hawaii underwent a profound transformation from an agrarian to a service economy.