In 1825 an English agriculturist named John Wilkinson arrived in Hawai‘i on the frigate Blonde; on the way from England, they stopped in Brazil where he obtained coffee seedlings.
They first landed in Hilo and left some coffee there. Wilkinson went on Oahu and is noted for starting the first commercial coffee in the Islands in Mānoa.
Coffee was planted in Mānoa Valley in the vicinity of the present UH-Mānoa campus; from a small field, trees were introduced to other areas of O‘ahu and neighbor islands.
In 1828, American missionary Samuel Ruggles took cuttings of the same kind of coffee from Hilo and brought them to Kona. Writer Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) later described the region in his Letters from Hawaiʻi …
“The ride through the district of Kona to Kealakekua Bay took us through the famous coffee and orange section. I think the Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other, be it grown where it may and call it what you please.”
“Mr Hall (was) among the first and oldest coffee growers and (his) brands were considered the best.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, January 13, 1866) Farming in Hokukano, near Kainaliu, Kona in the 1830s, he took a risk and planted fifty acres of coffee. (Teves)
“Some 4 or 5 miles beyond Keauhou I reached Mr Hall’s place where he has an extensive coffee plantation. His thatched house or rather houses is pleasantly located among beautiful shade trees, among them the Pride of India, Kukui, &c &c.”
“He has many thousand coffee trees & after 5 years labor is beginning to find it profitable. He has a native wife & a family of several children.”
“His wife is a daughter of Mr Rice of Kailua. Mr R[ice] was formerly intemperate & his family was left to go to ruin. This daughter was particularly vicious. On his reformation from intemperance he set about the reformation & discipline of his family.”
“This daughter, before he could bring her to submission to his authority he was obliged to keep chained by the ankle in his house for some 3 months; at last she gave up & the effect on her subsequent life was very salutary.” (Lyman)
While he later was a coffee farmer, in 1834, Hall was still practicing his trade of carpentry and was also hunting bullocks, so he was familiar with the mountain. (Greenwell)
Hall “is an American & has spent many years on the Island, has been employed in beef-catching & is familiar with the mountainous regions.”
It was then that naturalist David Douglas (for whom the Douglas fir tree was named), On July 12, 1834, while exploring the Island; “Douglas, a scientific traveller from Scotland, in the service of the London Horticultural Society, lost his life in the mountains of Hawaii, in a pitfall, being gored and trampled to death by a wild bullock captured there. (Bingham)
“When the death of Douglass was known at Hilo (Hall) was sent by the Missionaries to the pit to gather information. There had been a heavy rain the day before he reached the place & all tracks &c were obliterated.” (Lyman)
Some have suggested it was not an accident. “(T)he dead body of the distinguished Scottish naturalist, Douglas, was found under painfully suspicious circumstances, that led many to believe he had been murdered for his money.” (Coan)
“Hall says that he saw Douglass have a large purse of money which he took to be gold. None of any consequence was found after his death.” (Lyman) “Mr. Hall says he has no doubt in his own mind that Douglas was murdered”. (Fullard-Leo)
Hall, a native of Virginia, died at his residence at Kainaliu on March 19, 1880 at the age of 69 year. “He had resided on these lslands for over fifty years, having arrived here in 1829, as a seaman on board an American ship.”
“He was carpenter by trade, and soon got employment with the chiefs. He married the daughter of small chief at Pahoehoe, North Kona, and after her death, he married Hannah, the daughter of the late Samuel Rice, Gov Kuakini’s black-smith, who survives him and by whom he had large family of children, seven of whom are now living.”
“Up to an advanced age and until he was crippled by an accident, Mr Hall was ‘a mighty hunter’ of wild cattle on the mountains of Hawaii, and could outwalk most men of half his years. He was kind and affectionate husband and father and good neighbor. (The Friend, May 1880)
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