“Messrs (William) Ellis, (Asa) Thurston, (Artemas) Bishop and (Joseph) Goodrich made a tour round the island of Hawai‘i, examining its various districts, conversing with the natives, and preaching the gospel 130 different times.” (History of ABCFM)
They left Kailua-Kona heading south and circled the Island; the following are their descriptions of respective parts of the Island.
“Kairua, though healthy and populous, is destitute of fresh water, except what is found in pools, or small streams, in the mountains, four or five miles from the shore … “The houses, which are neat, are generally built on the sea-shore, shaded with cocoa-nut and kou trees, which greatly enliven the scene.”
“The environs were cultivated to a considerable extent; small gardens were seen among the barren rocks on which the houses are built, wherever soil could be found sufficient to nourish the sweet potato, the watermelon, or even a few plants of tobacco, and in many places these seemed to be growing literally in the fragments of lava, collected in small heaps around their roots.”
“The next morning, (they) walked towards the mountains … The path now lay through a beautiful part of the country, quite a garden compared with that through which they had passed on first leaving the town. It was generally divided into small fields, about fifteen rods square, fenced with low stone walls, (and) planted with bananas, sweet potatoes, mountain taro, paper mulberry plants, melons, and sugar-cane, which flourished luxuriantly in every direction.”
“After breakfast, Mssrs. Thurston and Goodrich examined the inland part of the (Honaunau) district, and found, after proceeding about two miles from the sea, that the ground was generally cultivated.”
“They passed through considerable groves of breadfruit trees, saw many cocoa-nuts, and numbers of the prickly pear (cactus) growing very large, and loaded with fruit. They also found many people residing at the distance of from two to four miles from the beach, in the midst of their plantations, who seemed to enjoy an abundance of provisions, seldom possessed by those on the sea shore,”
“The coast for twenty miles to the northward, includes not less perhaps than forty villages, either on the shore or a short distance inland, and contains probably a population of 20,000 souls, among whom a missionary might labour with facility”.
“(A)bout five in the afternoon landed at Kapua, a small and desolate-looking village, on the southwest point of Hawai‘i … At this place we hired a man to go about seven miles into the mountains for fresh water; but he returned with only one calabash full …”
“… a very inadequate supply as our whole company had suffered much from thirst, and the effects of the brackish water we had frequently drank since leaving Honaunau. … Nothing can exceed the barren and solitary appearance of this part of the island”.
“On entering (Ka‘ū,) the same gloomy and cheerless desert of rugged lava spread itself in every direction from the shore to the mountains. Here and there at distant intervals they passed a lonely house, or a few wandering fishermen’s huts, with a solitary shrub, or species of thistle, struggling for existence among the crevices in the blocks of scoriae and lava. All besides was ‘one vast desert, dreary, bleak, and wild’”
“A beautiful country now appeared before us at (Kahuku Bluff,) and we seemed all at once transported to some happier island …. The rough and desolate tract of lava, with all its distorted forms, was exchanged for the verdant plain, diversified with gently rising hills, and sloping dales, ornamented with shrubs, and gay with blooming flowers.”
Approaching Waiohinu, “The population in this part did not appear concentrated in towns and villages, as it had been along the sea-shore, but scattered over the whole face of the country, which appeared divided into farms of varied extent, and upon these houses generally stood singly, or in small clusters, seldom exceeding four or five in number.”
Toward Honuapo, “The country appeared more thickly inhabited than that over which we had travelled in the morning. The villages, along the sea shore, were near together, and some of them extensive. … we found tall rows of sugar-cane lining the path on either side”.
From Punalu‘u to Kapapala, “We now left the road by the sea-side, and directed our course towards the mountains. Our path lay over a rich yellow-looking soil of decomposed lava, or over a fine black vegetable mould, in which we occasionally saw a few masses of lava partially decomposed …”
“There was but little cultivation, though the ground appeared well adapted to the growth of all the most valuable produce of the islands. … The surface of the country was covered with a light yellow soil, and clothed with tall grass, but the sides and bed of every watercourse we passed were composed of volcanic rock….”
Toward Kilauea Volcano, “The path for several miles lay through a most fertile tract of country, covered with bushes, or tall grass and fern, frequently from three to five feet high, and … heavily laden with dew.”
“Leaving the wood, we entered a waste of dry sand, about four miles across … As we approached the sea, the soil became more generally spread over the surface, and vegetation more luxuriant.”
“The natives ran to a spot in the neighbourhood, which had formerly been a plantation, and brought a number of pieces of sugar-cane, with which we quenched our thirst, and then walked on through several plantations of sweet potato, belonging to the inhabitants of the coast.”
Continuing around, “The population of this part of Puna though somewhat numerous, did not appear to possess the means of subsistence in any great variety or abundance; and we have often been surprised to find the desolate coasts more thickly inhabited than some of the fertile tracts in the interior …”
“… a circumstance we can only account for, by supposing that the facilities which the former afford for fishing, induce the natives to prefer them as places of abode; for they find that where the coast is low, the adjacent water is generally shallow.”
Passing Kalapana, “the country began to wear a more agreeable aspect. Groves of cocoa-nuts ornamented the projecting points of land, clumps of kou-trees appeared in various directions, and the habitations of the natives were also thickly scattered over the coast”.
“Kaimu is pleasantly situated near the sea shore, on the SE side of the island, standing on a bed of lava considerably decomposed, and covered over with a light and fertile soil. It is adorned with plantations, groves of cocoanuts, and clumps of kou-trees. It has a fine sandy beach, where canoes may land with safety; and, according to the houses numbered today, contains about 725 inhabitants.”
Toward Kapoho, “A most beautiful and romantic landscape presented itself on our left, as we travelled out of Pualaa. The lava was covered with a tolerably thick layer of soil, and the verdant plain, extending several miles towards the foot of the mountains, was agreeably diversified by groups of picturesque hills, originally craters, but now clothed with grass, and ornamented with clumps of trees.”
On to Kea‘au. “The country was populous, but the houses stood singly, or in small clusters, generally on the plantations, which were scattered over the whole country. Grass and herbage were abundant, vegetation in many places luxuriant, and the soil, though shallow, was light and fertile”.
“At half-past ten we resumed our walk, and passing about two miles through a wood of pretty large timber, came to the open country in the vicinity of Waiakea (Hilo.) … The whole is covered with luxuriant vegetation, and the greater part of it formed into plantations, where plantains, bananas, sugar-cane, taro, potatoes, and melons, grow to the greatest perfection”.
“Groves of cocoa-nut and breadfruit are seen in every direction loaded with fruit, or clothed with umbrageous foliage. The houses are mostly larger and better built than those of many districts through which we had passed. We thought the people generally industrious; for in several of the less fertile parts of the district we saw small pieces of lava thrown up in heaps, and potato vines growing very well in the midst of them, though we could scarcely perceive a particle of soil”.
Then, by canoe from Hilo along the Hāmākua coast, “The country, by which we sailed, was fertile, beautiful, and apparently populous. The numerous plantations on the eminences and sides of the deep ravines or valleys, by which it was intersected, with the streams meandering through them into the sea, presented altogether a most agreeable prospect”.
“The high land over which we passed was generally woody, though the trees were not large. The places that were free from wood, were covered with long grass and luxuriant ferns. The houses mostly stood singly, and were scattered over the face of the country.”
“A rich field of potatoes or taro, five or six acres sometimes in extent, or large plantations of sugar-cane and bananas, occasionally bordered our path. But though the soil was excellent, it was only partially cultivated. The population also appeared less than what we had seen inhabiting some of the most desolate parts of the island”.
“… the inhabitants, excepting at Waiakea, did not appear better supplied with the necessaries of life than those of Kona, or the more barren parts of Hawaii. They had better houses, plenty of vegetables, some dogs, and few hogs, but hardly any fish, a principal article of food with the natives in general”.
From Kapulena to Waimea, … taking an inland direction passed over a pleasant country, gently undulated with hill and dale. The soil was fertile, the vegetation flourishing, and there was considerable cultivation, though but few inhabitants.”
“About noon they reached the valley of Waimea, lying at the foot of Mouna-Kea, on the northwest side. Here a number of villages appeared on each side of the path, surrounded with plantations in which plantains, sugar-cane, and taro were seen growing unusually large”.
“Viewed from the great elevation at which we stood, the charming (Waipio) valley, spread out beneath us like a map, with its numerous inhabitants, cottages, plantations, fishponds, and meandering streams. … The bottom of this valley was one continued garden, cultivated with taro, bananas, sugar-cane, and other productions of the islands, all growing luxuriantly.”
“Pololu is a pleasant village, situated in a small cultivated valley, having a fine stream of water flowing down its centre …. The houses stand principally on the beach. … The country was fertile, and seemed populous, though the houses were scattered, and more than three or four seldom appeared together.”
“A wide tract of country in the neighbourhood was divided into fields of considerable size, containing several acres each, which he used to keep in good order, and well stocked with potatoes and other vegetables. … The soil was fertile and vegetation abundant.”
Towarrd Mahukona, “Though we had numbered, in our journey today, 600 houses, we had not seen any thing like four hundred people, almost the whole population being employed in the mountains cutting sandal wood”.
From Mahukona to Kawaihae, “The coast was barren; the rocks volcanic; the men were all employed in fishing; and Mr. Thurston was informed that the inhabitants of the plantations, about (2-3) miles in the interior, were far more numerous than on the shore”.
Southwest of Waimea toward Kiholo, “The soil over which he had travelled was fertile, well watered, and capable of sustaining many thousand inhabitants. In his walks he had numbered 220 houses, and the present population is probably between eleven and twelve hundred.”
Then via canoe, they “landed at Kihoro, a straggling village, inhabited principally by fishermen.” Then they traveled by canoe back to Kailua. (The bulk of this is from information assembled by Newman.)