1810 marked the unification of the Hawaiian Islands under single rule when negotiations between King Kaumuali‘i of Kauai and Kamehameha I at Pākākā took place. Kaumuali‘i ceded Kauai and Ni‘ihau to Kamehameha and the Hawaiian Islands were unified under a single leader. There was peace in the Islands.
On the American and European continents, war was waging. Twenty-nine years after the end of the American Revolution, conflict between the new US and Britain flared up, again – it lasted until 1815.
A lasting legacy of the War of 1812 was the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the US national anthem. They were penned by the amateur poet Francis Scott Key after he watched American forces withstand the British siege of Fort McHenry, Baltimore (named for James McHenry, Secretary of War, 1796 – 1800.)
In Europe, in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France. In 1815, as part of ongoing series of conflicts and wars in Europe, African and the Middle East, Napoleon was defeated by the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo (in what is now present-day Belgium.)
Back on the American continent, later in the decade (1818,) the US and Canada came to an agreement on their common boundary and used the 49th parallel to mark their border. The next year, Spain ceded Florida to the US.
In the Islands, Kamehameha I, who had been living at Waikiki, moved his Royal Residence to Pākākā at Honolulu Harbor in 1809.
That year, Archibald Campbell described the Honolulu surroundings: “Upon landing I was much struck with the beauty and fertility of the country … The village of Hanaroora (Honolulu,) which consisted of several hundred houses, is well shaded with large cocoa-nut trees.”
“The king’s residence, built close upon the shore, and surrounded by a palisade upon the land side, was distinguished by the British colours and a battery of sixteen carriage guns …”
“This palace consisted merely of a range of huts, viz. the king’s eating-house, a store, powder magazine, and guard-house, with a few huts for the attendants, all constructed after the fashion of the country.”
Kamehameha’s immediate court consisted of high-ranking chiefs and their retainers. Those who contributed to the welfare and enjoyment of court members also lived here, from fishermen and warriors to foreigners and chiefs of lesser rank.
Today, the site is generally at the open space now called Walker Park at the corner of Queen and Fort streets (there is a canon from the old fort there) – (ʻEwa side of the former Amfac Center, now the Topa Financial Plaza, near the fountain.)
ʻEwa side of Pākākā (where Nuʻuanu Stream empties into the harbor) was the area known as Kapuʻukolo. This is “where white men and such dwelt.” Of the approximate sixty white residents on O‘ahu at the time, nearly all lived in the village, and many were in the service of the king.
Among those who lived here were Don Francisco de Paula Marin, the Spaniard who greatly expanded horticulture in Hawaiʻi, and Isaac Davis (Welch,) friend and co-advisor with John Young (British) to Kamehameha.
Campbell noted, “(Isaac Davis’) house was distinguished from those of the natives only by the addition of a shed in front to keep off the sun; within, it was spread with mats, but had no furniture, except two benches to sit upon. He lived very much like the natives, and had acquired such a taste for poe (poi,) that he preferred it to any other food.”
In those days, this area was not called Honolulu. The old name for what is now the heart of downtown Honolulu was said to be Kou, a district roughly encompassing the present day area from Nuʻuanu to Alakea Streets and from Hotel to Queen Streets.
Honolulu Harbor, also known as Kuloloia, was entered by the first foreigner, Captain William Brown of the English ship Butterworth, in 1794. He named the harbor “Fair Haven.” The name Honolulu (meaning “sheltered bay” – with numerous variations in spelling) soon came into use.
A large yam field (what is now much of the core of downtown Honolulu – what is now bounded by King, Nuʻuanu, Beretania and Alakea Streets) was planted to provide visiting ships with an easily-stored food supply for their voyages (supplying ships with food and water was a growing part of the Islands’ economy.)
A couple years later, John Whitman noted in his journal (1813-1815,) “… Honoruru is the most fertile district on the Island. It extends about two miles from the Harbour where it is divided into two valleys by a ridge of high land. The district is highly cultivated and abounds in all the productions of these Islands.”
“The village consists of a number of huts of different sizes scattered along the front of the Harbour without regularity and the natives have lost much of the generous hospitality and simplicity that characterize those situated more remotely from this busy scene.”
Whitman goes on to note, “… everything necessary for the subsistence and comfort of man is found in the (Nuʻuanu) valley, watered by a rivulet it produces the best taro in great abundance, the ridge dividing the taro patches are covered with sugar cane.”
“The high ground yields sweet potatoes and yams and all the other productions of the Island are found in the various situations and soils adapted to their nature.”
In 1816-1817, Otto Von Kotzebue in command of a Russian exploratory expedition spent three weeks in the “Sandwich Islands.” He gave a description of the loʻi kalo in the Nuʻuanu area:
“The valley of Nuanu (Nuʻuanu,) behind Hanarura (Honolulu,) is the most extensive and pleasant of all. … The cultivation of the valleys behind Hanarura is remarkable. Artificial ponds support, even on the mountains, the taro plantations, which are at the same time fish-ponds; and all kinds of useful plants are cultivated on the intervening dams.”
In 1818, Peter Corney, who resided on O‘ahu as a representative of the Northwest Company and engaged in the sandalwood and other trade, noted:
“The Island of Woahoo (Oʻahu) is by far the most important of the group of the Sandwich Island, chiefly on account of its excellent harbours and good water. It is in a high state of cultivation; and abounds with cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, horses, etc., as well as vegetables and fruit of every description.”
“The ships in those seas generally touch at Ohwhyhee, and get permission from Tameameah (Kamehameha,) before they can go into the harbor of Woahoo.”
“He sends a confidential man on board to look after the vessel, and keep the natives from stealing; and, previous to entering the harbor of Honorora (Honolulu), they must pay eighty dollars harbor duty, and twelve dollars to John Harbottle, the pilot…”
“The village consists of about 300 houses regularly built, those of the chiefs being larger and fenced in. Each family must have three houses, one to sleep in, one for the men to eat in, and one for the women, – the sexes not being allowed to eat together.”
“Cocoanut, bread-fruit, and castor-oil-nut (kukui) trees, form delicious shades, between the village and a range of mountains which runs along the island in a NW and SE direction.” (Corney)
Jacques Arago, who visited Hawai‘i in 1819 with Captain Louis Claude de Saulses de Freycinet on the French ships L’Uranie and L’Physicienne, described some of the daily activities:
“At sunrise, men, women, and children quit their dwellings; some betake themselves to fishing (chiefly the women) on the rocks, or near the shore; others to the making of mats …”
“… the rest offer their little productions to, or solicit employment from, strangers, in exchange for European articles; while the masters of families repair to the public square, to witness or participate in amusements, of which they are astonishingly fond…”
The first decade of the Islands under single rule ended with the death of Kamehameha. Prior to his death (May 8, 1819,) Kamehameha decreed that that his son, Liholiho, would succeed him in power; he also decreed that his nephew, Kekuaokalani, have control of the war god Kūkaʻilimoku.