At the time of Captain Cook’s contact with the Hawaiian Islands the land was divided into several independent Chiefdoms. By succession and right of conquest, each High Chief was owner of all the lands within his jurisdiction.
Although the chiefs controlled the land and extracted food and labor from the makaʻāinana who farmed the soil, “everyone had rights of access and use to the resources of the land and the sea … The people were sustained by a tradition of sharing and common use.”
Kamehameha III divided the lands in a process known as the Great Māhele (1848.) Ultimately, it transformed land tenure from feudal-like/communal trusteeship to private ownership.
Hui Kūʻai ʻĀina O Hāʻena (Hāʻena Cooperative to Purchase Land) was one of many groups formed by people after the Mānele and Kuleana Act. Members held shares in the total land area, and the land was used collectively. That is, unlike the kuleana lands (individual homesteads,) Hui lands were not divided into individual parcels.
These cooperatives formed, in part, to retain traditional ways of life on the land, which were typically thwarted by the legal system shifting to Western ways. A fundamental precept of the hui was sharing, collectively, on the land. (Andrade)
Over the next century, changes that were affecting the rest of the Hawaiian Islands gradually reached Hāʻena. Among the most important of these were changes that eventually brought about the break-up of the Hui Kūʻai ‘Āina and resulted in the partitioning of the lands that had been held in common.
The path to this break-up was one whereby, over time, shares in the Hui were sold, transferred or auctioned off away from the original members and their families, and into the hands of newcomers from outside. (PacificWorlds)
Later, the Taylor family purchased a parcel of coastal land in the area. “My family sailed over from O‘ahu in August of 1968. That first morning we came down here in an old Valiant station wagon. We looked around and ate our lunch on one of the flat rocks that are still over there by the stream.”
“My parents fell in love with this place, went back to our house on O‘ahu and sold that place. They sold the boat, sold the house, sold everything and moved to Kauaʻi.” (Tommy Taylor)
Howard Taylor (brother to actress Elizabeth Taylor) went to acquire building permits to construct his family home on the property. However, the State would not grant him such a permit, since they were planning to condemn the land.
At the same time, however, they insisted that he still pay full taxes on the land. In disgust, Taylor turned the land over to the “flower power people” – they called it Taylor Camp.
Started in the spring of 1969, “Taylor Camp was not a planned community. The land … had been loaned … to a small group of people who had been squatting at several of the county parks on Kauaʻi during 1968 and 1969.”
“The county police had shooed the group from one park to another and the county was taking legal action against them when Mr Taylor offered them the use of a small parcel of land bordering the beach at Hāʻena point.” (Riley)
By 1970, the original group of thirteen men, women and children of Taylor Camp were gone; soon, waves of hippies, surfers and troubled Vietnam vets found their way to Taylor Camp and built a clothing-optional, pot-friendly village at the end of the road on the island’s north shore.
“The campers wanted to escape the mainland, the political situation, the Vietnam War. There were dropping out, trying to get away and these people found Kauaʻi.” (Taylor; Wehrheim)
Abandoning the tent village, by 1972 there were 21-permanent houses at Taylor Camp. All of them were tree houses, since local authorities would not issue them permits for ground dwellings.
In addition to the houses in the camp there was a communal shower, an open air toilet, a small church and even a cooperative store which operated on and off until the camp’s closing. (Riley)
“We were a Kauaʻi community at the end of the road in the seventies living like some of our local neighbors were living. No electricity, no one had anything. … It was very, very simple, very, very slow.” (Rosenthal; Wehrheim)
“It wasn’t a free for all type of place. A lot of people came through and wanted to build something and stay but they couldn’t. There was sort of a council and general rules to keep the peace and the order. … So everybody had to be approved by the elders”. (Baricchi; Wehrheim)
“The camp also became an informal pool of causal labor. While some of the campers worked legitimate jobs and a few even owned their own businesses, many – living on welfare, food stamps, unemployment and growing marijuana – welcomed causal labor”.
“In the morning builders or farmers in need of strong backs could pull up in their trucks and find a few campers willing to work cheap.” (Wehrheim)
Kauaʻi’s north shore boomed with surfers and hippies to a point where more than 350-people were in and around Taylor Camp.
“It was getting to be a mess. It wasn’t a commune anymore. The communal life just didn’t work. There were too many freeloaders. There were only two or three people that were gathering, buying and cooking the food … but the people eating were not even cleaning up … That’s what started the break-up. (Harder: Wehrheim)
“(I)t was really kind of stressful, when we had so little and there were freeloaders mooching, not contributing anything. Soon it evolved into, ‘We are not doing this communal thing anymore!’ “
“And people started building little shelters and then everybody said, ‘Okay, we will do our individual house and we will do our individual cooking,’ and so the commune ended”.(Harder; Wehrheim)
Folks on the outside added to the pressures. “There was a lot of tension between the locals and the hippies … We were the devil – evil incarnate.… The locals who knew us didn’t think that, but the politicians, the elected officials, they needed a bad guy”. (Rosenthal; Wehrheim)
“People did not like Taylor Camp, because it was different. Like you have homeless in Honolulu living on the beach – that was Taylor Camp. … People just did not like hippies. They weren’t wearing clothes and they were planting marijuana all over the place.” (Malapit; Wehrheim)
Then, the headlines told the future, “Condemnation for Park;” “All the land on the North side of Kauaʻi between Limahuli Stream and the end of the road at Hāʻena is about to be taken over by the State through condemnation proceedings. A State Park is planned for the area.” (Garden Island, May 17, 1971)
In 1974, after five years of bureaucratic government maneuvers, the State government finally formally condemned and acquired Howard Taylor’s land. But some of the residents didn’t leave and they made claims back upon the State.
The dragged-out eviction proceedings and other legal challenges wore on the campers and they finally dropped all claims against the State and left voluntarily. Many moved to the Big Island.
In 1977, government officials torched the camp – leaving little but ashes and memories of “the best days of our lives.” (Wehrheim) (Much of the information and images here are from John Wehrheim’s Taylor Camp book – that was an unanticipated, but much appreciated arrival at my door one day.)
The original 13: Victor Schaub, Sondra Schaub (with 4-year old daughter Heidi Schaub,) Webb Ford, Carol Ford, John Becker, George Berg, Jr, Thomas Carver, Teri Ann Rush, John Rush, Kirby Nunn, Wendy Nunn, Jackie Nixon and Gail Pickolz. (Wehrheim)
The image shows Diane’s house at Taylor Camp. In addition, I have added other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.
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