Maui Hawaii – Whalers and Missionaries


July 4, 2008

The storied history of the land surrounding your West Maui home continues:

While we’ve talked about missionaries and whalers in the past, we’ve yet to touch on the many conflicts between the two groups . . .
Both groups arrived in Hawaii at roughly the same time but lived vastly different lives.

Since the whalers were men stuck on a ship for months at a time, upon landing all they wanted to do was play in paradise with the beautiful island women. The missionaries on the other hand, came simply to spread Christianity. As the whalers were out all night partying at raucous and lewd saloons, the missionaries felt it was their duty to help protect the native women from the rowdy sailors. So Willliam Richards, Lahaina’s first protestant missionary, convinced Maui’s governor Hoapili (husband of Keopuolani after Kamehameha I death) to enact laws imposing a curfew on the whalers visit to the saloons, ordinances for drunkenness, adultery, and placement of a kapu (ban) on native women swimming out to the whalers ship to greet them.

Many whalers became furious upon discovering these new laws targeting them. To make matter worse, the captain of a whaling ship was soon arrested for allowing women to accommodate his ship; spurring his crew to fire cannonballs at the William Richards residence in protest. After the cannonball incident, a waterfront fort was built. The fort was used primarily as a prison until it’s demolition in the 1850’s. The remains of the fort were used for the construction of a new prison, Hale Pa’ahao. Both prisons housed many criminals convicted for the crimes of public drunkenness, adultery, and “furious riding” i.e. riding ones horse “too fast” during this time. Shortly thereafter in 1859, petroleum was discovered in Pennsylvania: negating the need for whale oil and, eventually, the whalers who harvested it.

The Hale Pa’ahao is still standing and is now a Lahaina prison museum complete with the original wall shackles and ball and chain restraints.

Lahaina quieted down after this, but that didn’t last long; next up agriculture and king sugar.

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