Recollections of Waimea Area. 1841
Seven miles from Hanapepe to the west, lies the village of Waimea, the capital of the island, and residence of the present Governess, Amelia, formerly wife of Kamehameha's veteren general Kaikioewa, ruler of Kaua'i. She is now married to a common native.
Waimea is a dusty village, situated on the beach and west bank of the river of the same name. Its population has dwindled to a third of its former number, when ships made it a recruiting place, and it is rapidly decreasing. A sail is now rarely seen in its roadstead, and its barren soil, which is of a dark red hue, and excessive heat, make it one of the least desirable residences on the islands.
But one or two foreigners reside there, besides a mission family (Mr. and Mrs. Whitney), who are stationed here, and have occupied the ground with great zeal and faithfulness for 20 years. Another family was connected with them but a few years since, it was deemed desirable that they should remove to Koloa. The house which they occupied, which was a good two story wooden building, and erected at a considerable expense, is now left a prey to the elements, and of no use to any one. It might be made useful as a schoolhouse but for some reason has never been occupied since the family for whom it was built removed from it.
The Governess has also a very good wooden dwelling house, prettily situated upon the hill, which was built for her late husband for foreign mechanics; but it is kept in very poor repair, and is but seldom occupied. However good houses the chiefs may have, they prefer to sleep in thatched huts, after the good old custom of their ancestors, while their finer dwellings are kept only as matter of state, and to gratify their pride in the eye of foreigners. To use them is quite as inconvenient as it is to a common native to mount a pair of tight pants; a penance which he will endure for an hour or two of a Sunday or holiday, but which he is very glad to lay aside for the malo.
Amelia, however, prides herself upon possessing the finest thatched house after the Hawaiian style, upon the islands. It was a work of gallantry on the part of her late lord and one of his last works of any nature. Not long before he died, which was in 1839, she expressed a wish to have such a building erected. Gov. Kaikioewa, who by the way was a taskmaster, and Napolean-like had a most aristocratic, or rather despotic contempt for the word impossible, . . . Amelia with an equal disregard to any obstacles which nature might present, or moved by the spirit which enhances the value of an object by the effort to obtain it, selected not just the site which was the most eligible and of which there was abundance, to wit dry ground, but the miry beds of some fishponds and kalo patches. Many months labor were spent in filling these up, notwithstanding the high dignitaries of the land set a most edifying example of labor, by occasionally exerting themselves to deposit a few handfuls of earth therein, by way of encouragement to their vassals. Portly dames and lusty kanakas might have then been seen wending their way to the pit, in full living suits of dame nature, puffing and panting under the efforts to move their unwieldy limbs, while boys and girls, men and women all that could get above a creep vied with them in laziness. However, the work advanced, under the eyes of the old governor and a foundation was at last made.
The building erected was 110 feet in length, 30 in breadth, and 30 to the ridge pole. It is a neat and pretty house, with an air of savage grandeur about it which is pleasing. The interior was one fine hall, but has since been divided into two rooms, and from the finess of the cinet, and the neatness with which it was laid on, the whiteness of the rafters, even size of the great posts, smoothness of the thatch, and good proportions of the whole, presents quite a regal appearance, and is well worth the attention of a traveller, particularly as such governors as Kaikioewa are getting scarce and the chances of there being more such buildings erected are somewhat small. In it was deposited a canoe belonging to Moses the governor apparent, of most beautiful workmanship. It is made of one Koa log, and is 44 1/2 feet long, 3 feet deep, and 21 inches wide, with a high prow and stern neatly attached to the main body by fine cord. The whole is finely polished, and from the care with which it is preserved, can be but seldom used.
On the east bank of the river is the stone Fort, now almost in ruins, which was built by the Russians in 1815 for Kaumualii. It still mounts a considerable number of small guns, and is of sufficient strength to resist any attacks from the islanders, should they be inclined again to rebel.
In full view from Waimea is the island of Niihau. Its greatest length is 18 miles, its breadth 3; though the average is not more than 5. Its elevation is about 2000 feet, much broken up by deep ravines, and with barren soil, which produces nothing but a low stunted shrubs, onions, yams and potatoes. The inhabitants suffer much from lack of water; their sole dependence being from rain, which is collected and preserved in reservoirs. This island is noted for the manufacture of mats, some of which are of high finish and very costly.
A mile to the west of Niihau, is Egg Island.[Lehua]. It is a mere rock, of about 1000 feet elevation, and covered with stunted shrubs, which afford food to thousands of wild rabbits with which the island is overrun.
Waimea according to native tradition, claims the honor of being the first landing place of fleas. Their introduction was affected in the following manner: a woman having, as was customary , gone off to a vessel at anchor in the roads, receiving from her lover, a bottle tightly corked, which he had her contained valuable waiwai (property), and that she must not open it until she reached the shore. She obeyed his instructions, and overjoyed with her acquisition has to show it to her friends. Having assembled them all, the bottle was uncorked with the greatest care, and looking in, they held nothing. The nimble prisoners had hopped out, and soon gave being to a dauntless progeny, that have gone on ever since, hopping and biting with undiminished -----. The man should have been fleaed for his pains, or tied Mazeppa-like, to the back of one of his own fleas.