Reminiscences of the Old Days

...When Mrs. Whitney died, her land went to the native church. The minister of the native church was to live at the Whitney place. Since this was inconvenient, an exchange was made for kuleana land in the Waimea valley. 

The remaining was bought by John M. Lydgate.Lydgates received a part of the pasture land on the east side of the river called Mahaihai. They kept cattle there. Manini grass grew there Church There was a grass thatch church on the beach west of Waimea river. 

Later a school-house was added. The Chinese church now stands there. This church was built of pili grass and closed in on the mauka and windward sides. It was open to the makai and leeward sides. No windows. People sat on mats placed on the floor. All the houses here were of pili grass. 

Only one house, either the chief or konohiki had a wooden house.Kaikioewa had a house mauka of the hospital on the edge of the pali. 

Debora Kapule was Governess. She was a big woman, over 6 ft tall. Her grave is there. The Pa ilina o na ali'i was just left of the road running makai from our house ( John M. Lydgate) to the Alaloa to Kekaha. It was fenced off with a substantial cut sandstone wall. It was an acre in extent. Malaihi, the heir to Debora reserved the plot.Archer & Gruben were the first [white] farmers at Kekaha. 

Griffin [grew tobacco] and made cigars. but it was a failure.Knudsen˙ followed them around 1854. 

Tapa making was common and a thriving industry. They made it up in the valley and the sound of the beaters could be heard. They used wauke as the material for tapa. Whalers came to Waimea and sometimes the Captain's wife would stay with the Lydgates. 



by John M. Lydgate

Alexander Lydgate came from Hanalei to Waimea via canoe with his family. They stayed at the home that Gulick built. Mr. Whitney had just passed away and the responsibilities of the Mission Station at Waimea became Lydgate's responsibility. 

A. Lydgate was a good gardener. He raised the first mango tree in Waimea. The name of the garden area was Kakalae which was up in the valley.John was prohibited from mixing with or speaking Hawaiian, this was tabu-loa.A. Lydgate seceded from the Mission and built another church which is the present Hawaiian Church in the village.

The Whitney home stood just above where the Hofgaard House is located. The Whitney house was built of stone, coral sandstone. House had to be propped on its sides with heavy timbers as the walls bulged outward. The house was later demolished and its stones taken to builf the Kekaha Chimney.Mother Whitney lived there for many years. In the Division of Mission Lands, Mother Whitney wanted almost everything in it. She didn't get it.

Construction Jobs

Work on roads were done by prisoners. No other public works going on except for churches. 

The Waimea Churches were built of sandstone. These were quarried from the beach a mile or so away from the churches. The sandstone measured 3 ft long, 18 inches wide and 6-8 inches thick. The stone was cut with an axe. It was quite soft when cut and hardened with exposure. The blocks were transported to the church site by bullock carts and laid with lime mortar. 

The lime was made from coral secured from the reefs by diving and then taken to the lime kiln. This kiln was an open pit 20 ft in diameter . It was located makai of the church in what is now cane fields. Logs were obtained from the mountains for fuel. Some of it came nearly 15-16 miles away, hauled by ox-teams. 

Lehua logs were squared off and cut and hauled to the site of the kiln. The woods were full of trees but particular ones were rare. The straightest trees were at the bottom of the narrow steep gulches and were difficult to extract. The tie beams had to be 42 ft long, straight and free from defects. These were difficult to find. The floors, doors, seats and windows were of imported materials.

Shingles were imported and were boiled in whale-oil and lasted 25 years. The church had a tower with a pole in the middle and on this pole there was a large gilded ball 18 inches in diameter. The original ball was of solid wood but was too heavy and was replaced by the hollow one. This hollow ball was covered with gold leaf

.Niihau Island was part of the Lydgates parish. A. Lydgate made a tour to Niihau twice a year. He built a mission house, a frame house, a clapboard and shingle about 16 by 20 feet. It was at Kaunuohua near Nonopapa He was also the school-agent for Niihau.


A. Lydgate was the school-agent for Kauai and Niihau. He made regular tours inspecting the schools. The teachers were Hawaiians. No English was taught anywhere. He mastered the Hawaiian language.


Waimea Mill Co

It was established and run by Honolulu Iron Works Co. and Schmidt and Borchgrevink were planters. The planters failed and Waimea Mill Co. was formed to handle the business.  Land where the planters grew cane belonged to Mrs. A. Lydgate and she leased it to them and later to the Mill.


by Eric A. Knudsen.


No bridge across Waimea River. Road[from the east] turned at the foot of the hill and ran mauka for about 1/2 mile to a ford.. There was more water flowing then and sand bars and quicksands were always forming. Crossing was by asking the Hawaiians where the best crossings wwere and then plunge in. Later a scow was used to cross the river where the present bridge stands. It was always getting stuck. A wooden bridge was built in the early 1880s and stood until the iron bridge was built in 1904. 

Old Salem Hanchett who had lost a leg while harpooning a whale, had a store where Ahko's store stands today.  

 Road ran through the village past the Waimea Mill and then turned towards the hills and followed the base of the hills to Kekaha. One road led up to Rev. Rowell's home and the old Whitney home [now owned by the Waimea Sugar Co, and Mrs. Hofgaard.]

Rowell's wife had a marvelous voice. Marion Rowell married George Gay and went to live on Niihau for 16 years.Mary [the youngest daughter] went to school in Honolulu and returned [19-20 yrs of age] and was the governess for the Knudsens.

Waimea to Mana trees, no fences, no cane, all was open country. At Kekaha there were taro patches and at Pokii grew a number of coconut trees. Mango trees here were planted by Eric Knudsen's father. At Kekaha and Pokii area therewere many Hawaiians living here as there were springs and taro lands. Above the road in Pokii where the cane loaders now stand, there was a row of thatched houses and Hawaiians planted a lot of tobacco. From here to Waiawa the land was bare again.


There were a few tall coconut trees, a few taro patches and 2-3 large wells with a small flow of water and a beautiful little wells all built up of rocks and known as the King's well. No commoner was allowed to drink of its water. Other trees there were planted by Knudsen. 



One mile beyond Waiawa was a village and a grove of coconut trees. Limaloa on the edge of the swamp was a spring and 7 cocnut trees and a small patch of taro. From Limaloa to Mana the country was open and bare with a great swamp of Nekes or bullrushes lying between the fertile soil and the sand lands. This swamp extended all the way from kekaha to Mana. When there was a heavy winter storm and rains, the Hawaiians would paddle their canoes from Mana to Waimea on the inland sea and tie their canoes to the coconut trees in the Waiawa gardens.

Koali plant was used to reduce the swelling of a wound, a broken bone etc. It was pounded to a pulp, put on the swollen area and bound with a wet cloth. The area will throb and after 3 hours the swelling was reduced.

Palolo Mudhe hawaiian girls would rub their heads full of black palolo mud until their heads resembled a huge mud ball. They rubbed the mud into their hair for 10-15 minutes and went to the spring to wash it out. Their hair looked very black, glistened and sparkled.


There was a row of thatched houses from Waimea to mana along the foothills. Every house had a name. The women sat in their house tapping and beating their tapa cloth and the men beleived the women had a code that they could talk to one another by this method. These grass house were all built in one general design. One big living room and two doors. The doors were on opposite sides of each other. The gables were built east to west and doors facing the ocean and the hills. 


Reason was that Po, the abode of the dead lies under the ocean just outside of Polihale, where the cliffs and ocean meet, and the spirits of the dead must go there. As the spirits wander along the way to Po, they will go around the gable-end of a house but if the house stood facing the other way the spirits would walk straight through and it would be disagreeable to have a spirit walk past you as you were eating your meal. We can always tell when a battle has been fought by the number of spirits passing through at the same time. 



There was a fine heiau sacred to Miru, the God of Po all the spirits passed by the heiau, climbed a large black rock about 500 ft up in the cliff and from there plunged into Po. If a spirit was refused entry to Po, it had to go up and wander on the rim of the Waimea Canyon near Puukapele. Another spirit wandering spot was at Kaana here the rest house now stands. 


Heiau at Hoea Valley

1/2 mile above Waiawa was a luakini and was built by one of the Kings in preparation for war. The day the heiau was dedicated and the priests made sacrifices to find out whether the omens were good for war, the Valley was packed with fighting men and when the priests announced the omens were propitious the men shouted. They made such a noise that the people at Hanalei heard the shouting.


Holua slide

Between Hoea and Kuapa Valleys there was a splendid slide which was alid on rock and paved all the way from the palins to the top of the hill. The surface was covered with dry slippery Pili grass. The width was only 10 feet.Barking SandsThere was no road to Mana, only a trail. At Barking Sands the lower edge of the swamp was part of the trail. The swamp was full of stilts, ducks and mudhens. One-fourth of a mile north of the sands of the Barking sands, stood a sacred place where King Kalakaua came and sacrificed to the ancient Gods of Hawaii. He killed a pig and a white chicken. There were some small sandstone hills near the altar and several Hawaiian houses and some people lived there.Hale, an overseer at Mana in 1884. Eddie Rogers and Kate Rodgers [brother and sister] both lived with the Rowells at Waimea.