Unification of the Islands (with a note about Hawai‘i’s ranching legacy)
Kamehameha had inherited the longstanding feud with Maui that had already existed at the time of his birth. After 1791, Maui’s ruling chief, Kahekili, fiercely contested Kamehameha’s rulership. One day, when Kamehameha was at work to secure peace at Laupahoehoe on the east side of the island, rumors reached him that Kahekili had sent an army to Kohala to begin a new war. The Maui warriors had set up camp at Hapuu at the mouth of Halawa stream. They were plundering Kamehameha’s farms, he was told.
Kamehameha responded with calm determination. Instead of sailing from Laupahoehoe to Halawa, which the Maui men would notice from afar, he waited until nightfall to sail with his fleet to Kawaihae, passing Halawa unseen. In Kawaihae, he gathered warriors from overland, taking his time. It’s said that Kamehameha prepared an army of two thousand. As always, Kekuhaupio was at his side.
When he felt adequately prepared to meet the Maui men, Kamehameha traveled back to Kohala. But he went overland, choosing to descend toward Hapuu from mauka to makai (from the mountains to the sea), through the uplands of Halawa and right past where now the zipline is. Historian Stephen L. Desha writes in 1922: “Kamehameha led his army in the uplands of Halawa, for he knew that if he moved his army on the seaward coast of Kohala, the Maui people would quickly hear of it and attempt to run from the fight.”
The Maui chief suspected the attack despite Kamehameha’s ruse. He left Hapuu’s dangerous cliffs to meet Kamehameha’s army halfway, proud and fully confident in the fearlessness of his Maui warriors. But the Maui men stood no chance on Kamehameha’s own stamping grounds. The battle that ensued slowly drove down, from the uplands to the shoreline, with Kamehameha in charge. It lasted two full days. Desha writes: “The two of them [Kamehameha and his war instructor Kekuhaupio] ‘broke the back’ of that battle until the very time that the Maui chief was taken captive.”
After the battle, Kamehameha rested in North Kohala, while Kekuhaupio returned through Halawa’s uplands to Waimea to prepare new armies for future wars. In 1795, Kamehameha seized final power over Maui and Oahu. In 1810, Kauai recognized Kamehameha as its sovereign. No records remain to tell of Kamehameha’s return to Halawa after this final unification, before his death in Kailua-Kona, in 1819.
Kamehameha and John Palmer Parker
Around 1809, a young American from New England abandoned a trading vessel when it stopped for provisions in Hawaii on its way to China, and ended up in North Kohala. He was about 19 years old and his name was John Palmer Parker. He met Kamehameha and saw the King’s taro patches. But eventually he sailed off again, seeking new adventure. His desire for foreign travel satisfied, Parker returned to Hawaii in 1812, with the wish to make the island his permanent home. First introduced in 1794, cattle posed an enormous problem in those years, with feral herds destroying forests and farms. Since Parker had acquired an American musket while overseas and appeared to be quite skillful with it, Kamehameha asked the young man to shoot the wild cattle for him. In exchange, he gave him a parcel of land in North Kohala, in Waiapuka, east of Halawa. Parker looked after Kamehameha’s taro patches there, married a descendant of Kamehameha, and eventually founded Parker Ranch.