Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Kaʻahumanu Wall

In the early 1800s, the city of Honolulu went as far as South Street; Kawaiahaʻo Church and Mission Houses (on King Street, on the Diamond Head side of town) were at the edge and outskirts of town.

The flat area between Mānoa and Honolulu was known as Kulaokahu‘a – the “plains.”  It was the comparatively level ground below Makiki Valley (between the mauka fertile valleys and the makai wetlands.) This included areas such as Kaka‘ako, Kewalo, Makiki, Pawaʻa and Mōʻiliʻili.

Queen Kaʻahumanu was Kamehameha’s favorite wife.  When he died on May 8, 1819, the crown was passed to his son, Liholiho, who would rule as Kamehameha II.  Kaʻahumanu created the office of Kuhina Nui (similar to premier, prime minister or regent) and ruled as an equal with Liholiho.

On December 4, 1825, Queen Kaahumanu was baptized into the Protestant faith and received her new name, Elizabeth, then labored earnestly to lead her people to Christ.

In 1829, at the suggestion of Queen Kaʻahumanu, Governor Boki and Liliha gave the lands of Ka Punahou to Hiram and Sybil Bingham, leaders of the first missionary group to Hawaiʻi.  Bingham then gave the land to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) to establish Punahou School.

The Binghams built their home there; Kaʻahumanu wanted to be close to them and built hers nearby (the Binghams later built an adobe house, with thatched roof.)  A memorial boulder near Old School Hall and the Library marks the location of the makai door of the Bingham home.

Just as in other outlying areas around the islands, roaming cattle became a nuisance.  Recall that in the early-1790s Captain George Vancouver gave Kamehameha I gifts of several cattle (a new species to the islands) and Vancouver strongly encouraged Kamehameha to place a 10‐year kapu on them to allow the herd to grow.

In the decades that followed, cattle flourished and turned into a dangerous nuisance.  Vast herds destroyed natives’ crops, ate the thatching on houses, and hurt, attacked and sometimes killed people.  (Kamehameha III later lifted the kapu in 1830.)

To protect the Bingham’s property and surrounding areas, in 1830, Queen Ka‘ahumanu ordered that a wall should be built from Punchbowl to Mōʻiliʻili.  “The object of the structure was to keep cattle grazing on the plains from intruding upon the cultivated region towards the mountains.”  (Hawaiian Gazette October 29, 1901)

“Kaahumanu's wall came from “the reef” (suggesting it was made of coral.) It is an Interesting fact many of the prisoners who built it were serving time for religion's sake. After the native's had cast down their idols and been converted, they turned against all forms of idolatry with the zeal new proselytes.”  (Hawaiian Gazette October 29, 1901)

“When the Roman Catholic worship came in, the chiefs mistook the use of images' for idolatry and threw a great many Catholics into prison. The labor which went into the Kaahumanu wall included theirs.”  (Hawaiian Gazette October 29, 1901)

“Years afterwards when Curtis Lyons went into the Survey office and laid the streets on the plains he named the thoroughfare which ran alongside the great wall, Stonewall street.”  (Hawaiian Gazette October 29, 1901)

The wall followed a trail which was later expanded and was first called Stonewall Street.  It was also known as “Mānoa Valley Road;” later, the route was renamed for the shipping magnate, Samuel G. Wilder (and continues to be known as Wilder Avenue.)

While the street was initially called “Stonewall Street,” it does not necessarily immediately suggest the wall was made of rocks.

A decade later the Kawaiahaʻo Church was constructed, it was commonly called the “Stone Church.”  However, it is made of giant slabs of coral hewn from ocean reefs, as were other structures, at the time.

Likewise, “(s)uch blocks still appear in the Kawaiahao structure. In the ancient parsonage back of it and in the old house of government next door to the Postoffice and the material for the fence which fronted the “Hale” on Merchant street.”  (Hawaiian Gazette October 29, 1901)

However, a later reference suggests the wall, at least at Punahou, may have been made of “stone.”  The Friend, in a summary on Punahou history stated, “To protect the Manoa land from grazing cattle she (Kaʻahumanu) called on the governor, Kuakini, to build a long stone wall at its makai side. To mark the boundary, at the makai entrance, two large stones were set up.”  (Damon, The Friend, March 1924)

The ‘Pōhaku’ book (Cheevers) suggests this same rock wall configuration, rather than the coral construction noted in the 1901 Hawaiian Gazette article.   Pōhaku notes, "About 2,000 men worked on it as each chief was responsible for building one fathom (six feet) of its almost two-mile length (or approximately six-feet of dry laid rock wall, five feet high, per man)."

Irrespective of The Friend’s reference to the “reef,” the rock material in the Kaʻahumanu stone wall appears the most plausible.   The disappearance of the Queen Kaʻahumanu wall is due to the street widening order of the Board of Public Works.

This wasn't the Islands' only significant cattle wall.  Between 1830 and 1840, Governor Kuakini built a 6-mile wall (from Kailua to Keauhou, on Hawaiʻi Island) that separated the coastal lands from the inland pasture lands (Ka Pā Nui o Kuakini - the Great Wall of Kuakini.)

Punahou’s dry stack rock wall along Punahou Street was constructed in 1834.  The night-blooming cereus (known in Hawaiʻi as panini o kapunahou) that today continues to cover the Punahou walls (that back in 1924 was noted to have “world-wide reputation and interest”) was planted in 1836 by Sybil Bingham (Hiram’s wife) from a few branches of the vine she received from a traveler from Mexico.  (The Friend)

The image shows Punahou Street and Sybil Bingham’s night-blooming cereus in 1900 ((HSA) - this is not part of the Kaʻahumanu wall.)  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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