Editor’s note: This is the first part of a three-part story on Queen Emma’s visit to Alaka‘i Swamp.
Queen Emma (1836-1885) first visited Kaua‘i in 1856 with her husband, King Kamehameha IV, during their “Royal Progress” through the Hawaiian Islands.
On Kaua‘i, the royal couple stayed at Koloa for three days and visited the Koloa Sugar Mill and Spouting Horn. They may have also seen the 4,200-acre estate of Emma’s aunt Hikoni, which encompassed the entire ahupuaa of Lawai.
In 1860, Queen Emma returned to Kaua‘i with her husband and their little son, Prince Albert. On this trip, they resided at the Hanalei estate of Robert Crichton Wyllie, the foreign minister of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the owner of a large sugar plantation in Hanalei Valley. Wyllie renamed his estate, which also encompassed a sizable land holding on the plateau above and to the east of his Hanalei plantation, Princeville Plantation in honor of Prince Albert.
Queen Emma’s best-known visit to Kaua‘i occurred during the winter of 1870 and the spring of 1871. Sadly, however, she made this visit without the company of her husband and her precious little son. Prince Albert had died in 1862, and Kamehameha IV passed away the following year, in 1863.
On December 21, 1870, Queen Emma arrived at Koloa Landing late in the afternoon aboard an interisland schooner, along with an entourage of around 100 retainers and servants. From the landing, she then rode horseback or was driven in a carriage over two miles to her estate at Lawa‘i, the same estate her aunt Hikoni had owned but had recently deeded to her.
Her home at Lawa‘i was a large frame house with a thatched roof that was located on the bluff on the Koloa side of Lawa‘i Valley overlooking Lawa‘i Bay. Several outbuildings stood nearby and the area was enclosed within stone walls.
Not long afterward, Emma decided to visit the Waimea Canyon area, likely at the suggestion of her late husband’s brother, Kamehameha V, who had gone pig hunting there in 1851.
Few people knew the trail into the mountains in those days, but at the urging of Valdemar “Kanuka” Knudsen, an old-timer named Kaluahi reluctantly agreed to act as guide for Queen Emma and her party.