Island History: Gov. Kaikio‘ewa

Kaikio‘ewa, an ali‘i of high rank and the future governor of Kaua‘i, was born in 1765 in Waimea, where he was also raised.

He’d moved to Hilo on the Big Island by 1782, the year his cousin Kamehameha I had embarked upon the conquest of Hawai‘i.

Yet kinship did not prevent Kaikio‘ewa from opposing Kamehameha by joining Keawema‘uhili, the ruler of Hilo, and serving under him against Kamehameha until 1790, when Keawema‘uhili was killed in action. Kaikio‘ewa then reconciled with Kamehameha and enlisted in Kamehameha’s army.

During Kamehameha’s conquest of O‘ahu in 1795, Kaikio‘ewa fought in the “Battle of Nu‘uanu,” in which O‘ahu’s defenders were routed up Nu‘uanu Valley by Kamehameha’s forces after a stubborn defense. At the valley’s end, a place that now serves as a scenic lookout as well as an historical site, many O‘ahu warriors fought to the bitter end and were pushed to their deaths over the edge of the steep, several-hundred-foot-high pali. Others committed suicide by leaping off the pali to avoid being captured and sacrificed.

Kamehameha rewarded Kaikio‘ewa’s loyalty and his abilities as a warrior on at least two occasions.

Once, after Kaikio‘ewa had stolen Nahaukapu, the wife of another chief named ‘Uhu‘uhu, and had consequently been seized and beaten nearly to death by the vengeful chief and was about to killed, Kamehameha came to his rescue by setting him free and putting ‘Uhu‘uhu to death instead.

Later, Kamehameha gave one of his sisters, Kalanikaulihiwakame, to Kaikio‘ewa for a wife.

In 1810, after engaging in 28 years of constant warfare, the final 20 of which were spent in the service of Kamehameha, Kaikio‘ewa at last found respite from battle.

For in that year, Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, the only islands Kamehameha had been unable to conquer by force, came under Kamehameha’s control when their ruler, King Kaumuali‘i, acknowledged Kamehameha as his sovereign. Kamehameha’s dominion over the Hawaiian Islands was then complete and war ended.

(Kamehameha had failed twice previously to conquer Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. In 1796, his invasion fleet had been swamped by a storm in the Kaua‘i Channel, and in 1804, a foreign disease, either typhoid or bubonic plague, practically annihilated his splendid army on O‘ahu before it could invade Kaumuali‘i’s kingdom.)

Kaikio‘ewa (by this time a chief counselor of Kamehameha’s) then lived a life of self-indulgence, drinking with liquor merchants and foreign traders in Lahaina, Maui.

But his days of ease ended in 1819, when he once more answered a call to arms to help put down an insurrection on the Big Island led by Kekuaokalani, who sought to restore the ancient kapu system that had recently been abolished by Liholiho (Kamehameha II) at the urging of his foster-mother Ka‘ahumanu and his birth mother Keopuolani.

In subsequent fighting during November of 1819, Kaikio‘ewa was wounded in the calf.

Warfare entered Kaikio‘ewa’s life again in August of 1824, when he and his men sailed to Kaua‘i with reinforcements from O‘ahu and Maui to quell a rebellion of Kaua‘i chiefs commanded by Prince George Kaumuali‘i, King Kaumuali‘i’s son.

Shortly thereafter, the rebels were defeated in battle above the eastern side of Hanapepe Valley about two miles inland. More than 130 insurgents were slaughtered, against the loss of only one government warrior.

As a consequence Kaua‘i’s defeat, Kaua‘i lost the independence it had enjoyed under King Kaumuali‘i and virtually all of its ali‘i were deported, regardless of whether they had sided with the rebels, or had been loyal to the government.

Kaua‘i was then parceled out to windward chiefs, and Kaikio‘ewa was appointed Governor of Kaua‘i, a position he would hold for the next 15 years.

As the governor of a subjugated island, Kaikio‘ewa’s power was absolute. Decisive and firm, his very word was law.

Deborah Kapule, Kaua‘i’s last queen, discovered the strength of Kaikio‘ewa’s authority first hand.

Likely as a result of her having taken part in a skirmish on the side of government forces at the Russian Fort in Waimea during the 1824 rebellion, Deborah Kapule had not been banished from Kaua‘i, where she continued to retain the allegiance and esteem of Kaua‘i’s people in spite of Kaikio‘ewa’s sovereignty.

Over time, Kaikio‘ewa grew increasingly jealous of her popularity, until he eventually arrested her, seized her property, and deported her to Honolulu around 1837. Fortunately for her, missionary Rev. William Richards and King Kamehameha III intervened on her behalf, her properties were restored to her, and she returned to Kaua‘i.

During most of the years Kaikio‘ewa was governor, Waimea was his capital, and the residence he built there in 1826 still stands. Its walls were constructed of thick stone, and it now serves as the parsonage of the pastor of the Waimea United Church of Christ. (Kaikio’ewa’s residence was used for the burial ceremonies of chiefs after he died in 1839, but no evidence of this activity exists, according to Rev. Donald Wills, a recent resident pastor.)

In his elder years, Kaikio‘ewa appears to have undergone somewhat of a softening of his heart due to missionary influence and his acceptance of Christianity.

He learned to read and write (with great difficulty), so that he could study the Bible, and in 1830 at age 65, he was accepted as a member of the Waimea Church and thenceforth became an ardent Christian and supporter of the Protestant missionaries.

Be that as it may, Kaikio‘ewa’s old warrior blood was still capable of boiling over, as demonstrated in 1834, when he attempted to murder a favorite of King Kamehameha III named Kaomi.

Kamehameha III favored the part-Hawaiian and part-Boraboran Kaomi, because of his skills in the art of healing and diagnosing disease. Yet some chiefs, Kaikio‘ewa included, believed that Kaomi was responsible for the King’s “sinful ways,” that is, his drunkenness, adulteries, and the like.

Just as Kaikio‘ewa was about to put an end to Kaomi, the king entered the room the two occupied and came to grips with Kaikio‘ewa until he held him fast, saving Kaomi’s life.

Gov. Kaikio‘ewa was also instrumental in the birth of sugar on Kaua‘i, when he and Kamehameha III leased 980 acres of Koloa land to William Hooper, William Ladd and Peter Brinsmade on July 29, 1835.

These three men then started Ladd & Company, which would eventually become Hawai‘i’s first successful sugar plantation.

Sometime between 1835 and 1838, Gov. Kaikio‘ewa established the town of Lihu‘e by founding a settlement there for the purpose of growing sugar cane in the area.

“Lihu‘e” was the name of his former home in Wai‘anae, O‘ahu, and it means “gooseflesh.”

Kaikio‘ewa’s men built his residence and a church in Lihu‘e on land now occupied by the Lihu‘e Post Office, the Lihu‘e Bank of Hawaii, and the former Lihue Plantation Store, once situated across Rice Street from the post office. The village of Lihu‘e grew around Kaikio‘ewa’s property and cane fields were planted nearby.

Gov. Kaikio‘ewa died of mumps in 1839 at the age of 74.

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