The forerunner of Kaua‘i’s ‘Ele‘ele School was Hanapepe School, established by missionary Samuel Ruggles and his wife, Nancy, sometime between 1820, when the couple first arrived at Waimea with missionary Samuel Whitney and his wife, Mercy, and 1824, when the Ruggleses temporarily transferred to the Hilo mission station.
Ruggles’ school, abandoned in early 1824, was situated near one of the pali within Hanapepe Valley about a mile from the ocean.
By 1837, a new school to replace Ruggles’ school was started at Hanapepe by Samuel Whitney that was located on the Waimea side of the road leading to the Salt Pond area.
In 1847, this school’s teachers were Kapihenui, Iese, and Kaiwi.
Thirteen years later, in 1860, there were three schools in Hanapepe: Hanapepe Uka (back in the valley), Hanapepe Kai (in the lower valley), and Pu‘ulima (location unknown). Only Uka and Kai remained in 1865, when school official Valdemar Knudsen ordered them joined at a new location in the middle of the valley.
Hanapepe School listed 58 students in 1886: 12 male and 11 female Hawaiians, 1 male and 3 female part-Hawaiians, 5 male and 2 female Germans, and 15 male and 9 female Portuguese.
When Hugh H. Brodie became principal in 1897, the school had 122 students taught by Miss Saint Clair F. Nickelson and Joaquin Vicente.
Courses taught at the school in 1906 included language, arithmetic, nature study, geography, physiology, writing, art, music and calisthenics.
In 1911, the Commissioners of Public Education decided to build a new school to be named ‘Ele‘ele School at its current location atop the bluff at ‘Ele‘ele overlooking Hanapepe Valley on 7 1/2 acres secured from McBryde Sugar Co. Ltd. ‘Ele‘ele School opened in 1912, and Hanapepe School closed after serving generations of Westside students since the early 1820s.