Island History: Kauai mail routes during the 19th century

During the early years of the 19th century, schooners delivered mail from Honolulu directly to the ports of Nawiliwili, Koloa, Eleele, Waimea and Hanalei.

But by 1856, all mail was shipped from Honolulu to Herman Widemann’s store in Nawiliwili, which had by then become Kauai’s mail distribution hub, and would remain so until about 1866, when Lihue Store replaced it.  

Mail was initially delivered around Kauai over two, once-weekly, overland mail routes.  

Mail carriers were able to cross bridges over most Kauai streams along their routes, but other watercourses needed to be forded aboard scows, or on foot, wagon or horseback. Dusty and muddy roads also hindered the carriers’ progress, since a paved roadway encircling Kauai was not completed until 1920.

On the Hanalei route, carriers traveled north from Nawiliwili or Lihue to drop off mail at Kapaa, Kealia, Anahola, Kilauea and Hanalei. At Hanalei, the postmaster hired local carriers for Lumahai, Wainiha and Haena.

Until at least 1889, the Hanalei postmaster also engaged carriers to deliver mail from Hanalei along the Napali Coast to Kalalau Valley, where a schoolmaster distributed mail.

Kealia replaced Kapaa on the Hanalei mail route in 1892, and a Makee Sugar Co. train subsequently delivered mail from Kealia to Kapaa.

Mail deliveries to west Kauai proceeded from Nawiliwili or Lihue through Koloa, Eleele and Hanapepe to Waimea.  

At Waimea, a boat delivered mail to Niihau, usually weekly, beginning as early as 1863.

In 1892, when Makaweli’s Hawaiian Sugar Co. moved its headquarters from Hanapepe to Makaweli, it took the post office with it.

Consequently, a new post office was established at Hanapepe in 1894 at Kwong Hing Store.

Kekaha Plantation extended the western route past Waimea in the late 1880s to Kekaha Store, where the post office was located. Mana became the terminus of this route in 1893.

In 1899, thrice-weekly mail service began along both mail routes.

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