In 1865, a year after she’d purchased Niihau from Kamehameha V for $10,000, Scotswoman Eliza Sinclair bought the Ahupuaa of Makaweli on Kauai from Princess Victoria Kamamalu, paying $15,000 for its 21,844 acres that extended from Mount Waialeale down to the sea.
She then moved with most of her clan of Sinclairs, Gays and Robinsons from Kiekie, Niihau, to a new home within the ahupuaa she’d built at an elevation of 1,800 feet in the highlands above Pakala called Makaweli House.
There, from 1872 to 1876, her grandchildren — Aubrey Robinson and Alice and Francis Gay — were tutored by a former Prussian army officer-turned-teacher named Waldemar Muller (1846-1924).
Five years earlier, in 1867, Muller had been wounded in battle in Mexico while serving with the imperialist forces of Emperor Maximilian at war with republican forces led by Benito Juarez.
But by 1871, his advertisement in Honolulu’s Hawaiian Gazette, which proclaimed that he’d “established himself in this city as a teacher of piano, vocal music, and languages …,” had paid off with a position teaching languages and music at Punahou.
During his tenure at Makaweli House, Muller taught Eliza Sinclair’s grandchildren English, Greek and German language, music and mathematics. He also entertained the Makaweli household with music he played on their Erhard piano, and being a staunch Christian, Muller occasionally conducted Sunday services for the family.
Muller left Makaweli House in 1876 to open a manual training school on Kauai for Hawaiians that failed, and soon after, he began growing arrowroot at Koloa.
The year 1882 found him on the Big Island, where he and Douglas Ackerman founded the Kona Fruit Preserving Co. — the first pineapple cannery in Hawaii — an enterprise that also failed due to the lack of strong market for canned pineapple on the American Pacific Coast.
Waldemar Muller married Mary Ann Kekaula Palaualelo in 1885 and they had ten children.