Kamaaina carpenter John Cook built Lihue courthouse

Born and apprenticed as a carpenter in England, John Cook (1824-1916) went to sea at the age of 19 as a ship’s carpenter in the service of the British Navy.

His first port of call was in New Zealand, after which he sailed on to Sydney, where he shipped aboard an American whaler, and when it anchored off Lahaina for supplies in 1844, he went ashore to follow his trade in the islands.

California’s gold fields beckoned him in 1849, but he returned to Hawaii later that year and married a Hawaiian woman whose grandmother had witnessed the killing of Captain Cook at Kealakekua Bay in 1779, and with whom he would have three children.

On Kauai in 1851, he built Lihue courthouse, where Kauai High School stands today, which remained in operation until 1914, when court business was transferred to the newly constructed County Building, and the courthouse was renovated and opened for instruction as Kauai High School.

Cook also built Gov. Paul Kanoa’s (1802-1885) residence, a frame house with cellar, situated at the back of Lihue courthouse.

During the mid-1800s, Cook also constructed a flat-bottomed boat for George Charman, a middleman for Koloa merchants, and two schooners, one for use on Huleia Stream and one for Kanoa.

Ever industrious, Cook built the first wooden house in Lihue for Herman Widemann, who in 1856 bought lands in Halehaka and Huleia valleys from James Marshall, upon which he cultivated sugarcane and named Grove Farm.

It’s likely that Cook also assembled James Marshall’s house at Koamalu around 1850 — a long, low-gabled house with teakwood paneling that had been shipped to Kauai as a prefabricated kit from China.

Marshall, the first manager of H.A. Pierce &Company (renamed Lihue Plantation Company in 1859), occupied the house until 1854, when missionary William Harrison Rice, Pierce &Company’s second manager, moved in with his family and named it Koamalu.

Koamalu was taken down in 1875 and, in 1916, Lihue Plantation built a new manager’s house on its site that still stands beside Aloha Church.

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Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com.

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