December 2000: The Mahele and Land Ownership

By: C.S. Papacostas


The early surveyors in 1850s Hawaii about whom I wrote last month were expected to deal with much more than merely boundary surveys.
To explain this, an outline of the historical context is required.


The 1840 Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom promulgated by Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) stated that, although all the land belonged to Kamehameha I when he founded the kingdom, 
it was not his private property. It belonged to the chiefs and the people in common, of whom Kamehameha I was the head and had the management of the landed property.


​How to divide the land interests of the monarch (mo'i), the chiefs (including ali'i and konohiki) and the common people (maka'ainana) who were tenants of the land is a problem that, in one form or another, has been argued in courts of law to this day.  
The Board of Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles was appointed in 1845 to resolve this issue. In adopting a set of principles to guide its decisions, this Land Commission gave rise to the idea that each of the three vested owners enjoyed an equal, one-third share.  The 1848 "Great" Mahele (land division) by Kamehameha III came next.


As a result of negotiations with the chiefs, he assigned approximately 2.5 million acres to "the King" and conferred the right to claim fee-simple title to about 1.6 million acres to 244 ali'i and konohiki. The latter lands are known collectively as "konohiki lands".

A related legislative act prevented foreign subjects from owning land in fee simple and all land ownership was subject to "the rights of the tenants."


Consisting of four hand-written notebooks, Buke Mahele (the Mahele Book) listed under the name of each potential claimant the lands assigned to them (ahupua'a and smaller units such as 'ili kupono), and the larger land division (kalama) and island (mokupuni) where each land unit was located.


According to the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert, an 'ili kupono was 
a nearly independent division within an ahupua'a, paying tribune to the ruling chief and not to the chief of the ahupua'a.


The same source describes an ahupua'a as 
a land division usually extending from the uplands to the sea, so called because the boundary was marked by a heap (ahu) of stones surmounted by an image of a pig (pua'a), or because a pig or other tribute was laid on the altar as tax to the chief.


At the end of Buke Mahele, Kamehameha III further divided the King's lands. He claimed a little less than one million acres of Crown Lands as his private property and he set aside about 1.5 million acres as Hawaiian Government Lands. Today's designated Ceded Lands are derived mainly from Crown and Government Lands.


But what about the tenants (hoa'aina) and their (often disputed) rights of access, water use and ownership?


Allowing them to place a claim on kuleana, lands within ahupua'a and 'ili that they could prove they cultivated for at least two years, provided a partial remedy.


Interestingly, in a 1982 case (66 Haw.1, 656 p.2d 745), the Hawaii Supreme Court acknowledged that the original award of the Manawai ahupua'a on Maui was subject to "Koe nae no kuleana o na kanaka malolo." This proviso was translated at trial as "the kuleanas of the people therein are excepted."


​For a valid kuleana claim, the claimant was required to submit a survey plat and to present testimony within specified time windows. In some cases, the cost associated with conducting the survey exceeded the estimated value of the land parcel.


In her 1992 book Native Lands and Foreign Desires: Pehea La e Pono Ai? How Shall we Live in Harmony? Lilikala Kame'eleihiwa estimates that only 8,421 kuleana claims were awarded for a mere 28,658 acres.


According to Surveying the Mahele written in 1995 by Riley M. Moffat and Gary F. Fitzpatrick, the surveyors of the time faced the task of not only determining the boundaries of Konohiki lands, but also ascertaining that kuleana claims were made for lands that were actually cultivated by the claimant for at least two years. The claims would include cultivated plots that happened to be fallow at the time of the survey but exclude "waste land or property farmed merely to increase the size of the claim."


Some of the maka'ainana who had left the land to find employment in Honolulu and Lahaina could only obtain land through government sales that followed.


Finally, a July 10, 1850 legislative Act to Abolish the disabilities of Aliens to acquire and convey lands in fee simple opened the floodgates to ownership by foreign subjects.


November 2000: Early Surveyors of Hawaii

By: C.S. Papacostas


Last month I referred to maps drawn during several expeditions to Hawaii between 1816 and 1856 that showed the Honolulu Fort. They were nautical charts showing water depths and obstacles to navigation. Cartographers on the same and other expeditions also produced maps of the island chain.


Missionary schools opened after 1820 needed maps to aid the teaching of geography. Ursula Emerson whose husband, John, was among the missionaries who had some knowledge of surveying penned three notable maps in 1833. In his 1987 "The Early Mapping of Hawaii," Gary F. Fitzpatrick speculates that one of Ursula's sources was J. Denison who was hired by the missionaries to "conduct a comprehensive survey of both interior and coastal areas."


The founding of the Lahainaluna Seminary on Maui by Lorrin Andrews in 1831 was a milestone event. Fitzpatrick says that in 1838, Lahainaluna scholar Samuel P. Kalama engraved a color-coded map showing most of the moku and ahupua'a in the islands "according to the latest surveys" and local knowledge.


​"Moku" are usually defined as large districts, whereas "ahupua'a" are generally (but not always) triangular subdivisions with the apex in the forested uplands and the base at the shore. Ahupua'a were assigned to the ali'i (chiefs) and were managed by konohiki (land agents). Each ahupua'a could sustain a community of maka'ainana (commoners) and also support the chiefs and, collectively, the retinues of the reigning king or queen. Smaller land units were often contained within or spread between ahupua'a but these were not shown on Kalama's map.

William Patterson Alexander joined Andrews in 1843, introduced the study of land surveying and worked part-time as a surveyor to supplement his income. His son William Dewitt and his grandson, Arthur C., were also surveyors of note. John W. Makalena was one of the kanaka maoli (native Hawaiians) trained at Lahainaluna.


The 1839 Bill of Rights under Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III) initiated profound changes that transformed the government structure and social fabric of Hawaii. The "Great Mahele" resulted in a transition to private land ownership, a concept alien to Hawaiian tradition. The Board of Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles (the Land Commission) was authorized in 1845 to adjudicate claims based on evolving law.

As Mary Myers Cummins points out in a June 2000 Wiliki o Hawaii article, the lack of an organized horizontal control, severe time limitations, inaccurate descriptions in both English and Hawaiian, and a scarcity of trained surveyors in the 1850s have contributed to serious challenges in locating Land Commission awards.


At ages 17 and 16, missionary children and Punahou students Curtis Jere Lyons and Henry Munson Lyman were hired in 1850 as land surveyors. A few foreign-educated professionals were also in the islands at the time, including Harvard-educated Theophilus Metcalf, Scottish civil engineer William C. Webster and German engineer Rudolph Wilhelm Meyer.


In Appendix A of a retrospective paper "Land Titles and Surveys in Hawaii" (read on March 1, 1920 to the Honolulu Social Science Association), Arthur C. Alexander lists 33 surveyors associated with the mahele. Ten of them were kanaka maoli and 11 were missionaries or their sons. A sampling of his assessment of their skills illustrates the difficulties discussed by Cummins:












​The need for consistent and accurate land surveys was painfully felt. For this reason, the Hawaiian Government Survey was authorized in 1870 with William Dewitt Alexander serving as the first surveyor general. To this day, however, many land units have yet to be resurveyed.


October 2000: The Honolulu Fort
By: C. S. Papacostas


Ian Robertson of the University of Hawaii remembered that, in my May, 2000 article, I had mentioned the 8,000 blockhouses built between 1900 and 1902 in South Africa.


On a recent trip to his birthplace, Ian took the time to visit a blockhouse site and to snap a few pictures of the structure. According to an affixed plaque, the British built these blockhouses near railroad bridges for protection against Afrikaner attack.

My discussion of blockhouses started with a comment in my April, 2000 article about a blockhouse raised by Russians traders in 1816 at Honolulu harbor.


​John Papa I'i, who wrote his "Fragments of Hawaiian History" between 1868 and 1870, says that Boki, the Governor of Oahu under King Kamehameha I, expelled the Russians.


Several sources indicate that Kamehameha placed his foreign advisor John Young (called Olohana and Keoni Ana by the Hawaiians) in charge of building a fort for the protection of the harbor.


Writing in 1867, Samuel M. Kamakau notes that "a proclamation was issued calling people from all over the island to come to Honolulu and build the fort," which he refers to as Fort Kekuanohu. In addition, cannon were emplaced on Pu'owaina (Punchbowl) overlooking the harbor.

Kamakau says that the first "fort was made mostly of adobe and some stones" and, according to John Papa I'i, Kamehameha's war chief "Kalanimoku lived at the fort part of the time."


In 1831 John Adams Kuakini, brother of Kamehameha's wife Queen Ka'ahumanu, was put in charge of the fort and, in Kamakau's words, "it was rebuilt with coral rock ... and extended to thirty-six feet in length and sixteen in height."


The fort's wall is evident in several old maps including a Russian map of 1816, the "Golovnin Map" of 1817, an 1825 map drawn by C. R. Malden of the Hydrographic Department of the British Admiralty and the Wilkes Expedition Survey (U.S.) of 1840. An 1856 update of Malden's survey by T. A. Hull indicates the location of the "Fort's Flagstaff."


Several drawings and paintings of the fort show barracks and other buildings within the wall. The site was used as a military post, jail and even as a mental hospital.


Following a land dispute involving British Consul Richard Charlton, George Paulet, the captain of Her Britannic Majesty's (H.B.M.) ship Carysfort, extracted a provisional cession of the islands from Kamehameha III and took over the Fort and Punchbowl on February 25, 1843.

Five months later, British Rear Admiral Richard Thomas, representing Her Majesty's Government, reversed Paulet's actions and restored Hawaiian sovereignty.


In 1849, French Admiral de Tromelin, claiming that the Hawaiian government had broken a treaty by imposing a duty to French imports, "sent his men ashore and the marines broke up the cannon and the guns and poured the powder into the sea."


The crippled fort was used as a prison until a new one was built across the mud-plains of Nuuanu River around 1856. The fort was leveled in 1857 and the rubble was placed as fill to extend the harbor.


September 2000: Building Materials

By: C. S. Papacostas

The casual observer does not always appreciate the magnificence of Hawaiian construction methods.


This is particularly true in the case of large temples (heiau) of the "luakini" type that were erected for the highest among the chiefs. Often, these structures featured massive walls and platforms holding divine images, oracle towers and ceremonial houses. Some of them protruded beyond the shoreline and were accessible by canoe.


Outsiders gradually introduced new construction materials, methods and structural styles.

Kamehameha the Great established his capital in Waikiki after his conquest of Oahu in 1795 and used it until 1809 when commercial activity drew him near Honolulu (or Kou) harbor.


According to a 1995 book on the "untold story" of Waikiki by the eminent historian George S. Kanahele, Kamehameha's royal residence in Waikiki (named Kuihelani) was erected at the mouth of a stream between today's Moana and Royal Hawaiian Hotels.


According to Kanahele, Kuihelani was built of stone and was enclosed by a fence, "another Western artifact that even Kamehameha, the great traditionalist, was willing to accept."


When the first wave of missionaries arrived on the brig Thaddeus in 1820, they brought along the materials needed to put together the oldest standing New England frame house in Hawaii. It turned out, however, that the house's architecture (with its restricted ventilation) was unsuitable to the local climate.


The "Chamberlain House" nearby was built in 1831 of cut coral blocks and timber salvaged from ships that came to Hawaii. The blocks were cemented with mortar that, according to an 1856 account by Henry T. Cheever among other sources, was manufactured by burning coral in a kiln.


The print-house at the mission was constructed in 1841 as a coral block addition to the original frame house.


Most residents of Hawaii are aware of the fact that the Kawaiahao Church was built of 14,000 coral blocks, each weighing 1200 pounds, that were cut out of the reef by Hawaiian divers using saws and axes. For many years, Hawaii's "mother Protestant Church" was the first man-made structure visible from aboard arriving ships. Pastor Hiram Bingham drew its simple New England design and its construction spanned the period from 1837 to 1842. Wood of local and Pacific Northwest origin was used for this edifice, the original wooden steeple lasting until 1885 when it fell victim to the ravages of a storm.


The oldest educational building in Hawaii was the mission schoolhouse, an adobe structure devoted to the schooling of the children of the ali'i. Besides lava rock and coral block, adobe became a common construction material. Cheever traces the name as coming "from the old Egyptian word adaub, derived in Spain from the Moors." He indicates that the sun-dried mud-and-grass bricks were also prevalent in Spanish America.


In her 1898 plea for justice "Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen," the last reigning monarch Liliuokalani mentions an adobe (or sun-baked brick) wall separating her domicile from a school for boys and girls run by a Mr. And Mrs. Johnston. She recalls her future husband John Owen Dominis and other "curious urchins" climbing that wall "for the purpose of looking at the royal children."

Granite from the Four Corners of the world also reached Hawaii, initially as ship ballast. This is the origin of the square granite blocks from China that make up the sidewalk next to today's Murphy's Bar & Grill in downtown Honolulu.


August 2000: Historic Buildings

By: C. S. Papacostas

On the web site of someone who calls himself "netsurfer" I discovered a page devoted to Masonic Lodges in Hawaii that described a Charles W. Vincent as: "a prominent builder in Hawaii [who] was responsible for erecting most of the business buildings along the Honolulu waterfront during the 1830s and 1840s. Brother Vincent was also interested in theater arts and built The Thespian, Hawaii's first theater."


And indeed, the September 11, 1997 issue of the Honolulu Star Bulletin carries an article commemorating 150 years of theater arts in Honolulu. Charles W. Vincent is described as the carpenter and amateur actor who constructed The Thespian in 1847 by renovating an adobe building at the corner of King and Maunakea.


Several other sources indicate that this same Charles W. Vincent assembled a house from pieces prefabricated in Boston and shipped to Honolulu in 1847. This house was sold to John Young whose father was an advisor to Kamehameha I. The house was subsequently inherited by Young's niece, Emma Rooke. She became Queen Emma upon marrying Alexander Liholiho (Kamehameha IV) and the house is now known as Queen Emma Summer Palace or Hanaiakamalama, the "foster child of the moon."


On July 17, 1860 Kamehameha IV presided over the laying of the cornerstone "according to Masonic Custom" for Queen's Hospital and shortly thereafter over a similar ceremony connected with the founding of Sailor's Home.

Two other notable buildings in Honolulu to receive the same treatment were the Government Building (by Kamehameha V) and Iolani Palace (by King David Kalakaua).


Featuring ionic columns and arched windows, the design for the Government Building (Ali'iolani Hale) was a modified version of a plan for a Royal Palace drawn up by Australian architect Thomas Rowe for Kamehameha IV. The Kingdom's Superintendent of Public Works Stirling oversaw construction between 1872 and 1874. The cast concrete blocks used imitate European cut stone satisfying Royal tastes.

More often than not, accounts of the construction of historical buildings make reference to either the owner or the official who commissioned them rather than to those who designed and built them. How many times have you heard, for example, that "Iolani Palace was built by King Kalakaua?"


The King hired three designers, Thomas J. Baker, C. J. Wall and Isaac Moore, and the building's construction began on December 31, 1789 under the supervision of the superintendent of public works as well.


With its fluted corinthian-style columns and imported glass and iron railings, the palace was completed in 1882.


July 2000: Oahu Railway and Land Company, Part 2

By: C. S. Papacostas

​Last month I traced the inception of the Oahu Railway & Land Company and its construction from downtown Honolulu around the leeward and north shores, reaching Kahuku in 1898.


My plan for this month was to move on to another topic. However, my train of thought was ... derailed!


It so happened that at the June meeting of the ASCE Hawaii section I sat at the same table as Brandon Hee of Belt Collins Hawaii. When the conversation turned to current activities, Brandon said that he was working on the restoration of a steam railway and the placement of a bike path in the same right-of-way.


"You are not talking about the OR&L, are you?" I asked.


"Oh, yes. That's it," he replied. "It's the stretch from Nanakuli to West Loch. The city commissioned a planning study to meet the provisions of the transfer of title from the federal government to the state of Hawaii in 1980, for one dollar."


As I explained last month, Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, using his business acumen and strong political ties, obtained an exclusive franchise to operate steam railroads on Oahu. He used the railroad to support the development of Pearl City, the operation of his Haleiwa Hotel and to haul sugarcane for nine plantations.


In 1906, a line was extended to Wahiawa to serve Dole's pineapple plantation. By then OR&L had constructed a coaling station and several piers at Honolulu Harbor. In 1902, Walter Dillingham bought the dredge "Kewalo" from his father's OR&L and founded the Hawaii Dredging Company. Two years later, he took over OR&L.


1909 saw an extension of the railroad to Schofield Barracks to provide passenger and freight service known to soldiers as "The Pineapple Express." This service was discontinued in 1930 but was picked up again during World War II. By then, however, trucking and the automobile had already become serious competitors. Moreover, Mother Nature delivered a devastating blow on April 1, 1946 when a tsunami washed out tracks on the North Shore and Kaena Point.


In December 1947, OR&L ceased operations outside Honolulu and, in 1961, became the Oahu Terminal Warehouse Company. On the same year, ownership of most of the abandoned right-of-way reverted to the State of Hawaii. A segment between West Loch and Lualualei Ammunition Depot was sold to the U.S. Navy for $1.00 and eventually (in 1974) placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a result of the efforts of the non-profit Hawaiian Railroad Society. Formed in 1970, this organization has restored a little more than 6 miles of track and offers regularly scheduled and charter rides to the public.


As part of their senior class project in 1988, a group of my students led by Virginia German investigated the feasibility of using the OR&L right-of-way as a transit corridor. Virginia managed to interview Ben Dillingham, Walter's son, on his layover at the Honolulu International Airport while on a trip from Australia to the US mainland. In her write-up, Virginia quotes Ben:

"There was a 10 year hiatus between 1947 and 1957 - if we could have hung on, the railroad would have been worth a fortune."

The class project report cover features an old OR&L crossing sign carrying the inscription AKAHELE IKE KAA'AHI which translates to "Look Out for the Fire Car."


In 1980, the right-of-way was deeded to the Hawaii Department of Transportation with a proviso that future use must include a bicycle facility. This has placed the Hawaii Bicycle League and the Hawaiian Railroad Society on a collision course. Hence, the study mentioned by Brandon Hee.


June 2000: Oahu Railway and Land Company, Part 1

By: C. S. Papacostas

The March 6, 2000 landslide in the vicinity of Waimea Beach Park resulted in the immediate closure of Kamehameha Highway, the construction of a temporary bypass (the "Menehune Road") and a fast-tracked permanent realignment project.


The old alignment had its origins in 1895 and the Oahu Railway and Land (OR&L) Company.


The story began in 1865 when Massachusetts native Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, a first mate on a ship making port in Honolulu, was left behind to nurture a broken leg he had suffered when he was thrown from a horse.


Dillingham obtained employment with the hardware firm of H. Dimond & Sons and, in four years bought the company with borrowed money. By 1884, he had launched the Pacific Hardware Company serving the growing sugar plantations, some of which had introduced narrow-gauge rail lines to aid their operations.


In 1885, Dillingham embarked on a land development project west of Honolulu and, like his mainland counterparts, realized that this venture would not succeed without improved transportation to the area.


He also figured that a railroad needed to carry freight as well in order to be profitable. The drilling of the first artesian well on the Ewa Plain by James Campbell in 1879 presented Dillingham another opportunity. He obtained 50-year leases beginning in 1887 from Campbell and subleased the lands to sugar growers Castle & Cooke and Alexander Young.


In 1888, his powerful allies in the legislature (including William Castle), ushered in Bill LXII that gave Dillingham an exclusive franchise "for construction and operation on the Island of Oahu a steam railroad ... for the carriage of passengers and freight."


With the formation of OR&L in 1889 on $700,000 raised from investors, all the pieces of the Grand Plan were now in place.

The first run from Honolulu to Pearl River Lagoon took place on Dillingham's birthday (September 4) that same year. On King Kalakaua's birthday (November 16), the railway opened officially from Honolulu to Aiea.


Early in 1890, the first suburban development in Manana (renamed Pearl City following a contest) was on its way with the auctioning of 110 lots at $44 each and a ten-year guaranteed fare of 10-cents a ride to Honolulu.


By 1895 the line reached Waianae. It rounded Kaena Point to Makuleia and ended at the Kahuku Sugar Mill in 1898, a year before Dillingham's luxury Haleiwa Hotel opened for business.


The alignment as of December 31, 1898 was added by hand in red ink on a map of Oahu now kept at the Library of Congress Repository, Geography and Map Division.


The 1881 1:60,000 scale base map carries the annotation 
Hawaiian Government Survey; W. D. Alexander, Surveyor General, Oahu, Hawaiian Islands; map by C. J. Lyons, from trigonometric surveys by W. D. Alexander, C. J. Lyons, J. F. Brown, M. D. Monsarrat and Wm Webster, finished map by Richd. Covington.


The fascinating story of the railroad that gave the name "Tracks" to a famous surfing spot continues to this day.

For now let me conclude by mentioning that one of its steam engines (the 1897 Baldwin 0-6-2 saddle tank "Waipahu") has found its way (via California) to a theme park in the Nikko area of Tochigi Prefecture in Japan.


Another (the 1897 Baldwin 0-4-2T "Kahuku") is now located at the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad in California where the "Waipahu" was also used to pull excursion trains between 1978 and 1988. The "Waipahu" was also operated at a California train enthusiast's Cotton Wood Southern Railway between 1954 and 1978.


May 2000: Blockhouses

By: C. S. Papacostas

Embedded in last month's article was mention of the fact that a crew belonging to the Russian American Company (RAC) were expelled from Oahu for constructing a blockhouse (or fort) that may have given Fort Street its name.


But exactly what is a blockhouse?


It appears that the English word had its origins around 1535 when King Henry VIII of England ordered the construction of fortifications smaller than castles to protect the English coastline.

The function of blockhouses, of course, came before the coining of the word. For example, a recent archeological study refers to a ruin called "Ness of Burgi" in Scotland as a blockhouse dating to the Iron Age.


I also found many references to French, German, Flemish and Russian blockhouses dating many years before Henry VIII. Incidentally the corresponding Russian name is "gorodka."


Wading through various conflicting definitions, I concluded that "blockhouse' refers to the function of blocking the enemy rather than to the type of construction employed.


Blockhouses can be isolated outposts or parts of larger defensive complexes, castles and forts.


One of the notable blockhouses in the Americas was the Merickville Blockhouse that was constructed by Canadians in 1832-33 to protect the Rideau Canal in Ontario from American attack.


Hundreds of blockhouses were built during the colonial era as defensive outposts. For example, the first structure in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area was he blockhouse at Fort Pitt.


Most of these square structures were typically made of logs and consisted of two stories, the second story protruding beyond the footprint of the first. Both stories featured loopholes to allow the safe discharge of weapons. Dozens of these blockhouses have been restored and have become visitor's attractions throughout the U.S.


An impressive array, known as the Blockhouse Line, was built between 1900 and 1902 in South Africa during the Anglo Boer War. About 8,000 of them stretched over a distance of 3,700 miles. Some were built of stone and others of prefabricated corrugated iron.

I was truly surprised to discover many locales named for blockhouses, including Blockhouse Bay in New Zealand and Blockhouse Point in New Grimsby.


Finally, in modern usage, blockhouses are usually concrete protective structures built in the vicinity of operations (such as near launching pads) likely to be accompanied by heat, blast, or radiation hazard. Robert H. Coddard is said to be the first to employ such a blockhouse as he experimented with rocketry in the early part of the 20th century.


April 2000: Russians in Hawaii

By: C. S. Papacostas

My information gathering for last month's article on Fort Street yielded two sets of notes: historical data related to the street itself and notes on the Russian presence, and fort-building, in 19th century Hawaii.


To do justice to all that happened along Fort Street, I'll need to carry out more research. This leaves the Russian thread for now.


The discovery of marine mammals on the Alaskan coast by the Russian explorer Vitius Bering in 1741 precipitated a fur-trading fervor between Russian merchants and north China. This was later followed by Russian activity in the sandalwood trade between Hawaii and the Orient.


In 1799, the government of the Imperial Russia granted a trade monopoly to the Russian American Company (RAC) headquartered in Sitka, Alaska. It also designated Alexander Baratov, RAC's manager, as governor of Russian America.


The first RAC expedition to Hawaii occurred in 1804 when two ships, the "Nadezhda" and the "Neva", visited Oahu and Kauai at the time when Kamehameha I was consolidating his dominion over the islands.


Two years later, the King offered a deal to Baranov to supply him with foodstuff in exchange for otter pelts.


In 1807, "Nikolai" was the first supply ship to travel between Hawaii and Sitka for this purpose. The historical records contain conflicting reports regarding an intent by Baratov to colonize Hawaii as proposed by a German employee of RAC by the name of Hagenmeister.


In 1815, five years after Kauai's Chief Kaumuali'i was forced to pledge allegiance to Kamehameha, the fully-loaded RAC ship "Bering" piloted by a Captain James Bennett ran aground at Waimea. The Chief, who tried to seek Baratov's help to overthrow the King, allowed the crew to set up ashore but confiscated half of the ship's load in return.


Later that year, Baratov dispatched to Oahu Georg Anton Scheffer (a German physician who had joined the Russian army in 1808 in an ill-fated hot-air balloon attack on Napoleon) to request of the King the return of the ship's contents.


To the dismay of British and American merchants, Scheffer managed to secure fishing rights and a land grant from the King to establish a port on Oahu. Unable to receive the King's approval to build anything new, however, he sailed to Kauai where on his own initiative plotted with the Chief to overthrow Kamehameha.


He traded a ship for the valley and port at Hanalei where he constructed two earthwork forts, one named Fort Alexander in honor of the Czar and the other known as Fort Barclay. Hanalei was renamed Schefferthal.


At Waimea, he began to construct Fort Elizabeth, named for the czarina and situated on a bluff overlooking the spot at the mouth of the Waimea River where Captain Cook landed in 1778.


While construction proceeded, Scheffer received word that his crew had been expelled from Oahu for building a fort (a blockhouse really) and for raising a Russian flag on it.


Alarmed by all this activity, the King's supporters leveled the forts at Hanalei killing one of the Aleut workers employed by Scheffer, and took control of Fort Elizabeth, which they completed using Hawaiian construction methods. Renamed Fort Hipo, according to one source, the fort was subsequently occupied by native Hawaiian soldiers; it was dismantled in 1864.


The 8-pointed star-shaped fort had walls reaching 12 feet in height and consisting of three layers: an earthen embankment, a layer of lava rock, and a hard-packed earth layer with a stone walkway atop. The compound included a guardroom, magazine, barracks, cannon emplacements and a trading post.


A 1993 archaeological investigation by a team from Berkeley uncovered a tunnel leading into the fort, remnants of a wharf foundation and a possible blocked entrance to a second underwater tunnel from the River.


It appears that RAC abandoned Hawaii as a supplier in favor of Fort Ross that they had built just north of the Spanish claim on the west coast.


​As for Scheffer, he made his way back to Europe, changed his name to Count von Frankelthall and then settled in Brazil where he died in 1836.


March 2000: Honolulu's Fort Street 

By: C. S. Papacostas

Last week Jadine Y. Urasaki sent me the January 3, 2000 issue of "What's Up, DOT?" This newsletter included a sampling of Hawaii's transportation history, beginning with:


1881 - First paved road in Honolulu, Fort Street, was completed.


Hmmm. Why Fort Street, who did it, what kind of pavement?


The author of the piece has yet to respond to my query via Jadine. I'm left to my own devices!


​I recall reading somewhere that Fort Street got its name from a fort that Russian traders had built. But when was the street dedicated?

In the 1960 General Plan of the city, I discovered a map of 1810 Honolulu (drawn in 1957 by Paul Rockwood from historical data). The map shows footpaths but no streets where today's downtown is. But, superimposed on the old map, are the "Streets of 1870":







I decided to take a stroll along this length of what is now the Fort Street Mall and I saw many marvelous things I hadn't noticed before.

Among them is a monument near Beretania behind the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace commemorating the 1878 arrival of 120 Portuguese laborers aboard the ship "Priscilla." A tablet affixed on it explains that


Portuguese stone masons built many of Hawaii's roads, bridges, buildings, and homes.


Wait! Didn't Mark Twain visit Honolulu around that time?


Oh, yes, in 1866. His story in the "Sacramento Daily Union" that year says that Honolulu

has streets from twenty to thirty feet wide, solid and level as a floor, most of them straight as a line and a few crooked as a corkscrew.

In 1897 aboard a ship in Honolulu Harbor, unable to get ashore due to a cholera epidemic in town, he recalled the Honolulu he knew in 1866 as a beautiful little town, made up of snow-white wooden cottages ... and its coral roads and streets were hard and smooth, and as white as the houses...


According to the 1961 General Plan of the State of Hawaii, "rock paved" Pali Road was macadamized in 1898.


Could it be that some of the 120 Portuguese laborers who arrived in 1878 worked on macadamizing the compacted coral on Fort Street three years later to create the first "paved road" in Honolulu?


February 2000: Erie Canal

By: C. S. Papacostas

My mention of the Erie Canal in the January article struck a special chord.


Several of you asked for more details about the Grand Canal that transformed New York City into a cosmopolitan center and its harbor into the commercial hub that it became.


Of course, much has been written about the canal, also known as "Clinton's Ditch" by supporters and "Clinton's Folly" by opponents.


A canal connecting lakes Erie and Ontario was suggested by a French engineer named Vaupan as early as 1699.

During most of the 1700s, various proposals for surveys, river improvements and short canals were put forth and several "Inland Lock Navigation" companies were incorporated.


A notable proponent of a long canal was Robert Fulton, the father of American steam-boat navigation, who in 1796 wrote his "Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation."


On February 5 of the following year, he addressed a letter to President Washington arguing for essentially a public-private joint venture to build a canal between Lake Erie and Philadelphia. Part of the letter went:


I feel anxious that the Public mind may be awakened to their true Interest: And Instead of directing Turnpike Roads towards the Interior Country or expending Large Sums in River Navigations - Which must ever be precarious and lead [no where] I could wish to See the Labour, and funds applied to Such a System As would penetrate the Interior Country And bind the Whole In the bonds of Social Intercourse.

Turnpikes, of course, were toll roads operated by private companies under state charters.


In 1808, Treasury Secretary Albert Galatin issued his famous report on "Public Roads and Canals" to Congress that precipitated an understanding of the role of good transportation to the well-being of the nation but bills supporting the canal died in the U.S. Senate.

In 1816, following the war of 1812, New York City mayor (and later State Governor) De Witt Clinton drafted a citizens' petition that impressed the State Legislature into passing a "canal bill" on April 17.


According to Nobel E. Witford's 1906 book on the "History of the Canal System of New York," a test of "running lines and levels" was conducted to prove to canal opponents that the technical know-how was available to survey the canal's alignment.

Interestingly, most of the people trained in surveying at the time were judges and lawyers who needed the expertise in order to settle land claims and deeds! Among them was Benjamin Wright who was later called the "Father of American Engineering."


In his book, Witford dubbed the Erie Canal as the "First American School of Engineering." It was the place where people with little prior experience learned by trial-and-error how to engineer major civil works. These were the people that brought engineering to canal building and, a little later, to railroad construction in this country.


October 26, 1825 marked the first passage from Lake Erie to the Hudson River and from there to New York City. The newly opened Clinon's Ditch was 363 miles long, 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep.


January 2000: Panama Canal Mule

By: C. S. Papacostas

The mind works in mysterious ways!


Watching a TV news story about the year-end turnover of Panama Canal (the "Big Ditch") to the country of Panama, I thought of my July 1999 visit to the Virginia Museum of Transportation in Roanoke. I was there for a conference and stayed at the Hotel Roanoke, built by the Norfolk & Western Railroad Company in 1882.


The tudor style hotel, expanded to include a conference center, was donated to Virginia Tech in 1989.


Just a few blocks from the hotel, the museum boasts of an impressive collection of railroad equipment. Smack in the middle of the display yard, I chanced upon a strange-looking, U-shaped, 32-foot long piece of equipment called "The Mule."


It was Panama Canal Towing Locomotive No. 686, one of 40 built by General Electric in Schenectady, New York in 1914. Its purpose was to guide and tow ships crossing the canal's impressive locks. It featured dual electrical and mechanical controls and was powered by a 3-phase, 220-volt, 25-cycle motor. It weighed about 40 tons and operated on a track gauge of 5 feet laid parallel to the canal.

But why is it called "The Mule?"


I believe that this is a carryover from the Canal Era (1790-1855) in the U.S. when a network of canals helped bring the nation into the industrial revolution.


Boats using these canals were, in fact, towed by mules. There is even a song attributed to a Thomas S. Allen about the famous Erie Canal and a "Mule named Sal" that goes like this:


​I've got an old mule and her name is Sal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
She's a good ol' worker and a good ol' pal,
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
We've hauled some barges in our day,
Filled with lumber, coal, and hay,
And we know ev'ry inch of the way
From Albany to Buffalo.


​No. 686 was retired in 1964 and ended up in Virginia as a result of the efforts of Roanoke resident Dorn Thomas whose father worked as a foreman on the construction of the Big Ditch. He himself spent eight years at the Panama Canal as an electrician.

Today's Panama Canal Mules were built by Mitsubishi.


History & Heritage 2000

2014 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section

  • Bishop, Artemas: Had no conception of the value of accuracy or the desirability of making adjoining surveys agree.
  • Emerson, John S.: The accuracy of his work was impaired by ... an unreliable chainman.
  • Kalama S. P.: One of the most reliable native surveyors ... with very extensive knowledge of the names and boundaries of Hawaiian lands.
  • Lyons Curtis J.: Perhaps the most careful and conscientious ... used the "average needle" in his descriptions.
  • Metcalf, Theophilus: One of the good surveyors ... his compass is said to have read 50' to the east of magnetic north.
  • Richardson, John: Must have used a very defective compass; his distances are good, while his bearings in most cases are quite unreliable.
  • Webster, William: Perhaps the best trained and qualified civil engineer in the islands at that time; a very careful surveyor using a theodolite and the initial magnetic north.
  • Beretania stretching from Nuuanu Stream to a little past Richards and nothing to the north of it.
  • King Street from Maunakea to where Iolani Palace stands since its cornerstone was set nine years later in 1879.
  • Merchant from Nuuanu Street to the same general area.
  • Queen Street from Kaahumanu to Alakea appearing to be on the southernmost "dry land" of that time.
  • Fort Street was there also, starting at Queen and ending at King.