The Right Coast

August 01, 2005
Old Maui
By Gail Heriot

I've been exploring the town of Lahaina today--an old whaling town and the first capital of the Kingdom of the Hawaiian Islands under Kamehameha I (he was himself from the Big Island and had conquered Maui as part of his unification of previously independent islands).

The old courthouse in downtown Lahaina has a magnficent banyan tree planted in 1873 to honor the Christian mission's 50 anniversary there. It was little more than a sapling when planted--about 8 feet tall. Today it is still only 50 feet tall, but it spreads over the better part of an acre, with a huge core of central trunks and 12 major additional trunks. It is a thing of beauty.

Nearby are the ruins (actually a mid twentieth century replica of the ruins) of a nineteenth century fort. At first glance, it appears to be made of stone. But on closer inspection, it turns out to be blocks of coral--not something you see a lot of these days.

It was never much of a fort, but it's history is pretty cute. It seems that the royal authorities in Maui had prohibited the young women of Maui from going out into the harbor to "welcome" the whaling ships' crews on their ships. The unhappy sailors blamed the local missionary for this rule and fired upon his home. The royal authorities decided they needed a fort to prevent such things from happening in the future.

It's a nice story, don't you think? Who says that 19th century sailors didn't support women's rights?