Hawaii Guide


Molokai's History and Origins

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Molokai's history tells us that the island has always been considered to be place of magic and was once said to be inhabited by some of the most powerful priests, so powerful that the surrounding islands let it be for many many years, out of fear of upsetting these powerful magic wielders.

During the 1700s the neighbouring island of Oahu had built up enough courage to launch an offensive and ultimately conquer Molokai. Towards the end of the 18th century the larger islands of Maui and The Big Island decided to turn their attentions on Molokai and after many battles it succumbed to the forces of Kamehameha the Great who later went on to also capture Oahu thus uniting all the islands under one power.

For just over forty years, according to Molokai's history, the islands seemed to return to a state of calm. It was then that the Hawaiian people first encountered the first Christian settlers who established camps at three major points on the island Kamalo, Waialua, and on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. The famed 54,000 acre Molokai Ranch came into being half way through the century, which eventually was developed and annexed by the American Sugar Company. This annexation bought with it the introduction of the island's first railway system and the further development of Molokai's existing simple harbours.

It was about this time that the island became home to Father Damien, a priest from Belgium who devoted his time caring for and treating those who had contracted the dreaded disease leprosy. A poignant part of the island's history, the leper colony's are still remembered today as is the legacy of the brave priest whose resting place resides on the island.

Unfortunately the water supply used to service the sugar plantation gave out. Having invested so much into the island, the company desperately tried its hand at honey production, which unexpectedly proved so successful that it became the world's number one exporter. But as with the plantation, disaster struck in the form of a disease that wiped out the hives. In a bid to save the investments already made, a number of other crops were tried, but none took off with the same vigor. Gold was finally struck in the early 1900s in the form of pineapples. Soon plantations opened up around Hoolehua and resulted in hundreds of foreigner workers being sailed in to work the fields. This import of culture changed Hawaii and indeed was a huge turning point.

The "pineapple rush" continued for a good fifty years until worldwide competition saw a loss in market share forcing the plantations to go under, leaving many unemployed. It's taken some years, but the small island has finally re established itself yet again, and has adopted a firm focus on eco tourism.