Lahaina Timeline

300 - 700

Polynesian Settlers Arrive in Hawaii

300 - 700 AD

Traveling in dugout canoes, some large enough to hold up to 80 people, the Polynesians carried essential items like edible plants, water, basic tools and animals to ensure a safer voyage for those who took off in search of land. To keep track of each other at night, they blew conch shells. After first landing on the Big Island, they named it Havaiki, the name for a homeland they believed they originated from and would return to after death. They were the sole inhabitants for several hundred years until the Tahitians landed around year 1000.


Captain James Cook Arrives in Hawaii

1778 AD
Banyan Tree Planted

Captain Cook, despite evidence of earlier Spanish sailors, was the first recorded westerner to set foot on Hawaii when he landed on the Big Island's Kealakekua Bay in 1778. Fortunately for Cook, he arrived just in time for a sacred festival and was mistaken for Lono, the God of Fertility and Music. He was also the first British explorer to have contact with the Hawaiian Islands when he landed on Kauai later that year. He subsequently named the Hawaiian Islands "The Sandwich Islands" in honor of John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich, who sponsored much of his journey.


Captain James Cook Killed in Hawaii

1779 AD
Captain James Cook Killed in Hawaii

During his third visit to the Hawaiian Islands, one of Cook's crewmen died, showing the men for what they were - mortals. After rough ocean conditions damaged much of Captain Cook's ship, they were forced to return to Hawaii and greeted with hurling rocks. When one of Cook's men shot and killed a lesser Hawaiian chief after an altercation, the Hawaiians attacked Cook and his crewmen, killing Cook on February 14th, 1779, at the age of 51.


Last Lava Flow on Maui

1786 AD
Last Lava Flow on Maui

Haleakala Volcano, considered the world's largest dormant volcano despite technically still being active, erupted most recently in 1786. The lava flow did not come from the crater at the top of Haleakala, but rather the southwest part of the volcano, creating a path of lava rocks that is found today at La Perouse Bay in South Maui.


Maui Army defeated in Battle of Kepaniwai

1790 AD

In an effort to unite the Hawaiian Islands, Kamehameha landed his war fleet on the shores of North Maui while Maui's Chief, Kahekili, was away on Oahu. Kahekili's son, Kalanikupule, entered Iao Valley with other Maui chiefs and army members, planning to use Iao Needle as a protective hideout. What he didn't know, however, was that Kamehameha brought many Western weapons along with him, including a cannon, which killed many in the battle. While none of Maui's major chiefs were killed, the damage was done. Chiefess Kalola escaped with her life, accepting Kamehameha's protection and promising her daughter to him as a future wife. After returning to Maui, Chief Kahekili refused to give control to Kamehameha, the reason for his return in 1794 to reconquer the island.


Kamehameha makes Lahaina the Capital of Hawaii

1802 AD
Lahaina Former Capital of Hawaii

In 1802, King Kamehameha made Lahaina the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. He built a brick palace there, along with residences and other royal buildings, and Lahaina served as the center of the Hawaiian government for over 50 years, until permanently relocating to Honolulu for its harbor.


King Kamehameha Unites the Hawaiian Islands under his Rule

1810 AD
King Kamehameha I

After many years of hard work and bloody battles, King Kamehameha finally united the Hawaiian Islands in 1810 when King Kaumualii of Kauai peacefully agreed to become a tributary kingdom under Kamehameha's rule. Not only was this feat utterly impressive, but the Hawaiian Kingdom enjoyed a peaceful period under Kamehameha's rule. He also unified the legal system and used taxes to encourage trade with Europeans and Americans. June 11th is widely celebrated as Kamehameha Day, and four statues exist to commemorate his lasting legacy as Hawaii's greatest King.


Kamehameha Dies, Kamehameha II becomes King

1819 AD
Kamehameha II

King Kamehameha died in 1819 of an unknown illness, and his final resting place remains a mystery to this day. His son, Liholiho, or Kamehameha II, became King, bringing about dramatic changes that altered the daily life of the Hawaiian population. The Kapu system, for instance, was a set of strict rules set in place to keep control and wealth within select groups of power. Liholiho abruptly abolished this system, and under advice from his father's advisor, began allowing missionaries to settle in the islands.


Protestant Missionaries Arrive in Lahaina

1820 AD

Lahaina served as a major whaling port and fishing town in the 1800s due to its prime location on whale migration routes, calm ocean conditions and endless days of perfect sunshine. With as many as 400 ships at a time docked in the harbor, Lahaina soon became a sailor's dreamland. When Kamehameha II gave permission for missionaries to begin settling in the islands, they too were attracted to the weather, beauty and importance that Lahaina offered, causing tension with the hard partying sailors. The missionaries created many new island customs, including the first high school, first printing press, new way of dressing and introduction of the written form of the Hawaiian language.


Kamehameha III becomes King

1825 AD
King Kamehameha III

While Liholiho brought about many important changes in Hawaii, he also had a bad habit of drinking and spending money on luxury items. While traveling to London in 1824 with his wife, Queen Kamamalu, and their many attendants, Liholiho and his wife died of measles. Kauikeaouli, his younger brother and only 11 years of age, was appointed as King in his absence by a national council, and Ka'ahumanu continued on as regent until she was replaced by Kauikeaouli's half sister, Kinau.


Maui's Lahainaluna High School Opens

1831 AD

Established in 1831 by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions, Maui's own Lahainaluna High School becomes the oldest school west of the Rocky Mountains. The land, given by Chiefess Kalakua Hoapiliwahine, was originally established as a work/study program to "instruct young men of piety and promising talents". Today, Lahainaluna High School remains one of the only few public boarding schools in the country.


Baldwin Home Built in Lahaina

1834 AD
The Baldwin Home in Lahaina

Now the oldest house still standing on Maui, Baldwin Home was built in 1834 by Reverend Ephraim Spaulding and referred to as the "missionary compound". The following year, Reverend Dwight Baldwin, a medical missionary, moved into the home with his family. Often allowing captains, travelers and even members of the Hawaii royal court to stay as guests, the Baldwin house is now Baldwin Home Museum, open for tours daily.


Lahaina Lighthouse Built

1840 AD
Lahaina Lighthouse

Commissioned by Kamehameha III, the Lahaina Lighthouse was originally 9 feet tall and topped with a lamp lit with whale oil. When it was unveiled in 1940, it became the oldest Pacific lighthouse in existence and the first lit navigation tower in Hawaii.


Old Lahaina Prison Built

1853 AD
Old Lahaina Prison

Hale Pa'ahao, loosely translated as "stuck in irons house", was built in Lahaina in 1853 to lock up troublesome sailors who did not return to their ships at sundown. Built partially of coral and enforcing punishments like "flogging, food reduction or head shaving" for violating the rules, the prison is now open for tours to visitors and residents alike.


Kamehameha III Dies, Kamehameha IV becomes King

1854 AD

After being Hawaii's longest reigning monarch and formalizing Hawaiian government in many ways, including establishing a declaration of rights, Hawaii's first constitution, executive and judicial branches of government and a land ownership system, Kamehameha III died at the age of 41, naming his adopted nephew, Alexander Liholiho, his successor. "The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness", a phrase given during his speech celebrating the return of sovereignty to the Hawaiian Kingdom, is the state's motto to this day.


Pioneer Mill Co. Established

1860 AD
Pioneer Mill Company

The first plantation to grow sugar commercially in Lahaina, Pioneer Mill Co. was also one of the first successful sugar mills in Hawaii, operating until its last days in 1999.


Kamehameha IV Dies, Kapuaiwa becomes King

1863 AD

Liholiho, or Kamehameha IV, was heavily influenced by British policies of reign after traveling to Paris and London as a teenager. Due to the continued decimation of the Hawaiian population by foreign disease, Kamehameha IV and established Queen's Hospital, the Anglican Church in Hawaii and translated the Book of Common Prayer into Hawaiian. After personal tragedy in the last years of his life, Kamehameha IV died in 1863 at the young age of 29, succeeded by his older brother, Lot Kapuaiwa.


Increase in Hansen's Disease on Maui

1865 AD

During the previous few years, cases of leprosy, or Hansen's Disease, were increasingly common on Maui. In order to stop the spread of the disease, affected individuals needed to be separated from the unaffected. Dr. William Hildebrand suggested that a particular place be designated for those with leprosy, most notably Kalaupapa on Molokai, which is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides and cut off from the rest of the island by the highest sea cliffs in the world. The first leprosy victims were there 7 years before Father Damien arrived to offer help and a better way of life.


Kamehameha V Dies

1872 AD

Lot Kapuaiwa, or Kamehameha V, was the last direct descendant of Kamehameha the Great to rule the Hawaiian Kingdom. After his brother passed 9 years earlier, Kamehameha V refused to take an oath to uphold the 1852 Constitution, believing it to restrict his powers too much, so he drafted a new one to give him more power. This revised draft would last for 23 years. While not the most favored King, Kamehameha V founded Molokai Ranch and promoted traditional Hawaiian culture, hosting hula performances at his home on Oahu, which remains a tradition today during the yearly Prince Lot Hula Festival. He died in 1872 of illness without naming an heir, leaving it up to the fate of a future election.


Banyan Tree is Planted in Lahaina

1873 AD
Banyan Tree Planted

Now a historical landmark that covers an entire city block and stands over 60 feet tall, Lahaina's Banyan Tree was not indigenous to Hawaii. In 1873, Sheriff William Owen Smith planted the 8 foot Indian banyan tree to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Lahaina. It was also the site for King Kamehameha III's birthday party in 1886 and a ceremony to mark Hawaii becoming a U.S. territory in 1898.


Lunalilo Dies

1874 AD
King Lunalilo

After failing to leave an heir to the throne, a public vote was created to decide who would be the next King. Overwhelmingly winning the vote against his opponent, William Charles Lunalilo became King in 1873. He quickly amended the Constitution of 1864 by abolishing property requirements in order to vote, disbanded the army, and died from tuberculosis and alcoholism after ruling for a little over a year.


Kalakaua becomes King

1874 AD
Coronation of King Kalakaua

Although he had lost to William Charles Lunalilo the year before, Kalakaua won the election of 1874, beginning his reign as "The Merrie Monarch". Kalakaua was the first reigning monarch to ever visit the United States, traveling to Washington to secure the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, which allowed Hawaii's sugar industry to boom and provided economic prosperity. With a passion for dance, music, parties and luxury, Kalakaua had Iolani Palace built as his new home for a whopping $350,000.


King Kalakaua Dies, Queen Liliuokalani becomes Ruler

1891 AD

While he enjoyed a revival of Hawaiian culture and practice during his reign, King Kalakaua was forced to sign the Bayonet Constitution in 1887, severely restricting his powers. Kalakaua sailed to California for medical treatment and died in San Francisco in 1891. "Tell my people I tried" were his famous last words.

Following his death, Kalakaua's sister, Queen Liliuokalani, became the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. When Liliuokalani attempted to restore the powers taken away in the Bayonet Constitution, a U.S. military coup deposed her and formed a provisional government, declaring Hawaii a republic in 1894. Acting as leader of the Stand Firm Movement, Liliuokalani fought against the U.S. annexation, including an 8 month imprisonment in Iolani Palace, until President William McKinley succeeded in 1898. She retired from public life and died at the age of 79 in 1917.


Hawaii Becomes a U.S. Territory

1900 AD
Annexation Of Hawaii

After the official annexation two years prior, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory. It would not become an official U.S. state, however, until 59 years later.


Amelia Earhart Flies Solo from Hawaii to the Mainland

1935 AD
Amelia Earhart in Hawaii

Amelia Earhart was the first pilot to successfully fly solo from Hawaii to California in 1935. Following a 17 hour commercial flight from San Francisco to Hawaii, Pan American introduces regular commercial flights from the mainland to Hawaii in 1936.


Attack at Pearl Harbor

1941 AD
Attack at Pearl Harbor

On the morning of December 7th, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in a two wave air-strike, killing over 3,500 people and destroying 188 planes and 8 battleships in just over two hours. The next day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered his Day of Infamy Speech and Congress declared war on Japan. Three days later, Congress declared war on Germany.


Hawaii becomes a State

1959 AD

In March of 1959, the U.S. government approved statehood for Hawaii. In June, Hawaiian people voted by a large majority to accept admittance into the United States. Hawaii officially became the 50th state under President Eisenhower, following the state of Alaska. No new states had been admitted since 1912, when Arizona and New Mexico were added to the Union. The new 50 star flag would not become official until the following July 4th.


Haleakala National Park Established

1961 AD
Haleakala National Park

While Hawaii National Park was technically established by Congress in 1916, the units were separated as Haleakala National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 1961, following the construction of the road to the summit (1933-1935), Haleakala Visitor Center (1936) and cabins (1937), all of which are still present today.


Polynesian Voyaging Society Established

1973 AD

Established by Dr. Ben Finney, California anthropologist, Herb Kane, Hawaiian artist, and Tommy Holmes, the Polynesian Voyaging Society was created to show that the ancient Polynesians could have purposefully settled the Polynesian Triangle in double-hulled voyaging canoes, navigating without the lack of instruments. Hokule'a, the Polynesian Voyaging Society's famous first project, was the first voyaging canoe to be built in Hawaii in more than 600 years.


Restoration of Old Lahaina Courthouse

1998 AD
Restoration of Old Lahaina Courthouse

Originally constructed in 1858, the County of Maui recently funded the restoration of the Lahaina Courthouse, which holds the Lahaina Visitor Center, Lahaina Arts Society galleries and Lahaina Town Action Committee offices.