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ISLAND HISTORY: Kaua‘i of long ago recalled by William Owen Smith

William Owen Smith (1848-1929), the eldest son of Kaua‘i missionaries Dr. and Mrs. James W. Smith, was born and raised at Koloa.

Although Smith achieved success in Hawai‘i as a sheriff, lawyer, legislator, attorney general and Bishop Estate trustee, it was by his leadership in planning the overthrow of Queen Liliu‘okalani and the monarchy in 1893 that he made his mark in Hawai‘i’s history.

He said, “Both King Kalakaua and Queen Liliu‘okalani had many estimable qualities, and it was with a feeling of deep regret that the community was finally confronted with the issue which resulted in the termination of the monarchy.”

In 1926, he recalled Kaua‘i of long ago.

“From as far back as 1820, certain articles of food, particularly flour and sugar, were imported. In the 1850s, provisions from the mainland came around Cape Horn. It took about six months to bring the food here.

“The charm of the old Hawaiian life was largely because of the courtesy and hospitality of the natives. They were simple, dignified, courteous and kindly. There was little spirit of revengefulness in the old days. Climatic conditions and the isolation of the islands in the old days had much to do with the character of the people.

“Both the Hawaiians and the white people were hospitable, their doors always open to strangers. With the exception of the hotel at Honolulu, and another at Lahaina and one at Hilo, all of the visitors were entertained by residents. Sometimes they were imposed upon.

“’Old-time chiefs were courtly and dignified men. The court functions were carried on with a great deal of formality.

“The men in the old days wore Prince Albert coats and what we call beaver hats. The women’s clothes, at social functions, were very gorgeous.”

“There was no extreme poverty,” he said.

“Life was simple and happy. The Hawaiian homes were mainly of framework thatched with pili grass. Many of them were very comfortable.

“All Hawaiians, men and women alike, were good horseback riders, some of the most expert.
Source: The Garden Island

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