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File:Olowalu Starr 2006.JPG

Olowalu, Maui

Template:Campaignbox Hawaii Olowalu is a community on the island of Maui in the state of Hawaii. It was the site of an incident in 1790 that had implications on the history of the Hawaiian Islands.

Pu'u Honua

In ancient times, Olowalu was considered a place of refuge, or pu'u honua, by Hawaiians. It sustained a large population, governed by the high cheifess Kalola, daughter of Maui ruler Kekaulike, and grandmother of Keopuolani. The massacre described below, as well as the labor-hungry sandalwood trade, contributed to the site's decline.[1]


Olowalu Massacre
Location Maui
Date 1790
Target Olowalu, Maui
Attack type massacre
Weapon(s) Merchant vessel (Eleanora)
Deaths ~100 killed
Perpetrators Simon Metcalfe (Eleanora)

In 1789, Captain Simon Metcalfe set out on a maritime fur trading mission with two ships: the large Eleanora, and the tender Fair American, a schooner under command of his son Thomas Humphrey Metcalfe.[2] The Fair American was captured by the Spanish during the Nootka Crisis and taken to Mexico, but quickly released. The Metcalfes had earlier agreed to rendezvous in the Hawaiian Islands at Kealakekua Bay.

The Eleanora had arrived by January 1790, and met chief [[Kameeiamoku|KameTemplate:Okinaeiamoku]] who boarded the ship to welcome them. Something he did must have offended Simon Metcalfe, who had KameTemplate:Okinaeiamoku flogged. This was to have severe consequences later. The Eleanora then sailed north to the island of Maui to trade and resupply. One night a small boat was stolen and the night watchman was killed. Captain Metcalfe fired his cannons into the village, and captured a few Hawaiians who told him the boat was taken by people from the village of Olowalu.

He sailed to Olowalu but found that boat had been broken up for its nails. Nails were treasured like gems in ancient Hawaii, which lacked metal smelting technology. Metcalfe invited the villagers to meet the ship, indicating he wanted to trade with them. However, he had all the cannons loaded and ready on the side where he directed the canoes to approach. When they opened fire, about one hundred Hawaiians were killed, and many others wounded.[2]

About five or six weeks later the Fair American arrived at the Island of HawaiTemplate:Okinai where KameTemplate:Okinaeiamoku was waiting for his revenge at [[Kaupulehu, Hawaii|KaTemplate:Okinaūpūlehu]]. The schooner's small crew of five were easily overwhelmed. Four were killed, including Thomas Metcalfe. The lone survivor was Isaac Davis. When King Kamehameha I found out about the incident another sailor, John Young, was captured by Kamehameha's men when he set ashore from the Eleanora to inquire about the Fair American.[3] Kamehameha decided to spare the lives of Davis and Young, who became valued military advisors during his subsequent battles and negotiations with later visitors.

The muskets of the Fair American were salvaged and the schooner refloated. Simon Metcalfe eventually left the island, not realizing that he had indirectly caused his own son's death.


The community is sparsely inhabited today.[4] Coordinates are Template:Coord/display/inline,title. A Template:Convert/acre planned community called Olowalu Town was announed in 2005.[5]

Volunteers work with the Olowalu Cultural Reserve to restore native Hawaiian plants and rebuild the loi (taro patches).


  1. "Olowalu's Gift" Article about the restoration at Olowalu by Rita Goldman. Maui No Ka 'Oi Magazine Vol.14, No.3 (May 2010)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ralph S. Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom
  3. "Boatswain John Young – his adventures in Hawaii recalled published February 14, 1886, New York Times archive
  4. Olowalu Town official web site for the community
  5. Olowalu Town on developer Duany Plater-Zyberk web site
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