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Revised 27 December 2010


Hawaii is one of the most unique states in the union in that it is made up of a series of islands.  It was discovered in 1778 by Captain James Cook who named it the Sandwich Islands.  It was ruled by native monarchs until 1893, at which time it became a republic.  The republic lasted until 1898, after which Hawaii ceded itself to the United States.  It remained as a United States territory until it finally achieved statehood on 21 August 1959.  

It is said that these islands were first inhabited by descendants of a group of Polynesians who came over by canoe.  It was considered an island paradise by the ships that stopped by to restock their supplies.  Captain Cook, was  killed in a Big Island dispute at Kealakekua Bay, near Kona in 1779.

 In 1789, the first Chinese immigrants arrived in Hawaii after jumping off a trade ship.  The Chinese community was later hit with a horrid plague of leprosy and at one point, many were banished to a leper colony on one of the outer islands.

  In 1810, King Kamehameha the Great was finally able to gather all the islands together into one nation.  He lived until 1819, at which time Prince Liholiho ascended the throne as Kamehameha II (1819-1824).  In 1825, King Kamehameha the III ascended the throne as ruler and during his reign, in 1840, the first constitution of the kingdom of Hawaii was established.  In 1850, King Kamehameha III declared Honolulu to be a City.  At his death in 1874, King David Kalakaua ascended the throne.  He ruled until 1891 and is noted for building America's only royal residence, the Iolani Palace, built on Oahu in 1882.

In 1820, the first Protestant missionaries came to the Islands aboard the brig Thaddeus from New England and founded the Congregational Churches of Hawaii.  (For more on Congregationalism, see the Religion section of this website.  There are books in the on-line library section that discuss our history, polity and politics.)  See also Hawaiian Missionaries to Wailuku & Wailuku Union Church on Rootsweb.com. (use your back function to return to this page.

In 1883, Hawaii obtained its first telephone company, the Mutual Telephone Company.  The company name was later changed to Hawaiian Telephone, and then it finally joined the GTE group as GTE Hawaiian Telephone.

The first contract laborers from Japan began arriving in 1885 to work the sugar cane plantations.  Sugar became one of the primary crops of Hawaii.  Later, in 1892, Macadamia nut trees were planted on the Islands

The great Hawaiian Queen, Liliuokalani, ascended the throne upon the death of King David.  She ruled until forced to surrender the kingdom  to the United States in 1893.  She did so under protest.  Finally, in 1895, Queen Liliuokalani abdicated her throne.  By 1898, Hawaii was annexed to the United States to become a United States Territory in 1900.  The last powerful member of the royal Hawaiian family, Prince Jonah Kalanianaole Kuhio died in 1922.  

Hawaii received its first non-stop air flight from the mainland  to Honolulu in 1927 and in 1934, they were honored by their first  visit by a United States President when President Franklin Deleno Roosevelt arrived in July 26 on the cruiser Houston.  

By 1935, Pan American Airways "China Clipper" inaugurates air mail service to Hawaii and the Pacific.   Because of its proximity to the mainland, Hawaii became a major training center for United States Military forces, most especially for the Navy.  Many of our ships lay at anchor in Pearl Harbor on the fateful day of December 7, 1941, at which time the Japanese performed a surprise bombing raid on the United States, bringing the United States into World War II.  Martial Law was imposed on the islands as a result and remained in effect until 24 October 1944.  

Hawaii is noted as a prime tourist attraction today and the pineapple plantations and sugar cane production is noted world wide.  Political pressure was brought to bear in the statehood of Hawaii and their entrance to the union was tied to that of Alaska.  Hawaii became our 50th state on August 21, 1959.

Hawaii is made up as a series of Islands rather than our traditional colonies.  Below is a listing of those islands (or Atolls). This information comes from the Bishop Museum Website of Hawaii.


Name Parent County
Hawaii Hilo County
Kaua'i Lihue County
Lana'i Maui County
Maui Wailuku County
Molokai Maui County
O'ahu Honolulu county and City
Kahoolawe Maui County
Ni'ihua Kaua'i County

There are also several smaller islands known as the Leeward Islands.

 French Frigate Shoals There are 12 sandy islets scattered around a lagoon.  this is the home of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle Gardner Pinnacles The Gardner Pinnacles are two small volcanic peaks whose total area are only 5 acres.  This is the home of many tropical seabirds
Kure Atoll Kure Atoll is nearly circular with a 10 km (6 mi) diameter.  Kure was discovered by the Russian ship Moller in 1827 Laysan Island Laysan Island is a low lying sandy island that covers about 1000 acres.  The center of the Island is a salt lake.
Lisianski Island Lisianski was by accidentally discovered in 1805, when a ship under the Russian captain, Yurii Lisianski, ran aground. Its only about 400 acres in size. Maro Reef Maro Reef is a largely submerged atoll with only about 1 acre of land that is sometimes underwater.  Maro was discovered in 1820 by Captain Joseph Allen of the ship, Maro.
Midway Atoll Midway Atoll has three small islets on its southeast end.  The islets have a combined size of about 1,550 acres.  Midway was the last of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to be discovered.  Captain N.C. Brooks claimed the island for the United States in 1859.  It was originally named Middlebrooks. Necker Island Mokuakamohoali'i, Hanakaieie, Hanakeaumoe, and Ununui are traditional names of islands west of Nihoa, but it is not known which islands these names refer to.  Necker was given the Hawaiian name Mokumanamana in the 20th century. 
Nihoa Island At the time of Western contact, Nihoa was only remembered in chants and not visited physically.  It was rediscovered by Captain William Douglas of the H.M.S. Iphigenia in March 1789. Pearl and Hermes Atoll This is a series of low lying islets.  They lie so low in the water that they occasionally are covered by the water.  It was discovered on April 26, 1822 when two English whaling ships, the Pearl and the Hermes, were wrecked there during a storm.
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Hawaii State US GenWeb  History of Hawaii
History of Hawaii - Ancient Times through Current Day Hawaiian history - history of Hawaii from 300AD to 1900AD
History of Hawaii Hawaii - The States - The History Channel
Hawaiian Historical Society History of Hawaii Agriculture
Kids Konnect - Hawaii The Lepers of Molokai
Kalaupapa NHP Home Page Ship Passenger Lists 
Hawaii Immigration Timeline Lucy Thurston - Missionary Wife to Hawaii
Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy Databases and Indexes Hawaiian Railway Society -- Hawaii Museums Association Database