Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands archipelago and it is believed that the Polynesian explorer, Hawai’iloa, discovered the island and named it island after his son. Historians believe that happened around 450 A.D. and that was the point in time in which the entire Mauian culture was established.
In 1550 King Pi’ilani married the daughter of Hoolae who was from Hana. This marriage was significant in that the island had been divided into three districts with a ruler for each district, this marriage unified the island, and created a single royal family that ruled the island as a whole.
On May 29, 1778, the French Admiral Jean-Francois de Galaup arrived on Maui and was the first European to do so. Captain Cook did not follow until May 29, 1786.
In 1819 King Kamehameha I died and it Queen Ka’ahumanu who took the thrown and began the restructuring of the island by abolishing taboos that prevented women from eating with men. This opened the door for Christianity to step in and take a foothold on the island. The first Christian missionary to land on the island was Dr. Holman in 1821, he eventually settled in Lahaina and it was the missionaries who taught the Islanders the 12-letter alphabet.
More and more missionaries continued to arrive on the island, and they were very successfully at converting more Islanders to Christianity and by 1870 there were 13 churches on the island. This transition was not a smooth one, and as the conversion process increased so did conflict. The old beliefs clashed with the Christian beliefs as the missionaries continued to pushed their principals of abstinence.
By 1837 King Kamehameha III grew tired of the conflicts and banned the Catholic religion and prevented ships from bringing any more missionaries to the island, this also lead to many of the established missionaries being jailed and eventually sent packing.
It wasn’t until 1939 when the French, who continually applied pressure for change, that Kamehameha finally relented and allowed religious freedom to his people.
As the missionaries became more established there children wed islanders, and these children eventually grew up to become the politicians and business leaders of the island.
1845 say a booming whaling industry that settled in the town of Lahaina and at its peak saw more than 500 ships a year visit the port. Lahaina’s success was also its demise, as the port became more crowded, more ships would bypass Lahaina in favor of the larger port of Honolulu. King Kamekameha recognized that there was more economic benefit to be based in Honolulu, and move the capital from Lahaina to Honolulu.
With the lose of most of the whaling fleet to Honolulu one would have thought that this would be the demise of industry on Maui, but this was not so. In 1849 a sea captain named George Wilfrong arrived on the Island and taking advantage of the California Gold rush and the inflated prices for sugar, planted the first sugar plantation on a 60-acre tract of land in Hana.
Captain Wilfrong was incredibly harsh on the Hawaiian people and placed unrealistic demands on then, so much so that the Hawaiians would not tolerate the abuse, and in 1852 he had to bring over Chinese immigrants to work his fields. Wilfrongs mill eventually burned down, but by that time the gold rush had cooled, as did sugar prices and the mill was never rebuilt.
Sugar plantations began to pop up all over the island but it wasn’t until 1876 when King Kalakaua signed the “Sugar Reciprocity Treaty” with the United States, that the industry really boomed.
It was about that time when Thomas Hobron built the Kahului Railroad. This narrow gauge railroad began its operations in by 1881 and was such a huge success that the main line was extended to Paia.
David and Henry Baldwin established the pineapple industry on the island when they planted their first experimental crop in 1890. The experiment was, as we now know, a huge success, and the pineapple thrived here and by the end of 1933 there was over 22,000 acres of land dedicated to pineapple production.
In 1959, Hawaii joined the United States of America and became the 50th State, and would see the first jet liner land here that same year. The new state saw an influx of 250,000 visitors to the little island. It would take another 30 years for Maui to become the popular tourist destination that it is today.
The 21st century has seen tourism replace agriculture as the main industry of the island, and sees around 9 million visitors a year.