Settlement History - The Early Years
On January 6, 1866, the first group of nine men and three women leprosy patients were dropped off at the mouth of Waikolu Valley, the closest accessible point to Kalawao on the southeast side of the peninsula. By October, 101 men and 41 women had been left in an isolation settlement surrounded by controversy and concern from the beginning. At first, the Board of Health thought patients would be self-supporting. After all, Hawaiian people had lived on the peninsula for hundreds of years, sustaining themselves and raising sweet potatoes for export, and the very first patients moved into houses left behind by Hawaiians who had lived in the area.
In spite of the Board of Health’s efforts to improve conditions, including building a hospital and homes, supplies of food and clothing, housing, and medical care could not keep up with the numbers of people being sent to Kalawao. Starting in 1873 major improvements were made due to the arrival of Father Damien and the interest and support of the next two Hawaiian kings, William Charles Lunalilo and David Kalakaua.
Did You Know?
The oldest building in the Kalaupapa Settlement is the Old Stone Church built in 1853. The thick masonry walls are made of lava rock with coral lime mortar. The structure is now being used as the National Park Service Ranger Station.