John Young Homestead

In 1790, a 46 year old British sailor from Liverpool England, named John Young, became stranded on this island. He had been serving aboard the Elenora, the first American ship to visit Hawai'i, when, through a series of events, he had been prevented from returning to his ship before it departed for its voyage to China. Noticing his plight, and potential usefulness, Kamehameha brought John Young to Kawaihae to live with him. Over the next several years, John Young proved himself as an able advisor to Kamehameha. Serving as a translator for the king, he secured various trade and political agreements with many of the foreign dignitaries that came to meet with the now powerful Kamehameha. As well, John Young fought alongside Kamehameha during his conquest of the Islands and trained Kamehameha’s warriors in the use of European weapons and modern military tactics. As well, John Young and another British sailor, Isaac Davis, taught Kamehameha how to sail and later, how to build modern western-style ships. Although he arrived as not much more than a hired sailor, John Young was soon given great authority in Kamehameha’s growing kingdom. By the early 1800’s, John Young was made an ali’i nui or high chief and made governor of the entire Island of Hawai'i.

Just beyond the the Royal Courtyard, Pelekane, lies the remains of John Young’s homestead, where he lived out the majority of his years in Hawai'i. Believed to contain the remains of the very first Western-style house in all of Hawaii, this was the location where John Young met with political and trade representatives from around the world. A combination of Hawaiian and Western styles, John Young covered the outside of his house with a bright white plaster, believed to have been made of crushed coral, poi, and hair. It is recorded that many sea captains used his house, shining brightly in the tropical sun, as a way-marker when sailing to Kawaihae Bay.

John Young married Ka'oana'eha, the niece of Kamehameha, and had children here. His family and any servants that he might have had probably lived in an adjoining, more traditional-style, house. After the death of Kamehameha the Great in 1819, John Young continued to advise the king's successors. John Young is believed to have died at the age of 93, and is buried on the grounds of the Royal Mausoleum in Nu’uanu, Oahu.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site
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