Dispatches From Curt — The Island’s East-West Turf Control, A Retrospective

By Curtis Narimatsu

In 1903 our territorial legislature authorized East Hawai’i County and West Hawai’i County, each to be governed by a board of supervisors elected by our citizens, along with our elected auditor, clerk, treasurer, and county attorney (both civil/criminal roles).

The chief executive would be the Chair of the Board of Supervisors, chosen by the Supervisors at their initial meeting. Our East Hawai’i Board of Supervisors first met on January 4, 1904, in our Hilo circuit courthouse (where today’s Kalakaua Park reflecting pond is).

Eugene H.K. Lyman was chosen as Chair of the Board. But because our territorial legislature inarticulately worded the genesis of our two Hawai’i Island counties, our Hawai’i Supreme Court invalidated such statute creating our two cross-island counties, inasmuch no provision was made for their funding and maintenance.

To address such oversight, House Bill No. 1, later called Act 39, Session Laws of 1905, created our various County governments as we know them today — with Hawai’i Island having just one County government.

Kailua-Kona a century ago was a lost horizon long forgotten/removed from its epicenter as our Power Capital/seat of government in the Hawaiian Islands via King Kamehameha the Great’s royal residence Kanuiakea at Kamakahonu cove and the associated heiau of Ahu’ena.  

The lost capital of Kailua-Kona by 1905 was a kiawe tree inhabited barren landscape, w/occasional cattle stops via its little shipping port. Our territorial solons finally realized amid their hectic flurry of lawmaking that there was no money to fund two separate identical Hawai’i Island governments.

Their initial creation of two Hawai’i Island governments in 1903 was flooded by sentimentality via the vast/untrekkable distance between Kailua-Kona and Hilo. Of course, former Gov. Sanford B. Dole, who lived in Kailua-Kona, resented the new law, but nonetheless our Supreme Court upheld the new 1905 law.

Pursuant to Act 39 of 1905, elections were held and our one-County victors were East Hawai’i Supervisors Rev. Stephen L. Desha Sr., Antone Fernandez, D.K. Makuakane, John T. Moir, and our West Hawai’i supervisors were O.T. Shipman, M.K. Kalaiwaa, and James F. Woods.

Others elected were Treasurer T.K. Lalakea, County Attorney Charles Williams, Auditor C.K. McGuire, Clerk Samuel K. Pua, and 1905 newly-created Sheriff William M. Keolanui. Deputy sheriffs elected were East Hawai’i lawmen S.H. Kaaheo, W.J. Rickard, James Mattoon, and William A. Fetter, and West Hawai’i lawmen C.H. Pulaa, W.M.S. Lindsay, J.W. Kaliikoa, J.K. Kakaula, and David Baker.

Our one-County Board of Supervisors held its first meeting in our old Fireman’s Hall where today’s old Mutual Tel. Co. historic bldg. is on Kalakaua St. mauka of Keawe St., and plantation mgr. John T. Moir unanimously was selected as Chair/chief executive for the new Hawai’i County.

Of course, eventually our Chief Executive/Chair was elected by popular vote of all of Hawai’i County adult citizens, which is how Hawaiian populists Samuel Kauhane and Sam Mahuka Spencer of Waimea enjoyed the longest reigns of power, spanning three decades. David Ewaliko preceded Kauhane’s/Spencer’s dynasties.

West Hawai’i solons Shipman/Kalaiwaa/Woods were our first elected Democrats, following along the trail set by former Royalists/Genesis monarchy Democrats Prince David Kawananakoa and Kanaka Johnny Wilson.

Immediately after our new one-County government convened, our East Hawai’i Supervisors refused to have our elected sheriff Keolanui pick his police force. Our East Hawai’i supervisors wanted to pick our patronage jobber police force. Contrarily, our West Hawai’i supervisors supported sheriff Keolanui to pick his own police officers.  

Our outnumbered West Hawai’i supervisors wanted some semblance of popular will/home rule instead of East Hawai’i autocratic control via plum picking patronage police officer jobs. Alas, our Supreme Court ruled for Sheriff Keolanui’s right to pick his own police officers, who had not been paid since the separation of powers feud began!!

 How the World turns, from century to century, yet still the same internecine squabbles over East-West turf control, such as East Hawai’i solons’ chokehold over the sheriff a century ago.

P.S. I dedicate this topic to Ivantatum, who elucidates that corruption/graft take hold no matter where, what the circumstances are, if lack of accountability is there, whether you have one County or 10 thousand townships!! (I spoke of townships on topic of John Ushijima, following up on Hugh Clark’s comment about Ushijima’s promotion of a Waikoloa township, clearly to enrich Ushijima/Boise Cascade honchos).  — Love, Curt


Curtis Narimatsu

Curtis Narimatsu

(Curtis Narimatsu is a lifelong resident of Hilo who writes about the forgotten past such as the old plantation days & untold heroes.)

14 replies
  1. damon
    damon says:

    I think it’s important to add the districts that these folks lived:

    Moir was out of Hilo
    Woods – Kohala
    Desha – Hilo
    Kalaiwaa – Kona
    Shipman – Kau
    Makuakane – Puna
    Fernandez – Hamakua

    Now Let’s Look at Land Value at that time according to the 1906 Report of the Governor:

    First Land District: $132,783.33
    Second: $16,803.97
    Third: $24,700.44
    Fourth: $4,061.41
    Fifth: $26,935.50
    Sixth: $682.38

  2. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Wow, thank you gracious editor Tiffany Edwards Hunt, for publishing my note on our 2-County government fiasco a century ago, and I thank long-in-the-tooth retired editor/scribe Hugh Clark for commenting on our 1903 2-County government set up for Hawai’i Island, and on John Ushijima’s promotion of John’s Waikoloa township model, obviously to enrich John & John’s client Boise Cascade. Hugh’s comments stirred my desire to respond. Thank you also, Tiffany, for the catchy great map above. Much aloha, –Curt

  3. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Thank you very much, Damon Tucker, for your excellent data. Do you know that our Territorial solons a century ago considered Mt. View Puna as the prime location for our new UH campus with its emphasis on ag science? Partly because of Ben Dillingham’s & Lorrin A. Thurston’s influences [via Ben’s Hilo Railroad Co. which serviced the Puna district & via Lorrin’s investments in Ola’a Sugar Co./Kapoho Sugar Co./Pahoa’s lumber mill], & partly because of our leading East Hawai’i territorial solons who wanted to develop their constituents’ Hilo & Puna districts, our Territorial legislature seriously considered Mt. View Puna as the ag mecca for learning, before choosing Manoa with its lush verdant flora/ag crucibles of rainfall-soil-convenient site. Aloha, –Curt

  4. damon
    damon says:

    Many folks don’t realize that the UH Manoa Campus was built as an Ag campus.

    The CTAHR program is one of the best in the countries and has been for a long time.

    I’m sure you know my ohanas ties to Ag in the lands so if you do mention any of it… please leave any tie I may have to the name out of it. Mahalo, I’d much rather just listen to your stories then be part of them in any way.

  5. rj
    rj says:

    Wow. $26,935.50 for the Puna district? (I’m guessing)

    Owning land the size of O’ahu for that amount….

  6. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    McKinley High was the only public high school on O’ahu for the longest time. Theodore Roosevelt High opened in 1930. McKinley High principal Miles Cary transformed the school into a white collar track [teachers/business entrepreneurs] instead of its Big 5-repressive field labor ag track. Roosevelt High had its English Standard School, but the greatest beneficiaries of its seemingly White racist preference were Honolulu native-born children of Chinese and Japanese immigrants, not the haoles themselves, typified by eventual renowned mgmt.-labor mediator Ted Tsukiyama born 1920. Early Democrat John Akau was with the Democrat Bill/Ernest Heen Hawaiian gang, & was a compadre of great atty/altruist Noah Aluli [Kaho’olawe liberator M.D. Emmett Aluli’s forebearer]. Aloha, –Curt

  7. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Outstanding Kona Territorial solons included Julian Yates [as in ballfield] & Minoru Inaba, both who had bipartisan support because their top priority was to serve their constituents, not themselves. Especially Yates was a global seer, who was pivotal to get Wall St./Stateside infusion to bankroll our tourist industry/investment houses post-Statehood. Kenny Brown of audacious I’i family fame was key to Stateside investment in post-Statehood Hawai’i, thanks to link-builder Julian Yates. I dedicate the closing anecdote below to great commentator Casual Observer, who correctly chastizes me for my acerbic attitude toward Hawaiian sovereignty promoters. When Waimea resident Kenny Brown was a child, Kenny’s dad took Kenny & family on a canoe outing by Kealakekua bay, steered by a resident Hawaiian oarsman. But the sea got choppy very quickly, so to Kenny’s astonishment, Kenny’s dad spoke hurried Hawaiian to the oarsman. Both Kenny’s dad & the oarsman were able safely to get the canoe back to shore. Kenny never forgot this frantic communication between Kenny’s dad and the Hawaiian oarsman, which brought Kenny back to Kenny’s Hawaiian roots. Till this day, Kenny’s mission is to repose in and revere our Hawaiian culture/custom. Kenny’s paroxysm as a child of a Native Hawaiian never abated. Commentator Casual Observer has Kenny’s unspeakable depth of love for Native Hawaiians. Onward, Casual Observer. Love everlasting, –Curt

  8. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Why seeming ambiguity? Pastor Roy Kim born 1946 intones, “You probably are right, though at this moment I disagree. And I probably am wrong. Let me mull on this one for now, okay, and try to figure it out.” Aloha, –Curt

  9. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    I earlier praised Waters of Life Charter School attorney Gary Zamber in the comment section to this website’s article today on this school’s procedural victory in circuit court. A Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton immediately would’ve waved the race card [discrimination vs. African-Americans/WOL charter school]. A telling reason why neither man is Presidential certitude is that African-Americans are conservative, not wild card-waving proponents like Jesse/Al. You see, Barack Obama transcends race relations. Barack was raised by conservative White grandparents. Barack endears himself as a polyglot progressive, not simply a Black advocate, but EVERYONE’s enabler — of the power of positive thinking a la Norman Vincent Peale & a la Gen. Matthew Ridgway 1895-1993 [by sheer power of personality, Gen. Ridgway launched the successful counterattack vs. the massive Chinese advance in Korea, retaking Seoul in February 1951 & crossing the 38th parallel in April 1951]. The genesis of modern limited war, Ridgway knew that we could advance up to the Yalu river, but that we would not have committed the forces necessary to hold it, or to cross it. We Americans were war-weary from WWII. Just the same, Ridgway argued against intervention in Vietnam, knowing that we would need a ground effort at least equal to that in Korea, and that unlike in Korea, a decisive victory was necessary to prevent the fall of South Vietnam. And Ridgway knew back in 1954 via the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu that long haul escalation of our U.S. role in Vietnam would be rejected by our war-weary Americans [U.S. national security not at stake/guaranteed failure in fighting a limited war on difficult terrain to contain the domino effect]. Of course, Ridgway was relieved of command on Vietnam. Ridgway’s immense battlefield leadership/presence that won the confidence of his battle-weary soldiers in Korea, combined with his brilliant grasp of strategic planning [a seer who would be called inaptly today a peacenik], is unmatched in U.S. military history. Analogously, lest anyone pronounce otherwise, Hawaiians, like African-Americans, are conservative, not radical separatists. Which is why sovereignty as promoted by left-wingers Osorio/Trask/Blaisdell, does not have its own popular Hawaiian imprimatur/backing/vote. Every ethnic bloc exclusivity in Hawai’i history has failed. Our Royalists demanded pageantry, just as our current promoters demand land/money. Sorry, but the general public won’t stand for such exclusivity. Yet, as I listen to Dennis Pavao’s/Ka’apana brothers’ stirring call to Hawaiian solidarity via their thunderously inspiring song “All Hawai’i Stand Together,” we should always revere and preserve Hawaiian culture/heritage. As with Kamehameha Schools [formerly Bishop Estate], the racial composition essentially would be the same, chop suey/multi-ethnic, minus the unconstitutional one-drop Hawaiian blood quantum [odious violation of the 13th Amdt. to the U.S. Constitution outlawing racial discrimination in non-governmental settings]. Love, –Curt

  10. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Oh, mention of desired enshrinement to our County Women’s Hall of Fame in this website’s article/comment on this Hall of Fame, includes Shizuko Hanato Teshima age 102 centenarian [Teshima’s Restaurant in Honalo Kona] & her grand-niece Bobbi Hanato Awa 60 yrs. her junior [Bobbi is Konawaena High wahine hoops coach of repeat State titlists — Bobbi was star player in her time, just as all of the Hanato girls have starred recently, including Bobbi’s daughter today]. West Hawai’i has had major impact on our island history, from Kamehameha the Great & his royal residence where today’s King Kamehameha hotel is, to solon Julian Yates’ facilitation of post-Statehood prosperity via Wall St. infusion of investments/capital [via Hawaiian cultural hero John Papa I’i progeny Kenny I’i Brown], to countermanded Jerry Rothstein’s/Angel Pilago’s PASH decision which preserved traditional Hawaiian gathering/subsistence off the land, among other customs. Actually, over the long haul of time, considering Capt. Cook’s arrival at Kealakekua bay, King Kamehameha the Great & his progeny successors as natives of Kona, Asa/Lucy Thurston’s arrival at Kailua bay/Plymouth Rock as the 1st boatload of missionaries, etc., Kona has had more impact on the history of our Hawaiian Islands, than any other district, including Hilo. Shizuko Hanato Teshima’s authentic Japanese cuisine restaurant, Teshima Restaurant in Honalo, has had its share of longtime Kona residents like Jimmy Stewart/Richard Boone, & today’s art master Herb Kane. Shizuko’s baby sister Teruko “Ruth” 1916-1998 is my Mom. Mom started the wahine hoops/basketball tradition as capt. & sophomore guard 5’4″ on the title-winning Konawaena High squad of 1932. After that, strangely enough, our Hanato girls have been the jockdomania renowns among the Hanato kazoku/family, not our Hanato boys. UH-Hilo Vulcan forward Jessica Hanato, who is half African-American, is a recent prodigy, as Jessie’s mom Kelly Hanato was a star softball player for HPU. Kelly’s baby sister is today’s Bobbi Hanato Awa, Jessie’s aunt. Aloha, –Curt

  11. Tiffany Edwards Hunt
    Tiffany Edwards Hunt says:

    ” Shizuko’s baby sister Teruko “Ruth” 1916-1998 is my Mom. Mom started the wahine hoops/basketball tradition as capt. & sophomore guard 5′4″ on the title-winning Konawaena High squad of 1932. ”

    No way.

    I love your family, Curtis. Your auntie Shizuko is da bomb diggity…

  12. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Oops, on Pastor Roy Kim in this morning’s comment above, ambiguity or its dual analog, ambivalence, is Roy’s method of structuring argument/advocacy. There always is room for interpretation, which is global & not micro. So what if ancient Hawaiian commoners had few liberties, if at all?? Does this justify depriving them of their own liberty today via their proponency of special privileges for a select/preferred group of people, ergo indigenous/native Hawaiians?? Forever repressed as Hawaiian commoners, does our State/Nation owe it to them to restore their indigenous identity as an insular National Hawaiian people?? You see, Pastor Roy asks the questions which befit accumulated wisdom/pathos/metaphysical repose. Which is why commentator Casual Observer, notwithstanding such commentator’s condemnation vs. me, deserves positive recognition, because Casual Observer comes from Roy’s plane of consciousness, pure & sincere. Love, –Curt

  13. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Hi Tiffany, thanks for the “plug” [to use BJ Leithead’s word], or differently said, thanks for your encouragement & loving support!! The only plug I know is the one up my arse [affirmed by Casual Observer :-)]. Tiffany, commentators like Casual Observer, despite pseudonyms, ask the deepest questions in the world!! The fact that they ask, & not lecture, answers their prodigious minds. Arresting wisdom, to use the phrase in a most complimentary sense. This is Casual Observer’s level of consciousness. Thanks again, Tiff, for your heartstopper website!! Much aloha, –Curt

  14. Curtis Narimatsu
    Curtis Narimatsu says:

    Oh, not just Pastor Roy Kim born 1946 & Casual Observer as mind blowers/seers, but Pastor Hung Wai Ching’s son KingLit Ching born 1936, who comes from a business executive’s background, A & B Ltd. based in L.A. [MBA Harvard/bacc. Wharton/diploma Punahou], who applauds Casual Observer for Casual Observer’s molten loads of compassion, inexorably cascading. Casual Observer, like Biblical Caleb [instead of wearing a bathrobe and in bedroom slippers] in steel-toed boots, says, “Give me that mountain!!” [give back to Hawaiians their stolen dignity!!] Wow!! Pono, baby!! Love, –Curt

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