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Cannon Fire in Lahaina

Hawai‘i State Archives

Lahaina was an important port during the whaling era. The whaling industry brought great prosperity as ships purchased needed supplies and recruited Native Hawaiian men as seamen. The industry also had negative impacts on the islands' social conditions.

Hundreds of seamen in port created problems, usually from drunk and disorderly conduct. The missionaries frequently advised the Maui governor to place Lahaina under curfew, thereby restricting access to saloons and brothels. Often the angered sailors rioted and terrorized the town or took out their wrath directly on the missionaries.

On one such occasion of defiance, the crew of the British whaler John Palmer bombarded the house of Rev. William Richards with cannon fire. Rev. Richards and his family were forced to take shelter in the cellar. Two solid iron cannon balls recovered from that incident, each weighing 40 pounds, are preserved at the Hawai‘i State Archives.