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::: Overland Mail Routes - Islands of Kauai and Niihau Routes :::

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Kauai mail routes 1

From Nawiliwili harbor in the south east corner of Kauai, mail routes extended north to Hanalei (green line) and west to Waimea (red line). The Hanalei route traveled through Kapaa, Kekaha, Anahola and Kilauea. For a time, a mail carrier traveled the Napali Coast as far as Kalalau Valley. The Waimea carrier covered Koloa, Eleele and Hanapepe. Later, the line was extended to Kahuku and eventually to Mana at the western corner of the island. From Waimea, a boat took mail to Niihau.

Kauai mail routes are the most straightforward of all the islands. This island is smaller in size and had a population concentrated on the accessible coastal plain running from Mana, on the west end, around the east side and to the north coast at Hanalei. Only the Napali Coast, located on the north west end of the island, was inaccessible. Roads were good and bridges were built across most streams by the 1860's. Residents even of relatively remote Hanalei kept in close touch with people as far away as Waimea and riders traveled between the towns frequently. Telephones connected most towns by the early 1890's.

Early schooner connections between Honolulu and Nawiliwili, Koloa, Eleele, Waimea and Hanalei generally were good and until weekly steamer service was provided to Kauai, the postmasters much preferred having all of their mail brought by schooner and none by steamer. Nawiliwili was centrally located and the main port so it served as the hub for mail distribution throughout the island until Lihue, located about two miles inland from Nawiliwili, replaced it about 1865. In Whitney's 1856 design of the routes on Kauai, the Widemann store at Nawiliwili was the hub for mail delivery. The mail carrier left Nawiliwili for Hanalei on Tuesdays and returned on Wednesdays. On Thursday, the carrier left Nawiliwili for Waimea, passing through Koloa and Hanapepe, and returned the next day. This plan covered the entire island except for the impassable Napali Coast. Brickwood 's routes of 1866 stated:

the mail carrier leaves Lihue for Hanalei every Monday and returns on Tuesday. The carrier then leaves Lihue every Thursday for Waimea via Koloa, taking also any mail for Niihau, and returns on Friday. Niihau mail is left at Waimea until a boat leaves for Niihau, usually every week.


Kauai mail routes - Hanalei - 1

A carrier left Lihue for Hanalei (green line) once a week. The Monday departure from Lihue mentioned by Brickwood in 1866 was still the routine in 1879. In July, 1879, the Hanalei postmaster complained about poor service and asked to have all the mail delivered by the schooner Kekauluohi. His complaint really seems focused on irregular delivery of mail by steamer. In response, in 1879 the overland service was improved to twice weekly, with departures on Monday and Thursday "from Nawiliwili." I suspect Lihue in fact remained the central distribution point and reference to Nawiliwili was a throw back to the old days.

By 1880, steamers were running to Kauai regularly and, responding to a suggestion from the Kilauea postmaster, the departure day from Lihue was changed to Tuesday in order to coordinate better with delivery of steamer mail. References in Thrum's Annual to the Kauai overland routes are dropped from 1883 to 1889, but I believe the service continued fairly unchanged.

In 1889, the Hanalei carrier left Lihue every Wednesday, stopping at Kapaa and Kilauea and on the return trip left Hanalei every Friday. In 1893, Kealia replaced Kapaa as the stop and a plantation train carried mail from Kealia for distribution in Kapaa. Otherwise, the 1889 routine held until 1899 when the service was increased to three times a week, with the carrier leaving on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and departing Hanalei for the return on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In 1900, the Hanalei Route remained the same.

The postmaster at Hanalei (green box) hired local carriers to travel westward as far as the Kalalau Valley in the midst of the Napali Coast. An 1889 reference in Thrum's Annual to a route between Hanalei and "Hakalau" probably was intended as a reference to this route. In addition, multiple letters between the Hanalei postmaster and the General Post Office make mention of it. Mail in Kalalau was distributed by a schoolmaster living there. Complaints in 1895 about the service west of Hanalei included the lack of proper equipment to protect the mail from water. The mail was being sent in a flour bag and the Kalalau overland carrier was obliged to wrap the mail in banana leaves to keep rain off while traversing the wet stretch between Haena and Hanakoa. Residents along the route between Hanalei and Haena agitated for a post office at Wainiha but the only relief granted was a water proof pouch. Hanalei post master Willis described the Kalalau trail thus: "for about 12 miles the trail runs along a cliff where a goat could hardly travel and where a mis-step would be almost sure death." Having made such a mis-step myself on the Kalalau trail, but still around to write about it, I can appreciate Mr. Willis's words.

UX1 Hanalei 255_12 18Jan89

A UX1 postal card illustrates the Hanalei route. This 1 card was postmarked at Hanalei on January 18, 1889 with type 255.12.

Lihue 272_614 5Apr99 81

This letter franked with the 2 Scott No. 81 was sent in the opposite direction, going from Lihue to Hanalei. It was postmarked on April 5, 1899 with Lihue type 272.614.

UPSS 3a Lihue 282_011 17Jan93 drop

Occasional 1 postal envelopes are found from Kauai going from one post office to another. This example of a 1 UPSS 3a envelope was taken from Lihue to Hanalei, postmarked January 17, 1893 with Lihue type 282.011. The 1 drop rate was permissible only for pick up in the same post office where the letter was deposited. Apparently the local Kauai postal authorities winked at the drop rate from time to time and allowed it to be used on intra-office letters.

Kealia 282_011 21Aug98 75

Postmarked at Kealia on August 21, 1898 with type 282.011 and franked with a 2 Scott No. 75, this cover illustrates a local delivery. It was picked up by the carrier coming from Lihue and bound for Hanalei, and deposited for pick up at Kealia, the site of the Makee Sugar Company.

UPSS 4a Kapaa 4Apr85

Kapaa mail for Honolulu was picked up by the carrier on the return from Hanalei and taken to Lihue for loading on board the steamer. Another possible route was to take it to the landing on the plantation railroad for loading onto a steamer if one was at the landing and ready to leave. The UPSS 4a postal envelope was postmarked at Kapaa with type 282.013 on April 4, 1885.


Kauai mail routes - Waimea 150

From Lihue, a carrier traveled westward along the southern coast of Kauai as far as Waimea. Extensions to Kahuku and then to Mana were added eventually. Whitney set the departure day from Lihue as Thursday and in 1879, Thursday was still the departure day. Schooners stopped with mail at Koloa, Eleele and Waimea but they were irregular. In 1879, twice weekly service was established, with departures "from Nawiliwili" on Wednesday and Saturday and returning from Waimea on Tuesday and Friday. By 1880, regular weekly service by steamer to Nawiliwili was more dependable. At the suggestion of the Waimea postmaster in 1880, the overland service was back to once a week, with departures from Lihue on Tuesday after the arrival of the weekly steamer Jas. Makee. Steamer service supplemented the overland carrier route with scheduled stops at Waimea and Hanalei.

In 1889, the Waimea carrier left Lihue every Wednesday, stopping at Koloa and on the return left Waimea every Saturday. In 1890, Kekaha is listed as the terminus of the route and in 1893, Mana became the terminus of the route (dotted red line). Mail was carried from Waimea to Kekaha as early as the late 1880's by a plantation train owned by Kekaha Plantation. Otherwise, the 1889 routine held until 1899.

Supplemental carriers were hired as necessary by postmasters at Koloa, Makaweli and Waimea to pick up mail arriving at Lihue between scheduled departures of the overland carrier. Sometimes the General Post Office picked up the tab for extra mail carriage and sometimes it did not. In 1899, the scheduled overland service was increased to three times a week, with the carrier leaving on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and departing Mana for the return on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In 1900, the Waimea/Mana Route remained the same.

Niihau mail (black line) was dispatched from Waimea at least as early as 1863.

UPSS 6a Kekaha 282_011 22May93

A UPSS 6a postal envelope postmarked at Kekaha on May 22, 1893 with Kekaha type 282.011 illustrates the overland route from Kekaha to Lihue. The letter was carried by plantation railroad to Waimea and then by the overland carrier to Lihue.

Kekaha 253_04 10Aug99 81

This cover franked with a 2 Scott No. 81 and postmarked at Kekaha on August 10, 1899 with type 253.04 also illustrates the Kekaha to Lihue route.

Lihue 255_12 16)ct96 per W_G_Hall

This letter originated at Lihue and was postmarked there with type 255.12 dated December 16, 1896. It was carried to Waimea on the steamer W. G. Hall and postmarked on the back with Waimea type 282.011 dated December 16, 1896. After the sinking of the Planter, the W. G. Hall served the South Kauai trade. The cover illustrates how steamer service supplemented the overland carrier service on Kauai.

UX1 Waimea 238_02 31Aug83 front
UX1 Waimea 238_02 31Aug83 back

Postmaster Handchett of Waimea sent this UX1 postal card to Henry Whitney to order more stamps. It is postmarked August 31, 1883 with Waimea type 238.02. This card traveled back to Lihue on the overland route.

UX1 Koloa 282_012 16Apr87

Koloa postmark type 282.012 dated April 15, 1887 and a manuscript Koloa Sugar Co. on a UX1 postal card. This card was carried to Lihue on the return trip of the overland carrier on the Waimea to Lihue route.

Hanapepe 281_013 _Jan99 75

This letter franked with a 2 Scott No. 75 was picked up by the overland carrier en route from Lihue to Waimea and postmarked at Hanapepe in January 18, 1899. It is postmarked the same day with Waimea type 255.01.

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