“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Princeville in Kauai County, Hawaii — Hawaiian Island Archipelago (Pacific Ocean)

Russian Fort Alexander

Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 1) image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
1. Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 1)
Inscription.  You are now standing at what was – for a few months in 1816 and 1817 – the site of a Russian fort named for the Emperor Alexander. How a fort came to be built here, what became of it, and how this part of Kaua'i later got the name Princeville are recounted in the four panels of this display. The story begins below…

Panel 1
When reports of the 1778 – 1779 voyages among the Hawaiian Islands of the English Captain James cook reached the Russian Empire, they aroused scientific and commercial ambitions that would lead to voyages to the islands by Russians and their emissaries during the first decades of the 19th century.

For some, the islands presented an opportunity to expand knowledge of the natural and human worlds. This impulse for scientific study produced detailed accounts by Russian navigators and scientist of life in the islands, maps, collections of artifacts, artwork capturing the Hawaiian landscape and portraits of both illustrious and anonymous Hawaiians.

For other Russians, however, the islands represented a strategic resource for a key player in the country's economy: the
Photo at center of panel 1 image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
2. Photo at center of panel 1
Russian – American Company. During the second half of the 18th century Russian traders had established in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska a prosperous commerce in furs and skins. This lead to the creation of the Russian – American Company which, by imperial charter, held a monopoly on the trade. The Hawaiian Islands could provide provisions for the company's settlements in the North Pacific and be made into a stop-over for the company's ships on their way to and from the fur markets of China.

One agent of the Russian – American Company was stirred by grandiose schemes for these islands. His vision of a powerful Russian outpost in Hawaii would result in the building of three fortresses on Kaua'i – including one at this site overlooking Hanalei Bay…

Panel 2
During a gale in the early morning hours of January 31, 1815, the Behring – a 210-ton three-master owned by the Russian – American Company –was beached at Waimea Bay on the south coast of Kaua'i. The Behring was loaded with seal skins destined for the company's headquarters at Sitka, the capital of Russian America. Kaumualii, the king of Kaua'i, took possession of the vessel and its cargo, maintaining that anything brought to land upon Kaua'i became the king's property.

Alexander Andreievich Baranov, the Russian – American Company's
Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 2) image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
3. Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 2)
manager at Sitka, chose Georg Anton Schaffer, a German adventurer, to lead a mission to recover the cargo.

Schaffer arrived on the island of Hawaii in November of 1815, but it was not until May, 1816 that he sailed for Kaua'i aboard the company's 300-ton vessel, the Otkrytie, supported by an armed crew. Arms, however, were not needed; Schaffer found Kaumualii willing to return the Behring's cargo and eager for an alliance with the Russian Empire.

Over the next months a busy Schaffer established the Russian presence on Kaua'i, intending to make the island a launching point for control of the entire Hawaiian chain. In September of 1816, Schaffer began construction at Waimea Bay of a lava–rock walled fort to be named after the Empress Elizabeth. He then gave orders for the creation of two earthenwork forts at Hanalei: one named after the general Barclay de Tolly, the other – placed on this plateau – after the Emperor Alexander.

At the same time, Kaumualii deeded Hanalei province to Schaffer who renamed it Schafferthal. But Schaffer's schemes would soon unravel and – within a few months – he would be forced off Kaua'i, from the very province to which he had given his name…

Text at the top of panel 2:
The (Hawaiians) Islands must be made a Russian West India and likewise a second Gibraltar, Russia
Photo at the center of panel 2 image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
4. Photo at the center of panel 2
must have these islands at any cost!!
-Georg Anton Schaffer (January 1, 1817)

Panel 3
By the spring of 1817 Kaumualii had lost confidence in Schaffer. Hearing a false report that Russian and the United States were at war, Kaumualii became anxious that he had allied himself with the weaker of the two powers in the Pacific. On the morning of May 8, 1817 Kaumualii, accompanied by a "thousand men" (according to Schaffer) at Waimea, ordered Schaffer and his compatriots off the island immediately.

They fled to Hanalei aboard two company ships. Here Schaffer, proclaiming himself chief of the valley, intended to make a stand at Fort Alexander. But Schaffer and the others soon realized their predicament was hopeless. On June 6, 1817 they sailed away from Hanalei Bay. Schaffer never returned.

What remains of Schaffer's dreams today? At Waimea Bay, the remnants of Fort Elizabeth are preserved within a State of Hawaii historical park. All traces of Fort Barclay, however, have been lost.

As for Fort Alexander, in 1973 archaeologist from the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum mapped and excavated the remnants of the fort on this plateau above Hanalei Bay. The walls were found to have been constructed entirely of clay and topsoil. The foundations for only two small structures were discovered within the fort. If you look out across the
Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 3) image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
5. Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 3)
lawn, you may discern a long low mound following the cliff edge: this marks the perimeter of Fort Alexander. The stone pilings you see standing upon the lawn are the two foundations remnants.

Schaffer's departure from Hanalei Bay does not end the story of grand visions fastened upon this lush corner of Kaua'i. Forty years later, another ambitious individual would envisage here a vast estate which he would name the Barony de Princeville…

Text at the top of panel 3:
I took possession of the island of Kauai in the name of His Majesty, the Great Emperor of Russia Alexander Pavlovich, ordered the Russian flag raised on Fort Alexander, fired three canon shots, and declared myself chief of Hanalei Valley.
-Georg Anton Schaffer (June 1817)

Panel 4
Robert Crichton Wyllie, a Scotsman who had made his fortune as a merchant in South America, arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1844. Though Wyllie had not intended to settle in the islands, in 1845 he accepted an appointment by King Kamehameha III as minister of foreign affairs and served in that office until his death twenty years later. As foreign minister, Wyllie's great ambition was the recognition of the Hawaiian kingdom as a sovereign nation by the world's powers.

But a more personal aspiration also captivated the foreign minister: to establish for himself a
Photo at the center of panel 3 image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
6. Photo at the center of panel 3
manor here at Hanalei quite as magnificent as any he had known in Scotland. So in 1853 he began acquiring the tracts of land that within a few years would comprise a cast estate and sugar plantation.

Wyllie envisioned a brilliant future for the estate. He intended to name as heir to his lands the young "Prince of Hawaii (Ka Haku o Hawaii) Albert Edward Kauikeaouli Leiopapa a Kamehameha, who had been born in 1858, the son of King Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. It was after a visit to Hanalei in 1860 by the royal family that Wyllie named the estate "Princeville". He resolved to petition the king to proclaim the estate the "Barony de Princeville" – making it a fitting legacy for the prince – but his plans were shattered in 1862 when Albert died at the age of four.

Wyllie himself died three years later. The estate and plantation were discovered to be deeply in debt and in 1867 Wyllie's lands were auctioned off. But the name Princeville has endured – perpetuating the memory of a beloved Hawaiian prince.

Text at the top of panel 4
Had it pleased God to spare the young Prince Albert of Hawaii, he would have been, under my will, the "Baron de Princeville" – I giving the land for the barony, and his royal father the title.
-Robert Crichton Wyllie (April 3, 1865)

Erected by
Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 4) image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
7. Russian Fort Alexander Marker (panel 4)
This display was prepared by Cultural Surveys Hawaii. Archival materials were provided by the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, the Hawai'i State Archives and the Kaua'i Museum.
Location. 22° 13.275′ N, 159° 29.818′ W. Marker is in Princeville, Hawaii, in Kauai County. Marker can be reached from Ka Haka Road 2.2 miles north of Hawaii Route 56. The markers are under a gazebo to the left of the parking lot for the St. Regis Princeville Resort. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Princeville HI 96722, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 16 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Hanalei Schoolhouse (approx. 1.3 miles away); Waioli Mission Hall (approx. 1.4 miles away); Daniel K. Inouye (approx. 6.1 miles away); Maunakapu and Wailua River (approx. 15 miles away); Wai'ale'ale (approx. 15 miles away); Poli'auh Heiau (approx. 15.1 miles away); Roxy Theater (approx. 15.2 miles away); The Kapaa Japanese Stone Lantern (Ishidoro) (approx. 15.2 miles away).
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker. To better understand the relationship, study each marker in the order shown.
Categories. ExplorationForts, CastlesSettlements & Settlers
Photo at the center of panel 4 image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
8. Photo at the center of panel 4
Russian Fort Alexander Markers image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
9. Russian Fort Alexander Markers
Site of Russian Fort Alexander image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
10. Site of Russian Fort Alexander
Site of Russian Fort Alexander image. Click for full size.
By Bill Kirchner, May 26, 2013
11. Site of Russian Fort Alexander
Hanaeli Bay is in the background.

More. Search the internet for Russian Fort Alexander.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on June 9, 2013, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona. This page has been viewed 561 times since then and 31 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. submitted on June 9, 2013, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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