King Kamehameha I died in 1819, barely a decade after he and John Parker had met. The kingdom had already seen dramatic change: a population devastated by foreign disease, forests depleted, traditional farming and trade rapidly replaced with commercialism, and a major shift away from Polynesian values to those of Americans and Europeans.
The next King, Kamehameha’s young son, essentially ended the “old ways” by having a public meal with his mother and female advisors, which rendered the kapu against men and women eating together meaningless. One year later, Christian missionaries sailed in and helped fill the spiritual void for many. The Hawai‘i John Parker first saw in 1809 was a very different place.
After the untimely death of young Kamehameha II, his brother ruled the Kingdom for 29 years as Kamehameha III, the longest reign of any Hawaiian monarch. During this period he enacted a new constitution that eventually led to a land distribution act called the “Great Mahele” which allowed for private land ownership for the first time.
John Parker purchased 640 acres in 1850, another 1,000 acres the next year, and leased land in the Waikoloa region from Kamehameha III. This king was the person responsible for bringing paniolo to Hawai‘i, inviting Spanish-Mexican vaquero (cowboys) from California to help train Hawaiians to rope and handle cattle. Because they spoke Spanish (Español), they were called “paniolo” and the island embraced their rich tradition of music, colorful culture, family values, and hard work, all of which lives on to this day at Parker Ranch.John Parker’s grandson Samuel “Kamuela” Parker, for whom the airport is named, was a classmate of David Kalākaua, who would become Hawaii’s first elected King in 1874 (the “Merrie Monarch”). Samuel himself became involved in politics during the chaotic era near the end of the century. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs for Queen Lili‘uokalani on the day she was deposed in 1893, and he helped negotiate a surrender to avoid bloodshed. Samuel’s daughters, Helen and Eva Parker, were friends of Princess Ka‘iulani, and, sadly, riding horseback in a rainstorm on Parker Ranch led to her illness and untimely death a few months later.