William H. Rickard

Off Māmane Street in Honokaa is Rickard Place, what is now the Salvation Army in town was the old Rickard home and later a hotel, and at Honokaʻa High School there is the Rickard Auditorium. So who was Rickard and why was he so important to the development of Honokaa?

Originally from from Cornwall, England, William H. Rickard arrived in Honolulu in 1866 with his brother, Richard, and his wife, Nora. From there they soon made their way to the Big Island where at the time their uncle George Hardy was a blacksmith in Waimea. William opened a general merchandise store in Waimea and he contracted with the government to build several ship landings, including the old landing at Kukuihaele.

Rickard saw a future in the sugar industry after working as a bookkeeper for Dwight Baldwin at Kohala Sugar Company. So in 1873 he moved his family to Honokaʻa to start his own sugar plantation along with other independent growers. Those plantations later consolidated to form Honokaʻa Sugar Company and William became the manager of the company from 1880 to 1892. He also dabbled in local politics, and was elected as the representative for Hāmākua in the 1890 House of Representatives. He owned race horses and his prize horse “Duke Spencer” won the prestigious Oceanic Cup at Kapiolani Park in 1893. Rickard and his partner, Joseph Marsden, also invented a cane processing machine designed to evaporate cane juices.

The Rickards were friends of the Hawaiian alii and we know that they were invited to King Kalākaua’s coronation in 1883 and on two occasions the king’s wife, Kapiolani, visited the Rickards in Honokaa. The family spoke fluent Hawaiian and in her later years Nora Rickard would show off her gowns and talk about the social life of the royal court in Honolulu.

A staunch royalist, William Rickard was very disturbed by the 1893 overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani. He and a small group of co-conspirators plotted to overthrow the provisional government and put the queen back in power. For his part in the 1895 counter-revolution, Rickard and the other ring leaders were sentenced to be hanged and the Queen was put under house arrest at Iolani Palace. Some months later they pardoned the group and Rickard returned to Honokaa.

Back in Honokaa, Rickard started a coffee plantation in an area above town called Kalehua. Unfortunately, while in prison Rickard had contracted tuberculosis, and he passed away three years after his release. His wife, Nora, was left with the youngest of their sixteen children to care for and so turned the family home into a hotel. Some old timers remember the Rickards in Honokaa, particularly William and Nora’s son, "Uncle Bill" Rickard, who became the town's sheriff in 1905. Uncle Bill was a flamboyant character who is best known for leading the Fourth of July Parade down Māmane Street on horseback, something he did for fourty years.