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 Honokaʻa?

William H. Rickard arrived in Honolulu with his brother Richard and his wife Nora from Cornwall, England in 1866. They soon made their way to the Big Island where they met up with their uncle George Hardy who at the time 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.

Rickard dappled in 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 Kapiʻolani 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 aliʻi and we know that they were invited to King Kalākaua’s coronation in 1883 and on two occasions the king’s wife, Kapiʻolani, visited the Rickards in Honokaʻa. 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 Liliʻuokalani. 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 Honokaʻa.

Back in Honokaʻa, Rickard started a coffee plantation in an area above town called Kalehua. Unfortunately, while in prison Rickard contracted tuberculosis and three years after his release he died. 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 Honokaʻa, particularly William and Nora’s son, "Uncle Bill" Rickard, who became the town's own sheriff in 1905. Uncle Bill was a flamboyant character who is best remembered for leading the Fourth of July Parade down Māmane Street on horseback, something he did for fourty years.