Fort Elisabeth State park is the home of the remains of one of the three Russian forts built on Kaua'i. Two of the forts were on the north side of the island, Fort Elisabeth was built on the southern shore near the turn up to Waiamea Canyon.
The park appears as though the state does not actually care about the historical site or the land around it. People dump garbage and abandon cars around the area, and others use the shore as a place to drink after work. Despite its neglect, we found our half hour visit to be interesting.
The fort layout was a eight pointed star with 12 feet high walls. Inside the fort, there were rooms that are now marked with poles. The poles line up with points of interest noted on a plack in the parking lot, bu there are no paper pamphlets to carry with you as you tour the site. Because you should not walk on the walls of the fort, if you walk to the far side, you will find an entrance to the inside of the fort.
A Summary of the History Surrounding the Fort
- 1810 Kaumuali'i (Kauai ruler) was forced to pledge allegiance to King Kamehameha
- 1814 James Bennett arrives in the Bearing, a ship owned by Alexander Baranov, at Kaua'i. Kamehameha sends a letter to Baranov via Bennett, requests weapons and supplies, as well as a 90-100 ton ship to rid the island of Kamehameha's rule.
- 1815 The Bearing is shipwrecked in Waiamea. Kaumuali'i allows them to stay for the cost of half of their supplies. Baranov hears about the misfortune.
- 1815 Georg Anton Scheffer, a German doctor, was sent to gain the trust of Kamehameha and then request the return of all goods from the Bearing. He gained favor, and was given a home on Oahu. The king, however, grew concerned over Scheffer's motives when the Americans and English warned him of Russia's actual motives for colonization.
- Kaumuali'i and his wife become ill and Scheffer travels to Kaua'i to treat them. He saves both of their lives. Kaumuali'i and Scheffer are both in a position to make a move to benefit themselves. Kaumuali'i pledges allegiance to Tzar Alexander I, thus escaping the rule of Kamehameha, and allows Russia (the Russian American Company) exclusive trading rights. All cargo from the Bearing is returned. In exchange for developing industry to support trade, Kaua'i receives Russian protection, and a ship to start a navy. Secretly, Scheffer planed to take over Oahu, Maui, Lana'i and Molokai because Kaumuali'i had hereditary claims to these islands.
- 1816 Fort Elisabeth construction begins. The fort is named after the wife of the Tzar.
- 1817 Scheffer arrives in Waiamea to find Kaumuali'i surrounded by over a thousand troops. They lie and tell Scheffer that Russia and America are now at war. Together, America and Kaua'i drive the Russians from the island. He flees to Oahu where he finds that he has been tricked. he is not allowed on shore unless he surreneders. He lucks out and boards the Panther as a ship doctor and retires in Brazil under the name Count von Frankenthal.
- Hawai'ians occupy Fort Elisabeth until 1864, when the structure is dismantled.
For more information, check out this book: Hawaii's Russian Adventure : A New Look at Old History by Peter R. Mills