“At five-thirty o’clock in the morning of June 20, 1923, (EE Conant,) manager of a Molokai ranch, walked into the garage at his home in Kaunakakai, entered his automobile, and stepped on the starter. The engine failed to turn over.”
“As he swung open the door to step out and investigate, a shattering roar shook the village. Townspeople flocking to the scene found roof and walls torn and twisted, top and hood of the car hurled into the yard, and fragments of steel imbedded in walls fifty feet away. “
“Conant, blackened and mangled, lay dead. A crumpled bit of steel had pierced his heart. “
“The method of murder had been simple. Dynamite had been concealed under the car and attached to the steering post. One end of the wire from the electric starter had been disconnected and joined to the steering post so as to cause a spark, igniting the fuse which detonated the bomb.” (Gessler, 1937)
Some suggest the killing related to water, the day before he died, Conant had finished the 6-million gallon Kawela Intake water system, moving water to West Molokai, 20-miles away; others suggest it related to the suspension of open deer hunting on the ranch.
Further investigation of Conant’s death failed to develop anything but a mass of conflicting rumors, and the case was dropped. The matter remains unsolved.
Elmer Ellsworth Conant (son of John Munson Conant and Sophia Lyon) was born March 27, 1860 in Syracuse, New York. He married Surreney Ann Kananiopuna Neal on June 16, 1883 in Koloa, Kauai, daughter of John Daniel Neal and Haliete Pahukoaonalii Nakapaahu. They had 8-children:
Robert Wayne Kapuaʻalaonaona Conant b: 25 May 1884; John Neal Kaleaaloha Kukele Conant b: 30 Jun 1886; Ellsworth Thomas Kailipoloahilani Conant b: 12 Feb 1888; Lena Annett Kaualani Nawaiwawae Conant b: 22 Feb 1889; Elmer William Nahinu Conant b: May 1891; Nellie Kahululani Pahapuokalani Conant b: 30 Jun 1893; Fred Blakeslee Ku’uhaealoha Kukapu Conant b: 17 Nov 1895 and Raymond Kueilipoilani Conant b: 25 Jun 1901.
In 1892, Conant was noted as manager and bookkeeper of Waimea Sugar Mill Company. In 1899, the ʻEleʻele Plantation, McBryde Estate and Koloa Agricultural Company merged to create the McBryde Sugar Company.
Conant was its first Manager. He also was Postmaster (the post office was at the McBryde plantation office,) as well as tax assessor and collector.
Under a guardian dispute at Parker Ranch, for a while (about 1904-1906,) Conant was receiver of the Parker Ranch estate. “Judge Mathewman has appointed EE Conant as receiver, during the pendency of the petition for a petition of the property. Conant in the capacity of receiver, is now the manager of the Parker ranch”. (Hawaiian Star, June 27, 1904)
But he seemed to focus on sugar. Hans Peter Faye, of Kekaha, Kauai, whose properties there were leased from the government and were subject to withdrawal for homestead purposes, submitted a proposal to the Molokai Ranch Directors to lease land on Molokai for a sugar plantation. The Directors accepted his proposal.
Faye engaged the services of Conant to develop water for the plantation. It was decided by the Directors that Molokai Ranch would not only lease the land but would pay for the expense of the water development and Mr. Conant’s salary.
For the next three years, 1919 to 1921 inclusive, Conant prospected for well-water at various sites, beginning at Palaʻau and progressing eastward.
The water at Palaʻau had a salt content of ninety grains. At Kaunakakai the water held about fifty grains; at Onini thirty; at Kanoa twenty-two and at Kawela about two grains. Mr. Conant developed a total of six million gallons, containing twenty-eight grains of salt, suitable for irrigating sugar cane. (Cooke)
At about that time, James Munro, manager of the Molokai Ranch, resigned and Conant was appointed acting manager of the ranch.
The next year, Conant was killed in his garage at Kaunakakai and died in his wife’s arms. His son, Fred B Conant, was promoted to be assistant manager in charge of the cattle department. (Cooke)