“Sugar is now the great interest of the islands. Christian missions and whaling have had their day, and now people talk sugar. Hawaii thrills to the news of a cent up or a cent down in the American market.”
“There are 200,000 acres of productive soil on the islands, of which only a fifteenth is under cultivation, and of this large area 150,000 is said to be specially adapted for sugar culture.”
“Herein is a prospective Utopia, and people are always dreaming of the sugar-growing capacities of the belt of rich disintegrated lava which slopes upwards from the sea to the bases of the mountains.” (Isabella Bird, 1872)
One such operation was Kaiwiki Sugar Company that began in the 1860s when the sugar industry was young and sugar production was more an individual effort than a corporate venture.
“Then there is the sugar plantation of Kaiwiki, with its patches of bright green cane, its flumes crossing the track above our heads, bringing the cane down from the upland cane-fields to the crushing-mill, and the shifting, busy scenes of the sugar-boiling season.”
“This is a most picturesque spot, the junction of two clear bright rivers, and a few native houses and a Chinaman’s store are grouped close by under some palms, with the customary loungers on horseback, asking and receiving nuhou, or news, at the doors.”
“There we met parties of natives, all flower-wreathed, talking and singing, coming gaily down on their sure— footed horses, saluting us with the invariable ‘Aloha.’”
“Every now and then we passed native churches, with spires painted white, or a native schoolhouse, or a group of scholars all ferns and flowers. The greenness of the vegetation merits the term ‘dazzling.’ We think England green, but its colour is poor and pale as compared with that of tropical Hawaii.”
“The unique beauty of this coast is what are called gulches – narrow deep ravines or gorges, from 100 to 2,000 feet in depth, each with a series of cascades from 10 to 1,800 feet in height.”
“I dislike reducing their glories to the baldness of figures, but the depth of these clefts (originally, probably, the seams caused by fire torrents), cut and worn by the fierce streams fed by the snows of Mauna Kea, and the rains of the forest belt, cannot otherwise be expressed.”
“The cascades are most truly beautiful, gleaming white among the dark depths of foliage far away, and falling into deep limpid basins, festooned and overhung with the richest and greenest vegetation of this prolific climate … Each gulch opens on a velvet lawn close to the sea, and most of them have space for a few grass houses, with cocoanut trees, bananas, and kalo patches. “
“There are sixty-nine of these extraordinary chasms within a distance of thirty miles! … The descent into some of them is quite alarming. You go down almost standing in your stirrups, at a right angle with the horse’s head, and up, grasping his mane to prevent the saddle slipping.” (Isabella Bird, 1872)
“The plantations … enjoy special advantages, for by turning some of the innumerable mountain streams into flumes the owners can bring a great part of their cane and all their wood for fuel down to the mills without other expense than the original cost of the woodwork.”
“Mr A has 100 mules, but the greater part of their work is ploughing and hauling the kegs of sugar down to the cove, where in favourable weather they are put on board of a schooner for Honolulu. This plantation employs 185 hands, native and Chinese, and turns out 600 tons of sugar a year.”
“I have made a second tour through the factory, and am rather disgusted with sugar making. ‘All’s well that ends well,’ however, and the delicate crystalline result makes one forget the initial stages of the manufacture.”
“The cane, stripped of its leaves, passes from the flumes under the rollers of the crushing-mill, where it is subjected to a pressure of five or six tons. One hundred pounds of cane under this process yield up from sixty-five to seventy-five pounds of juice.”
“This juice passes, as a pale green cataract, into a trough, which conducts it into a vat, where it is dosed with quicklime to neutralize its acid, and is then run off into large heated metal vessels. At this stage the smell is abominable, and the turbid fluid, with a thick scum upon it, is simply disgusting.”
“After a preliminary heating and skimming it is passed off into iron pans, several in a row, and boiled and skimmed, and ladled from one to the other till it reaches the last, which is nearest to the fire, and there it boils with the greatest violence, seething and foaming, bringing all the remaining scum to the surface.”
“After the concentration has proceeded far enough, the action of the heat is suspended, and the reddish-brown, oily-looking liquid is drawn into the vacuum-pan till it is about a third full; the concentration is completed by boiling the juice in vacuo at a temperature of 150 degrees, and even lower.”
“As the boiling proceeds, the sugar boiler tests the contents of the pan by withdrawing a few drops, and holding them up to the light on his finger; and, by certain minute changes in their condition, he judges when it is time to add an additional quantity.”
“When the pan is full, the contents have thickened into the consistency of thick gruel by the formation of minute crystals, and are then allowed to descend into an heater, where they are kept warm till they can be run into ‘forms’ or tanks, where they are allowed to granulate.”
“The liquid, or molasses, which remains after the first crystallization is returned to the vacuum pan and reboiled, and this reboiling of the drainings is repeated two or three times, with a gradually decreasing result in the quality and quantity of the sugar.”
“The last process, which is used for getting rid of the treacle, is a most beautiful one. The mass of sugar and treacle is put into what are called ‘centrifugal pans,’ which are drums about three feet in diameter and two feet high, which make about 1,000 revolutions a minute.”
“These have false interiors of wire gauze, and the mass is forced violently against their sides by centrifugal action, and they let the treacle whirl through, and retain the sugar crystals, which lie in a dry heap in the centre.”
“The cane is being flumed in with great rapidity, and the factory is working till late at night. The cane from which the juice has been expressed, called “trash,” is dried and used as fuel for the furnace which supplies the steam power. The sugar is packed in kegs, and a cooper and carpenter, as well as other mechanics, are employed.” (Isabella Bird, 1872)
After several acquisitions and changes in operation by it and other sugar plantations, in 1909, the defunct O‘okala Sugar Company (it was bankrupt and the controlling interest passed to Theo. H. Davies & C) was sold to Kaiwiki and it was renamed Kaiwiki Sugar Company.
O‘okala Sugar Company owned a total of 8,679 acres, its cane land was limited to 1,405 in fee simple and 3,005 acres of leased land. Located between the Hāmākua district and the rain-drenched lands of the Hilo district, the land rose to an elevation of 1,800 feet, with steep slopes and a frontage on the sea of about 4 ½ miles and a depth of 2 ½ miles.
Kaiwiki Sugar Company’s almost fifty years of existence ended when the company and neighboring Laupahoehoe Sugar Company merged on January 3, 1957. It should not be confused with Kaiwiki Milling Company.
Kaiwiki Milling Company was formed by 150 stockholders holders (all were Portuguese homesteaders) who built a mill near their properties just outside of Hilo.