The first mission schools were not established as industrial or manual training institutions, but in the 1830s the American Protestant Missionaries perceived the importance of agriculture and industry in raising the living standard of the nation.
In their general meeting held at Lahaina in 1833 they proposed a manual labor system, as a means both of desirable improvement and self-support, to be instituted at the high school. The secular agent was instructed to engage an artisan to oversee the work, take charge of the stock, tools, etc.
Between 1830 and 1850, the demands of the ali‘i on the maka‘āinana (common people) were severe. The missionary, John Emerson, commenting on the burdensome taxes on the people, wrote that the ruling chiefs “get hungry often and send a vessel to Waialua for food quite as often as it is welcomed by the people”. (Cultural Surveys)
The chiefs also demanded food be brought to them: “Last Sat some 2 or 300 men went from this place to H[onolulu] to carry food for the chiefs and this [is] often done … Each man carried enough food to maintain 4 persons one week … 70 miles travel to get it to H[onolulu]”. (Cultural Surveys)
John Emerson began growing sugarcane on his land in Waialua as early as 1836. He “made his own molasses, grinding a few bundles of cane in a little wooden mill turned by oxen, and boiling down the juice in an old whaler’s trypot”. (Sereno Bishop)
As we’ll see, here, this early sugarcane plantation later passed through several hands, including the Levi and Warren Chamberlain Sugar Company, established 1865, Halstead & Gordon, and the Halstead Brothers. (Cultural Surveys) This eventually became Waialua Sugar.
In a general letter to the Board, dated June 8, 1839, the members of the Sandwich Islands Mission observed that “at many stations the state of things is becoming such, that the missionary, by directing the labor of natives …”
“… and investing some fifty or a hundred dollars in a sugar-mill, or in some other way, might secure a portion and often the whole of his support, and would thus be teaching the people profitable industry.” (Tate)
Two years later the mission recommended that a farmer be procured to teach agriculture and to conduct the secular concerns of the school and that the scholars be required to cultivate the land or earn their own food by their personal industry.
One area for such a school was Waialua. “The whole district of Waialua is spread out before the eye with its cluster of settlements, straggling houses, scattering trees, cultivated plats & growing in broad perspectives the wide extending ocean tossing its restless waves and throwing in its white foaming billows fringing the shores all along the whole extent of the district.” (Levi Chamberlain, Cultural Surveys)
A school designed to be self-supporting and agricultural was organized at Waialua, on Oahu, opened August 28, 1837, with one hundred children and six teachers.
Two hours each working day were devoted to instruction in natural history, geography and arithmetic, while four hours were set aside for supervised labor in the field. By 1842 the institution was entirely self-sufficient. Two years later, the death of Mr Locke caused the manual labor school to be discontinued. (Tate)
The Hawaiian leadership saw opportunities. King Kamehameha III sought to expand sugar cultivation and production, as well as expand other agricultural ventures to support commercial agriculture in the Islands. In a speech to the Legislature in 1847, the King notes:
“I recommend to your most serious consideration, to devise means to promote the agriculture of the islands, and profitable industry among all classes of their inhabitants. It is my wish that my subjects should possess lands upon a secure title; enabling them to live in abundance and comfort, and to bring up their children free from the vices that prevail in the seaports.”
“What my native subjects are greatly in want of, to become farmers, is capital with which to buy cattle, fence in the land and cultivate it properly. “
“I recommend you to consider the best means of inducing foreigners to furnish capital for carrying on agricultural operations, that thus the exports of the country may be increased …” (King Kamehameha III Speech to the Legislature, April 28, 1847; Archives)
Later, Warren & Levi Jr, Chamberlain began a Waialua sugar mill operation in 1864. They supplied sugar for the Northern States during the Civil War. (The South had cut off all sugar production in the states to the North forcing them to import it from the islands.)
The prosperity ended with the end of the Civil War and the Chamberlains surrendered the mill to the bank in 1870. Robert Halstead bought the Chamberlain plantation in 1874 for a reported $25,000 under the partnership of Halstead & Gordon.
Robert Halstead was a pioneer sugar planter of Hawaii and was one of the first men with the vision to realize the future importance of cane culture in the financial development of the islands.
Halstead was born in Todmorden, England, on August 10, 1836. Halstead married Sarah Ellen Stansfield (born in May 1840 at Todmorden, England) on January 2, 1858 in Lancashire England.
Mr. Halstead brought his family to Hawaii in 1865, and for many years was a factor in the building of an industrial era responsible for the prosperous and highly developed Hawaii.
Going first to Lahaina, Maui, Mr. Halstead spent seven years there as plantation manager for Campbell and Turton, a partnership formed by James Campbell, one of the prominent figures in the early history of the sugar industry.
Severing his connections with business interests in Hawaii early in 1873, Mr. Halstead moved to the Pacific Coast, but returned in 1874 to engage in a plantation venture at Waialua, forming the partnership of Halstead & Gordon. (Nellist)
Upon the death of his associate, Mr. Halstead took over the entire business in 1888 and it was continued as Halstead & Sons, Edgar (born on March 1, 1862 at Manchester, Lancashire, England) and Frank (born on April 13, 1864 at Manchester, Lancashire, England) joining their father. Robert was the proprietor and manager; Edgar was superintendent and Frank was sugar house manager. (Polk 1890)
Halstead retired from the firm, and it was carried on by his sons under the name of Halstead Brothers. Later, Benjamin Franklin (Frank) Dillingham believed that the Halstead Brothers’ land could be turned into a profitable sugar plantation, especially since there was now a rail line to Honolulu.
The Waialua Agricultural Company was established in 1898 by JB Atherton, ED Tenney, BF Dillingham, WA Bowen, H Waterhouse and MR Robinson and was incorporated by the company Castle & Cooke. They bought the Halstead Brothers’ land and mill, and began to buy or lease the adjacent lands. (Cultural Surveys)
“Waialua is reached either by railroad, a distance from Honolulu of 58 miles, or wagon road, 28 miles. The plantation lands extend along the seacoast 15 miles and 10 miles back toward the mountains. The plantation has a good railway system.”
“There are nearly 600 cane cars and five locomotives: with 30 miles of permanent track and eight of portable track. One stretch of road is nine miles long.”
“The brick smokestack of the old original mill still stands as a relic of the past. The present day plant is a 12-roller mill of late type. … The mill has a capacity of 150 tons of sugar per day. The mill has been so constructed that its capacity can be doubled without adding to the building itself.” (Louisiana Planter, May 7, 1910)
Waialua Sugar reported in early 1987 that it would shut down over a two year period. An effort to buy the plantation through an employee stock ownership plan fell through in July 1987.
However, on September 24, 1987 Castle & Cooke announced that Waialua would be operating for at least two more years unless world sugar prices fell drastically. (LRB) (The Waialua mill stayed in operation up until 1996.)