“Kahuā means the beginning, the source, the foundation and this is what our property has been built on.” (Monty Richards)
Another meaning of the word Kahuā is place of encampment. This definition makes historic sense because Kamehameha I trained his warriors for battle on the steep slopes of cinder cones near Kahuā’s main ranch house. Also, the ranch may have been named after a star, kahu‘a.
Kahuā 1 was awarded to Lot Kapuāiwa (later Kamehameha V) and Kahuā 2 was awarded to his sister, Victoria Kamāmalu. Cattle have probably been found on the lands of Kahuā for 100 years or more. About 1880 the lands were controlled by Allen and Stackpole. (UH)
“The main house on (the) Ranch is over a hundred years old and there aren’t many of these old places left around here. The original house was built around 1870 or 1880.” (Monty Richards)
On January 1, 1879, Queen Emma signed a lease with Allen and Stackpole for nearby land at Kawaihae; a new agreement was signed on July 1st, 1883.
Kahuā Ranch had its beginnings with George Frederick Holmes at about the 3000’ elevation. In April 1886, the Ranch was purchased by three English brothers, Godfrey, Ernest and Fred Burchardt, and John McGuire, “partners under the style of the Kahuā Ranch Company”. (Hawai‘i Supreme Court)
In 1891, Maguire bought out the Burchardt share of the ranch, when they returned to England. In 1895, Maguire sold a half interest in the property to Frank Woods, who later purchased the remaining interest.
Frank Woods invested heavily in a new scheme to turn Kahuā into a sugar plantation. What he needed was water, and he knew where to get it.
About ten years earlier, Kohala sugar planters built Kehena Ditch to funnel water from the mountain forests above Pololu Valley to their thirsty plantations along the coast.
Kahuā had the right to siphon off a little water, but Woods planned a major waterway, some eight feet wide and four feet deep, capable of diverting a virtual river of water his way.
Woods was within one hundred feet of tapping into the Kehena Ditch when the Kohala sugar planters, alarmed and angry, stopped him. Woods was not able to keep the ranch.
Ronald von Holt had been ranching at Hono‘uli‘uli on the Ewa Plain for Oahu Railway & Land Company. His grandfather, Hermann von Holt from Hamburg, arrived in Hawai’i in 1851 and stayed to open a successful store.
Ronald wanted to get into ranching on his own and was looking for a start. Atherton Richards was also searching for a ranching opportunity, preferably on an outer island.
When news of Frank Woods’ dilemma reached O’ahu, Ronald approached Atherton Richards about the possibility of buying Kahuā Ranch.
Ronald Von Holt partnered with brothers Atherton Richards and Herbert Montague Richards, to buy Kahuā and the lease in 1928. They named it Kahuā Ranch Limited.
Ronald Von Holt was grandson of a German immigrant to Hawai‘i. Brothers Atherton Richards and Herbert Montague Richards were grandsons of an early missionary pioneer to Hawaii.
Herbert Montague Richards, moved up to Kahuā with his wife to try his hand at ranching. In 1929, Herbert Montague ‘Monty’ Richards, Jr. was born at Kahuā, and Ronald von Holt was asked to be his godfather.
Although the Richards family returned to Honolulu in 1931 when Monty was just a youngster, he enjoyed summer visits at the big ranch house later in his childhood.
“In 1956, Atherton Richards moved to Kahuā to manage the ranch. After two years, he turned the operation over to Monty who has skillfully run the ranch ever since. With his trademark sweatshirt, baseball cap, suspenders and ever-present radio, Monty Richards has pushed Kahuā well into the next century.”
“A first time visitor to Kahuā Ranch has a difficult time knowing what to look at — the gorgeous cattle, the woolly sheep, the greenhouses filled with carnations and lettuce, or the spinning windmills generating electricity for the entire ‘Kahuā village.’”
“Soon there will be a Ranch Store (housed in a converted slaughterhouse), a pistol range and a spanking new Paniolo Porch for tour group picnics and ranch parties.”
“‘Monty is a very open, diversified thinker,’ said Pono von Holt, talking about his former boss. ‘That’s how Kahuā ended up with sheep, wind farms and tomatoes.’” (Melrose)
In the mid 1980s the IRS stated that a single business must have a single corporate structure and the families decided to split the ranch to become Kahuā Ranch Ltd and Ponoholo Ranch Ltd. Both ranches still work together in operations as well as joint ventures. (Kahuā) (Monty Richards recently passed away.)
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