Sugarcane was introduced to Koʻolaupoko in 1865, when the Kingdom’s minister of finance and foreign affairs, Charles Coffin Harris, partnered with Queen Kalama to begin an operation known as the Kāneʻohe Sugar Company. (History of Koʻolaupoko)
By 1865, four plantations were in production, at Kualoa, Kaʻalaea, Waiheʻe and Kāneʻohe, and in the early 1880s, four more at Heʻeia, Kāneʻohe, Kahaluʻu and Ahuimanu, with a total of over 1,000-acres in cultivation in 1880. (Coles)
After almost four decades of a thriving sugar industry in Koʻolaupoko, the tide eventually turned bad and saw the closures of all five sugar plantations by 1903. The closures were due to poor soil, uneven lands and the start-up of sugar plantations in ʻEwa, which were seeing much higher yields.
As sugar was on its way out in Koʻolaupoko, rice crops began to emerge as the next thriving industry. (History of Koʻolaupoko) In 1880 the first Chinese rice company started in the nearby Waiheʻe area. Abandoned systems of loʻi kalo were modified into rice paddies. The Kāneʻohe Rice Mill was built around 1892-1893 in nearby Waikalua.
By 1880, there were five sugar plantations in Kāneʻohe and a plantation and mill in Heʻeia. In the 1890s, the Heʻeia mill had its own railroad. By 1903 the growing of rice took over the production of sugar which had declined in Koʻolaupoko. Rice was grown in the Heʻeia wetland until the early 1920s. (Camvel)
Pineapples are typically grown in large fairly flat tracts of well-drained inter-mountain land that is composed of what is affectionately termed Hawaiian red dirt (the red color is due to the presence of the oxides of Fe). (Rubin, SOEST)
From 1901 to 1925 lands previously unused for agriculture were being covered up with pineapple fields, especially the hillsides and upslopes. It was estimated that approximately 2500 acres of land throughout the Ko‘olaupoko region was converted to pineapple cultivation. (History of Koʻolaupoko)
The plantation was established in the windward side of O‘ahu around 1900 by the Hawaiian Development Company and became known as Koolau Fruit Company.
JB Castle and Walter MacFarlane were the key promoters of this early pineapple venture. In 1909, the Hawaiian Cannery Co began operating a small cannery at Kahalu‘u. And by 1910, Castle was in possession of a thousand acres in Ahuimanu which were suitable for pineapple.
The following year, the Hawaiian Pineapple Co, which James D Dole had founded in 1901, bought out Castle’s Koolau Fruit Co., Ltd and sold it five years later to Libby, McNeil & Libby.
Libby, McNeil & Libby, with control of the Kahalu‘u land, built a large-scale cannery on the site; the cannery had an annual capacity of 250,000-cans. (Thompson, Kahaluu)
Ten years later, the cannery represented a quarter of a million-dollar investment with a maximum of 750 regular employees, plus an additional 125 at the height of the harvesting season.
The company used a narrow-gauge railway to move the canned fruit to a wharf at the Waikāne Landing, from there sampans took the product to Honolulu for transshipment to other ports. (Conde, Light Railways)
The pineapple cannery along with numerous old-style plantation houses popped up and became known as “Libbyville” (named after its owners, Libby, McNeill, and Libby). (St John’s by the Sea now occupies the site.)
At its peak, 2,500 acres were under pineapple cultivation on Windward O‘ahu, and of this a large percentage was in the Kāne‘ohe Bay region.
The change in landscape to the Windward side by 1914 is reflected in the following sentences: “At last we reached the foot of the Pali … Joe and I looked over the surrounding hills, but looked in vain for the great areas of guava through which but a few months ago we had fought and cut our way.”
“As far as the eye could reach pineapple plantations had taken the place of the forest of wild guava.” (Cultural Surveys) Libby’s pineapple covered the southern portion of Kāneʻohe, what is now the Pali Golf Course, Hawaiian Memorial Park and the surrounding area.
While Libby managed the operation of large tracts of land, it was noted that, “… much of the pineapple production was carried out by individual growers on small areas of five to 10 acres.”
“A man, a mule, a huli plow and a hoe provided most of the power and the equipment for these smaller operations. This was the typical pineapple production pattern in the area of Waikāne, Waiāhole, Kahaluʻu and ‘Ahuimanu.”
By 1923, it was evident that pineapple cultivation on the Windward area could not keep up with that in other O‘ahu areas. Crops on the Windward side were not yielding tonnages as compared with the Leeward side, fields were smaller, with wilt more prevalent, and growing costs considerably higher. Plantings were therefore reduced.
By this time, the condition of the Pali Road had been improved, and trucks with solid tires were available, so that the struggling pineapple operation found it more economical to haul the fresh pineapple to a central Libby Cannery in Honolulu.
The relatively inefficient, high production costs of operating many small, scattered fields resulted in a decision to discontinue pineapple growing on the Windward side.
The result was the closure of the cannery in 1923. After the closure of the cannery, the pineapple fields were left to grow over and was then converted to grazing pasture land for cattle. (History of Koʻolaupoko)