“Among the gigantic enterprises which had their birth at the consummation of the Treaty of Reciprocity between this Kingdom and the United States of America …”
“… notible mention should be made of a Company which was incorporated in 1877 under the name of the Hawaiian Agricultural Company (limited.) This Company chose for its locality or base of a site, at Pahala, situated on the southeast side of the Island of Hawaii.” (BF Dillingham; Daily Honolulu Press, November 26, 1885)
“Peter C. Jones, Charles R. Bishop, J.D. Brewer, H.A.P. Carter and several others chose to take advantage of the economic situation and incorporate on December 22, 1876 under the name Hawaiian Agricultural Company.” (HSPA)
“In due time the mill and other necessary buildings were erected, five miles from Punaluu Landing, at an elevation 800 (feet above the sea level, commanding a wide range of ocean, and an extensive view of the surrounding country.”
“Twenty-five miles along the shore by fifteen miles inland, reaching into the mountains, form the boundaries of the magnificent extent of territory taken up by this Company.”
“The first acre of virgin soil on this plantation was broken in 1877. A mill second in size to only one ever built in the history of the world, complete with building frame, and cover all of iron, was landed at Punaluu, in 1878.”
“Hundreds of acres of land had been plowed and planted with cane at an aggregate cost of an amount sufficient to yield more than a Princely income, when the outlook from long continued drought, seemed so strongly to betoken utter failure, that it was proposed by those who had been most sanguine among the promoters of the enterprise, to abandon the undertaking.”
“Without even erecting the ponderous mill which was now lying in a heap at the landing. A delegation of experts appointed by the Company at Honolulu took passage to the scene of distress, and it is said, their report favored the retrograde movement …”
“… and the delegation was of opinion that the prospective capacity of the whole plantation would not exceed 900 tons of sugar per annum. Fortunately for all interested parties, better counsels prevailed: forward! was the order cultivature progressed; rains came at last; cane fields almost white, put on their mantle of thrifty green, and hope revived.”
“In 1880, the ponderous mill, which had already been condemned under the euphonious name of ‘White Elephant,’ was removed from its quiet resting place and put in active service.”
“The area of cane under cultivation has steadily increased from 1,200 acres in 1880 until now there is a belt of cane fields stretching over a distance of seven miles, lying in a north easterly and south-westerly direction.”
“The lower edge of this belt barely reaches the elevation of the mill, rising thence toward the mountain top to a height of 1800 to 2000 feet. The number of acres under cultivation by the Company is 2000; and 600 acres more are cultivated by private planters”.
“The highest numbers of tons of sugar made, bagged, weighed, and shipped during any one day this 26½ tons. The best weeks work during the year shows an average of 46 clarifiers per day, or 138 tons of sugar for the week.”
“This much abused ‘White Elephant’ I am informed upon indisputable authority, has no superior in this kingdom, if any where else.”
“Its mechanism seems perfect as indeed do all its appointments. Its three little rollers, each of eleven tons weight, revolve with majestic quiet and dignity, performing their work of crushing cane in a manner which force upon one the thought suggested in the adage ‘Tho’ the Mills of the Gods grind slowly yet they grind exceedingly small.’” (BF Dillingham; Daily Honolulu Press, November 26, 1885)
“The original mill was brought from London in 1879 and was the largest in the islands at that time. But by 1914, it was necessary to increase it from a 9 roller mill to a 15 roller mill with a capacity of 45 tons of cane per hour. A new flume system and cane weighing scheme were also installed.”
“The flumes were arranged so that each contractor’s cane could be weighed separately, instead of weighing every tenth bundle in the field and averaging the weight. The cane was flumed into cars and weighed on track scales.”
“The Pahala mill also purchased cane from Wood Valley homesteaders, about 20 Hawaiians and Portuguese, who cultivated about 600 acres of land. This group of homesteaders was one of the most successful in the Territory.” (HSPA)
“While we stand watching the packing process, which is manipulated with mechanical precision and dispatch; a six-mule team is driven to the door, and in just four minutes from the time of arrival, the team is started to the tramway with a load of two and one half tons of sugar.”
“The narrow gauge railroad or tramway referred to was graded and built under the supervision of the present manager. Commencing at the wharf at Punaluu this tramway curves among the ledges of pahoehoe, rising on a grade of four feet in every hundred.”
“By the most rigid economy, the meager water supply afforded in very dry weather, by springs, found in the mountains at a distance of five to six miles, a sufficient amount is stored each night to ‘flume’ the required cane during the following day.”
“In making a tour through the cane fields, one is impressed with the thourough cultivation which was noticeable on every acre of ground. With loose earth and perfect freedom from weeds or grass, the full strength of the soil is given to nourish and foster the growth of the cane.”
“The whole working force on this plantation consists of a manager seven Lunas and 325 mill and field hands.”
“The portion of this great property embracing the Sugar Plantation is a small part of the whole; the bulk of the lands being suitable only for a cattle ranch.”
“Large herds of cattle (the aggregate number of which is said to be six thousand), roam at will over the vast expanse of territory. The cattle ranch is under the management of Mr. Julian Monsarrat who resides at Kapapala at the residence of the late WH Reed, former owner of that property. Under the management of this gentleman an effort is being made to improve the breed of both cattle and horses.”
“The plantation is a financial success, and every department is conducted with a quiet orderly mechanical precission, which is a comfort to both governor and governed.” (BF Dillingham; Daily Honolulu Press, November 26, 1885)
“In 1972, C. Brewer & Co. decided to consolidate the Hawaiian Agricultural Company with Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Company. The new entity was named Kau Sugar Company.” (HSPA) In 1999, Hawai‘i Island’s sugar era ended with the closure of Kau Sugar Mill.
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John Verbiske says
Very interesting article. I worked for Ka’u Sugar Company from March 1988 until the plantation was closed ing March 1997. I was a factory mechanic/welder. This was the dirtiest job I ever had. Doing repairs consisted of working (often) in knee deep mud with the very unpleasant stench of decaying cane pieces was very disgusting, to say the least! But all that aside, Ka’u Sugar was a pretty good place to work. Over the years I saw production go from 15 tons per acre down to 5 tons per acre. The hand writing on the wall was clear.
Gail Takaki says
Thank you Peter Young for your article. My grandfather work was to construct the wooden water flumes in the Kapapala area. We are hoping to discover more about his role, responsibilities and achievements with Kau Agricultural Co.
Hi Peter. Thanks for writing the article. My great grandparents with their five children lived here after being transported from Malaga, Spain, in March 10,1907 arrived Honolulu on April 26th. Several days later were shipped to Hilo and then by “ferry” down to Punalulu and the Pahala plantation. They worked there until approximately May, 1909 and then traveled to Honolulu and the San Francisco. The family settled initially in Vacaville Ca and then Winters, eventually buying a small apricot ranch in Vacaville.
As I am sure you are aware that the discrimination and racism of the day drove away. Most the the 8k Spanish who arrived between 1907 and 1913 left by 1920.
If you have access to any records of the day (1907-09) I would enjoy knowing the source. I have done research at the UH Manoa library and reviewed the HSPA. .
I have been writing a family genealogy and this is my first visit to Punalulu and the Pahala plantation area. We will be here until April 14th so if you have any information that would enable us to visit the site let me know. Again, thanks for writing the article. Gene