Patrick Kirch has convincingly argued that Polynesians may not have arrived to the Hawaiian Islands until at least AD 1000, but expanded rapidly thereafter. The initial settlement in Hawai‘i is believed to have occurred from the southern Marquesas Islands. (Rechtman)
The earliest date range for permanent settlement in Kohala (AD 1300) was obtained from Koai‘e, a coastal settlement where subsistence primarily derived from marine resources. According to Tomonari-Tuggle, these resources were probably supplemented by small-scale agriculture. (Rechtman)
“(O)ne of the most obvious settlement forms along the leeward coast [of Kohala] is the houselot, a low-walled rectangular compound with an interior house platform” which is likely a historic habitation pattern established in the early nineteenth century.” (Tomonari-Tuggle; Rechtman)
There was also “the massive field system [the Kohala field system] which sweeps across the leeward slopes of Kohala [and] reaches the coast [at the northern end]”. The Kohala field system once stretched from the shore to the inland edge of the mountain forest.
The field system was characterized by low walls oriented cross-slope to block the prevailing winds with mauka/makai trails demarcating the narrow strips of field areas. (Tomonari-Tuggle; Rechtman)
Traditional land use patterns saw a rapid shift after the Māhele in 1848. At this time, land ownership was defined by grants and awards by the king (Kamehameha III) to the chiefs and other retainers.
By 1850, laws were enacted under which commoners could also own land (kuleana) if they could prove that they actually occupied those lands. The Māhele paved the way for land to be sold to foreigners. (Rechtman)
On July 18, 1873, Princess Ruth, granted to Henry Christiansen several parcels of land including in North Kohala. (Kohala Corp v State) He started a sheep ranch, apparently calling it Puakea Ranch.
Christiansen also planted some sugar cane, the milling of which was apparently not too successful with the crude equipment of that time. (Henke)
Dr. James Wight acquired the Puakea Ranch lands about 1875 and continued with the sheep ranch (having a herd of about 7,000 head of the Merino breed).
In about 1886, Wight imported two Maltese jacks at a cost of $1,400 and he was probably one of the first men to breed mules in Hawaii.
Sheep herding suffered due to various factors and cattle were substituted for the sheep in the 1880s; there were few or no sheep left after 1890.
Two Shorthorn bulls were imported from California and bred to the native cattle and Shorthorn blood predominated on Puakea Ranch till 1901, although some Hereford blood was introduced as early as 1889.
During the next twenty years Hereford blood gradually replaced the Shorthorns. At the time, beef had little value and many cattle were sold as work oxen for the cane fields. Wight died in 1905, and the ranch was operated by trustees of his estate. (Henke)
Nearby was Pu‘uhue, a cattle ranch was started about 1880; James Woods then being the owner and manager. Pu‘uhue had 4,000-5,000 cattle at that time, which roamed over much of the Puakea section on a rental arrangement.
At about 1906, Puakea and Pu‘uhue merged into what was called Puakea Ranch. These combined ranches ran from the sea to an elevation of about 4,000 feet and had a total area of about 25,000 acres and about 5,000 Herefords, 350 light horses and 10 Berkshire sows. Good Hereford bulls as well as females were imported from time to time.
Cattle were marketed from two years of age to about five (about 450 to 650 pounds dressed weight). About 500 to 600 were shipped to Honolulu annually (loaded at Kawaihae), with an additional 180 slaughtered on the ranch for consumption in the Kohala district.
In about the 1940s Parker Ranch purchased Puakea Ranch (and later sold portions that were subsequently developed into the Puakea Ranch subdivision, along the Kohala Coast).
OK, that’s the ‘ranch’ side of ‘Puakea’; Puakea Planting Company ran the sugar planting and production.
“There was filed for record at the Registrar’s office today a document transferring one-half interest in the Puakea Planting Co. situated in the Kohala District, owned by Mrs Eliza V Mackenzie, to Howard R. Bryant, for the sum of $16,025.”
“Mrs Mackenzie and Howard R. Dry–Bryant formed the Puakea Planting Company about five years ago, and started the growing of cane on the lands owned by Dr. James Wight. … The cane grown on this property is ground at the Hawi Mill.”
“There are some five or six thousand acres of land suitable for cane cultivation and it is the intention of the Puakea Planting Co to enlarge as soon as the water reaches the land.”
“The Kohala planters and the Kohala Ditch Company have been dickering for the past row moths regarding terms of which water is to be delivered, but a settlement of all differences has now practically been reached.” (Evening Bulletin, September 10, 1904)
Later, “Articles of incorporation were filed by the Puakea Plantation Co., Ltd., of Kohala, Hawaii. The incorporators with the offices held are as follows: John Hind, president; W. S. May, vice president; H. R. Bryant, treasurer; A. Mason, secretary, and Robert Hall, director. “
“The company has taken over the planting interests of what was heretofore known as the Puakea Planting Company and which are situated on the lands belonging to the estate of James Wight just above Mahukona.”
“The advent of the Kohala ditch has brought out a greater development of these lands and the present corporation will raise in the neighborhood of 4000 tons of sugar annually, after two or three years’ development. “
“The present output of sugar on the planting interests taken over is something about 900 tons. Henry Waterhouse Trust Co., Ltd., organized the company.” (Hawaiian Gazette, May 28, 1907)
The ditch was conceived of by John Hind who, with the financial help of Sam Parker and the irrigation knowledge of JT McCrosson and MM O‘Shaughnessy, formed the Kohala Ditch Company.
They hired Japanese laborers for wages of seventy-five cents to a dollar and a half a day to construct the twenty-one mile long ditch from the headwaters of the Kohala valleys to Puakea Plantation (in upland Kukuipahu Ahupua‘a).
The ditch ran through miles of ridge terrain, valleys, and forty-four tunnels. Seventeen laborers died during the construction of the Kohala Ditch. It carried twenty million gallons of water a day at the outset, with a projected maximum of seventy million gallons a day, to the sugar fields and ranch lands of North Kohala. (Rechtman)
In the 1930s, the Kohala Sugar Company was expanded by the consolidation of smaller plantations under the agency of Castle & Cooke (Puakea, Niuli‘i, Halawa, Hawi and Kohala Sugar). In 1975, Castle & Cooke closed Kohala Sugar. (Wilcox)
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Christine Tetak says
My husband and I are the owners of 25.216 acres of Puakea Ranch Subdivision created in 2002. There are 240 acres, nine lots varying in size from 13.5 to 40 acres. Lots 1,2 and 3 date way back from the ancient drystacked/handstacked rock walls and former cottages from Puakea Ranch Plantation and flat stone alters conceivably from the 1300’s and local heiau’s. We purchased our lot in 2012 and have loved every minute. Cattle have been on the land for over 140 years. Our Hana Aloha Ranch @ Puakea sits 700′ at the high point with views of Haleakula, Alenuihaha Channel and sometimes three other island on those clear days. This 25 acres is a rare jewel! My husband has planted 40 white pineapple plantings and we have 6 of the very last Wild Waikoloa Nightingale Donkeys thriving in the verdant Puakea grasses. We feel so very blessed to have been able to experience this land and appreciate your latest writing about Puakea. Mahalo for sharing your knowledge. Warmest Aloha, Christine and Bob Tetak