Three sons of Thomas McCartney McCandless and Elizabeth Ann (Newman) McCandless, James Sutton (‘Sunny Jim’) McCandless, John Andrew McCandless and Lincoln Loy (‘Link’) McCandless formed McCandless Brothers in 1881.
Thomas McCartney McCandless (September 6, 1821 – September 5, 1907) was born in Pennsylvania; he was a descendant of the McCartney family, who were the principal owners and founders of Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Eliza Ann Newman (April 25, 1826 – October 26, 1891) was born in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Peter Newman, a miller, born in Heidelberg, Germany, and of Jane Ferguson Newman.
They had seven children – this story is about three of the boys and their ties to Hawaiʻi. Jim arrived in the islands first (1880,) followed by John (1881) and Link (1882.)
A chance call on the late Samuel G Wilder, a pioneer shipping man of Hawaiʻi (and then-Minister of the Interior under King Kalākaua) who was visiting in San Francisco in 1880, brought Jim to the islands. “He told us the story of the first well drilled in the Islands, and the manner in which the new work was developing. Then we told him what we knew about drilling wells.”
James Campbell was owner of the Honouliuli Ranch; it was mostly dry plains, needing only water to make it fertile. In July, 1879, John Ashley started drilling the first artesian well in the Hawaiian Islands in the rear of the James Campbell Ranch House at Honouliuli, Ewa District, on the flat land close to the sea.
At a depth of about 250 feet, they found fresh water, which flowed in a small stream over the top of the pipe, the first well in Hawaiʻi, and also the first flowing well in the Hawaiian Islands.
“We were, of course, strangers to (Wilder) and he had only our word for what we knew about drilling wells, but after looking us over he seemed to feel that we would be able to deliver the goods. Consequently, on that Saturday in December, 1880, we sailed with Mr Wilder for Honolulu in the Hawaiian Islands”. (McCandless)
“When (Jim) got to Honolulu on December 30, 1880, after a voyage of nine and a half days, the port was quarantined against small-pox. Instead of landing at the dock, we were taken over to the reef at the place where the drydock now stands. A sort of boardwalk was built out into the harbor, but the water was too shallow for ships’ boats to reach it; so each passenger was carried ashore on the back of a Hawaiian.”
Jim first partnered with Captain William D Braden, later his brothers came to help. Their first well was at Mahukona on the Island of Hawaiʻi. “We stayed on the job at Mahukona until the well was finished, but found only salt water. At 800 feet, Mr. Wilder stopped the work on the well and we came back to Honolulu.”
“After we had returned to Honolulu from Mahukona, Mr. Wilder helped us in securing contracts for five wells, to be drilled for His Majesty, King Kalākaua: one in the Palace grounds, one at his home in Waikiki, and three others located on his properties in the outside districts.”
Over the next 55-years, McCandless Brothers drilled more than 700 good wells across the Islands. Their wells helped support and water the growing and expansive sugar and pineapple plantations including ʻEwa, Kahuku, Oʻahu, Waialua and other large producers, and also on the Islands of Maui, Hawaiʻi, Kauai and Molokai.
ʻEwa plantation was the first plantation in Hawaiʻi that installed pumping plants for irrigation from artesian wells; in its day, it pumped four times as much water as the City of Honolulu used. (Nellist)
“Among the crowding memories of the more than fifty-five-years that we have lived in Hawaiʻi is the thought that we came here as young men seeking our fortunes, and trying to better our fortunes, and trying to better our condition in life.” (McCandless)
“Since 1880, we have witnessed several changes in the government of Hawaiʻi. King Kalākaua, a jolly monarch, was on the throne when we arrived. He was followed by Queen Liliʻuokalani, who reigned until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893.”
“Annexation did not come until the Spanish-American war. Then the United States suddenly woke up and annexed Hawaiʻi, the Gibraltar of the Pacific. (It has been claimed that we are not a real territory of the United States, yet I often wonder how many other countries would like to own us.)”
“We three brothers each took active parts in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. We belonged to the first company of sharpshooters in the National Guard of Hawaiʻi, and were proficient in the art of shooting and handling guns. We participated in several skirmishes”. (McCandless)
John was a member of the “Committee of Thirteen,” which took an active part in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893. From 1894 to 1898 he held an office under President Sanford B Dole, in his cabinet, and later became a member of the Senate.
He was the first superintendent of public works under the territorial government, and while holding this office built the first road around Diamond Head on the sea side of the crater, and the lighthouse there.
Link, as a boy, had a great desire to own land and cattle. His ambition has also been achieved. It was not long after he arrived in the Islands that he leased the lands here and there and formed huis to buy more.
With a hui, he bought land of Waikāne and Waiāhole on the north side of the island of Oʻahu. He bought this land with the water rights, later selling part of this right to the Oʻahu Sugar Company. John ended up controlling thousand acres on his own (and a lot more through various partnerships.)
Link conceived the feasibility of diverting water from Waiāhole, Waikāne and Kahana, on the windward side of Oahu, through the mountain divide to the rich sugar lands on the leeward side of Oahu by means of a tunnel.
Link fathered the Torrens Land Court Law in the territorial senate in 1903, thus establishing the right of individuals to prove title to their land holdings. (Nellist)
John and Jim partnered on a downtown Honolulu lot and built the first modern office building in Honolulu, in 1907. It is five stories high (and also reported as one of only a few Honolulu buildings to feature a full basement,) built of lava rock – the McCandless Building (it is still standing at 925 Bethel Street.) Nearby is the still existing McCandless Block at 9 North Pauahi Street.
Jim took an interest in the Masonic Lodge and became a member of the Aloha Temple in 1904. At the meeting in Washington, DC, of the Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Free Masonry of the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America, he was elected to receive the 33° of the A and A Scottish Rite of Free Masonry (conferred upon him at Līhuʻe, on February 16, 1934.)
A descendant in the family is Maxwell (Max) McCandless Unger; former Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints center, he was a ProBowler, Super Bowl winner and graduate of Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy. His family owns/manages McCandless Ranch in South Kona.