“The question of colonization in the Hawaiian Islands has, during the last few months, virtually absorbed all smaller issues touching our material welfare, and at present is justly made the leading topic of public thought and newspaper discussion.”
“While colonization has long been talked of, it has never before been put into practical working shape by practical responsible men, in whom the people at home have entire confidence.”
“The status and practicability of the present scheme, backed as it is by our largest capitalists and business men generally, will be a guarantee of the good faith of the promoters and the practical utility of the scheme, which will attract and retain the support of both home and foreign capital.”
“The present colonization scheme is too large an investment to be entirely handled by home capital. It is not only too large for our present population, but it is large enough to satisfy the standard idea of both American and English capitalists.” (Daily Press, December 16, 1885)
Let’s look back …
On August 5, 1885, Honolulu businessman James Campbell offered Benjamin F Dillingham a one-year option to purchase his Kahuku and Honouliuli ranches on Oahu, ‘including no fewer than nine thousand cattle for the sum of $600,000.’
Shortly afterward, Dillingham issued a ‘preliminary prospectus’ for what was to be called the Hawaiian Colonization Land and Trust Company.
The prospectus proposed the formation of a joint stock company to buy and then divide the properties. The lands totaled 63,500-acres in fee, and 52,000-acres of leased land; and 15,000 head of cattle and 260 head of horses. (Forbes)
Dillingham was the chief promoter; others involved were James Campbell (owner of Honouliuli and Kahuku estates;) John Paty of Bishop Bank (primary owners of Kawailoa and Waimea estates; and M Dickson and JG Spencer (part owners of Kawailoa and Waimea ranches.) Those properties made up the bulk of the land in the offering. (Forbes)
“The ‘Preliminary Prospectus of the Hawaiian Colonization Company’ has already attracted a good deal of notice and has been widely, but by no means exhaustively discussed in the columns of every paper in Honolulu.” (Hawaiian Gazette, December 15, 1885)
“The inducements which are offered to settlers under the present scheme that be briefly summed up as follows : There will be a sure market for all products raked ; there are 17,000 acres of fine sugar land in the Honouliuli ranch alone, which includes the 10,000 acres set aside for colonization purposes.”
“Seven thousand acres of this tract forms an alluvial plain lying along the seashore; abundant water can be obtained, by sinking artesian wells, as has already been practically illustrated, the 7,000 acres, one half of which nowhere lies more than 35 feet above the sea level …”
“… cheap and practical dams, as have already been constructed on the Kawailoa ranch, can be thrown across the gulches of the foothills of the Waianae mountains, which will drain immense watersheds into perpetual reservoirs, and will do away with the possibility of droughts …”
“… the land will be offered to responsible cultivators in lots of from 5 to 500 acres, for sugar cane cultivation ; it is proposed that the cane shall be raised upon shares, as set forth in the Colonization Company’s circulars ; the cane land will yield an average of from five to seven tons to the acre.”
“The Company proposes to furnish the land and give small cultivators five-eighths of the profit, which, at a low estimate for five-acre lots of cane land, will net the cultivator $1,500 per year, after all deductions are made and expenses paid. This amount is the practical result of the figures given by practical sugar men.” (Daily Press, December 16, 1885)
“The company proposes to build the mills, furnish the water supply and build tramways for transporting the cane and sugar. For this work the Company will lay out at least $300,000.”
“This will put the scheme in working order and will give the cultivator immediate returns upon his labor without the outlay of capital. It is a scheme for the development of Hawaii and the up-building of the labor interests.”
“The scheme, however, is not confined to sugar raising, and those colonists who prefer can take up land for stock raising in lots of 200 to 1,000 acres, or even more. The land could be either bought or leased.” (Daily Press, December 16, 1885)
“‘The Hawaiian Colonization, Land and Trust Company,’ and a preliminary prospectus issued, which has been given enormous circulation through the newspapers, the Planters’ Monthly, and detached pamphlets by the thousand.”
“These efforts to present the scheme to the public at home and abroad have already yielded good promise of ultimate success. Letters of enquiry have crossed continents and oceans to reach the promoters.”
“Friends and agents of the kingdom in foreign lands arc encouraging the project, and looking about them for capital to start it, and for settlers to occupy the available territory and build up the nation.”
“Applications in large number have already been received for apportionments of land. That all these gratifying results should have been obtained within so short a period speaks well for the intelligent devotion of the gentlemen who have assumed the undertaking”. (Daily Bulletin, January 2, 1886)
While, initially, things went well, eventually the project ‘fell flat.’ (Forbes) While Dillingham couldn’t raise the money to buy the Campbell property, he eventually leased the land for 50-years. Dillingham realized that to be successful, he needed reliable transportation.
Dillingham formed O‘ahu Railway and Land Company (OR&L,) a narrow gauge rail, whose economic being was founded on the belief that O‘ahu would soon host a major sugar industry.
Ultimately OR&L sublet land, partnered on several sugar operations and/or hauled cane from Ewa Plantation Company, Honolulu Sugar Company in ‘Aiea, O‘ahu Sugar in Waipahu, Waianae Sugar Company, Waialua Agriculture Company and Kahuku Plantation Company, as well as pineapples for Dole.