Hanama`ulu Town Celebration

The Hanama`ulu Experience: Lihu`e Plantation

Centennial (1906-2006)
2006 Celebration
All-Day Celebration
Talk Story 2006
2005 Celebration
Celebrating the Present: The Parade
Grand Marshals
Celebration Programs
Celebration Gifts
The Land
The Town
Remembering the Past
Kalepa Cemetery
The Chronology
Lihu`e Plantation
Bango At Hanama`ulu
The Camps at Hanama`ulu
Hanama`ulu's Hajime Morita
Hanama`ulu's Peter Rayno Sr.
Embracing the Future
Poetry and Song
Planning Committees

Reviewing the Past . . .


Copyright 2005 Catherine Pascual Lo
February/June 2005

"Hanama`ulu Plantation" | 1890
Photo : Grove Farm Homestead Museum

LIHUE PLANTATION'S LIHUE MILL was in operation in 1851, and in 1877 the plantation built Hanama`ulu Mill. But Lihue Plantation's new mill and the houses that surrounded it took on the name "Hanama`ulu Plantation." Researchers today, looking at old pictures captioned "Hanama`ulu Plantation" can easily assume that Hanama`ulu was a bona fide plantation. To all intent and purposes, it was. However, like Lihue Mill, Hanama`ulu Mill was a grinding facility of what became known in the words of Joseph Feher (Hawaii: A Pictorial History, 1969, p. 263) as "the best financed, most modern, and most costly of the new agricultural enterprises."  Calling the mill town "Hanama`ulu Plantation" put Hanama`ulu on the map.

HANAMA`ULU was the brainchild of Paul Isenberg, who was manager of Lihue Plantation from 1862 to 1878. In the summer of 1877, Isenberg bought from George Norton Wilcox the mill machinery that Wilcox bought in Scotland for his own sugar mill at Grove Farm. Wilcox decided instead to contract with Lihue Plantation to grind his cane at Lihue Mill.

HOWEVER, Lihue Plantation's part in the Hanama`ulu experience began in 1856 when the plantation, under manager William Harrison Rice, completed the 10-mile Hanama`ulu irrigation ditch, the source of the water that brought promise to the growing sugar enterprise. The plantation harvested sugarcane from fields at Hanama`ulu as early as 1857, and in 1863, Lihue Plantation started leasing the ahupua`a of Hanama`ulu, a land division extending from Kilohana Crater -- whose summit rises to 1143 feet -- to Hanama`ulu Bay. Finally in 1870, on the death of Her Royal Highness Princess Victoria Kamamalu, owner of the ahupua`a of Hanama`ulu, the Supreme Court of Hawaii ordered the sale of the land of about 9,177 acres at an auction with the upset price of $7,000. Paul Isenberg made the highest bid of $7,250 and secured the land for Lihue Plantation.

BORN IN HANOVER, Germany, on April 13, 1837, Isenberg, the son of a Lutheran pastor, came to the Hawaiian Islands in 1858. He arrived on Kaua`i full of hope for a bright future in the cattle industry, having been promised by Ed Hoffschlaeger, of Hoffschlaeger & Stapenhorst, the manager's position at their Wailua Ranch. Failing to get the job, 21-year-old Isenberg had to look elsewhere for employment, and fate took him to the sugar industry, where he distinguished himself. He started working for Henry A. Peirce (also spelled Pierce) and Company, the sugar plantation in Lihue that eventually became Lihue Plantation Company.

IN 1861, PAUL ISENBERG married Hannah Maria Rice, the daughter of William Harrison Rice and Mary Sophia Hyde Rice. The Rices came to Hawaii in 1841 as missionaries for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Rice later became affiliated with Lihue Plantation and became its second manager in 1854, a post he held until 1862. Isenberg was employed at Lihue Plantation as an overseer and he succeeded his father-in-law as manager in 1862. He was manager until 1878, subsequently became part owner of the plantation, and later became its president. Isenberg acquired a half interest in Koloa Sugar Company in December 1871 and became its president in 1892, a post he held until 1902.

Hanama`ulu Mill circa 1890-1898
Photo : Kauai Museum

WHEN PAUL ISENBERG DIED of peritonitis in Germany in 1903 at the age of 66, his native land and his adopted country Hawai`i mourned the death of a kind and generous man, who was loved by Germans and non-Germans alike.

Paul Isenberg (1837-1903)
Photo : Karl Lo | March 2005

THE PEOPLE OF KAUA`I and Hawai`i dedicated the Paul Isenberg Monument in the heart of Lihue in 1904. It is fitting that the monument dominates the knoll to the right of the Bank of Hawaii, overlooking Lihue Mill, the heart of the plantation that Paul Isenberg built into a successful agricultural enterprise.

LIHUE PLANTATION closed Hanama`ulu Mill in 1920 after the last crop was harvested and grinding was concentrated at Lihue Mill.

THE LEGACY OF PAUL ISENBERG of giving and kindness continued through the years. For example, sports were an important part of plantation life, and in April 1938, when Caleb Burns Sr. and Alexander McKeever were manager and assistant manager, respectively, of Lihue Plantation, the Isenberg Recreational Center was dedicated. The facility, which included a gym, 11-acre baseball-football- soccer field, 440-yard track field, and two double tennis courts, was dedicated in honor of the three Isenberg brothers:  Paul, Carl, and Hans -- who had given so much to Lihue and to Kaua`i. Located at Isenberg Tract, the sports complex benefited the residents, especially the young people, of Hanama`ulu who played softball, football, and volleyball as The Whiz Kids of Hanama`ulu.

THE BENEVOLENCE OF LIHUE PLANTATION is legendary. Mildred (nee Victorino) and Neil Rapozo, and Eddie Sarita -- all third generation residents of Hanama`ulu and members of the Hanama`ulu Town Celebration Committee -- remember riding the steam locomotive at Christmas, a special treat to the children.

IN 1951, LIHUE PLANTATION started using diesel to run the locomotives that transported the sugarcane from the fields to Lihue Mill. "Lihue 4" below was steaming over Wailua River on a special Christmas run carrying Lihue Plantation families, especially children.

"Lihue 4" | No Date
Photo : Kauai Historical Society

THE ROLE OF LIHUE PLANTATION in the Hanama`ulu experience is far-reaching and permanent in the lives of plantation families and their descendants. Opening up land in Hanama`ulu for affordable housing was perhaps the most important Lihue Plantation agenda, and clearly one that has had the greatest impact.

IN THE 1950s AND EARLY 1960s, Lihue Plantation phased out the old camps at Hanama`ulu and Lihue, and opened housing subdivisions at the two towns, enabling plantation workers and their families to own their homes. And when the plantation phased out Ahukini Camp in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the residents of the camp relocated to Hanama`ulu and elsewhere. Lihue Plantation phased out Kealia Camp as well, and the majority of the camp residents bought properties at Wiliko I and Wiliko II subdivisions in the 1970s and 1980s.

MOREOVER, LIHUE PLANTATION donated three acres of land to the State of Hawaii for educational purposes, and the adjoining 3.5 acres to the County of Kaua`i for a community park. This largess on the part of the plantation was not surprising, the property having been in use for the same purposes since 1921, but it is not inconceivable for Lihue Plantation could have continued leasing the parcels to the state and county governments.

TODAY, HANAMA`ULU is a community of more than 1,000 homes for more than 3,000 residents representing the ethnic groups that make up Hawai`i's population. One can easily find three and four generations, even five generations, of Lihue Plantation families in the town's population, but new residents -- both homeowners and renters -- call Hanama`ulu "home" as well.

LIHUE PLANTATION continued its sugar operations until November 2000. By then the plantation was under the flagship of AMFAC/JMB, and when 400 plantation workers were laid off, Hanama`ulu was the hardest-hit community in this long-expected, but unhappy, final chapter of Lihue's 151-year-old plantation.

Damon, Ethel M. Koamalu: A Story of Pioneers on Kauai and What They Built in That Island Garden. Honolulu: Privately Printed. 1931. 2v.

Lo, Catherine. Lihue Lutheran Church: Centennial Album. Lihue: Lihue Lutheran Church, 1981. [96] p.

The Garden Island. April 1938.

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By Catherine Pascual Lo
Jan./Apr. 2005

WORK AT THE PLANTATION FIELDS of Hawai`i called for able-bodied men and women. In the beginning, native Hawaiians provided the necessary labor. This was true in Koloa, where the first successful plantation in the islands started in 1835. Undoubtedly, this was true at Hanama`ulu in 1857 when Lihue Plantation started harvesting sugarcane from Hanama`ulu fields, and in 1877 when Hanama`ulu Mill was first used to grind sugarcane.

The Hawaiians, however, were not conditioned to working long and hard in the hot sun. That, and the need for more workers for the growing sugar industry, led the plantations to bring laborers from various parts of the worlds. The importation of laborers through the years created a multi-colored population, and the melting of the races created modern Hawaii.

Below are the different strokes that painted the colorful Hawaiian landscape.

1852: The first Chinese contract laborers arrived in Hawaii aboard the Thetis. By 1900, Hawaii's population included 25,767 Chinese.

1859 & 1865: South Sea Islanders came.

1868 & 1889: On June 24, 1868, the first Japanese contract laborers --142 men and 6 women --arrived. More came in 1889, and by 1900, 61,111 Japanese lived in the islands.

1878: The first group of Portuguese -- 80 men, 40 women, and 60 children -- arrived on Sept. 30. By 1900, the population of Hawaii included 18,272 Portuguese.

1881: The Ceder, a bark owned by H. Hackfeld and Co., arrived in Honolulu on June 17, 1881, bringing the first boatload of German immigrants -- 71 men, 19 women, and 34 children. Hackfeld, a German-owned firm based in Honolulu, was the agent for Lihue Plantation. However, it was Paul Isenberg, manager of the plantation from 1862-1878, who was instrumental in bringing the Germans to Hawaii. His brother Carl was manager from 1878 to 1893, and it was during Carl's watch that Lihue Plantation first employed Europeans. A few Norwegians and Swedes came on the Ceder, but the majority were Germans who came from towns in northwestern Germany, which were accessible to Bremen, from which the ship sailed for the five-and-a-half-month voyage around Cape Horn. The immigrants arrived at Lihue on the James McKee on June 18, to work for Lihue Plantation.

Carl Wolters, manager of Lihue Plantation from 1893 to 1900, lived in Hanama`ulu. His residence was situated above Hanama`ulu Mill, near where Kalauokamanu, a large heiau where human beings were sacrificed, stood. The heiau was destroyed in 1855, and the stones were used in the foundation of the mill. The heiau was the only known heiau in Hanama`ulu.

A story has it that two large rocks in the field opposite Mr. Wolters' residence were believed to have been two chiefs on their way to the heiau, but they were stricken dead by the stench from the human sacrifices at the heiau.

1898 & 1907: Spanish contract laborers arrived.

1900: Fifty-six Puerto Ricans arrived. By 1910, 4,890 Puerto Ricans made up Hawaii's population.

1901: Blacks joined Hawaii's labor population.

1903: Fifty-six men, 21 women, and 13 children from Korea arrived. By 1910, Hawaii's population included 4,533 Koreans.

1906: The first group of Filipino laborers arrived in December 1906. The Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) agent, Albert F. Judd, could recruit only 15 laborers, five of whom were from the same family -- Simplicio Gironella (56) and his four sons: Mariano (23), Vicente (19), Francisco (18), and Antonio (14). The entire group was assigned to Olaa Plantation on the island of Hawaii.

Hanama`ulu Mill | Circa 1920
Photo : Kauai Museum

Two months later, on February 20, 1907, another group of 30, including two women and two children, arrived in Hawaii. Recruitment of Filipino laborers by the HSPA was stepped up in the 1910s and 1920s, and it was during this decade that Filipino laborers were first brought to work for Lihue Plantation. In the 1920s, those who were assigned to Hanama`ulu were housed at Hanama`ulu Mill, which stood empty; except for a small machine shop and garage for plantation trucks, Lihue Plantation having closed the mill in 1920 after the last crop was harvested and grinding was concentrated at Lihue Mill. The mule stables were converted into a new camp for Filipino laborers. This setting, however, was not the Stable Camp that old-timers of Hanama`ulu know so well, but which students of Hanama`ulu history are just beginning to learn about.

The Filipinos in Hawaii ... The first 75 Years, 1906-1981. Honolulu: Hawaii Filipino News Specialty Publication, 1981.

Lo, Catherine. Lihue Lutheran Church: Centennial Album. Lihue: Lihue Lutheran Church, 1981. [96] p.

Rice, Mary A. Girvin. History of Lihue. Presented before the Kauai Historical Society, Dec. 17, 1914.

Ronck, Ronn. Ronck's Hawaii Almanac. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 1984. 175 p.

Thrum's Hawaiian Annual: All About Hawaii. Honolulu: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1928, 1938, 1943, 1950. (Title varies; publisher varies)

U. S. Bureau of the Census.

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