Plantations and Finding Aids
Honokaa Sugar Co. (Hawaii)
History Scope and Contents
Register of the
Honokaa Sugar Company is located on the northeast coast of the Island of Hawaii approximately 51 miles above Hilo. The northern side of the plantation has an ocean frontage ten miles long bordered by a high cliff. Kahaupu Gulch forms part of the eastern border and Waipio Valley, the western. The lands, which extend from the sea a distance of about three miles toward the mountains, range in elevation from 280 feet at Kukuihaele landing to 1,955 feet inland on the slope of Mauna Kea. The region is cut by a number of gulches and the slopes are generally steep. This presents considerable problems in growing and harvesting cane due to temperature and rainfall variations at different elevations and the problem of transporting it over rough terrain. The search for better varieties of cane has been one of the most important phases of work at Honokaa Sugar Company.
The history goes back to a predecessor company, Honokaa Sugar Plantation started in 1876 by two men Messrs. Siemsen and Marsden, who began with 500 acres. They planted the first crop in 1876 with the help of Hawaiian laborers and installed a 2-roll crusher mill. This small mill was the first one in the Hamakua area. In 1878, F.A. Schaefer organized a new concern with J. Marsden, J.F.H. Siemsen, J.C. Bailey & M. McInerny. The Honokaa Sugar Company was chartered on May 8, 1878 and Schaefer served as its president for a period of forty years. After the change in ownership, great improvements were made and by 1899 a new six-roller mill was installed making Honokaa Sugar Co. a nine-roller mill.
Schaefer organized another sugar firm adjoining the Honokaa Plantation in August 1879 and named it Pacific Sugar Mill. In 1913, Pacific Sugar Mill sold its mill and sent its cane to be ground at Honokaa. At this time, the two companies came under one management, although retaining their separate entities. In February 1928, the two plantations were finally merged into one company under the name Honokaa Sugar Company. The plantation eventually grew to encompass over 9,000 acres, half of it in fee simple lands.
In the early days, cane was hauled to the railroad or to the mill by means of mule & horse-drawn wagons. Between 1904 and 1910, two ditches were constructed by Hawaiian Irrigation Co., Ltd. to bring water from the Kohala Mountains and from Wapio Valley. The irrigation company was taken over by Honokaa Sugar Company in 1915. The greatest use of the water was for fluming of harvested cane and the plantation had an alaboate system of flumes for transporting cane from the hillsides to railroad cars. The Company's railroad system extended over a distance of six and a half miles and in connection with the flumes, offered an effective means of moving cane to the mill.
The mill was connected to the boat landing by an inclined tramway, which transported bags of sugar to the warehouse at the wharf. By means of a wire rope extending down the cliff to a steamer below, sugar was loaded directly onto the ship. In 1919 Honokaa Sugar Co. was able to ship sugar directly to the mainland using this method. Formerly sugar bags were sent by inter-island steamer to Honolulu and reloaded only mainland-bound vessels.
At the time of Honokaa's inception, most of the working force was Hawaiian. As the Company grew people from various parts of the world came in this order: Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Puerto Ricans, Koreans and Filipinos. A few Russians and Spaniards also worked at Honokaa for brief periods. The plantation furnished for free use about two hundred houses for its employees. The houses were laid out in villages containing outdoor cookhouses, bathhouses, laundries, and running water. Free fuel was also supplied for cooking and heating water. In case of illness, the plantation provided free medical care at its hospital. A Government school, Oriental school and several churches were located nearby. A store and dairy offered staple goods for sale. Later most of the labor on the plantation was performed by contractors, whose earnings were greater, but they did not receive housing.
Honokaa Sugar Company also had the distinction of being the world's oldest commercial producer of macadamia nuts. The first trees were planted in 1916 as part of a reforestation project at elevations where cane would not grow.
The Honokaa Ranch division was also started in 1916. It consisted of about 2,600 acres of grazing land above the cane fields and 600 head of cattle. Approximately 120 animals were slaughtered each year and the meat consumed locally.
In spite of several severe droughts and continuing problems with plague in the early 1900's, Honokaa Sugar Company managed to progress in producing low cost sugar. Much credit for this success goes to Mr. W.P. Naquin, Plantation Manager between 1916 and 1944. In 1978, Honokaa Sugar Company merged with Laupahoehoe Sugar Company, a T.H. Davies Company plantation, and became known as Davies Hamakua Plantation Inc. Later on it was bought by Francis S. Morgan and renamed Hamakua Sugar Company.
MANAGERS OF HONOKAA SUGAR COMPANY
J.G. Tucker: First manager appointed May 10, 1878.
Probart: Appointed by the Directors August 23, 1878, but declined so that Mr. Tucker remained until his successor could be appointed.
J.C. Bailey: Appointed 1878.
W.H. Rickard: Appointed August 16, 1880.
John Watt: Appointed March 5, 1892.
K.S. Gjerdrum: Appointed March 16, 1903.
A. Morrison: Appointed October 24, 1910, effective January 12, 1911.
G. Jamieson: Appointed July 1, 1915.
W.P. Naquin: Appointed March 1, 1916.
Leslie W. Wishard: Appointed March 15, 1944.
Richard M. Frazier: Appointed July 1, 1955.
P. Ernest Bouvet: Appointed March 1972.
BACKGROUND, UNPORCESSED RECORDS
During October, 1987, all Hamakua Sugar Company records, approximately 445 cubic feet, were removed from storage, fumigated and brought into the Archives. The Honokaa Sugar Company records were segregated for processing in November 1988 and were ready for use in September 1989.
After processing, the Honokaa record group contained 46 boxes and 150 volumes. 23 additional boxes of records were received from Hamakua Sugar Company in June 1989 and processed during July and August.
NOTES, PROCESSED RECORDS
Honokaa Sugar Company records are organized in the following series or
Correspondence between Honokaa Sugar Co. and the agency, F.A. Schaefer & Co., begins in 1879 and continues to 1939. Between 1879 and 1921, there are generally separate "In" and "Out" files. After 1921, each file contains both incoming and outgoing correspondence. Press copybooks, which are very fragile, hold the correspondence through 1902. Correspondence to Schaefer & Co. from the plantation manager contains weekly and monthly reports and also mentions weather, goods & sugar shipping, orders, drafts, labor situations, railroads, land matters, construction, planters & machinery. In 1913, reference to Pacific Sugar Mill becomes included in the Schaefer correspondence. From the mid 1920's on, detailed steamer reports were made by Honokaa Sugar Co. to Schaefer, documenting steamer calls at the landing. Because of the variety in titles, the folder arrangement in the register is not always in chronological order. The researcher is advised to examine the series completely to avoid mission any years or subjects.
The early General Correspondence from 1910-1919 is arranged alphabetically by writer's last name, company or government agency. The filing is inconsistent, i.e. Kukuihaele Lighthouse-some letters are in "L" and others in "C" & "D" for Dept. of Commerce. The remaining correspondence from 1921-1938 is arranged chronologically. The General Correspondence contains many laborers' names, particularly those requesting passage back to the Philippines.
The HSPA General Correspondence 1915-1939 mentions numerous individual Filipino laborers, including those who died on the plantation. Dr. Nils Larsen's Ewa Health Project reports contain information on numerous health subjects: nutrition, disease, birth control, sanitation, dentistry and clinics. The HSPA Labor and Statistics Correspondence also mentions individual laborers, their work records, families, and requests to return to the Philippines.
The Miscellaneous letters include correspondence from C. Brewer regarding sugar shipments and applications for passage to Hilo with laborers' names. The Employee Correspondence, 1922- 1938, was originally labeled "Employee Letters, General." The subject matter pertains to personnel and labor, such as, vacations, resignations, re-entry permits, proposed pension plan, store credit policy, rules & regulations, hospital & nursing charges, etc. It also contains some handwritten letters and petitions from laborers. Correspondence from the Honokaa and Pacific Sugar Mill stores, 1918-1924, provides information about store inventory and orders with F.A. Schaefer & Co., Honolulu Iron Works, T.H. Davies, Benson Smith Drugs, Gregg & Co., American Factors, E.O Hall & Son, and Henry May & Co. Orders included food, Japanese & Hawaiian rice, machinery, clothing, furniture, fuel, animal feed, building materials, etc.
Personnel & Payroll
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