Plantations and Finding Aids
Kau Sugar Co. (Hawaii)
History Scope and Contents
Register of the
Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Co. was located in the Kau district 65 miles southwest of Hilo, HI. Situated in Naalehu at the foot of Mauna Loa, Hutchinson Plantation had the distinction of being the "farthest south" sugar mill on Hawaii. It was also the most isolated sugar company on the island, which often made it difficult to get and keep permanent workers. The land was rolling and somewhat hilly with the lower lands being poor and the higher lands more fertile. The valleys were shallow, sterile, and rocky while the ridges were composed of rich soils of considerable depth. These conditions were exactly opposite of those found in plantations on the Hamakua Coast and required different agricultural methods.
Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Co. was one of the oldest sugar companies dating from the American Civil War period. The company was formed in 1868 by Alexander Hutchinson, although there were cane farms in the area before that. Hutchinson brought in a small mill and called his company Naalehu Plantation. When Mr. Hutchinson died in 1879 while pursuing two runaway Chinese laborers, Wm. G. Irwin and Claus Spreckles bought Naalehu Plantation and changed its name to Hutchinson Plantation. The company was chartered on September 11, 1884. The plantation headquarters remained at Naalehu, the point from which it made its early growth. In 1910, C. Brewer & Co. acquired controlling interest and became agents for Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Company.
Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Co. was a small plantation with approximately 7 ½ square miles planted in cane. Cane was grown from sea level up to the 2,000-ft. elevation. The bulk of the cane lands were above the 1,600-ft. level. The cane at the lower levels of the plantation matured in 18 months, whereas, the cane at higher elevations required from 24 to 30 months to mature. As a result, there was no harvesting schedule and the fields were cut as near as possible to ripeness. Rose Bamboo was the principal variety of cane planted in the early days. Later on, it was replaced by the "Java Wonder" or POJ 2878, which was drought resistant. Hutchinson Sugar Plantation was an unirrigated plantation and depended on rainfall, which was exceedingly variable in the Kau district. As a result, the plantation suffered from recurrent droughts.
Cane was transported to the mill primarily by flumes due to the terrain of the area. By 1920, the company had over 70 miles of permanent flumes. Water for the flumes came through a system of tunnels driven through the hills. Manager Wm. Campsie developed spring and runoff water in the forest reserve about nine miles above the top of the cane land. In 1921, construction work was started on the Kahilipali tunnel using Korean gangs. The Mountain House tunnel work was also started in that year and by 1927, it was nearly 7,000 ft. long. Construction on the Plantation Springs and Tanaka tunnels began around the same time. Four main flumes were built to serve every section of the plantation in harvesting the cane and transporting it to the mill at Honuapo.
The early plantation had two mills, an 8 roller mill at Naalehu and a 9 roller mill at Honuapo. Hilea* also had its own mill, but it was dismantled in 1907. Around 1911, the Naalehu mill wore out and a new cantral mill was built at Honuapo to grind all the cane. The landing was located at Honuapo and it had the reputation of being able to load and ship sugar cheaper than any other port in the islands. Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Co. was in charge of the stevedoring operations. A permanent gang of eight men was in charge of the equipment and on steamer days stevedore gangs, mostly Hawaiians, were employed.
Over the years Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Co. employed people of many nationalities including, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Spanish, Portuguese, Filipinos, Hawaiians, and Anglo-Saxons. In 1920 the plantation had approximately 500 employees. The 1946 census lists 1,192 persons living on the plantation of which 607 were men. From these figures, it would appear that the population remained relatively steady without much growth. This was no doubt due in part to the isolation of the area.
In order to make the lives of the occupants as comfortable as possible under plantation conditions, Manager J. Beatty tried to "citify" the property by gradually doing away with the sparse and scattered camps and concentrating the workers in four main villages situated at Naalehu, Kaalaki, Hilea, and Honuapo. Older homes were either demolished or moved and renovated. More modern houses were built with kitchens, hot and cold water, laundries and showers. Good schools and recreational facilities were constructed. The plantation employed a resident physician and nurses at the dispensaries. Serious illnesses and surgical cases were handled at Pahala's hospital twelve miles away. The morale of the workers improved as living conditions progressed.
A small dairy and a large cattle ranch were operated in conjunction with the plantation. In 1936, the George Campbell ranch adjoining the plantation was purchased, adding 914 acres to its fee holdings. Hutchinson's Kaalualu Ranch had over 6,200 head of Herefords, which thrived, on a ration of bagasse, molasses, bonemeal, and peanut or cottonseed meal.
In 1948, the Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Co. stopped all fluming of cane. Roads had been built through formerly inaccessible fields and Manager Beatty introduced several innovations to aid in transporting the cane. A Louisiana invention called a "Jitterbug" was used to accommodate the steep hillsides. Several of these trailers containing cane were hooked behind a truck making a train, which transported it to the mill. Beatty also introduced an aerial tramway in 1948. This was the first of its kind to be employed in cane transportation on Hawaii's plantations.
In 1972, C. Brewer & Co. decided to consolidate the two sugar companies in that area and combined Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Co. with Hawaiian Agricultural Co. The new entity was named Ka'u Sugar Company.
*The Hilea Plantation was purchased by Hutchinson Sugar Plantation in 1890.
H. Center 1888 - 1891
George C. Hewitt 1891 - 1903
Carl Wolters 1903 - 1913
George Gibb 1913 - 1921
William Campsie 1922 - 1937
James S. Beatty 1937
UNPROCESSED RECORDS, BACKGROUND
During January 1990, the records from Kau Sugar Company, 83 boxes and 156 volumes, were removed from storage, fumigated and brought into the Archives. Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Company material accounted for approximately 26 boxes and 121 volumes. Hawaiian Agricultural Company comprised the remainder. By June 1990, processing of both plantations was finished and the records were ready for use by researchers.
PROCESSED RECORDS, NOTES
The Kau Sugar company records consist of materials generated by two predecessor
companies: Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Company and Hawaiian Agricultural
Company. The Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Company records are organized
into the following series or categories:
The Irwin & Co. (1887-1899) Correspondence contains letters from the agents, as well as a few letters from Japanese Consulate, the Department of Immigration, Theo, H. Davies & Co., and the Board of Health. Subject matter includes mill machinery, and leases and deeds, laborers from Japan and China, and shipping goods and sugar. A few letter are also written in Hawaiian. The Letters to San Francisco include letters to the directors and secretary in the San Francisco office concerning accounts and shipments or sugar and goods. There are three folders containing correspondence from the plantation stores: Naalehu and Hilea Stores. These documents consist largely of orders placed with Irwin & Co. in Honolulu for goods carried by the Plantation stores: food, dry goods, building supplies, animal feed, and miscellaneous small goods.
Personnel & Payroll
Other Company Records
NOTE: The researcher is advised that additional records of Hutchinson Sugar Plantation Company are available on microfilm D00032 at Hamilton Library, University of Hawaii at Manoa. These include correspondence with Irwin & Co. - 1885-1910, correspondence with C. Brewer & Co. - 1906-1937, other correspondence - 1916-1936, and financial records - 1870-1938.
Kau Sugar Co. (Hutchinson
Sugar Plantation) finding aid:
University of Hawaii at Manoa Library
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