While ranching remained a part of Honouliuli’s history through the mid-twentieth century, the development of the Ewa Plantation Company took over as the major revenue generator, and source of the major changes on the land. Thousands of acres were cleared for sugar fields, work force populations were developed, housing and commercial interests grew, and traditional cultural resources were erased from the landscape. Sugar cultivation dominated Honouliuli Ahupua‘a through the 1970s.
In an article subtitled “Water prospects of the Colonization lands” the writer discusses the prospects of developing water sources for Honouliuli.
A few weeks ago the writer was one of a party of explorers, to examine the prospects of irrigation on the lands proposed to be developed by the Oahu Colonization Company. The particular occasion was a request from Messrs. John Fowler & Co., a large manufacturing firm of London and Leeds, to Mr. A. M. Sproull, B. E., their practical engineer and correspondent in these Islands, to report on the water prospects of those lands. Since Mr. Sproull’s arrival in this kingdom about five years ago, that firm has supplied a good deal of sugar making machinery to plantations here, and has also acquired a financial interest in some of them. It is gratifying to have such an influential and wealthy firm, so far away as England, manifesting a practical interest in the colonization scheme, the success of which implies a vast increase in the productive resources of this country. What Mr. Sproull’s report will be time may show; but, so far as the unprofessional eye of the Bulletin could judge, the feasibility of ample irrigation of the lands, at a cost not disproportionate to the certain returns, is assured. This conclusion is reached from evidence that may be summarized briefly: 1, Water has been obtained wherever a hole has been bored in the driest of the different properties; 2, the best and widest stretches of soil are below elevations where steady streams have been obtained; 3, Water in great abundance has been procured on other properties, where the conditions do not appear to have been any more favorable than on the colonization lands; 4, In one case, at least, it is demonstrated that the storage of water in mountain gulches is an available resort to a certain extent.
Incidentally the expedition gave an opportunity of inspecting, at close range, other features of the colonization scheme than the one under particular investigation. One fact made prominent was that, an investment, the scheme offers immediate returns from the stock raising branch of the enterprise. Indeed, there seems no necessity for diminishing the scale on which this is conducted, while thousands of acres are being reclaimed for sugar, rice and other cultivation. Also, it seems feasible, by turning water on some now desert stretches that will not be fit for agriculture for a long time to come, to create fresh pastures for herds, thus releasing lands now necessary for their sustenance, on the grassy foothill slopes, for a variety of agricultural operations by prospective settlers. Enough was seen to convince anybody that fruit-growing could be successfully prosecuted over a very large aggregate of ground, in rough and diversified sections, where ordinary agriculture would be attended with more or less difficulty.
A brief report of the expedition referred to, which is given below, will, we think, bear out the generalizations contained in the foregoing. As the lands have been previously described in detail by another member of our staff, in connection with a larger expedition, this narrative only requires to be a brief sketch, as much the record of a very agreeable few days’ outing as anything else.
About 4 o’clock in the afternoon of March 9th, an equipage provided and driven by Mr. B. F. Dillingham, chief promoter of the Oahu Colonization Company, rattled up the Ewa road bound for Honouliuli Ranch. It was a strong but not too heavy wagon, drawn by a large, well-fed span of mares, thoroughly trained roadsters. With an ample commissariat and light baggage, as befits an outing of the sort contemplated, and three passengers, the vehicle was snugly but not uncomfortably laden. Between the enthusiastic colonizer, the critical Bachelor or Engineering, and the journalist—supposed always to be on the seat for information on the public’s account—it may be imagined that not much of the works of either nature or art within the range of vision escaped notice and discussion by the way. This road—as everybody in Honolulu ought to know—affords one of the pleasantest drives in all the kingdom. The views of the city and harbor from Palama and Kalihi are superb pictures, while the scenery all the way to Pearl Harbor is full of majesty, with snatches of beautiful, but quiet—very quiet—pastoral vales and slopes. Health itself blows on us in the cool, pure mountain breezes: the road for the most part is easy: therefore, this stage of our journey may well be described as delightful. Branching off the main road a few miles from the ranch, a remarkable object looms up over the track. It is an immense piece of trestle-work, gossamer-like in the lightness of its material, but towering up, over the deepest part of the gulch it crosses, some 40 or 50 feet, and stretching away more than half a mile. This elaborate piece of engineering is on the property of Mr. Mark P. Robinson, carrying irrigation pipe from a pump over a steep hill to extensive banana fields. That soil is rich and promising of large returns, indeed, which justifies much costly works of irrigation as this. Shortly after sundown, the young moon lighting the now rather rugged way, Mr. James Campbell’s group of houses, local headquarters of the Honouliuli Ranch, is reached. After exhausting his lungs in vain on a tin horn in calling Charlie, our conductor, with the assistance of his guests, proceeds to get up a hot supper. His eminent success in that respect, if allowed as a token of his ability as “chief cook” of the colonization scheme, would leave no doubt of that project doing more than anything else to fulfill his Majesty’s motto, “Increase the nation.”
Early the next morning the much-wasted Charlie, the head driver of the ranch, a very active native man, had horses ready for a ride over the property. A short distance from the house a flowing excavated well was encountered, its troughs surrounded with cattle. Cantering off over very even ground, the slaughterhouse on the margin of Pearl Harbor is shortly reached and its unrivalled natural facilities for shipping are observed. A pipe line leads to a well dug through ragged coral, a little distance off, which, at an elevation of 20 feet, shows water 15 feet from the surface, which is pumped by one of the patent windmills supplied by the Pacific Hardware Co. Then, to horse again, and after going through large enclosed paddocks with a capacity of thousands of cattle, we ride for several miles over rich, alluvial soil, apparently of great depth. This part of the estate consists of almost imperceptible slopes from the foothills of the Waianae Mountains, divided at intervals by light gulches. Here and there are the beds of small lakes or large pools, now dry but affording evidence of large volumes running to waste from watersheds above in the rainy season.
After resting a few minutes, while Mr. Sproull takes bearing and notes on his map, on a knob 400 feet above the sea, we head for the top of the mountains. On a high but even slope, beside a vast gulch, a herd of wild goats is seen ahead, and Charlie is after them in a moment with his lasso. He makes a splendidly exciting chase, down and up the precipitous banks, and wheeling like lightning when the goats double on him. It was no use, however; the frisky creatures went through the flying snare and would not be caught. Onward and upward, now, the sure-footed cattle-driving horses are urged, and still it is “Excelsior.” Inclines so steep are surmounted, ridges overlooking such awful depths are traversed, and a path so rugged in some places is climbed or descended as on stairs, that nobody who faces the difficulties for the first time would think it possible to get over them on horseback until he was the guide ahead actually performing the varied feats—or rather letting the horse do them. Once the writer’s horse stopped at a descent of about four feet at one step, over bare rocks, with a slope of about 45 degrees beyond, and both sides of the path tumbling down through the trees a thousand feet at an angle of 70. It looked prudent to get off, and horse and rider each choose his own way of climbing down. But the reckless brigands below shouted, “Let the reins loose and hit the horse.” Not without apprehension this injunction was followed: the animal carefully felt for the notch beneath with his forefeet, then with a lurch brought down his posterior limbs, the saddle creaked and groaned, its bands giving a crack—the descent was made. We reached an altitude of 4,320 feet before returning by an equally difficult way to the plain. The scenery away up there was sublime in lofty peaks, awful gorges, and gaping notches: while beautiful with the foliage of a profuse growth of trees on the mountain sides, and bright green herbage away down in the valleys. Cattle swarmed out of the woods in countless number in answer to the peculiar “whoophoo” of the cowboy. They were rolling fat on the teeming rank grass and rich browsing. Going back over the plain we come to a well sunk over 300 feet at an elevation of 60 feet, in which the water is 20 feet from the surface. There is an engine and piping on the spot, but not in working order.
Next morning the road is taken for Waialua, the wagon having a smooth thoroughfare for several miles before getting off Honouliuli, traversing a magnificent stretch of heavily greased land, containing hundreds more of well-favored cattle of good breed. At an elevation of 800 feet is a windmill, at the foot of the mountain, placed on a dug well 30 feet deep, in which there is 15 feet of water. Just on the border of Honouliuli ranch, close to Hon. C. H. Judd’s ranch, at an elevation of 1,000 feet, is a flowing artesian well 80 feet deep, from which a perennial stream flows through a gulch presenting very favorable conditions for storing unlimited supplies of the essential element. It should be mentioned that we had been traveling all morning on the edge of gulches leading from the watershed, which would lend themselves easily and cheaply to a system of water storage. At the main road, the saddles were taken again for a three or four miles’ jaunt, to take a view of the Kaukoanahua and neighboring gulches, the one named being the source of the Waialua river. There could be vast reservoirs made almost anywhere here, and judging by the rain clouds bathing the distant mountain summits water would not be wanting to till them.
Early in the afternoon we reach Waialua, where, at the hospitable cottages of Mr. Robert Dickson, manager of the Kawailoa and Waimea ranches, adjoining each other, we have a chance of changing apparel after being caught in the heavy rain shower, as well as of procuring a bountiful meal. Then we push on to Kahuku ranch, 12 miles distant along the beach. At the Waimea sand spit the breakers catch us when the wheels are down to near the hubs, and we are thankful at getting across with nothing worse than the whipple-tree broken. Having made repairs, the remainder of the road is a pleasant drive over green pastures close to old Ocean. Mr. W. C. Lane, manager of Kahuku, with his amiable partner, gives us hospitable welcome, good cheer and inviting beds. In the morning he and two sturdy sons accompany us on horseback over the mountains to Laie, the Mormon settlement. An orange grove in the mountains is visited on the way, and levied on for its luscious fruit. The chief men of Laie show the party round with great courtesy, the mill and fields being visited. There is a powerful flowing well on the property, but without irrigation this community have got six tons of sugar to the acre. Returning to the ranch house by the plain, any number of wells full of water are inspected.
Returning to Waialua, Mr. Dickson meets us a little way out, and conducts the carriage straight up over the Kahuku ranch, five miles on a luxuriantly grassy slope, smooth as a race course. As much more distance may be traversed the same way, but this brings us to the object of pursuit. Here is a storage dam, with a retaining wall 150 feet in length, 100 feet thick at the bottom and five feet at the top, having a capacity of nine million gallons.
All the ranches visited are included in the Oahu colonization scheme.
Having enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Dickson’s royal hospitality over breakfast on Saturday morning, the party visit Mr. Robt. Halstead’s sugar mill— one of the best equipped on the Island—then drive on to Mr. James Gay’s stock ranch. At his place there are eight or ten abundantly flowing wells. Some 150 acres of dry pasture land have been converted into rice fields, which are leased at $25 per acre. Mr. Gaspar Silva, on the adjoining estate, has an equal area similarly transformed, yielding an annual rental of $30 per acre. After a bountiful lunch at Mr. Gay’s hospitable board, the road is taken for home, Honolulu being reached at sharp, five in the evening, the time fixed three days previously.1
The article below, entitled “Over the Oahu Railway Line,” describes the Oahu Railway Line through ‘Ewa. The development of the railway is yet another factor in grooming ‘Ewa to be an area for agriculture.
Just at sunrise on a glorious morning, such a day-break as only Hawaii can furnish, we started for Ewa to glance over the line and Ewa terminus of the first section of the projected railway. The grass, trees, flowers, fences, everything sparkled with the dew. A few tufts of white and fleecy clouds tipped the mountain summits; a cool air, fresh from the northern ocean, wafted down the valleys and lent an unwonted vigor to us and our horses. The blockade at Leleo causes a wide detour to School street, emphasizing the need of the new street continuing Beretania to Liliha. After the roughness of the Palama road it was a delight to roll over the smooth hard road through Kalihi and Moanalua. On account of the grade the railway will run off makai from Palama, crossing Kalihi-kai and Kahauiki a good way below the road; but in Moanalua it will tap the center of that thriving and contented looking settlement. The whistle of the engine and roar of the cars will wake the echoes along the cliffs and palis of that old domain of Pele. A new life will be infused into our hitherto sleepy suburbs, and the ancient Hawaiian as he squats on the ground pounding his poi will gaze with astonishment at the speed of the iron horse. Will he realize that it is whirling him and his whole race into a more and more complex life? The changes in Kalihi and Moanalua have been so rapid that one needs to go out there often to keep abreast with the times. The old road leading through a dusty wilderness has changed into a pretty street with the fine buildings and grounds of the Kamehameha School and many private residences, on the one hand, while on the other, a short distance off, a fine rice plantation stretches towards the sea. In Kahauiki the magnificent artesian well near the road still wastes its wealth of waters, although mauka of the road a banana plantation shows how rich the soil and how prolific when it gets the water. In Moanalua improvement has been the order and both sides of the road attest of what the place is capable. Near the head of the valley where the village lies, stands a tall derrick where Mr. Damon, the enterprising owner of the ahupuaa, is sinking a well to supplement the abundant springs in the valley.
At Moanalua the road will turn makai, running south and around the old volcanic crater. It will pass through a very dry but fertile section of country which, if irrigated, will produce abundant crops and support a considerable population. The salt industry might also be made a good deal of here and undoubtedly will be when there are facilities for transportation. The road will reach the shores of the lagoon in Halawa kai, and from this point on to Hoaeae will run along the shores, passing through a continuous and unbroken rice field. The tourists, however, did not turn off and follow the line of the road but continued on the Government road up to the romantic and wonderful gorge which has been torn open in some remote past age by the waters of the Moanalua River. The efficient road supervisor under our Reform administration has made a splendid piece of work of this road; the grades have been improved, the rocks covered, and a carriage rolls through from one end to the other with hardly a jolt. Rising from the gorge our party soon reached the point separating Ewa from Honolulu, the highest point on the road. Here the cool air coming down the valley in the morning reminded one of a colder clime and wraps were in demand. The recent rains have made the whole country green, which rendered it doubly beautiful. Only a short stay was made, when the party dashed down the long hill of “Kapukakii;” everywhere along the road are visible the signs of improvement; land in the past considered almost worthless are being fenced, wells are being sunk in the valleys in order that new land may be put under cultivation; the rice fields are green with waving rice, and in some places are already well headed out. Whirling on past the old Mission station at Waiawa and here turning south-west the party soon reached the Waipio residence of this estate. Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Brown were of the party and soon made us all at home. A pre-requisite in this place is a dash in the clear cold water of the bathing tank. The water is absolutely clear and pure, flowing in directly from an artesian well. It is protected from the wind, and a bath there is simply perfection. Most of our party evidently thought so, for instead of coming out when they were washed and cool they sat in the water talking railroad! They might have been there to the present moment had it not been that a call from outside announced the arrival from the fields of a large number of watermelons. All hands now scrambled to see who should get dressed first and in a few minutes were engaged in devouring the most delicious watermelons that ever fell to mortal share. After this a half hour’s rest in the delightful cool of the trees surrounding the residence, admiring the beautiful view across the waters of the bay, prepared us for a mount. Half a dozen of us took horse and rode out upon the peninsula which forms the makai extremity of the land of Waipio. This peninsula is divided into two sections, separated from each other by a low and narrow isthmus and from the mainland by a marshy flat now covered with rice fields. The inner section contains about four hundred acres, the outer about one thousand. On the west side lie the Waipio and Honouliuli lochs, on the north-east side is the large body of water comprising the main portion of Pearl Harbor. The extreme point of the peninsula is directly opposite of and in from the mouth of the harbor. It is said that the United States Government has been in negotiation for the purchase of this extremity. It is the commanding point in the entire system of lochs. Upon the inner section Mr. Brown has sunk a fine artesian well which has a magnificent flow of pure sweet water which will rise to an altitude of about thirty-four feet above the sea level. As the highest point of the peninsula is only about thirty feet, water can be made to flow all over it. The success of this well demonstrates that water can be obtained elsewhere on the peninsula. The shores are very much indented with little bays and inlets. They are lined with bluffs or fall gently off into sandy or pebbly beaches. In the little bays it is generally shallow; out-side it is usually deep. The view from the north-east side is one beautiful almost beyond description. The whole Kaukonahuanui range of mountains is in dew. Upon the morning we were there nearly every peak could be seen, for it was perfectly clear. The trade winds coming over the broad water gathers freshness and loses heat, fanning the cheeks with delicious coolness. Across the water the shores of the bay are extremely varied, the low rice fields being broken by the densely wooded Manana point. The soil along this shore is fertile and in some pockets quite deep. It is an interesting question as to where it could have come from, in view of the fact that it could never have received the mountain wash. There are most interesting points all along the shore; at several places are banks composed of immense masses of oyster shells, in some places nearly perfect, in others having the appearance of having been melted by heat or possibly by the action of the water itself. Where these oyster shells could have come from is an interesting question. One of the younger members of the party very nearly wept at the thought of the great waste of oysters which was shown on this great bank. It was saddening to think that we could have none.
This peninsula is covered with a luxuriant growth containing many algarobas. When the railroad is finished no doubt this whole northeastern shore will be occupied by residences; people will enjoy living out of town, when they can go and come from such a delightful point within an hour. It is to be hoped that prior to selling lots or permitting the erection of dwellings the whole peninsula may be laid out upon an artistic plan whereby the full effectiveness of its beautiful location and surroundings may be secured. After a long and careful inspection of this land and all of its surroundings till we were satiated with its beauties, the party returned to the Brown residence. Upon the way back a fine view was had of the thousands of acres of splendid agricultural and grazing land lying west of the lagoon. Waipio, Hoaeae and Honouliuli contain thousands of acres of land susceptible of fine cultivation and the production of abundant crops. Several thousands of acres of land lie below the level of artesian water flow and no doubt a series of wells could be bored on the lower Honouliuli lands which would supply flowing water for a first-class sugar plantation. This whole country will grow potatoes and other root crops, melons of every kind, corn, and could no doubt raise all of the hay and feed required for Honolulu. One marvels that these splendid resources should remain so long undeveloped. Were this in California there would have been such a boom long ago as Los Angeles never dreamed of! It lies with the Oahu railway to develop these resources and reap the fruits of the business so created.
We soon reached the house where a most delicious luau was awaiting our arrival. Under the combined attacks of a lot of hungry travelers the good things soon disappeared, and after that the party broke up, some remained to spend the night, others returned to town, and thus ended one of the never-to-be-forgotten days.2
The narrative below, entitled “Teachers’ Excursion,” describes the experience of teachers who traveled to ‘Ewa on the Oahu Railroad and Land Company train line.
The national school bell rang at the depot of the O. R. and L. Co., at ten o’clock Saturday morning and thereupon came hurrying and scurrying from all parts of the city, dominies and school marms galore, to the trysting place. Five passenger coaches with the band car in the rear were pulled up alongside the platform. At sharp ten, the Royal Hawaiian band struck up a merry air, the engine gave the usual screech and the train moved out leaving nothing but vain regrets for all “passengers aboard who had been left behind.” A more highly delighted crowd than filled the coaches could hardly be imagined. As the train went rolling through the rice fields, the clatter of the wheels, the easy rocking of the coaches and the mountain breezes playing through the open windows, recalled to many present some pleasing recollections of home lands beyond the sea. At Pearl City a stop of twenty minutes gave groups of excursionists the opportunity of strolling through the streets and avenues of the Ewa metropolis. Whether any of them located corner lots for themselves deponent saith not. “All aboard” was called again, and the party was run through to Honouliuli, where track laying has been carried forward to within about a quart of a mile of the great artesian wells which have already solved the “water problem” of the colonization scheme. Four wells have been sunk and the fifth is in progress. Most of the excursion party having gathered round, the fourth well was uncapped for their entertainment. A volume of water came rushing up through the ten-inch pipe from a depth of 450 feet, with a force that drove the column about a foot above the mouth of the pipe. Hard by, the brick layers are at work on the foundation of a building in which pumping machinery will be fixed with a capacity of raising six million gallons of water per day and delivering it over the adjacent bluff to irrigate the new plantation. The water is clear as crystal and has a barely perceptible brackish taste. On the return trip, a halt was called at Manana for refreshments. A splendid collation was provided in the grand pavilion, Mr. Johnson of the Hamilton House, caterer. In quantity, quality and variety, the bill of fare was first class. “Mine host” of the day, the Hon. C. R. Bishop, personally supervised the serving of the large company and seemed to possess the facility of being everywhere at the same time seeing that no guest’s timidity abound preventing his wants being fully satisfied. After lunch, the teachers were grouped in the grove and photographed by Mr. J. A. Gonsalves and other operators. The assembly next came to order with the Inspector General standing under a big tree as chairman, when a resolution was read: “That the hearty thanks of all the teachers present are hereby tendered the Hon. C. R. Bishop, President of the Board of Education, for this delightful excursion and entertainment.” The motion passed with a strong unanimous “aye,” backed by three cheers. The Hon. President responded in brief and cordial terms: “Ladies and gentlemen, if you have enjoyed the day as much as I have, I am satisfied.” Then followed a return to the pavilion where the band struck up music, a large number of the guests took the floor and whirled through the maxes of the dance until the foot of the locomotive announced that it was time to return to town. The afternoon train from Honolulu, just arrived, let down one passenger and thereupon the fine physique of the Hon. Secretary of the Board of Education was seen moving toward the pavilion. The “late Mr. Smith” expressed himself well pleased on hearing about the fun that office duties had prevented his sharing. At 3:30 P. M., the train arrived back at the depot, whence the excursionists disperse, all very grateful to the Honorable President of the Board for his kindness in providing them with such an exceedingly pleasant wind up of the past year’s work.3
1Development of Water at Honouliuli, Daily Bulletin, April 8, 1886, p. 4.
2“Progress on the New Oahu Railway Line through Ewa,” Hawaiian Gazette, September 25, 1888, p. 5.
3“Narrative of a Visit by Teachers to Ewa via the Oahu Railroad and Land Company Train Line— Development Described,” Daily Bulletin, July 23, 1890, p. 4.