West Maui Sugar Association And Olowalu Plantation 1864-1881
Sugar growing had been tried somewhat successfully on Maui beginning in the 1820s. During this early period in the Lahaina area, small planters sold or supplied cane to numerous mills on a share basis. These early simple mills, run by either animal or water power, existed primarily for the production of sugar syrup.
The ability of foreigners to buy land coincided with an upsurge in demand for sugar from the Northern states in America who no longer had access to the Southern sugar supply because of the Civil War. As a result, two ventures began in the Lahaina district in the early 1860s - a business partnership between James C. Campbell and Henry Turton (later to be named Pioneer Mill), and a joint stock venture, the Lahaina Sugar Company. Although each operated a mill with cane produced by small growers, as had been the previous practice, granulated sugar replaced syrup as the object of manufacture.
During this period, King Kamehameha V, also known as Lot Kamehameha, ruled over a kingdom with declining revenues. Both he and his advisors viewed sugar as a likely source of income to bolster the government's finances. Kamehameha V also viewed sugar growing as a way to increase his own personal income. He saw yet another advantage in this enterprise; he strongly believed in the value of work and believed that plantation labor would benefit his Hawaiian subjects. As a result, in 1864 he joined with his court physician (and soon-to-be Minister of the Interior) Ferdinand W. Hutchison and Rose Ranch owner James Makee in the formation of the West Maui Sugar Association, also called the West Maui Sugar Company.
The West Maui Sugar Association was not the first sugar venture for either Hutchison or Makee. Hutchison was one of nine original stockholders in the Lahaina Sugar Company, and James Makee had established Rose Ranch as a sugar plantation at `Ulupalakua in 1856.
The West Maui Sugar Association planted sugar on parcels of land in Olowalu and Ukumehame leased from Kamehameha V. The parcels belonged to him personally, granted to him as crown lands in the Great Mahele. Crown lands usually were not prime kalo
-growing sections, but kula
fields, more suited to the growing of sugar. Lot Kamehameha leased his lands to the West Maui Sugar Association in 1866 for $200 a year, and in 1871 for $300 a year.
In 1869 another partner named Zephaniah S. Spalding, Makee's son-in-law, joined the three original owners and took over the management of the sugar operation. Spalding had come to Hawai`i two years before on a secret mission from United States Secretary of State William Seward. Seward directed Spalding to gather information regarding a pending reciprocity treaty's potential to affect possible island annexation to the United States. The reciprocity treaty would have eliminated American duties on Hawaiian sugar. Spalding's report to Seward opposed the passage of the treaty as he felt it would impede or prevent annexation, a cause he wholeheartedly backed. The eventual disclosure of his mission as a secret agent set back the cause of reciprocity, as it increased Hawaiian distrust of the United States. Spalding's investment in the West Maui Sugar Association apparently caused a personal change of heart, transforming him into a strong supporter of reciprocity.
Although the West Maui Sugar Association grew sugar in Olowalu, it sent its harvest to the Lahaina Sugar Company to be processed in its mill located below the Pioneer Mill sugar estate. It was a steam-driven mill that manufactured sugar on shares. In 1869, in the same year Spalding took over as manager, the four-member West Maui Sugar Association took over the Lahaina Sugar Company mill. In 1870 the association leased a storeroom under the Lahaina lighthouse which was located offshore on the Lahaina Wharf.
The West Maui Sugar Association was one of 32 plantations that existed in Hawai`i and one of 12 on Maui listed in an 1872 report. At that time it produced an average yearly crop of 600 tons, though its mill had a capacity of 1,200 tons. By comparison, Pioneer Mill produced an average of 1,000 tons for its 1,200-ton capacity mill. Both plantations were hindered by lack of labor.
Manager Spalding did not last long. Lot Kamehameha blamed the association's financial difficulties on Spalding's mismanagement of the mill and his extravagance. He threatened to withhold his land leases and financial support for the mill unless Spalding left the partnership, which occurred in 1871. Makee's son, Parker Makee, took over the management of the association.
The owners of the West Maui Sugar Association needed to concentrate on the difficult task of growing sugar so they turned to an agent, also called a factor, to handle the sale and shipping of their product. C. Brewer & Co. acted as agent for the yearly crop in the 1870s.
The sugar industry slumped in the 1870s. The Olowalu venture, struggling to survive, received a major blow when Lot Kamehameha died in 1872. Two years later, the West Maui Sugar Association sold both its plantation and mill in 1874 to James C. Campbell and Henry Turton, owners of what was by then called the Pioneer Mill Plantation, for $38,000.
The sugar industry soon rebounded, as a result of a reciprocity treaty with the United States that went into effect in 1876. In anticipation of a boom in sugar, Milton Philip, a Lahaina businessman, started to acquire land in Olowalu and Ukumehame in 1875. Another Maui resident, Goodale Armstrong, also acquired Olowalu property and together they formed what they called the Olowalu Plantation. Utilizing former crown and kuleana
land, they started growing sugar in 1876.
Two years later, Milton Philip sold his half interest to Franklin S. Pratt, a wealthy Honolulu businessman, for $105,000. Remarking on the establishment of the company and the subsequent sale of the plantation's half interest, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser
reported, "Some people laughed and said it would be a failure. But we are pleased today to chronicle the fact that Olowalu Plantation is valued at $210,000." This statement reflected the business community's confidence in sugar ventures after reciprocity; 16 plantations, including Olowalu, grew cane on Maui.
Milton Philip sold his share in 1878, the year that Olowalu Company most likely harvested its first crop and completed its first mill. That year Olowalu Plantation produced six tons of sugar per acre, more than the usual industry average of four to five tons. Armstrong managed the plantation and H. Hackfeld & Company acted as agent.
The continuing decline in the number of Hawaiians and their preference for other occupations compelled the Olowalu Plantation to hire Chinese laborers. According to the 1878 census, 86 Chinese men lived in Olowalu, all but one a laborer. Eighteen other non-Hawaiian residents included seven Americans, one Englishman, two Germans, two Portuguese and six other "foreigners." The Americans included a laborer, a farmer, skilled workers and the owners Pratt and Armstrong. The other "foreigners" worked as both laborers and skilled workers.
Olowalu Plantation also housed 30 Chinese laborers in neighboring Ukumehame and hired two Hawaiian residents of Ukumehame for plantation labor. Approximately 120 workers living in both Olowalu and Ukumehame relied on Olowalu Plantation for their living. In 1880, plantation manager Armstrong relied on an overseer, an engineer, a bookkeeper and a blacksmith to keep the plantation running. Output for the year reached an estimated 700 tons. A visitor that year stated that "the plantation is a valuable property and noted for the production of a fine quality of sugar.
Agents changed frequently at Olowalu, often with the change of ownership. In the seven years from 1877 to 1883, Olowalu changed ownership six times and agents five times.
Owner: Goodale Armstrong/Milton Philip
Agent: W.G. Irwin
Owner: Goodale Armstrong/Franklin Pratt
Agent: H. Hackfeld
Owner: F. Pratt/H. Widemann/W. Sharratt
Agent: G.W. McFarlane
Owner: F. Pratt/H. Widemann/W. Sharratt
Agent: H. Widemann
Agent: G.W. McFarlane