Olowalu Company 1881-1900
In 1881 Franklin Pratt formed a corporation called Olowalu Company with Honolulu judge, cabinet minister and sugar capitalist Hermann A. Widemann and Makawao sugar planter William F. Sharratt. The corporation held 1,500 shares of stock valued at $100 per share, setting the value of the corporation at $150,000. The Olowalu Company initially engaged G. W. McFarlane as its agent.
The company soon authorized the building of a two-foot wide narrow gauge railroad track. The three-mile, steam-driven railroad carried sugar from fields in Olowalu and Ukumehame to the Olowalu mill starting in 1882. Steam power was relatively new to Hawaiian railroading; Olowalu was one of only eight plantations to utilize the technology in the kingdom at that time. The railroad ran alongside what was termed the "government" or public road and also ran onto Olowalu Landing. Olowalu Company repaired and upgraded its company-built landing in 1884 with financial assistance provided by King Kalakaua.
In late 1883 Olowalu Company changed hands once again. August Conradt, William H. Heine and Adolf Haneberg bought quarter shares in the company with Hermann Widemann retaining a quarter share. Conradt and Heine took over management of the plantation. All four owners were German-born, and all had begun their sugar growing careers on Kaua`i. Adolf Haneberg was president of Koloa Plantation when he purchased his quarter share of Olowalu Company. Conradt and Heine had previously been partners in A. Conradt & Co., which operated a water system for the same plantation. Widemann had established Grove Farm plantation in 1856.
In the same year that the company came under German ownership, 60 Germans joined the Olowalu plantation community. Most of them were plantation workers; some were family members. The 60 Germans at Olowalu composed the majority of Germans on Maui. Only three groups of Germans were ever recruited for plantation labor on the island. The Olowalu Germans arrived in 1883 on the Ehrenfels,
along with 24 German immigrants destined for Kipahulu. In the next few years, 18 more arrived to work in Pa`ia.
During the latter part of the century the sugar industry boomed, causing an increased need for labor. Olowalu's labor force not only increased - it became more ethnically diverse. Olowalu Plantation had employed only two Portuguese in 1878, the first year of Portuguese recruitment in Hawai`i, but the number increased to 34 workers just ten years later. The company also recruited "South Sea Islanders," who came from either the New Hebrides (now called Vanuatu), the Gilbert Islands (now called Kiribati) or Tonga.
The Germans who had arrived in 1883 were gone just four years later, having left immediately upon completion of their contracts. The Portuguese workers also sought other opportunities and by the 1890s few remained on the plantation. Because South Sea Islanders also did not stay long and importing Portuguese laborers proved expensive, Olowalu Company expressed interest in more workers from China and in exploring the possibility of Japanese recruitment.
The ethnic background of the 149-member workforce in 1887 consisted of:
South Sea Islanders 10
Newly arrived Japanese immigrants shifted the ethnic balance rapidly. The 155-member workforce, just one year later in 1888, consisted of the following groups:
South Sea Islanders 0
Unreported (Overseers) 3
To accommodate the influx of Japanese laborers, the company employed a Japanese physician named Kobayashi as the company doctor starting in the late 1880s.
By 1899 the 167-member workforce had changed even more radically.
South Sea Islanders 0
In 1884, Olowalu Company hired William G. Irwin and Company as its agent, a business relationship that was to last for 25 years. Despite early optimism and claims of success, during the 1880s the business community considered Olowalu a second rate property and the company remained in debt.
The ownership of the corporation continued to shift. In the late 1880s and early 1890s, American, British, German, Chinese and Chilean owners held interest in the company.
The following stockholders owned the company in 1893:
Stockholder Nationality Shares
Haneberg, A. German 386
Haneberg, A. German 33
Macfarlane, E. British 83
Spreckels, J.D, Bros & Co. American firm 150
Allen, F.W. American firm 30
Heen, H.A. Chinese 50
Macfarlane, F.W. Hawaiian-born British 33
Wolters, W. German 38
Bosse, C. German 20
Clamp, F. German 6
Hatch, F.M. American 10
Lan Cheong Chinese 10
Spreckels, C. American 325
Irwin, W.G. British 325
Widemann, H.A. German 1
British Hawaiian-born 33
German-born August Haneberg, the younger brother of Adolf Haneberg, took over management of the company in the late 1880s and continued until 1900. He had previously served as a submanager for the Koloa Sugar Company on Kaua`i in charge of Tobey Plantation and had been a partner in Kaluahonu Company, which grew sugar on shares for Koloa.
The plantation at Olowalu during Haneberg's tenure stretched along a nine-mile area, scattered along parcels of land in Ukumehame and Olowalu. The company cultivated fields of small size compared to other plantations with notably rock-laden soil. In fact, Olowalu was said to have kipikua
(pickax) lands, because in order to plant and cultivate the soil it was necessary to use a pick and shovel. Although the plantation utilized the most modern of equipment in most areas, it practiced perhaps the most intensive cultivation methods in Hawai`i due to its stony soil. Twenty percent of the plantation had to be cultivated with a pick. Although containing much stone, the soil proved fertile for the growing of cane.
In 1889 the company replaced their original locomotive with a new steam model dubbed Olowalu.
a first-class locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works, transported the cane to the mill in a particularly efficient manner. The cars could be placed close to the fields, so that workers had to handle the cane only once from field to car. In this way, one man could load five cars a day.
Once arrived at the mill, one man raked the cane from the cars into cane carriers that delivered it to the boilers. The boilers, protected by walls three feet thick, sat on top of the furnace, a setting considered to be energy efficient. The mill, a typical one of the times, contained five rollers. The mill conquered the severe problem of dirty cane juice with six clarifiers, an unusual solution in the Hawaiian sugar industry. Though considered inconveniently designed, the mill could operate with only 16 men and a few women. The mill was of "Scotch design" and "Scotch make."
The plantation, dependent on irrigation, suffered from the high cost of pumping groundwater. As a result, in July 1897 Manager Haneberg built a small hydroelectric plant a mile from the mill to generate electricity for both lighting and pumps, utilizing water flow from Olowalu Stream. Olowalu Company was the first plantation on Maui to utilize this technology and possibly the first in Hawai`i.
From the late 1880s to 1900, sugar production increased from less than 950 tons to about 1,500 tons, an increase of almost 60 percent. In 1892, the company cleared $30,000, which allowed it to erase much, if not all, of its debt. Starting in 1894, the company began to award dividends to its stockholders.
The number of sugar plantations on Maui continued to decrease during the last part of the century. In 1882 Olowalu was one of 20 plantations on the island. By 1898 it was one of only nine.
As production greatly increased, the number of workers on the plantation remained approximately the same. Some increase in production can be attributed to efficiencies in the mill and in transportation. However, a contemporary credited manager August Haneberg with much of Olowalu Company's financial success: "...the way of working the men secures more work out of the same number than in any other place that can be mentioned," and "...the manager is everywhere, and at times about everything, even to a field laborer. This probably accounts for his success."
The laborers held a different opinion as to the reasons for top production. The majority of workers Haneberg supervised were Chinese and Japanese employed under the Masters and Servants Act as indentured laborers. Indentured contracts called for a specific period of service, which the workers were obligated to complete or be punished according to law. In 1897 Wray Taylor, the secretary of the Bureau of Immigration, visited Olowalu in response to complaints made by Chinese workers regarding persistent docking of wages and harsh treatment. He indicated that this was not the first time he had visited there in response to complaints. As a result of his investigation, he stated that Manager Haneberg must keep his hands off his laborers, reduce his habit of docking pay, improve laborers' quarters, and eliminate the practice of isolating sick workers in a "hospital" in the daytime, to isolate them from fellow workers. Wray threatened to disapprove any further contract labor for Olowalu Company if these conditions were not met.
During Haneberg's last year of employment in 1900, the entire Japanese workforce went out on strike, along with Japanese workers from Pioneer Mill. The main cause of complaint from the Olowalu contingent arose from late payment of wages. Workers wanted to be paid at the end of the work period rather than two weeks later, claiming that the plantation held their money as a no-interest savings account. In addition to striking, the Japanese took their case to court. The Maui News
, although decrying the violence that erupted during the strike, did acknowledge "there are some wrongs to be righted in favor of the Japanese." In a seriocomic description of the strike, an anonymous Maui News
writer stated, "Sure, an' they must be `All-in-a-wallow' over there, jury thrial (sic) or no jury thrial (sic)." After three weeks, Haneberg and the workers reached agreement and work resumed. Just a few months later the United States annexed Hawai`i, invalidating the indentured labor system.