Olowalu Sugar Company And Pioneer Mill 1920-
The decade of the 1920s was one of progress for Olowalu Company. The company, always in need of water, continued to improve their irrigation system through realignment and paving of ditches. They also sought new sources of water.
Different than most other Hawaiian plantations, its small acreage made it necessary to take a "short ratoon crop" which matured in 12 months off of a third of the planted area to keep the property on a paying basis. The short ratoon crop ranged from 130-140 acres yearly.
In 1920 the company hired a trained nurse to also act as a social worker to improve the health and welfare of its workers. During that same year, the company continued its program of camp improvement by building houses for both families and single men. The main effort was to completely remodel the main camp, laying out the camp in street lines. The goal was to provide each family its own plot of ground with electricity, light, water and concrete drains. Names for workers‚ camps included Filipino Camp, Ukumehame Camp, Olowalu Camp, beach camp, and Makimoto Camp. During the 1920s, at least two of the camps were relocated. The improvements in 1920 also included a new dispensary, an office and a new residence for the manager.
In an attempt to meet the needs of Filipino workers, in 1921 the plantation converted an old house into a Filipino clubhouse. At the same time a section of land close to the beach and the Filipino camp was cleared for a baseball park. The company also planned to construct a building for a night school reading room.
By the 1920s the company utilized cars, tractors and trucks for many purposes, but still needed mules for cane hauling and riding in the fields. The company also kept a few head of cattle.
The ethnicity of the supervisory/professional employees of the plantation in 1921 reflected common practice in Hawai`i at that time:
In the 1920s the company planted 19 varieties of either seeds or seedling trees on the east side of Ukumehame gulch in order to establish windbreaks for the fields below. Only three varieties survived, so the company replaced the dead trees with opiuma plants, which flourished.
In 1926 Manager Valentine died, and Eugene Haneberg took over the management of the plantation. Haneberg had joined the Olowalu Sugar Company just two days after arriving in Hawai`i from his native Germany in 1895. A relative of former manager August Haneberg and owner Adolf Haneberg, he had served as bookkeeper, sugar boiler and chemist prior to becoming manager.
During 1930, Olowalu's second to last year as an independent company, it produced 2,967 tons of sugar from 373 harvested acres, an average of 7.954 tons of sugar per acre. Olowalu's output represented only 1.5 percent of total Maui sugar production and 0.3 percent of Hawai`i's total. A total of 645 acres was under cultivation.
All cane was brought to the mill in railroad cars with a newly purchased gasoline locomotive, operating on 4 miles of track, using 99 wooden platform type cars. Another 1.25 miles of portable tracks were used for field use. Twelve percent of the crop was transported by portable flume delivering cane down the mountain to cane cars.
The Olowalu and Ukumehame Gulches provided 78 percent of the water needed for irrigation with wells providing 22 percent. The Olowalu pump station irrigated 97 acres and the Ukumehame pump irrigated 45 acres. The main water supply ditches from the mouth of both gulches and pumping stations to field distribution points consisted of 3.5 miles of concrete-lined ditches and a half-mile of unlined ditches. The main ditches led to additional field and distribution ditches.
Six heavy mules were used for hauling cane cars to the main railroad line during harvest and six pack mules for packing seed and fertilizer to the fields. Eighty-five percent of general crop cultivation was done by hand. Hoes were used for general hoeing and irrigation. Picks and shovels were necessary to prepare rocky fields for planting.
Olowalu was one of the few factories in Hawai`i that did not run a full 24 hours. Running the mill only 12 hours each day offered the advantage of being able to harvest and to grind without bringing in extra labor. It also fit in well with Olowalu's crop cycle schedule. Because of Olowalu's unusually dry weather conditions, the company divided the grinding season into two, from December through March and June through September.
The Hawaiian Sugar Planters‚ Association controlled wages industry-wide. Male unskilled labor earned $26 per month and females earned $19.50.
Olowalu Company's 1931 staff consisted of:
Manuel de Mello
In early 1931 C. Brewer passed the control of Olowalu Company to American Factors, Ltd. who had long directed the affairs of the much larger adjoining Pioneer Mill Company plantation. Pioneer Mill Company paid $400,000 for Olowalu, which included 1,178 acres of fee-simple land and all its sugar equipment and railroad. The sale of Olowalu to Amfac proved to be the last major land addition to Pioneer Mill, bringing the size of the plantation to more than 14,000 acres.
Olowalu mill ground its last cane in August. Pioneer's Lahaina mill thereafter ground all Olowalu cane. To be able to transport the cane to Lahaina, Pioneer built a 1?-mile rail line to connect the Pioneer and Olowalu tracks. They also had to unify the tracks as Pioneer operated on 30-inch gauge and Olowalu on 24-inch gauge.
By August 15 the Olowalu office was closed and Olowalu Company no longer had employees. Pioneer Mill bangos
(identification tags) replaced Olowalu's. Manager Haneberg took an office position with Pioneer. Pioneer Mill's manager, American Caleb Burns, supervised the transfer.
An inventory of houses and buildings made during the changeover indicated the following holdings:
- Manager's residence
- Nurse's cottage
- Sugar boiler's house
- Engineer's house
- Head luna's house
- Laborers‚ houses - Olowalu camp
- Laborers‚ houses - Ukumehame camp
- Three lunas‚ houses
- Bookkeeper's house
- Office and dispensary buildings
- Oil house
- Implement and generator sheds
- Japanese store building
- Olowalu Japanese School building
- Carpenter shop
The railroad and rolling stock inventory included 52 cane cars, 6 flat cars, 30 Gregg cane cars, one 8.5-ton Baldwin locomotive, one gasoline locomotive and a roundhouse. The company also owned three trucks, three cars and a tractor.
When Pioneer Mill absorbed Olowalu Company, only five sugar plantations remained on Maui - Wailuku Sugar Company, Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company, Maui Agricultural Company, Ka`elekū Sugar Company and Pioneer Mill.
Production at Pioneer Mill in 1932 jumped from 47,896 tons of sugar to 53,246 tons based on an increase of 460 harvested acres. Four hundred and forty five of those acres were located in former Olowalu Company fields, 246 acres in Olowalu and 199 acres in Ukumehame.
The addition of former Olowalu Company employees to Pioneer Mill's workforce raised the total employee count to around 2,400 and increased the total plantation population, including families, to about 5,000. The addition of Olowalu's 4-mile railroad track extended Pioneer's system to 36.3 miles.
Pioneer Mill provided a plantation hospital in Lahaina with free medical care available to all families whose head of the family earned $100 or less a month. In addition to hospital services, child health clinics were held in all plantation villages, including Olowalu. A herd of 100-140 dairy cattle provided milk and a herd of 500-800 beef cattle provided meat sold by the plantation at less than market cost as a means of health improvement. The company also maintained a recreation department to encourage participation in baseball, basketball, volleyball, tennis, boxing, track and field, soccer, sipa-sipa
(a Filipino ball game) and swimming.
Hawai`i-born Scot John T. Moir, Jr. took over as manager in 1933, a post he held until 1952. During Moir's first year, Pioneer Mill dismantled the Olowalu mill and sold it for use in the Philippines.
In 1939 a Pioneer Mill census of housing indicated that there were 40 plantation-owned houses in Olowalu with a total of 180 occupants. The numbers break down in this way:
Men Women Children Houses
Japanese 23 17 28 14
Filipino 54 10 6 21
Portuguese 4 0 7 2
Hawaiian 3 2 4 2
Anglo-Saxon 1 1 0 1
Eighty individuals, comprising 44 percent of the residents, were not citizens of the United States. Filipinos accounted for 64 of these non-citizens, most of them male.
Olowalu counted as one of twenty housing areas maintained by Pioneer Mill, as did Ukumehame. Former Olowalu Company housing in Ukumehame had been almost totally abandoned. Only five people lived in three dwellings there.