Draft 10-22-20 Wailea Milling Company: The Independent Homestead Mill
Wailea Milling Company was a sugar cane operation on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island. In operation from 1921 to 1944, it was exclusively for homesteaders. The homestead lands were interspersed with Hakalau Plantation lands owned by C. Brewer and Co., one of the “Big Five” sugar industry corporations in Hawaii. C. Brewer was openly doubtful that Wailea could be successful but also saw it as a threat. As for the homesteaders, they did not trust Hakalau Plantation to give them a good price and were eager to be independent. The primary source of information for this history comes from the newspapers of the time. In the period from about 1906 to 1944, they addressed some of the basic questions that tell much of the story:
How was homesteading even possible on the Hamakua coast?
Who were these homestead-seekers?
What was their homesteading experience before Wailea Milling Co?
How did the idea of an independent homesteader-run mill develop?
How did the Wailea Milling Co. itself come to pass?
How did it do in its 23-year life?
How did the Wailea and Hakalau plantations get along?
Why did Wailea end and what happened to its people?
Government and public support for granting these lands for homesteading
The Big Five sugar processing corporations were among those who worked towards the overthrow of the Kingdom in 1893 and promoted the later U.S. annexation in 1900. But not all of the changes to come favored them. “American values” had long driven a homestead movement on the mainland U.S. -individual farmers, free to make their living on their own lands.
Hawaii_Herald_Thu Nov_23 1905_ Mr Atkinson, Acting Governor of Hawaii, responding to the petition of the first homestead-seekers in Hakalau and the opening of the “Kaiwiki- Wailea” tract: “…I shall only be too glad to co-operate with you and your Association in having these lands thrown open to public settlement. I believe that wherever possible, and without too great a sacrifice, all public lands should be settled, for it is the homesteader that will be the foundation of this country.”
The_Honolulu_Advertiser_Mon Nov_27 1905 An editorial in support of Hakalau homesteader-seekers: “Whatever sort of a case the Osorio Settlement Association may be able to make out on its own behalf, there is one proposition which must stand out clear and be firmly maintained in any question relating to the public domain. This is that the Territorial lands should be protected from both land-grabbers and petty speculators. Colonization by citizen cultivators is what is wanted.”
The_Honolulu_Advertiser_Mon Jul_22 1907 Another supportive editorial: “The strong competition for homesteads in the Hakalau tract sale may be regarding as one of the best signs of promise of a new era of development of Hawaii along American lines which has appeared in a long time.”
Aside from their obvious opposition to independent homestead mills, Plantation Managers were inclined to support various actions that addressed the problem of an unstable workforce. From the Hakalau Plantation manager’s point of view, homesteading was one way to promote a more permanent labor force:
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Tue Jan_2 1906_ Manager Ross was favorably disposed to the [homestead] movement, which would ensure a permanent laboring class for his plantation..”
The demand for Hakalau-area homesteading The “valuable” public lands with leases coming due Hilo_Tribune_Tue Nov_21 1905 The first big parcel of land to become available in the Hakalau area was the so called Kaiwiki III tract, mauka of Wailea:
“The lease of this tract to the Hakalau Plantation Co. expires June 15, 1906. There are about 1,800 acres cleared and under cultivation and is regarded as a very valuable tract in the very heart of the plantation, for which it has been paying an annual rental of $300.
At the same time, a smaller tract in the Umamua area called Peleau (625 acres) also became available. A few years late, in 1912, a drawing was held for 41 lots comprising the Hakalau Iki tract (Hilo side of Chin Chuck Road). And more acreage in areas from Umauma to Ninole became available in the period before Wailea Milling Co. -tracts called Lepoloa-Kuniho, Piha, Kahuku, Waikamalo. When the time came in 1919, homesteaders in all of these tracts would be contracting with Wailea. The entire area was cane land that would otherwise have been harvested and milled by Hakalau Plantation.
The first homestead-seekers 1906-1907 -Kawiki III and some other locations Hawaii_Herald_Thu Jun_13 1907
The first homestead-seekers formed “Settlement Associations”, as allowed by the rules. Representatives of the association were chosen to communicate and negotiate with the Land Commissioner. Most in the news was about the Osorio association. Its members applied for the first 14 lots of the Kaiwiki III tract. All were Portuguese except for a Mr. Kapfenburg, though his wife was Portuguese. Based on information from other sources, most came from Honomu, Pepeekeo and Hilo as well as a few from Hakalau.
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Tue Jul_23 1907_
A second big group of about 20, apparently unrelated to a settlement association, took Kaiwiki III lots at around the same time. Mostly Portuguese, this group also included a few naturalized Scots, including John Fraser, assistant bookkeeper at Hakalau Plantation, William Ross, Manager of the Hakalau Plantation Store and a cousin of John Ross, the plantation manager; and a couple of Hawaiians.
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Tue Aug_14 1906_ Japanese could not participate at this time, but that was soon to change. “Japanese May Not Homestead: No Japanese can acquire public land in this Territory. The decision has been arrived at by the Attorney General’s department and is embodied in an opinion handed to Land Commissioner Pratt…”
The next big group of homestead-seekers - Hakalau Iki 1912Hakalau Plantation’s lease on the acreage of Hakalau Iki expired in 1912. The diﬀerence with this group is mainly their ethnic makeup: 10 Portuguese, 8 Hawaiian and part Hawaiian, 4 Japanese, 3 “White”, 1 Puerto Rican. So the Japanese, later to be prominent in forming the Wailea Milling Co., were starting to acquire homestead lands.
Homesteading cane land on the Hamakua coast had a broad appeal in this time period. Among these men were a Japanese clerk from Hilo, a Hawaiian policeman from Hakalau, a Portuguese delivery man from Papaikou, a “white” railroad ticket agent from Hilo, a Portuguese bookkeeper from Hilo, a Honomu school teacher, a Portuguese butcher from Paauilo, a Japanese stableman from Hakalau Plantation, a Japanese “chauﬀeur” from Honomu. (This information comes mostly from ancestry.com.)
Hakalau homesteading before the Wailea Mill Co.Valuable public lands leased to Hakalau Plantation expired in 1906 and 1912. This coincided with the newly formed government of Hawaii -a Territory of the U.S.- that actually advocated for homesteading. Other advocates included a sugar plantation management who saw it as a means of stabilizing an unsettled workforce. Homesteaders were, of
course, expected to form a partnership with Hakalau Plantation for milling and marketing the cane. This didn’t happen easily, but it was doable.
In the first years, those seeking homesteads were mostly Portuguese who were born here or recently naturalized. At first, the newer Japanese immigrants were not included. But, by 1919, when agreements between Hakalau-area homesteaders and Wailea Mill Co. were first made, the majority were Japanese.
The lands eventually included in the Wailea Milling CoThese lands included parts of the entire area that comprised Hakalau Plantation lands, from Kawiki III, near Kolekole, to Ninole. A distance of about 6 miles on the belt highway and inland about 3 miles to an elevation of about 1,200 ft. They included the “Kaiwiki-Wailea tract”.
Hilo_Tribune_Tue Nov_21 1905 Kaiwiki-Wailea tract regarded as “very valuable” “…seeking government lands located in the Kaiwiki-Wailea tract. … [Hakalau Plantation] lease expires June 15, 1906…. There are about 1,800 acres cleared and under cultivation and is regarded as a very valuable tract in the very heart of the [Hakalau] plantation.”
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Tue Jan_15 1907 For the Hakalau area, two sections of land opened up in this period: “Hakalau Land Opening: There are two large sections of land. One is the Kaiwiki III tract containing 1765 acres; the other is the Opea- Peleau tract of 645 acres. The Osorio Settlement Association has applied for the Kaiwiki III section. The tract has been divided into 55 lots…. Forty-one of them are in cane and the rest will have to be cleared. The Opea-Peleau tract has been divided into 19 lots…”
In this period, homesteaders had few options Homesteaders relied on agreements with Hakalau Plantation for harvesting, milling and selling. Coinciding with this, their deal with the Government required that they continue to cultivate their land. Mostly, it was not realistic to try another type of crop. So they were stuck.
Hilo_Tribune_Tue Apr_10 1906 At first, homesteaders were optimistic that a deal of “mutual interest” would be struck with Hakalau Planation. “Land Associations Satisfied: Mr Alfonso that he has no doubt cane will be most profitable and that no diﬃculty will be experienced with the mill people [Hakalau Plantation], as it will be for the mutual interest of manufacturer and planter to do so.”
The_Honolulu_Advertiser_Tue Jun_26 1906 But, as this article reveals, striking this deal was not easy. The Land Commissioner, while not wanting to get in the middle, made clear that failing an agreement with Hakalau Plantation would be to fail an agreement with the Government. The homesteaders would have little negotiating power.
The desire for an “Independent Homestead Mill”The idea of an independent homestead mill first appears in the Hilo newspaper in 1912, but it was about Laupahoehoe, not Wailea. Then came accounts about the prospects for Waiakea (Hilo) and Kaiwiki (above Wainaku). Finally, in 1919, Wailea came into the news in a big way.
Hawaii_Herald_Fri Sep_6 1912 Importantly, the idea of homesteader-run mill was favored by oﬃcials in the Territorial government: “…a cooperative mill arrangement, by which the growers of cane will be able be able to get higher prices than would be able possible under the present system. The move has come from Laupahoehoe and is made public through the approaching visit of Secretary of the Interior Fisher, who will, it is expected, be deeply interested in such advanced methods being talked of. …It appears that a lease on a large tract of land held by the Laupahoehoe Sugar Plantation will expire in the near future and that the proposition has been made a number of people should finance the building of a mill in Laupahoehoe gulch, to handle cane for homesteaders who would take up the land in question.”
In June 1916, longstanding plans for a “co-operative mill” there were abandoned when Laupahoehoe Sugar Co. oﬀered homesteaders a contract acceptable to them. It appears that the prospect of losing up to 4,000 acres to a homestead-run mill was the incentive for the Plantation. But, less than a year later, homesteaders were again “unable to make satisfactory arrangements with Laupahoehoe Sugar Company.” Mill plans were revived. They never came to fruition.
Hawaii_Herald_Fri Jun_30 1916 In July 1916, the first homesteader-run mill -Kaiwiki Milling Company- began grinding cane: “The Kawiki Mill is located about 3 miles above the Wainaku mill [Hilo Sugar] and it is owned absolutely by the cane growers who are acting in cooperation…. Note: It went bankrupt in 1923.
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Tue May_18 1915 The prospect of a homesteader mill was also raised regarding Waiakea lands but finding the capital proved diﬃcult. “The land commissioner intimated, however, that the valuable sugar lands of Waiakea might possibly be occupied by homesteaders who make their own contracts with a privately owned mill which would be dependent upon them.”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Mon Nov_25 1918 “If ever there was a real chance for a co-operative mill or a strictly government mill, it is right at Waiakea today.”
The Formation of Wailea Mill Co.The first newspaper accounts of plans for the Wailea Mill don’t appear until May of 1919:
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Thu May_22 1919 “Plans are underway for erection of a homesteaders mill at Hakalau but nothing definite has yet been announced by the trustees acting for the homesteaders concerned. …The site for the mill has already been secured at Wailea.”
This homestead mill wouldn’t have happened were it not for the demand coming directly from the homesteaders, but it needed strong advocacy and a dogged search for capital to get it oﬀ the ground.
There was much to get right: Assemble a management that homesteaders could trust and a deal they could trust. Acquire a good mill site. Give the homesteaders a good deal. Fend oﬀ public criticisms from a sugar industry threatened by this idea. Find serious capital for an unproven venture -sugar mill, fluming system, other assorted costs.
Political support and a strong Board of DirectorsLike homesteading itself, the idea of a homestead-run mill was consistent with prevailing “American values” and government oﬃcials were encouraging. Add to this that the Board of Directors included 3 members in particular who provided strong advocacy as well as political ties:
August S. Costa, President Based on numerous newspaper articles, he appears strong-willed, well- informed and committed.
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Mon Sep_17 1956
He immigrated with his family from the Azores at age 10 and stated that he’d left school at age “thirteen and a half.” But his propensity for self- education is evident. At age 20, he was a printer at Hilo’s Portuguese newspaper (Setta Publishing Co.). By 25 he was assistant editor, and editor by age 27.
He was about 31 years old when he became seriously involved in the Wailea Mill project (1919). By this time, he was a Hilo IRS tax collector with a home in Wainaku, though he’d also had a homestead in Wailea since 1909. Until this time, his advocacy for homesteaders was not apparent by newspaper accounts, but he did have a close relationship with Director A. M. Cabrinah who did have such a public history (see next). His financial investment was 500 shares (par value: $20/share).
When criticisms from C. Brewer and Hakalau Plantation were circulated publicly in this period right before the Company was on solid ground, Mr.
Costa demonstrated that he’d done his homework and was, as president, quite willing to make a strong rebuttal on numerous points.
A. M. Cabrinha Director Newspaper articles portray a person with qualities not unlike Mr. Costa.
He was a County of Hawaii Supervisor who had, for several years, been engaged in homestead mill plans for Laupahoehoe and Waiakea. About 39 years old in 1919, he had immigrated to Honomu from Portugal with his family at age 3,”left the plantation at 16 to go into a grocery business for himself”, and became manager of a merchandising company in Hilo “with extensive business throughout the island”. He had no cane land in Hakalau but was a strong and involved supporter for a homesteader mill at Wailea. He purchased 100 shares (par value of $20/share).
He had been a “prominent member of the Waiakea Homestead Association,” first as a trustee, then president and manager of the first homesteader-run Kaiwiki Milling Co (above Wainaku), which had been in existence for 3 years. (It went bankrupt in 1923, likely because of the mortgage it had taken out to finance the building of the mill. Importantly, this was something Wailea did not do.)
Like Costa, he was ready with well-informed counterarguments to criticisms from Hakalau Plantation and C. Brewer.
James W Russell Director He was a Hilo lawyer and Senator “deeply interested in settling the people on the land”. Among other things, he introduced a controversial bill to set the price of cane for homesteaders and to place homesteader cane milling “under control of the Public Utilities Commission.” It got considerable support and discussion, but did not pass. He collaborated with Cabrinha on this and other homestead matters.
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Sat Aug_31 1918_ “As to homesteading, I have always been in favor of it and have studied the matter earnestly.”
Advocacy on the Board for the Japanese homesteaders
In the early period of homesteading on this coast, the Portuguese predominated. But by 1919, the Japanese were present in large numbers and eager to become more self-reliant. Fortunately, there were two more leaders on the Board who represented their interests:
Tatsuji Kawachi Vice President Age 49, he had a brief period in the newspaper when concerns were raised that he and August Costa went to Japan in April 1920 to seek investors for the mill. Apparently, this was not successful but it is notable that, when the members of the Board of Directors was announced in mid-1919, he had purchased 7,500 shares in the Company, a very large sum and very much larger than shares purchased by the other members.
Honolulu_Star_Bulletin_Tue Apr_20 1920 “There is a sensational story going the rounds in regard to the aﬀairs of the Wailea mill project on Hawaii. Reports from Hilo are to the eﬀect that President A. F. Costa and T. Kawachi, vice-president, who recently left for Japan, are going to the Orient for the express purpose of enlisting Japanese capital in the enterprise.”
H. H. Miyazawa, on the Board of Trustees Secretary of the Federation of Japanese Labor of Hawaii, age 39. About 58% of the homesteaders entering into agreements with Wailea Mill Co. were Japanese. Though things were slowly changing, mistrust remained about their loyalty to America. He strongly denied this charge of disloyalty and, it appears, was on the Board to support these men.
Wailea Mill versus C. Brewer and Hakalau PlantationNewspaper coverage in mid-1919 show how the case was made for the Wailea Mill. Editorials were supportive. In July, Director Russell and President Costa criticized the oﬀer C. Brewer was making to the homesteaders to continue contracting with Hakalau Plantation. In August, Director Cabrinah and President Costa responded to a critique of the Wailea Mill venture posed in a widely circulated letter from C. Brewer.
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Thu Aug_7 1919 An editorial: “The attack being made by Brewer & Company on the Wailea Milling Company is only to be expected….” “Wailea Milling Company will be the forerunner of many mills of the same sort in Hawaii…” “The days of the grasping corporations is about over and independent farmers are going to take the place of the coolies who have in the past been given a mere pittance for their labor…”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Thu Jul_24 1919 Director Russell: “The bonus or profit sharing plan proposed by Brewer Plantations is very misleading indeed”, said Senator Russell. “It strikes me as a plan to deceive the planter into the belief that the contract oﬀered was a better one than the Brewer Plantations had ever given before, whereas a fair analysis of the bonus provisions of the contract will disclose that it is not as good as the last contract wherein the planter received $1.20 [for every cent that sugar brings per pound].”
Hawaii_Herald_Fri Aug_8 1919 August Costa, regarding the aﬀect the C. Brewer letter had address to the homesteaders: “Not one Wailea homesteader has made any complaint regarding the contract signed with the Wailea Milling Co. not one homesteader has asked to be released from his contract.”
C. Brewer had a number of criticisms. The “mortgage” was perhaps the most important one and most easily refuted by Costa: “The Wailea Milling Company will have no debt to pay on the factory and there will be no mortgage on the mill as claimed by Brewer and Company. There is no truth in such a statement for all cost will be subscribed for.”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Fri Aug_8 1919 Cabrinha replied to the questions posed in the C. Brewer letter, often in depth. Cabrinha’s replies revealed a depth of knowledge that would have been comforting to the homesteaders. And his sometimes defiant
language showed a strong advocacy for homesteaders eager to end their dependency on a company they didn’t trust. One example:
“Question [C. Brewer]: Do you realize that while you authorized your trustees to sign an agreement binding you to for 10 years, you signed an agreement for 20 years?”
“Answer [Cabrinah]: This is a deliberate falsehood. The agreement was for 20 years and not ten.”
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Thu Aug_21 1919, pages 1 and 6 In this article, John M. Ross, Hakalau Plantation Manager, replies to Cabrinha’s answer. It ends a series of articles that had laid out the basic claims and counter-claims about the merits of the Wailea mill for the homesteaders. Whatever the arguments and misunderstandings, too numerous to mention here, C. Brewer and Hakalau Plantation intended their points as a public warning to the homesteaders.
Needed: A good location for the millThe_Honolulu_Advertiser_Wed Aug_13 1919 A viable mill operation required a mill site situated for fluming the harvested cane as well as for transporting the raw sugar after milling. Fortunately, a piece of land right beside the railroad and makai of much of the homestead land was made available by the Territory for purchase. “Hakalau homesteaders won out over C. Brewer and Co. and another opponent in a spirited controversy over land exchange in which the homesteaders desired to acquire a tract of 17 acres for a mill site for the Wailea mill.”
Financing the mill was a challengeThe homesteaders had signed agreements by mid-1919, but it wasn’t until mid-1920 that the Board finally found the capital suﬃcient to sign a contract with Hilo Iron works to build the mill.
Honolulu_Star_Bulletin_Mon Jun_16 1919 They enlisted their financial partner in securing the capital needed in mid-1919:
“The homesteaders of Wailea, Hawaii have enlisted the cooperation of the Security Trust Company of Hilo in their eﬀorts to acquire a sugar mill of their own…”
Hilo_Daily_Tribune_Sat Apr_17 1920 By April 1920, financing had still not materialized and the Board was reaching out for potential investors. Controversy ensued when President Costa and Vice-President Kawachi made a trip to Japan.
Hawaii_Herald_Fri Jul_30 1920 Finally, in July 1920, with capital in hand, Costa announced the contract with Hilo Iron Works to build the mill. “[Costa] returned recently from an extended trip to Japan where we sought to finance the Wailea mill scheme. The unsettled conditions of finances in Japan at the time of his visit, however, determined Costa to return…. Apparently, the money has now been found in Hilo.” “Discussing the general situation, Mr. Costa admitted that there was some truth in the rumors that some diﬃculty had been encountered in financing the project, …” “We are glad that the thing has been financed in this manner, for the future profits of the company will be widely spread and the community on this island will benefit.”
Also included in this achievement was the fact that the two members of the Board of Directors not yet mentioned both worked for Security Trust and the People’s Bank of Hilo, the source of much of this capital. They were H. A. Truslow and S. Kagimoto.
Operational in 1921The mill was built by Hilo Iron Works and became operational in June of 1921.
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Sat Jul_30 1921 “The Wailea Milling Company is running more than capacity, according to reports. This mill has ground more than 200 tons of sugar since it opened a short time ago.”
Wailea Mill Company’s 23-year life
Operations describedHonolulu_Star_Bulletin_Mon Jul_2 1928 A description of the scope of work undertaken by the Company workforce on behalf of the homesteader. He was capable of tending to the cane as it grew but plowing and harvesting was a workload well beyond one man: “Under the contract with the Wailea Milling Co., the homesteader, the seller, meaning the homesteader, receives 60 per cent of the net returns from the sugar manufactured from his cane; he bears all cultivation costs, pays land taxes, cutting, loading and delivering cane to the factory.”
The_Honolulu_Advertiser_Fri Sep_7 1934 Operations for both Wailea and Hakalau were complicated by the fact their lands were interspersed: “Their lands are interspersed with the lands of Hakalau Plantation to such an extent that an eﬀort to show their position on the sketch- map completely baﬄed the present critic.”
The_Honolulu_Advertiser_Sun Nov_9 1941_page 1 and 9 In general, the homesteader tended to the growing of the cane, fertilizing and poisoning weeds. So Wailea Milling needed a workforce for plowing, harvesting, milling: “The Wailea plantation population numbers about 400 and the payroll about 200, all inclusive: fields, mill, stables, carpenter and machine shops, store and oﬃce staﬀ, day workers and foremen.
Honolulu_Star_Bulletin_Sat Jan_26 1924 The Big Five Plantation mills in Hamakua were built during a time when their raw sugar was transported to the refinery via steamers. It was necessary to have the mill in proximity to a landing for oﬀ-loading. Wailea mill was built right beside the railroad. This made it more eﬃcient to serve homesteaders on lands 6 miles on up the coast in the Ninole and Waikamalo area.
Reports of successHawaii_Tribune_Herald_Tue Oct_6 1925
“Wailea Mill was started in 1920, and under the management of Costa it has combatted numerous obstacles, has made money every crop, and today is an established and recognized going concern.”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Sat Dec_12 1936 “The Wailea Milling Co. has declared a dividend of 80 cents per share to its 537 common stockholders …announced today by August S. Costa, Manager.”
The_Honolulu_Advertiser_Sun Nov_9 1941 “Under his [Costa’s] management, this little sugar company has built up an enviable record for prompt payment of just bills, I was told by merchants and other businessmen in Hilo. And so, these cane-growing homesteaders have made good in their 21 years of endeavor.”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Fri Jul_2 1937 “Under the supervision of Contractor Nagamatsu the Wailea Milling Co. is building six 24 by 36 cottages at an estimated cost of $8,490.”
Hakalau-Wailea relationsAs noted, the back and forth with Hakalau Plantation during the formation of Wailea mill was contentious. So, apparently, were the early days of operation. A “rumor” is recounted in which Hakalau Plantation turns up to harvest homestead land belonging to August Costa: Hawaii_Herald_Fri Jun_3 1921 “Mr. Costa voiced his disapproval that this cane should be milled in the Hakalau mills. …Manager John M. Ross of the Hakalau Plantation arrived and told his men to proceed with the cane cutting. …A scuﬄe ensued with the result that Mr. Costa’s shirt needed some mending, and Manager Ross will have to visit the opticians for a couple of new lenses.”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Sat May_1 1926 It is a credit to both men that they soon came together, even in the face of their competing views. (By 1926, Costa was also on the Hawaii County Board of Supervisors.)
“‘It is a known fact that North Hilo has never gotten a square deal’, it was declared by John M. Ross, who asserted that he spoke from 31 years experience. ‘This is the first time in all these years that North Hilo has ever had a chance to express an opinion, and if it wasn’t for Supervisor August Costa being on the board you wouldn’t be here tonight.’”
The_Honolulu_Advertiser_Sun Nov_9 1941_page 1 Fifteen years later, there is this description: “The company [Wailea] was organized in 1919 when the group of homesteaders believed they could grow and grind their own cane. However, the relations of lesser and larger sugar production units are entirely amicable and have been for years. The Wailea cane farms are lands that formerly grew cane for Hakalau Plantation Company, and occupy squares of the common checkerboard, but the managements of the two plantations cooperate with each other in many ways.”
There are many indications from newspaper accounts and other sources of the good relations among those who lived and worked in the Hakalau area. Hakalau School was for all. Various community and sporting activities were for all. Wailea families used Hakalau Plantation Hospital and clinic. Other examples: Satoru Kurisu, Vice-President of the Wailea Milling Co., was also chairman of the construction committee for the new Hakalau Jodo Mission (1936), still present today in what was the heart of Hakalau Plantation. President August Costa was also president of the PTA for Hakalau School.
Wailea Mill Co. ends in 1944 Mr. August Costa: “An oﬀer has been made by the Wailea Milling Co. Ltd. whereby its property assets and liabilities are to be turned over to the Hakalau Plantation Co. A tentative agreement has been reached that will benefit Wailea Milling Co. stockholders and adherent planters and yet should in the long run prove beneficial to the Hakalau Plantation Co. as well. … much of the stock is held by many small stockholders living in the community.”
The reasonsHawaii_Tribune_Herald_Sat Mar_11 1944 Mr. Costa explained it this way: “In view of the present emergency (war), the future is more uncertain for small plantations. The rapid mechanization of harvesting operations, due to shortage of manpower, bring Wailea to the prospect of facing a heavy investment in harvesting equipment and cane cleaning plant. An extensive road building would be necessary to keep up with machine development.”
Hakalau Plantation Manager Jennings had a diﬀerent summary: “…Time has proved that it has been wasteful and not an economical procedure to operate two factories in view of the fact that Hakalau has the capacity to handle all the cane in the district. The Wailea Milling Co. has been able to survive through the diﬃculties that are inherent in small sugar producing units and have particularly beset all small plantations in Hawaii, largely through the energy and resourcefulness of Mr. Costa.”
Oﬀering an opinion here, one can find merit in both explanations. As Costa says, the inevitable capital requirements of mechanization were more than they could handle. But that shortcoming was due to its size and independence. C. Brewer had deep pockets suﬃcient to make this change.
C. Brewer never really gave up its contention that Wailea was never a viable idea. Yet it proved successful for 23 years.
Workforce absorbed into Hakalau Plantation Co.Honolulu_Star_Bulletin_Mon Mar_13 1944Mr. Costa: “…Wailea Cane will be ground at the Hakalau factory. ..All Wailea Milling Co. employees will be absorbed into the Hakalau Plantation Co. organization and no disruption in their working or living conditions will be necessitated by the change.”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Sat Jul_15 1944 Former Vice-President and field superintendent of Wailea Milling Co., Satoru Kurisu, gets a position at Hakalau Plantation: “Hakalau Plantation Changes Reported: …”Kurisu will be in charge of all fields from Chin Chuck Road to Kolekole gulch…”
Hawaii_Tribune_Herald_Wed Apr_17 1946 “August S. Costa of Wailea Will Leave for Coast”: The Wailea Social and Recreational Club is honoring Mr. and Mrs. August S. Costa of Wailea at the club hall tonight at 7. …The couple and daughter Loretta are leaving at the end of this month for the mainland to join their son Wilfred who is attending school there..”
The mill is dismantledHawaii_Tribune_Herald_Sun Sep_22 1974 This writer lived in Wailea for 5 years in the 1950s as a grade-school kid but saw no sign of a mill. In a 1974 interview, 86 year old John Vierra, the mill engineer, accounts for what happened to it: “When the mill was sold to Hakalau Plantation in 1944, part of it went to the Philippines, some went to Kilauea Plantation on Kauai, and the reminder was shipped to Honolulu. The building went to the Highway Department.”
The example of a successful independent homestead mill was a threat to the all-powerful “Big Five” sugar industry corporations in Hawaii. But they could not stop it. Even in the early part of the 20th century, there were contending forces. The Wailea mill expressed an “American ideal” with strong advocates in the government and the community.
It’s also true that, after the Kaiwiki Milling Co. failed in 1923, Wailea remained the only independent homestead mill. It was not replicated. The reasons for this were not described in newspaper coverage but some factors could be considered: 1) The daunting task of raising enough capital. 2) Some indication that the Big Five plantations began to oﬀer the homesteaders a somewhat better deal. 3) The strong advocacy and willpower that was apparent in forming the Wailea Milling Co. was, perhaps, unusual and not easy to replicate.
Leadership matters. Plantation Managers August Costa and John M. Ross got oﬀ to a rocky start. This could have spelled trouble for the operations of both plantations and for the larger Hakalau community.
We don’t know how these two men went from hostility to mutual respect, but it happened, and it was important that it did. (Mr. Ross was Manager of Hakalau Plantation for nearly the entire life of Wailea Milling Co.)
Wailea Milling Co. was a problem for Hakalau Plantation but there is no indication that the homesteaders themselves had regrets about their association with the mill. For as long as it lasted, it was an opportunity for greater independence and a deal they preferred.
The lack of suﬃcient capital for mechanization appears to have been the immediate cause for ending operations and selling the mill to Hakalau Plantation, but there would have been other serious headwinds ahead. Had Wailea lasted for another two years, it would have had to face the end of the railroad (caused by the tsunami of 1946). It would have also had to navigate the industry-wide labor strikes and wage increases that began around the same time and continued through the 1950s.