Take a train into Kaua‘i’s past

It’s a birthday party and everyone is invited.

Bob Schleck of the Grove Farm Museum said today (Friday) is Paul Isenberg’s birthday, and on Saturday, Paulo, one of the five original steam locomotives brought to Kaua‘i, will celebrate its 120th anniversary.

“We’ll be having free train rides, music and exhibits surrounding the trains and the sugar industry’s history,” Schleck said while helping people waiting for a ride on one of the train’s cars being pulled by Paulo during Train Day.

Dick Sloggett Jr. was one of the people helping engineer Scott Johnson and Sam Maehata during the regular monthly train day.

“We need to keep the engine exercised,” Schleck told a nearby neighbor who was waiting to ride the train with her children and grandchildren.

The grandmother said she knows when it’s train day because she can hear the whistles all day long.

Sloggett, meanwhile, jockeyed between manning the manual rail switch and fielding questions from the steady stream of people taking in the monthly train day.

“I used to do this for Grove Farm in 1948,” Sloggett said while keeping an eye on Paulo’s reverse pattern out of its garage situated in the midst of lush ti leaves and banana.

“Scott found the switch bar in this area. It had been discarded and was old, but he refurbished it and now it’s back doing what it used to do,” Sloggett said as he deftly switched the track while Paulo paused to pick up more passengers at the old Lihu‘e Mill parking area.

The public is invited to a Community Saturday birthday party from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Sloggett said.

Parking for people wanting to be part of the exciting celebration can park at the parking lot located between the Department of Water and the Kukui Grove Cinema. From there, a shuttle bus will be operating from 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

“Paulo was named after Paul Isenberg,” Sloggett said. “In Hawaiian, ‘Paulo’ is ‘Paul.’”

Hanama‘ulu is the brainchild of Paul Isenberg who was the manager of Lihu‘e Plantation between 1862 and 1878.

Prior to securing the land of the ahupua‘a of Hanama‘ulu for $7,250 for Lihu‘e Plantation, the Hanamaulu lands were being leased by the plantation for its 10-mile irrigation ditch.

The plantation also harvested sugar from the Hanama‘ulu fields from as early as 1857 with the lease being signed in 1863.

The ahupua‘a of Hanama‘ulu is a land division extending from Kilohana Crater to Hanama‘ulu Bay, and in 1870 when Princess Victoria Kamamalu passed away, the Supreme Court of Hawai‘i ordered the sale of the land consisting of about 9,177 acres. Isenberg was the successful bidder.

Isenberg was born the son of a Lutheran pastor in Hanover, Germany, on April 13, 1837.

With the promise of a job as manager of a cattle ranch, Isenberg came to the Hawaiian Islands in 1858.

But there was no job and Isenberg had to look elsewhere for employment, fate taking him to the sugar industry where he started working for Henry A. Pierce and Company, the sugar plantation in Lihu‘e that eventually became Lihu‘e Plantation.

In 1861, Isenberg married Hannah Maria Rice, the daughter of William Harrison Rice and Mary Sophia Hyde Rice, missionaries who arrived in Hawai‘i in 1841 for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Under Isenberg’s leadership, he acquired a half interest in Koloa Sugar Company and went on to become its president in 1892 until 1902.

When he died of peritonitis in Germany in 1903 at age 66, the people of Hawai‘i mourned his passing and dedicated the Paul Isenberg Monument to his honor in 1904.

That monument stands to the right of the Bank of Hawaii and overlooks the site of the Lihu‘e Mill, the heart of the plantation that Isenberg built into a successful agricultural enterprise.

As part of his legacy, the Isenberg Recreational Center, a facility consisting of a gym, an 11-acre baseball-football-soccer field, 440-yard track, and two double tennis courts was dedicated to Paul and his brothers Carl and Hans. This facility was located at Isenberg Tract.

“He (Isenberg) did a lot for the island,” Sloggett said. “The party Saturday will be like going back to life in the old days.”

 

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