Island History

Kalakaua’s Hui Kawaihau

In 1877 King David Kalakaua gave former whaling captain and Honolulu businessman Captain James Makee permission to build a sugar mill on the shore at Kapa‘a and to plant sugarcane on land behind Kapa‘a. In return, Kalakaua held a 25 percent interest in Makee’s new Kaua‘i sugar enterprise.

And in that same year, Kalakaua also set up an unlikely band of prospective sugar planters in the sugar business at Kapahi — about three dozen courtiers and members of his recently deceased brother’s (Prince Leleiohoku’s) Honolulu choral society.

Charter members of the Hui Kawaihau (Ice Water Company), as Kalakaua’s business enterprise was named, included Kalakaua, Captain Makee, Gov. John Dominis of O‘ahu (Princess Liliuokalani’s husband), and Koakanu, high chief of Koloa.

Many of the 32 working members of the Hui Kawaihau arrived on Kaua‘i at the mouth of the Wailua River aboard the famous steamer Kilauea in August of 1877 and were rowed ashore, along with their families, tools, lumber, food and tents. King Kalakaua and Gov. Dominis were also present at Wailua that day to kick off the newly founded endeavor.

The hui then built a row of houses and a big octagonal meeting hall in Kapahi about two miles above the shore, in the vicinity of where the pineapple cannery was later built, and contracted Captain Makee to plant 240 acres of sugarcane. Makee also agreed to grind the hui’s cane at his Kapa‘a mill.

After startup debts were paid, the hui’s first crop netted its members a good $500 profit, but a fire destroyed much of the second crop, which disheartened the hui, and in 1881, when the hui Kawaihau went out of business, its property and leased lands were acquired by Makee’s son in law, American Civil War Col. Zephaniah S. Spalding.

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