Island History for Friday, July 15, 2011

Born and educated in Ireland, William Danford (1878-1935) immigrated to Hawai‘i by ship around Cape Horn in 1894 with his stepfather, retired Scottish businessman and Magistrate for the County of Dublin Sir Robert Herron, and his mother, Lady Anna Danford Herron, and settled in Honolulu.

When Sir Robert died in 1898, Danford, ambitious and also somewhat compelled to rely upon his own resources, found work as a sugar boiler first on O‘ahu, and later at Hawaiian Sugar Co., Makaweli, Kaua‘i.

At Makaweli, Danford advanced to supervisor. In 1907, he was hired as head overseer, Mana section, Kekaha Sugar Co. by manager HP Faye. 

Danford had proved so popular as a supervisor at Makaweli that laborers who had finished their contracts there followed him to Mana in order to continue working for him.

He was promoted to assistant manager of Kekaha Sugar Co. and became its manager after HP Faye died in 1928, a position he then held until he died.

In those days, the sugar plantation hierarchy was stratified by race. Caucasians were managers and top supervisors, Portuguese dominated the lower-ranking supervisory class, while Asian workers, for the most part, occupied the lowest echelon. 

Socializing between the plantation elite and Asians was practically unheard of. Yet Danford was apparently an exception, as evidenced in the 1990s, when Kaua‘i doctor Thomas B. Williamson, a great grandson of William Danford, met an old Japanese woman who recalled that as a young girl she was routinely invited to the movies with Danford’s children.

Koke‘e’s Danford house was designed and built in the 1930s in a distinctive 19th-century, hip-roofed cottage-style by architect and Waimea Sugar Co. manager Alan Faye as a Danford family retreat.

William Danford and his wife, Jean, had two children: daughter Alys L. and son William Harwood Danford.

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