The famous Wilcox family had humble beginnings as a poor missionary family who came to Hawai‘i in the early 1800s to teach at Waioli Mission station in Hanalei. George — the second son of eight boys — acquired Grove Farm from Judge Widermann in 1864. He took a 10-year lease with option to buy and moved into a house on the property with a thatched grass roof. He was soon joined by his brother Sam who with him developed the property into a successful sugar plantation. During the first 100 years of existence, Grove Farm grew into a sugar plantation of approximately 22,000 acres with about half the area in sugar and the other half in cattle pasture.
The Civil War destroyed the agriculture in the south of the U.S. and that helped sugar become a successful industry in the still then Kingdom of Hawai‘i. George’s ingenuity and education helped develop irrigation systems and for the time very advanced engineering capabilities on the property that increased the personal wealth and prestige of the Wilcox family.
Sam married Emma of the Lyman family and together they had six children Ralph, Etta, Elsie, Charles, Gaylord and Mabel. Many of these children, as well as their uncle George, helped shaped Kaua‘i into the island it is today with their philanthropic ideals and business successes. During the First World War, for instance, Grove Farm dedicated large acreage previously used for sugar to grow food for the local population and the military. Grove Farm more recently donated 200 acres in Puhi to the University of Hawai‘i to build Kauai Community College.
Elsie and Mabel particularly lived at Grove Farm throughout their lives and played significant roles in education, public health, politics and historic preservation as well as serving on the board of directors of Grove Farm which George incorporated in 1922.
The museum and historic grounds and buildings at Grove Farm takes you back to an era of refinement and hard work , to witness the frugality and the generosity of a family pivotal in the development of Kaua‘i. You can call to arrange a tour at 245-3678, or check them out at www.grovefarm.com. It is a most interesting way to spend a few hours on beautiful Kaua‘i and learn more about our past.
There is a special event planned at Grove Farm Museum, 4050 Nawiliwili Rd., Lihu‘e for June 16 from 1 to 5 p.m. It is the Second Annual Art Sale and Reception featuring 16 local artists. There will be music, refreshment and tours of the homestead. If you’re lucky you may even get to sample some of Miss Mabel’s favorite Grove Farm Ice Box Cookies with some Grove Farm Mint Iced Tea as we did on the tour. Call Barb Kennedy at 826-1528 to reserve your spot.