Kauai homesteader and legislator John de C. Jerves

In 1906, John de C. Jerves (1872-1948), a field foreman for the Kauai Fruit & Land Co. of Lawai (later renamed Kauai Pineapple Co.), became a homesteader on Kauai after securing a five-acre homestead from the Territory of Hawaii at Kalaheo, on which he raised dry-land taro, corn, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, beans, forage crops and hogs at a profit to the limit of his available area.

His homestead had become available to him that year as a consequence of Kauai businessman and legislator Walter Duncan McBryde having generously turned over large tracts of his private lands in Kalaheo and Lawai to the Territory of Hawaii with the stipulation that the properties be used for homesteading — lands that were subsequently opened to homesteaders between 1906 and 1914.

Homesteads sold for $1 to $5 per acre, depending on the land’s location and the size of the homestead, and as long as homesteaders worked the land by cultivating crops and planting trees, it would be theirs in 3 to 5 years — a golden opportunity for Jerves and others like him to better their lives and the lives of their families by becoming productive landowners at a time when the great majority of people on Kauai lived in sugar plantation camps.

As a result of homesteaders settling in the Kalaheo area, a small community took shape there — the town of Kalaheo — which would not have been built had it not been for Walter McBryde’s magnanimity.

A fine agriculturist, Jerves is especially noted for his introduction of the Madeira sweet potato into the Territory of Hawaii, and his distribution throughout the territory of thousands of cuttings of this variety, which requires six to nine months to mature, can produce about eight tons per acre, and is characterized for its orange white pulp, fine skin and sweet flavor.

Mr. Jerves was also elected to the Hawaii Territorial Legislature in 1917 and 1923.

He and his wife, Maria Jerves, had three sons and four daughters.

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