Grove Farm Co. History – The Wilcox Era

Grove Farm Co. of Kauai originated in 1856 when Herman Widemann bought lands in Halehaka and Huleia valleys from James Marshall for $8,000, named them Grove Farm, and began planting sugarcane on them.

In 1864, Widemann leased Grove Farm — at that time comprised of about 400 acres of sugarcane land, 500 acres of pasture, and a homestead adjoining Nawiliwili Road – to George Norton Wilcox (1839-1933), a son of Kauai missionaries Abner and Lucy Wilcox.

Six years later, in 1870, Wilcox purchased Grove Farm from Widemann for $12,000, with $3,000 down, Widemann’s personal note for $3,000, and a $6,000 mortgage held by Lihue Plantation’s Paul lsenberg.

By 1874, Wilcox had paid for Grove Farm in full.

Wilcox increased Grove Farm’s size tenfold in 1881, when he and William Hyde Rice, a son of Kauai missionaries William Harrison and Mary Sophia Hyde Rice, purchased royal estates from Princess Ruth Ke‘elikolani for $27,500, with Wilcox retaining a tract called Haiku that begins near Mount Kahili above Knudsen Gap and extends toward Nawiliwili and Niumalu.

On July 1, 1948, Grove Farm grew once more, when it purchased Koloa Sugar Co. and merged the two companies under Grove Farm, while acquiring Koloa’s sugar mill at Koloa in the process.

Rather than transport its harvested sugarcane from its Grove Farm cane fields to the Koloa mill the long way around via Knudsen Gap, a half-mile long, 20-foot-wide by 20-foot-high tunnel was dug through the Haupu Range to directly connect the fields with the Koloa mill.

During 1973, in anticipation of unacceptable financial losses, the management and stockholders of Grove Farm made the decision to shut down Grove Farm’s failing sugar operations and lease its 10,000 acres of sugarcane growing lands to McBryde Sugar Co. (1899-1996) and Lihue Plantation Co. (1849-2000), effective Jan. 1, 1974.

Following this shut down, Grove Farm, which owned a total of about 22,000 acres, became primarily a land-development and land-leasing company.

In December 2000, AOL founder Stephen Case purchased Grove Farm from the Wilcox family, which had owned it for 136 years.

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Hank Soboleski has been a resident of Kauai since the 1960s. Hank’s love of the island and its history has inspired him, in conjunction with The Garden Island Newspaper, to share the island’s history weekly. The collection of these articles can be found here: https://bit.ly/2IfbxL9 and here https://bit.ly/2STw9gi Hank can be reached at hssgms@gmail.com

1 Comments
  1. Hank Soboleski October 13, 2019 11:47 am Reply

    Also, McBryde took over Grove Farm’s sugar mill in Koloa after Grove Farm got out of the sugar business.


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