German-born Paul Isenberg (1837-1903) began work at Lihu‘e Plantation in 1858 at a salary of a dollar a day, and by 1862 he’d learned enough about sugarcane cultivation to be put in charge of all outdoor work at the plantation under Manager Victor Prevost.
Three years later, in 1865, through painstaking frugality, he’d saved sufficient cash to purchase most of Prevost’s shares in Lihu‘e Plantation and to replace Prevost as manager.
As manager, Isenberg interested a number of German families to immigrate to Kaua‘i, and was also instrumental in contracting laborers from Japan, Puerto Rico and Portugal to work at Lihu‘e Plantation.
Isenberg, like Grove Farm owner George Wilcox, promoted good labor relations with his workers at a time when laborers were treated harshly at other Kaua‘i plantations.
When revolutionaries overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, he expressed regret that Queen Lili‘uokalani had been removed from her throne, and proposed a return to the monarchy with Princess Ka‘iulani at its head.
On Friday morning, April 15, 1904, a stone monument created in his honor by his Kaua‘i friends was unveiled in Lihu‘e at what is today a corner of Haleko Road and Rice Street, when cords upholding a screen that covered it were severed, thus revealing it to a large assembly of spectators.
In the upper portion of the monument had been placed a bronze relief portrait bearing the inscription: 1837 April 15 Paul Isenberg 16 January 1903.
Lower down on the monument a bronze plaque was inscribed with the words: Erected in Loving Memory By His Kaua‘i Friends, April 15, 1904.
Then a procession of Chinese led by Mr. Ah Chuck of Kapaia and bearing gifts consisting of cakes, firecrackers, and a cooked pig laid on a board slung on a pole borne by two stalwart men was accepted by Isenberg’s wife, Beta Glade Isenberg.
Remarks were made by J. F. Hackfeld, Friedrich Weber, Judge Kahele, Albert S. Wilcox, and Isenberg’s son, Paul.
The singing of “Hawai‘i Pono‘i” and the “Star Spangled Banner” by the Kapaia Band brought the ceremony to a close, after which a great lu‘au was served.
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 email@example.com