ISLAND HISTORY: A history of Kauai’s Kipu Sugar Plantation

In 1866, William Hyde Rice (1846-1924), the son of American Protestant missionaries to Hawaii William Harrison Rice and Mary Sophia Hyde Rice, began leasing land at Kipu from Princess Ruth Keelikolani on which he raised horses and cattle.

Then in 1881, Rice’s leasehold of Kipu became freehold when he and Grove Farm Plantation owner George Norton Wilcox together purchased Kipu, Kipu Kai, and Haiku from Princess Ruth for $27,500, with Rice then taking possession of Kipu and Kipu Kai, while Wilcox acquired Haiku.

Yet, it was not until 1907 that Rice’s son, Charles Rice (1876-1964), began growing sugarcane at Kipu.

His Kipu Sugar Plantation would eventually encompass around 5,000 acres, with 1,000 acres subdivided into 11 sugarcane fields.

Furthermore, Rice contracted Lihue Plantation to grind his plantation’s sugarcane, which was shipped by rail from Kipu to the Lihue mill.

Plantation employees and their families lived in camps named Halfway Bridge, Aakukui, Seki, Rice and Huleia Valley.

The employee roster for 1927 – a year when Kipu Sugar Plantation’s operations were at an apex – listed a total of 211 workers: 46 Japanese, 75 Filipino men, 7 Portuguese, 1 Chinese, 5 Korean, 1 Japanese woman, 23 Filipino women, 6 Hawaiian women, 26 school boys, 7 school girls, 7 skilled employees and 7 supervisors.

Edward Kalikolehua Scharsch was Kipu Sugar Plantation’s longest serving manager from 1924 to 1941, and Charles Ishii was its bookkeeper, secretary and assistant treasurer.

In 1940, when Lihue Plantation cancelled its sugar grinding contract with Kipu Sugar Plantation, effective in 1942, it also sent Kipu Sugar Plantation a new contract specifying terms not acceptable to Rice due to increased cost.

Charles Rice then decided to shut down Kipu Sugar Plantation and convert its sugar lands to pasture.

Planting of sugarcane ceased in 1941 and fields already planted in sugarcane were harvested until April 1942.

Additionally, Kipu Sugar Plantation’s dairy herd and equipment was sold to the Faye family’s Waimea Dairy.

While the last railroad car of sugarcane was on its way from Kipu to the Lihue mill in 1942, Kipu employees were planting grass in former sugarcane fields.

  1. James Kuroiwa, Jr. October 3, 2021 4:32 pm Reply

    Mahalo Hank Soboleski, for bringing life to Kipu. My great grand parents arrived at Kipu in April 1891 to begin contract work for the plantation. Yet it was written the plantation began planting sugar in 1907. My step dad was Charlie Scharch (former Kauai Harbor Master) and son of Edward Scharch.

    1. Hank Soboleski October 4, 2021 11:49 am Reply

      Hi James,
      Glad the story brought back good memories. My source on the date is: History of Kipu Plantation and Ranch, 1900-2000 by William K. Yamanaka and Patricia Smith Rice, 1998. Thank you,

  2. Kameaaloha October 4, 2021 3:07 pm Reply

    Land or purchased or stolen??? I believe it was the latter.

  3. Kameaaloha October 4, 2021 3:10 pm Reply

    History from the eyes of white people. Land sold by Alii. Try like, land STOLEN from Alii

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