Keiki o ka ‘Aina

People like to say “the missionaries stole the land” when referring to the cruel dispossession of the Hawaiian people after the Mahele.

This was the momentous series of events between 1845 and 1855 in which, with the agreement of the king and chiefs, the Hawaiian ‘aina was “alienated,” that is, made available for sale.

One thing I know: It wasn’t the original Protestant missionaries who made off with vast quantities of land in the decades afterward. The missionaries purchased what property they came to own at the going rate of $1 an acre, and I have seen the records. True, some of the children of those who stayed behind prospered mightily, but that is another story.

If any haole stole the land of Hawaii, the front-runner in my mind is Claus Spreckels, the sugar baron and crony of Kalakaua, and it happened right here on Maui.

Kalakaua is revered today, and rightly so, for his revival of the Hawaiian culture, but he also possessed grave weaknesses. He felt he had to spend lavishly like his lofty predecessors, the Kamehamehas. But Kalakaua’s mother, the Big Island chiefess Kekohokalole, sold almost all of her considerable lands to finance her own high living, leaving Kalakaua with only four ‘aina.

These he soon spent, leaving nothing for his sister, Lili’uokalani, for whom money problems also led to bad decisions. Chronically in debt, the king was dependent on Spreckels, who gave him low-interest loans to cover his expenses in exchange for favors.

So here’s the story. Spreckels held a 30-year lease to the 24,000-acre “Wailuku commons,” crown lands that stretched across the isthmus of Maui from Waikapu to Kailua gulch outside Paia. This was the land on which Spreckels established his vast HC&S sugar empire. Rather than run the risk of it reverting to the government when the lease ran out, he schemed to own it.

This, however, was considered impossible. Stay with me now. In 1865, in response to the profligate spending of Kamehemeha IV, the Legislature had passed an act sequestering the personal lands of the monarch as “crown lands.” They were henceforth “inalienable,” that is, unable to be sold, to be kept in trust with the revenues used to support the monarchy.

Spreckels could not break the trust, but he came up with a characteristically ingenious and underhanded solution. In 1880, he persuaded Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani, the half-sister of Kamehameha V, to sell him her claim to a half-interest in the crown lands of Hawaii. For this he paid $10,000, and sweetened the deal with a $60,000 loan at a low interest rate. On the face of it, this was foolishness. Ruth’s claim had already been deemed without merit by the courts. But Spreckels managed to obtain three legal opinions in favor of his claim: two from the former attorneys general William R. Castle and Alfred S. Hartwell – one a missionary descendant, the other married to one – and a third from Edward Preston, soon to become Kalakaua’s next attorney general.

A bill was introduced in the Legislature authorizing the commissioners of the crown lands to convey the Wailuku commons to Spreckels “in satisfaction of all claims he may have. . . .”

George Washington Pilipo, “the Lion of North Kona,” was aghast. Wailuku, he said, was “much loved by the people. It was the place of sepulchre of the ancient chiefs, and yet not one dollar of consideration [would be] received by the Crown.” Giving crown lands outright to a private individual, he argued, would be “a step toward destroying the independence of the country.”

Pilipo moved that the Legislature indefinitely postpone the bill, but Preston assured the assembly that the measure was merely to settle title and would save much aggravation down the road in the courts.

The bill passed 30-8 and Kalakaua signed it on July 21, 1882. The Hawaiian newspaper Ko Hawaii Pae Aina condemned the “base-hearted treacherous cunning” of Kalakaua’s premier, Walter Murray Gibson, who “beguiled” the Legislature into giving Wailuku away. Henry Whitney at The Hawaiian Gazette reported that Gibson had borrowed $37,000 in his own name from Spreckels at 6 percent interest.

Pilipo continued to protest. In the election of 1886, armed with numerous cases of gin with which to bribe voters, Kalakaua went to north Kona, sat by the polling place and personally secured Pilipo’s defeat.

The Legislature of 1882, wrote the historian William Alexander, was “one of the weakest and most corrupt that ever sat in Honolulu.”

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

My first assignment when I arrived at The Maui News in 1992 was to cover the planting of six orange trees in the parking lot near Mana Foods, on Baldwin Avenue in Paia.

It was pretty lame as far as assignments go, but I was game. Sandy Zalburg, my old editor at The Honolulu Advertiser, used to say, “Kid, there’s always a story.”

I dreamed something up. “The trees are to feed the people of Maui,” the self-styled unofficial mayor of Paia, whose name escapes me now, declared. I think about that ceremony when the two remaining trees, now 20 years old, bear golden fruit, as they are now.

Thank you, county Planning Department, for the design guidelines that have preserved the history of our charming town. According to Bill Tavares, whose father, Antone F. Tavares, used to control the Kahului side of Paia (John Medeiros had the Hana side), some original buildings from the pre-1930s still remain.

One is the old Paia Clothes Cleaners building on Baldwin Avenue, a two-story wooden building a little bit below Akoni Lane, now housing the shop Dahlia. The “nice little building on a mound” just up the road, now Sophie Grace Maui, was the old draft board. Cafe des Amis occupies the site of the former Machida Drug Store. The Hew Building toward the entrance of town housing Maui Hands survives. Moana Cafe, which recently closed, was Ikeda Store.

These were spared in the devastating fire that broke out in the early-morning hours of Sunday, July 6, 1930, at an automotive shop near the corner restaurant where the Paia Fish Market is now.

“Billy, Paia is burning,” Antone Tavares said, waking up Bill and his brother Carl. He led them out into the smoldering ruins, holding their hands to keep them away from downed electrical wires. “He was almost weeping. He lost a lot of his buildings,” Tavares recalled. “We were scared to death when we saw the destruction on the corner. It was totally burned.”

Owners of the Paia Mercantile building, where Milagros is now, put wet bags on the roof, desperately hoping wind wouldn’t shift and blow that way. Mercifully, it prevailed from the northeast and spared buildings on the Hana side of Baldwin Avenue.

But flames drove through the Kahului side, gobbling up small dwellings and other businesses. The fire jumped Hana Highway in the vicinity of Nagata Store, now Paia Pharmacy, and drove through structures on the ocean side of the street. From an upstairs window, Tavares saw an explosion as gas tanks at the Kubo Service Station ignited. There, he believes, the fire ended.

County firefighters with their their “dinky” engine and lack of water supply looked on helplessly as melted connections in the burning buildings lowered the pressure to such an extent that the fire hose was useless.

“We just had to sit and watch it burn,” said Deputy Sheriff Frank Silva, according to The Maui News. When fire jumped across the street “from the Medeiros building to the police station,” Silva and his men tried dynamite. They blew up one building and, convinced of the futility of the plan, abandoned it.

“Finally a pump belonging to the Maui Agricultural Company was brought into action and water was pumped from the ocean and turned on the charred and smoldering remains of what was once the business heart of Lower Paia. It was late in the game but prevented the wind from picking up live embers and scattering them among the undamaged buildings.”

By 5 a.m., the flames that “threatened to wipe out the entire Lower Paia area” had “ruthlessly laid in ashes some 15 stores and a number of smaller structures.” Damages were estimated at anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000, and about 150 people became homeless.

Townsfolk recovered quickly from the shock. The ruins were still smoldering early Sunday morning when the Japanese and Chinese organized relief committees. There was no looting. Everyone cooperated, and new buildings erected in a few months were considered an improvement over the others.

“Thank God the wind didn’t blow the other way,” Tavares said. “We all would have been wiped out.”

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

We wandered over one recent Saturday to Kaluanui, the former estate of Ethel and Harry Baldwin below Makawao, now the Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center.

The large, airy house faces Haleakala, and the floor-to-ceiling windows designed by C.W. Dickey frame it from almost every room. The grand dome of the mountain is there in every step, fitting since at one time the family owned much of it, including, amazingly, half the crater.

An exhibit honoring the 125th anniversary of Haleakala Ranch has formally opened, installed in a back room off the entrance. In part it tells of the relationship between Harry and Sam Baldwin, the oldest and youngest sons of Emily Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin, and their wives, the Smith sisters, Ethel and Kathrine.

Harry ran Maui Agricultural Co., composed of Paia and Haiku plantations, and Sam ran the ranch, but they were co-owners. Their business genius father acquired lands at the apex of four ahupua’a from various Hawaiian lesser chiefs, and old records tell the tale: 3,096 acres in Nu’u, 1,200 in Kaupo, 5,245 in Kalialinui and 2.8 in Pulehunui.

In the exhibit I appreciated seeing a list of the old pastures (without contemporary punctuation) in a ledger entry for cattle drives in 1917: Piiholo, Puulehu No. 3, Puapoe, Pa Waiu, Mountain, Ohia, Joe Cooke, Holstein, Laikea, Kalialinui, Aapueo, Waiopai, Puunianiau, Olinda, Ainahau and Paliku, the latter two inside the crater.

Sam left a desk job at A&B in Honolulu in 1915 to replace the legendary ranch manager Louis von Tempsky after his crippling fall from a horse. Tall, skinny, the shyest of the Baldwin brothers, Sam took to ranch life.

He never was the horseman von Tempsky was, but Sam Baldwin became known as an able, generous manager who was extremely good to his men. Recalled Harold Amoral, ranch foreman in later years, “He never raised his voice. Anything you asked, he’d give, but he’d think about it for a few days.”

A page from Sam’s diary on Dec. 28, 1917, titled “Crater trip to get cattle from Paliku” shows he was no slouch in the saddle.

“Left ranch 2:15 [a.m.]

Arr. Halemau 5:30

[ditto marks] Paliku 8:20

left [ditto] with Cattle 9:30

[ditto] bottom sliding sands 12:30

Arr. top [ditto] 2:37

[ditto] Puunianiau 4:50 left cattle there

[ditto] Ranch 6:40 [p.m.]”

A small herd of wild cattle still ranged between Ko’olau gap and Paliku at the easternmost edge of the crater, and another band between the gap and Halema’uma’u trail. A cantankerous wild bull was shot near the trail leading from Paliku and the animal’s white skull remained for many years on a little hill as a trail marker.

The cattle were cleared from the crater by 1927 when representatives from the National Park Service came to Maui to see about adding Haleakala crater to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, begun in 1916 at the instigation of interior minister Lorrin Thurston with the help of Prince Kuhio.

Harry and Sam spent many hours riding the slopes with the territorial commissioner in charge of the transaction. How to value the treasure that is Haleakala crater? It was no good for pasture or agriculture. According to Peter Baldwin, Sam’s grandson, they finally shook hands and said, “Let’s trade acre for acre.”

On Aug. 9, 1927, the ranch surrendered its private grazing lands within the crater, and received in exchange approximately 9,500 acres consisting of 3,462 acres in the lower portion of Waiohuli-Keokea; 3,020 acres of government land in lower Kamaole; 2,480 acres of Waiakoa government land and smaller pieces in the mauka tract of Waiakoa as well as the long, skinny ahupua’a of Alae.

On March 26, 1928, Haleakala Ranch bought Kamaole Ranch from Antone F. Tavares and his son Cyrus, 1,646 acres wedged between Thompson Ranch near Ulupalakua and Harold Rice’s Kaonoulu Ranch. This consisted of some 70 small Hawaiian kuleana, among them the 3- and 16-acre parcels once owned respectively by the esteemed Lahainaluna Seminary teachers and Hawaiian historians David Malo and L.S. Ua.

Those dry western lands, low on the mountain, weren’t good for ranching, but they served well for pineapple. And now, of course, they are highly sought for development. It’s those makai lands that allow the ranch in this era of drought to maintain its beautiful pastures for all to enjoy and keep the cattle grazing.

There it was, a dividend handed up through the generations: the gift of business diversification.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

It was an anxious time when we gave Trixie away, the spunky little tabby kitten who fell in love with our handsome black-and-white Toobie and became a fixture at our back door.

She was the one we couldn’t adopt because she was so wild, and not in a million years could be bathed, thus aggravating my asthma. After the Maui Humane Society offered to euthanize her, we racked our brains and finally found a devoted colony manager who agreed to take her.

Oh, it was a nightmare. Trixie was hysterical, throwing herself against the bars of the cage and howling when our friend picked her up after she was fixed. She took Trixie to her new home – a very nice place, trust me, with lawns and hedges, a wall to lounge on, and artfully constructed feeding stations.

It’s her practice to leave newly relocated animals in a cage by the food for four days so they can acclimate. But Trixie threw a fit, knocking over the water dish, caking herself with litter. She yowled so loud she scared the other cats away. Finally the colony manager could stand it no more, and let her out two days early to an uncertain future. Trixie vanished.

The manager went back to that area twice a day instead of once, to make sure Trixie had enough food (the mynahs and doves in the area dive-bomb as soon as it appears). Weeks went by. No Trixie.

It turns out this heroic person manages colonies all the way from Maalaea to Kahana, and spends $800 a month on cat food! Weekends she makes new feeding stations. (The girl badly needs a power screw drill.)

Meanwhile, I received a letter from Trixie, via another colony manager: “I hope if Toobie finds a new cat in need his person will have more understanding and compassion.”


Well, I learned a lot. “We have a huge problem on this island with abandoned and homeless animals,” the letter writer told me. “The island is at a tipping point now in terms of getting the numbers down.”

It doesn’t work to trap and kill cats, because new ones arrive to take over the territo-ry. The only humane method for reducing the population is TNRM – trap, neuter, return and manage. Over time, the numbers decrease.

The biggest problem managers face is the illegal dumping of tame cats into their colonies. It puts a burden on the manager and often the animal will be abused by the others.

“We will NEVER see much of a change in helping these cats until every single person does their part,” the letter writer said. “It’s just like recycling. Sanctuaries aren’t the answer to this problem unless the entire island becomes a sanctuary.”

This means trapping and spaying the strays in your own neighborhood. (It’s easy. Put a can of cat food in the trap and cover it with a dark cloth or trash bag so the animal stays calm, and bingo.) Take it down, get it fixed and release it back into its own territory.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (280-0738) lends out traps at no charge and runs spay/neuter clinics almost every Sunday. All it asks is that people pay what they can. Ninth Life Hawaii (572-2499) also offers pay-what-you-can clinics, announced in The Maui News. The Maui Humane Society (877-3616) offers low-cost spay/neuter services daily.

I thought about Trixie every day. What if she died of grief, flinging herself across a road? What if she was so freaked out by her new surroundings that she fled to a less hospitable zone, where she was attacked by the cats of that territory?

One day not long ago, the call we’d been waiting for came. Our manager was at the feeding station early that day, around dawn, and saw a pretty tabby lying in the grass. “At first I thought it was someone else,” she said. “But then I saw that fluffy tail.” It was definitely Trixie, who had made friends with a mother cat about her age and its two black kittens. How we rejoiced. Trixie lives and has a place in the sun.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

Wow, I take back what I said about the recent America’s Cup races on San Francisco Bay being too high-tech, too high-speed, too high-testosterone.

With instant playback and computer-generated graphics, it was thrilling television watching the AC-72 catamarans fly over the water at the unheard of speed of 50 mph, swooping like great prehistoric birds.

“This is a new game. This is like bringing a monster truck to yacht racing,” said my brother Drew, with whom I watched the spectacle night after night on the edge of my seat. “This caught the imagination of the common person. Before it was more like watching golf.”

The man who dramatically changed the most coveted prize in yacht racing is Larry Ellison, the corporate warrior who won the cup in 2010 and got to call the shots this time around in terms of vessel and venue.

His Oracle Team USA came from behind and walloped the doughty Emirates Team New Zealand that had won eight races straight and needed only one more to seal the victory. Ellison’s team had the talent, the money, and the sheer willpower to pull off one of the greatest coups in sports history, certainly in the 162 years of the America’s Cup, and it says a lot about the man who recently bought Lanai.

The island has always been party to sole, sometimes eccentric, ownership.

In 1861, Walter Murray Gibson, who later became Kalakaua’s premier, came to Hawaii after a picaresque career in which he was variously a New York merchant, a gunrunner in the Caribbean, and an escapee from a Dutch East Indies prison.

Gibson attached himself to the Mormon settlement in Utah and with church money, bought the lands of Palawai on Lanai where he built up the Mormon settlement. He also put title in his own name, earning excommunication when Brigham Young found out.

Gibson’s property passed from his heirs into the hands of Charles Gay, who arrived with his family on Lanai in 1902. Gay purchased all but 600 acres of the island and established the Lanai Co. in hopes of building a sugar plantation. Lack of water doomed that venture, but he formed a ranch and grew pineapple under contract with the Baldwin’s Haiku Fruit and Packing Co.

Harry and Frank Baldwin loved hunting on Lanai with Roland Gay. In 1917, they bought the Lanai Co.’s holdings for $588,000 and ran cattle. Fields were sown with grass seed. “Keystone,” a prize bull from the Parker Ranch, provided the herd with a hundred quality calves a year. The water system was expanded.

In 1922, just when prospects seemed brightest, the brothers sold to the pineapple canning pioneer James D. Dole and his Hawaiian Pineapple Co. The $1.1 million raised went to purchase ‘Ulupalakua Ranch on Maui.

The Hawaiian Pineapple Co. invested $1 million into water development and began operations in 1924 on 300 acres cleared from dusty scrub. Dole paved roads and blasted a safe harbor from a cliff at Kaumalapau, where barges loaded the fruit for transport to Honolulu.

The company became a subsidiary of Castle & Cooke, and when its canned pineapple operation was shut down, owner David H. Murdock converted Lanai into a resort.

In 1992, after I returned to Hawaii, I took my mother to the newly opened Koele Lodge. I was bemused by the sight of field workers newly minted into hotel employees in uniforms with gold epaulettes designed by Yves St. Laurent.

Now comes Larry Ellison. According to my brother, who worked in IT in the Bay Area for years, the man is audacious, relentless and brilliant.

“He’s like a train who creates his own momentum. He’s largely unstoppable through sheer force of will. He’s always been a larger-than-life character. His public persona isn’t very likable; he does what it takes. You couldn’t say he was loved, but he certainly was respected.”

Ellison made his fortune by creating industrial-strength corporate software. With its customized packages and 24/7 support, Oracle dominated that business for two decades and expanded from there. It’s “a very driven organization,” my brother says.

Along the way, Ellison built a large Japanese-style compound in Woodside, Calif., with traditional craftsmanship and formal gardens. “I think he considers himself a samurai.”

Now I wonder even more what’s in store for Lanai.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at