Members of the extended Baldwin family are on Maui this week as part of Haleakala Ranch Co.'s 125th anniversary celebration. Please welcome these folks, for they are stockholders whose commitment to the ranch has made it, after all these years, still entirely family-owned.
This means there is freedom to govern this important property by the values that deep roots in the island generate, and a love for the land itself with its high reaches and emerald pastures, its eucalyptus groves and moonlit vistas.
The family-run board of directors is thoughtfully stewarding the ranch's 29,000 acres, attending to the native ecology and taking care to preserve the "core" lands of mountain and pasture that form the heart of the island. To keep the business viable, what is sold are only select parcels in Kihei, such as for the tech park and the new high school.
Some of the stockholders' children are seeing the ranch for the first time, the cowboy headquarters in Makawao and the rambling ranch house at Kapalaia, built in 1917 by Sam Baldwin, where the annual shareholders meeting was held Friday.
Private trips have been scheduled to choice spots like the working cabin at Waiopai near Kaupo, the Pu'u Pahu Preserve, and the rain forest of the Waikamoi Preserve, in which the ranch is a partner.
Yesterday the outing was to the Peanut House near the 5,000-foot elevation that Sam Baldwin built in the 1930s as a gift for his wife, Kathrine. I stood in that marvelous solitude one day with the sweep of open pasture around me in all directions, marveling at the time when the Baldwin family owned all the land as far as the eye could see, save for Wailuku.
"You was always working for a Baldwin," the late Eddie Ceballos told me, and that was a good thing. The brothers Harry (Maui Agricultural Co., with plantations in Paia and Haiku), Frank (Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar) and Sam were well-regarded for their fair treatment of workers, albeit within the rigid confines of the plantation system.
Alexander & Baldwin (which owns HC&S, into which Maui Agricultural Co. merged) is now a major corporation with no ties to the family. The same is true for Maui Land & Pineapple Co., originally a venture in the 1920s by Harry and Sam. What's left of the main Baldwin lands is Haleakala Ranch.
It began with Charles Hog Alexander, youngest child of the missionaries William P. and Mary Ann Alexander of Wailuku. He was the most handsome of the Alexander boys, and the most restless, a "generous daring fellow."
Charles lacked the intellectual power and self-confidence of his older brothers, Samuel T. Alexander, who partnered with Henry Perrine Baldwin in a sugar plantation; James M., a minister; and William D., who became president of Oahu College (Punahou School) and chief surveyor of the kingdom under Kalakaua.
He found his calling in the outdoor life, and from 1871 to 1884 put together a tidy little ranch on the western slopes of Haleakala, formed mostly from Hawaiian kuleana holdings in the areas of A'apueo, Kalialianui, Pulehunui, Omaopi'o and Makawao.
Charles was "a magnificent horseman" and a fearless rider, but one evening after sunset his horse fell into a gulch, leaving him with brain damage. William and Charles' brother-in-law Lorrin Thurston took him to California, where he died at age 37 at the Napa Insane Asylum in 1885.
His widow, Helen Thurston Alexander, sold the ranch in 1886 to Edward Bailey, oldest son of the Wailuku missionary, for the upset bid of $50,000. Lorrin Thurston put up half the purchase price, and Edward's brother William, who became manager, agreed to sell them his Kapalaia Ranch in Makawao.
The Bailey brothers added their father's 1,000-acre ahupua'a, Maka'ehu, into the venture, a long, narrow strip beginning at Waihou Springs in Olinda that meanders downhill along Kailua Gulch through what is now the ranch headquarters to the shooting range at Hali'imaile and beyond.
Bailey and Thurston signed a charter of incorporation for Haleakala Ranch on Oct. 29, 1888, and a sharp investor with sugar profits to spare was brought on board as treasurer. This was Henry Baldwin, who became president two years later and from then on, through many investments and acquisitions, the ranch's controlling spirit.
It warms my heart to hear Baldwin's great-granddaughter Maizie Cameron Sanford speak of the beauty of Haleakala Ranch and the family's efforts to preserve it. "It's not only a good thing for the ranch to keep that open space," she said. "It's good for Maui."
* 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 email@example.com.