Wai`anae Water Works

January 28th 2007


There is a lot of  history behind this hike.  Some of it mine and much more belonging to the workers of the former Wai`anae Sugar Plantation.  

This hike is dedicated to the many brave men and women who worked for the Wai`anae Sugar Company from it’s beginning in 1879 to its ending in 1946.    

In 1879, the first sugar plantation was started on 25 acres in Wai`anae by Herman A. Widemann.  Widemann, a German immigrant was backed financially by Hackfeld & Co. and politically by the Hawaiian monarchy.  To begin he hired about 20 local Hawaiians, 15 haole technicians and almost 60 Chinese laborers. 

The Wai`anae Sugar Mill was the first mill developed on Oahu that produced sugar.  The mill boilers were fired up for the first time on January 16, 1880.  

 The Wai`anae Plantation was one of the most modern and efficient in all Hawai`i.  A railroad was built for hauling harvested can to the mill.  It also took workers to and from the fields.  There was even a hydro-electric plant built to provide electricity to the mill operation. 

  Wells were drilled and tunnels dug deep into the mountains.  As more water became available more acreage was cleared and planted.  This acreage increased to 600 acres by 1890 and production was almost 2,500 tons of sugar. 

  Waianae’s sugar boom continued into the 1940s, but it faced irreversible setbacks as a result of "a day that would live in infamy." The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 led the United States into World War II. 

  WW II meant the end of the plantation.  Drafts and high paying defense jobs created a labor shortage.  By the end of the war the plantation was in bad shape.  Several years of drought, and the fact that the employees voted to join the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union.  This meant higher wages and benefits.  Other costs kept rising.  On October 17, 1946 the stockholders voted to liquidate the company.

I've lived in Wai`anae since 1965 and have wandered pretty much all over the upper valley.  In the past when I was a hunter I walked just about all the parts that became this trail, but never at one time.  During the summer of 2006 Dan H. and I discovered that the BWS had cleared what was to become this hike in order for them to inspect their pipe lines and water tunnels.  Dan and I thought it would make a great hike that was not physically hard and one that had a lot of history behind it.

There were some sections that we added that were not cleared by the BWS and together we cleared them during the rest of the summer.  In the early fall I managed to get the trail clearing crew to hike it when there was a free Sunday and all seemed to enjoy it, and thought it should be added to our club roster of hikes.  Since the trail was cleared there was no reason for the crew to do any work on it before the club hike which would be in January of 2007.

Well along came the rain in October and November of 2006 and the grass really grew tall along the portions of the trail that were not in the forest.  All together I spent about 15 hours over a few weeks in December and early January behind my weed wacker cutting the grass back.  By the 28 of January the trail was ready to go and go we did.

Thirty nine brave soles drove out to Wai`anae this Sunday and after my introduction to the hike they took off up the road into the forest reserve.

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