Tour of the Honouliuli Ranch

Below are several articles from The Daily Bulletin comprising a series that describes a tour of the Honouliuli Ranch. The first installment is entitled “Viewing the Ranches.”

If observation is anything, and scientists say it is everything, these hills and glades go to prove that at least the island of Oahu has been perverted from its original purpose in the economy of nature, and that “someone had blundered.” Inasmuch as large areas of its best lands are devoted to the sustenance of the cow, the ox and the goat, the people to shift for themselves as best they can about the docks and street corners of Honolulu. Where cultivation appears, it proves an unmistakably grand success. Wherever improvements break up the soil, the soil gives manifold returns. Coming over the brow of one of the hills, an immense structure appears in the distance. It reminds the observer of the bridges over some of the mountain gorges on the line of the Union and Central Pacific railroads. It turns out to be Robinson’s irrigating flume, running along on trestle work over a wide gorge at the bottom of which is the Waipahu stream and spring. The road leads down towards the water, and passes under the highest part of the trestle bridge, the flume at the roadway being apparently about eighty feet overhead. Right by the road is a big pump for raising the water to the flume. It is brought by this conduit to Robinson’s banana plantation. Covering about fifty acres of land at Ulalena. There is an opinion among the natives that this Waipahu stream has subterranean connection with Kahuku. In support of this theory the story goes that a woman at Kahuku accidentally let a tapa stick fall into the water, and all efforts to recover it proved futile, but some time afterwards being at Ewa, she saw her lost tapa stick and accused the possessor of having stolen it, but the alleged pilferer was acquitted on proving that the stick had been picked up in the Waipahu stream. The “fourth estate” cavalcade passes on, and after another hour’s equestrianism, that by this time is beginning to be more painful than romantic to some members of the party, the Honouliuli ranch is reached, horses are taken care of, the pressgang, professor and all, are shown to well-furnished apartments, and every man is hospitably directed to make himself perfectly at home. A sumptuous dinner soon follows, the soup and fowl are excellent, and the fish, a fine Papiopioulua, is simply magnificent. In next letter, you will have an attempted account of a two days’ ride over the great Honouliuli ranch, covering a tract of about 43,000 acres.1

The article below is the next one about Honouliuli Ranch.

With a good horse and agreeable companions the ride from Honolulu to Mr. Campbell’s ranch at Honouliuli a very pleasant undertaking, and so it proved to a party of gentlemen of the press and others who made the journey on Monday last.

To a traveler who has not been over the ground for some seven or eight years, considerable changes are observable, chiefly in the direction of increased farming and cultivation. The extent of rice and banana land is much enlarged, and Mr. Mark Robinson’s flume and pumping engine at Ulalena is a remarkable piece of work. Though apparently of the slightest conceivable scantling it stood through the late gale without injury. This flume irrigates over 200 acres of land fit for banana, watermelons and a variety of produce and of which 35 acres are in bearing.

Of Honouliuli itself there is a great deal to be said. Mr. Campbell’s estate contains about 13,250 acres and has been in his hands for eight years. During this time he has put up 30 miles of fencing of which 20 miles are of wire and 10 miles of batten. The estate is thus completed enclosed; either by fence, by the impenetrable ridges of the Waianae Mountains, by the water front of Pearl Harbor or by the open ocean, Hon. J. I. Dowsett’s place at Puuloa cuts off a corner stretching from Pearl River to the seabeach behind. There is little of any of this land which is not capable of being made productive in one form or another. At present it only carried 5500 head of cattle, and one rides along the foot-hills of the Waianae range and the plain below through miles of Manienie grass above fetlock deep, only sprinkled here and there with high bred cattle in splendid condition. Occasionally one comes to a batch of some acres of mimosa bush and sometime of blue weed. Again on the high plateau on the western terminal slope of the mountains large batches of Spanish clover, kukaepuaa are amongst the prevalent manienie.

On taking possession of the property, Mr. Campbell found it heavily overstocked and wholly unfenced. Buying out the Kahuku property on the north side he caused to be removed 32,300 head of cattle, reserved Kahuku for breeding purposes, and after letting the land rest for twelve months, gradually raised the stock on the two estates to the present figure, viz, about 5300 on Honouliuli and 3300 on Kahuku.

The young stock are driven from the last named place to the Eastern, or Lihue end of the former, and so onwards till they reach the fattening ground of some 15,000 acres, towards Nanakuli and thence is an easy drive to the slaughter house on the Pearl Harbor, whence the carcasses are carried by steamer to the Capital, thus avoiding the deterioration inseparable from long drives to market.

Among the ravines and narrow valleys between the span of the main mountain range towards the Leilehua boundary, are evident traces of extensive taro grounds, sufficient proof that there at least, abundant supply of water has formerly been available. Though the great bulk of the land from Honouliuli to the “big tree” is available at present for cattle runs only, there seems to be no reason why, at reasonable expense a good portion of this might not be irrigated for dairy, grape, vegetable and many other marketable produce.

A well at Kunia, 400 feet above the sea and sunk 50 feet brings water to within twelve feet of the surface, except during long droughts, while an Artesian well (Waianiani) about fourteen feet above sea level has yielded 2,400 gallons an hour since it was sunk in 1879. The water front on Pearl Harbor affords on one side promising bathing places, while the whole area of the sheltered harbor offers unrivalled opportunities for yacht sailing. The rice grounds are in the hands of the Chinese, who pay a low rental for the first seven years, which are nearly expiring, but they are desirous of renewing for another seven years at a considerable advance. Fishing rights, lime and building stone are also valuable considerations.

The soil almost throughout his estate is the rich red volcanic mould familiar in these island, its depth is shown by the numerous cracks and slopes, and its fertility by the spontaneous growth which covers it.

At present the Campbell estates send an average of six carcasses per diem to Honolulu being rather more than one third of the consumption. The cattle are all in prime condition, and judging from the large areas on which mere traces of cattle are now visible and the immense amount of available feed, this quantity could be readily increased by 50 per cent without distressing the land. No doubt a large portion of this land is available for cultivation by small freeholders; how much, can only be ascertained by experiments in the way of raising and distributing water, especially between Honouliuli and Lihue. The questions of market and ready access thereto, may be left for the present to await further information based on actual experiments.

At the ranch itself Mr. Cecil Brown did the honors in most hospitable style, and rode each day with the party ready to lead the way over the country and afford every information asked for, and to him members of the party are indebted for a pleasant trip.2

Another installment about the ride through Honouliuli Ranch is entitled “Tuesday, Aug. 11th” and describes the ranch as one arrives from Waialua across Wai‘anae Uka.

Passing on, the party soon reach the Kunia windmill, drawing from a well about thirty feet deep a continuous stream of water. The elevation at this point is estimated to be about 450 feet above sea level. The Kunia windmill is about as good an indicator as can be that these lands may one day be dotted over with the habitations of an industrious agricultural population. If one windmill draws a continuous stream of water from a depth of not more than thirty feet at this elevation, it may reasonably be inferred that a water supply for purposes of settlement can be had at other points as well as here.

The next halting place is in the umbrageous shade of the Big Trees at Lihue. There are two gigantic kukui trees standing about ten feet apart, on the top of a high hill, like sentinels keeping guard over the surrounding country. As every object of not must have a legend, that of The Big Trees is that a native has his six by two resting place under each tree. Several visitors in years gone by have carved their names on the bark, thus leaving to the kukui trees the sacred trust of bearing their names, as the years roll on, higher and higher in view of all who pass this way, in proof of the fact that they had at least made their make in the world. Nearby is a dilapidated old building, once the residence of Captain John Meek. With reference to the capabilities of the soil it is related that Captain Meek raised oats and corn here in his time.

A few miles further on, another halt is called at a magnificent stream, and right by is a fine dairy kept by a Portuguese. It need hardly be said that every milk drinker in the party had his wants supplied to his own satisfaction and the credit of the ranchman’s cows. The outward bound ride at length comes to an end at the Papowela [Poupouwela] stream and well. Here, a hole was bored years ago with hand tools, and, as the water did not come at the time, the pipe was plugged. Six months after the plug was taken out, the water flowed and has flowed on ever since.

The order rings along the line, “Back to the ranch house.” The march back is close along the line of the Leilehua Ranch. About half way down the home stretch, the ride is mostly over level ground. A gallop of a mile or so over a rich carpet of verdure, then a slow march down a steep bank and across a ravine under clusters of kukui nuts, and up the opposite bank, then off again on another steeple chase (all but the steeple), over another ravine, and so on for five or six miles. Occasionally we pass a drove of cattle, so rolling fat that their sleek coats glisten in the sun. The ilima plain traversed in the morning is again entered, though on a different trail, and at half past one, P.M., a rather sore, but much delighted party of the wise men of Honolulu are luxuriating, in the bath room, on the breezy verandahs and at the sumptuous dinner table of the Honouliuli ranch house.

The article continues with an account of “Wednesday, Aug. 12th.”

This was the second day’s riding over the Honouliuli Ranch, and a more exciting and romantic excursion could hardly have been made. The start was made, as before, from the ranch house, and lay over a part of the wide flat traversed yesterday, and which, as before stated is well covered with the ilima, indigo and other shrubbery much relished by cattle. The shrubbery, I omitted to mention yesterday, is richly supplemented by an undergrowth of manienie grass. The route this morning is to the mountains. The climbing begins. Looking forward and upward at an angle of about 40 degrees to a height of some 800 feet, the first peak to be scaled [Pōhākea] is in full view. The prospect is not a comfortable one to the ranch horses. They face the acclivity, however, with commendable equine determination, pawing their way with sure-footed care up the slope, through heavy grasses growing knee-high. The whole slope is heavily coated with manienie and native grasses, and some Spanish clover, and is well dotted over with trees, chiefly the kukui. After reaching the top of the first peak, the trail winds down, corkscrew fashion, through heavy verdure and under the umbrageous shades of large wide spreading trees into a deep ravine, out of which there is another corkscrew trail up on to the next peak and reaching a little farther into the clouds. Parts of the trail just gone over runs along the margins of immense gulches into which the rider looks down over precipitous descents of some nine or ten hundred feet through the dense foliage of trees that have somehow got rooted in the sides of the declivities, so that they suggest the idea of an aerial vegetation. The prospect up these mountain sides and through these ravines, is grandly picturesque. These exhibitions of mountain scenery grow upon the view. The first hour among them extorts expressions of wonder and admiration. Passing on, their majestic grandeur repeats itself in ever increasing variety. The faithful horses climb almost perpendicular ascents over the rugged natural stairways, and again descend similar hard places, with equal care and safety. “Jerry” proved himself an able and reliable steed. “Sooner,” by the way, had been discarded, as deficient in intellect and understanding, and unfit for the service of the Bulletin, But “Jerry” is an intelligent big bay, wanting neither whip nor spur, but always knowing just where to go, and regulating his paces with infallible correctness, whether on the slow march over rough and rugged ways, or on a streaking gallop over pieces of smoother roadway. Midday finds the whole party on the highest point, but one, of the Waianae. The scene at this point is grand. It is magnificent. It is stupendous. We stand here on the rim of an immense basin scooped out of the mountain, with the seaward side broken out. This vast cavity is about a quarter of a mile wide, with almost perpendicular walls a thousand feet high. Beyond the basin northward, the mountains shoot up skyward in colossal isolated cones. Spreading out in the spacious concave of the western horizon, are the deep blue waters of the great Pacific Ocean, the “boundless, vast, illimitable waste of waters.” The Nuuanu Pali, with all its grandeur, is surpassed by this exhibition of nature’s wonders in the Waianae. All these mountain elevations, with their deep broad gulches are valuable, from the utilitarian standpoint as they are from the romantic and sentimental. Herds of splendid cattle are seen feeding on the slopes and in the valleys. The cavalcade moves on down the seaward side of the mountain, in view of thousands of acres of flat land lying along the seashore. These seaward paddocks are pointed out as the territories that will be in order for the explorations of to-morrow…

The story ends on the third day, when the party returned to ‘Ewa via the low land trail. This is the account of “Thursday, Aug. 13th.”

The trail leads over coral which is evidently upheaval. Up through every crevice and around every boulder, big and little, there are thick growths of pili, makuekue, pualele (milk weed), manienie, Kukaepuaa and other native grasses. At one place, a cavity in the rocks contains luxuriant growths of breadfruit, bananas, sugar-cane, and numbers of wiliwili trees, with their exceptionally pretty red seeds. The natives say when these seeds are ripe and red, there are plenty sharks off Puuloa. On the lower part of this land among the rocks, fine clumps of algaroba trees appear in different stages of development. All these trees have grown up within about six years. The large progeny of baby algarobas whose frowsy heads appear here and there over the plains, if not nipped by cattle would evidently evolve, within a very few years, a race of sylvan giants. Cattle kept off, and the natural propagation of these fine trees assisted by some planting, there is here the possibility of a big bonanza in a ten thousand acre forest within ten miles of the city of Honolulu. As pasture land this portion of the land is unsurpassable in richness. It is the part of Honouliuli designated the fatting paddock. Cattle intended for the slaughter house are brought here to have the “gilt edge” finish put on them. About six head are slaughtered every day for the Honolulu market and forwarded by the steamer Kapiolani. The ranch is capable of supplying a much larger daily quota of beeves, but the demand is limited and the ranch is of course stocked considerably short of its capacity. There are at present on it some 5,500 head all told. But if the grasses, and other plants in their present condition, mean anything, they indicate enough and to spare for herds numbering twice five thousand.

A fact deserving of special note is the improved breeds with which the ranch is almost wholly stocked. Durhams, Herefords, Jerseys, Ayrshires and Holsteins are pointed out. And, really, it needs not the eye of a connoisseur or a grazier to notice that the animals are no “square piles of bones built on four uprights of the same;” for no one can view them roaming in herds over the mountains, scattered in squadrons over the plains or massed in closer order around the reservoir on the fatting paddock without noticing many of the points of superiority characteristic of the several varieties of improved stock…3


1Honouliuli Ranch, Daily Bulletin, August 14, 1885, p. 4.

2Honouliuli Ranch, Hawaiian Gazette, August 19, 1885, p. 2.

3Honouliuli Ranch, Daily Bulletin, August 31, 1885, p. 2–3.

Related Maps

Related Documents

There are thousands of references contributing to the history of Honouliuli Ahupuaa. From those references are found classes of information covering such topics as

•  Residency: land ownership and access;
•  Paakai: salt making;
•  Kai lawaia: fisheries and access;
•  Ranches and the land development programs in Honouliuli;
•  Water development, railroads, and the Ewa Plantation; and
•  Military condemnation of Honouliuli lands and offshore waters.

The selected narratives categorized as Land Use: Development Period provide eyewitness accounts to historic events. While there are few identifiable references for the immediate area of the Hoakalei program, the narratives give us an historical context for understanding changes on the land since western Contact.