Maunawili Community Association

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Maunawili Community Association



Inspiration for countless weekend painters, Mount Olomana offers an alpine crest at the portal to Kailua. Its fairy-tale profile also excited the fertile imagination of ancient Hawaiians, as evidenced by the geological heraldry of its terrain. Their vivid stories complement the lush fertility of the mountain's setting.
While the valley at its base is known as Maunawili, the word itself is a contraction of "twisted mountain." Olomana, legend tells us, was a giant warrior-chief of Oahu who met his death in the valley. The mighty Pali-la, who had leaped from Kauai to Oahu's windward shore in a single bound, cleaved Olomana in two. By virtue of his stroke, the chief's lower trunk remained on the far side of Kawainui as Mahinui, the mountain ridge separating Kaneohe from Kawainui where Kalaheo High School is sited. Olomana ridge is said to be the chief's shoulder.
Strictly speaking only the tallest peak, 1,643, is named after the luckless Olomana. Each of the other peaks are named after friends of his. The one pointed toward Kaneohe is named Ahiki, after Olomana's favorite konohiki or overseer responsible for the rich fishponds of Kawainui. Paku'i, the tallest peak facing Waimanalo on the Maunawili School side of the mountain, was the konohiki for the adjacent fishponds of Kaelepulu, where Enchanted Lakes is now.
The two remaining peaks are named after women of their time and place: Hauli and Makawao. Now the mo'o or guardian spirit for Kawainui was called Hau-wahine so perhaps Hauli is named after the mo'o who looked over Ahiki's shoulder and saw that he was doing a proper job of keeping Olomana and his people in Kailua fed with fish. Then perhaps Makawao had the same job watching over Paku'i. In any case the stream furthest back in the valley also is named after her.
In ancient Hawaiian Kawainui and Kaelepulu were the primary source of food for people living in Kailua together with the taro terraces of Maunawili that they later cultivated. Within the marshy near-shore fishponds mullet – fat and lazy – thrived. Where fresh water predominated in the fishponds' once extensive central "lake" sections, awa abounded. Both variety of fish fed on limu or algae, nurtured in turn by the nutrient-rich streams irrigating Maunawili's taro fields and ti plantings.
To catch the mullet Hawaiians would join hands to walk into the marsh where they would begin dancing upon the mud, stirring up the somnolent mullet so that they rose from the bottom and could be readily seized for supper and packaged for cooking with nearby ti leaves. The marsh mud itself – lepo'ai'ia – had been transplanted to Kawainui and cultivated by an early Kailua chief for its edibility. Kamehameha and his troops, after their victory at the Pali, were said to have refreshed themselves on the mud since the available taro was scarce.
Archaeologists tell us that inland migration in the eleventh and twelfth centuries generally followed Maunawili and Kahana'iki streams into Maunawili valley with population concentrated at Kukanono, around the Castle Hospital area, and Maunawili, where fresh water was plentiful in both places. Subsequently, Maunawili became a "tony" setting or Oahu ali'i to reside long before Waikiki gained favor.
Naturally, many heiaus existed in the valley. Two identified in this century are Halaualolo, in the general area where Charles M. Cooke Jr. operated a dairy farm in the 1920's, and Kukapoki, above and further in the valley near the bank of Maunawili stream.
Also back in the valley is a stone with a hole in it. It is said a chief from Manoa who had come over the mountain wanted to tell his people where he was. So he made a bundle of ti leaves and beat the bundle through the hole in such a way that the resulting sound carried back to Manoa.
The earliest haole name identified with Maunawili was that of Kamehameha-the-First's arms merchant and tactical advisor, James Boyd, a British seaman believed to be the first haole landowner in the Kailua area. His descendants operated the Maunawili Ranch until it was acquired by William G. Irwin, a sugar factor, in the early 1890's. The ranch was one of the largest cattle operations on Windward Oahu in the 19th century. It was on a visit to this ranch in 1878 that the future Queen Lilioukalani received the inspiration leading to her composition of the song "Aloha Oe."

MAUNAWILI'S AINA: The Brewer Files

In ancient Hawaii the natural springs of Maunawili fed a network of streams that laced the valley. The irrigated taro terraces – interspersed with ti and popolo (black nightshade herb) plantings – stretching to Kawainui's fishponds. There the streams fed nutrient-rich water into the ponds to nurture limu (algae) for the fish as well as to sustain lepo'ai'ai, edible mud the color of poi and the texture of haupia. The valley's early settlers also discovered that they could draw mullet from the fishpond up stream to the farthest recesses of the valley with the attractive power of wood from the Makalei tree. This savvy ecological system made the Kawainui/Maunawili region a primary food producing area at the height of Hawaiian civilization.
Today urbanization has robbed the area of this role. Suburban growth has masked the multitude of streams: Makawao, furthest back in the valley; Ainoi, Maunawili, Omao and Palapu, all of which flowed into a common tributary to Kawainui. A separate branch further toward the Pali, Kahana'iki, also fed the rich marsh. We have even lost track of the Makalei tree and so labeled it a "mythological wood," although it is said that such a grove did exist at the entrance to Kailua town where the wireless station once stood. Of course, western science still is challenged by the compulsion of Northwest salmon to hurl themselves up stream to spawn. The Maunawili mullet of yore may have fallen in this same category.
This is not to say that haoles haven't tried to maintain the valley's legacy as a food producing area. In the fifty year period from the 1890's until World War II a vast amount of energy and ingenuity on the part of the sugar industry was invested to tap the land's economic potential for agriculture. But in dollar and cents terms the effort proved fruitless.
Much of the valley's history has been gleaned from material formerly in the corporate archives of C. Brewer & Co.: fading Spenserian script meticulously recorded rainfall and tree plantings, files of sharply-minted carbon "flimsies" attesting to the superiority of a pre-Xerox era. This later trove records a world-wide search for tropical fruit and nut trees to raise in Maunawili pursued with unwavering diligence by a long-time land department manager with Johnny Appleseed proclivities named Charles H. Merriam.
Before Merriam began his quest the search already had been launched by William G. Irwin, the Hawaii resident partner of the legendary West Coast sugar baron and King Kalakaua poker buddy: Claus Spreckels. Irwin, who built the old ranch house that now boarders the present-day golf course, bought up the valley in the early 1890's as watershed to irrigate a Waimanalo sugar plantation. In 1894 Irwin's Maunawili ranch manager, George Gibb, began planting coffee and had nine and a half acres under cultivation in the valley by year's end. He expanded his planting each year thereafter until 1900, by which time 112-3/4 acres were devoted to the bean, a Liberian variety. Old-timers have recollections of a coffee mill in the valley from this period as well as rice paddies that began replacing the taro terraces in the 1860's and continued into the early years of our waning century.
It is said that Hawaii's first solo papaya was bred in Maunawili and, indeed, Gibb's records show he planted "300 Carica papaya" in December of 1902, followed by avocado and cacao the following year. In 1904 Kona oranges were attempted along with 210 Eucalyptus Robusta; more Kona oranges and mangosteen, possibly for the first time in Hawaii, were tried in 1905. Koa and Chinese banyan were planted in 1906 and Kola nut in 1910. Some of these early plantings took decades to mature. In April of 1939 the ranch manager of that time reported fruition of trees dating back to 1905. But by then he had lost hope for Brazilian Cherries dating to 1903, an Apple variety of approximately the same time, and several other trees going back as far as 1900.
All this experimentation was a sideline to Maunawili's value as the only promising water source for the perpetually parched Waimanalo plantation. In 1900 to explore that promise Irwin retained M. M. O'Shaughnessy, a civil engineer celebrated for building early dams and tunnels in California and Hawaii. O'Shaughnessy learned that in addition to 43 inches of average annual rainfall the plantation was irrigated by Maunawili spring "and all springs and streams east of it to the Ranch boundary, amounting in all to 1.5 million (gallons) in ordinary times and in dry seasons to one million gallons." If Maunawili could be tapped for another four million gallons during a four-month dry season, plantation manager George Chalmers forecast another 1,000 tons in annual sugar production.
O'Shaughnessy suggested a new pump site and proposed tunneling as well. A likely spot was "at the base of rocky hill on the edge of the lagoon fed by the Ranch stream and surrounded by many rice patches." Thirty five years later, long after the Omao and Ainoi spring tunnels to Waimanalo had been drilled, an Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association geologist, W. O. Clark, suggested as a drilling site C. Brewer & Co. lands at the base of Olomana slopes "just above the old rice land area along side the main Maunawili stream."
Brewer records indicated that Maunawili had a tunnel to Waimanalo on line by 1920. They also suggested that Maunawili Spring Gulch Tunnel was developed between 1921 and 1926; that further drilling on the Ainoi Spring Tunnel was undertaken in 926 and work on Omao Spring Tunnel was in progress in 1927. The HSPA's Clark had recommended in 1926 the Omao drilling project in part to satisfy the water requirements of C. Montague Cooke, Jr., who at that time operated a ranch and dairy in the valley. Prior to this tunnel the plantation had been able to draw some water by a flume below Omao spring that fed into the main Waimanalo ditch. Earlier in 1920 the average daily discharge of water from Maunawili for the plantation was reported at 940,000 gallons from the spring (presumably Maunawili), 363,000 gallons from the swamp and 608,935 from tunneling, based on data for a 24-month period.
Despite the ingenuity of HSPA geologists, counsel from the U.S. Geological Survey, and capital investment by Brewer, the valley never produced enough water to satisfy three generations of Waimanalo managers. Brewer's land manager in February of 1937 secured a territorial lease extending "the company's control over this area until November 21, 1953" with the intention of attempting further water development.
Brewer's Global Crop Search
By then Brewer had departed the valley and the Waimanalo plantation was out of business. But the company left behind a veritable cornucopia of botanical largess. In part this was a continuation of Irwin's need for grown cover. Mostly, however, it was due to Merriam's global expansion of Gibb's search for an economic fruit or nut crop to grow in Maunawili.
Brewer first acquired a stake in the valley in 1910 when the sugar factor acquired Irwin's business upon his retirement. Irwin kept the Maunawili ranch but Brewer bought it as well from an heir in 1924. (The purchase price was $225,000 and the acreage was given, variously, as 1,800 and 2,000 acres; another sale of 102 acres at the west end of the ranch was made to Brewer the following year for $25,000.) The sale included all livestock, buildings, furniture, water and riparian rights. The water rights were leased to Waimanalo for an annual rental of $11,500 for a period through December 1941.
Soon after the acquisition Brewer commissioned aerial photography and mapping of the valley's central portion' cashew nut trees were in evidence at that time. Again from 1924 through 1926, now under the Brewer regime, there was a massive cultivation effort totaling 79,902 plantings in the three year period. Juniper, Mahogany, Australian cedar and tropical ash were among them. The typewritten records alphabetized the species from "A" through "V" – with 11 varieties under A and 20 under B just starting off! Botanical maps of the ranch were drawn up as well.
Reforestation Drive
Wooded conditions at the newly acquired ranch were reported on June 27, 1924 as "sparsely forested foothills close to the mountain wall" with indigenous Hawaiian trees: koa, kukui and some lehua. The remaining area was largely "overrun with staghorn fern, and lower portions have a substantial growth of low guava." The significance of this entry became apparent years later.
The report continued: "Here and there Java plum, waiawi, a few eucalyptus, iron wood, coffee and rubber trees are apparently thriving." A forest reserve line was proposed that would take in ranch land then used for pasturage, "a large portion of which . . . suitable for pineapple cultivation." But the benefits of a reforestation program to stabilize water flow for the summer months at Waimanalo out-weighed this consideration. The upper land at Maunawili would enjoy benefits of a full forestry undertaking. By August it was well in progress under the guidance of HSPA and Territorial foresters and a crew chief from Wahiawa. The planters received six cents per small tree, eight cents for medium-sized trees, and ten cents for large. They planted some 15,000 trees. By May 1931 Brewer reported that beginning in 1922 a total of 111,474 forest trees, "many of which will eventually be of good commercial value," had been planted above the Waimanalo ditch line in the valley. (In March of 1927 the Territorial Forester approached Merriam for Norfolk Island pine seedlings since there were aging trees near "the old Irwin house," but was told none bore any seeds. Teak trees, on the other hand, were reported "heavy in seed" in January of 1932.)

Fruit & Nut Plantings
From 1927 through 1932 a total of 45 different varieties of fruit trees were introduced to the valley by Brewer ranging from Allspice to water apple. By 1931 a large number of solo papaya trees and many varieties of banana were growing plus a total of 10,814 cashew trees. Merriam's world-wide quest for botanical crops to try at Maunawili began in 1927, according to the correspondence files, and gained attention within two years of top management. On January 8, 1929, HSPA Experiment Station Director H. P. Agee signed a reply to a request from Brewer's senior manager Richard A. Cooke for an opinion on the prospects of developing a fruit tree farm at Maunawili. Agee's letter (prepared for his signature by his successor, Harold L. Lyon) ducked offering a definitive opinion. It did say that the character of the land and climatic conditions there "make Maunawili as favorable an environment for tropical fruit culture as one can possibly find on this island."
HSPA Suggests "A Drug Farm"
The letter went on to stress the "imponderables about the market demand side of the equation," seen as the local market only since quarantine conditions would make any mainland shipments dubious. On the other hand, nut tree crops might be "worthy of special consideration as they stand rough handling and can be shipped around the world." Also, a "scientifically managed drug farm" for the pharmaceutical market was a possibility.
The HSPA's conclusion was broad enough: "The general rule to adopt we would say is: try out anything and everything that seems at all promising and decide the course to follow in the case of each species by the results obtained."
This was all the encouragement Merriam needed. At the time of Agee's reply at least 16 fruit tree varieties already had been introduced and were growing at the ranch, including 1,400 Cashew seedlings and several pear trees transplanted from the Cooper Ranch at Hauula in February and March 1927 to a spot just makai of the manager's house "near Royal Grove Avenue." That fall the HSPA had promised paper bark tree plantings by which time Brewer had pressed into service Waimanalo Plantation labor for weeding and planting at Maunawili.
In 1929 the Eugenia Floribunda tree from West India was introduced and the HSPA's Lyon furnished the first of many Sapucaia trees Merriam attempted to grow in the valley. In search of this particular variety the Brewer official corresponded with foreign consuls in out-of-way places of Brazil and the British and French West Indies, always querying for intelligence on their cultivation. Information on cashews was similarly pursued. A Trinidad source supplied 870 Sapucaia seedlings in one 1938 shipment, apparently the third of such orders placed by Merriam totaling some 2,000 plantings. Another order followed in December, 1939 for 1,500. In October of 1941 Merriam wrote this supplier that while tree growth had been satisfactory, no blossoms or nuts had put in an appearance by then. Cashew plantings also had resulted in "excellent growth" but a serious blight affected the blossom "if the blossom season occurs during wet weather." Thus the cashew nut crops had been poor. By then Merriam was advising Ranch Manager John Herd to stop planting the tow nut varieties until those already in the ground bore fruit. (Earlier in 1936 Merriam had corresponded with General Foods Cor.'s engineering research director and inventory of Vitapack packaging, who had expressed a willingness to judge the commercial case for processing Hawaiian cashews.)
Macadamia plantings from a Brisbane, Australia nursery were being placed between 140 solo papaya trees in 1936, when avocados, limes, banyan and coconut trees also were carried on the ranch's rolls. Merriam wrote one correspondent that macadamia was first introduced in Hawaii "around 1895." It isn't clear whether he was referring to Gibbs in this context or not.
From time to time Merriam received donations from local sources. Gerrit P. Wilder provided a grafted avocado plant in November of 1937 together with a Brazilian guava planting. Soon thereafter Maui's David Fleming donated a Yao "tree" – actually a vine grown from seed and a native of Indochina – while H. H. Beaumont of the University of Hawaii secured mangosteen plants from Panama for the valley.
In the summer of 1939 the UH College of Agriculture advised Merriam that the time was ripe fro Brewer to embark on the cultivation of papaya at Maunawili on a large scale and the ranch manager was instructed to give the proposal serious evaluation. That fall the Territorial Board of Agriculture & Forestry asked for Hayden Mango tree scions (branches) for propagation and permission to release pheasants in the valley. The ranch manager was against introducing any further pheasants because they damaged young growing plants, especially papaya, and suggested doves as a better choice because they fed on weed seeds rather than plants.
The Long Quest's Conclusion
By the time UH focused on papaya Merriam had given up on much else. In January of 1940 he issued a report on the Maunawili Ranch to the C. Brewer Board of Directors. Its book value then was placed at just over $200,000. Gross earnings for the previous three years had run between $12,000 and $13,000, yielding a net after expenses ranging from $350 to $640. Most of the earnings were from the water rights lease to Waimanalo, except for minor rentals on small plots leased to fruit and vegetable growers. (Since Brewer controlled Waimanalo the earnings figure essentially represented in-house bookkeeping.)
Merriam reported that there had been "fairly large expenditures for the experimental horticultural program" prior to 1938 but little since. "At the time of acquiring the property, guava growth was almost completely spread over the property," he declared. Nor had much changed in that regard since then because he concluded: "In general, so much of the land area at Maunawili Ranch is so heavily overgrown with guava, there appears to be little opportunity to improve conditions without a high initial expense for clearing purposes."
No action had been taken on papaya because the cost of clearing the guava was deemed prohibitive. Of all the experimental plantings, commercial hopes had been pinned to Sapucaia (paradise) nut, cashew, macadamia, and pili (Java Almond) as well as Litchi. The macadamia and pili plantings, however, were only a minor effort in comparison to the 1,200 Sapucaia and 7,500 cashew plantings.
Merriam said that cashew had shown "excellent growth" and one specimen 40 to 50 years old had borne 3,200 seeds in 1928. This had encouraged the Brewer to anticipate "good crop prospects each year." However, cashew was a member of the mango family, susceptible to mango flower blight. If during blossoming it experienced stormy weather, the tree would fail to fruit successfully. Unless an economic remedy could be found chances for a successful crop were slim. Nevertheless the wood was excellent for cabinet making.
The original Sapucaia furnished by the HSPA in 1929 had experienced excellent growth but no mature crop within 12 to 15 years of germination. There was too much rainfall for macadamia. (With an elevation of 250 feet above sea level the valley recorded an average annual rainfall of 82.02 inches for the 45-year period 1895 to 1939.) One old tree was producing but the thin-shell variety was still too young. Pili nuts had experienced good growth but no crops by then while the litchis were some five years away from bearing.
Merriam's conclusion: there was "small hope of success in finding a plant growth that would thrive at Maunawili and from which a marketable crop could be economically produced. . ."

He did note, however, that Maunawili's climate was favorable for the Japanese Sugi tree used for telephone poles, fence posts and railroad ties. Full grown they were worth $5 felled and trimmed at roadside. Maunawili had 340 such trees about nine years old enjoying good growth; in large numbers he believed they might be profitable.
Within a few years Brewer was to give up the long-time attempt at growing sugar in Waimanalo and sell out its holding in the valley that supplied the plantation's irrigation water. The Brewer files yielded little further information, save a record of the "Years of First Fruiting" from 1937 through 1941 for the 45 fruit tree varieties planted between 1927 and 1932. They ranged from Allspice to water apple in the alphabetical scale and whatever their lack of economic potential, the record suggested that the majority of these varieties did, in fact, take root and grow.

Maunawili Real Estate: 19th Century Prices

In October 1893 William G. Irwin, a partner of sugar baron Claus Spreckels, acquired 22 parcels of Windward Oahu property from C. T. Gulick as trustee of the Marcia A. Boyd Estate, including three in Maunawili totaling 678 acres. [When Irwin's heir sold Maunawili Ranch to C. Brewer & Co. in May of 1924 for $225,000 the acreage was listed between 1,800 and 2,000 acres, suggesting an additional accumulation.] The other 19 parcels ranged from 187 acres to three quarters of an acre at locations from Keapuka to Kailua and totaled approximately 1,500 acres plus a half interest in the ili of Kokanono.
The Estate owed debts for $12,500 and Irwin offered $16,000 for the total package. There were 13 heirs to the estate, including spouses. In August of the following year Irwin acquired another 4 and a half acres at Koolaupoko, Kailua, from Charlotte Kealoha Boyd for $125. She in turn acquired the property under a 1875 Hawaiian deed from Kiamakani, said to be one of Maunawili's earliest "fee simple landowners" following the Great Mahele of 1848.
When we [Virginia Fine] bought our home on Maunawili Road in 1957, there was no mail delivery in the valley and there were no house numbers. There were only a few houses, and no subdivisions then. When we wanted to rent out our house, there was a problem: we had to have a house number. So I looked at the tax key and said that the house number was 1042. After that all the rest of the houses in Maunawili were numbered up and down from that number. Later, when the subdivision was put in, they renamed our part of the street Maunawili Loop, so that there would not be a different name on Maunawili Road for one block.

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