Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kaonoulu’s Pedigree

Follow Kaonoulu Ranch’s family tree, and you’ll connect to generations of Upcountry Maui life. From the family that owns these rolling pastures on the slopes of Haleakalā, to those who have tended its cattle for a century, Kaonoulu spreads its branches far and its roots deep into the Kula soil. Sugar and ranching were Maui’s cash industries when Kaonoulu got its start; pineapple was just beginning its rise. Now sugar is shutting down, and pineapple is grown only on a small scale, but Kaonoulu and other ranches remain, protecting thousands of acres of open space. Pronounced ka-ono-ulu (translated from Hawaiian as either “the delicious breadfruit” or “the desire for breadfruit”), Kaonoulu is perhaps less known to the public than Haleakala Ranch, with the highway to the summit bisecting its emerald pastures, or ‘Ulupalakua, with its winery and elk burgers. But Kaonoulu has a unique distinction. The ranch is an almost complete ahupua‘a (an ancient Hawaiian land division), stretching from mountaintop to sea: from the top of Haleakalā to near the island’s southern coast. The ranch no longer owns the coastal land that includes Ko‘ie‘ie Fishpond, where cowboys used to catch mullet. But only a few miles above Pi‘ilani Highway and the houses and condominiums that fill those seaside acres, cowboys still herd cattle across rugged dryland terrain. The Rice family, which purchased the ranch in 1916, traces Kaonoulu’s history back to a Hawaiian named Keohokoloe, who acquired an immense tract during the mid-1800s and then sold it to a Chinese rancher and farmer named Yung Hee, a former sugar contract laborer. Yung Hee repeatedly refused to sell it to his neighbor, Col. William H. Cornwell, a colorful character who owned Waikapu Sugar Plantation and was known for his racehorses and his friendship with King Kalākaua. Then Yung Hee went home to China in 1893, and word filtered back that he was ill and would not return to Maui. Cornwell was on the next ship sailing to Shanghai. On the same ship was a certified check from sugar baron Claus Spreckels, who also coveted the Kula property. In Shanghai, Cornwall quickly disembarked, got to Yung Hee before the check did, and won the land. Henry Rice is not entirely sure that is a true story. But however the original transaction happened, it laid the foundation for his family’s home and business. Rice’s grandfather Harold W. “Pop” Rice purchased the 10,000-acre property from Col. Cornwell’s daughter Blanche and her husband, John Walker, in August 1916, also acquiring 25,000 acres in leasehold lands. Old-timers remember stories of Pop Rice, polo player and prominent politician, who married Charlotte Baldwin, daughter of sugar baron Henry Perrine Baldwin. Rice expanded the ranch and ran meat markets in Wailuku and Honolulu to sell beef from 4,400 Hereford cattle and pork from a Kīhei piggery. Fields of corn helped feed 200 pigs, there were a small dairy and a poultry farm in Makawao, and the Kaonoulu stables bred and trained polo ponies for sale around the world...more

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