Intro Picture

Ladd & Company
Koloa Plantation  -  Hawaii's First Sugar Plantation

What was to later become Koloa Plantation, life started as the firm of Brinsmade, Ladd and Hooper. Arriving on Kauai on July 27, 1833, on the Brig Velocity, Peter Allan Brinsmade, was 25 and accompanied by his wife and child; William Ladd, 26, with his wife and child, and William Hooper, 24, was single. The first two were from Hallowell, Maine, and Hooper from Boston, Massachusetts. The name of the firm was changed in 1835 to Ladd & Company, and ran the plantation for 12 years. In addition to the enterprise at Koloa, Kauai, the company ran a profitable mercantile operation in Honolulu.

William Ladd B: 5/11/1807, Hallowell, Kennebec Co, ME;
D: 2/8/1869, Honolulu, HI
    M: Lucretia N Goodale B: 7/28/1807, Hallowell, ME;
          D: 8/7/1874, Honnolulu, HI

Daniel Ladd  + Ann
  Nathaniel Ladd  + Elizabeth Gilman
    Nathaniel Ladd  + Catherine Gilman
      Nathaniel Ladd  + Catharine Hilton
        Dudley Ladd  + Alice Hurley
          Dudley Ladd  + Bethia Hutchins
            John Ladd  + Abigail Prows
              William Ladd  + Lucretia N Goodale

A 30-foot stone and brick smoke stack and partial foundation is all that remains of the original Ladd & Co Sugar Mill

Before 1833, life in Hawaii had changed very little since the Polynesians first made their way to the islands. Some foreigners (i.e. former whalers, missionaries, and so forth) had set up residence. For the most part, their influence was minimal.

In 1833, the three men from the Eastern United States formed a mercantile trade company in Honolulu called Ladd & Co.  These three would set in motion events that would change Hawaii forever.

Prior to 1835, most sugar cane grew wildly in the islands. Production sites were small and were run by families and tribes.

On 13 September 1835, Ladd & Co., began the first major Hawaiian sugar plantation. Hooper, Brinsdale, and Ladd managed to do something that no one else had previously done in Hawaii. With the help of missionary settlers, they obtained the first major land lease in Hawaiian history. The lease comprised 980 acres in Koloa, Kauai, which was set aside for sugar cane production. The lease ran 50 years at $300 a year.

The missionaries were bent on making farmers of the Hawaiian natives. Ladd & Co. fell nicely into those plans. By employing Hawaiian natives, they would be teaching them the skills missionaries felt were so necessary.

Koloa was seen as the perfect place for a sugar plantation. Wild cane already grew in Koloa so they knew it could be cultivated there. The land was fertile and the area got plenty of rain. These were the right conditions for major sugar cane production.

William Hooper was designated the manager of the Koloa Sugar Plantation. Hooper, a 26-year-old native of Boston, had a huge task ahead of him. His laborers were untrained and there was virtually no machinery available. The process would be slow, but Hooper endowed with the overblown sense of superiority that most Caucasians of the time felt toward native Hawaiians, thought it would be easy.

This sugar mill is regarded as the first sugar mill in the Hawaiian islands.

The Koloa Sugar Co became very successful and hired the Honolulu Iron Works to build this Sugar Mill in 1912.

On 13 September 1836, work began on the plantation. The first step was to construct the buildings needed to process sugar cane and to house laborers. This mill started with large stone, Chinese-style, sugar grinders. On 25 November of the same year, planting began with sugar (12 acres), taro, banana, and coffee. Twenty-five laborers, all native Hawaiians, made up the labor force. Hooper hired the natives for 12.5 cents per day, and paid them in his own script that they could use to purchase supplies and food from his plantation store. Plus they were given one free meal of fish and poi. Caucasians were employed as overseers. Thus, the hierarchical system based on ethnicity was put into place. That system would survive for many decades on Hawaiian sugar plantations.

One year later, Koloa was transformed.  In 1836, the Koloa Sugar Plantation consisted of 25 acres of sugar cane, 20 houses for laborers, 1 house for a superintendent, carpenter shop, blacksmith shop, mill dam, sugar house, boiling house, and the mill. With laborers living within the plantation boundaries, Koloa was the model for all future plantations. The plantations would be self-sufficient towns with commerce, housing, and plantation buildings all in one place.

Koloa gained prominence in 1837 when its sugar cane plantation completed its first harvest yielding 2 tons of raw sugar. Plantation cut-cane was hauled to the mill by ox-cart up until 1882, when an extensive network of plantation trains kept the harvest fields connected with the mill. Tunnels were cut through the mountains to shorten the distances.

By 1898, the plantation was producing 225,000 tons a year. A century later, the yield was a million tons annually. Today, the remnants of the original sugar mill, located in downtown Koloa, are all that remains of the Ladd & Co. sugar industry.

Trains kept the harvest fields connected with the mill. Tunnels were cut through the mountains to shorten the distances.

The mill is no longer in use, as many mills, because the sugar industry is quickly becoming a permanent part of Hawaii's past.

In a short time, Ladd & Co. planted the seeds that would make Hawaii a sugar cane empire. Those interested in growing sugar cane on a mass scale were clearly more interested after Ladd & Co. moved in. Once a small Hawaiian settlement, Koloa Town grew as the sugar industry prospered and immigrants from abroad came to work in the fields. At one time, Koloa was one of the main commercial centers on the island of Kauai.

Although Hooper made great progress on the plantation, by 1848, Ladd & Co. could no longer continue and the plantation was sold at auction to Grove Farm Company for $3,600. When Grove Farm Company closed their business, McBryde Sugar Plantation purchased most of Koloa Plantation's cane lands and the Koloa Mill and factory when in 1996 it finally closed forever. Today, most of the land has been converted to cultivating coffee.

The Hawaiian Islands would never be the same.

Ladd & Company ELIMA KALA (5 Dollar) Note
Undated but issued circa 1839 at Koloa, Kauai.  Printed by the Boston Bank Note Co. 30 State St. as indicated at the bottom of the face. ELIMA KALA at left inside ornate rectangular vertical cartouche. The legend, below, in the Hawaiian language translates as "The person who wrote the note herein below states they will give to the person who reads this note the sum of FIVE DOLLARS out of their store at Koloa."  Approximately 76 x 177 mm (3 x 7 in.).  

(This note sold at auction for $24,000)

There was a scarcity of currency when Ladd & Co. started the Koloa Plantation in 1835.  To meet a daily payroll, it printed its own currency (script) on cardboard, redeemable in merchandise at the company store.