In the late 1860s, Gibson, and King Kamehameha V, focused their Lāna‘i efforts on ranching sheep. Eventually, Gibson and his heirs came to control nearly all of the island of Lāna‘i, except for the Kingdom tracts of land, and smaller, private holdings of native Hawaiian families on the island. By the 1870s, the land area of Kō‘ele was transformed from an area of traditional residency and subsistence agriculture to a ranch headquarters. It was at Kō‘ele, in 1875, that the first two Norfolk Island Pines were planted on Lāna‘i. One died; the other survived, and it is a valued landmark on the landscape of Kō‘ele in the present day.
Residency and the ranching operations of Lāna‘i were described in an article published in the Hawaiian magazine, Paradise of the Pacific, in 1893. Through the article we learn firsthand of this aspect of Lāna‘i’s history:
The Island of Lanai with its delightful climate and other attractive features, is one of the most interesting of the Hawaiian Islands. It is the principal sheep-growing district of the Kingdom, and from it are chiefly drawn the mutton supplies for Honolulu and other portions of the Islands... To the visitor approaching it by sea, Lanai has, by no means an inviting appearance, the brown slope rising towards the inner range in almost every direction, giving no indication of the rich grass-covered lands which lie beyond, or of the timber and shrub-covered ridges and ravines with which it is interspersed. Nevertheless, some 45,000 or 50,000 sheep and lambs here fatten upon the succulent grasses, as well as some 600 horses, 500 horned cattle, and goats and hogs. Wild turkeys almost without number also inhabit the island.
During the last ten months there were shipped from this island some 5,000 sheep; and numbers of cattle and horses. Very large quantities and an excellent quality of wool are also clipped here, and shipped to the United States, England and other countries... ...The island is held partly in fee simple and partly in leasehold, by Mr. Fred. H. Hayselden...,
its ownership having been originally acquired by the late ex-Premier Walter M. Gibson, from whom it descended to Mr. Hayselden and his wife, who is a daughter of that prominent and ambitious statesman whose name is inseparably lined with the political history and general affairs of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Since Mr. Gibson’s death, Mr. Hayselden has, from time to time, added largely to his landed possessions, and the entire island, with the exception of a few kuleanas (native homesteads), is now under his control.
The kanaka population is now in the neighborhood of two hundred and fifty, who are engaged in cultivating small patches, in sheep-herding, and in fishing... Lanai is a place well supplied with water. There are springs and several small streams in ravines; and upon the beach in different places wells have been sunk which furnish a liberal supply of fresh water. There is one perpetual river, or rivulet, which flows through the ravine of Maunalei. The lovers of the grand and beautiful in nature will here find much to gratify and please, and the botanist, especially, will obtain much food for study and entertaining research among the numerous canyons covered with shrubs and timber forest. [Paradise of the Pacific, April 1893:51]
Ranching was a way of life for the native residents of Lāna‘i, from the 1860s to 1951. In 1951, the ranch was closed by Dole Pineapple Company’s administrators, as it was not economically viable.
Stories researched and prepared by Kepā & Onaona Maly
Lāna`i Culture & Heritage Center