In 1902, Charles and Louisa Gay purchased land interests of the Gibson-Hayselden family, which included a number of the native land holdings that had been acquired by Walter M. Gibson and Fredrick Hayselden. As had been the focus of Walter M. Gibson, the Charles Gay family put their energy into ranching, though with the passing of time, they transitioned from sheep to a working cattle ranch. The primary areas of residence on Lāna‘i were Keōmoku Village and Kō‘ele (the ranch headquarters), with a smaller settlement in Pālāwai, and scattered residences along the coast, between Maunalei and the Lōpā vicinity. In these early years of the 1900s, Charles Gay struggled in his business venture, and while he secured more land from the Government inventory, by 1910, portions of Gay’s holdings were being sold off. The Lanai Ranch operations were reorganized by the newly formed Lanai Company partners, and came under the management of George C. Munro in 1911.
Around 1919, Charles Gay and his family—who still maintained small holdings on Lāna‘i—began the first efforts at cultivating pineapple on the island. The family’s mountain home, situated in the Lālākoa vicinity (just above the present-day Lālākoa subdivision), opened out to a small valley called Nininiwai—roughly in the valley lands that lie behind the present day Lāna‘i City. Those efforts met with success, and by 1922, James Dole’s Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Ltd. purchased all of the available fee-simple land on the island, and in 1923, began development of what became the world’s largest pineapple plantation.
An insightful contribution to the history of Lāna‘i was written by Lawrence Kainoahou Gay, titled “True Stories of Lanai,” (1965), and provides readers with important glimpses into life on Lāna‘i in the early 1900s.
Photograph Courtesy of the Charles Gay Family.
The “Pioneer” Pineapple Fields of the Charles Gay Family (ca. 1919), extending from Lālākoa to Nininiwai, with the Kō‘ele Ranch Headquarters in the background.
Stories researched and prepared by Kepā & Onaona Maly
Lāna`i Culture & Heritage Center