Kalihiwai,  ca. 1900

Kalihiwai, ca. 1900

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This is a photo of Kalihiwai from about 1900–perhaps a decade after Delbert’s father established his rice plantation. The photo was taken from the old wagon trail above the Goo home. That trail connected Kalihiwai to Wanini and Hanalei long before the construction of the paved road that now cuts the bluff at kilohana.

Old man Goo, “The Pake” (Uncle or “Chinese” in Hawaiian), built the barn in the center of the photo to store rice, tools, and equipment. His coolies bunked on the second floor—every night, as many as 20 smoked their opium up there before falling asleep. The lean-to housed the kitchen where Delbert’s mom cooked for the crew. The mortar and stone threshing floor was just beyond the barn. The house and outbuildings on the hill were on a separate “kuleana” (traditional Hawaiian smallholding) owned by relatives of the Kong Lung family.

“The Pake” expanded his plantation far beyond the old Hawaiian taro “lo’i” (pond fields) and improved the valley’s irrigation system. To grow taro, the Hawaiians diverted only the low flow volume from the Kalihiwai River. Taro is a 13-month crop requiring a near continuous and substantial flow of cool, clean water, so the Hawaiians sized their pondfield plantings based on the year round availability of dependable base flows. Rice is a 4 to 5 month crop planted in the wet season and harvested in the dry. Rice paddies require a quick fill then just enough to keep them full—not the constant circulation of cool, clean water taro needs. So the Old Man increased the capacity of the diversion and irrigation ditch to handle higher flows.

The coolies dug a barge canal from the river to a landing in front of the barn. The canal was called “Pake Ditch” and is still call “Pake Ditch” to this day.  The Old Man bought unhulled rice (paddy) from all the farmers in the valley. They’d bring their paddy in wagons and on pack horses from as far as Kakimoto and Matagawa above Namahana, four miles up the valley as the “pueo” flys--double that on the old valley trail with its dozens of low water fords. The Old Man would mill the other farmers’ rice along with his, bag it, barge it to the river mouth, load it into whale boats and row it out to schooners anchored in the bay, bound for Honolulu.

The Old Man eventually bought many of the kuleana in the valley but most of his plantation was on land leased from the German owned Lihue Plantation. The Germans’ land was confiscated in World War One and bought by Amfac. The 1957 tsunami  washed away all the buildings on the valley floor, destroyed the plantation‘s infrastructure, and filled the Pake Ditch to the top of its banks with debris. That was the end of rice in Kalihiwai. In the 70’s Amfac sold to developers. By then all the rice land was covered with towering, impenetrable hau bush jungle and under several feet of water--though Delbert had kept 5-acres just below the house cleared and drained.  There he grew papaya and eggplant, but without Pake Ditch to drain it, the rest of the valley was useless—a swamp. Delbert showed me this photo and said, “Let’s go partners. Buy the place. Nobody wants it. We can cut a good deal. Most of that swamp is 4 to 6 feet above the river.  I know how to drain it.” Delbert owned most of the kuleana in the valley and traded them to the developer for 15 acres. Though the flood zone kuleana were worth little, the developer was able to relocate the kuleana, along with their house permit rights, to lots they subdivided above the valley along Kalihiwai Road. The County encourage this transfer as the new lots were far above the tsumami limits where their was vehicular access, water, utilities and County services. I got the remaining 25 acres, most of it underwater, at very good terms. As Delbert said, “Nobody wants it!”

This photo became the site plan for our development. Delbert knew where to find the old Pake Ditch under the tidal wave debris. He knew where the old building foundations were buried, where the culverts and roads should go, and where to excavate the old stream bed that once connected Kahoe Falls, the main source of the swamp, with Pake Ditch. Once we had the valley drained, Delbert gave me an old plans shack he got from a friend working on a road project. We set the little shack on concrete blocks over his father’s threshing floor. At the door we placed a broken chunk of brick and mortar stairs we dug out of the ditch. Maile and I spent every weekend working and playing in the valley. We had a shovel for our outhouse, bathed in the ditch and slept in sleeping bags on the plans table. Of course we went to Uncle Delbert’s for dinner.

The historic and far-reaching accomplishments of his father, The Pake, plus Delbert’s vision, knowledge, capacity for making deals and taking chances, gave our families a great gift—enough to do something but not enough to do nothing. Now there are four generations of family in the valley: homes, orchards, gardens, pastures, lo’i and livestock—owned by Goos, Walters, Chandlers, Keleiohis, and Yukimuras. The Wehrheim's are back in the old house in the bustling metropolis of Lihue but are frequent visitors and, of course, always stay for dinner.