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ISLAND HISTORY: Francis Gay, co-founder of Gay & Robinson, Inc.

Francis Gay (1852-1928), Kaua‘i sugar planter, stock raiser and co-founder of Gay &Robinson, was born in New Zealand, the son of Thomas Gay and Jane Sinclair Gay.

Gay was also the grandson of Eliza Sinclair, who purchased Ni‘ihau in 1864 from Kamehameha V and the 65,000-acre Makaweli ahupua‘a from Princess Victoria Kamamalu in 1865.

He was educated privately at Makaweli House in the highlands above Pakala, which still stands to this day, and at the Boston Institute of Technology, prior to returning home to Kaua‘i to manage the affairs of his family’s estates.

Circa 1880, he formed a partnership with his cousin, Aubrey Robinson, called Gay &Robinson, for the purpose of growing sugarcane and raising cattle.

They subsequently leased some 5,700 acres of Makaweli lands to Hawaiian Sugar Co., commonly known as Makaweli Sugar Plantation, (later renamed Olokele Sugar Plantation).

The partners also began planting sugarcane as Gay &Robinson Sugar Plantation on roughly 2,000 acres at Makaweli and milling it at the Makaweli Sugar Plantation factory.

Other portions of Gay &Robinson land was for used for grazing.

Francis Gay is believed to have been the last person decorated with a royal order of Hawai‘i, when Queen Liliu‘okalani created him Knight Commander of the Royal Order of the Hawaiian Crown in June 1892, an order that was instituted by King Kalakaua in Feb. 1883.

Gay was also a recognized authority on the Hawaiian language and island folklore, and wrote extensively on those subjects.

He and his wife, Alice Hart Gay, had one son, Francis Ernest Gay.

Aubrey Robinson eventually became sole owner of Gay &Robinson and Ni‘ihau, and at the time of his death in 1936, his four sons — Sinclair, Selwyn, Aylmer and Lester — managed the family’s properties on Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau.

Sinclair was in charge of Gay &Robinson Plantation; Selwyn headed Gay &Robinson cattle ranch; the management of Ni‘ihau was left to Aylmer Robinson, while Lester managed family properties on Kaua‘i.

Lester Robinson’s sons, Keith and Bruce Robinson, presently own Ni‘ihau and manage their Makaweli lands.
Source: The Garden Island

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