Press "Enter" to skip to content

ISLAND HISTORY: Kaua‘i pineapple and sugarcane homesteader Elmer Cheatham

Originally from Missouri, Elmer Cheatham (1882-1961) established residence in Honolulu in 1910 and obtained employment at B. F. Ehler’s &Co., the predecessor of Liberty House, which was in operation from 1918 to 2001.

At Ehler’s, he started off as a bookkeeper and left in 1914 as the head of Ehler’s credit department.

He then moved to Kealia, Kaua‘i, with his wife and three sons to become an independent pineapple and sugarcane homesteader in Kapa‘a.

In Honolulu on the day he boarded the steamer “Noeau” for Kaua‘i, he told a newspaper reporter, “I believe in the future of pineapples. I intend to do my own clearing, plowing, planting and harvesting, employing outside labor only when absolutely necessary. In this way I intend to cut the cost of production to the minimum.”

On Kaua‘i, Cheatham grew pineapples on his homestead for Hawaiian Canneries Co., which cultivated pineapple from 1913 to 1962 on 3,400 acres scattered over 35 miles from Hanama‘ulu to Hanalei, and canned its pineapple at its Kapa‘a cannery, now the site of Pono Kai Resort.

Later on, Cheatham raised sugarcane as an independent sugar grower for Makee Sugar Co. of Kealia.

Independent sugar growers had control over their own land, assumed full financial risk of their crops, and had contracts with a plantation to transport and grind their cane at the plantation’s mill.

During his years as a pineapple and sugarcane homesteader, Cheatham also engaged in construction.

For example, in 1923, he built a water pipeline extending from Kapa‘a town to the Wailua River for $4,800, which alleviated the water shortage in the Wailua district.

Yet, despite his best efforts, homesteading proved unprofitable.

In 1928, he quit homesteading and took a job as manager of Hawaiian Sugar Co.’s Makaweli Store and moved to Waimea.

Cheatham also served as Representative of Kaua‘i District 6 in 1940.

When Hawaiian Sugar Co. liquidated in 1941, he accepted a purchasing job at Schofield Barracks and moved to Wahiawa, O‘ahu.

A few months later, he was appointed purchasing agent for Pearl Harbor Naval Air Station.

Cheatham moved to California after World War II ended.
Source: The Garden Island

Be First to Comment

    Leave a Reply