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ISLAND HISTORY: Kilauea Sugar Co. manager Robert A. Macfie Jr. visited Robert Louis Stevenson at Waikiki in 1889

Robert A. Macfie Jr. (1854-1925), the manager and a principal owner of Kaua‘i’s Kilauea Sugar Co., visited fellow Scotsman and famous novelist, essayist, poet and travel writer Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) at Waikiki in 1889.

By then, Stevenson, best known for works, such as “Treasure Island,” “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” “Kidnapped” and “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” had already become good friends with King Kalakaua, his sisters Princess Liliuokalani and Princess Likelike, and Princess Kaiulani.

Years later, Macfie recalled his 1889 visit with Stevenson and said, “Stevenson, an eccentric genius, was sleeping in the cook’s house at Waikiki, while his wife and mother and other members of the family were quartered in the house. I don’t know why he wished to sleep there, but he did.

“One night, I went to call on him and found him sitting up in bed. I sat down on the end of the bed, and Joe Strong (the painter who married Isabel Osbourne), who dabbled with flashlight photography, took the (accompanying) photograph.

“A great writer, but a greater story-teller. His books do not compare with his conversation. I remember one evening I was at Waikiki for dinner, and he kept us in a roar all evening, so that I ached the next day from having laughed so much.”

Two highlights of Macfie’s tenure as manager of Kilauea Sugar Co. from 1880 to 1890 occurred in 1881.

The first took place on Kamehameha Day, 1881, when Stone Dam, which blocked the stream bed just below the convergence of Pohakuhono and Haluanani streams, creating an irrigation reservoir, was opened.

On that day, Hawaiian, British and American flags flew from the mill’s smokestack and the residents of Kilauea marched to the new reservoir, led by the local band.

And, on Sept. 24, 1881, Princess Liliuokalani drove home the first spike for the Kilauea Sugar Co. railroad, Kaua‘i’s first.

After leaving Kilauea Sugar Co. in 1890, Macfie managed power plants in Puerto Rico for many years.

Kilauea Sugar Co. was in operation from 1880 to 1971.
Source: The Garden Island

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