Greenwell was entrepreneur of the 1800s
Kalukalu Homestead was the center of Henry Nicholas and Elizabeth Caroline Greenwell’s life in Kona for more than 80 years. Greenwell, a young Army officer, left England’s military life at the age of 23 for adventure in Australia and the California gold fields. Injured while unloading his mining supplies from a ship in San Francisco harbor, he traveled to the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1850 in search of a good physician.
After he recovered, he found Kona’s gentle climate perfect for growing oranges, pumpkins, and coffee. He purchased 300 acres of land at Kalukalu in 1850 and began his busy career as farmer, storekeeper, sheep station owner, rancher, postmaster, school agent and collector for customs at Kealakekua Bay. He married in 1868 and, with the able assistance of his wife, raised 10 children at Kalukalu, educating all of them at home.
By the time he died in 1891, Henry Greenwell had witnessed the transformation of Kona’s agricultural economy. When he arrived, small Hawaiian family gardens covered the district. By the end of the century, large and small sections of land, owned or leased by immigrants, stretched from the seashore to the high mountain slopes. While some entrepreneurs attempted large-scale sugar, coffee and cotton plantations, Greenwell used Kona’s rocky, and sometimes arid, lands to raise sheep for wool, dairy cattle for butter and, finally, beef cattle to export to Honolulu’s butcher shops.
Greenwell’s original home at Kalukalu was torn down in the 1960s, but the store he built in approximately 1875 is intact. It has been restored to its 1890 state, and costumed interpreters currently conduct living history tours there several days a week.
Copyright 1998 Kona Historical Society. Reprinted by permission.