Ponoholo Ranch

Pono & Angie Von Holt, Sabrina White

Kamuela, Hawaii

Parker Ranch

Kamuela, Hawaii

History of Parker Ranch Courtesy of Parker Ranch

It began with five cows—brought across the ocean by British Captain George Vancouver in 1788, just ten years after James Cook first landed in Hawai‘i. Vancouver presented the cows to King Kamehameha I, who ruled the eight Hawaiian Islands as one kingdom for the first time. The King set his cows free to roam Hawai‘i Island, and declared them to be kapu (off limits).

Over the next 20 years, the King’s cows multiplied into thousands. And when Massachusetts sailor John Palmer Parker, 19, jumped ship to visit Hawai‘i in 1809, maverick cattle dominated the countryside, wreaking havoc on family farms and gardens.

Parker stayed for a time, tended fishponds for the King and went to sea again during the War of 1812—and when he returned to Hawai‘i to live, he brought a new, state-of-the-art American musket. The King gave Parker exclusive permission, not only to shoot the wild cattle, but to supply meat and hides for local and foreign consumption. The musket is still in possession of Parker Ranch.

In less than a year, a thriving salt beef industry replaced sandalwood as the Island’s chief export, and Parker quickly grew into a respected man of wealth and influence. He learned to speak Hawaiian, adopted Hawaiian ways and in 1816, married Chiefess Kipikane, granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. They were awarded two acres of land on the slopes of Mauna Kea where they built the homestead “Mana Hale,” had three children, and began the Parker dynasty that would play a prominent role in the next two centuries of Hawaiian history.

King Kamehameha I died in 1819, barely a decade after he and John Parker had met. The kingdom had already seen dramatic change: a population devastated by foreign disease, forests depleted, traditional farming and trade rapidly replaced with commercialism, and a major shift away from Polynesian values to those of Americans and Europeans.

The next King, Kamehameha’s young son, essentially ended the “old ways” by having a public meal with his mother and female advisors, which rendered the kapu against men and women eating together meaningless. One year later, Christian missionaries sailed in and helped fill the spiritual void for many. The Hawai‘i John Parker first saw in 1809 was a very different place.

After the untimely death of young Kamehameha II, his brother ruled the Kingdom for 29 years as Kamehameha III, the longest reign of any Hawaiian monarch. During this period he enacted a new constitution that eventually led to a land distribution act called the “Great Mahele” which allowed for private land ownership for the first time.

John Parker purchased 640 acres in 1850, another 1,000 acres the next year, and leased land in the Waikoloa region from Kamehameha III. This king was the person responsible for bringing paniolo to Hawai‘i, inviting Spanish-Mexican vaquero (cowboys) from California to help train Hawaiians to rope and handle cattle. Because they spoke Spanish (Español), they were called “paniolo” and the island embraced their rich tradition of music, colorful culture, family values, and hard work, all of which lives on to this day at Parker Ranch.

John Parker’s grandson Samuel “Kamuela” Parker, for whom the airport is named, was a classmate of David Kalakaua, who would become Hawaii’s first elected King in 1874 (the “Merrie Monarch”). Samuel himself became involved in politics during the chaotic era near the end of the century. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs for Queen Lili‘uokalani on the day she was deposed in 1893, and he helped negotiate a surrender to avoid bloodshed. Samuel’s daughters, Helen and Eva Parker, were friends of Princess Ka‘iulani, and, sadly, riding horseback in a rainstorm on Parker Ranch led to her illness and untimely death a few months later.

About this time, Alfred Wellington Carter, a respected Honolulu businessman and judge, became guardian of Thelma Kahiluonapuaapi‘ilani Parker, great-great-granddaughter of John Parker, great-niece of Samuel and fifth-generation Ranch heir. Because her father died at age 19 when Thelma was two years old, mother Elizabeth (“Aunt Tootsie”) raised her daughter alone. She saw the wisdom of hiring a strong ranch manager to help protect Thelma’s interests and the Ranch’s future. Carter became that champion, guiding its growth with a steady hand for nearly 50 years.

Carter was an innovator, focused on improving and expanding Ranch operations, as well as raising horses, which he loved. Under his leadership, and because of his relationships with high-ranking people, Parker Ranch supplied horses to the U.S. Cavalry when it was still mounted, and to the Army, including General Patton. The ranch also sold horses to the Emperor of Japan for his Royal Riding Stable.

“In times of bounty, Carter shared the abundance with the ranching ‘ohana by instituting a home ownership program. Through no-interest loans and reasonable payment schedules, it became possible for as many families as desired it to own their own property,” writes author Jan Wizinowich in her well-researched blog. “Through the auspices of Carter, Parker Ranch also shared its bounty with the Waimea community through educational resources, donations to charitable organizations and care of the elderly.”

Thelma’s son Richard Smart was born in 1913, sixth-generation and final heir to Parker Ranch. Carter continued to manage the Ranch and advise Smart, and under his (and later son Hartwell Carter’s) direction, Parker Ranch grew to over 500,000 acres and 30,000 head of cattle.

Waimea had hosted the U.S. military in the past, but when World War II swept the winds of change across Parker Ranch again, this time it brought in truckloads of cold, exhausted Marines after the horrific battle of Betio. Richard Smart leased acreage to the Marine Corps, who set up what was called “Camp Tarawa” to honor one of the Corps’ greatest sacrifices, and began training for attacks on Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Almost overnight, the paniolo town became home to 50,000 young men far from home and Waimea changed forever.

“Waimea leapt into the twentieth century because of the technology and plenty that seemed to have followed the Marines into town. An electric generator allowed settlement houses to be lit by bulb rather than kerosene. The Waimea Elementary School and the Waimea Hotel became a 400-bed hospital with modern medical facilities. The engineers dammed the Waikoloa stream, constructed reservoirs to supply water to the division and the town, and erected temporary Canek structures behind the St. James Church. An ice house helped Marine cooks to turn out seeming tons of ice cream for delighted town children and adults. Entrepreneurs from all over the island began to show up to sell the thousands of papers that the Marines read and the hills of hot dogs that everyone consumed while watching the ball games at the park….

“In a wild rodeo, Marines from the Southwest and a few civilians who had never ridden a horse challenged the local paniolo to feats of cowboy skill. The results of this contest were not as close as the ball game, but no serious injuries resulted. Bruised contestants consumed several steers at the barbecue that the ranch threw for the competitors.” {from a Waimea Gazette article by Gordon W. Bryson. To read the full story, visit http://www.waimeagazette.com/Mar95_WaimeaRemembersTarawa.htm}

The Ranch’s first rodeo was Hawaii’s first rodeo, held on the 4th of July, now an annual tradition, thanks to the U. S. Marine Corps. A monument to those who trained at Camp Tarawa was erected in 1984, located near the entrance to the Ranch Historic Homes, and is visited often by Veterans and their families.

After the war, Richard Smart, a gifted actor and musician, continued his career in theatre, performing on Broadway and across Europe—with stage “royalty” like Carol Channing, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Martin and more. He returned to the Ranch to stay in 1960, and resided in Puuopelu, the grand “Hawaiian Victorian” house purchased by John Parker II in 1879.

During the 60’s, as the Island’s sugar cane economy began to wane, venture capitalist Laurance S. Rockefeller (LSR) visited Hawai‘i, at the invitation of the new state’s first Governor, William S. Quinn. Smart signed a 99-year lease with Rockefeller on 500 acres near the ocean, unsuitable for grazing. “It’s on land the cows don’t like but the tourists love—hot and barren,” he said in an interview with People. {Read the full story here: http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20198417,00.html}

Overlooking the beautiful crescent-shaped beach at Kauna‘oa, LSR created his visionary Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, which catalyzed resort development on the Kohala Coast. {For more about the hotel, visit: http://www.princeresortshawaii.com/mauna-kea-beach-hotel/mauna-kea-hawaii-history.php}

And, coming full circle, LSR also obtained the land at Pu‘ukohola, the site of King Kamehameha I’s great temple—built to fulfill the prophecy that he would one day unite and rule the Hawaiian Islands. LSR had the site renovated and donated it to the National Park Service.

Richard Smart resided in Waimea for the remainder of his life, taking on an active and forward-thinking role in the Ranch and the community, building a shopping plaza to support local businesses. He also wrote for the Ranch’s newspaper, Paka Paniolo, published from 1961-1970. He sold coastal Waikoloa lands for more luxury resort development, and mauka acreage for what is now Waikoloa Village. In 1980, he built the Kahilu Theatre (named for his mother) as a home for the arts in Waimea.

Smart passed away in 1992, after creating the Parker Ranch Foundation Trust to help serve the education and health needs of the community, with four beneficiaries: North Hawai‘i Community Hospital, Parker School Trust Corporation, Hawai‘i Preparatory Academy and Hawai‘i Community Foundation.

The Ranch’s legacy moves forward confidently, with the strong leadership of the Trust, and its story continues to be written by the people who live and work there, and honor the vision, values, and tradition of the living Parker Ranch legacy.

More information about the history of Parker Ranch is available in books and other resources at the Parker Ranch Store, including the series Loyal to the Land, by Ranch veterinarian Dr. Billy Bergin. http://www.parkerranchstore.com/loyal-to-the-land-i-by-billy-bergin/

Parker Ranch Website: http://www.parkerranch.com

Palani Ranch

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Palani Ranch traces its roots back to 1850 when Henry Nicholas Greenwell, a Britisher, arrived in the Kingdom of Hawaii via Australia and started a business which included growing coffee, citrus and livestock. While the business has evolved and portions of it were inherited by other branches of the H.N.Greenwell family which included ten children, the ranch section that was inherited by the third son, Frank, continues today as a cattle company (Palani Ranch Company Inc) and a real estate investment company (Lanihau Properties LLC). The ranch’s business plan is progressive and its management team with Kimo Hoopai, Jr, as our Livestock Manager and Britt Craven as President have significantly remodeled operational efficiencies and improved overall productivity over the past few years to sustainable levels, God willing!

The ranch operates primarily a cow-calf operation of about 1000 Angus/Hereford brood cows on about 10,000 acres of fee simple land in Kona, Hawaii, most of which ranges from 1500 to 5500 ft elevation. Much of the ranch is pretty rough country and rainfall ranges from under 10 to over 60 inches per year. The business remains committed to continue as a multi-generational family enterprise to maximize the yield of its real estate assets while preserving and perpetuating the ranch lands for their future agricultural and overlay use potential as well as both the land’s tangible and heritage value to the family owners.

The family enterprise has been through a significant and successful transition of leadership succession over the past few years. It is overseen by two Boards with active family and non-family Directors, a dynamic governance/committee structure involving younger family members, and a non-family member, Riley Smith, as CEO of the umbrella organization.


KK Ranch

Jason & Jeri Moniz

Paauilo, Hawaii

Kahua Ranch

Monte Richards

Kamuela, Hawaii



128 W Antler Ave.

Redmond, Oregon 97756

Tel: (541) 475-2000

Find out more about becoming a member of our CO-OP.

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