Historical Kaunakakai Wharf

Part I in an ongoing series about Molokai’s history.

Community Contributed

In 1899, American Sugar Company constructed a wharf with a mole (a large stone pier) one-half miles long to accommodate the sugar operations. The stones were brought from two heiau in Kalama`ula named `Opae`ula (red shrimp) and Pu`upapa`i (crab hill), and remain part of the structure of today’s wharf.

The older previous wharf is located just west of the Molokai Canoe Club and is visible at low tide. American Sugar Company built a railroad from the end of the mole up through Palaau and Iloli to the middle of the Ho`olehua plateau. Locomotives were imported to the Hawaiian Islands – however, never made the journey from Oahu to Molokai – and a huge coal dump was formed at Kaunakakai to supply fuel. A large camp was constructed and labor was brought in, creating the village of Kaunakakai.

The Kaunakakai mole, between the wharf and the shore, was too narrow for ordinary road vehicles. To overcome this disadvantage, a railroad flat-car (pictured) on tracks was drawn by a reliable, “flea-bitten” grey mule named Hattie, who was replaced later by a brown mule named Hannah. The mule hauled freight and passengers from steamer to shore. In the earlier days, an unusual mode of transportation was employed by George Trimble to move sugar cane from his fields in Kawela. After he had loaded the cane on a small barge, draft animals towed it through the shallows between the reef and the shore to the sugar mill in Kamalo, a distance of five miles. 


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