The introduction of trains into the Hawaiian sugar plantation system was a major advancement. Trains made the shipping of cane from one end of the plantation to another much easier. In the early years, track was laid as needed. Later trains became an integral part of Hawaiian plantation technology. In small way, my ancestors were a part of that history–now if I could just solve what that part was!
When I first started researching, I was told the same story many times by relatives. Sometime in the 1980s, they visited Hawaii. There they went “somewhere” and saw the historical display “The Hawaiian Hall of Fame”. As they walked around looking at photographs all were stopped in their tracks. One of the photographs had their ancestor in it!
While this is excellent news, the frustrating part is that they all seem to have collective amnesia. By the time I spoke to them in the early 1990s, not one could remember where they saw the photograph or what group had put on the display. Some stayed long enough to find out the story behind the photograph, but none bothered to get an address of where to get more information. I have since been able to get a copy of the photograph from a cousin, but do this day I still don’t know the real story behind it.
But, what is the true story? Some said that they built the first train in Hawaii. From what I’ve learned about my relatives and about Hawaii history, this story seems very unlikely. From others I heard that they were the first to run a single spur locomotive on a Hawaiian Sugar Plantation. There was a story reported of a Pacheco, a train engineer, who worked on the Kilauea Sugar Plantation. He was thrown from a train and injured in the 1880s. As my Pachecos were the only Pacheco’s living in Kilauea and they were employed by the Kilauea Sugar Plantation, it lends some credence to the story that they were worked as part of the train crews.
Just like any family tree, mine has it’s mysteries. The train mysteries bugs me most because so many people have heard of it, but not one thought to preserve the story. Over the years, I’ve sent emails and letters. I’ve dispatched friends to Hawaiian archives and museums to track down the origins of the photograph to no avail. If any web surfers out there the true story of this photograph and where to get more information, I’d really love to hear from you!
[I haven’t posted the photograph for fear of infringing on someone’s copyright. However, the photograph was taken about 1885-1890, most likely in Kilauea, Kauai, HI. Those shown are Jose Pacheco, Sr., Joaquim Jacinto da Camara (both standing in front of the train car), and possibly Manoel Pacheco. Jose and Manoel were brothers and Joaquim was their brother-in-law.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com