McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery – Eleele, Hawaii - Atlas Obscura

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McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery

A burial ground for workers at one of Hawai'i's largest sugarcane producers that laid buried for decades. 

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Up on a hill beyond Glass Beach is a cemetery that dates back to the 19th century, a burial ground for workers at the McBryde Sugar Company’s plantation. The small cemetery overlooking the ocean is filled with gravestones in Japanese and English that was only recently rediscovered.

The McBryde Sugar Company was established in 1899, and operated a sugarcane plantation on the southern part of Kauai. It was part of a rapidly expanding industry in Hawai’i: In 1835 there were about 50 acres of sugarcane plantings on Kauai, and by 1900 that figure had grown to 100,000 acres. To plant, harvest, and process these crops, McBryde and many other companies brought in laborers from Japan and other Asian countries. In 1920, the McBryde Sugar Company had a staff of approximately 1,500 workers.

Workers and their families lived in small buildings on the plantation grounds, and many died there as well. In 2013, local resident Debrah Davis discovered a grave near the site of the former plantation, which had shut down in the 1980s. As she kept looking, she found an entire cemetery buried underneath decades of overgrowth. Davis began clearing the brush away from the graves and researching the names that she could read on the headstones.

A number of descendants of people buried in the cemetery have traveled to the rediscovered cemetery. Today, some of the old grave markers have been restored or replaced.

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