On Sept. 8, 1924, two Ilocano Filipinos (from the Makaweli plantation)—each about 18 years old—rode into Hanapepe on their bicycles to buy a pair of $4 shoes. Filipino laborers earned approximately $20 to $25 a month, and would spend about one-fourth of their wages on food and an additional $2 to wash their clothes. They sent much of the remaining money to relatives in the Philippines.   

On their way back to the plantation, the two passed the strike headquarters, where they were apparently attacked by Visayan strikers and held inside the schoolhouse against their will. Bushnell speculates that the men could have taken them hostage because they were non-striking Ilocanos. “The strikers are really frustrated by this time because they’re not shutting down anything,” he says. “They don’t have a lot to eat, they don’t have a great deal to do and the sugar industry is going right on producing sugar and it doesn’t look like anybody [else] is joining them.” 

When friends of the young men realized they were missing, they reported them to the Kauai sheriffs. Deputy Sheriff William Crowell went to the headquarters that evening and demanded to see the two. Strikers produced the two men, who, it is believed, were coerced into saying they wanted to be there. Crowell tried to convince the strikers to let him take the two but they refused. He left and went to the county attorney, where he was given an arrest warrant—not for the strikers, but for the captives, as a way to free them. He returned the following morning with approximately 40 other men, many of whom were hunters and recently deputized sharpshooters, their weapons and training paid for by the HSPA.

Crowell went to the strikers’ headquarters with about three sheriffs, plus an interpreter to explain the arrest warrant. The other 37 sheriffs remained at their cars on the dusty Hanapēpē Road up from the strikers’ headquarters. Some were even waiting on a small hill from which they could see the school in the distance. 

The following is from an official account given by one of Crowell’s sheriffs who was present at the schoolhouse: Crowell went in, showed the warrant and demanded that the strikers turn over their captives. The two men were released and were leaving the school grounds with Crowell when some strikers began following and taunting them, waving their cane knives in the air threateningly. The sharpshooters fired upon the strikers when they saw the men try to attack Crowell. The men shot dead 16 strikers in self-defense, while four sheriffs suffered casualties as a result of stab wounds. Crowell himself was injured, but survived.  

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Sulpicio Venyan, a striker who participated in the 1979 oral-history project, concedes that some strikers beat up the two Ilocano workers and forced them into the schoolhouse, where they remained overnight. Crowell returned the next morning with a warrant. “He was going to rescue the two and grabbed ahold of them and began to run. When they were chased by strikers—that’s when the shooting started. They just started killing the Filipinos.”

Venyan—who said he wasn’t a part of the violence—ran with others into a nearby banana patch to escape flying bullets. He stayed there until “the war was over,” but was soon caught. Crowell’s men rounded up Venyan and 100 of his comrades and they were transported to the main prison in Līhu‘e. The injured and dead were taken to a nearby hospital. Soon after, National Guard soldiers arrived to Kauai via an inter-island steamer. 

A funeral took place in the days following the massacre, one for the fallen sheriffs and another for the strikers. It is unknown where the strikers are buried; their graves were left unmarked. The newspaper The Garden Island reported, “1[6] rough board caskets … were transported to Hanapepe on trucks where they were placed in one long trench.” The HSPA gave each of the four sheriffs’ families $500 ($6,300 in 2009 dollars), while the families of the 16 strikers had to split about $75 ($947 in 2009 dollars), barely $5 per dead striker.