MRS. NAOMI KAENAOKANE MAKA KEKELA.
On the 30th of August, 1902, a most noteworthy woman of Hawaii was called to her reward. Her modesty was as great as her worth—and it seems fitting that some memories of her and the times in which she lived be prepared by one who knew her. Mrs. Kekela was the daughter of humble, faithful, church members of the Waialua, Oahu church; under the pastoral care of Rev. John S. Emerson. She was born in 1826, and spent her happy, care-free childhood attending the common schools of Waialua, in play hours roaming at will, the plains, the mountains and valleys, or sporting in the blue Pacific. But as she grew and had passed her ninth birthday her parents sent her, before her tenth, to enter the Girls’ Boarding School at Wailuku, Maui, or as they called it, “Kula Hanai Kaikamahine, ma Wailuku.[“] This boarding school was the forerunner of all the now successful seminaries for Hawaiian girls. The school was started by Rev. J. S. Green, but very soon passed to the care and responsibility of Mr. Edward Bailey, who managed all the business of the institution, but the matron and teacher of the girls was Mrs. Maria Ogden, who lived in a small two-story house on the premises. Mrs. E. Bailey assisted as she was able. Memory carries me back as I write this, to a visit made to this school in the early forties, when, as a child, I went with my mother and sisters to Maui. Landing from a schooner at Lahaina, we passed a pleasant week with the missionary families of Lahainaluna and Lahainalalo, and took the usual way to reach Wailuku. We embarked in a double canoe at midnight, under the wonderful, clear, star-lit heavens; and were paddled, close in shore all the way, in the shadow of W. Maui mountains, to Maalea Bay, where we landed on the wild rocks, surrounded with tall Pili grass, and soon were tucked away in maneles, and carried on the shoulders of stalwart Hawaiian men up to the mission station in Wailuku, where we met a warm welcome from Miss Og-
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den and her school. Most vividly returns to me the memory of the long adobe thatched buildings, the dormitories, the school and dining-rooms, and the sight of that supper table to which we sat down. The company at the small square table of Miss Ogden, in the centre of the room, looking down on the long low tables of the girls, which were completely garlanded from end to end with wreaths or leis, of the fragrant Four-o-Clocks blossoms of many hues, which they cultivated in their own little flower-beds. All the girls stood by their places until they had sweetly sung together one verse, their “Grace before meat,” when they seated themselves all together, on the low backless benches, and attacked their bowls of poi and relishes in the usual way of the land, with their fingers. Always dipping their fingers before and after eating in bowls of clean water, which stood handy to all, on the table. Naomi was one of the girls amid that crowd, and she always retained a memory of “that visit of Mrs. Chamberlain and her little girls,” as her husband and children testify. After the meal the leis were heaped on the heads and shoulders of their guests. To this school-home in June, 1847, came a young student of Lahainaluna Seminary, Mr. James Hunnewell Kekela, (who had been a protege of the gentleman whose name he bore) and was also a native of Waialua. He had just graduated, and here, in the school-home of Naomi, at Wailuku, a beautiful wedding ceremony was observed. The minister who tied the nuptial knot was Rev. T. Dwight Hunt, who was then the missionary of the Hawaiian church in Wailuku. Later, he commenced preaching to foreigners in Honolulu, and was called from there to inaugurate a church in San Francisco in 1849, which is now one of the flourishing churches of that city. The young couple at once returned to Waialua, where Rev. J. S. Emerson had formed a separate church organization at Kahuku, Oahu, and very soon Mr. Kekela was ordained and placed over that church, this same being the very first church upon the islands to be placed under the care of a Hawaiian pastor.
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They remained in Kahuku until 1853. Here their first little daughter was born and died in a few months of the first epidemic of measles,—and here was born the second daughter daughter, Maria Ogden Kekela, whose life and death are so well known to the H. M. C. Soc. When the Mission to the Caroline Islands was sent out in 1852, Rev. J. Kekela accompanied Rev. E. W. Clark as a delegate, and soon after his return to Oahu again, came the personal call to himself and Naomi to go as Foreign Missionaries. The story of the arrival of the Marquesas chief Matunui, with his Hawaiian son-in-law, in Honolulu with an appeal for the Gospel to be again sent from Hawaii to that savage cannibal people sounds like romance, and a most tremendous wave of religious and missionary enthusiasm spread all over the isalnds. The writer of this article, (when she had returned in 1854 from the United States from a course of education), received from her mother all the particulars of that wonderful time, of the public meetings, of the impression made by Matunui, of the choice of Rev. and Mrs. James Kekela to go as missionaries, of the great trial to the faith and love of Mrs. Naomi Kekela, in that it seemed that they should leave little Maria behind, of the final triumph of faith, when dear Mother Ogden had said, “I will adopt her as my own child,” their departure and many other facts.
Of Mrs. Kekela’s life at the Marquesas there is not time now to write much. It can be more fully dwelt on in future years when her husband’s heroic race is finished. But she never desired or asked to return to her native land for a visit, not even to see her beloved child! On one trip of the Morning Star, Miss Maria O. Kekela (after she had completed her course at Oahu College) was sent down to see her mother. Many children were born to them in the Marquesas—of whom Susan (who was also adopted by Miss Ogden and lived with her until Miss O’s death); James, who died a young man at Waialua; Samuel, adopted son of Rev. and Mrs. Kauwealoha, their associates, who had no children, who was educated by the H. M. C. Soc. at the farm school at Makawao, and who returned to his parents; and Rachel, educated at Mauna Olu Seminary under Miss Helen Carpenter, are best known here.
In 1899 it was deemed best by the officers of the Hawaiian Board that Rev. and Mrs. Kekela return to their native land, bringing their two youngest daughters and a number of grandchildren, to be educated in Hawaii. At the annual meeting of the Woman’s Board of Mission’s in June, 1899, it was the writer’s privilege to introduce with warm welcome, this beloved missionary mother to the large assembly; and we all listened to her words of greeting and mention of her life service with great delight, as translated to us by Rev. O. H. Gulick. Ten children in all were born to the Kekela family, seven of whom are now living. Nineteen grand-children are living, and thirteen great-grand-children. Mr. and Mrs. Kekela spent the first year after their return from the Marquesas in Kau, Hawaii, where Mrs. Maria O. Martin’s children were settled in happy and comfortable circumstances. Then they came to Oahu, to the home of their daughter Susan, a widow, at Waianae. Here Mrs. Kekela was called to her Heavenly Home very suddenly with heart trouble from which she had long suffered. The funeral was observed at Waianae, Sabbath P. M. August 31st. It was a matter of much regret that from the fact of death occurring so suddenly and so near the Sab-
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bath no foreign pastor could attend the funeral, but the two native pastors, Rev. Messrs. Kaaia and Kekehuna [Kekahuna] made the services most appropriate and memorable.
Martha A. Chamberlain.
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