Waine’e Church Cemetery
Near Waiola Church
535 Waine’e Street
Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii 96761 Founded: 1823 Size: an acre or so
Number of interments: approximately 200 marked
Waine’e (Moving Water) Churchyard, established in 1823, was the first Christian cemetery in the Hawaiian islands. In it, native Hawaiians and missionaries are buried side by side.
Hawaiians consider Waine’e Churchyard sacred ground because Queen Keopuolani (Gathering of the Clouds of Heaven), the highest royalty in all Hawaii by virtue of her bloodlines, is buried there. In addition to her heritage, Keopuolani was a wife of King Kamehameha the Great and mother of Kamehameha II and III. As the first native aristocrat to be baptized a Christian, Keopuolani wielded enormous influence in the spread of Protestantism. She was baptized by request an hour before her death on September 16, 1823.
Kamehameha’s favorite wife, Queen Ka’ahumanu, is aslo here. King Kaumualii, last king of Kauai, rests here, along with High Chief Hoapili, who married two of Kamehameha’s wives after the king’s death; his wife Hoapili Wahine, governor of Maui; Kekauonohi, one of five wives of Kamehameha II and governor of Kauai in her own right; and High Chiefess Kuini Liliha, who led a rebellion of a thousand soldiers against the Western government on Oahu in 1830. Pioneer missionary Reverend William Richards is also buried here.
Kahale M. Kahiamoe’s grave
Also in the churchyard stands the oldest Christian gravestone in the Hawaiian Islands, remembering a Maui islander who died of “fever” in 1829. Nearby, a simple tablet stone commemorates Kahale M. Kahiamoe, who lived from 1804 to 1908, 104 years, long enough to see the invasion of the outside world, the end of the kapus and the Hawaiian monarchy, and the establishment of Hawaii as a US territory in 1900. Shell leis draped the rusted iron fence enclosing his grave.
The Waine’e Church itself no longer stands. Completed in 1832, it was the first stone church in the islands and served as the church of the Hawaiian royalty when Lahaina was the capital of the kingdom through the mid-1840s. A whirlwind tore off its roof and knocked down its belfry in 1858. A careless caretaker burned the church to its walls in June 1894. After it burned again in 1947, it was rebuilt once more. Another windstorm permanently demolished it in 1951.
The church’s name was changed to Waiola (Water of Life) in 1954. Now owned by the Waiola Protestant Church, the building has continued to stand safely ever since. The old cemetery and the current church stand on almost 2.5 acres on Waine’e Street, between Chapel and Shaw Streets, not far from the Seamen’s Cemetery.
According to one source, the Waine’e church inspired Reverend Abner Hale’s mission church in James Michener’s Hawai’i.
St. Philomena Catholic Church
Kalaupapa National Historical Park
Kalawao, Molokai, Hawaii In use: 1872 – 1932 Number of interments: Unknown Open: The national park is open Monday through Saturday, but the number of visitors is capped at 100 per day. Visitors must be at least 16 years old. Unless you are invited by a resident of Kalaupapa, you must take a tour offered by Damien Tours of Kalaupapa.
Molokai, the most isolated Hawaiian island, has so little automobile traffic that it does not have a single traffic light. Molokai’s Kalaupapa Peninsula was used for more than a hundred years as a place to intern Hawaiians infected with leprosy. The area — where internees were sentenced to live until 1969 — became a National Park in 1980.
The first case of leprosy documented in Hawaii was found on the island of Kauai in 1835. It’s believed that that Chinese, imported to work in the sugar cane fields, brought the disease with them, but that’s impossible to say when whalers and missionaries brought so many other diseases to the vulnerable Hawaiians.
Since there was no cure for the disease, infected victims were rounded up and exiled to the Kalaupapa Peninsula. Surrounded by such rough seas that ships could land only rarely, sufferers were often thrown overboard and told to swim. A 2000-foot cliff on the southern side of the peninsula kept them penned in.
Although Hawaiians had lived on the peninsula previously, they were displaced by order of King Kamehameha V in order to isolate the leprosy victims. The first group of exiles consisted of nine men and three women dropped off on January 6, 1866.
New internees found an area with few buildings. The sick often lived in caves or such lean-tos as they could cobble together. Supplies were seldom delivered, so those who were strong enough grew taro, sweet potatoes, and fruits, and gathered seafood from the oceans and tidal pools.
In 1864, two years previous, Joseph de Veuster had arrived in Honolulu. Before long, the Belgian was ordained in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu and became known as Father Damien. Nine years later, he traveled to Kalaupapa to minister to the victims of leprosy.
Father Damien, two months before his death
With Father Damien’s help, the lepers built themselves homes, a church, and a hospital. Damien, who spoke Hawaiian, ministered, nursed, and encouraged them. In 1885, after 12 years of aiding the sick, Damien himself was diagnosed with leprosy. He eventually died of it on April 15, 1889. He was 49.
Damien was buried beside the walls of St. Philomena Catholic Church, which he had helped islanders expand several times over the years. He was buried in a site he’d selected personally, beneath the gnarled pandanus tree under which he’d slept when he first arrived on the island.
The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, to which Damien had belonged as a young man, erected a black marble cross above his grave. It read, “Sacred to the Memory of the Reverend Father Damien de Veuster. Died a martyr to his Charity for the Afflicted Lepers.”
Damien’s original grave and marker
A movement to have Damien beatified – the first step on the path to sainthood – began the year following his death. Bishop Koeckemann of the Sacred Hearts Mission, who had clashed with Damien in life, stymied the process. It gained momentum in the 1930s. Rome announced formal beatification proceedings in 1935.
Of course, Father Damien wouldn’t be allowed to rest. The National Park Service site says, “Because Kalaupapa remained an isolation settlement and the world could not come to his church and grave, Damien’s remains were exhumed in 1936 and reburied at Louvain, Belgium.” Hawaiians objected loudly, but an arrangement had been reached between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and King Ferdinand III of Belgium. Internees of Kalaupapa were left only with the cross marking his grave.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI declared Father Damien venerable, the next step up the ladder to sainthood. A relic – Damien’s right hand — was returned to his original grave at Kalawao in 1995. He was canonized as a saint on October 11, 2009. Kalaupapa National Historical Park became the only National Park site connected with a saint. (Mother Marianne Cope, who cared for Damien in his final years, then stayed to tend the other victims of leprosy for 30 years, was canonized in 2012. Although she died in Kalaupapa, she is buried in Syracuse, New York.)
Kalaupapa from the ocean
Damien in not the only person buried in the National Park. Since 1866, more than 8000 people, mostly Hawaiians, died at Kalaupapa. Damien himself buried around 200 a year. The National Park Service estimates there are 1200 grave markers and several thousand unmarked graves spread over 15 cemeteries inside the park. In Moku Puakala, the area around St. Philomena Church at Kalawao, lies Brother Joseph Dutton, who served with Father Damien, and other religious workers affiliated with the Baldwin Home for Boys.
With the discovery of sulfone drugs, leprosy could be put into remission and was no longer contagious. The isolation order was finally lifted in 1969, when the state of Hawaii officially decided to change the terminology to Hansen’s Disease, rather than leprosy, as a way to lessen the stigma of its sufferers. Internees at Kalaupapa were free to leave, but many of them chose to stay in the place they considered home.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter established Kalaupapa National Historical Park. The Park Service describes the mission of the park thus: “Kalaupapa serves as a reminder of a nation in crisis when Hawaiian people were exposed to diseases for which they had no immunities. It is a place where we can reconsider our responses to people with disfiguring disabilities or illnesses. Kalaupapa, once a community in isolation, now serves as a place for education and contemplation. It is a place where past suffering has given way to personal pride about accomplishments made in the face of great adversity.”
In 2009, President Barack Obama authorized a memorial for the estimated 8,000 former patients buried on Kalaupapa. Only about 1,300 lie in marked graves. The monument appears not to have been completed yet.
It can be challenging to visit Molokai. From Maui or Honolulu, you can catch an inter-island flight into Molokai or take the Maui-Molokai ferry from Lahaina. Life moves at a relaxed pace on Molokai, so plan to spend the night.
If you visit, National Park Service warns, “The 3.5-mile trail to the park is extremely steep and difficult. Hiking is physically demanding. There are no medical or dining facilities at Kalaupapa. Visitors flying or hiking in must bring their own lunches. Guests of residents also need to bring their own food supplies. All food and sundries must be brought in and all trash taken out. The mule ride ride concession provides lunch to its customers.”
There is also no place to stay over, unless you stay with one of the residents.
Most importantly, photographs of the few remaining patient/residents is forbidden without their written permission.
I’m closing in on 150 Cemeteries of the Week. I still have a bunch of tourist destinations in mind, but I thought perhaps I’d open the subject up for discussion. What would you like to see?
I’m including a poll, just to get a sense of whether these graveyards are as fascinating to you as they are to me.
If there’s something I absolutely must write about — but I’ve left it off my list — please feel free to write it in or leave a comment below.
Keep in mind that I am limited to those cemeteries that I can research, either through books or over the internet. If I can’t find much information, I can’t write an informative post. Also, I need to be able to find illustrations, either through photos I can borrow (with full credit, of course) or with vintage postcards or other ephemera.
The whole list of Cemeteries of the Week to date is here.
The sky wasn’t blue the day I visited Keawala’i Churchyard, but that was okay. My mom was recovering from surgery that removed melanoma from her upper arm, leaving her with a hole the size of a bar of soap. They’d gotten all the cancer and it wouldn’t spread, but we didn’t know that yet. We were being very careful to stay out of the sun as much as we could.
We’d spent our trip to Hawaii rushing around. Mom liked to take tours, so we’d taken a bus around Oahu and visited the Iolani Palace. On Maui, we’d been to a former sugar plantation, the whaling museum, and on a whale watch. Now that our trip was winding down, I’d finally talked Mom into sitting on the beach. We were on our way to Makena’s Big Beach when we found the little cemetery.
Mom knows how I am. She got me started visiting cemeteries. Now she visits them in my name when she’s traveling and takes pictures for me. That day on Maui, she was content to let me wander from gravestone to gravestone, photographing everything that caught my eye.
I found a section that held only tiny plaques. At first I thought they were remembrances of people whose ashes had been scattered in the ocean. Then I realized they commemorated people who had been lost at sea.
I stood just inside the rough lava rock wall and looked out at the water. I tried to envision the globe, with Hawaii as a series of specks in the large blue ocean. Until that moment, I’d avoided thinking how fragile life is.
I turned and looked immediately for my mom. The darkness had come so close to taking her from me, but I wasn’t ready to let her go yet.
Keawala’i Congregational Church
5300 Makena Road
Makena, Maui, Hawaii 96753
Telephone: 808-879-5557 Founded: 1832 Size: small Number of interments: 100? Church office hours: Wednesday – Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
South of the Wailea Shopping Village, as you head toward Big Beach with its view of Molokini across the water, Makena Road narrows and draws closer to the ocean. Between the blacktop and the water stands a low wall of rough black lava stones, which surrounds Keawala’i Churchyard.
Grave of Elisa and Susie
Keawala’i Church is one of a dozen missionary churches remaining on Maui from the mid-1800s. The churches ringed the island, each a full day’s horse-ride from the next. Itinerant preachers traveled the circuit, visiting each church in turn to bring the gospel to the Hawaiians. When the Keawala’i congregation was founded in 1832, they built their original church of pili grass. The current building dates from 1855, making it the oldest surviving church on Maui according to some sources.
Keawala’i Church was built in a low New England style with a wood-shingled steeple rising from its peaked roof. Hawaiians fashioned the church out of lava rock mortared together with white coral and faced inside with native koa wood. Its walls are three feet thick.
When Architects Maui, a preservationist outfit, replaced the original 84-year-old floor, they discovered “sensitive cultural remnants” beneath it. In order to protect the “historic materials below,” they built a new floor of native ohia hardwood four inches above where the old one had rested. The church asks that you remove your shoes before entering.
Keawala’i Church appears in guidebooks mostly in connection with wedding planning. Its Congregationalist minister will perform ceremonies—partially in Hawaiian—after he meets any bride and groom. One of the wedding planners set me off when she directed, “Don’t let the cemetery intimidate you, as most churches have them on their sites.”
Waymarking.com says that the cemetery has graves dating back to the founding of the church. The palm tree-shaded little graveyard felt very peaceful to me. A lava stone breakwater shields it on the ocean side, but the surf made a low, sweet accompaniment as I walked amongst the tombstones. Most monuments are simple upright blocks on a granite riser or two, surrounded by a cement curb. Many of the stones have ceramic portraits attached to their faces. One of my favorites was David Kimohewa’s, in which he propped a guitar on his knee. He looked like a very genial man.
On the very edge of the land cluster small plaques set flush with the ground. These plaques remember people lost at sea: fishermen, divers, surfers, children, old men, people for whom the families had no bodies to bury.
The congregation welcomes visitors to their churchyard, but they ask visitors to respect their ancestors and refrain from stepping or sitting on the graves. It’s a lovely little place that gives a taste of what life in the islands is really like.
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