Keiki o ka ‘Aina

It’s jacaranda time again, late this year, don’t you think? I love those flowers with their mystical shade of lavender and blue, some still peeking out at certain elevations, others dropping their rich carpets on the road.

I cruised up to the Seabury Hall Craft Fair this year, in the late afternoon as usual, only to find the event drenched in a downpour. Artisans were scrambling to close their booths, so without any distractions, I had time to contemplate the twin reasons I like to go: the house and the garden.

The estate, Maunalei, built in 1928, was designed (with a lot of arm-twisting, I suspect) by Charles W. Dickey for the imperious Gail Baldwin, his cousin’s wife. (Dickey was the son of Annie Alexander, the sister of Henry Perrine Baldwin’s wife, Emily Alexander.)

Part Italianate (Dickey’s contribution), part barn (Gail’s nostalgia for Boston), the place never fails to intrigue me. It’s unlike the rest of Dickey’s oeuvre, and its immodest proportions are out of keeping with the self-effacing sensibility of the Baldwins, who built large but gracious, more livable homes.

The structure is perfect as an administration building, but as a dwelling? I don’t get it. In a way, it’s like Gail Baldwin herself, too angular, too severe, too striving, out of place in easygoing Hawaii.

Family members considered Gail a social climber and recoiled at her indulgences, one of which was a set of porcelain with plates that cost $100 apiece. Let’s see, that was the equivalent of 10 weeks of backbreaking, 12-hour days sweating in the heat of the cane fields.

The landscaping, on the other hand, with its huge old jacarandas, I’m sure is the work of her husband, Will, a shy, thoughtful man, handsome, too, probably the least-known of the Baldwin brothers. Born in 1874, he was the third child and second son of Henry and Emily Baldwin.

William D. Baldwin went to Yale, then medical school at Johns Hopkins, where he met Gail, who had become a nurse. “My grandmother was not one to talk about the past. She never told me about her background, ever. Kept it secret completely,” her granddaughter Emilou Young told me.

Gail presented herself as from an East Coast society background, when in fact, she was born in Savannah to a family of little means, orphaned at 9, and sent to live with her eldest sister in Boston.

The newlyweds moved to Honolulu, where Will opened a practice with Dr. James Judd, later chief of surgery at Queen’s Hospital. After World War I ended, Dr. Will Baldwin set out with 19 Red Cross workers from Hawaii for Siberia.

He was one of two doctors in the contingent, assigned to the Vladivostok Hospital for Civilians in below-zero winter weather amid scenes of terrible suffering. It was a 300-bed refugee hospital made out of an old barracks, with an international staff. Every day, when the housekeeper arrived to clean Will’s apartment, she kneeled down and kissed his feet in gratitude.

Refugees began arriving in Vladivostok, “half-naked and starving,” in February 1919, including a “Train of Death” full of sick and dying Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war. “The sights were terrible – wretched emaciated creatures, simply caked in filth and absolutely starving,” one volunteer wrote.

Typhus and dysentery were rampant among the prisoners, and the Red Cross volunteers jolted into high gear, bathing them, shaving them, cutting their hair, putting them into clean pajamas. The sick went into a makeshift hospital, the others back into cleaned-up cars. A fresh pajama supply from Hawaii Red Cross chapters carried such a powerful message of hope that some wept when they saw the emblem on the pocket.

Will returned to Maui in 1919 to a difficult marriage and the life of a gentleman farmer. He started the Haiku Farm in 1920 on property surrounding the old Baldwin house near the mill in Haiku, where I’m told remnants of the workers camp still exist. He was particularly interested in cultivating the avocado, but also grew mango, lychee and cashew trees and eventually added a poultry farm.

At the same time, while his brothers ran the Baldwin sugar plantations and ranch, Will upheld the family charities, taking on leadership of the Alexander Settlement, created in 1901 to benefit the children of immigrants, and Kula Sanatorium.

Will suffered from migraines, depression and, according to Young, nagging from his wife, who had “a very shrill voice.” He kept the rambling old plantation manager’s house in Haiku until his son married, commuting over from Olinda.

I fancy it was a refuge.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

One of the most celestial nights of the year for me is the full moon in May when the Maui Dharma Center celebrates the birth and enlightenment of the Buddha, whose message was of compassion and the existence of an unchangeable inner reality beyond all suffering.

On that night, the great Lha Bab Peace Stupa at 81 Baldwin Ave. in Paia is lit with “a hundred thousand lights” of all shapes, colors and sizes, lovingly arranged, shining onto the island prayers for nonviolence and world peace. You can see it from Kahului, a radiant symbol of enlightened thought, said to relieve afflictions and disease.

I love it. There’s something about that white “dharma tower” that makes me happy – its solid presence a beacon of stability and wisdom in a progressively chaotic world. Whenever I’m down, a walk around it does me good.

Stupas are representations of the form of an enlightened body – “a very precious and important object, very holy.” They are designed with infinite precision after the Buddha’s actual instructions, which he demonstrated to his followers by folding his robe and overturning his begging bowl. Every aspect represents his highest teachings.

By situating the Maui stupa next to the street (with lots of rebar in the foundation to withstand the stress), Lama Gyaltsen took a lesson from his teacher, Kalu Rinpoche, who founded the Maui Dhama Center almost 40 years ago. He built a stupa in northern India next to a busy highway on the road to Pakistan, traversed by businessmen and military personnel, not in a peaceful meditation garden as his followers implored him to do.

The point is to benefit everyone. Said Lama Gyaltsen, “This is for the world, for all sentient beings, to bring in peace, compassion and harmony.”

The Paia stupa took four years to create, and literally millions of prayers and sacred objects are contained within it.

Volunteers worked for months fashioning nearly 100,000 tsatsas, miniature representations of Buddha, sculpted in a mold and painted gold, which were placed within the stupa, along with volumes of the Buddhist sutras and thousands of statues of the deities and great masters of the lineages.

At one event, stairs were built to the rounded “bhumpa,” the heart or womb of the stupa, and members of the community filed up slowly to offer items precious to them. At some point in the process, according to the lama, even the Paia police lent a hand.

A gold ornament made in Lhasa, Tibet, of 13 golden “wheels,” signifying stages of realization, sits on the stupa’s top. In an alcove at the base, decorated with beautiful Maui-style paintings of Shakyamuni Buddha and forms of the goddess Tara, rests a magnificent copper prayer wheel made in Nepal.

In relief on the wheel are the syllables Om Mani Padme Hung, the mantra of Chenrezig, the Buddhist god of compassion, and within the wheel are 900 pounds of paper sheets imprinted with the mantra.

There are so many that to spin the wheel once is to invoke 800 million mantras, which people are always invited to do. “Believer or not,” says Lama Gyaltsen, “just send your love to the world.”

The stupa was consecrated in 2007 when His Holiness the Dalai Lama – usually featured in programs at enormous venues – consented to visit the tiny dharma center in Paia.

What a sublime day that was, despite the heavy security, the place suffused with joy at the presence of the kind and humble bespectacled man dressed in burgundy robes considered the incarnation of Chenrezig himself. His blessing suffused the stupa with a special magnetism, which everyone is invited to experience.

On Saturday, one can attend the dharma center’s formal 6:30 p.m. program or come later that night or a few following evenings to regard the stupa, or circumambulate it in an auspicious clockwise fashion.

On those nights when the stupa is lit, I feel a thrill when the full moon rises above the clouds and bathes it with unearthly silver beams, light to light.

“May all sentient beings enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness;

May they be free from suffering and the causes of suffering;

May they never be separated from the great happiness devoid of suffering;

And may they dwell in the great equanimity that is free from attachment and diversion.”

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

I’ve made more mistakes wrangling two columns on the history of the complicated Antone F. Tavares family into shape than I can recall on any other single subject in my entire newspaper career. Seriously.

Maybe it’s because Bill Tavares, the former Makawao Elementary School principal, has been kind enough to point them out. (Calls from relatives, some of whom live on the Mainland and read The Maui News, brought that about.)

This seems like an ideal time to let the readers weigh in, a column I’ve been contemplating for some time. But before we get there, some more Tavares facts.

I got carried away researching the history behind the hanohano names Antone Tavares gave his sons (“Did you know Hannibal’s father was the king of Carthage in North Africa whom the Romans defeated in the first Punic War?”), so much so that I conflated them with those buried at Po’okela Church in Olinda, may they rest in peace.

Fred Tavares, however, the beloved musician and steel guitar maestro, is not among them. He and his brother, Ernest, a virtuoso who played more than 20 instruments, were regulars in Harry Owens’ orchestra at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the ’30s. The brothers played with Owens in the popular “Hawaii Calls” program at the Moana Hotel, where, according to Paia writer Shannon Wianecki in Hana Hou, Fred’s “mesmerizing steel guitar” opened each show for the first few years of its 37-year run.

When World War II broke out, the band permanently relocated on the West Coast and the Tavares brothers went with it, gaining fame in performances with the likes of Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Dean Martin and the Andrews Sisters, and appearing in several popular movies including “Gidget Goes Hawaiian.” That was Fred strumming ukulele beside Elvis Presley in “Blue Hawaii.”

Fred is most celebrated, though, for his work as assistant engineer with the Fender Musical Instrument Co., where he designed amplifiers with crystal-clear sound and helped create the famous “Stratocaster,” among the first solid-body electric guitars. Rock stars snapped up the instrument that Eric Clapton called “as close to perfection as an electric guitar can be.” Outgoing, funny, articulate, Fred “showed up for work six days a week wearing an aloha shirt and a smile.”

Upon his death in 1990, he was buried at Oahu Cemetery in Honolulu, in the Mo’okini plot of his wife’s family. Hawaii musical greats came to the funeral and serenaded him farewell. Kala mai i’au, Fred.


Now to my next point. Bill Tavares does not have a Chinese grandfather. True, he told me he did, and I have the notes to prove it, but what he said was in the spirit of hanai.

Tong Akana lived with the Tavares family when Bill was a child, grandfather to the 10 children his daughter Julia bore to Antone Tavares. The family lived in a fine home in Makawao that was the forerunner of the home that is now Cherie Attix’s charming Hale Ho’okipa bed-and-breakfast. A Norfolk pine in the garden stems from that time.

When Julia contracted tuberculosis, Antone Tavares moved the family to Kuau, hoping the dry weather would help. After her death, Bill and his brother Carl (“He had an IQ of 140. He started the first travel school in Hawaii.”), were born to Tavares’ second wife, Matilda Silva, a cultivated woman educated at Sacred Hearts Academy in Honolulu who, as far as anybody knows, was pure Portuguese.

Are you still with me? Bill’s 10 older siblings had a Chinese grandfather, but not he.


A good thing about that column is that John Harrison picked up the information about Tong Akana for a book he has written, and Effie Cameron is overseeing, celebrating the 125th anniversary of Haleakala Ranch this summer.

The ranch’s P’iholo lands came from the ahupua’a Queen Emma gave Akana, also known as Akanali’ili’i, for his marriage dowry. I remember puzzling with Camille Lyons, then the ranch’s secretary, over who this mysterious person was.

When Pi’iholo Plantation failed, (among other misfortunes, the ship carrying its mill to Maui sank), Akana started the East Maui Cattle Co. with W.P. Brewer, which eventually was purchased by Henry P. Baldwin and incorporated into Haleakala Ranch.


That’s not all. Peter Baldwin, former ranch manager, forwarded a note to me from Robert Cup Choy, who, it turns out, is working on a history of Tong Akana. The version of his name I use is from accounts in The Maui News of his efforts at Huelo and Pi’iholo Plantations, but Cup Choy says he was born Tong Kan in China, and, a small man, named Akanali’ili’i when he arrived in Honolulu.


I’m going to have to save readers’ comments for another column.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at

Keiki o ka ‘Aina

I shared my vexation one day with Bill Tavares, that fine and knowledgeable gentleman, about the dearth of information on Maui’s most prominent Chinese citizen of the 19th century, Tong Akana. Also known as Akanali’ili’i, he began Huelo and Pi’iholo plantations here in 1878.

I found very little about him in Gail Bartholomew Ainsworth’s meticulous three-volume “Index to The Maui News,” and wondered if this had to do with how the paper covered “Orientals” in those days.

What Bill said surprised me, as usual. “Tong Kan, yes. Little man with a goatee. He was my grandfather. He’s buried in Po’okela Cemetery.”

I had no idea Bill had a Chinese grandfather, nor that there was a graveyard at Po’okela Church in Olinda, constructed around 1850 by the missionary Jonathan S. Green. I drove up there one day, secured permission, and wandered down to, sure enough, the little private cemetery at the base of the property maintained by the Tavares family.

It’s a charming spot, my picture of the ideal place to be buried, where one can come on a bright day, sit under a fine tree in peace, and contemplate love, mortality, and the universal mysteries. A black fence tipped in gold fleur-de-lis surrounds the plot, and a stone bench and jacaranda complete it.

The grave of Tong Akana – 1833-1926 – holds a central spot, fitting since, as a Christian convert, he created the cemetery to give rest to the soul of his mother who died at sea as the two journeyed from China to Gold Rush California.

Akana, heartsick, left the ship in Honolulu, then in the throes of the smallpox epidemic of 1853. Immune after a childhood bout with the disease, he pitched in to help the suffering Hawaiians who were dying in droves, bodies carted daily through the streets. There he met and befriended a physician’s daughter, Emma Rooke, soon to become the wife of Kamehameha IV.

Tong Akana moved to Maui where, due to the heroic vaccination efforts of the Rev. Dwight Baldwin, the epidemic took a small toll. He peddled wares to the Kula Chinese and in 1869 opened a butcher shop and general merchandise store in Wailuku.

When his first wife died in 1874, Akana went to his friend Queen Emma for help in finding another. He had become a citizen of the kingdom that year and was eligible to marry a Hawaiian woman with land. She persuaded her ward Hannah Hubbell to become his bride and as dowry gave an ‘ahupua’a reaching from the seashore at Huelo to the wooded lands above Makawao, watered by a spring at Pi’iholo.

They settled at Pukalani, where Akana raised cattle, horses and pigs, ran a small dairy and grew vegetables. On the rare occasions that the queen came to Maui, the Akanas entertained her lavishly.

Then along came Antone F. Tavares, Bill’s father, who fell in love with Akana’s daughter, Julia, a member of the first graduating class of Kamehameha Schools. Akana was not impressed with the young, uneducated Tavares, spurring him to study law in Honolulu to win her hand.

Julia Akana married Tavares and bore him 10 children. She died of tuberculosis in 1918, and Tavares fell in love with Anna Silva, the popular Paia Plantation nurse who rode on horseback to visit his ailing wife. She also succumbed to TB, whereupon Tavares married her sister Matilda, who gave him two more children, including Bill, in 1920. In his later years, Tong Akana lived with the Tavares family at their big house in Kuau.

I found three of Tavares’ daughters in the cemetery, Edna Taufaasous, Emma Rose Murphy and the infant Josephine. Lying in peace there as well are his sons, named for great figures in history: C. Nils Tavares, former attorney general and judge (named after Cyrus the Great, ruler of Asia Minor in the sixth century B.C.); the musicians Fred (Frederick the Great, who made Prussia an 18th-century powerhouse); and Ernest Arriaga (after first elected president of Portugal, Manuel Jose de Arriaga Brum da Silveira e Peyrelongue). Also the travel agent Carl (Charlemagne, founder of the Holy Roman Empire in 800 A.D.).

I always wondered how the late Mayor Hannibal Tavares got his odd name (for the Carthaginian general who crossed the Alps with a train of elephants in 218 B.C. and invaded the Roman Empire.) Turns out, Antone Tavares and Hannibal’s father were brothers.

“My father convinced him to do it,” Bill (William the Conqueror) said.

* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose “Keiki o ka ‘Aina” column appears each Tuesday.

She can be reached at