Let’s Unveil the Past!

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Arthur Greenwell’s Memorial’s Unveiling, September 1954


In September of 1954, exactly sixty years ago this fall, four year old Martha Elizabeth Greenwell (M.E.G.), affectionately known by her family as “Meg”, unveiled a large granite monument erected in honor of her late paternal grandfather. This celebratory ceremony was carefully planned and orchestrated. When the signal was given, little Meg tugged the corner of a concealing curtain, probably one of her grandmother’s old bed sheets, held in place with a loosely knotted horse rope. As the fabric dramatically dropped to the ground, it revealed an imposing eight foot tall polished granite spire. As three lovely lei were artistically draped over the stone, one can imagine exclamations of appreciation followed by a loud burst of applause. Carved into the stone were large gold letters:

ARTHUR
LEONARD
GREENWELL
DEC. 7, 1871
JUNE 3, 1951
(and in smaller letters)
DEDICATED IN MEMORY
OF
ARTHUR L. GREENWELL
BY HIS TENANTS AND FRIENDS
DEC. 7, 1871 ~ JUNE 3, 1951


A large crowd of at least two hundred Kona residents participated in this moment of civic pride. Not only were they present to offer their respects to Mr. Greenwell’s memory, but they were proud to see their own family names etched below that of their late neighbor, who as owner of Kealakekua Ranch, acted as landlord, benefactor, boss and friend to a big chunk of South Kona’s population. No doubt many respectful words were spoken and numerous flower wreaths presented. Thank goodness someone had the sense to hire a photographer to capture the moment for us. Hooray!

Look at that sea of faces caught in the photograph. Standing at the base of the monument are Greenwells and honored guests. On the left is Arthur Greenwell’s immediate family. From left to right: daughter Amy B. H. Greenwell, widow Beatrice H. Greenwell, son Sherwood R. H. Greenwell, Sherwood’s wife Lois, and the star of the show, Arthur’s granddaughter, Meg. Standing with them is white haired Frank Greenwell, Arthur’s younger brother and North Kona rancher. To the right are members of Arthur’s eldest brother’s family, the W.H. Greenwell Ranch branch: Mrs. Maud Greenwell, widowed in 1927; her son Norman holding a niece; daughter Dorothy (Mrs. James Mitchell); daughter-in-law Helen (Mrs. Jack Greenwell); and assorted grandchildren. I am standing on the far right, clutching the chain, peering at the adventurous boy who has crept up the stairs. My father, Dr. James Mitchell (who is still wowing Kona audiences with his karaoke singing), is in the front row, Kodak Duaflex draped about his neck, peering at the photographer.

On that September day sixty years ago, people crowded close to admire the fine likeness of Mr. Greenwell transposed onto a porcelain oval and cemented in place at the top of the spire. He looked so dapper with a silk kerchief tied around his collar and his tobacco pipe firmly clenched between his teeth. His face was well known to every adult present because they had seen him riding on horseback throughout Kealakekua and Captain Cook for decades, herding his cattle to Napo`opo`o to be shipped to Honolulu, tipping his hat to one and all. Born in Kona during the Hawaiian Monarchy, he grew up speaking English, Hawaiian and Portuguese, handy for a man who liked to talk. He was well known for cornering a person and regaling them with what was on his mind,regardless of place or time. Conscientious coffee pickers used to hide from “Mr. Arta Boss” as he rode by, anxious not to be spied and trapped into a lengthy conversation.

Arthur’s monument stands on a piece of land tucked into the makai -Ka`u corner of the sprawling garden surrounding his family home. It was designed to be visited because there are concrete steps and a handrail leading directly from Napo`opo`o Road up onto the platform on which the stone rests. Carved into the two-tier base below the granite spire are the names of one hundred and twenty-five men who contributed to the memorial’s construction. Major donors’ names appear a little larger and are placed a little higher up, starting with Captain Cook Coffee, Co. On the lower level the names continue, beginning with V. ABAD and ending with S. YAMASHITA. In between are many names still known in our district: Deguchi, Deguair and Duguran; Loando, Manago and Makida; Polpol, Rania and Saito; Tasipit, Teshima and Tokunaga. On the northern face of the monument in a block all by itself is carved: P R T. TSUKAHARA. Was he the stone mason? The quality of the masonry and stonework is exceptionally fine and each name is as legible as if chiseled last week. Arthur’s monument has stood the test of time, defying earthquakes and Kona storms with the resilience the man himself was known for during his long lifetime.

As you drive through the village of Captain Cook, you cannot help but notice beautiful Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Garden, Amy’s gift to Kona. Next door is the Arthur L. Greenwell County Park built on land donated by Sherwood during his long career as County supervisor and, later, councilman from South Kona. Look at the street signs as you drive around. You can pick out Kinue Road. Kinue means Greenwell in Hawaiian, Englishman Henry Nicholas Greenwell’s nickname in the 19th century. The name was probably derived from Green - water, Kinu - wai, Kinu-e. H. N. Greenwell was Arthur’s father, a pioneer who left three ranches to his three eldest sons. Helen Desha Beamer’s song “Kinue” was written for Arthur Greenwell’s family in the late 1940s and celebrates special places on Kealakekua Ranch.

Arthur Greenwell’s monument is located at the 11 mile marker on Napo`opo`o Road. Just past it on the left as you drive to Kealakekua Bay is a small sub-division called Kinue Terrace! (Now you know what that refers to.) Aka Ala (Arthur’s Way) is the street name, a well meaning attempt to honor Arthur, although in Hawaiian it should be more correctly, Ala Aka. I am sure the man himself would not be bothered in the least by this grammatical miscue because the name was picked out by the only grandchild he ever knew, little Meg, born barely a year before his death.

In 1954, this monument was a memorial to one man. Sixty years later, it strikes me as a symbol of South Kona’s growing strength as a community of coffee farmers, small business owners and industrious immigrant families. Arthur might be amazed at the changes Kona has undergone in the 64 years since his death, but he would recognize
the old Kona he loved and knew so well in the faces of the children and grandchildren of the men and women gathered in this photo.

E, Aloha no, Kona Hema.

By Maile Melrose