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Mission Accomplished: A Visit to Waioli Mission House on Kauai

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Waioli Mission House was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Most of the artifacts displayed for visitors touring the house belonged to the Wilcox family. The treasures include Lucy’s sewing basket and coal-heated iron, Abner’s framed certificate from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and a trunk that traveled around Cape Horn with them in 1837. Other notable original artifacts include sandalwood canes, a koa settee, a pewter whale oil lamp and a 12-sided rosewood veneer table.

Avid readers, Abner and Lucy maintained a library of more than 200 books, some of which are neatly arranged on a koa wood bookcase that was in the house when they arrived. During the tour, Barbara Kennedy points out Abner’s Bible, published around 1806, and willed to him by his favorite aunt.

A bedroom in Waioli Mission House, with original furnishings.

The rosewood melodeon in the parlor was given to the second of Abner and Lucy’s eight sons, George, by a family friend from Abner’s Harwinton, Conn., hometown. Near that melodeon stands the Wilcoxes’ original rosewood melodeon—albeit in a form far different from its original. In 1921, when the Wilcoxes’ granddaughters found the musical instrument in termite-ridden pieces, they shipped it to San Francisco to be salvaged and crafted into a small desk.

Abner and Lucy’s third son, Edward, a skilled carpenter, built his second-story bedroom in 1859 and 1860 during summer breaks from Oahu’s Punahou School, when he was 17 and 18 years old. The bedroom stop on the tour is where Barbara discusses the many contributions the Wilcox family eventually made to Hawaii.

She notes that Abner taught bright students from Kauai and neighboring island Niihau at his own expense for years. When federal funds ran out for the construction of Lihue’s Nawiliwili Harbor, George Wilcox donated the balance of the money needed to finish the project. Fourth Wilcox son, Albert, and his wife, Emma, built Kauikeolani Children’s Hospital on Oahu, now known as Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children. Granddaughters Elsie and Mabel Wilcox and Etta Wilcox Sloggett worked tirelessly on historical preservation projects.

“They served unselfishly and gave generously,” Kennedy says. “We call it today as it was called in their time—aloha.” 

Waioli Mission House

Off Kuhio Highway, (Highway 560), Hanalei, Kauai • (808) 245-3202

Photos: Waioli Mission House

(This feature was originally published in the March/April 2012 issue of HAWAII Magazine.)

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