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The first graduating class of The Kamehameha School for Boys in 1891. Seated from left to right: John Waiamau, Sam Keliinoi, William Olin Crowell, Robert Pahau, Charles Blake, Thomas N. Haae. Standing: William Manaole Keolanui, Fred Beckley, Soloman Hanohano, William Rathburn, Sam Kauhane, Moses Kauwe, Charles E. King, and W. E. Brown.

Kūkahekahe: KS marks 135 years since its founding

Oct. 31, 2022

November 4 marks the official commemoration date of the founding of the Kamehameha School for Boys. In this Kūkahekahe, we celebrate 135 years of educating young Hawaiians by sharing commemorative articles printed by Kamehameha School students in the school’s early newspaper, “The Handicraft.”

In the fall of 1887, preparations for the school’s opening were nearly complete. A workshop, dining hall, and the first two dormitories had been built at the Kaiwi‘ula campus, where the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum stands today. An invitation to all Hawaiian boys over the age of 12 to take the admission test was publicized throughout the pae ʻāina and on October 3, 37 boys arrived on campus to begin their schooling.

Four years from the day Princess Pauahi signed her will on October 31, 1883 and just one month after welcoming its first students, the official dedication ceremony for the Kamehameha School for Boys was held on November 4, 1887.

The following article, from “The Handicraft” describes the founding years and the Kamehameha Schools’ first graduating class of boys.

Our first graduates

In a little less than four years from its organization, Kamehameha sends forth its first graduating class. This has been a period of rapid growth in equipment. It has been the building era of the school. The noise of hammer and trowel has not ceased through all these years and now, as the pioneer class completes its course and thus marks a memorable event in the history of the school, the rapidly approaching completion of Bishop Hall likewise marks a noteworthy culmination in the equipment of the institution.

The work of instruction and of construction have advanced together, thus affording the privileges of class-room and work-shop training while as yet the equipment was incomplete. The facilities that Bishop Hall offers for class-room instruction far exceed the accommodations which the graduating class have enjoyed. At first the class was taught in the wing of the dining-hall, where the black-boards were necessarily limited, and the surroundings inconvenient. Since then, recitations have been held in rooms that could be called class-room only in an accommodated sense. Nevertheless, it may well be doubted whether the same boys would have made greater gains in manliness and in studious application under more favorable conditions than they have already acquired notwithstanding the somewhat unfavorable environment that has characterized their class history.

The steady expansion and development of the school has been a stimulus to them in a way that it can never be to those who follow them. They began with the school at the beginning, and are themselves an important element in the establishment of an institution which is destined to accomplish great things for the youth of the land. [June 1891, No. 6]

Partaking in Pauahi’s “experiment”
That same year in the Founder’s Day edition, the student writers emphasize the purpose of Kamehameha Schools and the responsibility that comes with partaking in Princess Pauahi’s experiment:

The magnificent bequest of the late Mrs. Bishop, in the provision made by her will for the erection and endowment of the Kamehameha Schools, comes to the rising generation of Hawaii as an inestimable boon. To all who have at heart the welfare of the race there is greater promise of good to future generations in this evidence of the wise forethought and matured judgment of the departed chiefess than could possibly come from change of governmental policy, commercial advantages, development of natural resources, or establishment of intimate relations with foreign powers. Whether the government of Hawaii shall in the future be monarchical or be annexed to a foreign power, the education of the youth who shall become important factors in developing her future is secured. The legislative and executive departments may suffer from bad men in office; but here is opened a fountain whence must issue, through years to come, a stream of wholesome influence to gladden all her borders. The language of the will and codicil relating to the proposed Kamehameha Schools, if not in the exact words in essence, is the living forethought of the dead chiefess for the race from which she sprung.

The class of 1891 reunion
Twenty-five years after the first graduating class left their Kaiwiʻula campus home, they returned for a three-day reunion in 1916. Of the fourteen graduates, all twelve of the surviving members of the class of ’91 participated in this reunion celebration, their classmates, Moses Kauwe and Robert Pahau, predeceased this homecoming. A wonderfully detailed account about the reunion was published in the Hawaiian language newspaper, Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, on June 16, 1916.

Recorded are the guiding agendas of each day, participating guests, and an entire school community eagerly and joyfully honoring the first graduating “sons of Hawaiʻi, nā pua a Pauahi.” The article describes the three-day event beginning on Saturday, June 10 as being filled with activities, full of ceremony, honorific speeches, and testimonies of gratitude. Every scheduled and non-scheduled activity was always accompanied with music and singing. There was a baseball tournament and the game between the teachers of the school and the class of ’91 was a delight for everyone. Each day there was a specially hosted lunch and dinner. On Sunday the 11th, a very special Sabbath celebration started with an early morning sermon given by Kahunapule Hopwood where “maluna o kana kumuhana: ‘Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono,’ e aʻo mai ana i na kanaka opio, o ka pono wale no ka mea nana e hookiekie i ka lāhui, a i ka aina; a o ka hewa hoi ka mea hoohaahaa.” (The topic of his sermon was “The sovereignty of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,” instructing the youth that only just deeds would elevate the lāhui and the land, and that wrongdoing would set us back.”)

After Church, those assembled adjourned to the ʻĀlewa Heights home of fellow ʻ91 graduate, Charles E. King, for dessert and to relax and further enjoy each other’s company before evening dinner. The final day of the reunion took place on Monday, June 12 which was the Kamehameha Day holiday. After paying respects to King Kamehameha in the morning, the group travelled the Pali road to Kāneʻohe to enjoy the day with Hawaiian food and a special invitation to visit the home of Mr. Theodore Richards where there was to be a strategy planning conference to discuss forthcoming plans and ideas that would enhance and better the learning experience at Kamehameha for future haumāna.

Aside from the informative article relaying all the reunion’s happenings, “Ka Nupepa Kuokoa” also published for our institutional memory an image of the class of ʻ91. In the caption were the names, current place of residence, and occupations of these alumni.

ʻO na inoa, na wahi noho, ame na oihana a na haumana e ola nei o ka papa o ka ’91, e ikeia no ia malalo iho nei penei: Frederick K. Beckley, maheleolelo, Honolulu; Charles Blake, hope luna auhau a he loio, Koloa, Kauai; W.C.E Brown, kikiola, Hilo, Hawaii; William O. Crowell, hope makai nui, Waimea, Kauai; Thomas N. Haae, kumupoo no ke kula of Hookena, Kona, Hawaii; Solomon Hanohano, lunahooponopono, Nupepa Kuokoa, Honolulu; Samuel Kauhane, lunahoomalu, papa o na Lunakiai o Hawaii, Waiohinu, Kau; Samuel Keliinoi, mea wili poi, Honolulu; William M. Keolanui, mea lawe aelike, Hilo, Hawaii; Charles E. King, akena inisua, Honolulu; William K. Rathburn, lunanui o ka aina hānai holoholona o Kahuku, Kahuku, Oahu; John K. Waiamau, mea kahakii, Honolulu.

The names, the places of residence, and the occupations of the surviving students of the class of 1891; seen below as follows: Frederick K. Beckley, interpreter, Honolulu; Charles Blake, deputy tax collector and lawyer, Koloa, Kauai; W.C.E Brown, timekeeper, Hilo, Hawaii; William O. Crowell, deputy sheriff, Waimea, Kauai; Thomas N. Haae, Principal of School of Hoʻokena, Kona, Hawaii; Solomon Hanohano, editor, Nupepa Kuokoa, Honolulu; Samuel Kauhane, chair of board of Supervisors of Hawaiʻi, Waiohinu, Kau; Samuel Keliinoi, poi miller, Honolulu; William M. Keolanui, contract officer, Hilo, Hawaii; Charles E. King, insurance agent, Honolulu; William K. Rathburn, Foreman of Kahuku Ranch, Kahuku, Oahu; John K. Waiamau, artist, Honolulu

The comradery and aloha which swelled in the hearts and minds of all those that participated in the class of ‘91’s celebratory reunion illustrates the legacy of pride which is still evident at Kamehameha Schools. Thousands of haumāna and families recognize and acknowledge the love and kindness that was offered to them by the generous and benevolent vison of a Princess. For 135 years, Kamehameha Schools has afforded innumerable opportunities to educate “good and industrious” men and women and has perhaps, created one of the most enduring kahua to ensure that our Lāhui thrives. May we continue to be grounded in our love for each other, our Princess, and our school. I mua Kamehameha!

Members of the Class of 1891. Seated, left to right: Solomon Hanohano, John Waiamau, William Crowell, Charles E. King, Samuel Keliinoi. Standing: Thomas Haae, Charles Blake, William Keolanui, Samuel Kauhane, Fred K. Beckley, Judge William K. Rathburn

Members of the Class of 1891, Circa 1930. Seated: William Crowell, Throdore Richards (Principal), Charles E. King. Standing: Judge William K. Rathburn, Soloman Hanohano, William Keolanui, Samuel Keliinoi, Thomas Haae.

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