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Kāneakua, John Mahi‘ai

Ka‘ano‘i Walk
September 2013

On October 9, 1860, my great-grandfather John Mahiʻai Kāneakua was born in Honuaʻula, Maui to his loving parents Alexander P. Miller and Kanuha (Kaialiilii) Miller.1 Kāneakua would late be hānai by James Kāneakua from Molokaʻi and take his last name. In James Kāneakua’s obituary it states that he was the "foster father of John M. Kaneakua, the well-known attorney."2 It’s believed that James Kāneakua had no children of his own and that all Kāneakua are relatives through John Mahiʻai Kāneakua.  

In 1877, John Mahiʻai Kāneakua graduated from Royal School in Honolulu3 and quickly engaged in the study of law. In that same year, he studied law under Judge Edward Preston as a clerk in Honolulu.4 Seven years later, in 1884, he was admitted to practice law under the Supreme Court of Hawaiʻi and did so for the remainder of his life.5 Kāneakua was a well-known attorney in Honolulu and his ads frequented various newspapers. Soon after Kāneakua’s admittance to practice law he volunteered as a Second Lieutenant in Company A in the Queen’s Own in October 3, 1885.6 Kāneakua was then quickly promoted to First Lieutenant within a year.7 He was also instrumental in the establishment of a shooting club with Robert W. Wilcox, Sam Nowlein, and S. K. Kane which was named the Kamehameha Rifle Association.8

John Mahiʻai Kāneakua was a dear father to many children. On July 5, 1903, he and Esther Kamakolu married in Kapaʻa, Kauaʻi and raised two adopted children, Esther Nuihaku and James Neenee.9 His second marriage was to my great grandmother, Lucy Kaʻumealani Cummings, on October 9, 1925 when he was 64.10 Through this union, my grandfather and namesake Harry Kaʻanoʻi Kāneakua was born. They had a total of ten children together.

John Mahiʻai Kāneakua was a member and officer in various organizations. Here are a few: Kamehameha Order, Kauaʻi Chamber of Commerce, Republican Central Committee, Ka Hale of Nā Aliʻi o Hawaiʻi, and the Kauaʻi Historical Society.11 However, the organization I most proudly associate him with is the Hui Aloha ʻĀina, a hui formed in opposition to the United States’ attempts to annex Hawaiʻi.12 In 1893, following the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi government, Kāneakua was selected as one of the committee of 21 that presented a memorial to Mr. Blount. Mr. Blount, a U. S. Congressman, was U. S. President Cleveland’s representative and investigator for the reinstatement of Queen Liliʻuokalani. John Mahiʻai Kāneakua was also selected by the executive council of the ʻAhahui Kālaiʻāina, another key royalist organization, to serve as a representative sent to Washington, D. C.13

Ten years following the illegal overthrow, John Mahiʻai Kāneakua left Honolulu to reside in Līhuʻe, Kauaʻi.14 In 1906, he was appointed Clerk of the Kauaʻi County and was elected and reelected successively.15 The newspaper The Friend shares, "[a]nother very intelligent and useful Hawaiian, much thought of in our community is Mr. J. M. Kaneakua, county clerk."16 In 1914, Kāneakua was elected to serve as chariman of the Republican rules convention as per John Wise of Oʻahu’s nomination.17 When called upon to give a speech, thus was his seated reply:

This is not the time for speeches. We are here to work and the best way to do is to go right at it now. I thank you for the honor bestowed upon me and will use whatever ability I possess to expedite the work of the convention to the end that we may accomplish all our work today and adjourn in time to allow such outside island members, as wish to, to return to their homes this afternoon and tomorrow. I will entertain a motion for nominations for temporary secretary.18

Kāneakua also served as a Notary Public for the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Hawaiʻi. In 1929, he was appointed Advisor to the Tax Appraisal Board of the Fourth Division and served in this capacity until April 30, 1933.19 Interestingly, in a time when mea Hawaiʻi were being abandoned, my great-grandfather served as an editor for the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi column in The Garden Island newspaper called "Lei Mokihana."20

John Mahiʻai Kāneakua was also religious and involved himself with many different faiths. In 1898, he was instrumental in the translation of the Book of Mormon from English to ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi for the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.21 Although not of that faith, he and Joseph M. Poepoe assisted in its translation.22 According to my mother, he was of the Kalawina, or Calvanist faith. In The Friend, it states that John Mahiʻai Kāneakua’s "legal training, executive ability and uncommon good judgement render him particularly valuable in the councils of the C. E. and Sunday School work in which he is enthusiastically interested."23 It’s also reported that he rendered valuable assistance in various ways to the Kapaʻa church.24

John Mahiʻai Kāneakua was also a landed man. On May 30, 1900, Puaikaena and her husband granted to John Mahiʻai Kāneakua interest in land Grant 2783 in Honomāʻele, Hāna, Maui by deed.25 Later, on January 11, 1901, Mrs. Inoaole Ahulii granted to John Mahiʻai Kāneakua a portion of land Grant 1210 in Waiakoa, Kula, Maui.26 He also owned a home in Kapaʻa, Kauaʻi where my grandfather was raised and this property still remains with the family.27 On January 26, 1936 my beloved great-grandfather, John Mahiʻai Kāneakua, passed away in his Kapaʻa residence leaving behind a legacy of legal aptitude, charity, faith and aloha.28

Nou nō e kuʻu kūkū kāne aloha ē! E John Mahiʻai Kāneakua ē!



1John William Siddal, ed., Men of Hawaii: A Biographical Reference Library, Complete and Authentic, of the Men of Note and Substantial Achievement in the Hawaiian Islands Vol. 11 (Honolulu: Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1921), 229.
3Men of Hawaii, 229.
4Ibid., 229–230.
5Men of Hawaii, 230.
6Hawaiʻi State Archives, Government Office Holders, 1843–1959, John M. Kaneakua.
7Ibid. Also see Men of Hawaii, 230.
8Ernest Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel: Robert W. Wilcox and Hawaiian Politics, 1880–1903 (Colorado: University Press of Colorado, 1996), 58.
9Men of Hawaii, 230.
10Hawaiʻi State Archives, Vital Statistics Collection, Marriage Record, Island of Kauai, K-26 p. 313, Marriage between Kaneakua, J. Mahiai (k) - Ah Nee, Lucy (Oct. 9, 1925 at Kawaihau).
11Men of Hawaii, 230.
12Noenoe Silva, Aloha Betrayed (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), 130.
13J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Duke University Press, 2008), 60.
14Men of Hawaii, 230.
16“Kauai Notes,” The Friend, Vol. LXVII, No. 4 (April 1910), 7.
17“The Republican Rules Adopted”. The Garden Island, 3/3/14: 1.
19Hawaiʻi State Archives, Government Office Holders, 1843–1959, J. M. Kaneakua.
20Nupepa Blog, “Hawaiian-Language column in the Garden Island! 1912.” February 9, 2012.
21Heman C. Smith, Frederick M. Smith, and D. F. Lambert, Journal of History, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Iowa: Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1908), 199.
22Ibid. Poepoe translated up to the first three chapters of Alma and Kāneakua translated the remainder. Ibid.
23The Friend, 7.
24Hawaiian Evangelical Association, Eighty-Eighth Annual Report of the Hawaiian Evangelical Association (Honolulu: Hawaiian Gazette, 1910), 81.
25Bureau of Conveyances, Grantor Grantee Index of Kauai, 1900.
26Bureau of Conveyances, Grantor Grantee Index of Kauai, 1901.
27Personal interviews with Kaʻumealani Walk, mother of author, at Lāʻie, Hawaiʻi from 1999–2010.

Kupuna profile - kaneaka 1

Kupuna profile - kaneakua 2

photo courtesy of: Aloha Quest

Hui Aloha ʻĀina

Kupuna profile - kaneakua 3

photo courtesy of: The Garden Island

Members of the 1931–1932 Kaua‘i Board of Supervisors. At far right is County Clerk J. M. Kāneakua.

Kupuna profile - kaneakua 4

Kupuna profile - kaneakua 5

photo courtesy of: Men of Hawaii, Vol. 2, 232

John M. Kāneakua

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