ISLAND HISTORY: Philanthropist Emma Kauikeolani Napoleon Mahelona Wilcox of Kauai

Emma Kauikeolani Napoleon Mahelona Wilcox (1851-1931) was born in Honolulu, the daughter of Mr. Temanihi and Mrs. Pamahoa Napoleon, and was related, through her mother, to King Lunalilo.

She was educated at Kawaiahao Seminary and married bookkeeper Samuel Mahelona at Kawaiahao Church, Honolulu, in 1882.

They had four children: Samuel, Ethel, Cushman and Allen Mahelona.

When Samuel Mahelona died in 1892, his funeral was honored by the attendance of Queen Lili‘uokalani, her ladies in waiting and other dignitaries.

Emma then taught at Kawaiahao Seminary and, in 1898, she married Kaua‘i sugar planter Albert Spencer Wilcox (1844-1919), the son of American Protestant missionaries to Hawai‘i Abner and Lucy Wilcox of Waioli, Kaua‘i.

Albert Spencer Wilcox and Emma Mahelona Wilcox resided at Kilohana House in Puhi, Kaua‘i — a big, white house surrounded by lawns.

Kilohana House was torn down in 1936 and was replaced by the mansion standing at Kilohana today, which was their nephew Gaylord Parke Wilcox’s home until his death in 1970, and is now the locale of Gaylord’s Restaurant.

With the support of her husband, Emma Mahelona Wilcox founded the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital in 1917.

It had been her husband’s niece, Kaua‘i health-care pioneer Mabel Wilcox, who’d first seen the need for a sanatorium on Kaua‘i, where those afflicted with tuberculosis could go to receive proper medical care, and it was she who had convinced Albert and Emma Wilcox, other Wilcox family members and the territorial government to fund the building of a 50-bed tuberculosis hospital in Kapa‘a.

Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital was initially maintained solely for the treatment of tuberculosis and was dedicated as a memorial to Emma’s son, Samuel, who’d died of tuberculosis in 1912.

Three years after Albert Spencer Wilcox’s death in 1919, Emma Mahelona Wilcox donated $75,000 for the building of a public library in Lihu‘e in memory of her husband.

The Albert Spencer Wilcox Memorial Building on Rice Street served as the Lihu‘e Library from 1924, until a new library replacing it was built on Hardy Street in 1969, and it has housed exhibits of the Kaua‘i Museum since 1970.

  1. Alfredo Cacal October 11, 2021 5:03 am Reply

    Aloha, Hank Soboleski. I’ve enjoyed your historical subject choices for many years. Thank you very much. The virus pandemic permitting, I shall be visiting Kauai about Thanksgiving Day to celebrate my 55th anniversary. Would like to invite you to join me for an historical tour from Polihale to Kekaha or even To Waimea. I first arrived on Kauai in June,1946 and lived in West Kauai until 1953 when I moved to Waimea. After graduation from Waimea High in 1960, I left for college and served in the Army in 1961 in Germany. I now live in Union City, California. My wife and I have several relatives on Kauai. Sure would like to visit the big mango tree near the ammo caves in Mana but may be hard to get permission from PMRF. Sure hope you can join me. Take care.

  2. Hank Soboleski October 12, 2021 10:44 am Reply

    Hi Alfredo,

    I have a hunch that you have some good stories to tell about those days of yours on Kauai.

    Please contact me at

    Thank you.


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