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JUNE 2020

The History Corner

by David Mostardi, Club Historian

Once Upon A Hillside: 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago

Rear Admiral William Henry Whiting (1843-1925)

Henrietta Afong Whiting (1870-1940)

Club members for eight years (1905-14)

William Henry Whiting was born in 1843 in New York City, and attended the Naval Academy 1860-63. As an Ensign during the Civil War battle of Mobile Bay on 5 August 1864, Whiting was cited by Admiral Farragut for gallant conduct in the burning of the blockade runner Ivanhoe under the guns of Fort Morgan. (This was the same battle where, after being warned of mines, then called “torpedoes,” in the waters ahead, Farragut allegedly exclaimed “Damn the torpedoes!”)

By the 1890s, Whiting, now Commander Whiting, was based in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1894, he married Henrietta Patrinella Kealaiki Afong, the eighth of sixteen children of a prosperous Chinese-Hawaiian family. He was 51 and she was 23, but one report portrayed her as only seventeen. The Whitings endured many racist newspaper articles common at the time, one noting the “great uproar” when Whiting proposed to marry a girl who was half-Chinese, one-quarter Portuguese and one-quarter native (i.e. Hawaiian), however beautiful she may be, even with the “Celestial slant” of her eyes. In contrast, Sanford Dole, head of the provisional government in Hawaii, said that the marriage was “a symbol for the potential union of Hawaii and the United States.” There were some rumors that Whiting would be driven out of the Navy, but his fellow officers loyally supported him, and Whiting retired as a Rear Admiral. The Whiting’s daughter Marie was born in 1895. They settled in Berkeley, where they joined the Hillside Club, and they also became a part of the social scene in San Francisco.

Henrietta’s father, Chun Afong (1825-1906), was famous in Honolulu. He was born in Guangdong province in China, and came to Hawaii in 1849 to work in his uncle’s retail store in Honolulu. In 1865 he and a friend started a chain of stores named Afong & Achuck, selling Chinese goods to wealthy Chinese and Hawaiian families in Honolulu. He was naturalized as a Hawaiian citizen in 1857, and though he already had a wife in China, he proceeded to also marry the British-Hawaiian noblewoman Julia Hope Kamakia Paaikamokalani o Kinau Beckley Fayerweather (1840-1919), whose family connections gave Afong access to the Hawaiian elite. Afong soon became the first Chinese millionaire in Hawaii, and his financial support helped David Kalakaua become King of Hawaii in 1874. In 1890, after the death of their youngest son, Afong liquidated most of his holdings, setup an estate to secure his wife and children, and then sailed to China and never returned; he died in Hong Kong in 1906. Julia remained in Honolulu and died in 1919. The Afong’s lives were the subject of the 1910 Jack London short story “Chun Ah Chun.”

Two years after William Whiting’s death in 1925, Henrietta married another naval officer, Rear Admiral Ammen C. Farenholt (1871-1956). They were both in their late 50s and had no children together. Henrietta died in 1940 in San Diego, at the age of 69. William Whiting, Henrietta Farenholt, and Ammen Farenholt are all buried at the San Francisco National Cemetery at the Presidio in San Francisco.

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