Baptist History Homepage

Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford
By L. S. Foster

Chapter XVII
Second Visit to the Homeland

      Devotion to their calling and lack of co-workers with like views, to whom their responsibilities could be entrusted during their ab­sence, kept Mr. and Mrs. Crawford on the field much longer than the usual period between visits to the home land. Long isolation from Christian society in the midst of unsympathetic heathen, to­gether with the many perplexing questions constantly arising in the work, bore heavily upon Mr. Crawford. But to these enough in themselves for any one man to bear, were added the many trials which arose out of his views as to native self-support; for only a few of the missionaries then on the field sympathized with him, and nearly all around him were working on the opposite, or sub­sidy system. According to this subsidy system, all or most of the money for carrying on mission operations came from foreign lands, such as for church, school and hospital buildings, preachers, teachers, schools and assistants needed in all these departments. The native employes of such naturally became strongly opposed to Mr. Crawford. Many of his own members becoming disappointed in their hopes, joined in the opposition. These things thus became a source of anxiety, and made it difficult to pilot the young church through the breakers. A partial and temporary relief was brought about in an unexpected and peculiar way.

      One day Mr. Crawford asked a Chinese about thirty-five years old, if he could make good bricks, and the man in an injured tone replied, "You need not, sir, ask me that question. I have been mak­ing bricks for three hundred years, and of course I can make good ones." He identified himself with his ancestors in one unbroken line. This remark gave new direction to Mr. Crawford's study of the genealogical tables in the fifth and eleventh chapters of Gene­sis. He was then preparing an Epitome of Ancient History for the use of the Chinese, and needed to introduce the line of names and dates in these early tables, which he found difficult to understand. Influenced by the brickmaker's remark, he suspended his work on the Hebrew epitome and devoted his leisure time for several years

[p. 121]
to a thorough study of these tables. This for a while each day brought the mental relief he so much needed, which enabled him to carry on his missionary work with renewed vigor. As the result of these labors he published in 1877 the book called Patriarchal Dynasties, from Adam to Abraham, shown to cover ten thousand five hundred years, and the highest individual life one hundred and eighty-seven years.

      But the end of his strength finally came. After eighteen years of continued labor and care, he was threatened with partial paralysis. It was decided then that he should accept the oft-repeated invita­tion of the Board to visit the United States in search of health and recreation. He sailed in June, 1878, and remained some months in California, hoping to be able to return to China without going to the eastern states. Not improving as rapidly as he wished he crossed the continent to Boston, and after spending a short time in that city, then in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, he pro­ceeded to Richmond. During his stay in America he suggested to the various mission boards that they hold a general consultation in regard to the withdrawal of all subsidy money from the foreign work. All except the officers of the Episcopal Board heartily as­sented to his proposition, and the Southern Baptist Board ap­pointed Dr. Tupper to represent them in the proposed conference. But the council was never held, and for some unknown cause nothing was done in the matter.

      At that time the question of keeping the Chinese out of the United States was agitating the public mind. Mr. Crawford there­fore lectured in various places on this subject, as well as on mis­sions. The Board at Richmond requested him to return to Wash­ington and seek an interview with President Hayes in regard to the Chinese exclusion act. The President received him courteously, but said the question was already decided.

      After spending some months in Virginia and the Carolinas, he gradually made his way to the meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at Atlanta, in May, 1879. He there conversed with several returned missionaries regarding self-support, and also ad­dressed the convention on the subject. Most of the Southern Bap­tist newspapers mentioned his address approvingly.

      After the convention Mr. Crawford visited some relatives in Mississippi and Kentucky, and then returned to China. On the voy­age between Japan and Shanghai the steamer was caught in a terri­fic typhoon and narrowly escaped destruction. The bulwarks on the weather side were washed away, and the passing fore and aft

[p. 122]
was attended with great peril. The cabins were deluged, the engine fires were extinguished and the pumps became choked. The sailors (Chinese), losing heart, refused to work, and the vessel had six feet of water in her hold. The only resource was to bail it out with buckets. The steamer was lying helpless with her broad side to the waves, every one of which poured into her immense quantities of water. The captain requested an old seafaring passenger to run the gauntlet and inform the other passengers of the critical situation. All "turned to" with a will, arranging themselves in lines from the hold to the deck, where they passed the buckets back and forth all night. Mr. Crawford, who was the oldest of the company, cheered the anxious passengers by repeating "Never give up the ship." He rallied the disheartened crew by sending down from time to time refreshments and cheering words. At the moment when all seemed lost, one of the passengers remarked, "The time has come to pre­pare for death." Mr. Crawford replied, "I have not waited until now for that preparation; if God's time has come I am as ready to go now and in this way as any other. Pass on the buckets." Before daylight the wind began to veer, the barometer to rise, and the dan­ger was over. By sunrise the engine fires were relighted and the battered vessel was speeding on her course.

      In June, 1879, the honorary degree of D. D. was conferred on Mr. Crawford by Richmond College, Richmond, Virginia.

      During Dr. Crawford's absence of more than a year from Teng Chow, many extra duties devolved upon Mrs. Crawford. Several of the native brethren volunteered to take turns in conducting the religious services, often consulting Mrs. Crawford in their prep­aration for this work. A fellow missionary preached for them occa­sionally. Besides carrying on the school, training the Sunday-school teachers and working as usual among the villages in spring and autumn, it was also necessary for her to act as mission treas­urer.

      During this period three of their most advanced pupils com­pleted the prescribed course and received public recognition of the fact. They were all professed Christians and had done themselves credit both in their studies and in exemplary conduct. The question of their future now came up, and Mrs. Crawford began to realize, though not yet to the full extent, what the school was doing. One of these pupils was asked for by the English Baptist mission. They wished to give him a medical education, preparatory to employing him as a physician. Another was sought by the Southern Presbyte­rian mission, Hang Chow, to teach a high school. The third Mrs.

[p. 123]
Crawford desired to become a teacher for her own school. Some years previous to this they had observed a growing belief among the native Christians that the education and permanent employ­ment of their children was the legitimate obligation of the Board and the missionaries. To correct this, Mrs. Crawford began to re­quire a fee of three dollars per annum from each of the pupils for defraying his expenses. From the first they had been required to furnish their own clothing, which was a decided advance upon any boarding school yet in China. But they were still supplied with teacher, school room, books, stationery and food from the mission treasury. When the fee of three dollars was asked considerable dis­satisfaction manifested itself, and a few dropped out of school. The most of them, however, continued, believing that at the end of the course they would be given good employment. This was the rule in the Presbyterian College near them, which was their model.

      It was never Mrs. Crawford's intention to give the time to school work which could be used in direct evangelization. While teaching Christian books to the students in the forenoons, she could still spend the afternoons in carrying the gospel to the women in their homes. Little could be done among them in the forenoon on account of their domestic habits. A personal presenta­tion of the gospel to the people was her ideal and constant desire, but she found as the school grew its demands on her heart, mind and time also increased. Although the evangelistic work was never accorded any but the first place, she could afterwards see that this department did suffer more or less from the encroachments of the other. Visits to the villages were not less frequent, but those in the city were often interfered with, and women coming to her house sometimes found her so busy with her classes that she could say only a few words to them. Some of the boys remained in the school from childhood to full grown manhood. A mutual affection and confidence grew up between her and them which she feels, with some at least, will be lifelong. She watched each boy with deep solicitude, prayed for him, and labored personally with him for his salvation. Many of them became Christians. She rejoiced in teaching them the Scriptures, and hoped that some of them might become ministers of the gospel. (One of them is now the beloved pastor of the Whang Hien Church.) These burdens, with the addi­tional care of their adopted children, Minnie and Alfred, were by the time of Dr. Crawford's return undermining her health. Mrs. Holmes had greatly aided in teaching Alfred, and Dr. Crawford, when time permitted, gave both him and his sister lessons, but of

[p. 124]
course much of it fell on Mrs. Crawford. These children became very dear to them, and were unwilling to be called adopted chil­dren.

      In 1881 it became necessary for Mrs. Holmes to return to the United States, and on account of continued feeble health she had to relinquish the prospect of resuming work in China. This was to the deep regret of Dr. and Mrs. Crawford. Her school of girls was left under the general superintendence of Mrs. Crawford until the arrival of an expected missionary couple. But this couple never came, and soon Mrs. Crawford's health demanded a respite. It was now twenty-two years since her former visit home. She needed the warm spiritual environments to be obtained only in a Christian land. Miss Moon moved into Mrs. Holmes' place and united the two girls' schools, and Mrs. Crawford's school of boys was to be left in Dr. Crawford's charge. Their daughter, Minnie, and Rev. Alfred Jones were to be married at this time, and as he was Eng­lish it was necessary that the ceremony should be performed in the presence of the British Consul at Chefoo. It was also decided to place Alfred in the Protestant Collegiate School at Chefoo. Hence the whole family accompanied Mrs. Crawford to that port, where she was to take steamer. And on the morning of October 3, 1881, Minnie was married and Alfred sent to the school. In the afternoon of the same day Mrs. Crawford sailed for America. Dr. Crawford accompanied her as far as Shanghai, where he attended the meet­ing of the Cheh Keang Baptist Association, to which the Monu­ment Street Church belonged. On the twelfth of October Mrs. Crawford left Shanghai on the City of Peking, reaching San Fran­cisco after an uneventful voyage of a month. She was a stranger in the city, but soon formed the acquaintance of lovely Christian women, who extended to her much kindness. She says, "The Sun­day after arrival I attended service at the First Baptist Church. The large body of devout worshippers, the absence of the terrible pres­sure of heathen coldness which had so long weighed me down, and many thoughts that came rushing to my mind so overcame me that irrepressible tears of quiet joy streamed down my face the whole hour."

      From San Francisco she hastened on by rail to visit the beloved mother, more than eighty-one years of age, then living with her oldest daughter in Starkville, Mississippi. Her father had died in the home of this daughter some years previously at the age of sev­enty-five, ripe in years and Christian experience which shed a fra­grance wherever he was known.

[p. 125]
      Again she says, "During my stay in America of about eighteen months I visited many of the southern states, met multitudes of earnest, godly Christians, and formed friendships which have greatly increased my happiness."

      The school of boys, as before mentioned, was left in Dr. Craw­ford's care, but he took no active part in the teaching. He had never purposed being burdened with it, and with this distinct un­derstanding it had been carried on from the first. But now that it was on his hands, he began to give more study to its tendencies and to its effects on the propagation of a healthy Christianity. It had become evident to his mind that young men educated in mis­sion boarding schools were unfit to make their way among their countrymen. They must look alone to foreign employment as teachers, doctors, or preachers. Missionaries only needed a few personal teachers in their mission, but no doctors or preachers to be paid with mission money. And now the question came strongly before him:

"Shall we train these men at great expense to our American brethren for employment and finally, as the sequel has proved, for membership also in other denominations?"
      The quickest solution would have been for him to disband the school and for him and his wife to confine themselves strictly to religious labors, but all the mission opposed this step. Members of the Presbyterian mission, and also the native Christians generally, strongly urged its continuance. As Messrs. Halcomb and Pruitt, who arrived soon after Mrs. Crawford's departure, were ready to teach English, Dr. Crawford proposed to introduce its study into the course, and thereby, as far as possible, make the school self-supporting. To this all cheerfully agreed. English teaching in mis­sion schools was carried on extensively when they first reached China in 1852. The Crawfords, however, disapproved of it. One reason was that the students would seek secular employment among European merchants who would give higher wages than the missionaries could afford, and the students would be subjected to unusually great temptations. But now the desire on Dr. Craw­ford's part was, if there must be a school, to fit the students for secular positions, as he did not wish, after the pattern of so many missions, to give them religious employment. So English was in­troduced simultaneously in both schools. Only a few of the rea­sons for this revolution can be given in writing, and they must be given at second hand, as they have been received from those who have lived and worked on the field. Mrs. Crawford writes:
[p. 126]
"At first (being in America when I heard of it) I exceedingly de­plored this step, feeling I could never give my precious time to teaching English. I thought that such a boarding school could never be made self-supporting in Teng Chow, and that this effort would surely prove its death. But the letters assured me again and again that the students and their parents were delighted at the pros­pects, and most of them were paying their board. After Mr. Pruitt's marriage in 1882, he removed to the North Street house, and Mr. Halcomb went to live with him. Early in 1883 the school was transferred to their place and kept until my return."
      Such was the condition of affairs when Mrs. Crawford returned to Teng Chow, July, 1883. Before her departure she had begun to see tendencies that gave her uneasiness, and things had developed rapidly in her absence. She and Dr. Crawford discussed the matter a great deal, and both being now relieved of the daily grind of teaching and superintending the school, were in a better position to take in the bearings of the various phases of the question. Messrs. Halcomb and Pruitt proposed to give the school back to Mrs. Crawford, but she prevailed upon them to keep it until the end of the year. She spent much of the autumn visiting the villages. This kind of work could now be, done in a more satisfactory manner than formerly, and she could remain many days together in one family, teaching them and their neighbors the way of life. More and more it was seen that the self-reliant, healthy Christianity for which they had been laboring and praying was hindered rather than helped by the boarding schools. The non-Christians were heard to discuss the subject, and the mirror they unwittingly held up before the eyes of the missionaries taught them many lessons and gave them much food for thought. By the close of 1883, they were both willing to disband the school and to give themselves ex­clusively to spiritual work. To their surprise Miss. Moon soon closed her school also, for the same great desire to give herself ex­clusively to gospel labors.

      Dr. and Mrs. Crawford felt that by far the best part of their mis­sionary life and labors was that which followed their cutting loose from the mission boarding school. Mrs. Crawford says in refer­ence to these matters, "My husband's views, both in regard to the school question and that of native preachers, were greatly misunderstood by many of his fellow missionaries, native Christians, and some brethren in the home land." "He is opposed to educa­tion," said some, which was of course absurd. "He is opposed to paid preachers," said others, which was equally untrue. He was in

[p. 127]
favor of both of these under proper conditions, but not in cases where they evidently hindered the building up of a sturdy, healthy Christianity.

      "He will dismiss even a servant in his employ should he become a Christian," some one falsely asserted. But the truth was he some­times employed a servant who was already a Christian; but more frequently, as Christians were not plentiful, his heathen servants became such and remained in his service faithful and beloved for ten, fifteen and even twenty years. As previously stated, when Wang Ping San became a Christian he engaged him primarily as a teacher of the language, but he was of far greater help to Dr. Crawford than this. He could aid him in his work, could advise with him, could point out to him with a Christian interest various avenues for reaching his countrymen, and in numberless instances pave his way into the hearts of the natives. After removing to Teng Chow he never found a man who could so fully fill such a place. And it was always his wish, as far as possible, to secure a personal helper who could fill these several needs. Times now in China are undergoing great and rapid changes, and with the reforms and new phases of society many missionary methods may undergo changes also. But the gospel is for all ages and all conditions.

Go to Chapter 18

[From L. S. Foster, Fifty Years in China - An Eventful Memoir of Tarleton Perry Crawford, D. D., 1909; reformatted and reprinted in 2005. The document was provided by Jackie Battles, Winchester, VA. - jrd]

Return to Baptist China Missionary Index
Return to Baptist Biographies
Return to Baptist History Homepage