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

Chapter XXIV
Boxer Uprising, Home at Last

[p. 175]
      The events of several years must be condensed, for much was crowded into the last half decade of the life of this great and good man. When Dr. Crawford went to Taianfu at the age of seventy-three, he felt that his life's work was near its close, and that he could not take the responsibility of new plans and enterprises. But he went associated with a band of young, hopeful, energetic men of determined purpose, and cast his lot among them to give what assistance he could in the various phases of the work around them.

      With Mr. Bostick and Mr. King, who settled with him at Taianfu, he made itinerating tours among the towns and villages in various directions. He also, when at home, constantly found an op­portunity to present the gospel to the people of the city. There were frequent callers at his house with whom he spent much time in heart-burning labors. Besides this he sought almost daily hear­ers on the street or in the open public places. This veteran of the cross would rest himself on a stone or a piece of timber, where a crowd would soon gather around him and listen to his words. A man who is now a Christian recently told Mrs. Crawford that he, with many others, used often to stop in front of a little temple, where a hollow square of stone seats formed what Dr. Crawford called one of his street pulpits, and listened to his earnest exhorta­tions. His long white beard, which was much heavier than can be grown by the ordinary Chinese, attracted attention and respect.

      During these last years Dr. Crawford wrote few letters for the papers. He composed some hymns in English and Chinese, and a larger work called a Poem for the Churches. His last production in Chinese was a baptismal hymn, and the last in English a poem that is inscribed on his tombstone at Dawson, Georgia, as follows:

"Dear Jesus, friend above,
On Thy strong arm I lean;
In ev'ry trying scene
I cling to Thee.

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"When earthly hopes depart,
And friends deceitful prove,
With unabating love
I cling to Thee.

"When darkness shrouds the sky,
And dangers thick unfold,
With faith's unwavering hold
I cling to Thee.

"When death shall seize my frame,
And all around give way,
My ransomed soul shall say
I cling to Thee.

"Dear Jesus, Lord above,
Redeemer of my soul,
While ceaseless ages roll
I'll cling to Thee."

      He took a keen interest in the tremendous changes that were then beginning to assume proportions in China. The Emperor's attempts at radical reform were closely studied with hope, mingled with apprehensions of a serious crisis. The reversal of all these schemes by the Empress Dowager in 1898, when she reinstated the old regime with increased hatred and suspicion of things for­eign, were also watched with lively concern. But none of these things influenced his regard for the work upon which his heart was ever fixed. Throughout all he encouraged his colleagues to prose­cute quietly and faithfully their gospel labors.

      When in 1899 the whole atmosphere was filled with rumors that all foreigners were to be exterminated, the people drew away from the missionaries, and their friends among the natives warned them to flee, he was still in favor of steadfastly holding on.

      But they were not to be permitted the privilege of remaining in their field. The great Boxer storm approached nearer and nearer, and the people predicted the speedy annihilation of all outsiders. The notorious foreign hater, Yu Hsien, a relative of the Empress Dowager, was the governor of Shantung Province. It was so evident that he was warmly supporting the Boxers that, on the de­mand of England and Germany, he was removed, and General Yuan Shi Kai was appointed in his place.

[p. 177]

A picture of refugees from the Boxers - Dr. and Mrs. Crawford near the center is not included.

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      This new governor plainly saw the danger of provoking a war with western nations, and reversed the policy of his predecessor. The Shantung missionaries were thus delivered from the power of the brutal Yu Hsien. But their deliverance resulted in woe to oth­ers; for he was immediately made governor of Shan Si Province where, during the awful summer of 1900, having invited the mis­sionaries in his province to seek refuge in his place at Tai Yuen Fu, he had all the fifty who responded massacred in cold blood, he himself with his own hands aiding in the diabolical work.

      Shortly after Yuan Shi Kai took the seals of office as governor of Shantung, an army of European-drilled soldiers arrived at Taianfu to protect the missionaries, but not in time to prevent some outbreaks and one most brutal and atrocious murder. For as they entered the city an English missionary, Rev. Sidney Brooks, left for his station fifty miles to the west, and was cruelly mur­dered on the way, December 30, 1899, by a hand of Boxers who were seeking out and destroying all Christian villages, both Catho­lic and Protestant. The missionaries at Taianfu heard this news January 1, 1900. It threw the people into a state of intense excite­ment. General Kiang, in command of the troops there, and mem­bers of his staff visited all the missionaries in Taianfu in a most public way, and assured them of the protection of the government and the army. He invited the missionary gentlemen to be present at a grand parade, and on their arrival at the grounds (officers having been sent to escort them) the General descended from his dais, greeted them with great cordiality and conducted them up to seats beside himself in the presence of thousands of spectators.

     Thus it became known that it was the governor's intention to protect foreigners. But news continued to come from the north showing unmistakably that the Boxers had sympathy and substan­tial aid from the throne. The people seeing friendliness at Taianfu and hostility from above, began to whisper loudly that many of the soldiers were secretly Boxers and might at any convenient mo­ment turn against their officers and massacre the foreigners.

      About this time a band of robbers who had been hiding for gen­erations in the mountains some miles to the southeast of the city, came out two hundred strong and attacked a small town containing a large number of Roman Catholics. The German priest had aided in arming and training the villagers, and they made a stout defense, repulsing the robbers with some loss. All day long the fight continued, and the excitement in Taianfu became intense. Many said that the soldiers from the city had gone out to put down the

[p. 179]
robbers, while others said they were doing this for a blind and were in reality only there to destroy the Christians; it was impossi­ble to find out the true state of affairs.

      Soon after the murder of Mr. Brooks, many of the servants of the missionaries left them, and they found it difficult to procure the necessaries of life. At the height of the excitement Dr. Craw­ford discovered that his cook, recently engaged, had secretly made a false key to his money drawer and had taken, in installments, bank bills to the value of 25,000 copper cash ($12.00 United States money). A false key was found under his bedding. A corner of it had been broken off, and the small bit was found in the lock of the drawer, which had consequently been out of order for several days. When faced with the proofs the man said, "The proofs seem conclusive, yet I am not guilty." His securities, one of them a Christian, said if he could be granted ten days' grace the money would be forthcoming, and this was agreed to. However, ten days passed without the money, and it seemed that the whole matter would fall through. If they should take it to the district magistrate, it was doubtful whether he would not yield to public sentiment and take the side of the culprit. The cook's friends threatened to go in a body and make way with his employers and thus relieve the man. So dangers were increasing on every hand. But they thought that they ought not to be intimidated into condoning so serious an of­fense against public morals. The man was given two more days with the assurance that at the end of that time, if the money were not returned, the district magistrate should be informed of the theft. The money was brought within the two days and the cook was discharged, without the dreaded necessity of appealing to the official. His well deserved punishment was never inflicted because there was no means of doing so.

      Early in June the news came of the murder of two more mis­sionaries in Chili Province, toward which Yuan Shi Kai was driv­ing the Shantung Boxers. A few days later Mr. King received the following telegram from Mr. Verity, of the Methodist Episcopal mission, who was then in Peking, "Peking perilous. Take Barrow and Verity (Mrs. Barrow, M. D., and Mr. Verity's wife) to Chinkiang immediately. Advise all leave." Mr. King replied ask­ing for particulars, but no response came as all communication with Peking was immediately cut off. Mr. King and Dr. Barrow were engaged to be married and were due a furlough to the home land. After much consultation it was decided that they should go at

[p. 180]
once instead of carrying out a previously arranged plan for a few weeks later.

      So Mr. King left with these ladies June 15. Miss Marshall of the Gospel Mission, had already started for Shanghai with a family from Tsining. And the remainder of the missionaries, Dr. and Mrs. Crawford, Mr. and Mrs. Bostick, Mr. and Mrs. Blalock, Mr. and Mrs. Dawes, Mr. and Mrs. Hudson and Mr. Tedder, including seven children, besides two families of the English mission, were still undecided what to do. The Blalocks were remaining in Taianfu until they should decide upon their future station. The Hudson and Dawes families had been living at Tsining, but were in Taian for the summer. The Herrings, from Tsining, had started northward for the summer and narrowly escaped from the Boxers. The Leagues, from Suei Pei, were in America on furlough.

      In these six years of hardship and toil this little band, by their joint labors, had gathered a little church of native Christians, some of whom gave promise of future usefulness. And now how could they leave them to be persecuted and scattered? But the Christians urged the missionaries to leave, saying that they could secure themselves better if foreigners were away, and from all appear­ances this was true. The native Christians could hide out, and the opposition would die a natural death. Prominent among them was a talented, highly cultured young man named Chen. He was the clerk of the church, and was zealous in proclaiming this new way of eternal life. For some months he had held a position in the Im­perial Chinese Post Office and was fully aware of the conditions of the country. He told the missionaries that he would seek safety, and then if necessary take his family southward to a less danger­ous place. He left Taianfu a day or two before the departure of the missionaries, and finally took his family to Chinkiang. From there Dr. Crawford heard from him while in Shanghai the following September.

      Soon after Mr. King's departure it became apparent that travel­ing on the roads leading to the coast was more dangerous to the missionaries than remaining in their homes. It had been only about one month since the telegraphic station had been opened at Tai­anfu, connecting with the main line by a branch wire ten miles long. But for this timely providence, it is difficult to see how they could have effected an escape. Mr. Bostick inquired by telegram of Mr. Fowler, United States Consul at Chefoo, whether all should remain at their post or try to reach the coast. The reply was, "Don't know. Judge for yourself."

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      But next day after communicating with the governor, Mr. Fowler telegraphed, "Leave at once. Urgent." There were rumors that an edict from the Empress Dowager had commanded the slay­ing of all foreigners, but the missionaries could get nothing cer­tain. They learned later that Governor Yuan had received this edict, but instead of executing it, had determined to suppress it even at the risk of his own life. He requested Mr. Fowler to call all of his nationality in the province to Chefoo. The consul accord­ingly notified them to meet at the provincial capital, Tsinan, where Mr. Hamilton of the Presbyterian mission would have boats in readiness to convey them down a canal to meet a steamer at Yang Kia Ko, and thence to Chefoo. Governor Yuan would send a guard to see them safely on the steamer.

      Hasty consultations were held on Tuesday, and it was decided that all should leave Thursday about daylight. As only a small quantity of baggage could be taken, Dr. and Mrs. Crawford se­lected only such articles as they thought would be urgently needed. They packed two small trunks, two grip sacks, a small box of provisions, and the necessary bedding, and were ready to start at the appointed time. The district magistrate furnished an escort often soldiers, sealed their several houses with his official seal, and recognized the watchman left in charge of each.

      About sunrise on Thursday, June 21, 1900, they were all gath­ered at Mr. Bostick's, the most convenient starting point, forming with the soldiers, barrowmen, chair bearers, missionaries, children and servants, a procession of nearly one hundred individuals.

      Along the road to Tsinanfu the people seemed quiet, no one of­fering them harm or insult. No doubt the governor's friendliness was known and most of the people would be glad to have the mis­sionaries leave rather than to have them massacred. On the road before reaching Tsinanfu, they received a message from Mr. Ham­ilton, requesting them not to go to the Presbyterian mission in the eastern suburb, nor to enter the city, but to pass outside of the western suburb and to go direct to the landing about two miles dis­tant, where the boats were in readiness. He also said that some missionaries from other stations were already on board. Mr. Murray, meeting them near the landing, said to Dr. Crawford, "Well, doctor, I am sorry to meet you under such circumstances." The characteristically ready reply was, "Why, I am glad to see you under any circumstances."

      Before sunset on Friday, June 22, they were well under way on the canal in small native boats. Their guard had been replaced by

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fifty of the governor's soldiers, who continued with them until they were safely on the steamer several days later. On Monday af­ternoon the boats reached Yang Kia Ko, where they found Mr. Cornwell of the Presbyterian mission at Chefoo awaiting them. Mr. Fowler had requested this gentleman to go on the chartered Japanese steamer and make all suitable arrangements for the refu­gees. He had hired two sea junks to convey them from the canal boats to the steamer. The latter was anchored about twenty miles out to sea because of dangerous sand banks. They were soon on board the junks, but a strong east wind prevented their setting sail until a favorable tide came about midnight. But at daylight they saw that they had made very little headway, and all day long, as they were nearing the mouth of the river, they tacked back and forth in the face of a strong wind and a heavy sea. A severe storm of rain came on later and they had only the poor protection, in ad­dition to their umbrellas, of mats which the boatmen spread above them. And their quarters were extremely cramped. Dr. and Mrs. Crawford's couch by night was a board about two feet wide by five feet long, and this was their only seat by day. Wednesday they neared the steamer, but found the sea so high that a transfer to it was impossible, and with heavy hearts they turned back toward the shore, which, with a favorable wind, they reached in a short time. As their own and the boatmen's provisions were all gone, the oc­cupants of one of the junks were under the necessity of fasting un­til they tied to a fishing smack and bought of its crew a salt fish and some bowls of millet.

      Mr. Cornwell had previously engaged an inn for their use on the outward journey, but when they came back to it the inn-keeper positively refused to open to them until compelled to do so by the guard. Here they spent a night and a day waiting for the storm to subside, their number being increased during the day by a com­pany of English Baptist missionaries from Ching Chow and Tso Ping. About sunset Dr. Crawford's cook came and quietly told him that two hundred Boxers were drilling a few hundred yards distant from the inn, and that they intended to attack the refugees that night. When informed of the report, Mr. Cornwell replied that he had known it for several days, but did not like to tell them. He re­quested that not one should lie down that night, but that all should be ready at a moment's notice to leave when the wind should show signs of changing. Everything was packed, carriers were hired to transport the baggage to the landing, while the missionaries waited in anxious suspense. No one except those who have had like ex-periences,

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can ever know the tense anxiety and the pain of uncer­tainty of such a crucial moment. And none but God's own faithful ones can know the full, deep peace of soul in reposing in Him in the midst of imminent dangers.

      About midnight the wind veered a little to the southward, and the signal was given to depart. They soon set sail and reached the steamer at eight o'clock next morning, this time boarding her without difficulty. The next day, Saturday, June 30, they arrived at Chefoo where the consul, Mr. Fowler, and the local missionaries had made the best arrangements practicable for their lodging and comfort. At Chefoo they were under the protection of the United States gunboats, and were therefore safe from Boxers.

      During this journey, especially while alone in their little canal boat, with only the boatmen, a cook, and sometimes a soldier, Dr. Crawford's mind was very busy and much moved over the great events that were transpiring. He saw that for a time missionary work would be suspended all over the empire; but Providence was at work, and with far greater than human power.

      He foresaw that this would mark the beginning of a new and great epoch in the political, social, and religious history of the em­pire. He longed to take some part in its renovation. His heart turned with tender yearnings to Taianfu, where the work was showing signs of progress; but for the present, at least, they could only commit it all into the hands of a faithful God.

      After a few days at Chefoo, they followed the Bosticks and Mr. Tedder to Wei Hai Wei where, under the protection of the English garrison, they remained nearly two months, watching the stirring events of the conflict. There they heard of the massacre of the fifty missionaries at Tai Yuen Fu by Yu Hsien, and the great sufferings of others in different parts of the land. There they watched with eager interest the attempt of the allies to rescue the legations at Pe­king. Dr. Crawford delivered to deeply interested audiences sev­eral lectures on the three races of men. It was during the last of these lectures that the news arrived of the entrance of the allies into Peking, and a pause was given to allow the hurrahs that burst from many throats.

      Dr. and Mrs. Crawford decided to take advantage of this en­forced rest from their labors to make a visit to the homeland, from which he had been absent ten years and she eighteen. Sailing from Shanghai on the first of October, they reached San Francisco on the twenty-eighth, and after a few days proceeded to Texas to visit relatives. Their first stop was at Gatesville, where they were cor-

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dially welcomed by relatives and Christian friends. Thence they went to visit relatives in Waco, where the Baptist State Conven­tion was then in session. They passed rapidly through Texas, Lou­isiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and North Carolina, visiting a few relatives, and Dr. Crawford giving some talks and lectures on the situation in China. They reached Greenville, South Carolina, late in December, and there they purposed finding a resting place. Dr. Crawford was then within a few months of eighty years of age. Wherever he went his vigor, mental and physical, and the burning interest he took in matters religious and whatever related to man­kind were a marvel to all who met him.

      He was invited to many places to preach on missions and to lec­ture on conditions in China. This he did, whenever he was able to accept, to the great interest of large congregations. But he over­taxed his strength, and returned to Greenville January 28, 1901, with a severe cold and high fever. After two or three days in bed he got up, but was never himself again. He could not understand why he did not recuperate after this apparently slight illness. The physician said that there was serious heart failure; and thenceforth, by slow degrees, he and his wife were brought to realize that his work was almost done. However, his consuming desire to see the brotherhood recognize the principles for which he had so faithfully contended did not abate.

      In March, at the invitation of an earnest brother, he and his wife made a visit in North Georgia to attend a fifth Sunday meeting, but feebleness prevented him from doing much and hurried him back to Greenville.

      Then in May they went to Asheville, North Carolina, for two months, and he grew so much stronger that he was able to attend a missionary rally at Oolenoy, South Carolina. At this meeting he was one of the most active members of the committee to prepare and send out An Address to the Churches, issued by the Oolenoy meeting, July 25-28, 1901.

      That meeting cheered him greatly, and its influence abode with him to the end. After a short stop at Greenville, they went to Shelby, North Carolina, where they remained some months among Mr. Bostick's relatives. His health improved so much that they wrote to Mr. King at Chattanooga that they would in all probabil­ity return with him to China in September. But later a decline set in and they were left with little hope that the invalid would ever see China again.

      Nevertheless they concluded to proceed slowly southward and

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westward during the winter, visiting relatives, faintly hoping that by spring the way might yet be open for a return to the foreign field. Early in December they went to Atlanta, remaining there six weeks, where a slight stroke of paralysis from a sudden exposure to severe cold hastened their movement southward.

      About the middle of January, 1902, they proceeded to Dawson, Georgia, where resided two of Mrs. Crawford's nieces with their families. Mrs. Crawford clearly saw the approaching end. When Dr. Crawford consulted a physician and asked him what he thought of his case, the physician said, "I would advise you to have all of your matters arranged at once. The change may be sud­den." He replied, "They are already arranged — whenever the Lord calls me to go, I am ready." But he, ever hopeful, still had plans for future labors. Being told plainly that the end might come any day, he requested consultation with another physician. The result was to confirm the opinion already expressed.

      Their daily walks, morning and afternoon, he leaning on her arm, grew shorter and shorter with his waning strength. They read and talked together, passed in review their fifty-one years of wed­ded life, and said all the last things they could think of. On the Sat­urday night previous to his departure, after composing himself in bed, he called her to him and said, "Kiss me goodnight now and let us go to sleep." As kneeling beside his bed she did so, he said tenderly, "Only a few more times." How this wrung her aching heart only those can know who have gone through similar experi­ences.

     The next afternoon, a Baptist minister temporarily sojourning in Dawson, during a call said, "What do you think it was, doctor, in the Apostle Paul that the Lord most highly valued?" Without a moment's hesitation his reply was, "His faithfulness. That same quality which the Lord so emphasized when in relating the parable of the steward, He said, 'He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much.'"

      He then proceeded to give his exegesis of that parable which he thought was meant to teach faithfulness.

      About midnight he awoke with a slight exclamation, saying that a peculiar blackness had come over his eyes. "Not dizziness," he said, "but a strange darkness." "Shall I get up and do something for you?" his wife asked, but he replied, "No, it is all over now. Let us go to sleep again."

      Monday morning he arose and took his breakfast as usual, after which he called the two little grandnephews, John and Will Melton,

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and said he would tell them a story of his early life, which he had sometime previously promised them. This he did, their sisters, Alice and Pearl, also coming in to hear. After the children had left for school, he and his wife had their usual Bible reading, having come in regular order to the twentieth chapter of Ezekiel. He then wrote a letter which she mailed for him, and after her return they went out and sat side by side on the veranda, talking on many sub­jects that were so close to their hearts. Every moment she could have him with her was inexpressibly precious.

      A friend passed along on the sidewalk near them, and there they held a short conversation about church matters. Soon after the friend had left them there was an exclamation from him, saying that the blackness had returned. It soon passed off, but quickly came again with more violence, and their niece, Mrs. Melton, telephoned for the physician. Another severe attack came, and the physician was requested to hasten. Then the next moment, with a deep, long groan, the sufferer fell back in the large chair and his breath and pulse ceased. Both soon returned, and for ten or fifteen minutes he struggled to break loose from those who were holding him in the chair. With difficulty he spoke twice saying, "Friends, go away." After the struggle ceased he was placed upon a couch where he breathed quietly for about fifteen minutes, and then at half-past one o'clock in the afternoon, Monday, April 7, 1902, he quietly passed away to be forever with the Lord.

      The stricken wife had a simple monument of white marble placed at his grave in the Dawson cemetery. Then after some nec­essary arrangements, she spent two summer months among the mountains of North Carolina.

      Having heard that she contemplated returning to China, some of her relatives sought to dissuade her from doing so, urging that she was advanced in life, being then seventy-two years of age, and that she had already given a half century of service there. Her reply was, "The Lord called me to labor in China, and that call has never been revoked."

      She returned to her foreign field in October, 1902, in company with Mr. and Mrs. Herring and her daughter and son-in-law, Rev. and Mrs. A. G. Jones, of the English Baptist mission.

      Reaching the now lonely home at Taianfu, November 20, 1902, whence she had fled to escape the Boxer uprising, she settled down to renew former labors. Much of the time during subsequent years of service, the loneliness has been relieved by transient visit­ing families, or a permanently settled single lady. She writes, "The

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time is cheerfully awaited when the voice of the Lord shall be heard calling me to the mansions he has prepared for His own."

      She resumed and is still carrying on the work of taking the gos­pel from house to house, of teaching Bible truths in Sunday-school, and of pointing all she can reach to the Saviour, including thousands of pilgrims who come yearly to worship at the sacred mountain, Tai Shan.

Go to Chapter 25

[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]

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