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

Chapter VIII
Gathering Clouds

[p. 48]
      After a year's study of the language, Mr. Crawford began regular preaching in the Sung Way Dong, a large Baptist chapel, on a crowded thoroughfare of the native city. This chapel had been built a few years before with funds collected by Mr. Shuck in the Southern States of America. Here Messrs. Shuck, Yates and Pearcy were in the habit of preaching in turn, daily, to full houses. Mr. Crawford, during his first year, frequently met them at the chapel, and aided them in keeping order. Mrs. Crawford often accompanied him, going up into the women's empty gallery, which extended around three sides of the building, in the hope that her presence might gradually draw the women about her, but in vain. If the missionaries had then known, as they learned later, that respectable women avoid thoroughfares and strange assemblies, they need not have constructed this gallery, and Mrs. Crawford need not have spent her energies in that direction. Only now and then an ordinary woman would wander in. Other conditions were required to accomplish the end they had in view.

      As mentioned in the last chapter, Mr. Crawford wrote out a sermon in his newly invented phonetic system, memorized it, and then delivered it from the high pulpit, to a vast crowd of strangers, in Mr. Yates' presence. He delivered the whole without faltering. As each day there was a new congregation, he soon went to preach this sermon again, but failing to render it to his satisfaction, he decided on his way home that in the future he would pursue a different course. The congregation was always composed of a great mass of curious men, gazing at the foreign chapel, foreign tall lamp-stands, the peculiar dress and strange manners of the preacher, comparatively few of them realizing the fact that he was addressing them in their own language. The next time he attempted to preach, instead of ascending the high pulpit after the American fashion, he took his stand on the floor near the first row of hearers, and told them as well as he was able, in disconnected sentences, the leading truths of Christianity. His first was also his

[p. 49]
last written and memorized sermon.

      About the beginning of 1853 the population in and around Shanghai had begun to be greatly alarmed by war rumors. The Tai Ping rebels had arisen some years before on the southern border of the empire, west from Canton, and gradually moved northward towards Nankin, the ancient capital of China, carrying death and ruin in their train. The wildest stories of their power and success were circulated through the community. But there was no possibility of ascertaining the real state of things, nor newspapers to chronicle their movements. At each reported advance of the insurgents the people fled in great numbers to the country. When the report subsided they returned to their homes, to flee again at the next alarm. Thus for months they were kept in a fever of excitement, until the rebel army passed to the west of Shanghai and captured Nankin.

      To avoid a repetition of their previous sufferings in the city, Mr. and Mrs. Crawford spent the hottest part of the summer of 1853 outside the city walls at the home of Mr. Yates. The Tai Pings having settled their families at Nankin, the prospective capital, sent a request to Rev. I. J. Roberts, of Canton, to become their religious instructor. Their leader, Hung Hsheu Chuen, now styled the Heavenly Emperor, had some years before the rebellion been under Mr. Roberts' religious teaching. The rebels, in their march, destroyed the temples, and observed, to some extent, the forms of worship Hung had learned from Mr. Roberts and various Christian books. Missionaries generally hoped that the revolution would pave the way for the introduction of Christianity throughout the empire. Mr. Crawford, sympathizing with Mr. Roberts' efforts to reach Nankin through the rigid blockade, invited him to his house while awaiting his opportunity. Towards the end of summer, just as Mr. Crawford and wife had returned to their home in the city, Mr. Roberts arrived, accompanied by two young rebel princes, the son and nephew of the southern king. These youths had by some means been separated from the army as it marched northward, and were afterwards smuggled into Canton to be taken to Nankin in Mr. Roberts' care. Mrs. Roberts soon followed her husband and also became an inmate of the Crawford household. While they were stopping there, reports of a new kind, to the effect that Shanghai was to be captured by a band of local discontents, began to agitate the people. The missionaries, thinking these rumors arose from the excited state of the public mind, and having no means of ascertaining the truth, gave themselves little anxiety on

[p. 50]
the subject, and went on with their regular work.

      But late one night in September, after they had retired, Mr. Nee came to arouse them to their danger, and urged them to take immediate measures for their safety. Mr. Crawford rising for the interview, was told that the officials were all removing their families to the country - that the greatest alarm and confusion prevailed, and the city was to be captured that night. Mr. Nee said the attack was to be made by the Fokien and Canton men, mostly residing in the eastern suburb, between the city wall and the river. These men had probably communicated with the Tai Pings at Nankin, and would try to unite with them. After Mr. Nee's departure Mr. and Mrs. Crawford held a "council of war." Mr. and Mrs. Roberts were asleep in Miss Baker's part of the house, and were not aroused. Was the danger real or imaginary? Having heard the cry of wolf so often they were not much disposed to heed it. If real, would foreigners be attacked? If so, what means of safety or defense had they at hand? The gates were then locked and they could not possibly leave the city. After reviewing the whole situation, they committed themselves into the hands of a faithful God; Mr. Crawford put a hatchet, his only weapon of defense, under his pillow, and they lay down and slept till morning. Soon after daylight the servant woman, rapping at their door, informed them that the magistrate and some of the gatekeepers had been killed, and that the city was in the hands of the Red Heads (the local discontents). Mr. Crawford dressed immediately and went out to explore. Finding Red Turbaned men parading the streets in every direction, he returned at once to give information. After breakfast, Messrs. Roberts and Crawford went together to the business and official parts of the city, to learn definitely how matters stood. Feeling confident of protection they soon returned to reassure their wives. In their absence Mrs. Crawford had taken the precaution to go down stairs and bolt the street doors. Shortly afterward, hearing some one trying to open it, she looked out from the window above, and to her astonishment, not to say alarm, saw their own cook, at the head of eight or ten men, all with red turbans on their heads and spears in their hands. Hearing the noise of the opening of the window, they looked up and she said, "Teacher Crawford is not at home." In case of real danger this of course would have been the last thing for her to say, but it was her apology for not letting them in. They all bowed respectfully and departed.

      Mr. and Mrs. Roberts left the city at once, finding refuge with the missionaries without, but the Crawfords, apprehending no danger,

[p. 51]
remained at home. The two schools, for they had also opened a day school for boys, were already broken up, many of the families patronizing them having fled to the country, and the others did not think it safe for their children to be on the street.

      No objection was offered by the rebel gatekeepers to the missionaries going out and coming in at pleasure, but the natives were denied this privilege. Reports soon became rife that an Imperial army and fleet were coming to exterminate the Red Turbans. The United States Consul promised to let Mr. Crawford know when it would be necessary for him to leave the city, and supposing that he would be well informed as to the movements of the army, they remained at home pursuing their studies, and cultivating friendship with the people who now turned to them for comfort and for outside news. While thus engaged, three weeks after the capture, suddenly the booming of cannon announced the arrival of the Imperial fleet, and the beginning of the threatened siege. Thinking it best now to seek a place of safety outside the walls, they went in company with Mr. Pearcy, who was also still remaining in the city, to the north gate, but found it closed and the keepers were not allowed to open it for any one. Then the party, soon increased by the addition of Mr. Carpenter of the Seventh-day Baptist mission, who also lived in the city, sought refuge in the Sung Way Dong, whose thick walls promised better protection than private dwellings. Cannon balls flew shrieking over their heads, now and then one penetrating the walls of the chapel. Two gentlemen of the party, as soon as possible, called on the rebel chief, who assured them that they should have an escort through the gates immediately after the cessation of the battle. When the firing ceased, Mr. Crawford dropped a note over the city wall, begging a strange man outside to take it to the United States Consul, which he did. However, an escort was obtained from the rebel chief, and the four missionaries marched out before the Consul and his party arrived. Taking only such articles as could be packed in two hand bags, and leaving the house in charge of their rebel cook, they made their way to the American Episcopal compound, two miles down the river, where they remained eighteen months.

      The history of this siege and the sufferings it caused, can only be briefly alluded to here. The Imperialists made almost daily attacks, firing at the wall with cannon, jingals, muskets and arrows. Sometimes they marched up with flags, spears, and shields, cursing and daring the rebels to come out to a hand to hand fight. The bombardments, both from the junks and from the batteries erected

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on the east bank of the river, were plainly visible from the Episcopal premises. The French Concession, lying along the northern and northeastern wall of the city, proved a means of protection and also of supply to the rebels, since the Imperial troops were not allowed by the French to occupy or blockade it. Choosing days when there was no fighting, Mr. Crawford succeeded in making a few visits to their city home, bringing out clothing, bedding and needed articles. After becoming accustomed to the state of war the two began to make regular visits to their home. Finding their cook unreliable they dismissed him, and allowed Mr. Wong Ping San, teacher of the girls' school, to move into the house for the better protection both of their property and of his family. About this time Mr. Crawford requested Wong to transcribe the Gospel of Matthew into the new phonetic character which he had learned. While doing this work, the divine teachings began to take hold of his heart, and during the siege he was made a new man in Christ. Mr. and Mrs. Yee, the parents of three of their pupils, also begged to occupy some of the vacant rooms of the house, where they could feel safer and daily listen to Wong Ping San's instructions.

      Twice each week, when possible, taking a lunch with them, they spent a day in their city home. The neighbors welcomed them joyfully, many of them remaining for hours to derive what comfort they could from the reports of outside matters, and listening with more or less interest to the gospel. Much time was given to teaching Mrs. Wong and Mrs. Yee. As part of the road to and from the city lay in direct range of the guns east of the river, they did not think it safe to venture in during the attacks from that quarter. The suburb between the river and the city wall had been burned by the besieging army in order to give full play to the guns, thus leaving their road into the city entirely exposed. Sometimes the firing opened after they had started to the city or during their return. In such cases they watched their opportunity, and rapidly crossed the dangerous parts in the interval between two discharges. Though there was some risk in this they did not think it sufficiently great to keep them from their work. Their house in the city being in range of some of the batteries, an occasional ball would plow its way through the roof or upper portion of its walls. When danger threatened from this quarter, they did their work in the great hall below stairs.

      By these labors during this siege, they gained a much stronger hold on the people than they could have secured under ordinary circumstances. They also took letters and small parcels back and

[p. 53]
forth for separated families and friends. Some gave them their jewelry and other valuables for safe keeping, without receipts, fully believing they would be faithfully returned after the siege was over. In every instance the owners survived to receive them again.

     Their work during this trying period was not confined to the city; they also visited the villages and surrounding region. They found frequent opportunities for presenting the gospel to the country people as well as to the servants of the missionaries around them. Besides these labors they kept up, as far as possible, the study of the language.

     The proximity of the two large Imperial encampments was a source of constant apprehension to the foreign settlement. After repeated remonstrances by the British Consul against the lawlessness of the troops, an unprovoked attack by some of them on an English gentleman and lady, while out one day for recreation, brought matters to a crisis. The British Admiral, after some correspondence on the subject, sent an ultimatum to the general-in-chief of the forces, giving him three days to move the obnoxious camps to a greater distance from the concession. No attention being paid to the Admiral's demand, a foreign force was hastily gathered, consisting of a few British and American marines, augmented by volunteers from the settlement and from merchant vessels in port. These were anxious days to all the foreigners, for the Imperial army, besides being strongly intrenched, outnumbered the little foreign band at least ten fold. As the end of the specified three days drew near, intense excitement prevailed on every hand. But true to Anglo-Saxon blood, soon after the time expired, this brave little band stormed and captured the encampments with considerable slaughter of their defenders, some of the attacking party also losing their lives. Judging from the entire absence of preparation, it is supposed the army had not been informed of the state of affairs or of the British demand. The white race is capable of high handed measures, and generally has had its own way in the east. But probably a new day has dawned in this respect. The camps were removed with ample apologies, and there was no more trouble from this source.

      All the American mission houses, except the Episcopal, were rendered untenable by the war, and were finally bought by the Chinese government for strategic purposes. The Episcopal friends received the Crawfords and other missionaries as homeless refugees, with a generous welcome, and did everything in their power

[p. 54]
for their comfort; but, as they were expecting reinforcements, they could not continue long to accommodate so large a number without great inconvenience to all. The Southern Baptist mission, seeing no prospect of a speedy termination of hostilities, proceeded to build a house in the foreign settlement large enough to temporarily shelter their four families, Mr. Shuck and children having left for America before the siege, and Mr. and Mrs. Pearcy and Miss Baker during its continuance.

      The siege drew its weary length along. But no siege lasts forever. Late in the autumn of 1854, the French, growing restless under the state of affairs, picked a quarrel with the rebels. After bombarding them to their heart's content, they instituted a strict blockade from their concession. This effectually cut off all other, as well as the Crawford's, communication with the city. The close of this rebellion is given in an extract from one of Mrs. Crawford's letters to a friend, dated March 15, 1855, as published in the Southwestern Baptist:

"I shall not attempt to detail the events of the past month. It would be a story of starvation and misery in almost every form. The siege is ended. After the government bought (several mission premises, the Imperial army took possession of all the places through which provisions could be smuggled into the city, and food became very scarce. There were many thousands of noncombatants - men, women and children - shut up within the walls, whom the rebel chief refused to release. Occasionally, however, some stole out, some bribed the pickets, and some were shot in attempting to escape. Affairs daily grew worse. No one was allowed to enter the city but Dr. Lockhart of the London Mission. Through him we sent money to those in our house. But soon we learned that money could not procure food, and finally Dr. Lockhart was shut out. Then we suffered most painful anxiety for Wong Ping San and other friends. Horses, mules and dogs were all eaten, and many people died of starvation.

"Prayer was offered daily by the various missionaries for the sufferers. Finally Wong Ping San escaped through a breach in the wall, leaving his family with food enough for seven days. Had he remained it would have sufficed for but four. His wife did not attempt to accompany him, lest the crying of her infant should betray them. The week following was one of most painful anxiety for all the missionaries. They constantly met half starved refugees, who brought out tales of horrible distress. On the night of February 17, 1855 (it was the Chinese New Year's eve), the rebels being

[p. 55]
demoralized, attempted to evacuate the city. Some arrangements being misunderstood, utter confusion ensued. The Imperialists, learning the situation, rushed in, set fire to the houses and captured many of the rebels. A large number escaped, but for days the less fortunate were continually seized and beheaded. On February 19, Mr. Crawford succeeded in reaching our house, finding the inmates safe, but in a state of great terror. The house had been plundered by the Imperial soldiers, but the value of the property has since been refunded, so far as we could remember what was missing. Nearly half of our books were taken, a loss not easily repaired.

"At the recapture of the city, our new mission house in the foreign settlement was just ready for occupancy. On the twentieth all four families moved into it, and will remain here until Mr. Yates' can be fitted up. We thought it best not to return to our city home this spring as we should be compelled to leave it in the summer. Besides, the city is so filthy that pestilence is apprehended. We will, however, resume our schools there, hoping hereafter to reside in that neighborhood again."

      It may be well to mention here the fate of the two rebel princes taken into the Crawford home by Mr. Roberts. Fung Amau, son of the Southern King, was a bright, amiable boy of fourteen. His cousin, Fung Asau, was a fine looking young man of eighteen, full of fire and high aspirations. Both were worshippers of the true God and hated idols. Mr. Roberts gave them religious instruction, and Mrs. Cabaniss taught Amau some English. Asau was baptized by Mr. Pearcy in the autumn of 1853, Mr. Roberts acting as interpreter during his examination. Being from the far south none of the other missionaries understood his dialect. The Red Turbans made many attempts to join the Tai Pings at Nankin, but without success because of the intervening Imperial armies. The Shanghai rebel leaders finding out Amau's rank, by flattery and many honors induced him to join their band without Mr. Roberts' knowledge. Asau was like a caged tiger. Being unable to reach Nankin, where he longed to share the destiny of his fellow-revolutionists, he worried himself into insanity. To prevent his betrayal of himself, he was taken by Messrs. Yates and Roberts into the city, and chained to a pillar in Mr. Crawford's house. On recovery he was sent to Hong Kong where he taught school for a missionary until his own death two months afterwards. Amau remained with the Red Turbans until their capture, and some of Mr. Crawford's acquaintances witnessed his beheading among many other prisoners.
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      It was several years before Mr. Roberts succeeded in reaching Nankin, having in the meanwhile taken his family to America and returned.
Go to Chapter 9

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

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