The Carleton-in-China Collection

Brief Historical Overview

The Carleton Mission was organized in 1903, due largely to the efforts of recently-graduated alumni Watts O. Pye and Percy T. Watson, to support missionary work "at some station in China under the auspices of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions." Within a few years the locus of that support became the American Board's Fenchow [Fenzhou] station, in Shansi [Shanxi] province--an Oberlin-supported station which Carleton was permitted first to share responsibility for, and eventually to adopt entirely, while Oberlin focused on the sister station in nearby Taiku [Taigu]. In 1907 Pye arrived in Fenchow to take up the evangelistic work interrupted at that station in 1900 by the Boxer rebellion. Two years later Pye was joined at Fenchow by three missionaries with Carleton ties: classmates Percy and Clara (French) Watson, and Miss Gertrude Chaney, who a few years later married Mr. Pye. Mission staff grew considerably, but these four were the heart of the Fenchow station until Watts Pye's untimely death in 1926.

At Fenchow the mission complex grew after 1909 to include church, schools, and hospital. Dr. Watson's hospital, as the only health agency at work in China's great northwest, was long the sole provider of hospital services to a population over one-twentieth that of the United States. Its staff was eventually to include two other doctors who were Carleton graduates, Clara A. Nutting '14 and Jean A. Curran '16. Dr. Watson distinguished himself in battles against recurring outbreaks of plague, and during his quarter-century of service at his hospital was six times decorated by the Chinese government for his work. Schools at the compound included the Ming I Middle School, schools for men's and women's adult education, a Bible Training School, grammar and elementary schools, and a kindergarten. Another Carleton alumna, Miss Josie E. Horn '11, long had charge of the Lydia Lord Davis School for Girls.

At Carleton, the Mission Board first supported a representative in China from 1904 to 1906, when Mary Reynolds '04 took up a post as tutor to the children of the Empress Dowager's family. In Fenchow, the Carleton Mission supported part of the salaries of Dr. and Mrs. Watson from 1909 to 1922, and also of three successive teachers supported in association with the Woman's Board of Missions of the Interior, Ruth W. Tolman '15, Vera M. Holmes '18, and Helen P. Gallagher '22.

In 1918, the Carleton Mission Board determined to adopt as its focus for support the educational work at Fenchow. Under the Carleton-in-China plan begun in 1922 and lasting into the 1940s, Carleton regularly sent student representatives to teach English, usually at the Ming I Middle School, usually for overlapping two year appointments. The persons sent as "C-in-C reps" were usually juniors, who returned to Carleton for a final year after their return from China. The complete list of such representatives is as follows:

C-in-C Reps

1922-25 J. Larry Krause [Carleton-supported first two years]
1924-27 Erwin A. Hertz
1926-27 Ellis C. Yale
1926-28 Sarah W. Beach
1928-29 Everett A. Sandburg
1928-30 Edward C. Rosenow, Jr.
1929-31 William J. Bakken
1930-32 Richard E. P. Youtz
1931-33 J. Stanley Stevens
1932-34 Marshall O. Eck
1933-35 Robert E. Nugent
1934-35 Justus J. Geist (unofficial)
1935-36 Bernice Brown (paid own expenses)
1935-37 Carl B. Huber
1936-39 John R. Caton
1937-39 Paul Clifford Domke
1939-42 John M. Hlavacek (stayed on longer, but not as Carleton rep)
1939-41 J. Rhodes Longley
1941-43 Thomas R. Wiener
1947-48 Fern A. Larson
1948 Philip M. Martin

The Fenchow station was, of course, always subject to the sometimes tumultuous events taking place in the world around it. In 1927, as a Chinese communist army moved into Shansi province and prepared to occupy Fenchow, all missionaries and their families, save Dr. Watson, were sent to safety in Korea. Watson was threatened with death and a suit of his clothes was burned in effigy by the communists, but, as Watson later recalled, they "became more friendly" after the hospital healed a number of soldiers and officers of various diseases. The Watson family eventually returned to the U.S. in the mid-1930s.

Following the Japanese invasion of Shansi province in 1937, the Ming I Middle School relocated a number of times, settling eventually for some while in Szechuan province--though for a period there were two Ming I schools in operation, as the Fenchow school was reopened under Japanese occupation, and for a time one of the Carleton-in-China reps was teaching in Szechuan, while the other had returned to Japanese-occupied Shansi.

World War II brought of course a major interruption in the program, and no new Carleton-in-China representative was sent between 1941 and 1947. While the program was revived in 1947 with the sending of Fern Larson to teach at YĆ¼ Ying Academy in Peking, and Philip Martin followed in 1948, continuance soon became untenable in the face of the impending Communist victory, and both Carleton representatives were evacuated home in November 1948.

After 1950, Carleton-in-China reconstituted itself, in somewhat different form, into Carleton Abroad and then Carleton in Japan.

Presidents or Chairmen of the Carleton Mission Board / Carleton-in-China Board

1903-06 James W. Strong
1906-08 William H. Sallmon
1908-09 James W. Strong
1909-22 Donald J. Cowling
1922-24 Edwin B. Dean
1925-27 Franz W. Exner
1927-32 Jacob Balzer
1932-42 Axel Vestling
1943-46 (did not meet)
1947-48 Philip H. Phenix
1949-50 James C. Flint
1950 Philip H. Phenix

Scope and Content

This is a topical collection bringing together material of varied provenance documenting the history of Carleton College's association with evangelical, medical, and educational work in China from the founding of the Carleton Mission Board in 1903 until the dissolution of Carleton-in-China in 1950. Most of the material concerns Carleton's connections with the American Board's Fenchow station, with the focus moving increasingly over time to Carleton's support of the mission's educational enterprises, most particularly that of the Ming I Middle School.

At the core of the collection are the administrative records of the Carleton Mission Board, also known successively as the Carleton-in-China Board and the Carleton-in-China Committee. Complementing these records are the papers of a number of individuals associated with the Fenchow mission either as permanent staff or as College-appointed Carleton-in-China representatives serving as teachers. In addition, the collection includes a body of material gathered by the Carleton Archives to further illustrate this history, including oral history interviews and copies of publications, news clippings, and student papers on relevant topics.

The Carleton-in-China Collection has been organized into seven sections: Carleton Administration, Contemporaneous Publications and Publicity, Personal Papers and Memoirs, Interviews, Historical Writings, Miscellaneous Files, and Photographs. Each section is further sub-divided as shown on the Container List.