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The College and Missions

Published in Semi-Centennial Anniversary Beloit College 1897


     It would be strange indeed if a college, founded in the spirit and fed by the traditions of Beloit, should close its first half century without having made some worthy mark on the Missionary record of the time. Professor Emerson has told us that the college is the child as well as the mother of missionaries, both home and foreign: and that "Beloit is in the heart of our country, which is the heart of the world that is to be; and all the world is in her heart."

     Among the founders and early friends of the College were J. D. Stevens, Jeremiah Porter, O. F. Curtis, L. H. Wheeler, S. R. Riggs, and the Caswell, the Montgomery and the Richardson families, all of whom had been in the missionary work at home and abroad. Their sons are among the missionary sons of the College.

     The third class which was graduated furnished the first of our missionaries, and he preached to the Indians. This was Asher W. Curtis, of '53, who labored among the aboriginees in New York state, where his father had nobly stood before him. He is now a doctor of divinity at the head of a large institution for negroes in North Carolina. One of his brothers, Charles B. Curtis, of the class of '70, is engaged in a similar work in Alabama; another, William W. Curtis, of '70, is a missionary in Japan; their cousin, Willis Curtis Dewey, D. D., of '73, is at the head of the missionary work centered at Mardin, Turkey, while two other cousins, Alfred C. Wright, of '80, and Otis C. Olds, of '86, are engaged in the work of the Mexican mission.

     The first name of a foreign missionary upon our catalogue is that of Spencer R. Wells, of '59, who served in India until his health demanded his return, and then came back to toil a little longer and to die. He was not, however, the first upon the foreign field, for on the outbreak of the war he offered himself to his country. He left an arm at Vicksburg, and it was in that service and sacrifice for his country that he was led to the missionary service of his later life.

     The name of Francis H. Caswell, of '63, ought not to be omitted from this honorable roll, though he never reached his chosen field of Siam, to which he had consecrated himself, and where his father before him had labored. But his country called him as he finished his college course, and he fell in her service. His place in Siam was afterward filled by John H. Freeman, of '86, as that of Wells in India was filled for a period, all too brief, by Frederick H. Northrop, of '85, who died at his post in 1891.

     It is interesting to observe that the flame of patriotism and sacrifice kindled by the war just preceded the heroic years in the College missionary history. Some of our noblest representatives abroad, like Wells, Davis and Christie, were soldiers before they were missionaries. Before the soldiers had returned from the army, those who hoped to be foreign missionaries in the College had formed a circle of prayer, which resulted in the student's daily prayer-meeting, which was influential for many years in the college life. From 1866 to 1873 there was but one class that did not send its representative to the missionary field. The class of '66 gave Col. Davis to Japan; '67 gave Henry D. Porter, D. D., and Arthur H. Smith D. D., to China; and E. A. Wanless for a term of years to Bulgaria; – Mr. Wanless was one of the founders of the prayer circle and the first Beloit man to reach the foreign field, not waiting in this country for the training of the theological school. J.K. Kilbourn, of '68, went to Mexico for some years of service there, and Thomas L. Riggs followed his father in his noble work among the Dakotas. From '69 John W. Baird went to European Turkey, and James D. Eaton, D.D., to Chihuahua, Mexico; and from '70 William W. Curtis went to Japan. The class of '71 gave T.D. Christie, D.D., and the class of '73 W. C. Dewey, D. D., both to Asiatic Turkey. Two more names are added to this same mission field from the class of '77, namely, C.F. Gates, D. D., and J. A. Ainsie.

     During this decade no college furnished more men for foreign service to the American Board than our own except Amherst, and no other college gave an equal to that board but Yale.

     Of these later classes, besides those already named, D. A. Richardson, of '81, served some years in the Turkish mission to which his father had given his life; and J. E. Jacobson, of '82, is laboring with T. L. Riggs among the Dakotas. Of the twenty-two names mentioned, four should be assigned to the North American Indians, four to Mexico, seven to Turkey, two to India, one to Siam, two to China and two to Japan.

     Besides these, ought to be mentioned A. C. Walkup of Wisconsin, who studied but did not graduate here; George Ford, D. D., one of the most useful men in the Syrian mission, who took his early years of study here but graduated at Williams; William D. Alexander, President of Oahu College, a tutor for some years here; and Henry M. Riggs, who studied here before he joined his brother among the Dakotas; besides the Indians, Eli Abraham, Samuel Hopkins, James Garvey, James Lynd and John and Charles Eastman who studied here and returned to labor among their fellow Indians.

     Perhaps the most distinct Beloit missionary circle abroad is to be found in Pang Chuang, China, where are Porter and Smith of '67, "par nobile fratrum" to quote Professor Emerson again, "companions rather than competitors in study at college, and now, with their wives (also of our college circle, and one of them daughter of President Chapin) and with the sister of Dr. Porter, forming a center of grace and truth in China." There are pairs of Beloit men, however, in other fields, together, or not so far apart but they can call out to one another some cheering message through the watches of the night. But whether near or far, they carry in their hearts the spirit and temper, which the College taught them and which through all passing years and all life's changes of condition and circumstance, they cannot forget. Their letters from their fields over and again bear that witness.

     Beloit greets them with affectionate pride on her golden anniversary. They are her worthy sons, and in all the corners of the earth, whatever be the language or dialect, the accent of their speech is her accent. We cannot recount their achievements in words to-day, but the hearts of many of us swell as we think of them. They are working in formative, if not plastic periods of history. The China, Japan, Turkey and Mexico of to-morrow will not be the China, Japan, Turkey and Mexico of yesterday. And when the history of these rehabilitated empires is written, men will not forget, or if they do, God will not forget what our little group in Pang Chuang has done, what Davis in Japan, what Eaton in Mexico, what Christie and Gates and Dewey in Turkey, and what their fellows who represent this College in these and other fields have done toward the great reconstruction.

     In the historic places of the world some of them are standing. In Mosul, the ancient Nineveh, there is Ainslie, and in the home of Alexander, there is Baird, laying foundations of New Empires. In the land of Gautama there are the memory of Wells and the bones of Northrup. At the headwaters of the great river of Babylon there are Dewey and Gates, capable men, with thronged class-rooms. When the University of Edinburgh recently conferred the degree of Doctor of Laws on Mr. Gates they mentioned as the reasons for the honor – they have a way over there that sometimes might be embarrassing on this side the water, of stating the reasons for the degrees they give, – they mentioned his distinguished service to humanity during and after the Armenian massacres, as well as his scholarly attainments in three languages. And in Tarsus, birthplace of St. Paul there is Christie, president of the Institute which bears, not without reason, the name of the great apostle. From the ruined castle near by, in which Antony entertained Cleopatra, his boys are taking stones to go into the new college walls. And the pillar on which his observatory telescope rests, stands on an old Roman arch built there before the days of Paul.

     So are our Beloit brothers, well 'round the world, building new centuries upon old centuries, and replacing cruel and dark civilizations by the institutions and the enlightenment of a better day. Through them Beloit finds a voice afar off. In them President Chapin and Professor Blaisdell and their brothers of the elder days are speaking still. For the finest and most potent thing they carry is the spirit they got at Beloit, which is a spirit of consecration and of light. It will prevail, too. For Beloit herself got it from Him who is the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

NOTE.– Mr. Ellsworth Huntington, of the class which graduated in 1897, and who now is to go as the special representative of Beloit to assist President C. F. Gates, Beloit, '77, at Euphrates College, Harpoot, Turkey, should now be added to the list of the foreign missionaries of the first half century, making their number: Graduates of Beloit, 22; non-graduates, 9. Total, 31.