Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm seeking photographs of Calista B. Downing, Horace A. Randle and William Robert Fuller, the first Watch Tower missionaries in China.

Below is a revision of earlier material. This is the later section of a chapter entitled In All the Earth. Excuse the formatting problems:

A letter from Chefoo (now Yantai), China, was printed in the May 1883 issue. Miss Calista B. Downing, the missionary who wrote to Russell wasn’t the one to whom an issue of Zion’s Watch Tower was mailed. Instead, it was shown her “as a curiosity.” She read it carefully and with interest, explaining to Russell that she was “somewhat out of the orthodox ruts”:
If you will send me the paper I will try and get the subscription to you in some way--for, though a self-supporting missionary, I cannot quite call myself one of the “Lord's poor” to whom you offer the paper gratuitously, for Our Father has bountifully supplied all my needs, since I gave up my salary, three years ago. I think I can get a few subscribers among my friends in China, for I find not a few who are trying to reconcile the “mercy that endureth forever” with the final irrevocable doom of all who, since the fall, have died without a knowledge of the Redeemer of the world. We have no “Post-Office Order” arrangements here, else
I would send the subscription at once.[1]
Her name isn’t associated with the letter; as was most often the case the letter was published without signature. But, in 1900 another missionary and physician, Horace A. Randle, recalled:
There has been in China for years one solitary witness for the present truth, Miss Downing, of Chefoo. This lady was formerly a missionary of the Presbyterian Board and she chanced to meet with a stray Watch Tower, about the year 1883, in which she read an article on restitution, and at once decided to subscribe for the paper.[2]

C. B. Downing was viewed as a bit odd by other missionaries. “Amongst the missionaries of Shantung I am afraid Sister Downing was considered a queer old lady having some odd notions,” Randall wrote.
As with many of the early Watch Tower readers, finding biographical information on Miss Downing is difficult. A Miss C. D. Downing appears in the 1850 Census as a resident of Boston. That Miss Downing was born about 1825. I cannot state with certainty that she is the same as the missionary teacher in China.
Calista B. Downing graduated from the St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont sometime near 1846. While attending the Academy she was a member of The Excelsior Club, a literary society.[3] In 1859 and 1860 she served as a missionary to the Chickasaw and Choctaw Indians.[4] The Civil War made missionary work dangerous, and she had to leave it.[5] She was a school teacher in Red Wing, Minnesota, before becoming a missionary, and as a missionary was supported with contributions from Westminster Presbyterian Church in Minneapolis.[6] She arrived in China in 1866 as part of the American Presbyterian Mission, to help found a girl’s boarding school at Chefoo which she did by the next year.
Downing participated in The General Conference of Missionaries in China, and she was a delegate to their convention held in Shanghai May 10-24, 1877. She was associated with C. W. Mateer’s mission in Tung-Chow (now Tongzhou) and assigned to the station at Chefoo. The mission at Chefoo, “the chief foreign port of the province of Shantung” was established in 1862, the year after the mission in Tunchow.[7]
She most closely associated with Hunter Corbett and his wife, and the Corbetts saw her arrival as an answer to prayer. “During the year we were permitted to welcome Miss Downing as a member of Chefoo Station, as well as to our family. In this our prayers were answered, and we hope that she will be blessed of God in winning may souls for Christ,” Corbett wrote.[8] Calista Downing and Mrs. Corbett had worked together in the Native-American mission field in the United States.[9]
China’s population lived in abject poverty and superstition was rampant. It was heart wrenching. Probably, seeing conditions in China as they were in the mid to late 19th Century had some influence on her ready acceptance of the message of the Millennial Restitution, the restoration of an Edenic earth.
Writing to the journal Woman’s Work for Woman in 1872 she recounted some of the heart-breaking and difficult situations she met: “In my visits from home to home I see many girls growing up in sin and ignorance whom I long to get, but their heathen relatives would ‘rather they starve’ than let them come to use. Many times they reject our offers to train their girls in our school, and sell them for slaves or for worse than slaves. Poor ignorant people. They will not believe we will keep our word with them, but think we want their girls ‘to take to foreign countries or to make medicine of them.’”[10]
Two years later, another letter from Miss Downing addressed the issue of child prostitution and slavery. The letter was addressed to a group that “had undertaken the support of a child in her school.” She wrote: “This little girl was a slave bought from a bad woman who had become ill and sold this child to get money to buy medicine. I do not know, nor does she, what her father’s name was. … I have another little slave girl who is very pretty. Of her parents we know nothing.”[11]
She gave up her association with the American Presbyterian mission in China by 1894. The Directory & Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Strait Settlements, ect. for that year lists her as independent.[12] She moved from being principal of the Presbyterian girl’s boarding school to the teaching staff of Temple Hill Anglo-Chinese College in Chefoo. The educational directory that lists her as on staff says: “This school is not directly under mission control. It is self supporting. The strong religious character of the school and the establishment of similar schools in the city have somewhat retarded its growth.” With a Mrs. W. C. Booth, Downing was one of two foreign teachers. There were also six Chinese instructors.[13]
Though her most obvious missionary work was loaning or giving away Watch Tower publications and discussing the message of the impending Restitution of All Things with European and American missionaries, it is certain that her message went to her students too. A contemporary publication, The Encyclopedia of Missions, said of the boy’s and girl’s boarding schools at Chefoo: “Many have been received into the church who became interested in Christianity through what they heard from the children in these schools.”[14] So while it is true as observed by Carolyn Wah, that Watch Tower missionary activity in Asia “did not start among the Asians, but among foreign missionaries,” the push of Calista B. Downing’s activity was to reach her Chinese students.[15] Even if her contemporary missionaries and teachers saw her as a bit odd, The China Mission Handbook reported that under her care, “the school has been a great blessing to our work.”[16]
Still, her primary mission field using publications was among English speaking missionaries. Writing to Maria Frances Russell in 1887 she said: “I am giving away and lending my copies of Millennial Dawn and my papers, and any time you can send me extra copies of the Watch Tower I can use them to advantage. I expect to see a good many missionaries from other parts of the country during the summer, as this is a health resort, and I shall scatter my Towers, and lend Millennial Dawns. The last bound copy I gave away before taking the wrapper off.”[17]
Still later, in 1888, she explained her work more fully:
The Dawns reached me on the 23d of September, for which many thanks. Three of the books are now in Shanghai. The good and thoroughly orthodox Methodist sister, to whom I gave one, said, "The restitution theology is very interesting, and I am glad you have found such rest and peace in believing it." I am sure she will read the book carefully, and be benefited by it. Another book has gone into a Baptist family. And the third I gave to Rev. Dr. W., who believes in the Millennial coming of Christ, and is, I think, somewhat prepared for Dawn. One book has gone to Ching-chew-fu into the Eng. Bap. Mission. The others I shall send--one to Peking, one to Amoy, one to Tang-chon, etc. The papers also arrived in due time and will soon be scattered over China. The books ordered came by last mail, received two or three days since. Since writing the above, the Concordance and Diaglott came. I cannot thank you enough for the kind letter received at the same time. I am using my Dawn, and the others and the papers are being scattered broadcast over the land. The Rev. Bp. S. (probably Right Reverend Bishop Schereschewsky, of the Protestant Episcopal Church) has a Dawn. You may be sure I lose no opportunity to tell the glad tidings.[18]

Miss Downing is last listed as a missionary in 1903.[19] She at least died sometime before November 1918 when her will was probated.[20]
There is no practical way to measure the effects of Calista Downing’s preaching on the Chinese who were her principal interest. One would like to know if her adopted daughters maintained an interest in Millennial Dawn. There seems to be no record of them after Miss Downing’s death.
She succeeded in interesting at least two other missionaries, and perhaps more. William Robert Fuller, a Methodist minister, was one of these. I’ve found little in the way of early biography. One picks him up in London in 1864. He is married to Harriet Peachy, a practicing clergyman, and prominent enough to have been on the platform at the Seventh Annual Meeting of the Methodist Free Church Mission Society.[21]
The impetus toward a Free Church China mission came from J. Hudson Taylor who proposed the mission in the early 1860’s. Because of the Taiping rebellion, action was postponed until later. Fuller was sent out from the United Kingdom to Ningpo, (now Ningbo) China, by The Missionary Society of the United Methodist Free Churches in1864 as its first missionary.[22] A nearly contemporary account says:
The Committee considered that the time had come for making a beginning. It had reason to believe that ‘specially favourable circumstances’ presented themselves for opening a Mission in Ningpo, one of the treaty ports; and it resolved to send two Missionaries to Ningpo as early as possible. The Rev. J. H. Taylor kindly undertook to give instruction in the Ningpo dialect to the brethren who might be selected. The London Fourth Circuit recommended Mr. W. R. Fuller, who on inquiry, was thought suitable and designated to the work. He had the advantage of Mr. Taylor’s instructions; and he also became a medical student at the London Hospital, the managers of which kindly remitted the usual fees. NO second offer of a suitable kind seems to have been made, and in the summer of 1864, Mr. Fuller, accompanied by his wife and family, sailed for Shanghai, en rout for Ningpo. Mr. and Mrs. Fuller arrived safely at Shanghai; though they encountered a dreadful typhoon on their passage, and had to commit to the mighty deep the body of their youngest child, who died at sea. Mr. Fuller soon commenced preaching and conversation services at Nigpo, and was cheered by seeing some pleasing fruit of his labours. On account of serious illness, Mrs. Fuller, after a few months, returned to England with her children. Mr. Fuller remained to prosecute his work. … In conducting the services … Mr. Fuller did not preach. A native preacher delivered the address, Mr. Fuller reading the Scriptures and giving out the hymns.[23]

He opened a “dispensary” at Ningpo and ministered to health needs as well as spiritual needs.[24] Fuller returned to England in 1866, apparently to care for and collect his family, “but again went back to China, and for a time laboured at Ningpo, and afterwards at Chefoo” where he met Calista Downing. She placed Zion’s Watch Tower and Millennial Dawn in his hands. He quietly preached the new teachings and did not come to Russell’s notice until about 1892, some years after he espoused Watch Tower teaching. His letter to Russell dated March 2, 1891, appears as an appendix to The Time is at Hand, volume three of the Millennial Dawn series, and incidentally shows C. B. Downing to still be an active Watch Tower missionary in that year:
It is now several years since an apparently incidental conversation … led my good friend, Miss Downing to place a number of Zion’s Watch Tower in my hands. Above I say incidental—I will now correct myself and say providential; for this I most firmly believe it to have been, inasmuch as from that day to this I have been … truly blessed, comforted, enlightened and strengthened. …

Is it not wonderful to observe the ways and means which God, by his Spirit, has been employing … in bringing numbers of his people into a clearer understanding of Bible truths, cleansing the Word, as it were, from the dust of centuries, bringing out things new as well as old to the forefront for examination, clinching and dovetailing its various books so that it can be seen that not a single one can in anyway be done without, and causing the whole Scripture to shine forth in all its undimmed glory …

In my humble opinion, your works … furnish the very best commentaries and helps I have met with, on the Scriptures texts and prophecies relating to the second coming of our Lord. I read them again and again with ever increasing pleasure.[25]

Fuller followed Miss Downing’s lead in withdrawing form previous church affiliation. Little information exists to illuminate his separation form the Methodists. A short statement is found in one history of the Methodist mission to China, saying: “Eventually he retired from the ministry, and we understand, as subsequently practiced successfully as a medical man.”[26]
Fuller remained in Chefoo, supporting Calista Downing in her ministry. There is some slight evidence that Fuller wrote letters to other missionaries and circulated Watch Tower literature among them. In 1894 Fuller operated The Chefoo Dispensary and General Store and, though an English citizen, he served as American Vice-counsel in Chefoo.[27] His death date is unknown, but he appears to have died before 1900.
It is unclear if it is to Fuller or to Horace A. Randle that we should refer a comment found in May 15, 1898, issue of Zion’s Watch Tower: “A shipment of Dawns and tracts of nearly six hundred pounds goes to China, to a brother, a missionary there, who has recently become interested in the harvest message and who believes that he sees opportunities for some of the elect to be sealed in that far off land.”[28]
Horace Randle was another missionary to China converted through C. B. Downing’s work. Most of his history is more appropriate to another discussion since his interest came after the period of Watch Tower history we’re considering. He was born about 1855 in Chelsenham, Gloucester, England to William and Harriet Randle and was one of at least four children. His father is described in the 1861 Census Returns of England and Wales as a “corn dealer,” a grain wholesaler.
He was sent out by The China Inland Mission April 5, 1876, and arrived there on May 22nd of the same year. In March 1880 he married Ellen Boyd, also a missionary with The China Inland Mission.[29] She and her older sister Fanny Boyd arrived in 1878, and within eighteen months she and Horace Randle were married. Ellen was about three years his senior according to the 1871 Census.[30]
Randle worked hard and cautiously to make converts. He found opposition to their work pervasive among the ruling and intellectual classes in China, and he made only slow progress:
During the nine years of my work in China I have been permitted to baptize thirty-three converts. I tell you these numbers, not because I wish to boast; it is a very small number, but it may show you, perhaps, the average of a man’s work. … We have the opposition of the literary classes and the mandarins. This we found to be universal. The character of the people and their reverence for old-time customs is a difficulty. The very construction of the language is a serious difficulty, and makes it by no means easy to express spiritual thoughts to the people. But Confucianism I consider to be the greatest obstruction; although the opium traffic, I should say, is the saddest.[31]

In 1885 Randle was sent to the United States for medical training and he graduated with an M.D. His medical credentials are often listed as: “Horace A. Randle, M.D. (U.S.A)” and on that basis he was occasionally taken for an American. The listing was given in that form because the qualifications for an M.D. in the United States differed from those in the United Kingdom. After graduating from an American medical school he enrolled for similar education at Edinburgh, graduating from that program in 1888, and he and his family returned to China on November 16, 1888. In 1890 he moved to Chefoo.
He began preaching the Watch Tower message in the early 1890’s, making several trips to the United States to meet Russell and to preach. A brief article in the June 30, 1900, New York Times announced an address by him at the Harlem YMCA. By 1901 he was resident in England, the census of that year describing him as a “medical missionary preacher” associated with “Millennial Dawn Christians.”
Though associated through his medical work with a Baptist mission, he remained affiliated with The China Inland Mission. He formally resigned his association with them On April 20, 1894.
In the context of this history, the brief summary of his activity found in Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom will suffice:
Horace Randle … had his interest further stimulated by an advertisement for Millennial Dawn that appeared in the London Times, and this was followed up by copies of the book itself—one from Miss Downing and another sent by his mother in England. At first, he was shocked by what he read. But once convinced that the Trinity is not a Bible teaching, he resigned from the Baptist Church and proceeded to share with other missionaries what he had learned. In 1900 he reported that he had sent out 2,324 letters and some 5,000 tracts to missionaries in China, Japan, Korea, and Siam (Thailand). At that time it was mainly to Christendom’s missionaries that the witness was being given in the Orient.[32]

Though after accepting Watch Tower theology Randle’s focus was on fellow missionaries, his primary interest was those the missionaries taught. He saw reaching missionaries as the surest way to reach native-language converts. There is no record of any result of Randle’s Millennial Dawn teaching on his previously made Chinese converts.

[1] View from the Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1883, page 1.
[2] Randal, Horace A: Present Truth in the Far East, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 1, 1900, page 150.
[3] Fairbanks, Edward T.: The Town of St. Johnsbury VT: A Review of One Hundred Twenty-Five Years to the Anniverasry Pageant 1912, Cowles Press, St. Johnsbury, Vermont, 1914, page 238.
[4] Historical Sketches of the Missions Under the Care of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, Women’s Foreign Missionary Society, Philadelphia, 1881, pages 33-34.
[5] Smith, Harold Frederick & Charles Hodge Corbett: Hunter Corbett And His Family, College Press, Claremont, California, 1965, page 47 identifies this as the reason she left her missionary work among native Americans.
[6] School teacher: Rasmussen, C. A.: History of Red Wing, Minnesota, 1933, page 217. Church support: Fifth Annual Report of the Woman’s Presbyterian Missions of the North-West, Chicago, 1876, page 92.
[7] Records of the General Conference of the Protestant Missionaries of China, Held at Shanghai, May 10-24, 1877, Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, 1878, pages 2, 5. Survey of Missions of the Board, The Foreign Missionary of the Presbyterian Church, January 1871, page 203.
[8] Corbett, Hunter: Review of a Year’s Work at Chefoo, China, The Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, March 1867, page 59.
[9] Smith, Fredrick F. and Charles Hodge Corbett: Hunter Corbett and His Family, College Press, Claremont, California, 1966, pages 166, 185.
[10] Woman’s Work for Woman, September 1872, as quoted in Margaret E. Burton: The Education of Women in China, Fleming H. Revell Company, pages 45-46.
[11] Woman’s Work for Woman, January 1874, as quoted in Margaret E. Burton: The Education of Women in China, Fleming H. Revell Company, pages 50-51.
[12] Hong Kong, The Daily Press, 1894 edition, page 100.
[13] Nathaniel Gist Gee: The Educational Directory for China, Second Issue, Education Association of China, 1905, page 22.
[14] Bliss, Edwin Munsel, editor: The Encyclopedia of Missions, Funk and Wagnalls Company, New York, 1891, Volume 2, page 252.
[15] Wah, Carolyn R.: Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Empire of the Sun: A Clash of Faith and Religion During World War II, Journal of Church and State, January 1, 2002. The article contains several errors of fact. She identifies William T. Ellis, a noted opponent of Russell’s, as a Watch Tower representative. She dates missionary activity outside the United States to “as early as 1892,” at least eleven years after it began.
[16] The China Mission Handbook: First Issue, American Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, 1896, page 199.
[17] C.B.D.: A China Missionary Writes, Zion’s Watch Tower, October 1887, page 2.
[18] C.B.D.: The Truth in China, Zion’s Watch Tower, Febrary 1888, page 2.
[19] Protestant Missionaries in China, The Gospel in All Lands, February 1903, page 87.
[20] The China Monthly Review, Volume 6: pages 422, 503
[21] Marriage: The John Henry Hinton Photographs, Edmonton Art Gallery, 1977, page 7. Meeting: London District Missionary Activity, The United Methodist Free Churches’ Magazine, June 1864, page 385.
[22] United Methodist Free Church Missionary Society, The Christian Witness and Church Members’ Magazine, Volume 21, 1864, page 272
[23] Kirsop, Joseph: Historic Sketches of Free Methodism, Andrew Crombie, London, 1885, pages 104-106.
[24] Samuel Couling, editor: The Encyclopaedia Sinica, Oxford University Press, 1917, page 583.
[25] Letter from W. R. Fuller to C. T. Russell found in an Appendix The Time is at Hand, Millennial Dawn, Volume 3, Special Issue of Zion’s Watch Tower representing Vol. 12, No. 6, June 1891, pages 377-380.
[26] Kirsop, Historic Sketches of Free Methodism, page 106.
[27] The Directory & chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Malay States, Siam, Netherlands India, Borneo, the Philippines, &c. ; with which are incorporated "The China directory" and "The Hongkong directory and Hong list for the Far East" for 1894, Daily Press, Hong Kong, 1894, pages 97-98.
[28] Views from the Watch Tower, Zion’s Watch Tower, May 15, 1898, page 150.
[29] All the unreferenced statements in the biographical sketch of Randle are derived from a research summary prepared by David Hails, an archivist with OMF International, and included in an email sent to B. W. Schulz on November 11, 2008. OMF International is the successor to The China Inland Mission.
[30] The Boyd family is noted in Census Returns of England and Wales, 1871. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK: Public Record Office, 1871. Fanny was six years older than her sister Ellen. “In 1878 I went out to China with a younger sister, now Mrs. Randle, and we worked together for the first eighteen months or so at Gank-k’ing …. After my sister was married we went to Kiu-chau.”—Fanny Boyd in J. Hudson Taylor, editor: China’s Millions¸ Morgan and Scott, London, 1886, page 95.
[31] Horace A. Randle in China’s Millions, pages 94-95.
[32] Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, Watchtower Society, Brooklyn, New York, 1993, page 418.


Anonymous said...

Do you know "Love Tried and Triumphant, as shown in the Song of Songs: an exposition (Unknown Binding)
by Horace A. Randle (Author)"? And Future Probation. Being amplified notes of an address given at ... Hornsey ... August 11th, 1901 (Unknown Binding)
by Horace A. Randle (Author)

They are mentioned with Amazon as presently unavailable.
Ton, Holland

B. W. Schulz said...

I was aware of Randle's Future Probation. The only copy I can locate is in the UK, and I don't have access to it.

If there is anyone there who wishes to help out, I'd be very happy for the assistance.

Janie Laoshi said...

I am a relative of Calista Buck Downing. I am now residing in Beijing, China and trying to locate information about her in Yantai (formerly Chefoo). I have a picture of her. Please contact me.

B. W. Schulz said...

Dear Janie,

I would be happy to contact you, but you didn't leave an email address. You can contact me at