William Elliot Griffis.

A maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work online

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We don't know anybody."

"Well," said he, "you go and see Mr. Brown,
the missionary; he's a good fellow."

They went with fear and trembling. Mr.
Brown met them at the door with a warm wel-
come, took them into his house, which was
American enough to be homelike, and made
their hearts glad with witty stories and friendly
talks. But the climax was reached when he
opened some bottles of soda water, which went
to the right spot.

Many years afterwards, when Dr. Brown's
son Robert had enlisted in the Union army and
was taken by Colonel Bissell into his tent as
orderly, the colonel, who had been one of those

I02 A Maker of the New Orient

same boys, discovering the relationship of the
young man, told this story (not once, but often);
always ending off with the remark, " I have
tasted that soda water ever since."

Thus happily unfolding his plans, his work en-
larged grandly. He was living in high hopes of
spending uninterruptedly the greater part of his
life in China. During part of the time, for short
periods, other persons assisted him: Mr. Bonney;
Mrs. Gillespie, a Scottish lady; Dr. Happer, and
Mrs. Brown. During his last year of service his
assistant was the Rev. William A. Macy from
Yale College, of the class of 1844, ^" earnest and
promising man, who, however, soon succumbed
to pulmonary disease, dying in 1859.

Mr. Brown's high hopes of long service in
China were dashed by the failure of his wife's
health. Three children had been born in his
home, one of whom had died. At first it was
thought that careful nursing and a change of air
would restore her vigor, but it soon became evi-
dent she must return to America, if her life was
to be saved. So, regretfully, the decision was
made to start for Massachusetts. Nevertheless,
part of the school emigrated with the master, for
with the Browns went three of the most promis-
ing lads, as we shall see.

The school of the Morrison Education So-
ciety, which at first was the only educational es-
tablishment of its kind in China, receiving for a
time the undivided support of the community,

Under the British Flag 103

survived a few years longer after the departure
of Mr. Brown, and then passed out of existence.
Such a school as the Morrison, founded on the
broad principle of Christian philanthropy alone,
was overlooked, or passed by, as possessing in-
ferior claims to support. Nevertheless it was the
parent school. Instead of one, there are now
hundreds of such schools in China. The mother
died, but the children live.

In a word, the Morrison School died in the
same sense that they die who confer a more
glorious life. Just as some of our New Eng-
land towns, now shrunk to mere hamlets or ab-
sent from the map, after sending out scores and
hundreds of educated men and women to enrich
the nation at large and even the world afar, so
the school of the Morrison Education Society
ceased its life, because, as soon as China had
other ports open beside Macao and Canton, edu-
cational interests were expanded rather than
scattered. Each branch of the Christian Church
had then its own educational activities to
strengthen and develop. The results of Mr.
Brown's work were to be seen later on.

The subscription lists show a total of $100,500
collected from the beginning to 1848, the largest
donation from one person being $3000. Mr.
Brown hoped to be able to visit Europe and ob-
tain funds to maintain the Morrison School, but
in this hope he was disappointed. Arriving in
the United States during the excitement and un-

I04 A Maker of the New Orient.

certain state of affairs attendant upon the
Mexican war, he was able to collect no more
than $750. The work was carried on until 1848
by Mr. Macy. Then the calamity that Mr.
Brown had foreseen, in the atmospheric possi-
bilities, took place. A typhoon, or tornado,
having partially destroyed the school edifice,
Mr. Macy's strength proving unequal to further
demands, and subscriptions failing, the work was

The Chinese statesman Yung Wing, writing
in 1901, says: "In the schoolroom Dr. Brown
was at home. He had tact, patience, and kindly
ways. He easily won the confidence of his
scholars, by coming down to their level. There
was none of that austerity and sham loftiness
which characterize some school-teachers, who
wish to hide their shallowness and lack of peda-
gogic resources by keeping their pupils of¥ at a
distance. He was one of those rare men who
mold and shape the character of the age through
the men whom they have trained. The men
who had the privilege of the doctor's early train-
ing, though few in number, have yet all turned
out well, and have done work in after-life credit-
able to any teacher. The doctor took pride in
them, while they cherish his memory and that of
Mrs. Brown, the companion of his toil, with the
deepest gratitude and reverence."

Professor Brown at Rome Academy

Professor Brown at Rome Academy

WE Americans in the early forties had
no " Pacific Coast," as we understand
it now, and certainly no California as
yet. So the ship bearing the Browns homeward
took the old and orthodox route from China
through the Dutch East Indies, and around the
Cape of Good Hope to New York.

As the vessel drew near the homeland, in
April, 1847, the American passengers, so long
away from mothers and fathers, allowed their
thoughts to dwell on what they should have to
eat. Each one named his favorite dish, whether
in or out of season. Codfish balls, hot corn on
the cob, succotash, brown bread and baked
beans, noodles and schnitz, apple dumplings,
turkey and cranberry sauce, terrapin. Saddle
Rock oysters, canvasback duck, egg plant and
sweet potatoes — what should it be? The Chi-
nese boys, being less familiar with American
specialties of diet, had indistinct visions of what
was to come, but Mr. Brown cast his vote in
favor of baked beans. It being in New Eng-


io8 A Maker of the New Orient

land almost an article of orthodoxy to serve the
beans on the day of rest, these were, with brown
bread, in a sense synonymous with the Sabbath.
Yet the day of delectation was Wednesday.
What prospect for baked beans, and on Man-
hattan Island, too?

Leaving the ship, he came with his own family
and the Chinese boys to the house of his sister,
Mrs. D. E. Bartlett, on Fiftieth Street. How
she was prepared for such a sudden influx
of population, she could not, when writing in
1901, remember. Nevertheless, what was al-
ready in the larder was quickly set on the table
for the voyagers, hungry for land food. Enter-
ing the dining room, the educator from China
took his seat at the table, and behold, a crock of
baked beans! Surprised and dehghted, he told
the story of his inward cravings. Then, with
hearty appetite, he attacked the reminder of boy-
hood's days.

After a short stay in New York, the Browns
left for M'onson, Mass. It was a great day for
the village when he came back from " the Land
of Sinim." The three Chinese boys were in a
garb never before seen in western Massachu-
setts. A returned missionary was not as fre-
quent a sight then as at present and such very
young " Sons of Han " were indeed rarities.
The three lads, Wong Shing, Wang Afun, and
Yung Wing, made a great impression. Al-
though they were at once the " lions " of Mon-

At Rome Academy 109

son, the boys all thought they were girls. Their
long hair impressed the ladies. The average
local ** nine days' wonder " paled before such a
sensation as this that lasted for weeks. Their
caps and cues and silk coats furnished themes
for conversation in church, school, and street.
Nevertheless, the pleasing manners of the Chi-
nese boys won the hearts of the people. There
was no fear as yet of a " Mongolian " deluge,
por were the " Sand Lots " of San Francisco
then known.

The boys were lodged in the house opposite
the Brown cottage and kept steadily at work at
their studies, in order to enter the Academy.
They quickly learned to enjoy American life,
even the fun and jokes which the Yankee young
folks played upon and with them. To the end
of their lives they delighted in Yankee humor.
The gong which they sometimes struck made
an immense sensation, for nothing like it had
been seen before. Curiously enough, the imple-
ment used in China to scare the moon-swallow-
ing dragon and make him disgorge the planet
soon became an " institution " in American
hotels and railway stations, to summon hungry
guests to their meals.

After a tour of several cities making addresses
on China, and raising some money for the school
jn Hong Kong, several months of rest were de-
lightfully enjoyed in Monson, to the profit of all.
Mr. Brown and his wife impressed their neigh-

no A Maker of the New Orient

bors and townsmen as earnest people, living with
a definite aim in view and that an exalted one.
He was honored as the consecrated son of a de-
voted mother, whose ideas, particularly in re-
spect to Christian missions, had been far in ad-
vance of those of her generation. As oppor-
tunity offered, the Christian educator spoke to
pleased audiences in various places concerning
China and the Chinese. The Mexican war was
at this time occupying public attention,' though
only a few could then see that its issue, in the
possession of California by the United States,
would be the direct occasion for the opening of
Japan to missionary occupation, and to the
world's commerce.

Further labors in distant lands had been pre-
cluded by his wife's health. Until it was fully
restored he must work at home. He looked
now to Providence to open a door of usefulness
and service. He expected to settle down in the
pastorate, but the Lord opened a different door
and bade his servant enter. It was on this wise.
In 1848, on his way to Chicago to seek a field,
he stopped at Rome, N. Y., to visit a relative,
and there all unexpectedly the angel of oppor-
tunity met him, stood in his path, and showed
him new areas of endeavor. An academy of
higher learning was to be opened in the town.
A principal or master was needed. The posi-
tion was offered to Mr. Brown. It was semper
parattis with this schoolmaster from abroad,

At Rome Academy 1 1 1

and he accepted. He took his Chinese pupils
with him.

" Professor " Brown, as he was locally called,
began at once the work of organization and
teaching. In the first year there were 42 stu-
dents taking a classical course, 25 of whom were
young men and 17 young women. In English
studies there were 231 registered, loi men and
130 women, while in the primary department
there were but 37, making a total of 310 who at-
tended during the first year.

A majority of the students were from Rome,
but some were registered from Chicago, 111.;
Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and
Michigan. Nearly every town of Oneida
County had its representative. Among the
students was Hon. Lyman J. Gage, former Sec-
retary of the Treasury of the United States of

The great financier, writing April 17, 1902,

" I remember him very well as being the
head of the academy at Rome, N. Y., in about
the years 1852-53, when I was a student there.
You ask my impression of his personality. Al-
though I was quite young, he did leave a very
distinct impression upon my mind, though I did
not come close enough to know him with any in-
timacy; but he was a highly refined, cultivated
gentleman of scholarly attainments — that was
noted everywhere. This was received and ac-

112 A Maker of the New Orient

knowledged by all the students, and it is this im-
pression merely that I have carried with me
through the years."

A correspondent from Rome writes:

" The old Rome Academy was at this time
(1848), a private institution and conducted as
such. Inquiring in 1901 I could find only one
person, who remembered Dr. Brown as a genial,
warm-hearted man whose influence seemed to
be always on the right side. The old building
had a life covering exactly one-half a century, and
is now replaced by a modern twenty-five room
building accommodating something over six
hundred pupils."

During the summer vacations, besides journeys
for recreation to the Eastern States, Mr. Brown
explored the delightful lake region of central
New York, home of the ancient Iroquois Con-
federacy of the Six Nations, and redolent with
their poetry and lore. Fond of the study of
rocks and soils, he tramped over the country,
hammer in hand, in search of fossils and speci-
mens. New York contains " the Old Testament
of geology," and at Trenton Falls the book is
wide open and the pages easily read. Here he
fed his imagination and filled his wallet for the
enrichment of his cabinet. On New Year's
Days he enjoyed the fine old Dutch-American
custom of calling on his friends, on one occa-
sion making thirty-four calls.

After three years of service at Rome, the

At Rome Academy 113

Academy, as then conducted, under private
ownership and direction, not proving profitable,
Professor Brown resigned on March 31, 185 1.
He turned his thoughts to the great West, but
his Heavenly Father had work for him to do
even nearer home.

The Dutch Domine at Owasco Lake

The Dutch Domine at Owasco Lake

IT was in the spring of 185 1, at the sugges-
tion of Mr. and Mrs. E. Throop Martin —
fragrant names — that the people of the Re-
formed Dutch Church of Sand Beach, at Owasco
Outlet, near Auburn, N. Y., sent a call to Pro-
fessor S. R. Brown, whose title and affectionate
designation was henceforth, as became the pas-
tor of a Reformed (Dutch) Church, " Domine." *
He gladly accepted, for he had longed for the
pastorate and to preach steadily the gospel, as he
had done at Rome occasionally.

It was from no motives of earthly ambition or
personal ease that the returned missionary was
led to the decision. To " relieve " him " from
worldly cares and avocations," the " domine "

* Unfortunately some of our unrevised and very in-
correct dictionaries still keep in newspaper use, as if it
were correct, either as Dutch or English, the purely
Scottish term " dominie," which means " a stickit
minister," or schoolmaster only. The correct term, in
unaltered Latin, for the regularly ordained and in-
stalled pastor of a Reformed Church is Domine. The
sinister influence of the ' ' printer's devil " in American
country newspapers is sometimes seen in their printing
even our Lord's title thus — " Quo Vadis, Dominie ?"


1 18 A Maker of the New Orient

was promised a salary of $230.50 and expected
to call to resurrection an almost dead church,
and to raise the money for a new house of wor-
ship. In one sense, indeed, it seemed classic,
even idyllic, to live near Auburn, " loveliest vil-
lage of the plain," and be " passing rich at forty
pounds a year."

The Browns moved to Owasco Lake in April,
185 1, and the domine was duly installed by the
ministers of the Classis of Cayuga, according to
the impressive forms and liturgy of the Re-
formed Church in America.

To insure a living for himself and family, the
domine bought a farm of seventy acres, built a
large house upon it for his household, and re-
solved to carry on a select boys' boarding school
with pupils limited to twenty-five. For this pur-
pose he secured the Waring farm, now Spring-
side, and soon his splendid abilities as a leader
and organizer were shown in a flourishing school
by the side of a flourishing church.

In a word, he became farmer, teacher, and
preacher in one, and here he was to work for
eight years.

The necessity for a new church edifice was
soon apparent. The wooden structure reared by
the pioneers, who had come from Gettysburg,
Pa., and from New Jersey, was nearly a half-
century old. Besides being out of repairs it was
too small. So In the winter of 1852-53, Domine
Brown called a meeting of the parish to consider



Dutch Domine at Owasco Lake 119

what could be done. Under his encouragement,
the people decided to rebuild in the spring.
Three thousand dollars were raised for the pur-
pose and this sum was increased by the sale of
the parsonage property, and by gifts from
friends. He wrote to a New Haven architect
for plans, specifications, and working drawings
for an edifice in brick with stained glass of the
Norman Gothic style, with bell tower, to cost
seven thousand dollars. The general features
were planned by the domine himself. The con-
tract was given out July 5, 1854. While the
pastor gave his daily attention to the details of
the rising edifice, his wife formed the Ladies'
Sewing Society, which provided for the inside
furnishing of the building and the comfort of the

On July 26, 1855, the new house of worship
was dedicated with fitting ceremonies, the ser-
mon being by the Reverend Professor Samuel
M. Hopkins of Auburn Theological Seminary.
He had been a classmate of S. R. Brown at Yale.
He lived to be the last survivor of the class of

Domine Brown had a genius for friendship,
for raising up disciples, and firing them with his
own enthusiasms. Three ladies in his congre-
gation afterwards became notably connected
with the modern Christianization of Japan. One
was Miss Caroline Adrian, who went out at her
own charges with him to the Mikado's empire

I20 A Maker of the New Orient

in 1859, in the hope of beginning Christian work
among the native women. The time was not,
however, yet ripe for this, and she was disap-
pointed in being unable to do any considerable
work in the Sunrise Kingdom. Afterwards she
joined the Reformed Church mission at Amoy,
China, where, after a brief season of labor, she
died in 1863, ** lamented by all who knew her."

Another lady, a teacher in Mr. Brown's
school, was Miss Mary F. Kidder, the daughter
of a physician in Brooklyn. In August, 1869,
she went to Yokohama and thence to Niigata
with the Browns. She was the first unmarried
lady missionary sent directly from the United
States to Japan, and she successfully initiated
female education in the Mikado's empire.
Later she married the Rev. Edward Rothesay
Miller. After some years of earnest work at
Yokohama and in Tokio the Millers settled for
their life work at Morioka in the northern part
of Hondo, or the main island, whence in 1901
they wrote biographical reminiscences of Dr.
S. R. Brown.

Another lady was Miss Maria Manyon, who
became the wife of Dr. Guido F. Verbeck, as is
shown in the biography of " Verbeck of Japan "
— that work being dedicated by the author to

Glimpses of the domine's life of sunny toil on
the shores of lovely Owasco are afforded by
some now in mature life, who were then youths

Dutch Domine at Owasco Lake 121

growing up under his loving care. One lady at
Phelps, N. Y., recalls his mild and pleasant man-
ners and his genial and warm-hearted ways with
his people at Springside.

Another tells of his impassioned eloquence in
the sermons at the morning church services and
in the afternoons at the schoolhouses, as he
urged men to accept Christ as their Saviour.

Another writes of his being very practical in
his habits. He was as wise-hearted as Bezaleel,
the Phoenician artificer in Hebrew employ, or as
he " who rounded Peter's dome," for " Himself
from God he could not free." He helped around
the house in papering or painting a room. If
he did not like the paper, he would decorate the
room to suit himself. As Dr. Yung Wing says
of him, " He was as skillful in constructing a
piece of mechanism as in penning a sermon. In
all things the domine was a student and master
of the graces of life, and a man of taste and re-
finement. Not infrequently he enjoyed the so-
ciety of Auburn, of the theological professors
and the families of the Seminary household, and
occasionally that of the brilliant political lights
that gathered in the home of William H. Seward,
afterwards United States Senator, Secretary of
State, and traveler round the world, whose au-
dience with the Mikado in Tokio in 1870 gave
the precedent for all foreign guests thereafter."

With a lifelong passion for music, he played
the piano, organ, and violin, and composed not

122 A Maker of the New Orient

a little. At church, when the organist was ab-
sent, the domine would come down from the pul-
pit, play the hymns on the melodeon at one side
of the pulpit, and then return to preach.

As the changeful surface of the blue lake's
mirror, that reflected alike the colors of dawn
and sunset and the trailing cloud shadows, so
varied the life at Springside. News of his
father's decease on December 29, 1853, came to
him after the close of a school term. Timothy
H. Brown, the beloved parent, made a verbal
will the night before his departure, leaving
among other gifts one hundred dollars to the
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
Missions. After this bereavement his widow,
Phoebe Hinsdale Brown, came to live in the
home of her son at Owasco Outlet.

As educator, pastor, friend, or neighbor, Rob-
bins Brown was always fond of fun and jokes.
From childhood to old age, sunny mirth light-
ened much toil. One incident which furnished
the domine with one of the many stories of early
clerical life was of a couple that came to his
home to be married. After the ceremony the
groom came up and gave the minister seventy-
five cents, and then stood as if waiting for some-
thing. When asked if there was anything else
he wished to say, the new-made husband stam-
mered out, " Well, I did not know but there was
some change a-comin'." Evidently he expected
to get the job done for " five shillin'," or sixty-

Dutch Domine at Owasco Lake 123

two and a half cents. This was almost equal to
another fellow Benedict, who on receiving his
bride asked the parson:

"How much is it?"

" What do you mean? " asked the man of the
white necktie.

" I mean how much do you charge for the
job of marrying us? "

" Oh, I have no regular charge, but the law
allows me two dollars."

" Oh, then, if that's the case," blurted out the
fellow quickly, *' here's fifty cents. That makes
two dollars and a half," and he threw down a half
dollar and left.

In the report to the Classis of Domine Brown's
last year at Sand Beach, 1859, ^^e figures show
the high-water mark of the church records, that
is, 260 members of the congregation, of whom
120 were communicants, with 130 young people
in the three grades of the Sunday School.

Of the work of Mrs. Brown and those women
" who labored in the gospel " with their hands,
then and later, in the Sewing Society, it has been
written :

" Many a pastor, many an outgoing mission-
ary, many a struggling church in the West, many
a soldier of the rebellion, many a needy family at
home has seen the result of the society's efforts
with the needle, while considerable sums of
money have been raised by it and devoted to
like objects of benevolence.'


124 A Maker of the New Orient

He wrote later : " These were the most labori-
ous, wearing years of my life. I never asked the
people of my parish to increase my salary, but I
began at once to call upon them for benevojent
purposes, such as domestic and foreign mis-
sions.'* He soon found that to make people
help themselves, there is nothing like awaken-
ing in them a hearty interest in helping others.
His policy was as the River of Heaven upon soil
barren because of dryness. New life and energy
marked the congregation. Instead of depend-
ence upon the Home Missionary Society, the
church was soon raised to a condition of self-sup-
port, and even to the ability of contributing
from one to four hundred dollars yearly to the
benevolences of the Reformed Church in

A Pioneer in Woman's Higher Edu-


A Pioneer in Woman's Higher


SAMUEL R. BROWN was a pioneer edu-
cator in three lands. One of the first
men to beHeve in a first-class academic
education for girls, he worked hard to secure
also a woman's college in central New York.
Indeed, how could he help following in the faith
of his mother? This, strong even in the eigh-
teenth century, was as a dayspring of the long,
bright morning that has opened upon Vassar,
Wellesley, Smith, Holyoke, and Bryn Mawr.
With the name of Mary Lyons should be writ-
ten that of Phoebe Hinsdale Brown.

The records show that the initiatory move-
ment for the founding of Elmira College, the
first woman's college chartered as such, was at
Albany in the year 1851, in the consistory room
of the Second Reformed Dutch Church. They
also show that Rev. Samuel Robbins Brown was
one of the incorporators, chairman of the first

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Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisA maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work → online text (page 5 of 14)