Category Archives: Alumni & Alumnae

The First Chinese Students at Williston

By Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist (Retired)

Note: This article includes certain images that are, by 21st century standards, objectionable. They were, or should have been, similarly repugnant 150 years ago. But they are important examples of what minorities, including Williston’s first group of Chinese students, had to endure at the time. Recent national controversies have served to remind us that if we do not confront and acknowledge our mistakes, then progress is impossible.

The Earliest International Students

Williston Seminary, founded in 1841, had an international student clientele from the very beginning of its history. Among the first students to enroll were brothers Warren and J. Evarts Chamberlain, from the Sandwich Islands, now Hawai’i. They, like many students from abroad, were the children of Christian missionaries, sent home for the very practical reason that there were no secondary schools available where their parents were stationed. In the first two decades missionary children also arrived from Turkey and Syria. In the 1860s we start to see scholars from Persia and from South Asia: India, Ceylon. But East Asia is not represented at all. And indeed, one might argue whether an American living abroad, even if born there, might truly be called an “international student.” Meanwhile, the great majority of students hailed from the Northeast.

The very first “real” international student, one Sumner Bridgman, arrived in the fall of 1844, from Saint-Pie, Quebec, Canada. Not especially exotic, to be sure, but in any event, he didn’t stay long. He was followed in 1845 by compatriot Mary Pomeroy of Compton, Quebec, who had the distinction of being not only Williston Seminary’s first female international student, but also the last. (See “A Perfect Paradise on Earth.”) The first European students were William Marcussohn, of Odessa, Russia, who arrived in the fall of 1847, and Francisco Leiro, from Corunna, Spain, in 1848. The names and origins of all Williston students are exhaustively recorded in the Annual Catalogue of Williston Seminary. Unfortunately, prior to 1873, individual student transcripts (if they ever existed) do not survive, so we rarely have much contemporary detail on the lives of many students at the time of their enrollment.

The population of “true” international students started to grow in 1869-70. In the next four years the school would welcome multiple students from Denmark, Turkey, and notably, Japan. Then, beginning in academic 1875-76 and culminating in 1880-81, eleven young men from China would enroll. They attended under the auspices of a remarkable program, the Chinese Educational Mission (CEM).

[Fig. 1] A page from the May, 1877 Annual Catalogue, recording some of the Chinese students. (Click any image to enlarge.)
A Note on Sources

The history of the Chinese Educational Mission has been treated in two excellent volumes, China’s First Hundred: Educational Mission Students in the United States, 1872-1881, by Thomas E. LaFargue (1942), and Edward J. M. Rhoads’ Stepping Forth Into the World: The Chinese Educational Mission to the United States, 1872-81 (2011). Professor Rhoads made extensive use of the Williston Northampton Archives in researching the latter. Full citations for both volumes are at the end of this post. Both books are highly recommended

[Fig. 2] A color lithograph of the campus that the CEM students would have known in the late 1870s. North, Middle, and South Halls are in the foreground; the gymnasium to the rear. The Town Hall and Shop Row are opposite these buildings; the Payson Congregational Church outside the right margin.
China and the West

19th century China was largely, and by design, a society isolated from the rest of the world. Modernization – of the government, the military establishment, the educational system – came slowly. Efforts were made to limit exposure to unwelcome ideas that contradicted or distracted from centuries-old Confucian principles. Until mid-century, China had only one major international port of entry, the southern city of Guangdong (Canton). The British had used it to gain access to and influence in the interior. In a particularly cynical effort to gain leverage, Britain, whose East India Company held a monopoly on Indian-grown opium, had encouraged the use of the drug in China to create a demand for it. Opium could then be traded for Chinese silks, porcelains, and other goods much in demand in the West. This had been going on since the 1780s, but it eventually led to the First Opium War of 1839-1842. Hopelessly outgunned, China was forced to make significant concessions to Britain. A second conflict, 1856-1860, which also involved France, was even more disastrous for China. Opium was virtually legalized, ten treaty ports were established along the coast, and China was forced to move her capital to Nanjing after the British occupied Beijing (Sizer, 33-40, 48). But finally, even in the most conservative government circles, it was becoming apparent that access to Western technology, both military and industrial, was essential. This eventually led to the establishment of the Chinese Educational Mission.

The evangelical spirit of the times served only to exacerbate the situation. With European traders and soldiers came a wave of missionaries. True, there had been a handful of Christian proselytes in China since the thirteen century, but their impact was slight. This time it was different; it seemed that “the conviction of Europeans that it was their Christian duty and the manifest destiny of the people of the Occident to bring to China the fruits of western civilization was accepted without question” (LaFargue 1). As shall be seen, this dynamic would effect the CEM students in both the restrictions placed upon them by their Chinese sponsors, and the expectations made of them by their American hosts.

The Chinese Educational Mission
[Fig. 3] Yung Wing, from a portrait in Harper’s Weekly, May 18, 1878.

Yung Wing (1828-1912) shepherded the Chinese Educational Mission into being. Initially taught in a Christian mission school in Guangdong, he had accompanied one of his teachers to the United States and completed his education there, eventually graduating from Yale in 1854. He may well be the first Chinese national to obtain an American education (LaFargue, 18). While at Yale he had become convinced of the need for China to explore Western educational and technological models as alternatives to the traditional systems. Although he had taken American citizenship, he returned to China in 1854, and became a tea merchant and translator. Eventually he found himself in a position to lobby officials in the Imperial court about his idea for educating Chinese boys abroad (LaFargue 17-31). He became associated with a powerful official, Zeng Guofan (Tsêng Kuo-Fan). In 1864-65, on Zeng’s behalf, Yung went back to the United States to purchase machinery for a modern arsenal and shipyard. Zeng, who shared Yung’s passion for military, industrial, and educational reform, had substantial leverage in the Imperial court (LaFargue 24-28). Thus, in 1870, the Chinese Educational Mission was approved. Yung Wing was named one of the Governors.

[Fig. 4] Tan Yaoxun’s participation in an oratory contest. 1877.

The first task was to recruit a group of students whose parents were willing to permit them to travel abroad for several years. Ultimately, and despite a variety of challenges detailed by Rhoads and LaFargue (Rhoads 13-30; LaFargue 33-34), 120 boys, most in early adolescence and a majority from rural areas neighboring Guangdong in the South and Hangzhou in the East, were selected. Few came from the North, those only toward the end of the program. None came from the ruling Manchu families (LaFargue 34). The boys were gathered at a school in Shanghai for initial orientation and English study.

[Fig. 5] The Prize Speaking contest of 1879. which Tan Yaoxun won.

Management of the program in the United States would be by a Chinese Educational Commission (CEC), headquartered in Yung Wing’s old student hometown of Hartford, Connecticut. Yung and a Chinese scholar, Chun Lanbin, were named Commissioners. In 1871 they traveled to Hartford to make arrangements for the boys’ arrival. The students, most aged 12-14 (Rhoads 18), would come in four groups, 1872-1875. They were placed with host families in central Connecticut and Massachusetts, and divided their study time between local schools and the CEC. Following two or three years of preparatory education, each student would enroll in a public or private secondary school in the Connecticut Valley. From 1875 to 1881, eleven students from the first two groups would attend Williston Seminary. They were:

Chen Ronggui (Yung Kwei Chin), class of 1879s*, attended 1876-79
Cheng Daqi (Ta Chi Tsing), class of 1879c, attended 1876-77
Liu Jiazhao (Kia Chau Low), class of 1880c, attended 1876-80
Tan Yaoxun (Yew Fun Tan), class of 1879c, attended 1876-79
Fang Boliang (Pah Liang Fong), class of 1880c/1880s, attended 1876-80
Kuang Yonzhong (Yung Chung Kwang), class of 1879s, attended 1876-79
Wang Fengjie (Fung Kai Whang), class of 1879s, attended 1876-79
Zhang Xianghe (Cheong Cheung Woo), class of 1880s/1881c, attended 1877-79
Kuang Jingyang (King Yang Kwong), class of 1880s/1881s, attended 1877-80
Kuang Xianzhou (Ying Chow Kwong), class of 1880s/1881s, attended 1877-80
Yang Zhaonan (Siu Nam Yang), class of 1880s, attended 1877-79

(*The designations “s” and “c” following the class year denote Williston Seminary’s two curricular divisions, Scientific and Classical. Fang Boliang and Zhang Xianghe switched divisions during their times at Williston. Zhang Xianghe and the Kuang brothers appear to have transferred to later classes.)

[Fig. 6] Fang Boliang’s entry in Samuel Baxter Allis’s autograph book.
A Note on Names

For this article we have followed Professor Rhoads’ lead and rendered all Chinese names using the modern Pinyin system of Chinese transliteration, developed in the 1950s. It differed from the older and less consistent Wade-Giles system, used by Thomas LaFargue. In the 19th century there was no translation standard at all. In the list above, the names in parentheses are those that appear in the Annual Catalogue of Williston Seminary’s rosters. Chinese and Pinyin practice places the surmame first; Williston followed English convention and placed it last – most of the time. To add to the confusion, not only are LaFargue’s name renderings often different, but students’ names are spectacularly inconsistent from one catalogue to the next. Kuang Jingyang and Kuang Xianzhou appear as Kwang and Kwong in alternate years. Tan Yaoxun is rendered Yan Fun Tan and Yew Fun Tan in different volumes. Liu Jiazhou is listed three ways – Kia Chau Lew, Kia Chan Low, and Kia Chau Low, while Zhang Xianghe’s name seems miles away from Williston’s “Cheong Cheung Woo.” Happily, Rhoads has provided a table of accurate pairings (51-54).

Expectations
[Fig. 7] Kuang Yonzhong (Yung Chung Kwang), probably shortly before he entered Williston in 1876. Compare this with the debonair young graduate in Figure 12. (Thomas E. LaFargue Papers, Washington State University, Used by permission.)

CEM had very clear expectations for its young gentlemen. Once accepted into the program, they were considered to have passed the first level of civil service examinations, and were now government employees, even granted a stipend to cover clothing and travel expenses. They were to obtain American secondary educations and continue at American colleges, then return to China to share what they had learned. They were expected never to abandon their national cultural identites. This included not cutting their cues and appearing only in traditional robes (Rhoads 29-30, 148-150). The last injunction proved impractical. Not only did the boys often draw undue attention and ridicule upon themselves, but growing adolescents need new clothes. The dress code was modified so that students were required to wear Chinese clothing only when returning to CEM headquarters, or at official functions (Rhoads 149).

Continue reading

“A Perfect Paradise on Earth”

by Rick Teller '70, Archivist (Retired)

Early Coeducation at Williston Seminary

September 2021 will mark a true milestone in school history: exactly 50 years earlier, Northampton School for Girls and Williston Academy, newly merged, opened as the fully coeducational Williston-Northampton School. That story is told elsewhere (see Northampton School for Girls – and After). It wasn’t always an easy transition – a few years later, according to legend, the hyphen was legally dropped from the school’s name after a highly placed administrator, in an ill-timed jest, suggested it represented a minus sign. Times have changed, and we are preparing to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of coeducation at Williston Northampton.

Williston Seminary in 1845. (Click any image to enlarge it.)

Few, perhaps, are aware that in 1841, 130 years before the merger, Williston Seminary had opened as a coeducational school. Part of Samuel Williston’s motivation for founding the Seminary was that Easthampton had no high school. Poor eyesight had forced him to curtail his Andover education, and Williston, already on the road to becoming Easthampton’s principal municipal benefactor, must have wondered whether, had there been educational opportunities closer to home, things might have been different. Williston was also acquainted with the great Massachusetts educational reformer Horace Mann, a pioneering advocate for the education of women. (For biographical information on Samuel and Emily Williston, see “The Button Speech.”)

Samuel Williston in the 1840s (Emily Williston Memorial Library and Museum)

There are suggestions, though, that from the beginning, Samuel had misgivings about coeducation. His original inspiration had been the great English public (i.e., private) schools, notably Rugby, all of them bastions of maleness. The bylaws of Williston Seminary, published in 1845 but in effect from incorporation, stated,

From Samuel Williston’s Constitution of Williston Seminary.

When classes first convened in December 1841, there were 192 scholars, 53 of them – 27% – young women. The Seminary’s literature made it clear that young women had access to all the curricular resources of the school. The Annual Catalogue of 1844 notes,

From the August, 1844 Annual Catalogue of Williston Seminary

So far, so good. But as the passage specifies that young ladies might attend the lectures in the sciences, it implies that the “same instruction as the other scholars” was taught separately by the “Lady of experience,” regardless of the subject matter. The “Lady” in question in the earliest years was one Miss Clarissa Stacy, listed in the Catalogues as “Teacher of the French Language.” In 1844 she was joined by Miss Sarah Brackett, who had the grand title of Preceptress. More often than not, over the next two decades of staff changes, the French teacher and the Preceptress were the same person. But only rarely did the Catalogue even acknowledge that individual as Preceptress, This was the case even in 1849-50, when Samuel Williston’s adopted daughter, Harriet Richards Williston held the job. Harriet, class of 1847, had no college education, having enrolled briefly at Mount Holyoke but withdrawn. Before becoming Preceptress, Harriet had also taught French, which she’d learned from Miss Stacy, from 1847-49.

Harriet Richards Williston Clark, much later in life, with some of her children.

In all but two instances we do not know the educational backgrounds of the nine women who served as Preceptress between 1844 and 1863. Besides Harriet, two others were recent alumnae of the Seminary. But it appears that the Preceptresses, occasionally assisted by another teacher, were responsible for every facet of the girls’ education outside the sciences, regardless of qualifications. This certainly calls into question how seriously the Seminary took its claim of “the same instruction.”

Continue reading

Oldest Living Graduate Remembers (1941)

By Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist

Dwight W. Learned, class of 1866 (Wikipedia Commons)

Dwight Whitney Learned (1848-1943), a native of Canturbury, Connecticut, graduated Williston Seminary in 1866 and Yale, B.A. 1870, Ph.D. 1873.  He was a grand-nephew of Samuel Williston, his grandmother having been Samuel’s sister Sarah; that may have explained his choice of Williston to prepare for college.  Following Yale, he taught Greek and mathematics at Thayer College in Kidder, Missouri, for two years, where he was ordained in the Congregational ministry.  In 1875, under the banner of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, he went to Japan, where for 53 years he was professor of church history and theology at Doshisha University in Kyoto.  He published extensively in both Japanese and English, and contributed to a Japanese translation of the New Testament.  Upon his retirement in 1928, he was honored by the Emperor.  He settled in Claremont, California, where he continued to preach and write.

In 1941, as the centennial of Williston’s founding approached, Learned sent a typed memoir to centennial organizer Herbert B. Howe, class of 1905.  As he points out, aged 92, he must have been among the oldest living alumni.  Learned’s pages are reproduced here, with only a few annotations.  They are an interesting window into student life during and after the Civil War, and even touch on the Confederate surrender and Lincoln’s assassination.  It must also be noted that Learned’s recollections of Williston academic life, while amusing, are not altogether complimentary.  (To enlarge any image, please click on it.)

No image is known of the campus as Learned saw it in 1864. In this 1856 engraving, Middle Hall (“Old Sem”) is at center. The original White Seminary building, to its right, burned in 1857 and was replaced by South Hall. The gymnasium, with its distinctive tower, rose well behind these buildings. Of the two churches, the Payson Church (Easthampton Congregational) remains today. Samuel Williston was about to remove the First Church, at left, to make way for North Hall.

Principal Marshall Henshaw

Marshall Henshaw served as Principal from 1863-1876.   Both respected and feared by his students, of him Joseph Sawyer once wrote that “a botched translation was highway murder.”  Williston Seminary had been coeducational until 1864, when Samuel Williston constructed a new public high school for Easthampton.  The faculty mentioned by Learned, Amherst graduates all, were young men when they taught at Williston: Francis A. Walker became an eminent economist; Henry Goodell ’58 the founding President of Massachusetts Agricultural College;  Charles M. Lamson ’60 and Thomas Smith important figures on the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.  Classicist Henry Mather Tyler ’61 taught at Knox and Smith Colleges, and wrote an important history of the latter; while Marquis F. Dickinson ’58 became a distinguished attorney and, coincidentally, Samuel Williston’s son-in-law.

It is surprising to learn that in days of cleaner air and lower buildings, one could see Amherst college, eleven miles distant, from an upper story in Easthampton.  Williston students attended services at the Payson Church, next to the campus.

Adelphi was the Seminary’s debating and literary society.  Its rival, Gamma Sigma, had not yet been founded.

If, presumably, Learned is evoking the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, then he has misremembered the date, April 9, 1865 – although General Grant had indeed written Robert E. Lee on the seventh, offering to discuss terms of surrender.

Happy New Year from the Williston Northampton Archives!

 

An 1880s Williston Scrapbook

by Rick Teller '70, Williston Northampton Archivist

George B. Wardman portrait
George Wardman in his student days. (As always, please click images to enlarge.)

Consider why people keep scrapbooks.  Are a they a repository for the ephemera of one’s life, souvenirs of things that seemed important at the time?  If so, then they can be unique windows into individuals’ lives, in a particular place, at a particular time.

Among the many student scrapbooks and albums held by the Williston Northampton Archives, that of George Wardman, class of 1889, is among the older and more comprehensive.

George Benjamin Wardman entered Williston in the fall of 1885, as a member of the class of 1888.  Born in Cheyenne, WY, April 20, 1869, he was a resident of New Orleans, LA, according to the 1886 Annual Catalogue.  How he found his way from the deep South to Easthampton is not known.  To further confuse matters, his academic transcript, in contradiction to the Catalogue, claims he resided in Pittsburgh.  In any event, he arrived in the fall of 1885, bringing with him a leather scrapbook.

George B. Wardman scrapbook.The book, now in fragile condition, measures 12 x 9 inches, bound in buckram-covered boards with a leather spine.  Inside the front flyleaf is a penciled inscription: “George Wardman.  Christmas 1884.  Mama.”  George appears to have saved the book for something special; he did not begin adding to it until the winter of 1886.  The first pages contain a pasted collage of items from the 1886 Annual Catalogue, including a rosters of the faculty and George’s classmates, his first year curriculum in the Scientific Department, and what must have been the major news of the time, the appointment of a new Principal.

George B. Wardman scrapbook. Catalogue pages.
(Click on any image to enlarge.)

Here are the results of George’s entrance exams, assigning him to the Junior Middle class (“J.M.,” equivalent to the 10th grade) and initialed by Acting Principal Joseph Henry Sawyer.  Note how items have been sewn into the scrapbook with gold ribbon.  George eventually became less fastidious about this; later items were often simply tucked between pages, without sewing or the use of oxidation-prone glue.  Ironically, this has aided in their long-term preservation. George B. Wardman scrapbook. Results of placement exams.As was customary in most schools and colleges at the time, students’ physical measurements were recorded.  George’s vital statistics indicate that he was smaller than average, standing 5’3″ and weighing 102 pounds.George B. Wardman scrapbook. Vital statistics.George B. Wardman scrapbook. Vital statistics rotated. Continue reading