Oberlin College Archives


PAPERS, 1883 (1891-1909)-1959


The papers of China missionaries Alice Moon Williams (1860-1952) and her husband, the Rev. George Louis Williams (1858-1900), document in great detail the couple's life in Shansi Province (1891-99) prior to the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in which George L. Williams died. Materials gathered by Alice Moon Williams and her daughter, Gladys M. Williams (1893-1981), provide a historical overview of the work of the Shansi Mission from 1883 to 1950.

The collection is arranged into seven records series: Series I. Early Correspondence Between George Williams and Alice Moon; II. Personal Correspondence (Outgoing) of George and Alice M. Williams; III. Personal Correspondence (Incoming) of George and Alice M. Williams; IV. Miscellaneous Correspondence of Shansi Missionaries; V. Diaries of Alice M. Williams; VI. Photographs of the Shansi Mission; and VII. Miscellaneous Historical Files.More precise records series were established in 1992, but the folder titles created during the initial arrangement in 1971 still appear in ink on the folders next to the new series titles, which are noted in pencil. The series descriptions which begin on page six of this finding aid explain the arrangement of correspondence within series.

Correspondence predating the Williams' residence in China, housed in Series I, consists of seven folders of George Williams' letters to Alice Moon written during their engagement (1890-91). Letters mainly describe George's experience as an itinerant preacher in South Dakota (July-December 1890) and his plans to become a missionary.

Although comprising less than one-half of the collection, the correspondence from China (1891-1900) of George and Alice Williams, housed in Series II and Series III, is considered the most historically valuable material because of its detailed depiction of daily life at the Taigu mission. The Williams' personal correspondence describes the hardships endured by foreign missionaries in China. The bulk of the outgoing correspondence consists of letters written by Alice to her mother, Charlotte A. Moon, her sister, Dora Moon Mykrantz (d. 1898), and her brother-in-law, Harry A. Mykrantz, all of Ashland, Ohio. Letters describe the journey to China, local foods, sewer problems, Chinese language study, religious services with Chinese women, illnesses, and the births of daughters Gladys Moon (1993-1981), Rhea Eloise (1895-1950), and Helen Marie (b. 1897). George Williams, mainly writing to his family, discusses his work at the opium refuge, his efforts to raise funds from the American Board to finance decent housing, and the antics of his children. There is a small but important group of letters written by Georgeto Alice from November to May 1900, after Alice's departure from Shanghai for the United States. The letters convey the fear and isolation of the Shansi missionaries during the months prior to the Boxer Uprising. Only two letters (May, July 1900) of Alice to George survive from this period.

Another excellent source of information about the daily lives of women missionaries in Shansi Province is the correspondence between missionaries contained in Series III, Incoming Correspondence of George and Alice Williams (1891-1913, 1920-31, 1948, 1951, n.d.) and Series IV, Miscellaneous Correspondence of Shansi Missionaries (1883, 1893-1909). A significant group of letters (1891-99) written to Alice by missionary associates in the field is located in Series III, Subseries 1. Included among the correspondents are the Rev. Dwight H. Clapp (1841-1900), Mrs. Mary Jane Clapp (1845-1900), Susan Rowena Bird (1865-1900), Lydia Lord Davis (1867-1952), the Rev. Charles W. Price (1847-1900), Mrs. Eva Jane Price (1855-1900), Jennie Pond Atwater (d. 1896), and Dr. Irenaeus J. Atwood (1850-1913). Additional correspondence from these individuals to Lydia Lord Davis is located in the Davis papers (30/80). Correspondence between missionaries (other than George and Alice Williams), assembled by Alice M. Williams in the form of extracts or transcriptions, is contained in Series IV, Miscellaneous Correspondence of Shansi Missionaries. Included are letters (1901-09) from Dr. I. J. Atwood (1850-1913) to his fellow missionaries and to Judson Smith (1837-1906) of the American Board concerning the rebuilding of the Shansi Mission, the construction of a martyrs' memorial, and the arrangement of indemnity for the surviving families.

Little record exists in this collection of Alice Williams' activities between 1900, the year of her return to Oberlin, and 1952, the year of her death. What information we have is supplied by a diary (1909-18) and notes (1912-14, 1936, n.d.), housed in Series V, and by a small amount of correspondence spanning the years 1900 to 1951. Letters written by Alice during her final return trip to China (1935-37), located in Series II, Outgoing Correspondence, pertain to visits to the Shansi schools and to reunions with friends and describe her narrow escape from North China as the second Sino-Japanese War broke out. Incoming correspondence, housed in Series III, includes letters received by Alice in the aftermath of George's death (1900-09) and in later years (1920-51). Several letters are in Chinese. Correspondents include Chi Hao Fay (b. 1879) and H. H. Kung (1881-1967), undergraduates at Oberlin College (1903-06) who boarded with "Mother Williams." Gladys Williams' letters (1920-31) to her mother describe her teaching duties at the Alice M. Williams School in Taigu.

The remainder of the Williams papers consist of photographs (1891-ca. 1951) and printed materials (1891-1950, n.d.) documenting the work of the Shansi Mission prior to and after the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. Series VI contains two groups of photographs, separately received by the Archives: those of Alice Moon Williams and those of her daughter, Gladys. Taken together, they constitute an important visual record of life in China between 1891 and the Communist takeover in 1949. Photographs depict not only the Shansi missionaries and mission compounds but also views of the Chinese countryside, villages, temples, monuments, schools, hospitals, and native inhabitants.

Research materials collected rather than created by Alice Williams are found in Series VII, Miscellaneous Historical FilesCollected by Alice M. Williams. Consisting mainly of printed materials (1891-1959, n.d.), the series is divided into three subseries. Most of the files concern the educational endeavors of the Shansi mission from 1891 to 1950. Files include minutes (1903, 1908, 1912) of meetings of the Shansi and North China Missions of the American Board; annual reports (1895-1921) ofvarious schools and mission stations; a history of the mission from 1877 to 1895; a diary account of a Chinese Christian's conversion (1891); official circulars from the American Board (1900); and six pamphlets relating to the work of the following schools: the schools for women in Fenzhou (1915) and Taigu (1921), the Alice Williams School for Married Women (1925), and the Precious Dew Girls' School (1929). Thirty pamphlets (ca. 1922-30) issued by the Women's Board of Missions of the Interior describe the work of individual women missionaries.

The Boxer Rebellion itself is documented in a second subseries by personal accounts (copies) of events surrounding the Shansi massacre (1900-01) written by Rowena Bird (1865-1900) and the Rev. C. W. Price (1847-1900). Files also contain originals and photocopies of news accounts of the massacre taken from The Shanghai Mercury, The Peking and Tientsin Times, The Chicago Inter-Ocean, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and The Oberlin News. In a third subseries, Files Relating to Events in China, 1901-59, there are newspaper articles (photocopies) on Mrs. Sun and Sun Yat-Sen (1912); an account by C. H. Fay describing events of February 1912; reports issued by the Peiping mission relating to hostilities between Nationalist and Red Army troops (1935-36, 1948); and eight published guides (1916-59) introducing the Western businessman or visitor to Chinese cultural traditions.


Series I. Early Correspondence Between George Williams and Alice Moon, 1888, 1890-91 (7f)

Contains the correspondence of George Williams to Alice Moon mainly written during the year before the couple's marriage (May 26, 1891.) Only one letter of Alice Moon survives from this period. Subjects covered include George's studies at the Oberlin Theological Seminary (1890-91); his life as an itinerant preacher in Jerauld County, South Dakota (July-December 1890); and plans for his marriage and move to China. Correspondence is chronologically arranged.

Series II. Personal Correspondence (Outgoing) of George and Alice M. Williams, 1891-1900, 1909, 1935-40, n.d. .6 l.f.

Mainly includes the letters sent by George and Alice Williams to their friends and family in America during their stay (1891-99) in China. Most of the letters are written by Alice to her mother, sister, and brother-in-law in Ashland, Ohio; they provide a detailed picture of the missionaries' daily life. Included also are George's last letters to Alice (May-July 1900) and the Rev. Charles W. Price (1847-1900), just prior to the massacre. The later correspondence of Alice Williams (1935-40) includes letters (1935-37) written to her family and Oberlin friends during her second trip to China at the time of the Japanese invasion. These letters are filed as they were received, with two passports (1909, 1935) and four letters (1938-40) from the North China Mission of the American Board in Tientsin pertaining to Mrs. Williams' travel accounts.

The outgoing correspondence was maintained as it was found, arranged into three groups of correspondents: George and Alice Williams (1891-98), George Williams (1899-1900), and Alice Williams (1899-1940). As the correspondence is not interfiled, the chronological order is inexact. Within these groupings, however, correspondence is chronologically arranged.

Series III. Personal Correspondence (Incoming) of George and Alice M. Williams, 1891-1913, 1920-31, 1948, 1951, n.d. .4 l.f.

Series III is divided into two subseries reflecting the two systems of arrangement established in 1971.

Series IV. Miscellaneous Correspondence of Shansi Missionaries, 1883 (1893-1909)-1950 .2 l.f.

Includes third-party correspondence between Shansi missionaries, which may be a file artificially assembled by Alice Moon Williams. Most letters are ms. or typed transcriptions of the original. Early letters (1883, 1884) from the founders of the Taigu Mission, Charles D. Tenney (1857-1930; B.D. Oberlin 1882) and the Rev. Chauncey Marvin Cady (1854-1925; B.D. 1881), describe the difficulties of establishing the mission and the need for assistants in the work. Of special interest is a copy of Rev. Clapp's diary letter of July 4, 1900, and a group of letters (1902-09) of Dr. I. J. Atwood (1850-1913), the only surviving member of the Shansi Mission, relating to the rebuilding of the Taigu mission after the Boxer Uprising. Subjects discussed include Chinese-Russian relations, crop disasters, famine, and financial struggles. Correspondence is chronologically arranged.

Series V. Diaries of Alice M. Williams, 1885, [ca. 1895], 1909-18, 1912-14, 1936, n.d. 2 vols., loose items Includes a volume (ca. 1895) entitled, "Copy of Reports and of Letters Written Before 1900 About Work in Shansi, 1889-91"; a five-year diary containing entries from 1909 to 1918; and loose notes made by Alice Williams on a variety of subjects, including Japanese aggression in the Far East, Chinese history, biographical notes on her missionary friends, and the Shansi mission's first decade of work. Diaries are chronologically arranged and followed by one folder of loose notes.

Series VI. Photographs of the Shansi Mission, 1891-ca. 1951, n.d. 1.2 l.f.

Includes the China photographs of Alice Moon Williams (1891-ca. 1937) and of her daughter, Gladys M. Williams (1917-ca. 1951). Most photographs are identified on the verso as to subject but remain undated. With the exception of the earliest photographs, which appear to be albumen prints, photographs are black and white and generally wallet-size. The early photographs (ca. 1891-1900) date from the period of Alice and George Williams' residence in China. They depict the Williams family, other missionaries, and the mission buildings at Taigu. Later photographs (ca. 1909-37), likely taken by Mrs. Williams during her two return trips to China (1909-12, 1935-37), show the Ming Hsien School and Hospital, rural scenes, and local customs. Gladys Williams' photographs, taken during her stay in China (1917-51), are housed in 96 envelopes which are labeled by subject. Alice Moon's photographs are filed before those of her daughter.

Series VII. Miscellaneous Historical Files Collected by Alice M. Williams, 1891-1959, n.d. .8 l.f.

Contains mainly printed materials collected by Alice Moon Williams and her family concerning the history of the Shansi Mission and internal struggles in China after the Boxer Rebellion. The series is divided into three subseries.


The papers of Alice Moon and George L. Williams were transferred to the Archives under deed of gift from Helen Williams Harvey in 1971 and from Gladys Moon Williams in 1973. A subsequent accession was received from Gladys M. Williams through the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association in 1988.


The following collections in the Oberlin College Archives contain materials relating to missionary work in China:

Additional materials are located in the student files (28) of George Louis Williams, Alice Moon Williams, Gladys Williams, Chi Hao Fay (spelled "Fei" on folder), and Hsiang Hsi Kung. For three letters (1935, 1937) of Alice Williams to William Frederick Bohn (1878-1947), see the papers of W. F. Bohn, 3/1.

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Last updated: 1 May 1996