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RG 30/80 - Mr. and Mrs. Francis W. (Lydia Lord) Davis
Scope and Content

The papers of the Rev. Francis Ward Davis (1857-1900) and his wife, Lydia Clara Lord Davis (1867-1952), constitute an excellent source for the study of the lives of China missionaries up to the time of the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in which Francis Davis was slain. The couple's eight-year residence (1889-97) in Shansi Province as Congregational missionaries under appointment of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (A.B.C.F.B.) is well documented. The post-1900 papers relate primarily to the life of Lydia Lord Davis and her continuing service on behalf of missions and the education of women in China and Japan.

The collection is arranged into eleven records series: Series I. Lord Family Correspondence; II. Courtship Correspondence Between Lydia Lord and Francis Davis; III. Personal Correspondence (Outgoing) of Lydia and Francis Davis; IV. Personal Correspondence (Incoming) of Lydia and Francis Davis; V. Professional Correspondence of Lydia Lord Davis; VI. Diaries of Lydia Lord Davis; VII. Writings of Lydia Lord Davis; VIII. Miscellaneous Printed Materials Relating to the Shansi Mission and its Martyrs; IX. Photographs of the Shansi Mission; X. Album of Lydia Lord Davis; and XI. Files Received from John Lord Davis. Although records series were identified by the processing archivist in 1992, the original folder headings were maintained because they were established by Lydia Lord Davis and preserved in the initial arrangement completed in 1973. Headings (e.g. "Hudson relatives") are noted in Davis' hand on slips of paper which accompanied the correspondence at the time of accession and remain filed with it. Folders bear the original heading (in ink) and the new series title (in pencil). Within correspondence series, correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically thereunder.

Over half of the collection consists of correspondence arranged around five records series. Two small correspondence series, Series I, Lord Family Correspondence (1877-98) and Series II, Courtship Correspondence of Lydia Lord and Francis Davis (1889), include letters relating to the family life and courtship of Lydia Davis. Series II contains 21 letters of Francis Davis to Lydia Lord which offer a valuable psychological sketch of the suitor and aspiring missionary.

The personal correspondence (1888-1913, 1924, n.d.) of Lydia and Francis Davis, arranged around Series III, Outgoing Correspondence, and Series IV, Incoming Correspondence, constitutes the most significant correspondence in this collection. The bulk of the outgoing correspondence (1889-1906, 1924, n.d.) is written by Lydia to her parents, Eleazer (1823-1904) and Mary Lord (1844-1929) and to her brother, Louis E. Lord (1875-1957). The earliest letters (August-October 1889) describe her journey across the western United States to San Francisco and the two-month sea voyage to China. (Lydia's diary for 1888-89, housed in Series VI, provides a daily account of the trip.) Letters written during her eight-year stay in China (1889-97) detail all aspects of every-day life in Fenzhou, including the establishment of her home, sewing projects, Chinese language studies, travel, visits to other missionaries, missionary and teaching activities, and the births and deaths of her children. Also a careful observer of life in China, Francis W. Davis writes of the Chinese personality and moral system, the reactions of Chinese to foreigners, and of his grief at the deaths of his two infant sons.

A small but important body of correspondence dates fromthe two-year and seven-month furlough of the Davis family in the United States (1897-99). Francis' letters (1898) to Lydia describe his travels on behalf of the A.B.C.F.M. and his visit to his family in Massachusetts. Several letters written from Vancouver on the eve of his departure for China in September 1899 express both determination and foreboding. After February 1900, the letters make constant reference to the activities of the Boxers. Francis' last letter is dated 1900 July 31, the day of his death. In her letters to Francis (1900), some written after the massacre, Lydia wonders whether her husband is still alive.

Series IV, Incoming Correspondence (1888-1913, n.d.) of Lydia and Francis Davis, includes a significant body of letters (1889-99) written to Lydia largely by other women missionaries, most of whom were serving in nearby missions. These letters, numbering approximately 125, reveal the extent to which women missionaries depended upon one another for strength and humor. Subjects covered include daily routines, difficulties with cooks and seamstresses, their children's health, and teaching endeavors among Chinese women. Correspondents include Jennie Pond Atwater (A.B. 1888; d. 1900), Susan Rowena Bird (L.B. 1890; A.B. 1895; d. 1900), Mrs. D. H. Clapp (d. 1900), P. F. Edwards, Dr. and Mrs. James Goldsbury, Vesta Greer, Anna C. Merritt, Mary Louise Partridge (enr. 1889-93, coll; d. 1900), Eva Price (enr. 1884-85; d. 1900), D'Etta Hewett Thompson, Myrtie H. Wagner, Maggie Whitaker, Emily Whitchurch, and Alice Moon Williams (1860-1952). Eight folders of letters (1889-96) received by Lydia and Francis from the Lord family of Ravenna, Ohio, describing events at home, are also included in this series.

Additional incoming correspondence includes condolence letters (1900-01) which were sent to Lydia Davis following her husband's death. Correspondents include missionaries and friends from China; the Massachusetts and Ohio relatives; parishioners and clergy of the Leavitt Street Congregational Church in Chicago, the church which sponsored Francis Davis; Judson Smith, D. D. (1837-1906) of the American Board; and Lydia's physician Dr. Henry S. Upson (1859-1913). Official correspondence from theU. S. State Department (1900-09) includes legal documents relating to the indemnity paid to Lydia Lord Davis in 1902. Other materials relating to the Boxer Uprising of 1900 and to Francis Davis' death include photocopies of contemporary news accounts of the killings (1900) and memorial booklets for Davis and other martyrs (1901-02). These items are housed in Series VIII, Miscellaneous Printed Materials Relating to the Shansi Mission and its Martyrs.

The professional correspondence (1902, 1920-43) of Lydia Davis contained in Series V dates from the period of Lydia's residency in Oberlin, Ohio following Francis Davis' death.(Davis' administrative correspondence as Executive Secretary, 1929-41, of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association is housed with the records of that organization in Record Group 15.) Letters report on her work on behalf of China carried out prior to and during her Oberlin service. Included is correspondence with several American missionary organizations: the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1926-32), the Women's Board of Missions for the Interior (1920-31), the Commission on Missions of the National Council of Congregational Churches (1927-30), and the Kobe College Corporation (1923-31). Correspondence covers such subjects as fund-raising drives to benefit the martyrs' cemetery at Taigu and Kobe College in Japan; job opportunities with the American Board (1926-27); and plans for Lydia's public lectures on mission work in China.

The balance of the collection includes three diaries (1888-89, 1891-97, 1898-1900) of Lydia Lord Davis, which begin prior to her marriage and end with the news of Francis' death; thirty-three photographs of the Davis family and other Shansi missionaries (1889-1924, n.d.); and an album of tributes (1941) presented to Lydia Davis by O.S.M.A. on her retirement. Davis' writings, which include published and unpublished poems (n.d.), are housed in Series VII, Writings of Lydia Lord Davis, and with a later accession in Series XI. Her unpublished autobiographical account (1944), "Letters to My Grandchildren," provides biographical information not otherwise available in the collection relating to the early lives of Lydia and Francis Davis.

Series Descriptions

Series I. Lord Family Correspondence, 1877-98, n.d. (2f)

Contains letters to and from the Lord family of Ravenna, Ohio. Correspondence includes six letters (1887-88) from Lydia Lord (1867-1952) to her parents, Eleazer (1823-1904) and Mary Lord (1844-1929). A letter (1885) to Eleazer Lord from oneJ. Ross Lee describes Lydia's progress at Normal School in Ada, Ohio. Correspondence is chronologically arranged.

Series II. Courtship Correspondence Between Lydia Lord and Francis Davis, June-August 1889 (1f)

Includes two letters written by Lydia Lord and 21 letterswritten by Francis Davis. Letters date from the six-week period following the couple's first meeting and prior to their August 14 marriage. Subjects discussed include the propriety of Lydia's attendance at Francis' ordination, their expectations of Christian marriage, and their anticipation of a life together as missionaries in China. Correspondence is chronologically arranged.

Series III. Personal Correspondence (Outgoing) of Lydia and Francis Davis, 1889-1906, 1924, n.d. .8 l.f.

Mainly includes letters sent by Lydia and Francis Davis to their friends and family in America during their eight-year stay in China (1889-97). Some letters are incomplete. Largely written by Lydia Davis, they describe daily life in abundant detail. Included also are letters written by Francis to Lydia during the Davis' furlough in the United States (1897-99); Francis' last letters to his wife prior to his murder (1899-1900); and Lydia's last letters to Francis in Shansi (May to August 1900). The series also contains a small group of letters from Lydia to her friend Mrs. Lois Pickett (1894-99, 1903-06) and one letter to her mother (1924). Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, beginning with the joint correspondence of Francis and Lydia Davis. Thereunder, it is chronologically arranged.

Series IV. Personal Correspondence (Incoming) of Lydia and Francis Davis, 1888-1913, n.d. .8 l.f.

Contains correspondence received by Lydia and Francis Davis in China (1889-1900) and by Lydia after Francis' death (1900-13, n.d.). Located here are letters (1889-96) from Lydia's parents, Eleazer and Mary Lord, which often include as enclosures letters sent to Mrs. Lord by Lydia's Ohio friends. Letters (1889-99) received are mainly from Lydia's "Shansi sisters," (identified as "Missionary Colleagues" in the inventory) who included Susan Rowena Bird (d. 1900), Jennie Pond Atwater (d. 1900), Mrs. D. H. Clapp (d.1900), Mrs. James Goldsbury, Eva Price (d. 1900), D'Etta Hewett Thompson, and Alice Moon Williams (1860-1952). The post-1900 correspondence includes letters of condolence to Lydia from family, friends, and from the clergy and parishioners of Leavitt Street Congregational Church, Chicago (1900-04). Official correspondence (1900) from the U.S. State Department (ten letters) notifies Lydia of Francis' murder at Taigu. These letters are filed with five printed petitions (1909), which were submitted to the U.S. Court of Claims by Lydia Lord Davis. Additional correspondents include Judson Smith (1837-1906) of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1888-89, 1899-1903) and Dr. Henry S. Upson (1859-1913), Lydia's Cleveland physician from 1898 to 1905.

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the correspondents designated by Lydia Lord Davis and chronologically thereunder. Notes in Davis' hand, accompanying the correspondence, identify her relation to the letter-writer. The category of "Missionary Colleagues" supersedes that of "Letters sent by others" in the original box listing.

Series V. Professional Correspondence of Lydia Lord Davis, 1902, 1920-43 .2 l.f.

Includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence of Lydia Lord Davis relating to her work as a fund-raiser, lecturer, and Field Secretary for both the Women's Board of Missions for the Interior (1919-26) and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1927-32). Correspondents include officials of the A.B.C.F.M., the Commission on Missions of the National Council of Congregational Churches, the Kobe College Corporation, and the Women's Board of Missions for the Interior, Mid-West Regional Commission. The series includes Davis' final report (1941) as Executive Secretary of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association. Correspondence is alphabetically arranged by subjects designated by Lydia Lord Davis; it is arranged chronologically thereunder.

Series VI. Diaries of Lydia Lord Davis, 1888-1900 3 vols.

Volume 1 (1888-89) offers a daily account of the journey of Francis and Lydia Davis from Ravenna, Ohio to Fenzhou, China (August 27 to October 21, 1889). Volume 2 (1891-97) was begun on the death of Lydia's first newborn, December 20, 1890, and contains annual entries on the anniversary of his passing. Volume 3 (1898-1900) records the news of Francis' death, received on September 8, 1900.

Series VII. Writings of Lydia Lord Davis, [ca. 1924], 1944 (1f)

Includes an unpublished typescript of an autobiography, "Letters to My Grandchildren," (1944), and one copy of My Letters from the Orient (ca. 1924). A second copy is filed in Series XI, Files Received From John Lord Davis, together with published and unpublished poems (n.d.) of Lydia Lord Davis.

Series VIII. Miscellaneous Printed Materials Relating to the Shansi Mission and its Martyrs, 1899-1909, 1924, 1938, n.d. (5f)

Includes printed materials relating to the Shansi mission, including a booklet by Judson Smith (1837-1906), Foreign Secretary of the American Board, entitled "China, The Situation and the Outlook," (1900). Papers relating specifically to the 1900 massacre include photocopies of news accounts in The Ravenna Republican (Sept. 13, 1900) and the New-York Daily Tribune (Sept. 9, 1900). Memorials to Francis Davis include a silk banner, hand-painted with Chinese characters. This is housed separately, in Box 9.

Series IX. Photographs of the Shansi Mission, 1889-1924, n.d. (2f)

Contains photographs of the Davis family, group portraits of the Shansi missionaries, and photographs of the graves of the murdered missionaries at Taigu. The photographs are largely identified and dated on the verso. Photographs are chronologically arranged. Also, found here is a photograph of Davis' house on 284 W. College Street, Oberlin, Ohio.

Series X. Album of Lydia Lord Davis, 1941 .2 l.f.

Includes a red silk album of letters from colleagues and friends presented to Lydia Lord Davis on her retirement as Executive Secretary of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association in 1941. Loose papers found in the album and housed in a separate folder include letters from President Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1880-1966), William Frederick Bohn (1878-1947), and letters to and from Kung Hsiang Hsi (1880-1967; A.B., L.L.D. 1906) relating to Davis' retirement.

Series XI. Files Received from John Lord Davis, [ca. 1924], 1981, n.d. .2 l.f.

The provenance of these files differs from that of the remainder of the collection (see "Provenance Note" below). Included are materials received in 1980 and 1981 from John Lord Davis (b. 1896). Two folders contain ms. drafts of Lydia Lord Davis' poems and mediations (n.d.), booklets of published poems (n.d.), a second copy of My Letters From the Orient (ca. 1924), an issue of the periodical, Fenchow, vol. VI, No. 2, 1924, and a printed map of China (n.d.). One folder contains correspondence of John Lord Davis (1981) relating to Davis' disenchantment with Oberlin College.

Provenance

The bulk of the papers of Lydia Lord and Francis W. Davis were transferred to the Archives under deed of gift from William Potter Davis in 1973. Subsequent additions occurred in 1980 and 1981 from John Lord Davis and in 1987 from the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association.

Related Materials

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

30/42 Missionary Letters of C. N. Pond
38/1 Missionaries
21 Oberlin File; Section II; Folder 21 (Rowena Bird letter, 1900)
30/67 George Nelson Allen
30/76 Willard L. Beard
30/49 Paul Leaton Corbin
30/130 Everett D. Hawkins
30/26 Margaret Portia Mickey
30/145 A. Clair Siddall, M.D.
30/21 George Frederick Wright
30/58 Mr. and Mrs. George L. (Alice Moon) Williams
15 Records of the Oberlin Shansi Memorial Association

Record group 15 contains administrative correspondence (1918-38) of Lydia Lord Davis.

Library holdings, Special Collections:

Lydia Lord Davis, [Poems] [Oberlin, Ohio? 193- ] [21] p. Lydia Lord Davis, [Poems. Oberlin, Press of Tribune, 193- ] [47] p.

Main Library holdings:

Holy Bible, 1871. Call No. 220.52/1611/1871.3

(Inscribed by Francis W. Davis in September, 1899,
it includes birth, death, and marriage dates for
members of the Davis family.)

Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions relating to Oberlin are in the College Library on microfilm. A guide to the microfilm collection is housed in the Archives. There are family photographs at the rear of the volume.

 
 
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