The American Mission and Messrs Timpany and McLaurin (1867-1876)
The Baptists of Ontario and Quebec in beginning Foreign Mission work organized their society as an auxiliary of the American Baptist Missionary Union, and their first missionaries, Messrs Timpany and McLaurin, gave the early years of their service to the American Telugu Mission at the well-known stations Ramapatam and Ongole. It will be interesting therefore to look at the pioneer work connected with the early years of the American Mission as well as the work done by our two Canadian missionaries, before we take up the opening of our own Mission at Cocanada.
Rev Amos Sutton, of Orissa, was the man who advised American Baptists to enter the Telugu field. He was connected with the General Baptists of England. Having married the widow of an American Baptist Missionary in Burma, he visited America in 1835 partly because of her ill health, and partly for the purpose of enlisting the Freewill Baptists in his work in India.
Rev Samuel S Day, who was a native of Ontario, was the first Baptist missionary to the Telugus. He and Mrs Day sailed from Boston September 22nd, 1835, and arrived at Calcutta February 5th, 1836. From there they went to Vizagapatam, where they were received kindly by the missionaries of the London Missionary Society. This Society established the first Protestant mission among the Telugus in 1805. By 1818 a Telugu version of the New Testament had been prepared and published, and a rough translation of the Old Testament had been made. From 1832 on for two or three years Vizagapatam was without a missionary, but in 1835 Rev J W Gordon arrived with his wife, and later in the year Rev E Porter and his wife. In 1836 the first Protestant chapel among the Telugus was built. A press was set up, from which were issued a revised version of the Telugu New Testament and portions of the Old Testament as well as thousands of copies of tracts, and elementary school-books, the Pilgrim's Progress, the Peep of Day, and other literature, all prepared by the missionaries of Vizagapatam.
After a few months Mr and Mrs Day removed to Chicacole, about seventy miles up the coast, where they did some work. Josiah Burder, who became Mr McLaurin's helper at Cocanada, was a pupil in Mrs Day's school, where he first felt a drawing toward the gospel. Within a year the missionaries removed to Madras, where they remained three years, during which Mr Day made extensive tours into the Telugu country. Finding that there was not a single missionary in all the region between Madras and Vizagapatam, he decided to remove to Nellore about one hundred and ten miles up the coast, where he and his family arrived February 26th, 1840. They were joined here by Mr Van Husen and wife from America who arrived in Madras in March. The first Telugu convert of the Mission, Venkappa by name, was baptized in the Pennar river in September, 1841. In 1845 Mr Van Husen's health failed to such an extent that he and his wife were compelled to leave India. He was never able to return. The following year Mr Day's health became so poor that he too had to leave with his family.
At the annual meeting of the Missionary Union in 1848 the question of abandoning the Telugu Mission was discussed. It was decided to continue it, and in October, Mr Day sailed for India accompanied by Rev Lyman Jewett and wife, and arrived at Nellore in the following March. Mrs Jewett began a girls' boarding school in which Julia, who grew up to be a great helper, was a pupil. She was baptized in March, 1852. In 1853 the question of abandoning the Mission was again discussed at the annual meetings, which were held at Albany. It was at this time that a reference to Nellore as the 'Lone Star' Mission led Dr S F Smith to write the poem entitled: 'The Lone Star.' The first and last stanzas are as follows:
Shine on, 'Lone Star'! Thy radiance bright
Shall spread o'er all the eastern sky;
Morn breaks apace from gloom and night:
Shine on and bless the pilgrim's eye!
Shine on, 'Lone Star'! till earth redeemed
In dust shall bid its idols fall;
And thousands, where thy radiance beamed,
Shall 'crown the Saviour Lord of all.'
It was unanimously resolved to reinforce the Mission. Meanwhile Mr Day's health failed again and he left India in 1853 for the last time.
Toward the end of this year Mr and Mrs Jewett with a few Telugu helpers made a tour to the north as far as Guntur. Five or six days were spent in preaching the gospel at Ongole. According to their custom of beginning the new year with a prayer meeting they decided to hold such a meeting on the top of a hill overlooking Ongole on the morning of New Year's Day (1854). In his history of the Mission Mr Downie gives Julia's account of this memorable meeting, at which she was present. She says, 'I carried a stool, and Ruth carried a mat, and when we reached the top of the hill we all sat down. First we sang a hymn and Father Jewett prayed, then Christian Nursu prayed, then father read a portion of Isaiah, 52nd Chapter. 'How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.' Then mother Jewett prayed, then I prayed, and then Ruth prayed. When Father Jewett prayed I remember he said, 'As the sun is now about to rise and shine upon the earth, so may the Sun of righteousness arise quickly and shine upon this dark land.' After we had all prayed, Father Jewett stood up, and stretching out his hand said: 'Do you see that rising piece of ground yonder all covered over with prickly pear (cactus)? Would you not like that spot for our Mission bungalow, and all this land to become Christian? Well, Nursu, Julia, that day will come!' Then we all spoke our minds, and just as the meeting closed, the sun rose. It seemed as if the Holy Spirit had lifted us above the world, and our hearts were filled with thanksgiving to the Lord.' The hill, where these earnest prayers were offered, has long been known to many as Prayer-meeting hill.
In October, 1854, Mr and Mrs Douglass sailed from Boston and reached Nellore early in the following year. About this time Kanakiah, who became the first ordained pastor of the Mission, was baptized. He was married to Julia in August, 1856, and was ordained in December, 1861. In 1855 the missionaries sent a very earnest appeal for reinforcement, but the reply was distressing. In 1860 Mr Jewett and family and Kanakiah spent a few months in Ongole, and negotiations were begun for the purchase of the house and land which became the Mission bungalow and compound. The land was the very site pointed out by Mr Jewett six years before at the prayer-meeting on the hill. A gentleman had built a house on it in the meantime, and Mr Jewett now agreed to purchase both land and house though he had no money for this object and did not know of a man to occupy the place for the Mission. Mr Jewett asked the Lord for the money and then wrote to a friend in America about it. The latter had a sum of money which he wished to give, and which proved just sufficient for the need.
After thirteen years of earnest and faithful work Mr Jewett's health failed in 1862, and he was compelled to leave India with his family. This was a great grief to him. He said that the trial of leaving home in the first place was less than nothing compared with that of leaving the Mission field to return home. Mr Douglass was left alone in charge of the work. In 1863 he baptized four converts and in April, 1865, he left for America after baptizing several converts among the pupils in his schools. He did not return to India.
At the annual meeting of the Missionary Union held in Providence in 1862 the question of abandoning the Telugu Mission was discussed for the third and last time. The secretary, Dr Warren, urged that the decision be deferred till Mr Jewett's arrival. The latter told the Executive Committee that if the Union declined to aid him, he would go back alone and live, and if need be die, among the Telugus. They decided to send him back and and a new man with him. Accompanied by Mr and Mrs Clough he sailed from Boston in November, 1864, and reached Nellore April 22nd, 1865. Mrs Jewett remained in America for another year. An urgent appeal was sent for two more men, one for Allur, eighteen miles north of Nellore, and the other for Ramapatam, forty-five miles north of Nellore. Mr Clough had been designated to Ongole.
In March, 1866, Mr and Mrs Jewett, Mr Clough and Kanakiah went to Ongole chiefly to meet Periah who wanted to be baptized. In relating his experience he said: 'Four years ago I went north to Ellore, and there heard for the first time the gospel from Mr Alexander of the Church Mission. After that I went to Palakol and heard from Mr Bowden, and saw the native Christians. After my return the Lord enlightened my mind, and I began labouring for the conversion of my family. After eighteen months my wife was converted and several others were awakened.' His wife told the story of her conversion in the same spirit of simplicity and faith and love. Mr Jewett said that these were some of the happiest moments of his life. He was ready to baptize them at once. These two were the first converts from the Madigas, the class from which nearly all of the Ongole Christians have come.
Periah made the most of his opportunity on that occasion to learn all he could about the new religion, for he was anxious to witness for Christ. In course of time he became an earnest minister of the gospel. Mrs Jewett in writing of him some years ago stated that she believed he had been the means of turning a thousand people to Christ. Two months after this visit to Ongole three Nellore preachers made a tour in the region where Periah's village, Tallakondapad, lay. They were greatly stirred by finding him far more zealous than themselves in preaching the gospel. On returning to Nellore they reported that probably two hundred people in that region were believing in Christ. From that time Mr Clough became impatient to remove to Ongole, and on September 17th, he arrived there with his family. He found plenty to occupy his time in and around Ongole, but he was anxious to see the villages especially in the region where Periah lived. Accordingly after the week of prayer in January, 1867, he started for Tallakondapad, which lies about forty miles west of Ongole and a little south of Kanigiri. Here his tent was pitched and word was sent to all the surrounding villages that he had come to visit them. The next day thirty or forty people came, who said that they had come to learn more about Jesus, but that they believed already and wanted to be baptized. Meetings were held for five days and on the last, which was January 20th, twenty-eight persons were baptized. This was the first company of Madigas to confess Christ in baptism, and hence the occasion was a notable one in view of the fact that tens of thousands have followed them. Persecution soon followed their open confession, but the Lord delivered them.
About this time Mr and Mrs Clough were called on to choose between the Madigas and the caste people. Some of the latter professed faith in Christ and asked to be baptized, but they objected to being in the same church with the Madigas who had been baptized at Tallakondapad. They were pacified when reminded that those converts were forty miles away. But in April twelve more converts came from Tallakondapad, and the question had to be settled. Retiring to separate rooms to wait upon God both had the same experience, their Bibles opening at I Cor I: 26-29. They could no longer hesitate to receive the Madigas. It is interesting to notice in this connection that the reports of the missionaries for 1907 have very much to say about the friendly attitude of the Sudras, quite a number of whom have already been baptized. Forty years have passed since the great ingathering from the Madigas began. Now the Sudras are beginning to come.
Mr and Mrs A V Timpany had the honour of being the first missionaries sent out by the Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. In fact, as recorded in Chapter XVII, Mr Timpany was the Lord's instrument in stirring up the churches to attempt something definite in foreign mission work. He and his wife left Canada on October 24th, 1867, and arrived at Madras on April 16th, 1868, and at Nellore on May 9th, after a tedious voyage from England via the Cape in a sailing vessel. They received a warm welcome from Mr and Mrs Jewett both for their own sakes and also because they represented the Baptists of Canada, whose participation in the work caused these devoted missionaries great joy. They had the great privilege of being associated with Mr and Mrs Jewett for nearly a year, and after Mrs Jewett left for America they remained with Mr Jewett for nine months more. During this time they studied Telugu and assisted in the work. On February 5th, 1870, they removed to Ramapatam, where a large compound of more than one hundred acres with two bungalows had been bought from the Government. One of the houses was converted into a chapel, and thus the work of building was avoided. A church was organized on March 26th composed of thirty-five members from the Nellore and Ongole churches. By the close of the year the number had increased to one hundred and seven. In 1871 one hundred and seventy-one persons were baptized bringing the membership up to two hundred and sixty-seven. The next year the figures were one hundred and seventy-eight and four hundred and twenty-nine. In 1873 two hundred and forty-seven were baptized and the membership grew to six hundred and seventy-five. In 1874 sixty persons and in 1875 forty-eight were baptized. At the end of 1875 there were seven hundred and sixty-four members. Thus in about six years the original thirty-five members had become more than seven hundred, the baptisms reported totalling seven hundred and seventy-four. This steady increase was due largely to Mr Timpany's faithful work in touring over the field to preach the gospel. In the early years the Christians were persecuted bitterly in some places, but the missionary always stood by them. The church at Ramapatam was taught to adopt the monthly offering plan, and during the first year the sum of 300 rupees was given.
Toward the end of March 1870, the missionaries met in conference at Ramapatam, and a resolution was adopted calling for the opening of a Theological Seminary and recommending that it be located at Ramapatam. To Mr Timpany fell the task of erecting the building to be used for this work. Mr McLaurin wrote on October 3rd, 1871, concerning it: 'The Seminary is approaching completion. It looks good and substantial and is rather comfortable-looking too. Brother Timpany has given much time and care to it, and the mode of building has saved considerable money. It would take at least 1,000 rupees more to build it by contract.' Writing on July 15th, 1872, Mr Timpany said: 'The Seminary was opened in April as we planned. The boys are doing well. I have given them a field to cultivate for their Master. Some go out every Saturday and stay over Sunday, half going one week and the other half the next week.' During the first year there were fifteen students in attendance. Mr Timpany had to care for the Seminary till January 1874.
In 1872 five houses for schools and worship were built in as many different villages. In regard to this Mr Timpany wrote: 'The Christians are stirred up to provide themselves with a place to pray. The sum that I give to help them is small, only 15 rupees per house. The church has taken this work in hand and refunded the money advanced by me on the houses. Hereafter the care of house-building will fall upon the Building Committee composed of the preachers and deacons and head men.' To understand this plan one must remember that the membership consisted of Christians living in the villages where the school-houses were being built.
Mr Timpany had some knowledge of medicine, which was a great help in securing the confidence of the people. The caste people at first refused to take medicine mixed with water, but finding that they could not get it otherwise, they soon laid aside their scruples.
At the conference of the missionaries in 1875 Mr Timpany was appointed as Dr Jewett's associate in the Revision committee of the Telugu Bible. He was well qualified for this work because he had made it his purpose from the beginning to acquire a good knowledge of Telugu,
On the 27th February, 1876, Mr Timpany left Ramapatam with his family. We can imagine to some extent the regret with which he said goodbye to the pastors and others, when we remember that he did not expect to return to that place. The work had grown wonderfully under his wise and devoted leadership, and he left with the gratitude and love of hundreds who had been blessed through his efforts. When he visited Udayagiri Hill after his return to India, the writer was present when one after another of Mr Timpany's Telugu fellow-labourers visited him and manifested the deep affection they still felt for him.
In 1869 Mr and Mrs John McLaurin were appointed to the Telugu field. They sailed from New York on December 22nd, and from Southampton for India on January 18th, 1870, going by the overland route through Egypt. They arrived at Madras on February 11th, and went directly to Ramapatam, where Mr and Mrs Timpany had settled early in the month. As both these ladies were daughters of Rev John Bates, it was a great privilege to enjoy one another's company for a year and eight months.
During the latter half of 1869 Mr Clough made two tours in the Cumbum region and baptized three hundred and forty-nine persons. In December, 1870, he made another visit to that part of his field when he was accompanied by Mr McLaurin. Although Mr Clough became seriously ill on this tour, over one hundred converts were baptized by Mr McLaurin. In 1871 he accompanied Mr Clough on three tours during which he was able to see a large part of the field, and early in November he removed with his family to Ongole. In February, 1872, Mr and Mrs Clough left with their children for America, after entrusting the great and growing work on the Ongole field to the care of Mr and Mrs McLaurin. Speaking of this Dr Downie says: 'Few missionaries are so early called upon to assume charge of a field involving graver responsibilities, harder work or the exercise of greater discretion, and fewer still could have discharged the responsible duties more successfully.
'Still the Christians did not like the prospect of parting with the only missionary they had known, and exchanging him for one whom they did not know. This spirit of dissatisfaction was manifest even before Mr Clough left Ongole, and no sooner had he gone than it broke out into open rebellion. But Mr McLaurin's discretion, firmness, patience and kindness soon convinced the people that he was their friend, and would do for them all that they could reasonably expect him or any other to do. Before the year closed the people rallied around Mr McLaurin just as they had done around Mr Clough.'
At the beginning of 1872 there were one thousand six hundred and fifty-eight members on the Ongole field living in one hundred and ninety-one villages. During that year four hundred and seventy-seven were baptized, and in the following year seven hundred and eight thus confessed Christ, bringing the membership up to two thousand seven hundred and sixty-one. The report for 1872 says that Mr McLaurin divided the Ongole field into eight districts, in each of which he stationed a preacher and an assistant. In regard to the work of the next year he wrote: 'The year began with a burst of blessing in the north which nearly surprised us, accustomed as we now are to great things from the Lord. During the first tour two hundred and seventy-seven were baptized in less than a month. The Christians are growing stronger in the Christian faith. I feel that churches ought to be established right away, though this would entail a great deal of extra labour and care on your missionaries.' On February 2nd, 1874, Mr McLaurin handed back his trust to Mr Clough, and left Ongole for Cocanada with his family about three weeks later.
In the latter part of 1876 a terrible famine began, that lasted for nearly two years and affected fifty-eight million people living in the Madras Presidency, the Bombay Presidency, the Native State of Mysore and some other Native States. The Government opened relief works for those who could work and relief camps for those who were helpless. In August, 1877, there were nearly one million people on the relief works in the Madras Presidency, while there were over one million receiving gratuitous relief.
As soon as it was evident that a famine was at hand Mr Clough and other missionaries sent out appeals to England, America and Burma, the responses to which enabled them to help a large number till organized relief began to arrive from England. This was known as the Mansion House fund, which was one of the greatest efforts of organized charity the world has ever seen. The total subscriptions received from England, Scotland, Australia and other British colonies amounted to six hundred and seventy-eight thousand five hundred and twelve pounds. A central committee was formed at Madras and local committees were organized in every district to work in connection with it. Naturally the missionaries were prominent members of these committees. At the closing meeting of the central committee in Madras an Indian gentleman said: 'On behalf of my countrymen generally, and on behalf of the distressed famine-stricken of South India especially, to whom English charity came like sweet water to men dying of thirst and enabled them to preserve themselves and their children, to rebuild their huts, to sow their fields and reap a harvest, when they despaired of living to see another - on behalf of millions of such of my countrymen I now express their most grateful thanks.' And yet in spite of all that was done, the famine was so terrible that more than three million human beings perished either directly of starvation or from diseases caused by lack of food.
It has been stated that all the missionaries were largely engaged in relief operations. In addition to the distribution of relief funds all over his field Mr Clough took a contract to cut three and one-half miles of the Buckingham canal, which the Government was constructing as a famine relief work. His object was to find employment for his Christians and other poor people. Leaving all other work for the time he appointed his preachers, teachers and colporteurs as overseers. During the intervals of rest these men gathered the people together and preached to them. Thus for months thousands of coolies were brought into close contact with Christians of their own class and with men who had preached the gospel in their villages, and also with the missionary who was trying hard to save them from starvation. The coolies were frequently changed, for some would go back to their villages with the money they had earned, and others would take their places.
All applications for baptism were refused during the fifteen months that this work lasted. On June 16th, 1878, some were baptized at Ongole and by the end of December no less than nine thousand six hundred and six converts were received.
The bi-monthly meeting of the workers was to be held on the first Sunday in July. As there was much sickness in the villages and Ongole was in an unsanitary state, Mr Clough sent word to the preachers and others to meet him at Velampilly, on the Gundlakamma river, ten miles north of Ongole. He requested them to allow only a few of the leading men to come with them. But he soon learned that the converts had waited till the preachers had started, and had then got up and followed them. When he reached Velampilly he found crowds of them there. After much prayer and consideration it was decided to baptize all who had given evidence to the preachers for some months that they were Christians, and understood the main facts of the Christian religion. The result was the baptism of three thousand five hundred and thirty-six in three days. It was at this time that two thousand two hundred and twenty-two were baptized in one day, that day being July 3rd. The baptisms took place in the Gundlakamma river. At six o'clock in the morning two ordained Telugu preachers took their places in the water, prayer was offered and the baptizing commenced. When these two became tired two others took their places, and they in turn were relieved by another two. At eleven the administration of the ordinance ceased for the noonday rest, and was not resumed till two. By five o'clock the whole company had been buried with Christ in baptism.
In less than two years another very interesting event occurred, twenty-four Telugu preachers being ordained at Ongole on April 16th, 1880. In response to a call from the Ongole church a council met at Ongole on the 14th and continued in session till the 16th. Rev D Downie of Nellore and Rev R R Williams of Ramapatam were present along with Telugu delegates from each place. The examination was close and deliberate, and occupied two days and a half. The candidates showed a knowledge of Christian doctrine that seemed surprising, especially as each one of them spoke of the time, only a few years back, when he was worshipping idols. The result was that twenty-four of the best, most experienced and successful preachers on the Ongole field were considered worthy of ordination. Several of them were men who had enjoyed the advantage of a four years' course at the Ramapatam Seminary. The ordaining prayer was offered by Rev N Kanakiah of Nellore. Yerraguntla Periah, an account of whose baptism has been given, was among those ordained.
At the close of 1882 the number of church members on the Ongole field was twenty thousand, eight hundred and sixty-five. The work was too great to be cared for from one station. It was therefore decided to divide the field and open new stations. These were at Cumbum, about sixty miles west of Ongole; Vinukonda, about sixty miles north-west of Ongole; Narsaravupet, fifty-five miles north of Ongole; and Bapatla, forty-five miles north-east of Ongole.
In 1890 another remarkable movement took place. On December 28th one thousand six hundred and seventy-one were baptized at Ongole. They had come from various parts of the field. By March 1st, 1891, the number of those baptized in this movement amounted to four thousand and thirty-seven. At Cumbum about three thousand five hundred were baptized between October and March, so that the total accessions, including those baptized on other fields, did not fall far short of the great ingathering of 1878.
In October, 1892, thirteen men, married and single, sailed from Boston to join the Telugu Mission. As soon as these men were ready for work, a further division of fields took place, new stations being opened at Kandukur, Kanigiri, Podili, Markapur and some other places.
In our account of Mr Timpany's work mention has been made of the opening of a Theological Seminary at Ramapatam. When Mr Clough was home in 1872 he secured an endowment of fifty thousand dollars. About ten years later Mr Williams, the principal of the school, secured fifteen thousand dollars for a new building. This was erected under his supervision, and is a fine, large, substantial structure of stone and teak-wood. Mr Williams received also one thousand dollars for a library for the Seminary. This institution has now over one hundred students in its classes.
A High School was opened at Ongole in May 1880, and was intended for the use of the whole Mission. When Dr Clough visited America in 1891 he presented a petition to the Executive Committee of the Missionary Union requesting that the High School should be raised to the grade of a college, and that an endowment of fifty thousand dollars should be provided. These requests were acceded to, and Dr Clough secured the sum mentioned. It was not long before classes were opened for the first and second years of the college course, and the Ongole College is still doing good work for the Mission. Other educational institutions have been established during the last few years.
Recent statistics give ninety-two missionaries, sixty-two Native Pastors and five Evangelists, seven hundred and eleven Colporteurs and Teachers, one hundred and sixty-three Biblewomen, about fifty-five thousand Church-members and a total Christian community of about one hundred and twenty-five thousand.