Excerpted from Evelyn Henderson's letter to Warren Park, April 17, 1997.
My parents were with the Canadian Methodist Mission (the CMM) and their home church was in Edmonton ('Grace,' I think). Catherine was born in July 1911 and Etheridge in Dec. 1912, so they must have gone to China in 1913-at what time of year I do not know. The trip in those days from Shanghai to the centre of Szechewan (Sichuan) Province in West China, to Chengtu, was not easy. The first leg was by steamboat on the Yangtze River as far as Hankow, where the houseboat ('junk') took over. The famous gorges on the Yangtze made going upstream a hazardous business, the boats being hauled up by teams of trackers on the steep shores. How long did it take? I can only guess-weeks, maybe a couple of months.
However, Father's first project in Chengtu as a 'missionary architect and builder' was Hart College, on the West China Union University campus (WCUU). At #6 University Crescent we were born-me, 1916, Alice, 1917 and Wesley, 1920. We returned to Canada for a furlough 1920-21, and came back to Canada to stay in 1924 (landed in Vancouver on Halloween). You mention the 'litters' carried by coolies to transport the missionaries. We always called them sedan chairs-2-man or 3-man depending on the weight of the passengers. There were no railways in the early 1900's and the roads were rough. Wheeled carts were pulled mainly by men-horses were for the soldiers! My mother was not considered a 'missionary' in her own right, as she had been under the Woman's Missionary Society (WMS) in southern Alberta. She was 'the missionary's wife!' But she always had a group of 'bible women' or children to meet with and teach. Father was not an evangelical missionary, since his business was building. The United Church of Canada came into being in 1925, so all of my parents' employment was with the CMM. The University was eventually housed in 70 buildings on a campus of 154 acres, just outside the city wall. Most faculties had their own buildings-medical, schools for chemists, business, press-everything, even a church. The sponsors for the WCUU were ecumenical in the days before there was anything of that nature in Canada, US, UK or anywhere. CMM and Methodist Episcopal, American Baptist, Friends (UK) all quite separate from the Roman Catholics (who preceded the Protestants).
My father, who had had considerable education and experience as a speaker (called elocution in those days), had done some 'street preaching' when he was in South Africa (1903-1905) and before that in Glasgow. This made it more logical for him to work as 'lay' preacher for the United Church, when they were short of clergy. When I visited China in 1978, it was a time of transition. Mao Tse-tung had died in 1976, and the country was only beginning to open to foreign visitors. Our tour didn't go anywhere near Szechewan Province. Alice visited Chengtu in 1980 (or was it '81?) and specifically asked to be taken to the site of the West China Union University campus. "Not possible!" "No precedence" "No facilities," etc. It became clear later from other West China missionary kids (MKs) that the city had expanded and surrounded the campus, and the residential buildings had been divided up into many apartments. However, the university buildings are still used for education.
Before I send this letter off, I shall try to photocopy a map of 'our' part of China, with the old spellings. You will see Chengtu is on the Min River, a tributary of the Yangtze.
. . . . . . . .
The row of dots indicates that I did indeed get some photocopies of pictures in two books on Canadian Missions in China. They turned out better than I expected, and since it seems a shame to fold them, I have opted for a big envelope.
One map has Luchow marked as well as Chengtu and Chungking. We lived in Chengtu, Luchow, and Iuchow (not marked), and Etheridge and I attended Chungking School while Catherine returned to 'Canadian School' in Chengtu, because she had entered High School-not given in Chungking.
End of page-end of letter-love to you all, Evelyn
P.S. There is another city called Iuchow, on the seacoast. Our Iuchow is a much smaller city on the Yangtze.