Billy Graham Center

Paul Kenneth Gieser and Catharine (Kirk) Gieser- Collection 88

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biographies of Paul Kenneth Gieser and Catharine (Kirk) Gieser

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)


Transcript 1

Brief Description
Ninety-minute taped interview with Gieser; correspondence; letters to the Presbyterian Church in the United States; tapes and transcripts of autobiographical statements. Topics covered include Kenneth's conversion to Christianity, his education at Wheaton College and elesewhere, his training as a doctor, his and Catherine's work in China as missionaries at the hospital in Tsing Kiang Pu, Kiangsu province, and the Gieser's impressions of Chinese society and the Sino-Japanese War.

Collection 88
[January 9, 2001]
Gieser, Paul Kenneth (1908-1987) and M. Catharine Kirk (1910-1981)
Papers; 1934-1940, 1979, n.d.

1 Box (DC; .18 cubic feet), Audio Tape


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



Paul Kenneth Gieser was born September 9, 1908, in Highland Park, IL, to German immigrant parents, Paul and Berthe Gieser. His father came to this country at the age of fifteen in 1880, married, and moved to Highland Park in 1884. The Gieser family also included a brother, Elmer, and three sisters, Kathryn, Berthe, and Hedwig. At seventeen, Gieser experienced adult conversion in Waukegan, IL, through the preaching of Von Brook, an evangelist.

His father died in October of 1926, the year he entered Wheaton College, but he was able to continue in school, with the help of his mother, brother, sisters, and a biology laboratory assistantship. During the years at Wheaton, a "spiritual oasis," his desire to become a medical missionary was awakened, partly as a result of hearing Dr. Kellersberger, medical missionary to Africa under the Southern Presbyterian Mission Board. Also during his years at Wheaton, he and Catharine ("Kay") Kirk, daughter of a vice president of the College, became engaged. They were married on September 4, 1933, at the beginning of his senior year in medical school at Northwestern University. While at Northwestern, Gieser initiated the formation of a Bible study and devotion group which ultimately became the Christian Medical Society.

Eventually the couple responded to a cable sent to the Southern Presbyterian Mission Board from Dr. L. Nelson Bell in China requesting the services of an intern with a strong Christian motivation to be supported under the Clayton Foundation, Houston, TX. The Foundation continued to support the internship for three years, after which support was transferred to the Southern Presbyterian Mission Board.

The Giesers set sail for Shanghai from San Francisco on the Japanese ship Tilemaroo on September 6, 1934. In Shanghai, they were met by Dr. Bell and his daughter Rosa and taken to the installation at Tsing Kiang Pu, a Southern Presbyterian hospital since 1894. With a staff of six doctors, it was serving 100,000 patients a year in the 1930's. Dr. Gieser assumed administrative duties at the hospital within nine months when Dr. Bell returned to the States on furlough. Here the Giesers remained until the Japanese invasion in 1935, when they left to serve at the hospital in Taichow until word came to return to Tsing Kiang Pu. The summer of 1935 was spent in Korea visiting mission hospitals and leprosariums to observe procedures and administration. Included in that visit was Pyeng Yank Mission Station, then the largest of its kind in the world, and Severance Medical Hospital.

Subsequent Japanese occupation forced evacuation on July 5, 1937, to Kuling and the return to America of the Gieser family, which now included Richard George, born at Kuling in 1937. While in Wheaton, IL, Dr. Gieser practiced medicine for ten months with Dr. Jack Welsh pending their return to China. On October 17, 1938, they were again in Shanghai and returned to the hospital at Taichow during the period of bombing raids and Japanese occupation in the spring of 1939. In November of 1939, after their return to Tsing Kiang Pu, Charles Kenneth, a second son, was born. In the spring of 1940, Gieser became ill with malaria, pneumonia, and heart complications from which he recuperated in Japan at Lake Nojiri. On May 23, 1940, the Giesers moved to Chinkiang Hospital, where they remained until returning permanently to the United States before the beginning of the Japanese war with America on December 7, 1941. The Giesers were to have two more children, a third son, David, and a daughter, Patricia (Cooper).

Except for the six years served in China, 1934 to 1940, the Giesers lived in Wheaton, IL, where Dr. Gieser opened his medical office in 1942. In 1950, the Wheaton Eye Clinic was founded as a result of his interest in working with the eyes which developed during his medical work in China. In 1961, he purchased property on South President Street in Wheaton and started the Missionary Furlough Homes Foundation, which provides fully-furnished living quarters for missionary families during furlough years. He served as a short-term missionary in Nigeria in 1947 and in West Pakistan in 1956 and 1963. He also served as chairman of the board of trustees of Wheaton College, president of the board of directors of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, and member of the board of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

In 1981, Kay Gieser died, and a year later Dr. Gieser married Ruby Free. Dr. Gieser died in 1987.

[Note: In the Scope and Content Description, the notation "folder 1-3" means "Box 1, Folder 3"]

Scope and Content

This collection consists of a 90-minute interview, T1, conducted on August 2, 1979, by Robert Shuster in the Wheaton office of Dr. Paul Kenneth Gieser (see the tape index below); letters from the Giesers reporting to the Southern Presbyterian Mission Board in Nashville, TN, on their work in China, written between October 19, 1934, and November 1, 1936 (folder 1-1); letters written by Dr. and Mrs. Gieser from China to relatives and friends in Illinois between 1934 and 1940 (folder 1-2); incomplete notes, ca. 1978, of an autobiographical manuscript covering Dr. Gieser's youth and medical experiences in China (folder 1-3 and audio tape T2); and an autobiographical introduction and an explanation of the establishment of the Missionary Furlough Homes, Wheaton, IL, n.d., given to a hearing of the Wheaton City Council Zoning Board (folder 1-4 and audio tape T3).

The letters to relatives cover the period between 1934 and 1940. There are descriptions of Chinese customs, holidays and festivals, Gospel meetings held in prisons, the worship services at the hospital compound, the physical facilities of the hospital and living quarters, language studies and difficulties. The scope of the hospital activities includes descriptions of obstetrical cases, dental needs, Dr. Bell's medical and administrative abilities, and women's roles in missionary life. Also discussed are Bible classes and Sunday schools for Chinese nationals, problems with bandits, Japanese occupation, air raids, and refugees. Contacts with hospitals and mission stations in Korea at Seoul and Mokpo, Severance Medical Hospital, Pyeng Yank Mission Station, and the Korean churches and previous religious beliefs are also described.

The letters sent to Nashville to the Southern Presbyterian Mission Board from Tsing Kiang Puy describe the initial arrival at Shanghai in 1934, living in the home of Dr. L. Nelson Bell and his family while learning the language, beginning work in the clinic and surgery, an evangelistic meeting in a Chinese jail, Chinese festivals and city life. Other subjects covered are trips on canals, clinical experiences and language study, moving into their own home, language classes with the nurses and staff, and illness.

Pages 1-29 of an uncompleted autobiographical manuscript from about 1978 cover Dr. Gieser's reminiscence of boyhood days in Highland Park, experiences in school, and his conversion under the preaching of Von Brook in Waukegan, IL. Other topics include life at Wheaton College beginning in the fall of 1926, family adjustments after his father's death, meeting his future wife, entering Northwestern Medical School, fraternity life, and his job as camp doctor in Speculator, NY, work with slum boys, and the foundation of the Christian Medical Society. The search for the right mission field repeats material found on the taped interview, including further details of the aspects of culture shock in China, the period of Japanese bombings, problems and care of refugees in the hospital compound when occupation threatened, and life at the 400-bed hospital in Tsing Kiang Pu.

Pages 1-25, no date given, are an expanded and re-written account of incidents and cases in the hospital at Taichow; experiences during a buying trip to Shanghai; travel on the Yangtze River and canals during the Sino-Japanese War; contacts with Lit and Agnes Hansburger, itinerant evangelists; the return to Tsing Kiang Pu; obstetrical and dental cases; the retirement of Dr. and Mrs. Woods after forty years of service which began in 1894; Chinese finances; advice and experience of James R. Graham; coolie Bible classes; contacts with the head of the Japanese police and a Japanese doctor's visit; and the search of a Chinese officer in the obstetrics ward.

A brief autobiographical introduction given by Dr. Gieser to a zoning board hearing, Wheaton, IL, on an unspecified date, concerns the Missionary Furlough Homes sites in the city, located on South President Street. These were purchased in 1961 under the direction of the Missionary Furlough Homes Foundation. Mentioned as residents are Dr. Benjamin Kietzman, chief eye surgeon at Kano, Nigeria, and Dr. Norvell Christie, who worked with cataracts and plastic implants at the Presbyterian Mission of West Pakistan.

Dr. Gieser was interviewed by Robert Shuster on August 2, 1979 at the Wheaton Office of Dr. Paul Kenneth Gieser. Time elapsed in minutes and seconds is recorded to the left of the topics discussed in the interview. The index is keyed to the cassette copy and not to the reel-to-reel original. A complete transcript of the interview on Tape T1 of this collection is available.

Tape T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:30 Introduction
01:00 Childhood background, Highland Park, IL
02:00 Conversion experience at seventeen, through the preaching of Von Brook, evangelist, in Waukegan, IL
02:30 Decision to become a medical missionary; influence of Dr. Kellersberger, missionary to Africa from the Southern Presbyterian Mission Board
03:15 Exposure to mission work in China at the Cedar Lake Conference Grounds; Isaac Page
04:15 Wheaton College years; influence of teachers
05:00 Edith Torrey, daughter of R. A. Torrey
05:15 Dr. Russell Mixter
06:00 Dr. J. Oliver Buswell, Jr., Wheaton College President
06:15 Wheaton Bible Church--College Church of Wheaton student petition
08:00 Campus life, 1926-1930
09:00 Acceptance at Northwestern Medical School; academic qualifications, mission preparation
10:45 Origin of Men's Glee Club, Wheaton College; first trip out of state
12:15 John F. Walvoord
12:30 Wilbur T. ("Muntz") Nelson
13:00 Devotional life at the College
14:00 Training of College activities; literary societies (scattered tape interference)
16:00 Housing at Wheaton College (scattered tape interference)
18:45 Managerial jobs on campus
19:45 Effects of Depression years on the College
21:15 Northwestern Medical School years; life as a freshman
24:00 Origins of the group which became the Christian Medical Society; George M. Peterson; Edward B. Payne, Robert Hockman, Henry William Schweinfurth, Frank M. Pickering; Franklin A. Olson, Jonathan Seeley; origins of similar medical groups at the University of Illinois and University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
26:30 Senior year meetings at Lawson YMCA, Chicago, IL
27:30 Experiences as camp doctor, Speculator, NY
27:45 Alfred Kunz, director of Deerfoot Lodge Boy's Camp, Speculator, NY
29:00 Scope of training for service in China
29:30 Discussion of responsibilities at the Chinese Mission Hospital under Dr. L. Nelson Bell; abnormal obstetrical cases brought in by mid-wives
31:15 Background training for combining medicine, missions; language training
32:45 Marriage during the senior year at Northwestern; search for the right mission field
34:15 Contact with the Southern Presbyterian Mission Board, Nashville, TN; request to work with Dr. Kellersberger in Africa
34:45 Cable from Dr. Bell requesting intern in China; the Clayton Foundation, Houston, TX
35:30 Internship certification arranged for service in China; trip to Nashville for examinations.
37:30 Trip to China on Japanese boat to Shanghai
38:45 Confusion over pronunciation of Gieser name
39:30 Chronology of service in China, 1934-1937; Tsing Kiang Pu (Hwaiyin)
40:00 Illness from malaria, pneumonia
40:15 Early use of sulfa, restricted by lack of knowledge
41:00 Recovery period in Japan during summer months, 1940; Chinkiang Hospital, Yangtze River
41:35 Practice in Wheaton with Dr. Jack Welsh after evacuation from Kuling because of Japanese occupation, 1937
41:45 Return to reopen hospital and clinic at Taichow; return to Tsing Kiang Pu (scattered tape interference)
43:15 Dr. Bell's leadership, medical and administrative; routine of life in the compound and hospital
49:00 End of side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Recap from side 1
02:00 Relationship of Southern Presbyterian Mission Board to hospital and mission activities; Clayton Foundation support
02:15 Contacts with Russell Woods, itinerant missionary
03:00 Ray Womeldorf, neighbor missionary
03:30 Reaction to news of the Stams' murders, 1934
04:15 Vacation in Korea, summer, 1935, to visit and study mission hospitals and leprosariums; Shanghai, Japanese steerage, ferry to Pusan; stop at Mokpo, visit to leprosarium and hospital at Soonchun (scattered tape interference)
08:30 End of tape

Tape T1 - side 3
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Repeat of trip to Korea
02:30 Description of Korean countryside; churches and worshiper
03:00 Pyeng Yang Mission Station, Korea
03:15 Trip to Shanghai via ship
03:30 Evidences of value of administrative excellence, saving money and work of mission contributions
04:00 Description of difficulties of leaving China for trip to Japan during Japanese invasion, refugees on canal trip
04:30 Mr. and Mrs. Orville Yates, missionaries
06:45 Arrival at Hsin Hua, deserted "perpetual capitol"
09:00 Attempt of Japanese soldiers to requisition boat
09:30 Arrival in Taichow
10:00 Trip to Shanghai via Yangtze
10:15 Arrival in Japan, ten days
11:15 Fellowship with missionaries from Japan and China at Nojiri
11:30 Impressions of the Japanese church at that time
12:00 Questioning by Japanese police; attitude of populace toward Americans
12:45 Birth of sons Richard and Charles
13:00 Attitude of local Chinese government in areas served
14:15 Tape interference
14:30 Harassment by the Japanese; experiences in Japanese convoy through areas of guerilla warfare
15:30 Tape interference
16:45 Arrival at Soo-chin, walled city
17:30 Cholera certificates required by Japanese soldiers
18:30 Miss Lina Bradley
19:30 No contact yet with Communists
19:45 Reasons for Japanese harassment; plans to invade America, 1940
20:30 Contacts with Japanese soldiers, officers
21:15 Treatment of infected tooth for the head of Japanese military police staff
22:15 Visit of Japanese doctor; episode of his sword
23:15 Search for "wicked man," fleeing Chinese officer, in the obstetrical ward by Japanese soldiers
26:00 End of tape


Materials in this collection were given to the Graham Center Archives by Dr. Paul Kenneth Gieser on January 4, 1979. Xerox copies of written materials were made and the originals returned to Dr. Gieser. The taped interview was conducted on August 2, 1979, by Mr. Robert Shuster at the Wheaton Eye Clinic office of Dr. Gieser. Tapes T2 and T3 were received by the Archives on January 19, 1981.

Accession 79-7, 79-90, 81-8
October 8, 1980
Frances L. Brocker
R. Shuster
S. Kouns

Revised, December 7, 1981
Frances L. Brocker
J. Nasgowitz

Accession: 79-90, 81-1
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the Audio Tape file.

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4ips, 83 minutes, one side only. Interview with Dr. Paul Kenneth Gieser by Robert Shuster. Discussion of Gieser's background, conversion, education at Wheaton College, medical education, Dr. L. Nelson Bell, service in China with Southern Presbyterian Mission Board, Korea, and Japan; August 2, 1979.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4ips, one side only. "China Story"; text of autobiographical manuscript; n.d. (see transcript in folder 1-3).

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4ips, one side only. "China" and "Message to Wheaton City Council" re MFA (Missionary Furlough Homes); n.d. (see transcript in folder 1-3 and 1-4, respectively).


Box Folder Item
1 1 Southern Presbyterian Mission Board; October, 1934-November, 1936
1 2 Family, Friends; August, 1934-June, 1940
1 3 Portions of autobiographical manuscript; ca. 1978
1 4 Transcript of speech to Zoning Board, Wheaton, IL; n.d.

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