Billy Graham Center

Marion Douglas Hursh - Collection 186

[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. ]

Since we are migrating our website to a new platform, we will no longer be updating this earlier version our site. Please visit our Archon database for online guide descriptions. In early 2018, look for our new site, currently under construction, linked in the BGC Archives section on the Library and Archives page. (12/11/2017)

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Marion Douglas Hursh

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

Lists of Artifacts, Audio Tapes, Periodicals, and Photographs in This Collection (Location Records)
    Audio Tapes
List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)


Transcript 1

Transcript 2

Brief Description.
Small amount of manuscript material, photographs, and memorabilia concerning Hursh's work at the Sudan Interior Mission's Kano Eye Hospital, Kano, Nigeria, 1942-62. Also, two oral history interviews recorded in 1981 and 1982 about the Kano mission. For more information, please see guide.

Collection 186
[April 2, 2004]
Hursh, Marion Douglas; 1911-1982
Papers; 1942-61, 1981-82

1 Box (D.C.; .23 cubic feet); Photographs; Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



M. Douglas Hursh was born December 21, 1911, in Grand Rapids, MN, the son of general medical practitioner, Marion M. Hursh, and Anna M. Gooch, former Baptist missionary to Burma. He graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1929 and entered Wheaton College that autumn. While a student at Wheaton, he became a Christian in 1931 through the preaching of a guest speaker on campus and the personal witnessing of a fellow student. Hursh received a B.S. from Wheaton in 1933, and that same summer dedicated his life for missionary work while at a northern Minnesota Bible camp under the ministry of two seminarians, George Kraft (later a missionary under the China Inland Mission) and Laton Holmgren (later secretary of the American Bible Society).

In June, 1937, Hursh earned his M.D. from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and that same month, on June 26, was married to Laura Fershee, a 1935 graduate of Wheaton College from Battle Creek, MI. Hursh took his internship at Southern Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, 1937-38; worked as camp surgeon in the Civilian Conservation Army Medical Corps in Minnesota, 1938-39; and joined his father in general practice at Hibbing, MN, 1939-40. During that last year, he read A. D. Helser's Glory of the Impossible, rededicated his life to missions, was accepted by the Sudan Interior Mission, and took six months of Bible course work at Moody Bible Institute. From 1941 to 1942, he did his residency in ophthalmology at Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago.

In May 1942, Douglas and Laura Hursh sailed for Nigeria in a freighter via the Belgian Congo. Their three-year-old son David had been removed from their passports because of World War II, and was left at the SIM Gowan's Home for Children in Collingwood, Ontario. (He joined his parents in Nigeria in 1945.) The Hurshes took six months of Hausa language study in Jos before leaving for Kano in north-central Nigeria, arriving there in time for the dedication of the 25-bed Kano Eye Hospital which Hursh was to direct. In 1948, the hospital was enlarged to 55 beds, and a Bible for the blind (utilizing a braille Bible in the Hausa language) was begun for those patients whose sight could not be restored. An optical shop was built and equipped, and staffed by nationals under the training of Dr. Stanley Myers, optician and optometrist. Opposition from leaders in the heavily Muslim Kano area receded as surgical successes became well-known.

The Kano Eye Hospital was again enlarged in 1953 to 85 beds, and operations numbered 3500 per year; converts annually were counted at over 100. Leprosaria were added at Kano and at eight outstations. In 1958, the hospital added 50 more beds; the Kano SIM church built a new sanctuary with a capacity of 600; and an Evening Bible School was begun. By 1972, the hospital had grown to 175 beds, with 8500 operations performed annually.

The Hurshes' first furlough was 1946-1947, during which time there was no doctor in charge of the Kano Hospital except for a short visit from Dr. Kenneth Gieser, while Hursh covered his practice in Wheaton, IL. Dr. Richard Scheel directed the hospital when the Hurshes took their second furlough, 1951-52. Dr. Ben Kietzman joined the Kano staff at the time of the Hurshes' third furlough, 1957-58. When in America on his fourth furlough, Douglas Hursh suffered a heart attack that precluded his returning to Kano for full-time work. Between 1964 and 1972, he make five short-term visits to the Kano Eye Hospital.

Laura Hursh worked full-time in the business department of the Kano Eye Hospital and with her husband visited converts in the area and held Sunday morning roadside evangelistic meetings within a 20-mile radius of Kano, an area populated by over one million Muslims. In addition to their eldest son David, the Hurshes were the parents of two daughters, Carol Jean and Patricia Ellen, born 1946 and 1948, respectively, both in the SIM hospital at Jos. A second son, Robert Douglas, was born in 1952, at Oak Park, IL. Dr. and Mrs. Hursh were separated from their children during school terms, the SIM school being in Jos. It was necessary that David stay in Florida to attend high school when the rest of the family returned to Nigeria following a furlough in 1952.

In 1982, Laura and Douglas Hursh made their summer home in Putnam, IL, and their winter residence at the SIM retirement community in Sebring, FL.

[NOTE: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "folder 1-1" means box 1, folder 1.]

Scope and Content

This collection includes a small number of manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia items, and two oral history interviews concerning Dr. Hursh's work in Kano, Nigeria. Clippings (folder 1-1) consist of articles about the Kano Eye Hospital and Hursh's role there; the most significant of these were published in My Counsellor ( children's publication of Scripture Press) and The Sudan Witness (issued by SIM). Correspondence (folder 1-2) contains four letters, all dated 1942, in which Hursh discusses their departure to Africa, medical work in Nigeria, individual patient cases, problems encountered with separation from their son, language study, native food and dress, travel, animals indigenous to Nigeria, and construction of the Kano Eye Hospital.

Photograph are of Kano scenes, the hospital and its personnel. See Photograph Location Record for a complete list, below in this guide.

Folder 1-3 consists of fifty-eight letters written by Laura and Douglas Hursh to their families in Michigan and Minnesota, 1942-1951, The letters present an insightful look into the mission work in Kano, Nigeria, including these topics:

    Medical work; outpatient work; specific case studies
    Instructions to families for mailing packages; boxes from home
    Tribal customs and jewelry
    Leper work
    Living in Nigeria while son David is detained in the United States; parenting from across the ocean; David's arrival in 1945; m.k. school in Miango, Nigeria
    A refrigerator
    Mail delivery
    British mannerisms
    Crops in the Kano area, 1943
    Interaction among missionaries; strains on missionaries
    Nationals in domestic work; some prove untrustworthy
    Process of getting home for furlough, 1946; return to Nigeria by plane, 1947
    Christmas services, 1945
    Railroad strike, 1945
    Mission airplane
    Death of missionary Dorothy Cook, 1948
    YFC speakers Gavin Hamilton and Ray McAffee, 1949
    Language exams
    A secular magazine does a story on the Kano Eye Hospital, 1950
    Billy Graham's 1949 Los Angeles Revival mentioned, 1950
    Thieves ransack the Hursh home, 1950
    Career of mission executive Sidney Correll, 1950

Fellow missionaries frequently mentioned include Dr. Helser, Dr. and Mrs. Harris, Dr. and Mrs. Stanley Myers, the Frames and the Beachems. The letters are written primarily from Kano, although a few are dated from Jos. Some of the letters are not the originals, but rather typed transcripts prepared by Laura Hursh's family to be sent to Douglas's family, or vice-versa.

Dr. Marion Douglas Hursh was interviewed by Galen Wilson on September 25, 1981 and June 29, 1982 at the Billy Graham Center. The dates covered by the interviews were 1904 through 1982. 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.

Tape T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Introduction
00:45 Mother's American Baptist mission term in Burma, 1904-1910; appendectomy performed in Rangoon
02:30 Education; Wheaton College; decision to become medical missionary made in 1933 at Bible conference
03:00 Hursh's call to the mission field through the influence of George Kraft and Laton Holmgren (later Secretary of the American Bible Society)
04:15 Medical school; work as a Civilian Conservation Corps camp surgeon; medical activities through July, 1939
05:00 Hursh declined work with an Alaskan mission because of its mission philosophy.
05:15 Sudan Interior Mission needs in Nigeria; Hursh arranges for training as an eye specialist
07:30 Education at Moody Bible Institute; status with U.S. Military
08:00 Residency at Presbyterian Hospital, Chicago; draft board options as of January, 1942
09:15 Travel arrangements to Nigeria; three-year-old son left at SIM Home in Ontario
09:45 Departure, May, 1942, with convoy (for two days only)
10:45 Reasons for choice of Kano, Nigeria, as site for the Eye Hospital; attitude of British Government; dedication of hospital, January 20, 1943
12:45 Building of hospital
13:45 Treatment for glaucoma; patient recoveries
14:15 Muslim opposition to hospital; subsequent successes in relations with leaders
15:15 Evangelism opportunities; use of anesthesia
17:00 Practice of "couching" (eye treatment used by Muslim doctors); government regulations concerning licensing of practitioners
17:45 Untrained "doctor" expelled by government; his later success elsewhere
20:30 Conflicts with Muslim leaders over the preaching of the Gospel in the hospital
21:30 First woman convert; Gospel spreads via home evangelism among wives' compounds
23:15 Evangelism statistics; Christians forbidden to evangelize in cities or mosques; preaching in marketplaces
23:45 School for the blind begun; activities of Braille-trained converts
25:00 Formation of native Evangelical Churches of West Africa (ECWA); SIM relationship as advisor
25:30 Training of Nigerian doctors; government assistance
27:00 Use of Gospel Recordings phonograph records in evangelism; reaction of natives
29:30 Muslim attitude towards training of women; SIM school for daughters of Christian nationals
32:00 Contrast of christian attitude towards women and wives
34:15 Growth of indigenous churches inside and outside Kano
35:30 Church groups by dialects; nomadic evangelization
35:45 Upsurge of Muslim "Jesus People"; evangelization among Isawa (or Maguzawa) tribe [Mark Larson, SIM missionary in Kano, 1979-81, writes, "Dr. Hursh has confused the Maguzawa with Isawa people. Great numbers of Magazawas have become Christians recently, but they are from a pagan background, not Muslim [as Dr. Hursh reports]. The Isawa are Muslims who perceive Jesus to be a greater prophet that Mohammed. Few Isawa have turned to Christ." Dr. Hursh concurs in this.]
37:00 Supply lines for Kano Eye Hospital
38:15 Losses of equipment because of refusal to give bribes
38:45 Improvised hospital equipment
40:00 Post-war sources of drugs and equipment: England, Italy, Switzerland
41:00 Wheaton Eye Clinic's contribution to Kano Eye Hospital
41:15 Kano Eye Hospital's charges to patients; government contributions
42:30 Expansion of hospital and staff
43:00 Effects of independence from Britain on hospital finances
43:30 Expansion of optical services; new source of revenue
44:45 Financial support for Dr. and Mrs. Hursh over 20 years of service
46:00 End of side 1

Tape T1 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
01:30 Subsistence during war years; food supplies from local framers; source of fertilizer
03:30 Treatment of dysentery and malaria; hospital staff illnesses; Mrs. Hursh's post-pregnancy malarial bouts; Dr. Hursh's work during attacks of malaria
05:30 Separation from son (home in North America); communication problems
07:00 Son's illnesses, travel, and recovery upon arrival in Nigeria
08:30 Son's education; education of daughters in Nigeria and the U.S.
11:15 Dr. Hursh's heart attack; reduction of duties
11:45 Family separations and vacations; Hillcrest School in Nigeria -- supported by five mission organizations; costs of schooling
13:45 Methods of roadside preaching with native Christian evangelists
15:00 Problems of prejudice; opposition of leaders, acceptance by general populace
16:15 Encounter with Muslims from India; conference with governmental authorities and sense of Satan's presence
19:00 Support of native government leaders if religious question is avoided; success of eye operation on family member of an official
21:30 Opportunity for evangelism through follow-up visits for optical needs; conversion of Emir's sister; toleration by her husband
23:15 Ease of converting women; cost of conversion to Muslim men (loss of status, jobs, etc.)
24:45 Apostasy of some converts; early converts persecuted -- some poisoned, starved, ostracized
26:45 Differences of reaction to conversions after political independence
27:15 Causes of revolt against British rule
29:45 Role of more educated southern tribes in independence movement; conflict with northern tribes; civil war, 1957-58
31:45 Tribal strife, 1960's; Kano hospital used as fort; nurse shot
34:00 Appearance of false messiah from Chad; bloody elimination of Nigerian followers, 1980
35:00 Reasons for British opposition to evangelizing at Kano Eye Hospital; tolerance of independent national government
36:15 Opposition of Soviet-satellite-educated Nigerians to western culture SIM mission; suspicion of CIA connection
38:30 Refusal to unionize hospital; vulnerability to railroad strikes
40:00 Hurshes' return to the U.S., 1962; effect of separation on son; health prevents return to permanent staff position at Kano
42:00 Summary of years at Kano; shift to native staff; expansion of SIM work only with lepers; growth of churches from evangelizing of Eye Hospital; general acceptance by natives
45:00 End of tape

Tape T2 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Introduction
00:15 Kano Eye Hospital's founding; work of Dr. Helser in evangelizing Muslims via hospitals; SIM takes over leprosaria from the government; British member of Parliament gives L1000 toward Eye Hospital and pulls strings to get permission to put hospital in Kano
05:00 Placement of Hospital outside city limits, and reasons for this
06:00 Dedication of hospital; presence of Emir at British insistence; family of Emir -- mother treated at hospital. Emir's cataract surgery done in England; relations between Emir and hospital
09:00 Independence, 1960; Riot in Kano, 1957 during struggle for independence; hospital treats belligerent on both sides
11:15 Telephone and railroad service interrupted by internal fighting
12:15 Life under national government vs. that under British; national government more lenient
13:45 British see evangelism of natives as dangerous, an upsetting of the status quo; personal religious life of British; Anglican Church in Nigeria; British missionaries do not work in Muslim north
16:30 Reasons for placing hospital in Kano -- center of Province, large population of blind people
17:30 Case histories of individuals who travelled far on foot to come to hospital
18:45 Muslims making pilgrimages to Mecca spread word about hospital
21:00 Very early days of practice as Kano Eye Hospital -- first surgical case
23:15 Ratio of male to female patients; reason for high rate of eye disease among women; especially use of cosmetics; sanitation habits
26:45 Comparison of working with pagans cf. with Muslims; early SIM successes with pagans; general response to Gospel; women come more easily than men
30:15 Pattern of salvation process; blind evangelists; blind and leper beggars
32:00 Hursh works closely with a very wealthy Kano Muslim, who never did come to Christ; description of how he made his fortune -- monopolies
34:30 Tale of Muslim missionary trying to evangelize among Eye Hospital patients
37:45 Satanic influence felt more in early days of SIM work -- but still seen as late as 1940's in Kano area; demon possession -- persons unable to speak English do so when possessed; evil spirits an accepted part of Nigerian experience
42:45 SIM church in Kano -- description of building and congregation; growth of Kano church and new churches
46:00 End of side 1

Tape T2 - side 2
00:00 Beginning of tape
00:05 Overlap from side 1
01:30 Change to ECWA (Evangelical Churches of West Africa): national pastors, some blind; fundraising among nationals to support national missionaries for home evangelism and missions to neighboring countries
07:00 Change to ECWA: political aspects; Nigerian government involvement in the transfer; impact on SIM missionaries; success of ECWA; capability of leadership; present (1982) foreign missionary opportunities in Nigeria; public school system
13:45 Present (1982) staffing of Kano Eye Hospital
14:45 From the start, hospital was staffed with Christians where possible
15:45 Reasons for nurses being in general Christian and not Muslim
17:00 Overview of Kano Eye Hospital work; realization during short-term visit, 1972, that his day in the mission was by-gone under present system of government in Nigeria; certain acts of ECWA present difficulties
23:00 Reflections on whether or not he wishes to go to Africa again for a visit; pros and cons
25:00 Leprosaria work
30:15 End of tape


The materials in this collection were received by the Billy Graham Center from Dr. M. Douglas and Mrs. Laura Hursh in September 1981 and June 1982.

Accession #: 81-89, 81-102, 82-94
February 15, 1982
Galen R. Wilson
F. Brocker
J. Nasgowitz

Revised, August 2, 1982
Galen R. Wilson

Accession: 81-89
Type of material: Artifacts

The following items have been given to the CENTER MUSEUM:

Wooden carved face mask, ca. 10-1/2 by 6-1/2 inches, bought by Douglas Hursh from the Benin (?) tribe, a people known for their death masks.


Accession: 81-102, 82-94
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 90 minutes. One side only. Interview with M. Douglas Hursh, M.D. by Galen Wilson. Discussion includes Hursh's choice of Wheaton College, call to mission field, medical work in Nigeria with Sudan Interior mission, Eye hospital in Kano, Nigeria, Muslim relations and attitutdes, finacial support and family life; September 25, 1981.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, 75 minutes. One side only. Interview with M. Douglas Hursh, M.D. by Galen Wilson. Discussion includes founding of Kano Eye Hospital, political situation in Kano, British government rule verses national government rule, spiritism, Sudan Interior Mission Church in Kano, Evangelical Churches of West Africa, hospital situation and mission opportunities when Hursh left; June 29, 1982.


Accession: 81-89
Type of Material: Periodicals

The following items have been given to the BGC LIBRARY:

Nigeria, 1960. Special Independence Issue of Nigeria Magazine, October, 1960.


Accession: 81-89
Type of material: Photographs

The following items are located in the PHOTO FILE; request by Folder Titles (in bold) at the beginning of each entry below.

BINGHAM, DR. Photo of Dr. Bingham with Mr. Elliot. 1 b&w.

HURSH, M. DOUGLAS. Photos of Hursh and with his family. 3 b&w.

NIGERIA. Photo of Jos, Nigeria. 1 b&w.

KANO EYE HOSPITAL. Photographs of the hospital, Bible School for the Blind, Doctor's home and staff. 45 b&w and 1 color.

KANO, NIGERIA. Photographs of Kano, Nigeria, Emir, Kano airport, Kano Leper Settlement, Kano Mosque, and Language School class. 11 b&w.

KRAFT, GEORGE. Photo of George Kraft with Laton Holmgren. 1 b&w.

NIGERIA. Photographs of Nigeria, Katsina, and Kazauri. 7 b&w.

JOS, NIGERIA. Photo of the Sudan Interior Mission Church in Jos, Nigeria. 1 b&w.

KANO, NIGERIA. Photo of the Sudan Interior Mission Church in Kano, Nigeria. 1 sb&w.

WHEATON COLLEGE ALUMNI. Photograph of Wheaton College alumni in Jos Nigeria. ca. 1960. 1 b&w.


Box Folder Item
1 1 Clippings; 1948-61
2 1942
3 1942-1951

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Last Revised: 4/2/04
Expiration: indefinite