[The following transcripts of letters by Sarah Alice (Troyer) Young (along with a few letters by others) were made by Mrs. Carol Whiting in the 1990s from the originals, which in many cases were very faded and difficult to read. The originals are often on very thin or poor quality paper. A very few minor revisions were made by the archives staff, including Laurie Ellison, a Wheaton College graduate student working under the supervision of the BGC Archives staff.]
[Comments in brackets were added by an archivist, except those in italics, which are by Mrs. Whiting. The full text of Bible verses mentioned in the letters were also provided by Mrs. Whiting. No attempt has been made to maintain the layout or page numbering of Young's letters or to indicate page breaks, except to have paragraph breaks at the same points as they occur in the correspondence. Misspelling in the correspondence have been left as is, as has punctuation and capitalization.]
[Many letter start on one day and then have a new section added on, headed by the date of addtion. In this transcription, a row of five asterisks "*****" separate indicate the start of a new letter.]
[Preface by Carol (Mizer) Whiting, a relative of Sarah Alice Troyer Young and the transcriber of the letters and diary:
Sarah Alice Troyer was born in 1871, one of 11 children of John D. and Catharine (Egly) Troyer. She was my Grandmother's sister. These are letters she wrote to her sisters and brothers before she became a Missionary and while in training and when she was in China as a Missionary. Her siblings were Daniel, Marietta, Anna (my grandmother), Lydia, Joseph, Emanline, David, Ellen, Martha, and John. ]
Your letter of Nov. 29th came today. I was so glad to get it for I have been waiting and waiting for a letter from Ella but was again disappointed this time but your was a good substitute. I will this time remind you of the photo Ella promised to send me. I have for about six weeks been looking for them but not yet. Please do not forget to sent them. I did not know that Ella had left you to go to Mancelona, Yes, I know you miss her. Home used to be very lonely without her I feel so sorry for Mattie alone at home. Do you know whether Ella has any idea of being married soon? Has she told you of the very fortunate man who has won her love or is she as silent to you on the subject as to me? John enjoys her letters so much. He has taken you all right into his heart--he has such a big loving heart that there is room for all of you in it besides myself. I had a long loving letter from him today and I feel so lost that I cannot answer it. There would be no use in doing so because he would not get it. In two weeks from today or tomorrow he will be here, D.V. Just think what our meeting will be like after seven month of separation! Anna, I wonder what makes you say I will be "one of the best wives the world has ever known". I feel very differently about it. But I do pray that God will make me a real help-meet to him for he deserves a good wife. I am sure he will be one of the kindest and best of husbands. I never before realized how much you all love me as I have since receiving the letters from you all in answer to mine which took the news. I do thank you all so much for your love-- it is very sweet to the human heart is it not? I think one great lack in our home has been the lack of expression of love that we had to each other for we have loved each other I believe more than most brothers and sisters love but we have been too sparing with expressions of it. Thank you dear Anna for wanting to send me something which will be useful in our house. I will try to think of something but I am afraid there is not much that you can send. I have written home for lamp mats. The friends are so kind to me that I shall not need to get much for myself. John has sent home for knives, forks, spoons, etc. and we have also sent for table cloths napkins towels etc. If you like to send a table spread it will be very acceptable. Perhaps you would be better send through the mission whatever you send. It will take longer to reach me but will be safest way.
I want to give you a list of the presents I have received if I can think of all, and, I know of others that are still to come.
A beautiful rug 6 by 6 ft.
an ider down quilt
a beautiful dressing jacket
a silk santsi (upper garment)
two silk skirts
pair of satin shoes
Two large pieces of flannel
8 beautiful towels, (bath and others)
Two large framed texts
A watch, mats for platters and vegetable dishes
A pair of scissors
tea cozy A good deal of money
This is all I think of just now, But isn't it a big list?
Carrie has just reminded me that oilcloth for my wash stands and cupboards would be nice to have from home. I don't know whether this will be too heavy for you to send or not. Handkerchiefs are always acceptable but they must be the large size for China, and good substantial ones, not the pretty little embroidered ones. They do nicely for home but are not much good in China.
They get dirty and wear out to quickly. I am so sorry to hear of poor Miss Treachout's marriage. It is so sad to think of it. Today is Chinese new Year's day. It sounds much like the Fourth of July at home but here the noise of fire crackers is in connection with idol and ancestral worship. It makes me quite ashamed of our fourth of July. The day is kept in their own homes, few people being seen out. This begins the month of rest for China and is the only time of rest from work they have during the whole year, for of course Lord's day is not kept by the heathen. During this first month (Cheng iieh) the people visit among their relatives and friends and feast daily.
We are gradually tearing up and packing for next Saturday we move to the North St. and the following week my John comes "to take me away" and I am so glad to go with him. When you get this (D.V) [God willing] I shall be Alice young. Isn't that much prettier than Alice Troyer? How I wish you could see and know my dear John! It would be so nice if some of you could be with me. We are going to have a very quiet wedding. Carrie will be my brides maid. If I do not forget I'll send you pieces of my garments. I am sorry I have no pieces of the wedding "san tsi" to send, it is a heavy blue drab figured satin. It was given to me ready made so I have no scraps. The sleeves are faced with pale pink silk and I have pink buttons on it. I rather like my second dress better than that, it is reddish brown trimmed with the light colored silk. The black is of the skirt. We are thinking of going by the new rail road from Pao ting fu instead of by boat. It will take us rather out of the way but will be quicker and will enable us to visit Pekin the capitol of China.
Miss Rice is spending a few days with us. Mr. and Mrs. Smith go to U wu today for the Sunday. With much love to C.J. Clifford and yourself. [Undated. This letter, on one small sheet, is probably from 1899. It may have been included with the previous letter.]
I am as ever your loving Sister
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[Undated. This letter, on one small sheet, is probably from 1899. It may have been included with the previous letter.]
Feb. 14, Today is Mary's 37th birthday. I want to tell you what a beautiful present the natives have made me. It came last night. Four beautiful mottoes or scrolls. The Christians and enquirers gave me one about four feet long of white satin with red and green border with the words "meekness" and "peace" in large character and their names at the ends. The other three are from our Shing-min. The character love on white satin with red and green border about 1 1/2 by 2 feet and two long scrolls to match with "God says I will lead thee continually" and "and in time of drought satisfy thy soul" Isa. 58: 11. The Christians at Kih-cheo are giving John a banner too. Letters go out today.
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[Written in upper left hand corner of first page]
For Anna, Joe, Lydia, Dan, Mary and Home.
Hsia i, Shansi.
May 3.d, ‘99
My Dear Ones:
My last letter was sent you from Tai üen hu about a week ago. We are still five or six day's journey from our house and are getting more and more anxious to get there and settle down. After leaving Tai uese we went three and a half days to Ping iao where we spent a night with the Sanders of our mission. I also went to the ladies home for a little while in the afternoon and saw a more Chinese home than I have seen with any missionaries before. Miss. French who is of a very high family in Eng. lives just like the Chinese--sleeps on a brick bed and has a little Chinese pillow filled with saw dust or something of the sort. Miss. Nathan said Miss. F. is a twin sister of mine--she thinks I am very Chinese, but I don't go so far as Miss F.
From there we had one day's journey to the station where we arrived on Friday evening and on Saturday went to see Mr. and Mrs Lutley in Kiai hsiu 30 li from here. We spent Sunday and Monday with them, then yesterday returned here. All this has been done in carts but from here on we must take mules. Miss. Nathan will have a" Kiao o" or a mule litter and I will ride on John's donkey.
We hope to get away from here tomorrow morning and reach Sih cheo for Sunday. That is another C.I.M. station. There are only two ladies in the station where we are now staying both elderly, 40 or 50 years. It is so nice to have a day or two's rest at these stations along the way.
I am feeling rather tired when we stop but I hope by the time we reach home I'll have become so use to the traveling that it will not effect me so any longer. Do you think it probable?
We are sending you photos by this mail. Hope you will like them. It is just like John but will look odd to you because of the shaven head. He is a handsome fellow, I think. My unanswered letters are piling up but you will understand why I cannot answer them now.
The friends who have been to Kih cheo do not give a very glowing description of it. It has been devastated by rebellion and robbers. It will be very different from my home in Luan but I know I shall be happy in the work.
John is out fixing up a box that is coming to pieces. If he were here he would be glad to send a message. He often prays for you all by name especially remembering Mary that God will give her His Grace and joy in her affliction.
It is now over two months since we left Luan. I have not heard where Carrie is to be sent now that I have left her. Poor girl! she misses me very much. She is one who has not many intimate friends but she is so true to those she does take into her heart. Those of you who know how to pray, pray for her.
From your loving sister and daughter.
[Written sideways on last page]
Address: Mrs. J Young Pao ting fu, N. China
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[Written in upper left hand corner]
Please send to Ella.
Kih cheo, Aug. 19. 99
Dear Ones at Home:
It has been months since I have had a letter from home, that is from Neb. or from Ella, but I'll try to be faithful to you any how. Tho' sometimes I lose heart about writing for I think if you cared much to hear from me you would, one or the other, write regularly. I know Ella is very busy now but she might spare me five minutes once a month any how and Mattie might spare so many once a year perhaps, or once in two years.
I am sure I don't know what to write you. There are many things to say but I imagine I feel some thing like a preacher who sees his audience all asleep before him--no one takes any interest in what he has to say. I know you do take an interest but the interest is unexpressed so it has not the same effect. To those who send answers to my letters it is not difficult to write.
Well I'll make an attempt. The latest news is that our repairs are being finished up and we are soon really to get settled down for a time in peace tho' later the chapel roof will have to be renewed. We have had to fight Satan too in getting done what there is. Our neighbors at the back have opposed us at every step and tho' we bought a strip of their courtyard and had an agreement drawn up that they should no more hinder us in repairs they took no notice of it, when the time came that they wanted their own way. They did not want us to put a wall up between our and their courtyards which would prevent them using our front gate and the old mother of seventy came and lay down in the way so that the workmen could not go on and stopped the work. The son came upon John with a great uplifted pole to strike him but J. escaped. We had at last send for the middle men who did the business before and they kept them off while our workmen quickly built up the last bit of wall. I have not seen such people in China before. But these are especially bad. The son has been beaten twice at the "ya men" (magistrates) for gambling, etc. since we came here.
The date of our yearly conference is fixed for Oct 11th and 12th after the two at our neighboring stations Suh cheo and Ta ming, the former two day's journey the latter one big day's journey. We hope, God willing to go to both places and expect Mr. and Mrs. Peat of the former and one or two of the ladies from the latter place and ours as well as Mr.Lutley Supt. of work in this province. Next week we hope to go to our out station for a week's stay or more. We will be very busy now getting things in order before the conference for the other courtyard is needing a lot of attention after the repairs. As soon as possible after our conference John will start on his trip over into Shansi Prov. We are just near the border.
Carrie is to go to Lu ching to be with Mary and Mattie when she leaves the coast where she is spending the summer. Mr. and Mrs. Lawson go to U uu for Mr. Burrows goes home on furlough this fall. They hope another married couple will be sent to Lu ching, Mr. Lawson has asked for John and me to be sent there but I am glad they at headquarters have not granted the request I prefer to stay here, tho' this is an out of the way place away back in the Mts. where no cart has ever been. I suppose, Mr. Lawson thinks it is a fearful place but I don't. I am perfectly happy here, and it may as well be me who is shut in here as any body else.
There is much in the little church here which makes us sad but we are glad that the sins in our midst are being brought to the light so that they can be put away. On Sunday we found out that one of the members whom John trusted and thought to be honest has for months been taking opium and is also gambling and trying to get his little daughter-in-law's feet bound up whose mother says she is a believer and does not want to bind her daughter's feet. Some time ago too, we found that another one is working in his fields on Sunday. All these things weigh heavy on John and make him look quite worn at times. We sent our old man, Su, to see a poor lame old fellow who last year began to take his opium again. He has been a member for some years I think. He lives all alone in a village about 10 li from here.
Old Su is a real earnest, whole hearted fellow for the Lord, but so peculiar. I just have hard work to keep my face straight when I see and hear him telling any occurrence. He would make a good stage actor.
This must do now. Good By. From your loving daughter + sister.
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[No year given. Probably 1899]
Thursday Nov. 23
The letters in late and to my great joy two letters from Anna and the reason of Ella's silence explained. But Ella you should consider me a little as well as your own feelings. Imagine yourself in the heart of China with no word from home for months at a time just because the people at home "do not know how to write to married people". Also a letter from Myrtle.
I am so sorry to hear of Lydia's trouble but glad to have news at the same time of her improvement. You Anna have your share of babies now. Haven't you? Would you be glad some day if you heard news of a little Chinese niece or nephew! Perhaps some day! Anna it is very nice to have a good kind loving husband is it not. None can excel mine and so no one can be more happy. God is good.
But this must do .
I am so glad you are both going home to Neb.
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[Written sideways in the upper left hand corner of the first page]
To Anna, Lydia, Dan, Mary, Home.
Kih cheo Nov 1899
Our annual gathering of Native Christians which lasted two days took place last month. There was a good turn out and we had a glorious time every speaker seemed to have the message suited to the needs of the church. Four men were baptized. If we had wanted figures many more might have been added but only those were baptized who gave satisfactory indication of a change of heart and life. The baptisms took place in the mountain river which runs past our house on the western side. To me it was a most inspiring sight, and carried ones mind away back to the days of the primitive church. Crowds of Christians and heathens lined the banks of the river, while others watched the proceedings from elevated positions in the distance. We sang a hymn and after prayer the native pastor went down into the river and these four men were "buried in baptism"
The closing meeting was thrown open for testimony, and would compare favorably, if not excel many of the testimony meetings at home. A very interesting feature of this meeting was the testimony of two women, who formerly were possessed of devils. It was quite an inspiration to see their beaming faces and to hear them tell what the Lord has done for them. If those who affirm that missions to the heathen are a failure could but visit such a gathering and hear such clear intelligent testimonies their notions would soon take wings and depart.
In the afternoon we went to the temple of the god of fire where a theater was being held and preached the Gospel to those gathered together. The following morning we left and thought we had escaped our promised escort; but alas; alas; it was not so. In the evening he arrived at the inn all smiles and bows. Of course we had now no alternative but to take him with us, but he neither a help or a hinderance. Being an opium eater he couldn't keep up with us, and so we were pretty much left to ourselves. Our next stopping place was Yen-chang which is nearly all in ruins. Fortunately we arrived on market day, which gave us good crowds and large Scripture sales. We had some difficulty in finding a lodging place; none of the Inns seemed to want us. A banished criminal however took pity on us and invited us to his house where we stayed part of the day. He is a Pe-king man being banished 1000 English miles for man slaughter: After having some food we went to the Yamne entrance to preach and sell books. My face served the purpose of a bell, and soon gathered together a large crowd which listened attentively.
The following morning we left for another city two days further on Yen-an-fu and as was our custom after arrival we went to the(---) to preach the Gospel and had been there only a short time when a man came from Ya-men to ask where I was going that I might have an escort. Later on a messenger was sent to tell the crowd to listen attentively to what we had to say, and those who didn't want to listen were to move on. We passed on from this place to a small city called An-seh while in the open air speaking and book selling a man who thought I was a Roman Catholic priest asked me for some holy water to heal a disease he had. I told him that this was all fake, and that the so-called holy water came from the river. The R.C.'s seem to be pretty well known about these parts as I was constantly being called "Sheny-fu" ( Holy Father) I took the opportunity of telling them that there was only one Holy Father and that was God.
Our next city was An-king. After we had finished speaking and book selling and had gone to the inn for the night two men came to visit us one desiring to know how to pray. We left this place early in the morning and after two days further journey we reached Chin-chien a fairly large city. As we entered the city an Idolatrous procession went down the main street before us. The musicians were playing their instruments the Buddhist priests chanting prayers. After having some food we preached Jesus to them. One day's journey from there brought us to another city Yen-chuan. Here we sold out our supply of books and addressed large crowds. We then started on the homeward journey which lasted five days. Pray that the seed sown may bear "much Fruit."
The conference being over I in the company with two natives set out on an itinerant journey in the North of the Province of Shen-si a large district almost untouched. The Hymn we sang before staring "Jesus Leads Me " was blessedly true during the whole journey. We realized that He was going before us preparing our way. The first day brought us to the banks of the Yellow River. Here we had not a little difficulty in getting my horse over. It would not get into the boat until the boatman fastened a rope to its fore leg and pulled it in.
Two days more journey brought us to the city of Ni-chuan a fairly good sized city with rivers running along it's western and Southern sides. As soon as I arrived I had a little crowd after me, and next morning when I went to the barbers to get my head shaved there was no small amount of jostling outside the shop door--all anxious to have a peep at the foreigner. I told them I would be out in a little while, and then they could look at me as long as they pleased. On going back to the inn I found two men waiting for me with an invitation from the Mandarin to visit him. Looking to the Lord for help and guidance I went and received a most cordial reception. He came out to the courtyard to meet me dressed in his beautiful court robes. On meeting we both made a profound bow in Chinese style after which he led me to the hall and seated me in the place of honor (the left side is the place of honor). We had the privilege of setting before the truths of Christianity, and also of leaving some Gospel and tracts in the Yamen ( i.e. law court). He seemed very friendly and listened to what we had to say. He also promised to send an escort with us to the next city. We thanked him, but tried to assure him that we didn't need one, as escorts are sometimes more trouble than anything else. After drinking some tea I rose to leave, the Mandarin accompanying me. I begged him not to come, but he came: and after another bow we parted. The people in this place seemed very friendly and we had good audiences. Before leaving this city I had also a visit from the son of another Mandarin and paid him a return visit at his own home. He seemed inclined to talk about ordinary things and one had to put the Gospel before him as opportunity occurred. I gave him some Gospel and tracts, and in return for these he gave me a scent casket and a napkin stamped with his seal. On Sunday we had a short service in the courtyard of the inn we were staying at. Amongst those who came was an old temple keeper who was a veritable chatterbox, but during the service he kept quiet and orderly.
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Kih-cheo, Dec. 2, ‘99
My Dear Anna:
Thank you for your two letters one dated Sept. 19th the other Sept. 28th both of which reached me by the last messenger. I was so glad to have better news of Lydia with news of her illness. Hope she is quite well before this, and that baby Catharine is getting on nicely. What a care indeed she must of been to you. Would it not be better to keep your cow in and feed her carefully for baby. It would undoubtedly save you many an uneasy hour. I'd like to see Ella taking care of her.
I am glad you got the photos alright. No word came from anybody for so long that I began to fear they had gone wrong. Don't you think I have a nice husband? He is just as good as he is nice looking and he is a good preacher too.
I suppose you and Ella are at home with Mother now. Why not run over to China and make us a visit?
We are very busy. I go out nearly every day and John is kept busy with his opium patients. He has six or seven in now breaking off the terrible habit. One or two seem interested.
John has written an account of his journey to Shin-si a copy of which I'll send you. One copy must do all of you.
Cold weather is upon us but no snow yet and everything very expensive because of a partial failure of crop's last year and no snow to protect the wheat that has been sown. The principal crop here is wheat and it was so dry last autumn that not much wheat has been sown.
In two months more I shall have been in China 4 years. Can it be! Well I am glad to be here today. There is joy in such work which one cannot find in the world, and a satisfaction the world cannot give. There was always a longing, unsatisfied, before I gave up all to the Lord, and in surrendering to Him much was gained for He always gives a hundred fold for all that we give to Him. His will is best. Tho' it may be difficult to give up our own to His sometimes, there always comes a joy and satisfaction which having our own way could never bring us.
You must be very glad to be alone after your guest all leave, what a quiet rest it must be. I should like to spend a summer with you if the Lord carry and we are spared to go home. How nice it must be just on the bank of the lake and how I shall enjoy the luxuriant growth of timber after bare China. But I must let this do for this time, for there are other letter to write.
Your Loving sis.
[Part of the same letter ]
I should like to write to you separately but lack of time forbids today so let this letter do for both of you.
I hope you and your little ones are quite well now. How I should like to see all of them and yourself too. The promised photo of your self has not come yet.
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