Notes: The bulk of this collection consists of letters written by Sarah to her sisters during her preparations for missionary service and her four years in Shanxi Province with China Inland Mission. She would often write one letter home which was circulated among her many sisters and family members. This collection does not contain all of her letters but only those kept by her sister Anna. Consequently, there are gaps of information. One considerable gap concerns her future husband, John Young, and their courtship. Several letters describe in detail photographs which were apparently enclosed with the letters, but were not with them when the letters were given to the Archives and therefore are not available in this collection. Along with the letters and diary, the Archives received a full-text transcript, prepared by Sarah Alice's grandniece, Carol Whiting.
The published articles in folder 1-1 include items apparently gathered by the family. There is a clipping of an article by Young about her work in China from the December 15, 1896 issue of an Indiana Mennonite newsletter or magazine; an incomplete clipping (probably from the fall of 1897) from a Goshen, Indiana, newspaper with an (edited) version of a portion of Young's August 6, 1897, letter in folder 1-5; a October 1898 issue of China's Millions, CIM's periodical; a photocopy of a very brief October 3, 1900, newspaper notice of reports of the deaths of the Youngs, and a brief article from China's Millions reporting the Youngs' demise.
Sarah Alice's letters, (folders 1-2 through 1-8), are all written to members of her family. They are all filled with comments about her own Christian faith, her voyage to China in 1896 (including a stop in Japan), her itinerant evangelism work among different groups, particularly women, and descriptions of Chinese culture and everyday scenes of Chinese life. The letter dated October 18, 1895, includes an interesting list of the items that a woman missionary was expected to take with her. Through her correspondence are many comments and descriptions of the requirements of foreign mission work, including descriptions of the work of her co-workers, such as Caroline Gates, Mary Huston, and her husband John. There are also many examples through the letters of capsule biographies and testimonies of various Chinese Christians. There is no direct reference to the so-called Boxer movement, although some documents, such as the letters for August 6, 1897, and December 12, 1898, and her diary, mention anti-foreign feelings or manifestations, as well as many mentions of friendliness and courtesy from neighbors and strangers. The disapproval of the traditional binding of women's feet was an important issue among missionaries and Chinese Christians, as indicated in several letters ( December 1896, February 22, 1897, May 5, 1897, August 19, 1899) and Sarah Alice's diary. Several letters ( August 17, 1896, August 6, 1897, March 28, 1898, December 12, 1898, August 19, 1899, December 2, 1899, March 20, 1900) as well as her diary contain references to the suffering caused by opium addiction among the population. In the letter dated by the archivist as "Probably Autumn, 1896", there is an interesting description of her visit to a Mohammedan village and other contacts with Muslim can be found in her diary.
The February 4, 1896, letter (folder 1-4) refers to the assistance a Mr. Drysdale, former CIM missionary, gave to Young. The letter refers to Drysdale's transfer to the Alliance mission, having been dismissed from CIM for breaking its rules about marrying a non-missionary.
Several letters were relocated in the collection based on internal evidence. Three letters were initially identified as undated when given to the Archives. The "Friday morning" letters to Anna and the "Dear Sister Anna" from Ett, have been subsequently included with the 1895 letters (folder 1-3). The letter begining "Feb. 14...Today is Mary's..." is included with the 1899 letters (folder 1-7). The handwritten "Ladies Outfit list" has been filed with the October 18, 1895, letter (folder 1-3) it belongs with and which refers to it. A second copy of the outfit list was returned to the donor. The letter dated "March 22, [1899?]," has been subsequently dated 1900 (folder 1-8) and moved to the appropriate folder.
Some letters appear in more than one version. For example, there are three versions of the letter dated December 12, 1898. One, which apparently was written by Sarah Alice, has a note one top "To Anna, Ella, Lydia, Mallie (letter A). There is another version of the same letter written in pencil on low quality paper (letter B). It appears to be in a different hand. Although some passages are identical, others are contracted from the first and much information is left out. There is a third letter (letter C) which is a typed version of letter B on plain white paper. Similarly, the 1897 clipping from the Goshen newspaper in folder 1-1 is an edited version of Young's letter of August 6, 1897.
Young several times in her letters refers to her "diary" which she is regularly sending back to be circulated among her siblings and perhaps to other interested parties. Apparently this was not a typical diary but a summary of daily events kept for her family and friends, rather than herself. The Archives has the segments for the time period between September 9, 1896, and May 20, 1897. By the evidence of her letters, there were other segments as well. The texts of letters are also included in the diary. Apparently Sarah Alice copied them into her diary because they would also be of interest. The diary is a record of her ministry and the spiritual progress of Chinese converts. It is especially valuable because it gives day-to-day information about Chinese converts and workers only briefly mentioned in Young's letters. Entries in the "diary" are sometimes out of chronological order.
Related collections: Collection
215, Records of United States Home Council of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship (China Inland
Hist. Mss. 1-428, the W.W. Oesch and Elva (Garber) Oesch Collection of the Historical Committee and Archives of the Mennonite Churchin Goshen Indiana includes a scrapbook compiled by Sarah's sister Mary Etta (Troyer) Graber which contains letters, clippings and articles by and about Sarah.
Hist. Mss. 4-327 SC, the W.W. Oesch and Elva (Garber) Oesch Photograph Collection of the Historical Committee and Archives of the Mennonite Church in Goshen Indiana contains 5 photogrpahs of Sarah.
Also see Martyred Missionaries of the China Inland Mission, Ed. Marshall Broomhall, London, 1901 and volume 5 of the Mennonite Encyclopedia (Scottdale, PA, 1990)
The materials in this collection were given to the Archives of the Billy Graham Center by Mrs. Carol Whiting, granddaughter of Sarah's sister Anna Troyer, in September 1996 and September 1997.
Accession: 96-86, 97-70
July 1, 1997