Billy Graham Center
Collection 272 - Jennie Kingston Fitzwilliam. T4
This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the fourth oral history interview of Jennie
Kingston Fitzwilliam (CN 272, T4) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken
words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by
the transcribers. Foreign terms which are not commonly understood appear in italics. In very few
cases words were too unclear to be distinguished. If the transcriber was not completely sure of
having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the
speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations
such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. The transcribers have not attempted to phonetically
replicate English dialects but have instead entered the standard English word the speaker was
expressing. Readers should remember that this is a transcript of spoken English, which follows a
different rhythm and rule than written English.
Chinese place names are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according
to how the speaker pronounced them. Thus, "Peking" is used instead of "Beijing," if that is how
the interviewee pronounced it. Chinese terms and phrases which would be understood were
spelled as they were pronounced with some attempt made to identify the accepted transliteration
form to which it corresponds.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the
part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
( ) Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
[ ] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcript was made by Alice L. Fitzwilliam (daughter-in-law of Jennie Fitzwilliam), with
some revisions by Robert Shuster and was completed in August 2003.
Collection 272, T4. Interview of Jennie Kingston Fitzwilliam by Paul Ericksen, July 12,
ERICKSON: Well, we were just talking about your husband's death. I wonder if you can...can
tell me, what were the primary reasons that missionaries died on the field for? I know there was
your husband and we've mentioned Mr. [Carl] Gowman, who died...
FITZWILLIAM: Yes, Mr. Gowman died.
ERICKSEN: Mr. [J. O.] Fraser died.
FITZWILLIAM: Mr. Fraser died.
ERICKSEN: What did they both die from?
FITZWILLIAM: Mrs. [Esther] Cooke died. Of all the missionaries that worked among the
Lisu, a large pile of them died on the field.
ERICKSEN: Why was that?
FITZWILLIAM: I don't know.
ERICKSEN: Did they all die from the same thing?
FITZWILLIAM: Well, no. Mr. Fraser died of malaria, pernicious malaria, in fact they called it.
My husband died of typhus fever. You know, it's the funniest thing that the Lisu...the Lisu
Christians.... I kind of hate to say it about the Lisu...the Christians, because when you know a
heathen Lisu and a Lisu Christian, you realize that a Lisu Christian is clean, clean, clean
compared to a heathen, but not compared to us. They're not so clean. And the Lisu do have lice.
They have lice in their hair and they have lice on their bodies. They don't have any bedbugs.
Now, the Lisu...the Kachin have bedbugs, but there is something about the Lisu that don't attract
bedbugs. Well, I could go into a village...I could go into a Bible school, the same Bible school
my husband was at, and I could go into a Lisu home and sit in a Lisu home and come out and I
never had a sign of a bug. My husband - they just loved him and...and when he'd come home,
he'd take off his clothes and have a bath and get those clothes out to get washed the very first
thing, because he always attracted the...all of the.... Of course, that is how typhus is carried. So he
obviously got it.... Now a number of Lisu were sick there, but they...it didn't affect them, I
guess, like it did him. When I left him [just before her husband came down with typhus] there
were a number of Lisu sick but I never thought too much of it because they weren't terribly sick.
But many, many of our missionaries have died of typhus. You know, Mrs. Cook...of course, a lot
of it is because we were so isolated and we had no medical help. Mrs. Alan Cooke died up there
in the northern...northern [Lisu area]...before the Kuhns [John and Isobel] went up there. And she
died of a strangled hernia. She could have been helped if she was.... And Mr. Christianson died
up there. I think...I'm not sure what he died of. And I'm not sure what Mr. Gowman...Mr.
Gowman died of. We never knew. He just got very sick and died. We never knew what was
wrong with him. And that...you know, that's the hardest part of living in that part...kind of
situation. It's not so bad in the rainy...in the dry season. You know you can get out if you have to,
although if you're very sick, you don't feel like traveling three days journey. But the rainy
season...as someone said, "The only way out is up." And it rains, and it rains, and it rains and it
rains and it rains for six months. And you just feel so cut off. That was the hardest part. I always
said I was going to retire in the Sahara Desert where it would never rain again. But I think that's
one reason why so many...such a large...I should say at least fifty percent of all the people who
worked among the Lisu died on the field, if not more.
ERICKSEN: So a lot was demanded of those folks.
FITZWILLIAM: Yes, well, that's something you face, when you face....
FITZWILLIAM: Nothing can happen except the Lord allows it and....
ERICKSEN: After...after your husband died, then you...you left?
FITZWILLIAM: Well, I didn't leave right away, and I really didn't intend to leave. But I got
word...a letter from Shanghai, our home...our central office requesting me to go up to Chefoo for
a change to see Jack. They felt for my sake, for Jack's sake, that I should go. So I went. When I
left that morning the Lisu and Kachin came and watched me get [unclear] ready, and getting my
loads on my horses. And they said, "Oh, its all right> She is not going to stay too long because
she hasn't taken much with here." And so I expected to go right back after visiting Jack. Because
there was such a desperate need among the Kachin. Because it just seemed as though there were
so many families on the verge of turning to Christ, but then the war [World War II] came on so
hot I couldn't get back. The Japanese came up through Burma, burned our station and burned
villages all up in that area. So it was impossible to get back. Then was just ready to go back
after doing a year's deputation work for the mission. I was ready to go back in 195...'49 and '50,
when all the missionaries were having to leave so I never got back after that. But I stayed up in
Chefoo. Of course we...the war...America declared war on the Japanese after they dumped all
those bombs on Pearl Harbor [on December 7, 1941]. And so we were interned, so then of
course it was then impossible to get out....
ERICKSEN: Were you interned.... Go ahead.
FITZWILLIAM: First we were under house arrest on our own property. Then they took us out of
our property and put us on another mission...the Presbyterian mission station up there, because
they wanted to use our compound.
ERICKSEN: What was the name of the station you were moved to?
FITZWILLIAM: Well, we were...our school for missionaries' children was in Chefoo, in north
China. And we...we moved...our school was a great bit campus with a girl's school and a boy's
school, a prep school, a hospital and a rest home and a great big central campus. Because there
were...it was where all of our children went to school from all over China. And so the Japanese
wanted that for their army headquarters. So they took us out of that and put us in a Presbyterian
mission compound which was just three...four private homes. So we had....
ERICKSEN: And that was in Chefoo too?
FITZWILLIAM: Yes. In Chefoo. The Presbyterian people had all evacuated. They went home
before the actual declaration of war by America, before Pearl Harbor. And so there weren't any
of them there. At least, I don't remember that there were any of them there. So they just...we just
took over their compound. And it was very crowded. We had a...I was in the house with the prep
school kids were because that's...Jack was in boy's School, but I was teaching in the prep school
and we had about forty...probably thirty little boys in the attic of that house, just sleeping on
mattresses. It was really a headache to try to keep things clean.
ERICKSEN: And how long were you interned?
FITZWILLIAM: Well, let's see. War was declared in '41, wasn't it.
FITZWILLIAM: And we came home the very end of '43. Got in New York just about the last
day of '43. So we were...first we were interned under house arrest for, oh, six or seven months, I
guess. And..and then we were put up in the mission.... Then just as we were ready to come
home, the Japanese decided to close that internment camp and put us all down in Weihsien.
Which was another Presbyterian compound, where they had.... We were all missionaries in ours,
in our camp, which was very nice, but then we were only in that camp for two weeks. And that
was something else again.
ERICKSEN: You were at Weihsien for two weeks?
FITZWILLIAM: Weihsien, yeah. We were there about two weeks. On our way home. We
knew we were being repatriated, the Americans. And...the British though had to stay through
the rest of the war. And they were liberated from...American planes came right to the...which
must have been a wonderful experience.
ERICKSEN: What was your...how did the Japanese treat you?
FITZWILLIAM: Very nice, as far as we were concerned because we were a school with a whole
school of children. And the Japanese really do love children. Japanese people as people are nice,
it's just the war lords that were so obnoxious. But even the soldiers were quite nice. They used to
come into our...our...our prep school and then make friends with the kids. There was a German
missionary in...in that town who used to smuggle letters in and out in order for the parent...to get
word from the children to the parents, 'cause the parents were in free China and they were
interned in occupied China. And he risked his life to come in, get these little letters that he would
mail them out to the parents. One of these little boys went up very confidentially, up to one of the
Japanese soldiers and took hold of his hand and said, "I had a letter from my mommy today."
[chuckles] If the man understood, he didn't let on. Most of them didn't understand too much
English. They knew a word of two. So we quick rescued Ben from that friend, soldier friend of
his. We didn't like to tell the children they mustn't talk to the soldiers because it was helpful that
they were nice to us. And when we were repatriated and the man who was in charge of our
camp, I'm sure he must have been a Christian at heart. He had gone to a Christian school as a
boy and he was really very nice to us came and he came...escorted us to the boat, to get on the
boat for re...taking us down to Weihsien. And the boys, the big boys in our party got together
and they gave three cheers for Mr. Kazaka before we left. So they really had happy memories of
those Japanese soldiers. They could have been terrible because we had a house...whole school
full of girls in their teens and that was the dread of what might happen. But they were polite and
nice to us. Now, that wasn't true in other camps. Some other people who were in Japanese
internment camps really suffered, but as far as we were concerned, our school...which I am sure
this was an answer to prayer. When you get parents who are cut off from their children and don't
know what's happening to them, you know they are praying. And I am sure that it was an answer
to prayer that the Japanese were as good to us as they were. But the soldiers...the officers were
not so nice except this one man who was the head officer. I'm sure he...he was very....
They...they made us...they made us realize that we were prisoners of war. They made us...they
made us line up every morning and have roll call and we had to number off in Japanese and.....
You know, they made us realize that we were we were prisoners of war. But the common...the
soldiers were very nice to the kids.
ERICKSEN: Can you describe the process by which you were repatriated?
FITZWILLIAM: Well, we were taken under escort down to the Weihsien and we were left there
for two weeks, as I say. Then the American party was taken down to Shanghai in trai...on the
trains. And we were just herded into...they weren't boxcars, but they weren't much better than
that. And there was no place for the children to lie down or sleep. And we were in those
conditions for, oh, two days travel down by train. And they sidetracked us one day and they had
a...next was a freight car full of pigs, which smelled terrible. I mean they just did things to make
us realize we were prisoners of war. And then when we got down to Shanghai, we were put on
this...this...what used to be a French luxury liner but it t was anything but luxury at that
time...point. It was...it was a boat that at the greatest amount would hold a few hundred and we
were two thousand repatriated. And it was just...there wasn't room on the deck hardly to stand
up. We had bunks about...just about that wide [gestures with her hands], just one after the other,
and the food had insects in it. It was terrible. And then we were taken on that boat. We picked
up people [more repatriated Americans] in the Philippines and we picked up people in Hong
Kong and then we picked...we went around..... We weren't allowed off the boat until we went up
the coast of India to Ghana [she meant Goa].
ERICKSEN: Africa, you mean?
FITZWILLIAM: No. What's the name of that little Portugese colony on the coast of India, the
west coast of India.
ERICKSEN: Sri Lanka?
FITZWILLIAM: No. Can't think of it. Anyway, we were swapped there. They...they built a
fence [between the two ships]. The Japanese repatriates were on the...on the Swedish Gripsholm
and we came in on the French...this French trip...French boat. And we...they swapped us one for
one there. What was the name of that...?
ERICKSEN: This is a map of India.
FITZWILLIAM: [pauses] Goa! Goa. That's where we swapped.
FITZWILLIAM: This was...wasn't this a Portugese colony. I think it was a neutral colony there.
ERICKSEN: Uh-huh. I am not familiar with it but...yeah.
FITZWILLIAM: So the Japanese came on our boat and we went on the Gripsholm. And boy
was that ever a change!
ERICKSEN: What was the name of the ship you had been on?
ERICKSEN: What was the name of the ship you had been on?
ERICKSEN: You said it was a French ship.
FITZWILLIAM: [Pauses] I've forgotten that French ship.
ERICKSEN: Anyway, the Gripsholm a step up.
FITZWILLIAM: The Gripsholm was...oh, they kept us up on deck until they got the place really
cleaned up, you know. And they fed us a Swedish smorgasbord - it was wonderful, things we
hadn't seen in years and years - cheese and ham and all sorts of wonderful things. And then they
brought great slabs of chocolate - Hershey chocolate bars - great big ones like this [gestures with
her hands] and gave them out. And they had a clothes room where they fitted us with clothes
when we needed clothes because we all needed them. And that was the hard part of an
internment camp. The kids continued to grow but their clothes didn't grow. [laughs]. And we
couldn't get new ones, so.... So that was a wonderful trip. We had...oh, I don't know how many
weeks we were on that boat, because we went all the way down to the tip of Africa, all the way
up the west coast of South America and then up to New York. And that's the most...the nicest
ocean voyage I ever had. [laughs] And we had perfect weather, just perfect weather day after day
after day after day. Now we stopped the first time we were free...we weren't free at Goa at all.
We were just kept under lock and key. But when we got to South Africa, Port Elizabeth, we
were free. And we could visit and sightsee and so forth. Oh, it a wonderful feeling to know you
could just walk off and do what you wanted. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: Was it a little difficult having all the children? Did you have the children with you?
FITZWILLIAM: Yes we had the children with us.
ERICKSEN: So it wasn't just like you could walk off?
FITZWILLIAM: Well, we [pauses] we were a lot of...a lot of American missionaries to take care
of the children that we had....
FITZWILLIAM: Because we didn't have...we didn't have mobs of children that we.... We had a
lot of them, but we...we shared time. It wasn't a.... The kids were so enraptured with all that they
saw on the Gripsholm that they weren't difficult to handle. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: Well, we've covered quite a bit of ground today. We'd better stop. Thanks again.
END OF TAPE
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