This is a complete and accurate transcript of the tape of the oral history interview of Margaret Rice Elliott Crossett (CN 287, T6) 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 are not commonly understood appear in italics. Place names in non-Western alphabets are spelled in the transcript in the old or new transliteration form according to how the speaker pronounced them. For example, Peking may be used instead of Beijing, because that is how the interviewee pronounced it. 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. 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.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of though within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of a incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Wayne D. Weber in July 1997.
Collection 287, T6. Interview of Margaret Rice Elliott Crossett by Paul A. Ericksen, April 7, 1986.
ERICKSEN: Okay. [pauses] Across from you were sitting the Chinese.
CROSSETT: Well . . . three Chinese, yeah. And [pauses] Margaret . . . well, they . . . they put their legs up [pauses] across [pauses] on our seat and on our lap and everything. So we put our legs up [laughs] over onto theirs. They didn't say anything. And Margaret slept on all the legs. [laughs] And then when we wanted food . . . well, the train only went at night [pauses] in pitch darkness. Nobody was allowed to smoke, nobody . . . and we weren't even allowed to talk. And [pauses] then in the daytime they stopped sort of between hills trying to keep from being seen. And the people . . . people in those hills lived in caves. And they would bring us boiled eggs and water, tea and sell it to us. And little breads and things so we . . . we ate that way. [pauses] And then the train went on [pauses] and we got to [pauses] one place where we were stopped, planes went over. And everybody was scared and they jumped out of the windows, went out and hid in the wheat fields. And . . . but I couldn't get out. It was high and I couldn't take the children out. And there was another family couldn't do it so we hid under the seats. But the planes flew over, but we heard that there was a [pauses] . . . a train back of us. I don't know where it came from, but it was full of people and they bombed that and burned up seven car loads of people. Then we came to the Yellow River in the night and [pauses] we had to cross the river. And the Japanese were guarding both ends [pauses] of the bridge. And they just warned us, "Be very very quiet." And absolutely no lights of any kind. And the train went across that bridge rumbling along. I don't know how they got across without the Japanese knowing it, but we got safely across. And then we went on to [pauses] . . . to Xian, the city of Xian. And we had to wait outside the city while it . . . while it was being bombed. But as soon as the . . . the raid was over we went into the city and you never saw a train evacuated as fast as that train was. [laughs] That was the end of the line. So we all went into [pauses] . . . we went [pauses] we hired a big cart that was pulled by men, a flat cart. We put our baggage on and we all sat on top of the baggage and went through the city of Xian [laughs] sitting on top of our baggage on this cart. We go to the [pauses] . . . it's now the TEAM [The Evangelical Alliance Mission], the Scandinavian Alliance Mission then and [pauses] there was a mission compound that was built for two families. And we all went in there and we . . . we got a tremendous welcome from the Nelsons and [pauses] . . . and [pauses] they . . . they made us comfortable. First time we'd had good meals and sheets to sleep in for days and days. But [pauses] we were there a month. By the end of the month there were sixty missionaries gathered in that compound. And then [pauses] the Nelsons said, "We can't take in anymore. You've got to move on." So we hired a [pauses] . . . a [pauses] . . . chartered a big freight car on the train. And it was a coal car. [laughs] And we took our baggage and put it all flat so and made a bed on it and put all the children on there. It was . . . I've forgotten how many children there were. There were a lot of children. And they all slept on that. We put our bedding on that and then the rest of us just sat around in the coal dust and talked all night. And it took all night to go to the end of the line and . . . to Baoji, and when we got there [pauses] we had to separate, and I was told to go to the mission home. And I stayed there but nobody was there and just . . . it was our mission. I stayed in one of the rooms there and [pauses] the others had different lodging, I don't know where. But . . . except for the Springers. They stayed on the car. [laughs] And I don't know. Maybe you've heard this story about [pauses] about Dick and Marion and [pauses] . . . and they had Joseph, I think, with them. And [pauses] in the night [pauses] Joseph had to relieve himself. And Marion was helping him. Dick was . . . he was very nervous, but he was having a nightmare and he said, "Bandits!" And he went and he pushed them all out of the car [laughs], pushed them both out of the car. [laughs] It was about ten feet drop onto concrete. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: So this was the husband that was . . .
CROSSETT: Yeah. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: . . . having the nightmare?
CROSSETT: Dick Springer. [laughs] Marion [pauses] . . . the next time we saw Marion she was all bound up. [laughs] Poor little Joe had bruises and [laughs, pauses] we laugh . . . we still laugh with them about that. But then we divided up. I . . . I took the children, went on a bus over the mountains, south. I was supposed to go to the town of Feng Xian and stay there but Virginia had to go down to school. So I [pauses] sent her with Mabel Williamson on to Sichuan [Province], to Kiating to the mission school. And [pauses] that was the hardest day of my life, I think. And I got off the bus . . . I'd told Virginia that she was going to go on but she didn't understand; (she was only six). And [pauses] the last I saw of her she was leaning out the bus, "Mamma, mamma!" And we didn't see her for about two years.
ERICKSEN: Now, was that the usual time period or was that length of [pauses] . . . was that how long it usually be that wouldn't see your children?
CROSSETT: Well, yeah, it use to be. When they were up in Chefoo, of course, at that time the Japanese had taken Chefoo and the children were all in captivity. And they were . . . they grew up in captivity. But [pauses] usually it was about two years between the times parents saw their children.
ERICKSEN: So was Ginny part of the . . . the group was in captivity?
CROSSETT: No, she was too young. But, you see, she went to Kiating to the school there in Sichuan. And then at Christmas time it looked like China was going to surrender to the Japanese. And they . . . they were advised to evacuate the school. So the school came up to Chengdu to the American airbase there. And Christmas day (and these American boys hadn't seen white children for so long), they really gave them a treat. And they took them all over the airport, showed them the planes, and showed them everything, and then they gave them a great big turkey dinner, and candy and gum and everything. And those were war babies. They hadn't seen candy and gum and they had never tasted turkey. [laughs] And they really gave them a treat. gotten to Kunming and they flown over all the Japanese planes. But they couldn't land so they finally landed over there. And Ruth said, "Well, how long could we have stayed in the air?" And he said, "Ten minutes."
ERICKSEN: Ten minutes beyond [pauses] what they landed with?
CROSSETT: Uh-hmm. But the Lord protected them. Then after the raids were over they . . . they flew to Kunming and [pauses] put the children in the mission home there and they were there, I think, about a week. And then the American boys took these big [pauses] lorries (you know, trucks, covered trucks) . . . they took the . . . took the children down to the airport and put them on the plane to fly to India. And they got them on the plane and the Chinese soldiers surrounded the plane, wouldn't let it take off. The American boys were furious. They said, "Why?" And they said, "Well, China is about to collapse and they've ordered that nobody should evacuate, no, no foreigners should leave." And they said, "Well, these are all children." "Doesn't matter." They wouldn't let them go. So they took them back to the [pauses] . . . to the mission home. And the next night they came in the dark [pauses] with unlighted trucks. And they put the children in [pauses] . . . in these covered trucks and they said, "Don't you say a word." And they drove through Kunming with no lights on. Got to the airport and put them on an unlighted plane and took off. [laughs] And they got over the Hump [the Himalayas which form a barrier between China and India], the highest mountains in the world, and got to Calcutta safely. And then the mission had arranged with a [pauses] Anglo-Indian school up in the mountains at the foot of [pauses] . . . well, in the foot . . . in the hill country [in Kalimpong near Darjeeling] of the highest mountains in the world. Mount Kanchenjunga was right near . . . near them and Everest wasn't too far. And [pauses] so they [pauses] . . . the . . . that school [pauses], because of the war they didn't have many children, so they loaned some buildings to our . . . our school children. So they were there for about a year and a half. [pauses] Virginia never forgot those mountains. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: So when [pauses] . . . did you see [pauses] Virginia before she [pauses] was evacuated?
ERICKSEN: No. So that two year period was between the time you put her on the train . . .
CROSSETT: No, she was on the bus.
ERICKSEN: . . . or on the bus . . .
CROSSETT: And then . . . then after the war, the school came back to Shanghai. Then [pauses] then [pauses] Vincent went down and got her and brought her home for the summer.
ERICKSEN: Now during this period when you were [pauses] leaving Zheng [pauses] . . . Zhengyangguang, where were you heading toward? I mean, where were you being restationed?
CROSSETT: I was restationed in Fengxiang in the mountains of Shaanxi. [pauses] It was a little mountain station and [pauses] little mountain town. It was a county seat but it was just a small mountain place. And very high mountains all around us.
ERICKSEN: New station?
CROSSETT: No. It had been occupied by our mission for about fifteen year or more. But they didn't have much fruit. And there was a place, a market town south of the city, several miles south, where . . . . I wrote to the mission. I said, "Really our mission should be down there working, because that's where all the people come to do their marketing and everything. That's the place to reach the people." But the . . . my senior . . . the senior missionary there at that station, she wouldn't move. Afterward I think the mission found out that that was true what I said, because other missionaries went in there and they had a big harvest of people.
ERICKSEN: Now what was the name of that . . . ?
CROSSETT: That town?
ERICKSEN: . . . town?
CROSSETT: I don't remember, but it was a town of cave people and it was all cave people in that area. And [pauses] . . . but this missionary had been there for fifteen years and she wasn't about to move.
ERICKSEN: How did the girls [pauses] respond to the . . . the strain of the war?
CROSSETT: They were so nervous. [pauses] They were terribly nervous. Of course, they been separated from us. Virginia had been separated and hardly knew us. And Margaret was [pauses] . . . she'd been through these bombings and she was very nervous. Then she was in Shanghai for the school year. And then we came home on furlough. We came here to Wheaton. [clears throat] If the tower bell rang, even if they were in the middle of the street, they'd just scream at the top of their lungs. [pauses] So we couldn't leave them. And we had to resign from the mission and make a home for them. [pauses] It's funny, one time here at Wheaton they were showing [pauses] one of the Moody films. It was a new one at the time. It was about the atom bomb. [pauses] And they showed all that. Virginia was so nervous. [pauses] And afterwards she cried and said, "Mommy, I wish it were safe like it was when we were little." [laughs]
ERICKSEN: Did you hear much from [pauses] your husband while you were traveling to the new station in Shaanxi?
CROSSETT: It took three months to get a letter. [pauses] A telegram took three months. I didn't . . . I got letters but they were old and I didn't . . . I didn't know where he . . . what he was doing. Yeah, it was . . . . When I got down to Hanzhong [pauses] from Fengxiang when the Japanese were just about to take Xian, it looked like, and . . . and the . . . this Fengxiang station was [pauses] between the mountains but it . . . it was on the highway that went right from Xian to south China. And that was the highway the Americans' trucks came up, brought ammunition to Xian and then went back empty. And [pauses] we were . . . one Sunday morning one of these truck convoys stopped. And one of the missionaries from the [pauses] Scandinavian Alliance, TEAM now, stopped and came in and said, "You've got to get out. You're in a dangerous position here." So I just dumped things in a suitcase and took Margaret and we got out on one of those trucks, started down over the mountains to the city of Hanzhong, where the American airbase was. And [pauses] on the way [pauses] . . . the boy that was driving the truck was only twenty-one years old. He was from New York. And he said that when they had gone up with ammunition to Xian . . . he and his buddy (his buddy was driving) . . . and the Chinese officers tried to stop them. They wanted a ride. And they weren't allowed to take anybody because they had ammunition. And . . . so they . . . they couldn't speak Chinese so they motioned that they couldn't pick him up. And he took a pistol out and shot his buddy, killed him. And this fellow hated the Chinese because of that. And this officer afterwards was executed because of that. But . . . but [pauses] this little . . . this young boy, he was just hating the Chinese. We . . . we drove down [pauses] around the mountains and the roads were very narrow and it was very steep. And you could look down see trucks had gone over you know and everything. And [pauses] we met a truck load of Chinese soldiers. And [pauses] we both stopped; there was no way to pass. And [pauses] this soldier that was driving the truck, he was cursing us like everything Americans and everybody else, and why wouldn't we let him pass and everything. And [pauses] . . . and this American boy, he took his gun and he was gonna . . . he was gonna to shoot him. I said, "Quiet down. I can talk to him. I know what he is saying." [laughs] And [pauses] so I started talking to him. I said, "Look here. You know that this road is too narrow to pass. Why . . . what right have you to be cursing us like this?" He said, "Oh, I didn't know you understood Chinese. Oh, oh, oh, yes. Oh, of course, we'll back up, and so that you can pass in the wider place." [laughs] So they backup and we passed, but . . . [laughs] And that boy said, "Oh, please go with me clear down to the Burma Road, will you?" [laughs, pauses] He just begged me to stay with him. We got down to Hanzhong where our mission was and [pauses] I [pauses] . . . I told him I couldn't go any further. I . . . he . . . I said, "If you take me down to Chengdu," (where he was going, to Chengdu) . . . and I said "If you take me down to Chengdu, there'll be an Ameri . . . American council there, sending every American out from Chengdu into India or to home." I said, "I'm not going. My husband is behind the lines and I'm not going to go." So . . . [laughs]
ERICKSEN: That convinced him.
CROSSETT: Well, he didn't have anything to say.
ERICKSEN: Yeah. [pauses] It sounds like [pauses] with all that was going on [pauses] you might have second thoughts about staying a missionary or [pauses] especially with all the pressure with [pauses] the girl . . . with Ginny leaving and leaving Rev. Crossett behind. Were there times when you really struggled with understanding what was going on and . . .?
CROSSETT: No. When you know the Lord's called you, you don't budge. You don't change your mind when it's the Lords leading. No. I . . . I . . . I knew that the . . . Vincent was in the Lord's hands and, of course, Virginia was in the Lord's hands. He protected us all. Margaret and I were in [pauses] . . . it was hard but the Lord was with us.
ERICKSEN: Do you remember instances where you faith was reinforced [pauses] to keep going?
CROSSETT: [laughs] I don't [pauses] . . . don't remember especially. I mean, we just [pauses] I was . . . most of the time I was with other missionaries, and we had meetings and [pauses] encouraged each other. [pauses] So, I don't [pauses] . . . there were lots of time when we were sad but . . . .
ERICKSEN: Sure. What about contact with the communists [pauses] during this later period, during your second term. Any?
CROSSETT: No. No con . . . no contact.
ERICKSEN: None. Even to the end?
ERICKSEN: What about [pauses] the period during which Rev. Crossett stayed back in [pauses] . . . in Anhui? Was . . . did he have . . . ? No contact either?
CROSSETT: No, he was surrounded by the Japanese but he didn't [pauses] . . . he was in contact with the American Air Force there. [pauses] John Birch, you know, (they call it the John Birch Society now, but he had nothing to do . . . but didn't know anything about that. That was started after he died). But he was a . . . a Baptist missionary and he had gone into the Air Force. And he was back of the lines [pauses] teaching the Chinese how to do dem . . . demolition and different things. And he . . . he had hidden air bases back in there. And the airplanes would come in to bring supplies. And they'd land and in fifteen minutes they'd go out. And the Japanese never found those bases. They looked like wheat fields or rice fields or something. And [pauses] Vincent was in contact with John Birch. He could tell you more about that. And he was at one of those airfields. And he was helping to do translation and . . . interpreting, I mean, and . . . and [pauses] he went with one of the officers that had been shot down behind the lines. He took him to one of the air . . . the airfields. He had quite an adventure there. [pauses] He'll have to tell you about that 'cause I wasn't there.
CROSSETT: But [pauses] even . . . eventually they flew him out.
ERICKSEN: And is that when . . . when you were reunited?
ERICKSEN: What year was that?
CROSSETT: Year before the end of the war. [laughs] If forget the year.
ERICKSEN: Forty-four, then. And then did he join you at the station that you had been working at?
CROSSETT: No. You see I had gone down to Hanzhong. That was an American air base there and then Vincent had helped get all the rest of the missionaries out from Anhui of our missionaries by plane through John Birch. But he couldn't come because didn't have . . . they lacked one parachute and they weren't allowed to fly without parachutes so he stayed behind another two months. But when I heard that the others had gotten out and they had gone to Chongqing, I went to the head of the airbase and I said, "Could you fly me and my little girl to Chongqing?" and I'd wait for him there. And [pauses] so eventually they did. He said, "You be ready in fifteen minutes [pauses] anytime I say." Well, when you got a five year old girl [laughs], try to keep her clean. Well, anyway we [pauses] . . . I managed it and we [pauses] finally . . . and two weeks later they gave the call and in fifteen minutes we were on the plane, and we flew to . . . he flew us to Chongki . . . we . . . to Chengdu. I stayed over night at the air base there and then on to Chong . . . Chongqing. But at Chengdu one of the officers came to me and he said, "We'll have your husband out soon." So, then I went to Chongqing and waited there for him.
ERICKSEN: And then where were you [pauses] . . . where [pauses] . . . what station did the two of you go together?
CROSSETT: We went up the Yangtze River to the city of Lu Xian [located west along the Yangtze] [pauses] and we were there for [pauses] . . . till the end of the war [pauses]. almost a year.
ERICKSEN: And was your work in that city pretty much the same as what you had been doing?
CROSSETT: No, it was very different from . . . than Anhui. There was [pauses] . . . in . . . in that area there was such little response to the gospel compared to Anhui where it was so open. But here . . . there it was very difficult. And . . . .
ERICKSEN: What . . . what . . . what accounted for the difference, do you think?
CROSSETT: I don't know, but missionaries had been there a long time, sown the word but hadn't taken root. I know o . . . . . . one of the missionaries in Chongqing in another mission, she said, "You did it in Anhui. Now do it here." [laughs] We didn't do it at all. It was the Lord's doings.
CROSSETT: But there in . . . in Lu Xian the work was difficult. There was not too much response. There was an established church there and that was doing well, but . . . but to do evangelistic work there was not much response.
ERICKSEN: Well, we're just about [pauses] to the end of our time. I wonder if we could go back and talk about the situation you mentioned [pauses] when you were, I think, still a junior missionary, this other woman that you worked with? Is now an okay time to talk about that?
CROSSETT: You mean in Shucheng?
CROSSETT: Oh, oh. You mean [pauses] . . . there were four of us there. A senior missionary and then [pauses] a girlfriend.
ERICKSEN: The senior missionary was Hazel Todd?
CROSSETT: Yes. And then there Doris Hinkley who was from England [pauses] and Eva Knight from America, and I. And well, Doris attached herself to me. And she wanted me to be with her all the time. She wanted me to tell me all her thoughts and all my tho . . . tell her all my thoughts. And . . . and she was sickly and she wanted me to nurse her. And I would read to her by the hour; (she loved books). And [pauses] she just [pauses] wanted me all the time and I couldn't take it. And I just . . . finally I told her, I said, "Doris, this can't go on. I can't have this kind of a friendship. It's not healthy, and I don't want it." And I never responded to her like that. And [pauses] she just cried and cried and said, "This is the blackest day of my life." After that she hated me [pauses] and asked for a transfer. She was transferred to another station.
ERICKSEN: How did your senior missionary [pauses] . . . I mean, deal with it?
CROSSETT: She didn't pay any . . . she didn't pay any attention.
ERICKSEN: So you were sort of on your own?
ERICKSEN: Do you think that sort of thing was common among missionaries?
CROSSETT: Quite often with two lady missionaries together in a station they would become very close.
ERICKSEN: How'd . . . did you ever see situations where it hurt the work?
CROSSETT: I don't know anything about the work. All I knew was our own work. [laughs]
ERICKSEN: Yeah. [pauses] Okay. [pauses] Thanks again.
CROSSETT: That all? [laughs] Okay.
END OF TAPE