January 28, 2015 Marston Memorial Historical Center
Missions Letter Boxes
by Julianne Class
Missions has been a core part of the Free Methodist Church ever since Ernest and Phoebe Ward went to India in 1881. From the Ward Family Collection to Missions’ files, evidence of the importance of missions’ work in the FMC can be seen throughout the archives at the Marston Memorial Historical Center. Recently we processed a large missions collection consisting mainly of missionary letters, the count for the collection is at 69 boxes of material.
When going through new material the atmosphere can be highly anticipatory. What might I discover and what stories will they tell? As previously reported in the Winter 2014 Historical Newsletter, during the beginning of processing this collection, several previously unknown letters from B. T. Roberts were found. This small collection of letters, ranging from 1889 through 1892, tells a little about the story of Roberts’ life at the time. A busy man, Roberts was serving not only as the editor of the Free Methodist, but was also appointed as the Superintendent of the Missionaries by the General Missionary Board. In our world of instant communication it is easy to forget that there were times when it took weeks to get one person’s side of a story and months to complete a conversation.
Some of the material found in the new collection fills gaps in missionaries’ records and some files were found for missionaries that had no files in the archive at all. One such person was Daisy Frederick. Daisy applied to be sent out by the General Missionary board in 1916. After several setbacks, she set sail from New York on November 28, 1922. Daisy landed in Cape Town, South Africa, on Christmas Day. She served for the next 24 years in South Africa, mainly in the role of teacher at various mission schools. A few years after being in Africa, Daisy wrote: “After years of delightful teaching in America I find work here the crowning joy of my life.” She continued working in the crowning joy of her life until November 12, 1946, when at the age of 54, she went to be with her Savior.
The archive is filled with stories waiting to be discovered—like Daisy’s or B. T. Roberts’—where we can add to a story we already know.
The next project waiting to be added to the growing collection of missions materials is the photographs used in Missionary Tidings, dating before 1968. To properly preserve this collection would cost $8,000, with each photo going in its own sleeve. However, for $400 (still beyond our current budget), we will be able to transfer the folders into acid-free folders and boxes to help them last longer in our climate-controlled archive.
If you would like to help us add more to the Free Methodist story and preserve these photos for the future, you can click on the Give link under the Get Involved section in the sidebar to the right. Please select Marston Memorial Historical Center as the designation for the funds and write “Photos” in the comments.
The 37th General Conference will be held in July 2015 in Orlando. In preparation for this event we are working on a display at the World Ministries Center of “General Conferences.” One of the souvenir items on display is a 1903 General Conference Souvenir Booklet. The owner of this booklet, Lillie Agnew was a missionary to Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) and South Africa from 1897-1939 and wife of G. Harry Agnew.
The booklet contains autographs of those who attended the General Conference along with her in Greenville, IL. Church leaders, fellow missionaries, and friends all signed her booklet.
The booklet came to Historical Center through Lillie & G. Harry Agnew’s daughter Susie Agnew Heath.
It has been Interesting to see what was deemed a souvenir item over the years. Will the water bottles, lanyards, pens and tote bags that seem popular now be as interesting to future Free Methodists as this little booklet full of signatures is to us 112 years later? souvenir booklet.
We now have t-shirts designed with a stylized picture of B.T. and Ellen Roberts on the front and the Top 10 Reasons to Be a Free Methodist on the back. For previews of the t-shirt and for more information and how to order them, visit our webpage here.
Fundraising in the works.
Archive of FM History Update
To view past issues of the FM History Update newsletter, visit our webpage here.