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Franklin and Bertha Schweinfurth Ohlinger Papers

Call Number: RG 23

Scope and Contents

This record group provides valuable documentation of American Methodist mission work in China, particularly Fujian (Fukien) Province, and in Korea. Detailed and substantive letters describe the daily life and work of missionaries and interactions with Chinese Christians. The Ohlingers were pioneers in the field of translation and publication for the church in China and Korea, and founders of the Anglo-Chinese College in Fuzhou (Foochow); these aspects of their work are well documented. Franklin Ohlinger's disputes with the Methodist missionary hierarchy and subsequent detours in his missionary career are well-documented. These disputes and their consequent financial implications, added to the childhood deaths of two Ohlinger children on the mission field and frequent separations of the nuclear family, resulted in a difficult life for the Ohlingers, yet their missionary enthusiasm remained unabated.

Series I, Family Correspondence, consists primarily of letters exchanged between Franklin and Bertha, and with their son Gustavus. Correspondence is intensive and detailed for the periods when Bertha and Franklin were separated because of health problems, financial problems, or political disturbances in China. Details of family life are prominent in the letters, but mission work and political events are also described. Many of the earlier letters and some throughout the collection are written in German script.

Series II, General Correspondence, includes letters exchanged with the Methodist mission hierarchy, with both Chinese and Western colleagues on the field, and with churches in the U.S. to arrange furlough itineration. Franklin Ohlinger's particular interests in literary work and work with lepers and the blind are well represented in this correspondence. Notable correspondents include Young J. Allen, Helen Keller, Timothy Richard, William Jennings Bryan, and various bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Series III, Writing, Sermons, Speeches, provides a sampling of the Ohlingers' writings, sermons, and speeches on missionary topics. Lists of writings in the first folder of this series point to additional articles published in various periodicals. As in the case of the correspondence, about 25% of the writings are in German.

Series IV, Collected Material, primarily contains printed material documenting mission work in China and Korea.

The Personal Items and Memorabilia of Series V include well-identified photographs of the Ohlinger family and of mission work and events in Fujian during the early years of this century. A substantial amount of biographical documentation of the Ohlingers is available, some of it compiled by their daughter Constance. Contained in this series is a listing of additional Ohlinger papers that were donated to the Rutherford B. Hayes Library in Fremont, Ohio, Franklin Ohlinger's hometown.


  • 1867-1973


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Alice Ohlinger Weaver, 1993.


  1. I. Family Correspondence, 1870-1933, n.d.
  2. II. General Correspondence, 1870-1933, n.d.
  3. III. Writings, Sermons, Speeches, 1870-1973, n.d.
  4. IV. Collected Material, 1875-1964, n.d.
  5. V. Personal Items and Memorabilia, 1868-1972, n.d.


7 Linear Feet (14 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection provides documentation of American Methodist mission work in China, particularly in Fujian Province, and in Korea. The Ohlingers were educational missionaries and pioneers in the field of translation and publication for the church in China. Franklin Ohlinger was born in Ohio in 1845. He served as a missionary under the Methodist Episcopal Church Foreign Mission Board beginning in 1870, based in Fuzhou, Fujian Province. He was a founder of the Union Theological School and the Anglo-Chinese College in Fuzhou. In 1887 the Ohlingers were reassigned to Korea due to conflicts with missionary colleagues in China. Following the deaths of their two younger children in Korea, the Ohlingers returned to the U.S. and Franklin returned to China as an independent missionary in 1894. He started an orphanage in Antau and was reinstated as a Methodist missionary in 1897. Ohlinger was involved in educational and literary work until his death in 1919.

Biographical / Historical

Franklin Ohlinger born near Fremont, OH; attended Wallace College in Berea, OH
Bertha Schweinfurth born in Saginaw, MI, daughter of John Schweinfurth, a Methodist circuit rider
Franklin arrived in Fuzhou (Foochow), serving as missionary under the Methodist Episcopal Church Foreign Mission Board
Franklin organized school in Fuzhou (Foochow), later known as Union Theological School of Foochow
Franklin established Zion's Herald, Methodist newspaper published in Shanghai
1876 April
Franklin married Bertha while on furlough in the U.S.
1876 October
Arrived back in Fuzhou (Foochow); engaged in literary and educational work; edited and contributed to several Methodist periodicals
1877 July
Gustavus Ohlinger born
1881 January
David Birchard "Bertie" Ohlinger born
Franklin co-founded, with Diong A-Hok, the Anglo-Chinese College in Fuzhou (Foochow); Franklin was first president and Bertha taught.
1884 December
Wilhelma Bertha "Willa" Ohlinger born
Furlough in U.S.
Ohlingers reassigned to Korea by the Mission Board, apparently due to Franklin's conflicts with missionary colleagues in China
Started the first publishing house in Korea, founded the Korean Religious Tract Society, edited the Korean Repository
Bertie and Willa Ohlinger became ill and died, were buried in Korea; Ohlingers returned to U.S.
After nearly two years of lecturing in the U.S., Franklin returned to Hinghua, China as an independent missionary; started the Rebecca McCabe Orphanage in Antau. FO was reinstated as a Methodist missionary in 1897.
Bertha returned to China, served at Rebecca McCabe Orphanage; Franklin worked with Methodist Press
1901 February
Contance Ohlinger born
Franklin and Bertha transferred to Fuzhou (Foochow) Conference; Franklin Dean of Theological School
Returned U.S.; Franklin then returned to China and was stationed in Shanghai while Bertha and Constance lived for a time in Geneva, Switzerland
Bertha and Constance returned to Shanghai
Bertha and Constance in Japan for a time, due to Bertha's health
Franklin, Bertha, and Constance returned to U.S.
Franklin returned to China, taught at Fukien Provincial College, Fuzhou (Foochow)
Serious illness caused Franklin's return to U.S.
Ohlingers lived in Toledo, OH; Franklin lectured, translated, sought work from the Methodist mission board
Ohlingers lived in Ann Arbor, MI
Franklin died in Cincinnati, OH
Bertha died in Columbus, OH

Processing Information

Place names were modernized in the description, with the name originally used in the collection material or in an older version of the finding aid in parenthesis: e.g. “Beijing (Peking)” or “Benin (Dahomey)”.

Guide to the Franklin and Bertha Schweinfurth Ohlinger Papers
Compiled by Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Yale Divinity Library Repository

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