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.