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Smith Family Papers

Call Number: RG 5

Scope and Contents

The papers date from 1894-1971 and primarily document the activity of Edward Huntington Smith and his daughter, Helen Huntington Smith, in the United States and China.

Correspondence, the first series, is divided into three sections: Correspondence: Edward H. Smith; Correspondence: Helen H. Smith; Correspondence: Grace T. Smith, Eunice S. Bishop, Merlin A. Bishop.

The bulk of Correspondence: Edward H. Smith consists of letters written by the missionary to his family in Norwich, Connecticut. This material, in fact, forms a diary-chronicle touching on such topics as social change, missionary finances, education, bandits and travel. Documentation of modern China's political turmoil--the formation of the Republic in 1911, Chiang Kai-shek's entry into Ingtai in 1918, civil war, official corruption, anti-Christian activity of the Nationalist Army, 1949 Communist victory--is evident throughout Smith's correspondence.

Correspondence to Edward H. Smith is also incorporated in this section, although it is not extensive. Before going to China, he received letters regarding the Student Volunteer Movement, etc. While in China, he occasionally received correspondence from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). During furlough years, other China missionaries wrote to him. After his expulsion in 1950, many of Smith's former students corresponded with him.

A separate section of Newsletters to and from Edward H. Smith follows the regular correspondence.

Correspondence: Helen H. Smith spans the years 1910-1970, but is not extensive. Early material is primarily of a familial nature, while that of later years is professional. Again, Newsletters follows regular correspondence.

Correspondence: Grace T. Smith, Eunice S. Bishop, Merlin A. Bishop is quite brief. Grace T. Smith's letters are to her children and in-laws. Eunice S. Bishop and Merlin A. Bishop material is housed in two folders. Additional Merlin Bishop material is available in Record Group No. 8, China Records Project Miscellaneous Personal Papers Collection.

The second series, Writings, contains biographical information regarding the Smith family, as well as three main divisions: Writings: Edward H. Smith; Writings: Helen H. Smith; Writings: by Others.

Writings: Edward H. Smith include several notebooks of memoirs, a diary, historical sketches, poetry, etc. and four account books documenting the financial aspect of missions. Notes regarding Fuzhou (Foochow) mission history, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc. also appear.

Writings: Helen H. Smith contains diaries, addresses, resources for worship, material regarding the Council for Lay Life and Work, papers, examinations, and short stories attributed to her.

Writings: by Others primarily consists of memorial tributes to Helen H. Smith collected at the time of her death.

A wide variety of contents is housed in the third series, Printed/Professional Material. One of the most extensive sections is the Minutes and Reports, dating from 1900-1965, and including that of the International Opium Society (1922) and Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, organized by Rewi Alley (1939-1940). Among the other categories are magazine and newspaper clippings, music, NCCC China Bulletin, and Material re: Early Career of Edward H. Smith. Box 13 contains pamphlets, including many published by the Friendship Press and many belonging to Merlin A. Bishop. Magazines, Reprints and two tape recordings by Helen H. Smith are contained in Box 14. Reprints include several works by Lewis Hoodus, Theodore Hsi-En Chen, some regarding Rewi Alley, and "Congregational Missionaries in Foochow During the 1911 Revolution" by Thomas E. Korson. Chinese language material, primarily regarding education in Ingtai, is located in Box 15.

The final series, Photographs, contains photographs of the Smith family, groups, and Chinese Christian religious art as well as several albums, and an album/scrapbook entitled "Ing Hok District of Foochow Mission, China."

In 1914, the district name "Ing Hok" was changed to "Ing Tai", which varies in spelling.


  • 1894-1972


Language of Materials

Materials are primarily in English. Chinese language materials are found in series III: Printed/professional material.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.


  1. I. Correspondence
  2. II. Writings
  3. III. Printed/professional Material
  4. IV. Photographs
  5. V. Personal Items and Memorabilia


6 Linear Feet (17 boxes)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


The papers, dating from 1894-1971, primarily document the activities of Edward Huntington Smith and his daughter, Helen Huntington Smith in the United States and China. The Smiths were a family of Congregational missionaries in China, 1901-1950, primarily in Ing Tai and Fuzhou (Foochow). Educated at Amherst College and Hartford Theological Seminary, Edward Huntington Smith devoted nearly 50 years of his life to running an orphanage, raising funds, and promoting Christian education in Ing Tai, Fujian (Fukien), China. His wife, Grace W. Thomas Smith, educated at Tabor Academy and Wheelock College, both in Massachusetts, served as a kindergarten teacher in the United States and China. Their daughter, Helen Huntington Smith, earned degrees from Mount Holyoke College, Union Theological Seminary, and Columbia University. Appointed to China by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, she taught, participated in relief work for orphans and destitute students, and worked in cooperatives and in counselling. She served as Director of Women's Work of the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ and Research Consultant for the China Records Project at the Yale Divinity School Library. Another daughter, Eunice Elizabeth Smith Bishop, served at various kindergarten training schools in China, and at the China Nutritional Aid Council studying the soy bean.

Biographical / Historical

Edward Huntington Smith, who led two generations of his family in service to China, was born at Franklin, Connecticut in 1873. His parents, Harriet H. and Owen S. Smith, came from a line of pious New England farmers. At the age of fifteen, Smith was baptized and received into the Second Congregational Church, Norwich, Connecticut. During his freshman year at Amherst College, Smith attended a Northfield Conference, where he became inspired by the evangelist, Dwight L. Moody.

After graduation in 1898, he spent several months with the YMCA in Cuba, helping American soldiers involved in the Spanish-American War. Later the same year, he joined the class of 1901 at Hartford Theological Seminary. After completion of his studies, Smith became ordained at the same Norwich church where his ancestors had worshiped for eight generations. In October, 1901, he married Grace W. Thomas, the daughter of a Methodist preacher.

The couple sailed for Shanghai from San Francisco in November, 1901, and arrived at Ing Hok, Fujian (Fukien) Province, the next month. ("Ing Hok" is sometimes referred to as "Ing Tai", "Yung tai" and other variations.) Edward Huntington Smith devoted his life to this mountainous district, often traveling by foot to its farthest outposts, or by boat down the rapids. He spent nearly 50 years (1901-1950) running an orphanage, raising funds, and promoting Christian education. (This figure includes years of furlough, etc.) One of the highlights of Smith's career occurred in 1918 when he met Chiang Kai-shek, whose Nationalist Army was then engaged in fighting war lord Li Hou-chi of Fuzhou (Foochow). (For a more detailed account see: "Chang-Smith Yungtai Memorial Fund" by Henry H. Wu. Box 10, Folder 39.) In 1946, although officially retired, Smith returned to Fuzhou (Foochow) at his own expense. After his expulsion in 1950, Smith spent much of his time writing on the subject of China, missions, his life and related matters. He died in 1968.

Grace W. Thomas Smith, who married Edward Huntington Smith in 1901, was born in 1874 at Pine Brook, New Jersey. After graduating from Tabor Academy, Marion, Massachusetts in 1893, she joined the first class of Wheelock College, Boston, and taught at the Perkins Institute Kindergarten for the Blind in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts for eight years. Her work in China included substitute teaching at the Union Kindergarten Training School, and the establishment of a local kindergarten, in addition to raising the couple's own four children. At the time of her death in 1939 she was known as the "Mother of all Ingtai."

The children of Grace and Edward H. Smith continued in service to China. Helen Huntington Smith, born at Ingtai in 1902, graduated from Shanghai American School, Class of 1921. Following graduation from Mount Holyoke College in 1925, she became a Traveling Secretary of the Student Volunteer Movement for one year. She received a Master's degree in Christian Education from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in 1928, and spent the next two years as Girl's Work Secretary at Union Settlement, New York City.

Appointed to China by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions in 1929, Helen H. Smith spent the next twenty years teaching at the Wen Shan Girls School of Fuzhou (Foochow). (This institution has various spellings and is also known as the Orlinda Childs Pierce Girls School. Helen Smith's maternal aunt, Eunice T. Thomas, was on the school's first staff and later taught at Fukien Christian University.) In 1941, when the school evacuated into the interior for a second time, she hid $8,000 in her hair and led 110 students to safety by trekking 300 miles on foot. She also participated in relief work for orphans and destitute students, in cooperatives, and in counseling at this time.

After being expelled from China, Helen H. Smith spent 1951-1962 as Director of Women's Work of the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ. She attended the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, Switzerland in 1961, was a delegate to the Third Assembly of the World Council of Churches meeting in New Delhi, India, 1961, and served on numerous committees. In 1963, she became " ...the first woman to head a major national Board of a Protestant denomination..." ("Miss Helen Huntington Smith," Office of Communication, United Church of Christ. Box 8, Folder 2) The Defiance College, Defiance, Ohio, awarded her an honorary degree in May of the same year. At the time of her death in 1971, she was Research Consultant for the China Records Project.

Eunice Elizabeth Smith, born in 1906 to Grace and Edward H. Smith, attended college in the United States and received kindergarten training at Teacher's College, Columbia University. She served at the Union Kindergarten Training School, Laura Haygood Kindergarten Training School, and the China Nutritional Aid Council studying the soy bean. Her husband, Merlin A. Bishop, was involved in numerous organizations, such as the YMCA. (see: Correspondence), Sino-American Cultural Relations Committee, and the China Nutritional Aid Council, advising mechanical and structural problems. The couple had one daughter, Laura.

Grace and Edward H. Smith's youngest child, Margaret, born in 1912, married Charles E. Thrasher. Their only son, Edward Huntington Smith, Jr., died in 1910 at the age of six.

Separated Materials

Several maps, political posters, and a 1873 deed to a house were transferred to Sterling Memorial Library, August, 1975.

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 Smith Family Papers
Compiled by Lynn Buckley Aber
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Divinity Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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