Stanley Crawford cleans the memorial dedicated to his great-grandfather, Edgerton Hart, at Yijishan Hospital in Wuhu, Anhui province. Wang Kaihao / China Daily
My China Dream | Stanley Crawford
The great-great-grandson of an American Methodist missionary travels to China to retrace his ancestors’ footsteps. Wang Kaihao joins him in Anhui province.
Stanley Crawford isn’t a patient or a healthcare provider, but doctors and nurses at Yijishan Hospital of Wannan Medical College in Wuhu, Anhui province, nod and smile knowingly when they see him there.
The American quietly polishes a book-shaped stele in the hospital’s garden with a fistful of grass before suddenly shouting to passers-by: “This is my great-grandfather!”
Doctor Fu Yuelian smiles and greets him in simple English.
“I see him a few times a month although I don’t know his name,” she says.
Crawford has come to the hospital to retrace the steps of his great-great-grandfather, Virgil Hart, a Methodist missionary who arrived in China in 1866 and settled down in Jiujiang, Jiangxi province, a year later.
He embarked on an ambitious mission to build several hospitals and schools along the Yangtze River in the following decades.
He founded Yijishan Hospital in 1888. Crawford’s great-grandfather, Edgerton Hart, was born in Jiujiang in 1868 and became the hospital’s director in 1895.
Wuhu became a trading port after the Sino-British Yantai Treaty in 1876. It became a major hub for foreign missionaries.
“I know some foreigners did something bad in China at that time, like selling opium, but I am proud my ancestors were not among them,” Crawford says.
The little memorial in the hospital garden was built in 2000 to commemorate Edgerton Hart. Edgerton Hart’s tombstone is believed to have been destroyed during World War II, like many foreigners’ graves in the same cemetery.
Crawford worked as an English teacher in the Wuhu-based Wannan Medical College for a year and a half, after he took a position at the medical school of Jiujiang University in Jiangxi province for three years. He says he wanted to take a medical-related job to honor his great-great-grandfather.
“When I was a child, I was fascinated by a black-and-white photograph of the Summer Palace,” he says.
“And I was sure I would go to China one day.”
He didn’t begin to plan the specifics of his childhood dream until his grandmother Carolyn Hart had a long talk with him in 1998. She asked him to complete a mission for her in China.
She was born in Wuhu in 1908 and left in 1913, after Edgerton Hart died of typhus. Some members of the Hart family stayed in China until 1924.
Although Carolyn Hart returned to China twice in the early 1980s, she couldn’t go to Wuhu because overseas visitors were restricted at that time.
Crawford says that was the reason he was so excited when he landed in Wuhu in February 1999 and stepped through Yijishan Hospital’s gates.
He’s still emotional about the experience.
He almost bursts into tears when he enters the room his great-grandfather had used, although the floor is scattered with broken glass and wood splinters. The old wing is being renovated because the hospital needs new wards.
In 1999, Crawford took two months to travel to more than 20 cities. But he believed the time was too short.
He returned in 2003, bringing with him several books of missionaries’ stories, most of which were first published a century ago.
He wanted to retrace his great-great-grandfather’s footsteps, but many places were gone.
After five years of research and preparation, Crawford started writing his own quartet of books in 2009, tracing the history of the Hart missions all over China. He finished in May but is still looking for a publisher in China.
He has privately printed 500 copies and plans to bring some back to the United States as gifts.
“It’s for the whole Hart family, especially for my grandmother.”
Dr Virgil Hart (far left), his wife (far right) and their children.
Man on a mission
The only regret he has is that Carolyn Hart died in 2006 before she was able to see the books.
Zhou Dongdong, a 28-year-old IT manager with Wuhu.me, a social network for expatriates living in Wuhu, helped Crawford contact a local printer. Zhou didn’t know much about Yijishan Hospital’s history before he met Crawford in 2011.
“He couldn’t stop talking when we met,” Zhou says, explaining why he agreed to help Crawford.
“It’s interesting to see our own land through a foreigner’s eyes.”
Crawford says: “I’d like to tell Chinese people the history of their own cities because some of them may not know it. I only want to sell my books where my ancestors once worked, and I don’t expect them to be best-sellers.”
However, he says, if the books do sell well, he will establish a fund to help people living with disabilities in Wuhu.
Zhou is touched by all the old pictures the Hart family collected but also points out that there are still “misconceptions” in the records, which testify to cultural differences.
Li Yantian is the director of Wuhu Cultural Relics Association, and Crawford had contacted her to verify the exact location of the missionaries’ cemetery.
“I was surprised,” she says.
“There had been many missionaries in Wuhu, and many of their descendants visited. But none, to my knowledge, had studied their history so seriously.”
Li showed Crawford the location of the graveyard, which is now the hospital’s lawn.
She became interested in Crawford’s books and would like to learn more from him about the missionaries’ history. But time is running out for Crawford. He ends his nine-year project in July.
Crawford, a self-employed engineer, is well-traveled. But it’s in China that he has stayed the longest, visiting more than 100 cities.
“Many foreigners still consider China to be a mysterious land,” he says.
“But if we have an open mind and an open heart, it’s really no problem at all.”
December 24th, 1947; Jacksonville Journal Courier newspaper article
Nursed Cholera Cases; Rode Out A Typhoon by Elisabeth Yager
If there were a contest in Jacksonville to name the person who has lived the most adventurous life, my entry would be a small, serene, white haired woman who was 74 last week. Because she seldom talks about herself- though always interested to talk about China – few people here know that Mrs. Caroline Hart of 651 S. Prairie Street, is mentioned in every standard textbook on the history of nursing.
Shocked Conservative Family
Born Caroline Maddock, in Guelph, Ontario Province, Canada, as a young woman she shocked her family by her determination to become a graduate nurse. After completing her training at Presbyterian and Cook County Hospitals in Chicago, she further broke with her family’s conservative traditions by going out to China to become superintendent of nursing at Wuhu General Hospital in Wuhu, Anhui Province.
Wuhu is an industrial city, about 250 miles inland from Shanghai on the coast, on the Yangtze Jiang. By intensive study – five and a half hours a day during her first year – the young graduate nurse learned to understand the local dialect and to give her nurses and other staff members their training and directions in adequate Mandarin Chinese.
Married Noted Doctor
Three years after her arrival in Wuhu, she married Dr. Edgerton Hart, one of the distinguished American medical missionaries in China. He was the eldest son of pioneer Methodist missionary Dr. Virgil C. Hart, who went out to China in 1865, who built hospitals and girl’s schools along the Yangtze and Min Rivers. Dr. E.H. Hart’s first wife had died in 1905, leaving five young children.
For their honeymoon, they took a houseboat, manned by a crew of four, on a one-thousand mile trip, propelled by sail, along the Yangtze River, around Boyang Lake and up the Gan River to Nanchang.
Sailed Into Typhoon
On their return trip from Nanchang, where they had picked up a friend as passenger, the 50-foot sail launch was struck by one of the terrible typhoons for which Boyang Lake is famous. For a day and two nights the bride was hurled from one side to the other of the blackened cabin as the houseboat pitched her husband, passenger and crew fought to free the dragging anchor and master the tiller. Over and again through the 36 hours of tempest storm, rain and peril she heard their passenger cry out: “Hart, are you still aboard”? And her husband’s answering hail.
Around four a.m. of the second night the fierce wind died away. Dawn showed them the wrecks of many Junks much larger than their own boat which had been overturned with great loss of life.
A Life Of Emergencies
After her marriage, Mrs. Hart continued to superintend the 100-bed hospital with its staff of trained Chinese men nurses, practical women nurses and domestic employees, and to supervise her own home, with its staff of eight servants. Her own three children, like four of her five step children, were all born in China.
The greatest dread of the hospital staff was the killer, cholera, which was likely to become epidemic each summer. Mrs. Hart can remember days when on a morning trip from the hospital to the nearby city, as many as twenty bodies might be counted of Chinese stricken with cholera who had died where they fell during the preceding night.
At all times there were pirates on the river, who preyed on passengers. Many nights Dr. Hart was summoned by messenger to come to the aid of parties who had been attacked and badly wounded by pirates – and would set out with revolver, rifle and medical kit. For her own protection Mrs. Hart practiced with rifle and revolver and it was widely known that she was an excellent shot.
Revolution In China
In 1911 the Hart’s returned to the United States to put the older children in school at Oberlin College, and missed the great revolution, though they had already been through periods of civil disorder.
On their return in 1912 they found that there were 5,000 revolutionary soldiers in Wuhu who had not been mustered out – or paid. These men broke out one night in mutiny and looting, and the gutters of the city ran with the blood they shed as they broke into stores and homes, slaughtering anyone who stood in their way.
Prepared For A Fight
Mrs. Hart recently came upon a memento of that night of terror – a note written hastily to her husband by the British consul at Wuhu to say that the soldiers might come to the hospital, a mile and a half from the city, to attack the “foreigners”, and if they saw his warning flares, they must flee overland as all transport on the river was in the hands of the mutinying troops.
Mrs. Hart dressed her two little girls, aged four and two, in their warmest clothing – she was then expecting her third child and the older Hart children were away at school at Lushan and Oberlin College. She packed necessities for the family in two pillowcases which she and her husband could carry besides a child and a rifle apiece. Then all night they watched for the signal flares.
When daylight came there arrived at the hospital a long procession of terribly injured residents from the city. The munity had been quelled; doctor and nurse put down their rifles and went to work in the hospital surgery.
Returned To U.S.
Dr. E.H. Hart died of typhus in April, 1913. Mrs. Hart then brought the children back to the U.S., expecting to return to China when their education was completed. Due to WWII and the Chinese Civil War, she never returned, though continued to feel a deep affection for her adopted country and its people.
After three years as head of the junior house at Drew Seminary which Dr. C.P. Mc Clelland was president of Drew, Mrs. Hart moved to Jacksonville to live because he suggested it would be a good place for her children to grow up and attend college. Mrs. Hart worked first as a senior house-mother, later at Jane Hall, while also in charge of the Mac Murray College infirmary until she retired; as her children attended and graduated from the local high school. Carolyn Hart became Mrs. Lawrence Crawford of Jacksonville, Helen Hart, is now Mrs. Stanley Reynolds of Redlands, California; both graduated from Mac Murray College and Herbert Hart spent one year at Illinois College before transferring to finish at a California college. His home is now in Chicago. While Mrs. Hart was employed at Mac Murray College, she completed the required college credits and received her B.A. degree in 1931.
Old China Hand
Since her retirement in 1942 Mrs. Hart has rebuilt a small house on South Prairie Street in Jacksonville. She is pictured above in her living room furnished with rugs, furniture and ornaments which she brought back from China.
Her friends know that she in one of a few in number who can rightly and proudly call themselves “old China hands”. Only her most intimate of friends have known until-now that she has found an honored place in the professional history as one of the five organizers and the first president of the Nurses Association of China.