For a while, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) prohibited unmarried persons from entering the mission field. The Board believed that married missionaries could cope better with hardships and resist sexual temptations.
Thus, they required young men to be engaged at least two months before entering the mission field. To help the would-be missionaries find wives, the ABCFM had an ongoing list of “missionary-minded” women who were considered “young, pious, educated, fit and reasonably good-looking.” (Christian History Institute)
“Missionaries are ambassadors of Jesus Christ, beseeching people to be reconciled to God. Their business is not with believers, but unbelievers; they are not pastors or rulers, but evangelists.”
“Their first duty is to gather a local congregation. They will be spiritual leaders to it, but will leave it to a native minister and move on to preach the gospel in some other place. The sole exception is when a church is organized and there is no suitable native pastor available.”
“The missionary should raise up ministers and give them responsibility. Too many missionaries in any area will retard the development of the churches. Missionaries should be married, and their home will be a model of Christian family life.” (Legacy of Rufus Anderson; Beaver)
“How to improve the social life of a nation so demoralized and degraded, was a problem not easy of solution. Uncouth manners were to be corrected, and modes of dress and living to be improved. Only married missionaries could do this. Living models of domestic Christian life were indispensable.” (Anderson, 1872)
Augustine George Hibbard, in his history of the town of Goshen (where the ordination took place), notes the description of the time that Hiram met Sybil (his future wife), at the ordination (September 29, 1819) of then-single missionary Hiram Bingham (as told by Reverend AC Thompson).
“Nor was there wanting a touch of romance. Next to the singing of Melton Mowbray, the incident which lingered most vividly in the recollections of the people is one which they rightly regarded as a marked interposition of God’s good providence.”
“Oral traditions in regard to it have so many slight variations of detail, that I give what will be accepted as authentic and final, an extract from a letter written, at my request, by Mr. Bingham, many years since:”
“On leaving Andover, at the close of my course there, I took a rough journey to Goshen, and as the friends were gathering thickly there, in the afternoon previously to my ordination, Mr. Thurston and myself submitted to the requisite examination which was somewhat extended to meet the rising interest in the cause of our contemplated mission.”
“I was quartered at the Rev. Mr. Harvey’s. He and others attended, in the evening, a Bible Society meeting; but fatigued with closing all up at Andover, my journey and examination, I chose to stay quietly at the house of Mr. Harvey.”
“In the course of the evening, a gentleman, Rev. Mr. Brown, called and asked for lodgings for himself and a young lady, whom he had brought with him from the valley of the Connecticut. I stepped over to the meeting, and privately asked Mr. Harvey what should be done with them.”
“He replied laconically, and with little interruption to the routine of Bible meeting business, ‘Take them to Deacon Thompson’s.’ I offered, therefore, to accompany them thither.”
“Mr. Brown went to the public house, and brought out the young lady, introduced her to me, and took us into his vehicle, and, at my direction, drove to Deacon Thompson’s.”
“I had taken cold by a night’s ride over the mountains, and I wrapped a handkerchief about my neck, chin, and mouth, that cold evening, and this awakened ready sympathy in the sensitive heart of the young lady, who had for years been warmly interested in the missionary cause.”
“Mr. Brown had introduced her as Miss (Sybil) Moseley, the name of a lady teacher at Canandaigua, NY, whom Rev. Levi Parsons had mentioned to me as a most amiable, and thoroughly qualified companion for a missionary.”
“During the whole interview, the ride, and the call at your father’s, my mind was intently querying whether this could be the very same.”
“When introduced by your kind parents into the parlor, and seated by a hospitable fire, we sat and conversed for a few minutes. I measured the lines of her face and the expression of her features with more than an artist’s carefulness, and soon took leave of her, and Mr. Brown, and the family, receiving some very generous cautions from her respecting my cold.”
“The next day I learned that she was the young lady of whom Brother Parsons had spoken so highly. I saw her in the course of the next day most intensely interested in the missionary cause, and learned a good deal about her from Mr. Harvey, Brother S. Bartlett and wife, and Brother Ruggles and wife, about to embark for the Sandwich Islands.”
“I mentioned the case to Dr. Worcester, Mr. Evarts, and my brother, and asked their counsel. A prayer-meeting was arranged at Mr. Harvey’s while I authorized Dr. Worcester to ascertain from her whether a private and special interview with me would be allowed.”
“He saw her while prayers were offered for Divine guidance. He stated my case, held up the great work at the Islands with which her soul was already filled, and left her with the words, ‘Rebecca said, I will go.’”
“Returning to Mr. Harvey’s, he told me I could see her. I gave her some account of myself, put into her hands a copy of my statement to the Prudential Committee, in offering myself to the work, asked her to unite with me in it, and left her to consider till the next day whether she could give me encouragement, or not.”
“The next day she said she would go with me to her friends, and, if they did not object, she thought she should not. It was arranged for us to ride in a chaise to Hartford. The result you know (they married less than 2-weeks later).” (Hiram Bingham)
On October 23, 1819, Hiram and Sybil, and the rest of the Pioneer Company of American Protestant missionaries, set sail on the Thaddeus for Hawai‘i. By the middle of the trip, four of the wives were pregnant.
Sybil was pregnant when they arrived at Kailua-Kona on April 4, 1820. That first child of Hiram and Sybil, Sophia Mosely Bingham, is my Great-Great Grandmother.
Follow Peter T Young on Facebook
Follow Peter T Young on Google+
Follow Peter T Young on LinkedIn
Follow Peter T Young on Blogger
Lala Black says
Peter – how interesting, and special that you clearly know and have proof of your roots. So many people try in vain, some lucky, others hitting stonewalls or missing links. My niece has been in Wales trying to verify James Henry Thomas’ background – different from what my grandmother was led to believe. 🙂 Lala Black