Robbie Fee-Thomson

Document #3

Francis Davis Letter to “Loved Ones”

Fen Cho Fu, Shansi, China; June 21, 1894

L, A: Oberlin College Archives, Lydia Lord Davis Records Group (RG 30/80), Personal Correspondence Series III, Box 3, Letters Sent by Lydia Davis, Apr.-Jun. 1894 Folder



This original, handwritten letter was penned by Francis to announce the birth of another son on June 20, 1894. This baby died in infancy in 1894, as did their first son in 1890. The Davis’ second son William Potter was a toddler at this time. Another son John Lord was born in 1896, also in Shansi, and their fifth son Lewis Eleazer was born in Ravenna, Ohio, in 1897 while the family was on furlough in the United States. Though this letter announces the birth of their child, it brings up another issue that was significant to missionary families in the foreign field. Having children in the foreign field was often risky, resulting in illness and death of many. Dysentery, typhus, diphtheria and pneumonia threatened the lives of children—and adults. By 1900, of the twenty-five children born to missionaries in Shansi, twelve died in the field, including the Davis’ two newborn sons. Often, children were born without a doctor present, but Francis remarked that Dr. and Mrs. Atwood, one of three doctors in Shansi between 1882 and 1900, were staying with them at there home at the time of the birth, indicating that he probably attended the child’s birth.


Fen cho fu, Shansi, China, June 21, 1894

Dear loved ones: [ee]

Last night about 20 minutes past 9 oclock another little son[ff] was born to Lydia & I. At this time Thursday 3 A.M both mother and child are doing well. Lydia had a short sickness [gg]and seems strong. We have not yet weighed the little one but think he will weigh 8 pounds or more. He will look more like my side of the house, I think than Wm. Potter does for every one notices his resemblance to Lydia. This letter is dated Fen cho fu but it should be dated Yű tao ho about 8 miles north of Fen cho fu. We are living in a place once used as a grist mill[hh]. It seems very quiet and comfortable here. Mrs. Thompson is helping us as a sort of nurse & hired girl combined and Dr. & Mrs. Atwood, (who are boarding with us, in very fact because their cook in the city bakes our bread & cake and sends out our vegetables), are kindness itself. Everything, thus far seems to have been blessed by Providence to our good. And we trust the future will show that this little one will be a blessing to the world. But I must close and send the messenger who will try and overtake the regular courier who has nearly a day’s start of him. With much love to you all

Yours devotedly

F.W. Davis.


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[ee] Unsure if this letter was sent to Francis’ or Lydia’s family. Due to its location in a collection of letters sent by Lydia, most of which were sent to her mother, it is likely that this letter authored by Francis was among those in her mother’s possession.

[ff] This son died in infancy in 1894. No information is available about his name. Lydia Lord Davis biography, OCA RG 30/80 Finding Guide.

[gg] This term likely refers to Lydia’s labor and delivery.

[hh] This may be the same residence previously rented by Stimson and the early members of the band in Taiyuan. The Oberlin Band, 6-7.