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Dr. Charles F. Johnson papers

Identifier: Ax 268

Scope and Contents note

The Dr. Charles F. Johnson Papers consist primarily of his outgoing correspondence in letterpress copy books, along with some published information related to Union Medical College, and minor writings by Dr. Johnson. For reasons unknown, few records exist of Dr. Johnson's life in China from 1901 to 1905, and the bulk of the collection encompasses his three years there following the Boxer Rebellion. However, due to a century of deterioration, the letterpress books are extremely fragile; some random pages are missing, others are difficult to read because of the blurring intrinsic to this rudimentary copying method, and all of these items must be handled delicately. However, these books contain a plethora of information (apparently everything that Johnson wrote during this period), including all of his personal correspondence with family, friends, and colleagues, all official outgoing communications for the Ichowfu medical mission and hospital, and many records related to these organizations' daily operations.

Collection is organized into four series.

Series I. Outgoing Correspondence is the largest part of the collection, occupying all of Box 1 and Box 2, along with a hardbound letterpress copybook and a few separate letters in Box 3. Volume I of the letterpress books (Sept.-Dec. 1900) begins with letters from Tsingtau immediately following the Boxer Rebellion, and most of the volume is concerned with topics related to it (foreign policy, the continued suffering of the local population, and a transcribed oral history of the Shansi massacre at Fenchowfu). Volume II of the letterpress copybooks (Jan.-Dec. 1901) contains an itemized catalog of the medical mission's losses to the Boxer Rebellion and encompasses the months prior to and following Dr. Johnson's return to Ichowfu, including the details of his growing success with training local men in medical science. Volume III of the letterpress copybooks (Jan. 1902-July 1903) contains information generally associated with the evolution and progress of Dr. Johnson's medical curriculum, including yearly reports on his Chinese students, data related to the mission's dispensary and hospital, and anecdotes on Chinese traditional medicine. Relatedly, Volume IV (Jan. 1904-Feb. 1905) of the letterpress copybooks traces the beginnings of Union Medical College, Tsinan, along with a preliminary outline of its training program, a proposed site model, and a long letter from Mrs. Johnson to the U.S. Board of Foreign Missions.

Series II. Incoming Correspondence is a small series consisting of copies of two telegrams advising the evacuation of the missions and a few letters related to mission activity.

Series III: Documents related to Union Medical College, Tsinan offers a fragmentary overview of the evolution of this institution.

Series IV: Diaries and Miscellaneous Materials contains two of Dr. Johnson's diaries: a personal one (Aug. 1877-June 1879), and a professional one (1893), and two stories that Dr. Johnson apparently recorded himself.


  • Creation: 1879-1944


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Dr. Charles F. Johnson's parents migrated as pioneers to northern Illinois, settling near Chicago shortly before his birth in 1857. After maturing through a regimen of school, church and work on the family farm, Dr. Johnson graduated with his MD from Chicago Medical College (now part of Northwestern University) in 1889. He then soon married, leaving alone on a Presbyterian medical mission in 1890 and beginning a long career as a Christian educator in China.

After working briefly at a mission in Tsingtau, Dr. Johnson joined a small group of missionaries who planned to extend the mission farther into the wilderness of the upper Yang-tze River at Ichowfu. Once the American station in Ichowfu was completed in 1891, Dr. Johnson's wife joined him there, bringing along their recently first-born daughter. Another girl was born to them the following year, and five years later the couple also had their first son. After six continuous years of working at the Ichowfu mission, the Johnsons enjoyed a furlough at home in Illinois from Autumn, 1897, through Spring, 1899, where Mrs. Johnson and the children remained for two years in order for the young girls to receive American schooling, while Dr. Johnson recommenced his work at Ichowfu.

One year after his return from the U.S., however, Dr. Johnson was forced to abandon his medical mission in Ichowfu and to flee the Boxer Rebellion. Evacuating downriver to Tsingtau (which was held by German garrisons), Dr. Johnson waited out the insurrection and was rejoined there by his wife and children in April, 1901.

Still concerned for his family's safety following the uprising, Dr. Johnson secured his wife and son in Tsingtau, enrolled the girls in a British finishing school in Shanghai, and returned to the mission at Ichowfu. Although his immediate group surprisingly had endured no human casualties, all of the medical mission's property was either destroyed or stolen by the rebels. After he worked for six months to begin the mission's reconstruction, Dr. Johnson then spent six months with his family in Shanghai before returning with his wife and son to Ichowfu in early 1902.

From this point until the Japanese invasion of northern China in 1938, Dr. Johnson directed a rapidly growing medical mission that culminated in September, 1911, with the erection of Union Medical College, Tsinan. Dr. Johnson served as director of UMC and later as the head of the Chinese Medical Missionaries' Association. The beginning of WWII brought an end to his work there, however, and he apparently left China permanently in 1942 after a network of his Chinese and American acqaintances helped him through Japanese forces and secretly sent him back to the U.S.


2.5 linear feet (3 containers)

Language of Materials



Dr. Charles F. Johnson (b. 1857) was a Presbyterian educator and medical missionary in China during the Boxer Rebellion and the Japanese invasion. He directed the new Union Medical College in Tsinan and led the Chinese Medical Missionaries' Association. The collection consists primarily of his outgoing correspondence in letterpress copy books, along with some published information related to Union Medical College, and minor writings by Dr. Johnson.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I: Outgoing Correspondence; Series II: Incoming Correspondence; Series III: Documents related to Union Medical College, Tsinan; Series IV: Diaries and Miscellaneous Materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Charles E. Johnson in 1968

General Physical Description note

3 containers

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Dr. Charles F. Johnson Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Bryan Duncan, Manuscripts Processor
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA