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Charles Detweiler papers

Identifier: Ax 333

Scope and Contents note

The Charles Detweiler Papers are divided into series according to separate mediums. The most prolific media are Detweiler’s sermons, manuscripts and articles, which focus on the missionary field in Latin America. There are also religious pamphlets, photographs, and scrapbooks. This collection contains texts written in both English and Spanish. Some of the most interesting information in this collection pertains to Detweiler’s first years of missionary service in an uncivilized Ecuador at the turn of the 20th century. Later some of his writings attend to the turbulent years of revolution and political unrest in Latin America. These cultural and historical highlights are spread amongst a large amount of religious writings.

Series I, Correspondence, contains incoming and outgoing correspondence of Charles Detweiler. Suberies IA, Outgoing Correspondence, contains letters, sent to family and associates from 1898-1955. The earliest letters, from 1898-1905, detailing the events of his first mission to Ecuador, were sent to his Aunt Grace, and stand out as the highlight of this collection. They describe his confrontations with Catholics, difficult attempts at spreading the gospel, adaptations and the political turmoil in the country. The next group of letters, sent to his daughters during the 1930’s, only focuses on short times on trips to Central America and Mexico. Detweiler describes his trip to Latin America in October 1930, and a subsequent trip to El Salvador in February 1933, in which he mentions the slaying of a group of Indians in a Communist uprising. The latest letters, 1949-1955, are to associates. The last letter of 1955 contains a great biographical account. Subseries IB, Incoming Correspondence, contains Detweiler’s letters, received from religious groups and missionaries, mainly referring to missionary business in Latin America. Casanella’s letter of 1958 describes a tank attack of the Cuban revolution.

Series II, Sermons, contains a large number of Detweiler’s sermons in various states of draft. Subseries A, Full Sermons, contains finished and typed copies of sermons in English only. These sermons have a more essayistic tone. Suberies B, Small Sermons, contains briefer, more conventional sermons, attending more directly to scripture, written in both English and Spanish, and less finished than the prior series. Subseries C, Notes and Outlines, contains even less refined sermons and are often organized around specific themes or biblical passages. These writings are in Spanish and English.

Series III, Literary Manuscripts, contains a variety of unpublished, or prepublished, material written by Detweiler, centering on religious and Latin American themes, and articles collected by him on the same subjects. Subseries A, Testimonial Addresses, contains speeches written to eulogize his associates, and presentations for religious groups. Subseries B, Articles, contains articles in manuscript form. Two articles entitled “Ecuador” summarize Detweiler’s first mission. “My Spiritual Pilgrimage” is a good source of biographical information. Subseries C, Latin American Accounts and Reports, contains a variety of material about the state of things in Latin America. Some pieces are merely general statistics about a nation or general opinions of Detweiler presented informally. Also there are essays, a journal from a trip to Mexico, and addresses directed at Latin America. Subseries D, Spanish Speaking People in the United States, contains notes by Detweiler and news clippings on this topic. Suberies E, Miscellaneous, contains Detweiler’s notes on various subjects, theology, book reviews, and others.

Series IV, Publications, contains a variety of published items by Detweiler, in both Spanish and English, and memoriam to Detweiler. Subseries A1, Articles in English, contains articles by Detweiler printed in newspapers and religious journals. The earliest articles contain reports from his mission in Ecuador. Many of the later articles are reports on Central American missions as well as religious treatises. There are many discussions of the affect of the Mexican revolution on religious practices and of the Nicaraguan revolution of the 1920’s. In the articles of 7/28/1928 and 9/21/1933, Detweiler predicts the Cuban revolution, detailing a current depression. Articles from various publications are followed by copies of the Pastor’s Round Table, which contain religious commentary by Detweiler. This subseries contains articles by Detweiler’s partner in Ecuador, C. S. Chapman, written from the period of their service. Subseries A2, Articles in Spanish, contains Detweiler’s writings in various publications, mainly on religion. Subseries B, Pamphlets and Books, contains religious pamphlets and a short book. The pamphlets are either religious treatises or descriptions of Latin American missions. “Tests for Missionaries” is an interesting missionary primer. There are mission histories of Cuba and Mexico. Subseries C, Memoriam, contains publications remembering Detweiler after his death, some take the form of children’s stories but most are more biographical. The most informational of these is located in the journal of the Rocky Mountain Baptist Association.

Series V, Other Publications, contains journals, pamphlets and articles collected by Detweiler. Subseries A, Journals, contains publications in both Spanish and English on Latin American subjects. Baptist Crossroads and 40 Year History of Baptist Work in Puerto Rico contain accounts of missions and brief pieces on Detweiler’s work. Subseries B, Pamphlets, contains religious treatises, mission descriptions, and brochures from Detweiler’s home in Tarrytown, New York. Subseries C, Articles, contains a variety of articles on general religious topics.

Series VI, Guest Book, is a guest book filled with Spanish names, some accompanied by notes written in Spanish.

Series VII, Photographs, contains photo albums and loose photographs of Detweiler and Latin American religious associates. All the loose photographs seem to have been taken during Detweiler’s trip to Cuba in 1953 to teach at a Baptist retreat. There is a photo album consisting of pictures from Mexico during the 1930’s, which contains pictures of architecture, namely churches, and Mexican congregations. There is a scrapbook seemingly sent to Detweiler from missionaries in El Salvador containing photographs and clippings of Salvadorian missionaries and Baptists.

Series VIII, Oversize, contains a photo album from Puerto Rico, which seems to be a gift to Detweiler from a missionary or congregation. The album consists of photos of church officials, members, and ceremonies, as well as postcards and snapshots of Puerto Rican cities and sights.


  • 1898-1963


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

Charles Detweiler was born in Polo, Illinois on February 15, 1878 to John Samuel and Sarah Ella German. John was a Lutheran clergyman; he later became a Baptist. John's struggles with religious affiliation influenced Charles's own spiritual path. In a letter of 1955, Detweiler notes that his family was "deeply committed to the cause of foreign missions." The family moved to Louisville, Kentucky, ultimately settling in Omaha, Nebraska.

Detweiler received his A.B. from Midland College in Atchison, Kansas in 1897. He later received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Denison University in 1930. In 1898, he went to Ecuador as a missionary for the Gospel Missionary Union. His first year in Ecuador was spent in the tropical jungle east of the Andes, residing in Archidona, serving the natives of the Napo River region at the headwaters of the Amazon. His letters present difficulty in relating to these people due to language barriers and general disinterest. His next three years were spent in western Ecuador, preaching and selling bibles out of Guayaquil, Quinto, and Ambato. All of these efforts were difficult, as he faced disinterest from most people and genuine displeasure from the Catholic community. In 1903, Detweiler separated with his organization, citing poor management, and became an independent missionary. Later that year, he returned to the United States for a respite. On October 5, 1904, he married Margaret Evans; together they would have four children, Dorothy, Helen , Charles, Jr. and Ruth. Margaret and Charles returned to Quinto in 1905.

In 1907, Detweiler decided that the Baptist faith was the best path to follow so he set out to become a member. He returned to the United States, was accepted by the Baptist community, and obtained a position as a preacher in Lake Crystal, Minnesota. In 1909, he returned to the mission front with the American Baptist Home Mission Society (ABHMS) in Puerto Rico. In 1919, he became Superintendant of the Department for Latin American Missionaries of the ABHMS, overseeing development and administration in Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti and Puerto Rico.

During his thirty years in that role, Detweiler contributed to Baptist publications many writings on religions and Latin American topics. He was also a member of the Inter-denominational Committee on Cooperation in Latin America, and contributed to their journal "La Nueve Democracia." In 1938, he was the delegate to the Baptist World Missions Conference in Madras, India, and traveled to missions in India and Burma on his visit. He was a Secretary to the Department of Education of the Home Mission Society, which oversaw the administration of Bacone College, a college for Native Americans in Oklahoma, and Spanish-American Baptist Theological Seminary in Los Angeles. From 1947 to 1948, he was the acting president of Bacone.

After retiring from the ABHMS in 1948, Detweiler and his wife moved to Denver, Colorado. There he functioned as an interim preacher for Baptist churches. He continued with his missionary services, lecturing and preaching to Spanish speakers throughout the Mountain West. He continued to write and was a regular contributor to the "Pastor's Roundtable." He died September 22, 1962.


3.5 linear feet (10 containers)

Language of Materials



Charles Detweiler was a Christian missionary in Latin America. The Detweiler Papers consist of Detweiler's sermons, manuscripts and articles, which focus on the missionary field in Latin America. There are also religious pamphlets, photographs, and scrapbooks. This collection contains texts written in both English and Spanish. Some of the most interesting information in this collection pertains to Detweiler's first years of missionary service in Ecuador at the turn of the 20th century. Later, some of his writings attend to the turbulent years of revolution and political unrest in Latin America. These cultural and historical highlights are spread amongst a large amount of religious writings.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series: Series I. Correspondence; Series II. Sermons; Series III. Literary Manuscripts; Series IV. Publications; Series V. Other Publications; Series VI. Guest Book; Series VII. Photographs; Series VIII. Oversize.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Dorothy Detweiler in 1967.

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 Charles Detweiler papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Aaron Poor
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Language of description note
Finding aid written 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