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Ashmore Family papers

Identifier: Ax 564

Scope and Contents

The Ashmore Family Papers are divided into eight series, according to family members and also by medium. Generally, this collection consists of correspondence, writings by and about William and Lida Ashmore and other members of their family, memorabilia, photographs, and artwork. Some of the most important pieces are those that highlight William, Jr.'s achievements as a translator and member of a long history of missionary service in South China. The antiquated diaries and possessions of this family stand out. Lida's collection of Chinese artwork is interesting and speaks to her own abilities as a missionary.

Series I, the William Ashmore, Jr. Papers, contain papers of and pertaining to the missionary and translator. Subseries A, Correspondence, contains letters from 1874 to 1937. Most of the letters were sent to his daughter, Edith. The earliest letters, 1874-1879, are to his friend T. G. Field; they precede William's missionary experience. From 1927 forward the letters do not address the subject of missions, focusing on family and daily life. A good index to the topics of William's letters is located in the letter extracts of William and Lida in Series VI, A. There are many references to missionary life and work, Chinese culture, and the military turbulence of the early 20th century. Subseries B contains William Ashmore's diaries from 1873-1874, 1907, and 1935-1937. The earliest diary accounts William's trip to Europe, traveling and studying languages. The latter periods consist of terse entries in a "line a day" diary. Subseries C consists of biographical information in the form of Edith's notes and compiled letter extracts, biographical articles, and news clippings. There is a variety of material centered around William's 75th birthday and translation completion, his 80th birthday, and his death, including William's own essays on his translation, a proofreading manuscript of the Swatow Bible, and obituaries. Subseries D, Writings, contains William's missionary tracts, newspaper articles, graduation oration, whole sermons, sermon notes, and a key to his shorthand. Subseries E, Ephemera, consists of miscellaneous articles such as report cards, diplomas, passports, trip mementos, and a piece of Lida's wedding dress. Subseries F, Swatow Bible, contains a printed copy of William's bible translated into the Tei-chi dialect of South China.

Series II, the Lida Scott Ashmore Papers, contain Lida's correspondence, diaries, biographical information, missionary publications, scrapbook, and oil paintings. Subseries A, Correspondence, is made up of her outgoing correspondence, predominately to her children, Edith and Frank, with a number of letters addressed to Lida's brother, Zar Scott. The letter extracts of William and Lida contain a guide to the most interesting subjects of her letters, for instance, her work as a missionary, a director of Chinese drawn drawn work in Swatow, and her work for the Red Cross. Subseries B, Diaries, contains journals, Edith's baby book, and a diary of her first husband, Albert Lyon. Lida's journal of 1877-1878 details her first trip to Asia with Albert Lyon and her return following his death. The journals of 1913-1914 cover a trip to Burma. The diary of 1921-1922 consists of terse "line a day" entries and the final diary of 1924-1928 covers the final tour in Swatow and the return to Santa Ana, California. Albert's two-volume diary details his trip to Europe during 1873. Subseries C, Biography, contains biographical notes compiled by Edith, like family trees and lists of dates, and Lida's autobiography. The autobiography contains many details of her youth, her voyages, and her missionary work, including her hand in developing the "drawn work" industry in South China. It is 115 pages in length; the first 82 pages were written by Lida, the rest being completed by William after her death. Subseries D, Publications, consists of two copies of Lida's book covering the history of the Swatow mission, one hardcover and one soft cover. Subseries E, the Scrapbook, is collection of colorful Chinese paper and art. It contains prints, colored paper, wrapping paper, invitations (to a variety of dignified events), cards, and envelopes. Subseries F, Artwork, consists of Lida's oil paintings of Chinese and various subjects, as well as a painting and drawing originally located with Frank Ashmore's papers.

Series III, the Edith Ashmore Hensolt Papers, contain some of Edith's correspondence and diaries. Subseries A, Correspondence, consists of one outgoing letter to Zar Scott and many incoming pieces. Most of the incoming correspondence is from Edith's friend Leslie Kosmopolous. Leslie's earliest letters are from her travels in Europe and the latter are from her residence as a missionary in Greece. There is a letter from Ethel Ashmore, Frank's wife, regarding William's death. Subseries B, the Diaries, is from 1895 and 1906-1907. The first covers a journey from Swatow to Chicago and the latter a round trip journey to Swatow from Chicago, including Boston, San Francisco, and Hawaii.

Series IV, the William Ashmore, Sr. Papers, contains two items of correspondence, writings, official documents, hymnals, and a diary of his first wife. Subseries A, Correspondence, contains two letters written to William, Jr., one in praise of his success and one in consolation over a broken engagement. Subseries B, Writings, consists of a religious tract, entitled "My Four Bibles," a description of William, Sr.'s difficulty with the Chinese, "The Ashmore Land Case," and a copied inscription of a book dedicated to William, Jr. Subseries C, Hymns, contains two pentatonic hymn books used by Ashmore in Swatow and a single sheet of music. The hymnals are in the Tei-chi dialect of Swatow. Subseries D, Diary, contains the sea journal of Ashmore's first wife, the mother of William, Jr., Martha Sanderson. The diary details their journey to South China and Siam by steamer in the winter of 1850-1851. Subseries E, Artwork, contains a small oil painting of Martha.

Series V, the Zar Scott Papers, are comprised of correspondence collected by Lida's brother Zar regarding the Scott family. Most significant to this collection are the letters from Job (J. H.) and Helen Scott, a missionary couple in Osaka, Japan. Unrelated to missionaries, but nonetheless intriguing, are Harold Scott's letters from the war front during World War I. There is also a collection of correspondence between William Ashmore, Jr., Zar, and a questionable businessman, Carey Emerson.

Series VI, Miscellaneous, contains a variety of correspondence, news clippings, religious pamphlets, biographical information, and mementos collected by Edith and the rest of the Ashmore family. Subseries A, Correspondence, contains later letters from unrelated missionaries in Swatow and Asia, letter extracts pertaining to Frank Ashmore, and the letter extracts of William and Lida. The missionary letters were written during the 1940s and 1950s, during the second Sino-Japanese War and describe the rise of communism and describe the turmoil of that era. Frank Ashmore's letter extracts are excerpts from the original letters of this collection copied and compiled by Edith in order to produce a biography of her brother's life, some original letters are included. William and Lida's letter extracts, also prepared by Edith, center on a thorough listing of the subjects of their letters. An index is located at the beginning of this section. Subseries B, News Clippings, was compiled by Edith and contains news about Asia and Asian missions. Most of the clippings are organized around the city of a mission's location, mostly in Japan. There are several editions of a Baptist periodical, The Watchmen Examiner, noteworthy because the edition of March 26, 1925 has an article about the Swatow Mission and the Ashmores, detailing many of their successes. Subseries C, Pamphlets, contains some advertisements and religious tracts from missions in Japan. Subseries D, the Ashmore Family Biography, contains biographical notes on the other members of the family. There is also a religious tract for the Swatow mission, compiled by William Jr. and Sr., as well as a biographical article in a Baptist Quarterly describing the successes of the father and son. Subseries E, Chinese characters on study cards.

Series VII, Photographs, contains many photos that depict the Ashmore family. Subseries A, 75th Birthday Party Photograph, consists of a portrait of William and Lida originally located with William's 75th Birthday collection. Subseries B, Photos from Leslie Kosmopolous, consists of photographs originally included with Edith's incoming letters from Leslie Kosmopolous, predominately pictures of Leslie's son, Elias. Subseries C, Scott Family Photos, contains photographs from the Zar Scott Papers, included with Job Scott's letters. There are photos of Job, and other Scotts, during the time of their missions in Japan and an interesting photo of Job with two of his sons dressed in their military uniforms. Subseries D, William Ashmore, Sr.'s Photos, contains photographs originally located with William, Sr.'s collection, taken of the members of his third wife's family. Subseries E, Loose Photos from Album, consists of photographs loosely contained within the Ashmore photo album. It contains pictures of William and Lida, other family members, and friends in various states of repose, on voyages, at parties, and in portraits. There are several small photos of William's birthplace in Siam and one with the construction of the Ashmore Theological Seminary. Subseries F, Family Photo Album, contains many portraits of the families of William, Jr. and Sr., pictures in various locales, on furlough, vacation, at work, and with other missionaries. Subseries G, William Ashmore, Sr. Family Images, is made up of daguerreotypes, a tintype, and a printing block of William Ashmore, Sr. and Martha Sanderson Ashmore.

Series VIII, Oversize, contains collections of Chinese artwork and more of the Ashmore's photo albums. Subseries A, Artwork, contains a collection of stories with illustrations called 24 Examples of Filial Piety and drawings by students in a Chinese government school. Apparently the filial piety stories are traditional stories more than 700 years old. They depict moralistic scenes of children honoring parents and are accompanied by English translations. The five government school drawings were drawn by Chinese students and obtained by Lida in Hu City (Chaochowfu). Subseries B, Photographs, consists of four photo albums of Ashmore vacations. One album contains pictures from William and Lida's extended furlough in Minneapolis from 1887-1891; William was recuperating from malaise. There are two albums of photos from Japan. One contains tinted photos from 1883 and colored pictures from the 1900s and one contains photos from Karuizawa, circa 1900. There is an album of pictures from Siam, circa 1900. Subseries C, Documents, contains two relics, William, Sr.'s passport and land deed. Subseries G, Encased photographs of the Ashmores.

Series IX, Artifact, contains a sample of Martha Sanderson's wedding dress.


  • 1850-1937


Conditions Governing Access

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

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

William Ashmore, Jr. was born to William, Sr. and Martha Sanderson on September 28, 1851 in Bangkok, Siam where his father was a Baptist missionary to Chinese emigrants from the Swatow District of South China. William, Jr. learned to speak English, Chinese, and Siamese while growing up. His brother Frank was born December 21, 1853. Martha Ashmore became ill in 1858 causing the family's return to the United States; she died enroute. William, Jr. and Frank were raised by her family in the following years, first on their Grandfather Daniel Sanderson's farm in Brookline, Massachusetts and then with their Aunt Carrie Sanderson Spalding in Warren, Rhode Island, while their father acted as missionary to the Swatow District.

William began attending Brown University in 1866, at the age of fifteen, and graduated in 1870, third in his graduating class and also the youngest member. He studied several languages, including French, German, Greek, and Latin. After graduating, he was a teacher, first at Peddie Institute in Hightstown, New Jersey and later at Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois and at Brown. He traveled in Europe during the interim. In 1876 he enrolled at the Rochester Theological Seminary, graduating in 1879. In Rochester, William studied Hebrew. He received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Brown in 1905.

Following his marriage to Lida Scott on October 10, 1879, William Ashmore, Jr. embarked upon a Baptist missionary career in his father's territory, the Swatow District, which encompassed 46 years. During this time he fathered two children, Edith, born May 27, 1882 and Frank, born January 5 1885. In addition to his duties as administrator and teacher at the mission, William, Jr. used his knowledge of and aptitude for language to translate the Bible into Swatow's Tei-chi dialect. He began this translation early in his missionary career, the first mention was in 1895. The New Testament was completed in the spring of 1898. The final, complete version was translated predominately from 1920 to 1926.

William retired from overseas duties in 1926 to Santa Ana, California. There he lived out his final days finishing his translation and interacting with missionaries. He died March 11, 1937.

Lida Scott was born in Waterford, Michigan, west of Detroit on January 19, 1852 to George and Abigail Hart. She attended Kalamazoo College for a short while before returning home to teach. In 1876, she married Albert Lyon, who was an acquaintance of William Ashmore via the Rochester Theological Seminary. Together they embarked upon a mission in Bhamo, a city near the border of Burma and China. A month after arriving in Bhamo, Albert Lyon died from a fever. Lida returned to the U. S. as soon as possible, teaching in Rangoon while awaiting her departure. She returned to Michigan, where she became reacquainted with William Ashmore, Jr. They married shortly thereafter in order to accompany each other on the upcoming mission to Swatow.

During her years of missionary service in Swatow, Lida was a teacher, administrator, particularly during William's absences into the remote parts of the district, and Red Cross volunteer. She was a painter, seamstress, and gardener. She developed an art program for some of the women of the Swatow District. Their drawings on materials generated income and revenue for the mission. Lida wrote a book detailing her mission's history, The South China Mission of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society. She died in Santa Ana, California on June 6, 1934.

Edith Ashmore, the daughter of William, Jr. and Lida Scott, was born in Swatow May 27, 1882. She and her brother Frank moved to the United States in 1895 where they were raised in a home for missionary children in Morgan Park, Illinois, outside Chicago. Edith graduated from Vassar College in 1906 and later worked at the University of Chicago library. She married Charles Elder August 10, 1916. They had two children, Rachel and Philip, and moved to Boulder, Colorado. Charles died May 22, 1935. Edith relocated to Albany, Oregon and later married Fred Hensolt. Edith stands out primarily as a purposeful collector of her family's papers.

William Ashmore, Sr. was born in Putnam, Ohio on December 25, 1824. He graduated from Granville College in 1845 and from the Western Baptist Theological Institution in Covington, Kentucky in 1848. In 1850, he married Martha Sanderson of Brookline, Massachusetts and they embarked for missionary duties in South China. After Martha died, William, Sr. married Eliza Dunleavy during a furlough in 1863; Eliza died in 1885. In 1890, he married Mrs. Charlotte Brown, widow of a Japanese missionary. William's missionary career lasted until 1903 and he is remembered as an exuberant pioneer of Baptist missions in South China. With William, Jr., he founded the Ashmore Theological Seminary, a college for preachers in Swatow. He died on April 21, 1909 and was buried in the College Cemetery in Granville, Ohio. Most of his records are located at the Denison University library in Granville.

Zar Scott was the brother of Lida Ashmore. He was born in Waterford, Michigan on October 25t 1848. He owned a lumber company in Duluth, Minnesota for most of his life. He contributes to this collection his correspondence with the Ashmores and correspondence with other missionaries in the Scott family, notably Job and Helen Scott.


15.75 linear feet (25 containers) : manuscript boxes, 1 flat box, 3 photo boxes

Language of Materials



The Ashmore Family papers are divided according to family member and also by medium. This collection consists of correspondence, writings by and about William and Lida Ashmore and other members of their family, memorabilia, photographs, and Chinese artwork.


Collection is organized into the following series: Series I. William Ashmore, Jr. Papers; Series II. Lida Scott Ashmore Papers; Series III. Edith Ashmore Hensolt Papers; Series IV. William Ashmore, Sr. Papers; Series V. Zar Scott Papers; Series VI. Miscellaneous; Series VII. Photographs; Series VIII. Oversize.

Custodial History

Gift of Edith Ashmore Hensolt in 1968.

Existence and Location of Copies

Selected items are available online in the Papers of American Missionaries to Asia: The Ashmore Family in China, Thailand, and Japan, 1850-1937 in Gale Primary Resources.

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 Ashmore Family papers
Revise Description
Finding aid prepared by Aaron Poor
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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