Early Adventists in Darjeeling
On a recent visit to Andrews University I stayed a couple of days with Milton Bairagee who informed me that the previous week Mrs Fern Babcock had given some old photographs to the Center for Adventist Research in the James White Library. I soon realized that these must be of early work in India, as Fern Babcock is the great granddaughter of Elder Robinson who was the first superintendent of the Adventist work in India. He arrived in1896, and by the end of 1899 he had succumbed to smallpox.
One of the photographs was of early workers in Darjeeling and illustrates well their activity as Robinson reported to the Advent Review of August 1, 1899. This is what he wrote:
AT the close of March it was thought best that we come to Darjeeling to spend some time during the hot season in the plains. Brother Ellery Robinson was already here, working with the paper. He secured a suitable house, and March 29 his wife, Miss Whiteis, and my family also came. Several days later, Dr. Place sent up a few patients, with the Drs. Ingersoll and two nurses. Still others desired to come, so it was found necessary to take another small house to accommodate all. These we have had full till the present; but now that the rains will soon be setting in, we shall not have so many. We are situated a mile and a half out of the town, in full view of the everlasting snows, which tower up nearly thirty thousand feet into the sky. Darjeeling itself is seven thousand feet high, making it sufficiently cool to need a fire in the morning and at night.
The first Sunday in May we began meetings in the town hall. After holding three services, we received word from the authorities that we could not have the hall unless I would promise to say nothing that would give offense to the Catholics or to any other sect. Of course, not being able to make such a promise, we had to give up the hall. The final decision in the matter did not reach us till Saturday night, and we had an appointment out for the next day at the hall. A hotel proprietor, who, with his wife, had attended the meetings at the hall, on learning of the situation on Sunday morning, offered us his big room in the hotel for the meeting that day. By watching the people on their way to the hall, we were able to inform them of the change, and so had a fair audience. We have now made arrangements with this hotel to have the meetings there every Sunday.
Our largest audience, however, has been from the country over the mountains, from the tea estates, and through the district. After our first meeting, the editor of the Darjeeling Standard requested that I give him the substance of the talk, for his paper; so I have given him between three and four columns each time, and this I shall continue to do as long as we are here, if the way remains open. The Catholics went to this editor two weeks before we began meetings in the hotel, but we did not know it. They desired him to turn his paper against us, but he told them he would do no such thing. Darjeeling is a small place in the mountains, and consequently everybody knows what is going on. We have one hundred regular subscribers for the Oriental Watchman, who have taken it through to the end of the year, and some books have been sold here. The Catholic element is strong, and would rule everything and everybody if it could.
Our canvassers are working mostly in the northwest. Brother Brown is at Naini Tal, a hill station two or three hundred miles west of Darjeeling. Brother Spicer has charge of the meetings in Calcutta, which, with his work on the paper, gives him plenty to do.
About the middle of this month, when the rains begin, our English school, which has been closed for a few weeks, will open again. Miss M. M. Taylor will have charge of it. We are all looking forward with interest to the arrival of the two teachers who we understand will reach India about the first of October. We shall be able to give them a warm reception even as late in the season as that; but the hottest weather will then be past.
In April, thirteen were baptized in Calcutta. The friends there are anxious to do all in their power to carry forward the work. One interesting case is that of a young brother afflicted with leprosy, who accepted the truth several months ago. It is no injustice to him when I say that he was a wild, reckless young man, without hope and without God in the world, till the truth found him, and he found it. He can and does truly say, " Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." He is happy in the Lord, and his friends know it, too.
We greatly need a place in Calcutta for our meetings, a central location where the people can find us. Calcutta is the great metropolis of India. Through it many are passing and repassing, and there ought to be a place sufficiently prominent to be readily found. If we could have a hall, book depot, and Oriental Watchman office all combined, it would add very much to the interests of the work in this field.
--D. A. Robinson