Saturday, February 26, 2011


(Author on left, and Dr. Wilson Fielder, Stag Creek Baptist Church, March 8, 1953)

For the last decade I have been researching the life and times of two good friends who went out as Southern Baptist missionaries to China in 1912 and 1914. Rather than the usual missionary biography, I am sharing inspirational highlights, the interesting and humorous ways "way back then" with how they went about doing good. I have great deal of interest in the subject, March 8, 1953, upon hearing Wilson speak on China in his home community in Comanche County, Texas, I felt a moving in my soul to consider foreign missions. Which we did, in Taiwan, then Hong Kong and final ten years on the China mainland building bridges of understanding with the churches and people. Here is the opening part of which I hope to publish soon.
--- Britt Towery.

Baptist pioneers in Central China, 1912-1950

Part One: Memories

As had become his weekly habit, Wilson Fielder, finished his breakfast went immediately to the closet, got his hat and silk and wool padded coat. Maudie watched from the breakfast nook with a smile of understanding.

She went with him to the door and stood on the small cottage porch as he slowly ambled down the path to the city gate. She didn’t have to be told his mission. Though he was now retired in Houston, his mind and heart were still along the Huang He (Yellow River) that threaded its way through the middle of Henan province.

It was the city gate where the action was. There he met herdsmen, farmers and merchants, even an occasional defunct mandarin. He often met poor former Manchu Mandarins, sitting at the gate, not really knowing how to work. With the fall of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), Dr. Sun Yat-sen formed the Republic of China.

Vagabonds in straw sandals or barefoot came as far away as the other side of Zhengzhou and up from the third largest river in the world, the powerful Changjiang (Yangzi River), that separates north and south China.

It was on the great river, as it made its way from the city by the sea, the Chinese meaning of the city’s name: Shanghai, that Maudie and Wilson enjoyed their unique 1914 honeymoon. The ordinary river fishing boat was just the beginning of many a strange and fascinating experience this young missionary wife would find very different from the farm in Miles, Texas.

Maudie stood on the porch as tears welled up in her eyes to see the one she loved through the good and bad years. The War Lords of the twenties; Japan’s invasion in the thirties; Wilson’s four years in a Japanese consecration camp in the forties; the continuing civil war between the Nationalists and the Communists; corruption of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists government; Chairman Mao Zedong’s Long March. Most of Henan province’s droughts brought starvation and disease year after year to this breadbasket of the country.

During all that turmoil, Wilson and his Chinese co-worker were gone for weeks at a time on their donkeys visiting settlements and villages that had never heard of Jesus. Maude held down the fort and raised three boys (Wilson Jr., Richard Byron, and Gerald) and two daughters (Florence Ann and Golda Jean), seeing to their needs and constantly visiting church and non-church women of the area. In the churches women sat on one side and men on the other. So according to custom women missionaries ministered with the women and children.

Bertha Smith, who worked in Shandong province, tells of some churches with a wall to separate the sexes, others simply a curtain. In the churches where famous pioneer Charlotte “Lotte” Moon ministered, the women even used a side entrance.

Maudie sat down in her rocking chair as Wilson was now out of sight. He would return soon as 1960s Houston had no city gates and only a small number of Cantonese-speaking Chinese. (The Cantonese were world vagabonds; some of whom came from Mexico to Texas with General John J. Pershing after his expedition for Pancho Villa in 1916. The Fielders spoke Mandarin.

Memories are strange and often confusing to those of a certain age. Wilson would die soon at the age of 80. He was as good a Comanche County, Texas, cowboy as a back-country central China missionary.

Maudie had a mind sharpened by her farm work, parents who loved the Lord and kept her older brothers from “teasing” her as boys do. Her study at Howard Payne College and the newly-opened Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth unwrapped her eyes and heart to a wider world. Her memory was a great help when she began the study of the Henan variety of Mandarin. She first met Wilson as a coach and teacher at Miles High School. He had finished his studies at the two-year Howard Payne College in Brownwood and was commuting from Baylor University in Waco to Miles.

Maudie was studying at Howard Payne, and the train from Waco to Miles always made a stop at Brownwood. He often “just happened” to stop over for a well-chaperoned visit in the dorm parlor. Sometime during those visits Wilson shared with Maudie his belief that he felt God was calling him to be a missionary to China. Though his parents were active in the Stag Creek Baptist Church near Comanche county’ South Copperas Creek, Wilson left no word about how his interest in China developed. He did know Howard Payne graduate Blanche Rose Walker who was on her first leave home from China.

The honesty and desire to serve added to Maudie’s interest in this young cowboy. But, she tended to put such thoughts out of her mind, after all, he was a Baptist and she a Methodist.

Maudie wrote in her diary: “In August, one day I received a letter saying that the way had opened for Wilson to go to China.” The message did not surprise Maudie. She had known of his deep desire to go. She added in her diary: “What is surprising he left without seeing me again. I was hurt and angry.” In the language of West Texas, his leaving without seeing her “got her goat!”

Wilson left Comanche, Texas, in August 1912, along with Eugene and Annie Jenkins Sallee, who were returning to China for their second term. The First Baptist church of Comanche voted to assume the financial responsible of the new missionary.

Weeks later Maudie got a letter Wilson written on the high seas and mailed from Japan. In this first and brief letter he asked Maudie, straight out, if she would consider becoming a missionary --- then as somewhat of an after thought --- would she become his wife.

Her only thought was: “Why in heaven’s name didn’t he ask this before he left the United States?” In her answer to Wilson, she simply wrote: “I will pray about it.”

Maudie was finishing up the breakfast dishes when she heard the screen door open, Wilson was back from “the city gate” with little or no news. As he settled in his arm chair, Maudie thought of the many times she had seen him come in from doing preaching, visiting merchants and those in the hospital. As well as repairing the well or working on the old car they made every effort to keep it running with no auto repair shops within a 1000 miles.




Newspaper's Big CEOs Make Money, Not News

TV entertainment as news fouls the airwaves

Will Rogers’ comment that “All I know is what I see in the newspapers” needs to be updated: “All I know is what I see on the internet newspapers.” And a great deal harder to seek out the truth on the World Wide Web than opening up a daily newspaper and hold it, fold, read in any room. It’s so nice, that special smell of ink on newsprint. Enjoy while you can.

The only thing you smell on the Internet and television is the gun powder stench; lots of screeching tires; bedroom scenes galore and exaggerated over-abundance of cleavage (of the prettier gender) by entertainment hosts.

Anything you want to buy they have long legs and smiling girls pushing it on you. Even advertize condoms and all kinds of enhancers for the wandering male or female. And why is that “nekked” couple sitting in bathtubs outside in the first place? Why does a family of bears need to be promoting toilet paper? More is spent on commercials than news programming.

It is an unfortunate fraud by cable and networks to promote “entertainment” as news and put it on their newscasts. They have expanded and excelled the “yellow journalism” of old time newspapers. It is a smart con the “users of the public airways” puts over on us. They report a starlet’s bra size or who is in re-hab rather than what is actually going on in Washington government chambers and Wall Street board rooms. No money for foreign correspondents anymore.

Recently on C-SPAN, Andre Schiffrin, founder of The New Press, argued that the conglomeration’s take-over of publishing houses, magazines and newspapers (from people who had printer’s ink in their veins) publishing of all kinds began to go downhill. Each book was expected to make a sizable profit or they would not print it.

The demise of many newspapers came about, not because they lost a little money, or broke even, but they did not make enough to suit the suits who took over. That is why foreign correspondents are disappearing and many informative books not published. Greed.

Half a century ago, daily newspapers were primarily published as afternoon newspapers. Remember when the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published both morning and afternoon editions? Those were the days of the Houston Post, Dallas Time-Herald and the San Antonio Light. Along with thousands of others these great papers have been shelved deep in some library archives.

In 1950, there were 1,772 daily newspapers published in America. That has dropped to 1,437. The latest count I could find was in 2006. Probably many more have been closed the last five years.
Research tells me that the average weekday readership of daily newspapers in the top 50 markets has declined from 77.6 percent in 1970 to 48.4 percent in 2007. During the same period, Sunday readership has gone from 72.3 percent to 55.4 percent.

The sad part of this era comes down to those who hurt the most, like sports editor Frank DiLeo, who wrote: “For the second time in two years, I am being laid off from my job as sports editor of the New Jersey Daily Record.” He even won the first New Jersey Press Association award for innovation a few years back.

Men like Frank are victims of corporate greed, just like millions of folks out there going through the same thing in publishing, waiters, secretaries and laborers along with farmers and us average folk. It’s all about profit margins.

Britt Towery, free-lance writer, who once had a writing office in the Southern Building, Center Ave., Brownwood Texas, just across from the Lyric Theater where he made 35 cents an hour. E-mail:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Steve Allen Meeting of Minds

The old TV series, “Meeting of Minds, is enjoyable history and entertaining.

From time to time I wonder what it would be like to sit down with men or women who have accomplished something of value with their lives. The people who influenced history, even if as a clown or a comic like Charlie Chaplin.

Loving to read history, I would like to ask the real people a lot of things. Such as getting the “real story” of how Leo Tolstoy wrote such long books; why old Joe Stalin feared Trotsky; where George Washington slept; and see if actress Sophia Loren would explain her 17 days in jail in 1972. (It was for Italian tax evasion – any excuse to see her would be more than worth the effort.)

The originator of the NBC-TV Tonight Show, Steve Allen, did what I would enjoy doing. He created what critics called "the ultimate talk show” --- “Meeting of Minds.” From the start it was a popular, award-winning series on the Public Broadcasting System network.

The “getting on” generation, the “not getting any younger” set, will remember this chit-chat show. It was not exactly your typical night time talk and repartee show. Instead of having the latest movie starlet or personality, the show featured guests who played important roles in the drama of history.

Each week, Steve and his wife Jayne Meadows, would entertain historic guest around a table in the manner of their historic times. Allen, creator and writer, served as the host and moderator and welcomed both heroes and “villains” around his table of discussions.

The series had Steve Allen’s sharp and thought-provoking humor while reminding us of yesterday’s leader’s insight and controversies.

Jayne Meadows, co-writer and actress, was born in “God’s Country” (China) of missionary parents. She is the older sister of Audrey Meadows best known as the dead-pan housewife, Alice Kramden on the 1950s classic television comedy, “The Honeymooners.” (One afternoon in the 1980s I ran into Audrey and her husband in Kowloon, Hong Kong. She did not appear to mind my stopping them to tell her of our appreciation of her life and work. She died in 1996.)

Since the “Meeting of Minds” program could not produce the real Aristotle or Niccolo Machiavelli they had to use actors. Like Keye Luke, who played the "father of modern China," Dr. Sun Yat-sen. For the 19th Century English poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Allen’s wife Jayne Meadows played the part. She also was a perfect Cleopatra.

Among those who appeared on different programs were Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, Marie Antoinette, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Paine, Francis Bacon, Thomas Jefferson, and the infamous Voltaire and Charles Darwin.

In Allen’s books he has written about the series. In his own words, Allen has shared some of his vision:

"The idea is that every syllable will be part of an actual quotation. The degree of the exact quotation varies from character to character. In the case of some people who played important roles in the drama of history, of course, there is no record of anything they ever said or wrote. Two examples that come to mind are Cleopatra and Attila the Hun. Nevertheless, they were both fascinating characters for our show. And there's nothing difficult in creating dialog for them. You bring factual information into conversational form -- and commit no offense in doing so.”

The multi-award winning series “Meeting of Minds” still exists in the form of video cassettes and book form. These have been used in some high school history classes for years. Check and see if the local library has copies.

Of all the comics or humorists, not counting Will Rogers or Mark Twain, Charlie Chaplin would be my choice for a conversation over a cup of tea. I like his take on politicians. Chaplin once said: “I remain just one thing, and one thing only –-- that I am a clown, and it places me on a far higher plane than any politician.”

Quanah Parker, Comanche Chief

Quanah Parker, remembered on 100th anniversary of his death

A few years ago returning home from a visit to Norman, Oklahoma, I drove out of the way to Fort Sill. I did so to give my respects to the monument and tomb of the last of the Comanche chiefs, Quanah Parker.

Quanah Parker died 100 years ago Feb. 23. Beside being a well-respected chief of his clan, much of his fame comes from his famous mother Cynthia Ann Parker. She was a young girl when abducted by a Comanche and Kiowa raiding party, May 19, 1836.

The Comanches were a powerful group of tribes from the forests of deep east Texas almost to the Rockies and south to the Rio Grande. They were a wandering, warring band with large herds of ponies and any Indian or white they could capture.

Later Cynthia Ann became the wife of Pete Nocona, a prominent chief and bore him three children. In 1861 some Texas Rangers attacked Nocona’s camp Cynthia Ann was not able to escape. She had one of her children (Prairie Flower) with her and naturally was grief-stricken at being dragged from her home and loved ones. Something the whites never understood.

Prairie Flower died within three years and heart-broken and confused Cynthia Ann died in 1870.

It is thought that Quanah was born about 1852, but little is known of his early years. Many are the books and articles, some better than others, of Quanah, the two abductions of Cynthia Ann.

Quanah Parker, being a powerful and well-known Comanche, found life on the Oklahoma Territory Indian Reservations difficult, but adjusted. In one of several disputes with Washington’s Indian Commissioner Jones, Apache Jones (no relation) spoke up for Quanah: “He [Quanah] is just like light, you strike a match in a dark room and there is light; that is the way with Quanah, wherever he is is light … some of the Indians are jealous.” (Hagan, page 87)

A 1897 photograph of Quanah and three wives, Mah-cheet-to-wooky, Clo-my, and A-er-wuth-takum, at the Smithsonian Institute. Have no idea what the names would be if translated into English. When he got wife number seven, one left him, saying seven was too many.

Quanah enjoyed a celebrity which was rare on Indian Reservations, especially in Oklahoma Territory. The Apache Geronimo had a great deal of notoriety. When Geronimo was transferred to Oklahoma from Alabama he was respected, but never to the degree as Quanah. The Comanches did not mind the Apaches coming, but did not want white neighbors.

Quanah did not like to talk about his years on the warpath or what life was like during those days. He did, however, enjoy telling in detail about his encounters with Washington officials and controversies on the reservation, such as when white people were moving into the reservation. It was not legal, but congress after congress failed to take any action.

Indian Agent Frank Baldwin understood the problem. His support is seen in this quote: “It is their desire that this reservation be kept exclusively for Indians … they have learned to dread the white man, his avarice and cupidity.”

Quanah did not get respect from President McKinley when he protested the lack of land for his people. McKinley’s men quickly escorted Quanah and the Indian representatives out of the room.

But things were better when President Teddy Roosevelt went hunting in Oklahoma, he sought out Quanah and thought well of him. Quanah told him of the need for jobs for the Indians. 480,000 acres were added to the Indians but was difficult to actually own or use as the white pioneers kept pouring into the territory.

In 1910, Quanah finally got to move his mother’s bones from Texas to Post Oak Mission, Oklahoma. At the memorial service Quanah said of his mother: “she loved Indians so well not wan to go back to folks.” The old chief died the next year.

(For the whole story read: “Quanah Parker, Comanche Chief” by William T. Hagan, University of Oklahoma Press.)