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A Canton Mandarin Weds a Connecticut Yankee: Chinese-Western Intermarriage Becomes a "Problem"



The Rev. Brown Takes Elizabeth Bartlett aboard the Morrison


The Rev. Samuel Robbins Brown (1810-1880) was in a hurry to set sail. Seven days after his marriage to Elizabeth Goodwin Bartlett, the Yale graduate and newly ordained missionary took his bride aboard the Morrison, ready to voyage halfway across the globe. The Rev. Brown was to take up a calling at the Morrison School in China, and the newlyweds had been sent off with fanfare from their hometown of East Windsor, Connecticut. They were set to sail with free passage on the Morrison, for the ship belonged to the Olyphant brothers, prominent figures in the tea trade and leading backers of the Morrison Educational Society.

It was October 17, 1838 when the Browns sailed from New York, and with favorable winds and Providence on their side they rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached Macau on February 18, 1839. Brown had to smuggle his wife secretly into the country, for foreign women were banned from landing in China.1 Once settled in Macau, Brown was placed in charge of the Morrison Memorial School, named in honor of the Rev. Robert Morrison (1782-1834), the first Protestant missionary to China. Brown viewed his mission as the training of Chinese Christians who would be enlightened through Western education but ultimately "return to their own people" and "still be Chinese."2 The energetic educator was so successful that by 1842 the school removed to larger quarters in Hong Kong. Despite the occasional stonings they had to endure from Chinese villagers, the Browns earned the devotion of their young pupils.3

When Elizabeth's failing health necessitated the family's return to the US in 1846, the Rev. Brown announced he would bring three students with him to further their studies. The first to stand up and volunteer was a Cantonese village boy named Yung Wing. With free passage on the Olyphant merchant ship Huntress, which was destined for New York with a full cargo of tea, he set sail on January 4, 1847.4


As a pupil at the Morrison School, Yung Wing (Fig. 1) had once written an English composition on the subject of "An Imaginary Voyage to New York and up the Hudson." At the time, he little dreamed that he would ever have the chance to see New York in person. Yet a mere two years later, in 1847, the imagined voyage became a reality as Yung Wing set sail for the great metropolis. In his memoir, My Life in China and America (1909), Yung pondered: "This incident leads me to the reflection that sometimes our imagination foreshadows what lies uppermost in our minds and brings possibilities within the sphere of realities."5 Such was also true, the aging Yung mused, in the case of another daydream that he had cherished during his student years -- that of one day marrying an American wife. [figref1]

Yung Wing had journeyed far from his humble roots by the time that he married Mary Louisa Kellogg (1851-1886), the daughter of a prominent New England family, in a quiet ceremony on February 24, 1875.6 As the New York Times reported:

Yung Wing Marries a Connecticut Lady

Mr. Yung Wing, of Canton, China, chief of the Chinese Educational Commission now at Hartford, was married on Wednesday to Miss Mary L. Kellogg, at the residence of her father, [Bela Crocker] Kellogg, in Avon, the ceremony being performed by Rev. J. H. Twichell, of the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford, a very particular friend of the bridegroom....The bride wore a dress of white crape [sic], imported expressly for this occasion from China, and elaborately trimmed with floss silk embroidery....After the ceremony, a collation was served, in which Chinese delicacies were mingled with more substantial dishes of American-style.