The Haystack Monument

by Jack Gillmar, Scudder Association Foundation Board Member and Family History Committee member

©Scudder Association Foundation

 

[1]

The Haystack Monument,

In honor of the Haystack Prayer Meeting in Williamston, Massachusetts, in 1806

 

What does a monument to a haystack have to do with members of the Scudder family offering over a thousand years of service (in a total of combined years served) to the people of India, Hawaii, Japan, China, South Africa and Arabia?

An outdoor prayer meeting of five Williams College students in Williamstown, MA in 1806 was interrupted by a thunderstorm. They took refuge under a haystack and decided, then and there, to begin foreign missionary work. Within four years, these same individuals along with others formed the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions.  The ABCFM grew to manage the largest American Protestant missionary outreach during the 19th century.

Looking for a medical doctor for India, the group recruited Dr. John Scudder and his wife Harriet to leave for India in 1819. “British India” at that time included Sri Lanka and Burma. The British American War of 1812 had only recently concluded, and the British did not want Americans on the Asian continent. However, they found it useful to send the Scudders and fellow American missionaries traveling with them to Dutch mission stations around Jaffna, Sri Lanka. The British had recently forced the Dutch out of Sri Lanka (one supposes, better the American Englishspeaking missionaries than the Dutch). The Scudders eventually expanded to India in 1836, founding the Arcot Mission District inland from Madras. The family’s work there is well known to readers of the Scudder Association Foundation publications.

With so many Scudders in India, the ABCFM encouraged some members of the third generation to serve in other countries. Articles on two of Dr. John and Harriet grandsons who served in missions in Japan and Hawaii will be included in future Scudder Family Historical & Biographical Journal issues.

 

 

The Haystack Monument

in Mission Park at Williams College, erected in 1867

For more detail about the Haystack Prayer Meeting, who its participants were and how it evolved by 1810 into the American Board of Commissioners to Foreign Missions, see these URL links.[2] Their work included missionaries from several different Christian denominations and sent out more than 1250 missionaries in the first fifty years to foreign lands such as Sri Lanka and India, Japan, China and Hawaii. Most of these missionaries were from small towns in New England. The work they began continues today through the United Church Board for World Missions (UCBWM) overseen by the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Most of the Scudder missionaries were affiliated with the Reformed Church of America.

 


 


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