Even though we are now on opposite sides of the ocean, Noel and I are busily trying to track down more information about the church bells we found in Sichuan Province last month. Because of the fairly detailed inscription on the Yibin bell, it has yielded more leads.
As I wrote in a previous post, we know the bell was presented to the First Baptist Church in Coffeyville, Kansas, by a W.S. Upham and we know that he was a prominant merchant in the town in the 1880’s.
Through a phone call to the First Baptist Church in Coffeyville, and some subsequent Googling, Noel was able to learn that Willard S. Upham and his wife (and other Upham relatives) were charter members of the church when it was founded in October of 1884.
The first property owned by the congregation was donated by the estate of Willard’s mother, Emma. She and her husband had been missionaries to the Cherokee Nation.
In 1886, W.S. Upham donated the bell to be hung in the newly-constructed church building.
In 1906, the church approved a plan to construct a new building on the same site; the cornerstone of that building was laid in 1907.
It seems, then, that 1907 (or perhaps 1906, depending on when construction actually began) is the year that the bell began its journey to western China.What that route was, and who made the decision to send it is still unkown.
The church in Coffeyville doesn’t have any records indicating that they sent the bell to China, or had any connection to China missions, for that matter.
We’re probably going to have to go to the American Baptist Mission archives for that.
We know that this bell can ring….if only we could get it to talk!