The Reverend Amos E. Russ
Courtesy of B.C. Archives: 36748

The Missions: Beginnings

The earliest newspaper records of the presence of a Chinese mission in Victoria date are found in a Colonist article dated 20 March 1874.  The piece heralds the inauguration of “a school to be known as the Chinese Mission School” under the auspices of the Methodist Church.  A missionary from San Francisco named Vrooman initiated the project.  The son of a missionary who worked in China for 33 years, Vrooman was well-versed in Chinese language and customs.  The article reports on the support of the endeavour from Chinese merchants, the interest in many Chinese wanting to “’heap savee’ the English language,” and concludes with the slightly enigmatic ("right direction?") statement:

The effort thus begun by a few is a most praiseworthy one, and there can be little doubt about its success, for the Chinese themselves seem anxious for it, and have promised to give it substantial assistance, while Christians generally should countenance it as a step in the right direction.

Traces of this school’s embryonic stage are found in a book published in 1929 by the United Church of Canada on church-sponsored endeavours for Oriental Canadians.  In 1868, a mission school was opened “in a disused barroom on the corner of Government and Harald [sic] streets” by Rev. A.E. Russ.  In 1873, soon to be Senator W.E. Sanford, a merchant from Hamilton, Ontario, visited Victoria and having observed “thousands of neglected Chinese,” suggested that the church’s work could also be directed toward them.

The Sanford Mission was thus set up, with Sanford himself contributing $500 a year for its work.

A Presbyterian Chinese mission also developed in Victoria in the late 1800s.  The Presbyterian Church as early as 1888 recognised the need for a mission in British Columbia for work with the Chinese, but it was not until 1890 after an overture was presented by the Synod of Manitoba on behalf of the Presbytery of Columbia that efforts got underway.

Daily British Colonist, 20 March 1874.

Osterhout, S.S., Orientals in Canada, United Church Committee on Literature, General Publicity and Missionary Education, Toronto, 1929

To God Be the Glory: The Chinese Presbyterian Church, Victoria, B.C. 1892-1983, Chinese
Presbyterian Church 90th Anniversary Celebration Committee, Victoria, 1983.