The Board

The Foreign Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America sponsored the mission work happening in Guangzhou. In many ways, the Board facilitated the creation of the community that the Noyes experienced in Guangzhou. The person responsible for the missionaries in Guangzhou specifically during the time of the Noyes' mission work was F.F. Ellinwood, talked about on the "Notable Missionaries" page. Some of his duties and the responsibilities of the board are outlined here.


The first responsibility of the Board was paying missionaries. In the gallery above, you can see some correspondences that mention the salaries of missionaries. These include relative rates for single, married, male, and female missionaries as well as what those salaries were used for, such as housing around Guangzhou.

For more information, see tag "salaries."


Letter from H.V. Noyes to Father, July 3, 1874

Henry's letter to his Father

about his application for furlough

The next thing the Board was responsible for was facilitating leave for the missionaries. As a part of missionaries' work, they were allowed to take periodic trips back home, called furloughs. Due to the length of time, it would take to get home at this period, taking furlough was limited to about once every five years. A missionary had to appeal to the Board at the beginning of the year in which they wished to take a furlough and the Board would then approve or deny their request. In this letter from 1874, Henry Varnum writes to his father that "Dr. Ellinwood is expected out here this fall. We shall find out his views about our coming home in 1876." 

Letter from Henry, August 3-14, 1877

Letter from Henry while on furlough

Furloughs were meant to be short visits back to the United States, but occasionally extenuating circumstances required missionaries to go back home for longer periods of time. Take, for instance, Dr. Kerr's furlough after his second wife died, leaving him the single father of five children. While Henry was on furlough in 1877, he met up with Dr. Kerr in America and relayed to his audience the view that the Board "has treated him pretty shabbily," after not allowing him a home salary for a year and discontinuing allowances for each of his children. Henry also notes that "they [the Board] are beginning to take the back track a little now."

Global Community

Letter from Hattie to Father, November 10, 1869

Letter from Hattie to 

her father, 1869

The involvement of missionaries in the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions created a larger community that was not limited to South China. Other missionary organizations active in Guangzhou, which Henry remarks upon in a letter have trouble agreeing, including the South China Mission and Medical Missionary Society. What is different about the Presbyterian Foreign Mission Society is its global reach and denominational specificity.

Membership in the Presbyterian Foreign Mission Society created a system of interchange between missionaries. In a letter to her father, Hattie remarks about various visitors and how they are also part of the Presbyterian Foreign Mission, or other missions. Through knowledge of the organization and shared belief systems, the missionaries feel comfortable socializing and even letting these visitors stay in one of their houses (bought and constructed with money from the Presbyterian Foreign Mission).