Balesore (Baleshwar), Orissa (Odisha), India to East Long Meadow, Massachusetts via Boston and Hollister: 1843. Envelope or Cover. This four-page stampless folded letter measures approximately 16” x 10.5” unfolded. It was privately carried to Boston by ship from India and bears a scarce oval forwarding handstamp from the Baptist Missionary Rooms that reads, “Forwarded from the / Baptist Miss. Rooms. / Boston.” From there, it was placed in the U.S. mail and forwarded to Hollister; at that time a Boston postmark and manuscript “6” rate marking applied. At Hollister the letter was rerouted to East Longview; at that time a faint Hollister postmark was applied, the “6” rate was crossed through, and a new manuscript “10” rate applied. In nice shape. Some splits along mailing fold but still in one piece. A transcript will be provided.
In this letter responding to his brother, Frederick Lyman Batchelder, who apparently suggested that he, too, was considering missionary work, Bachelder, who worked within the fold of the General Baptist Foreign Missionary Society, describes life within the system. Excerpts include:
“Rev Phillips . . . accompanied me to Cuttack. . .. You are aware that it is the principle station of the Gen. Baptists. A large church, school, & printing press are located here. Rev. Lacy is pastor of the church. It numbers about 100 members (natives). He is a splendid Oriya preacher. Rev. Sutton has been engaged in translations ever since his return from America. The Bible was translated many years ago by Carey & Bro Sutton and has been revising that translation. He has also composed many tracts, hymns, & a large dictionary &c. Although he has been nearly 20 years in the country, & may be considered the father of Oriya literature being the best Oriya scholar in the country. Yet, he speaks the language very badly & seldom attempts to preach except to his school children. His schools containing about 80 children of both sexes. . ..
We also saw Rev Wilkinson of Cangans. He occupies the most southern station of the Gen. Baptists. We spent as much time as we could on our way in preaching, attending markets, distributing books, tracts, etc".
In addition to preaching and teaching “Scripture” to boys at the Bayas, Batchelder also reports that to better his preaching and translating skills he studies Greek, Sanskrit, the Oriy Shastres, and has
“spent most of my spare time for the last two seasons on Hindustani & Persian but I hope to do a little in Arabic next season. The first season I read Hindustani translating into Oriya. Last year I read Persian translating into Hindustani & when I get on with Persian a little more, I intend to read Arabic through the medium of the Persian. These three languages are intimately connected. . ..”
He also consolingly informs Frederick, who may have been in in the midst of depression, that we
“sympathesed in your labors, tracts &c. You seem to have had a hard time. . .. Hold up your head. Be encouraged. Look high. A brighter day will dawn by and by. I am confident. While suggesting the dangers and frustrations of Indian missionary work might not suit him. “A Jackall came into our bedroom during the night. . .. Our old dog Bose pitched battle with him but could not drive him away. I threw my shoes, stool, & whatever I could reach. . .. I then got my cane, . . . & after beating him 5 or 6 times succeeded in disabling him. We suspected that he was rabid & kept our dog, which had been slightly wounded, chained. . .. He was taken with hydrophobia last week, & I shot him after he been in convulsions two days. . .. In this country, mad dogs, & poisonous serpents are so common that we think but little of them. . .. I do not know but you would be more comfortable at home than in the foreign field. The great wickedness & apathy of the heathen might pose too much for your sensitive mind.". Very good. Item #009734
Frederick took his brother’s advice as after his ordination, he led a Baptist congregation in Longmeadow before relocating Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked as a traveling preacher along the Grand River.
In India, most of the populace was indifferent to Baptist preaching, but the society’s translation, printing,, and educational efforts did much to spread Christianity. (For more information, see Pattnaik’s “God’s Gift of Hope. . ..” in the Odisha Review, Shaw’s “The Cuttack Mission Press and Early Oriya Printing” in the Electronic British Library Journal, the University of Michigan’s guide to its Frederick Batchelder collection, “Rev. Otis Robinson Bacheler” at Find a Grave, and Wikipedia entries for Jeremiah Phillips and Amos Sutton.)
A terrific firsthand account of Baptist missionary life in India. Nothing similar is listed at the Rare Book Hub or OCLC but the University of Michigan’s its Frederick Batchelder Collection may include some other letters.