Benjamin L Anderson 安理纯 (1873-1962) and
Julia Peterson Anderson 彼珠丽 (1868-1958)
by Bruce W.N. Lo, 2012
Benjamin Anderson and Julia Peterson Anderson went to China in 1905. They dedicated over 40 years of service in southeast China as evangelist, educators, fund raisers, and mission administrator. They are best remembered as the founders of Meihua (Bee Hwa) School (美華中学) in Xiamen.
Basic Biographical Data
B.L. Anderson was born in 1873 in Denmark; died on Oct 4, 1962 at Takoma Park, MD, USA.
Parentage: Father Neils Andersen (1827-1916) and mother Karen Andersen (1834-1906)
In 1905 he married Julia Peterson, a nurse from Poy Sippi, WI.
Siblings: The three brothers, Jacob N. Anderson (eldest), Benjamin L Anderson (next), Hans P. Anderson (youngest) in total served over 100 years with the SDA church.
Education: Trained in Milton College, Milton, WI, Battle Creek College, MI, and Union College, NE. Later received a Master degree from University of Colorado.
Service: He and his wife went to Kulangsu, Amoy as missionaries in 1906. They worked in south China for over 40 years as evangelist, educator, and mission administrator.
Elder Benjamin Anderson and Mrs Julia Peterson Anderson
Benjamin L. Anderson (安理纯) was born in Denmark to the home of Neils and Karen Andersen. There was some uncertainty about his birth year. According to the obituary in Review and Herald (November 1962) and the Seventh-day Encyclopedia, he was born in 1873. But in an article written by Florence Nagel in (Young 2002), she reported his birth year as 1872. In this article, we shall use the year 1873. Benjamin is the middle of the three Anderson brothers from Denmark, who had served in total over 100 years with the SDA church. His older brother J.N. Anderson, was the first SDA commissioned missionary to China; while his younger brother Hans P. Anderson was a missionary to their homeland Denmark. The three brothers followed their parents to migrate to the United States during their early childhood. Benjamin studied at Milton College, Milton, Wisconsin, Battle Creek College, Michigan, and Union College, Nebraska for his undergraduate degree. Later, he also obtained a Master degree from University of Colorado.
After graduation, he entered into the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wisconsin Conference in 1900, and was ordained to in 1905. That year he married Julia Peterson, a recent graduate of the Battle Creek Sanitarium School of Nursing in Michigan.
Julia Peterson (彼珠丽) was originally from Poy Sippi, WI. She was born on January 6, 1868 to the Peterson (彼得遜) family in Denmark, who also moved to the US. At an early age, she mastered the art of home making and culinary, and was fluent in both Danish and English. These skills together with her nursing training at Battle Creek Sanitarium Nursing School, have proved to be invaluable for her future missionary work in China.
After their wedding, upon hearing the urgent need in China from brother Jacob, the newly wedded decided to accept a call from the General Conference in late 1905 to go to China as missionaries. Their destination was the small off-shore island of Kulangsu (鼓浪嶼), just east of Xiamen (廈門) or formerly known as Amoy, in the Fujian (福建) province. Kulangsu is a beautiful tropical island. There was a private beach on the island. It was on the slop beyond the private beach that they, together with another missionary couple, Elder and Mrs W.C. Hankins (漢謹思) built their homes.
Mission Service at Southeast China
They left the US in late 1905 and arrived at Hong Kong about March of 1906 and met up with Bejamin's brother, Jacob Anderson, who had been in China for about four years. Without waiting too long, Benjamin and Julia Anderson proceeded to the island of Kulangsu to start the mission work in the Xiamen district. Together they established a strong Adventist presence in the China southeast province of Fujian.
One of the first tasks that B.L. Anderson did was to form the Bee Hwa School (Meihua 美華中学) for boys at Kulangsu to train local nationals to share the gospel message among their compatriots in southern China. At that time the mission treasury was not able to provide a lot of money for such project. B.L. Anderson often had to sacrifice his own money to purchase lands and build buildings. After acquiring small parcel of land at Kulangsu piece by piece, B.L. Anderson dug out the stones from the land to build the school buildings. The boy school was a success, and was popular not only among locals but also among overseas Chinese in southeast Asia. As a result Bee Hwa School played an important role in the training of many early Adventist national workers of the SDA church in China and in southeast Asia.
As the work of the Adventist church continued to grow in southeastern China, B.L. Anderson took on a number of responsibilities. In 1908, he took up the position of the educational secretary for the China Union Mission, 1912 to 1914 he was Fujian mission president cum treasurer, and in 1915 to 1917 became the president of the South China Union.
Throughout those year, Mrs. Julia Anderson labored untiringly to assist her husband in the work of the mission, trying to raise money for the church and at the same time applying her nursing skills to take care to sick Chinese patients. In one occasion she contacted smallpox from one of the patients that she cared for. That incident nearly caused her own life. But she would not allow any sickness to prevent her rendering her service to the Chinese women.
Helping the Women of China
Once the Bee Wha School for boys was built, "Aunt Julia" (as Mrs Julia Anderson was affectionately known among the younger generation of missionaries), persuaded her husband to purchase another piece of land on top of hill at Kulangsu to build a school for girls. At that time, co-education was unheard of in China. Again the challenge of financing such a new venture entailed a lot of work.
Initially, Julia Anderson taught the Chinese ladies to do fancy needlework and crochet to make pillow cases, napkins, and small table top covers. She asked her friends in the US to sell those products. The proceeds were saved in a bank for the new girl school. But the saving did not grow fast enough. So she started a dairy business in the (boy) school ground and started to sell fresh milk to the Europeans and rich Chinese living in the region. But the milkman that she employed decided to cheat by mixing more water with the milk, so that he could pocket the milk money. When Aunt Julia found out, she immediately dismissed the local milkman and got up a 3.00am each morning to supervise the work of pasteurizing, bottling, and sealing the milk containers, to ensure the quality of their milk. At the bottom of the hill where the buffaloes took their baths, Aunt Julia planted some lotus flowers. She would harvest the flowers and the lotus seeds and sold them for income. In addition to being a diligent missionary's wife, she was a real entrepreneur looking for every possible means to raise funds for the girl school.
After 32 years of labor, the Bee Hwa Girls' School was completed and turned over to the mission free of debt by Mrs Anderson. This is her greatest gift to the women of China.
When the Sino-Japanese war broke out, Xiamen soon fell into the hands of the Japanese Imperial army in May 10-12, 1938. While Mrs. Julia went to Hong Kong, Elder B.J. Anderson was visiting some church members in the Xiamen area separated from his wife. While there, he was interned by the Japanese army by placing him under house arrest in his own home in Kulangsu. Although his movement was restricted by Japanese soldiers, he was able to get some food and cooked his own meals. He remained in interment at Kulangsu until the end of the Second World War, virtually isolated from the rest of the world.
Soon Hong Kong was also occupied by the Japanese military machine. Julia Anderson was not as fortunate. Since America is at war with Japan, she was taken to the Stanley Concentration Camp, on the south side of the Hong Kong island. There, together with all the internees, she was subject to the starvation diet which caused her already weaken health condition to deteriorate. Furthermore, inmates in the Stanley Camp were rarely allowed to communicate with the outside world. So loneliness and isolation increased her worry about her husband who was in inland China, as she had not heard from him for many years.
When the ship "Gripsholm", probably in 1943(5?), took the first batch of prisoner of war exchange back to New York harbor, the first thought and request that Julia Anderson made was, where was her internee husband in China? The friends who met her in the New York harbor took her back to their Washington home, where she rejoined her husband. With love, care, freedom, and nutritious food, she regained her health and strength within three months. But her eye sight continued to fade as a result of the ordeal that she went through during the war.
Benjamin and Julia Anderson both gave over 40 years to mission service. After World War II, even when they returned to the US, their hearts were with the many Chinese youths they educated, who they urged to return to China to serve their own people. This was the reason for their sacrifice.
Julia Anderson passed away on June 30, 1958 in Licoln, NE, while one of her "Chinese son" Timothy Ling (林德泉) and his wife were by her side. Though Elder B.L. Anderson lived for another 4 years, he too lost his memory, and was taken care of by Brother and Sister Timothy Ling in Takoma Park, MD. Our pioneer missionary, B.L. Anderson passed away on October 4, 1962 in Takoma Park, MD.
Two missionary families in Amoy: BJ Anderson and WC Hankins
The island of Kulangsu, viewed from Xiamen
SDA Mission Chapel, Tsoam Chow, Fukien Autumn 1908 NP Keh WC Hawkin IH Evans JN BL Anderson Evang Tan Khi T Ang Chhun Tan Chheng Tek
School in Kulangsu, Xiamen
Baptism on the beach in front of the Kulangsu school by BL Anderson
Mission office in Amoy
BL Anderson having dinner with local family
Amoy Meihua girl school, 1924
Amoy Meihua School turned co-ed in 1925
When was this taken?
R&H (1962), Obituary of Benjamin L. Anderson, Review and Herald, p.24, December 6, 1962. See also, Far Eastern Division Outlook, November, 1962, p.15.
R&H (1958), Obituary of Julia Peterson Anderson, Review and Herald, p. 26, August 28, 1958.
Deming, M.W. (1958), Obituary of Julia Peterson Anderson, Central Union Reaper, p.7, October 7, 1958.
Van Dolson, B.J & Van Dolson, L.R. Editors (1996) "Anderson, Benjamin L.", Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Vol A-L, Second Revised Edition, Commentary Reference Series, Vol. 10, Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Press.
Negal, Florence (2002), "Benjamin L. Anderson" pp.703-705, in Chines SDA History, S. Young (editor), Chinese Union Mission of SDA: Shartin, Hong Kong.
Last update 10/3/2012 by B. Lo