Frederick Lee 李寶貴 (1888-1988) & Minnie Iverson Lee ( - 1968)
Bruce W. Lo, July 2018
Basic Biographical Information
Vital Statistics: Frederick Lee was born on January 28, 1888 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA and died on October 11, 1988 at Loma Linda, California. Minnie Iverson Lee's birth year is not know; she died in 1968.
Marriage: Frederick and Minnie Lee were married in 1909.
Parentage and Siblings: Frederick Lee's father was William Lee, and his mother was Lillian Lee. He had a sister Myrna Lee, and a brother Howard Lee.
Children: Frederick and Minnie Lee had four children: Anna Lillian Lee Williamson, William Milton Lee (who later became known as the American Evangelist who spoke Chinese with a perfect Mandarin accent), Dorothy Marie Lee (who died in 1932 in China), and Mary Louise Lee Gregory.
Figure 1: Frederick Lee
Frederick Lee (李寶貴; pinyin: Li Baogui) was a pioneer missionary who went to China in 1909 where he served for some 29 years in many different positions including as a(n) minister, evangelist, administrator, and editor of the Chinese Signs of the Times. He returned to the United States in 1935, where he first served as a church pastor in California and later became Associate Editor of the Review and Herald for 19 years until retirement in 1958. He died in 1988 at the grand old age of 100.
Family Background and Early Life
Frederick Lee was born on January 28, 1888 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States of America. His father, William Lee, was the Secretary-Treasurer of Pennsylvania, and his mother, Lillian Lee, was the Nursing Director at the Melrose Sanitarium. William and Lillian Lee had three children, one daughter, Myrna and two sons, Frederick and Howard.6
During those days most American babies were born at home. If the families can afford it, they would hire a nurse to help care for the mother and child, at least for a month or two. Frederick Lee’s parents, who were very devout members of another Protestant Church at the time, hired a nurse to take care of baby Frederick. The nurse they hired happened to have been trained at the Battle Creek Sanitarium and was a Seventh-day Adventist. She decided to share her faith with Frederick’s parents, exposing the truth of the Sabbath, the Second Coming of Christ, the state of the dead, the tithing principle, healthful living principles, and baptism by immersion. The Lee family accepted the new found truths and joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Later on both William Lee and Lillian Lee decided to work for the church.5
Thus, Frederick grew up in an Adventist environment and developed a desire serve in the mission field. After he went to college, his desire for mission service grew even stronger. As his graduation drew near, he informed the General Conference that he was interested in going overseas to spread the gospel thinking probably mainly of the African continent. But when the mission service offer came at his graduation in 1908, he found that the call was to go to China. He considered that to be God's will for him and accepted it without hesitation. In 1909 he married his sweetheart Minnie Iverson. At aged 21, inexperienced and freshly out of college, Frederick Lee and his bride Minnie set sail on S.S. Monteagle for China in October 1909. He was seasick for most of the way and was glad to disembark at the port of Shanghai on November 14, 1909.
Early Years in China
There were several Adventist missionaries in Shanghai. So Frederick and Minnie stayed there for language study, learning to write Chinese and to speak Mandarin. Being young provided them an advantage in learning a new language, for in three months they developed a reasonable foundation. They then left for Ying Shang in Anhwei (Anhui) province to open up new work. They reached there by boat going up the Grand Canal. There they were met by several Chinese Adventists, most of them were previous members of other Protestant groups but were later converted to Adventism. Frederick and Minnie continued their language study with Brother Han. At the time, Anhui were experiencing sever famine with thousands and thousands dying of starvation. Their hearts were greatly saddened when they witnessed this tragedy and yet there was little that they could do. After a year and a half, Frederick, who had been giving Chinese Bible studies to small groups, began to preach Sabbath sermons in Chinese as well. God had certainly blessed them with their efforts in learning the Chinese language.5
The Lees then moved to Nanking (Nanjing), just in time to witness the overthrow of the imperial Qing Dynasty by the young revolutionaries and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911. Nanking was chosen to be the capital of the new China Republic. Those were turbulent times. While there was a railroad between Nanking and Shanghai, the railway station was outside of the city gate. Many times, they were unable to go to the railway station as the city gates were ordered to be shut day and night. For their safety, God worked for them one miracle after another.
An Administrator with A Passion for Public Evangelism
In September 1912, Frederick was appointed president of the Hupeh (Hubei) Mission and the Lees moved to Hankow (Hankou). In April 1913, the Lees moved again, but this time to Yencheng, Honan (Henan). Frederick continued to improve his Chinese language skill. Public evangelism became his foremost concern even though he was in Administration.5
The Lee family moved to Peking (Beijing) in 1919 when Frederick was appointed president of North China Union Mission. They lived there for the next five years during which time Frederick ran a number of public evangelistic campaigns, including one that he pitched a tent just outside of Tien An Men.5 The most memorable series of evangelistic meetings that he ran was on the subject of “The World United (Shih Gieh Da Tung)” in one of the best known halls in Peking, called Hu-Gwang Guild Hall which attracted an audience of close to a thousand. In a report in the Asiatic Division Outlook written by Frederick Lee from Peking dated June 25, 1920,2 this subject generated a great deal of interests among the educated class of Chinese for many years, and it brought forth a lot of discussion. At the close of the meeting over three hundred cards were handed in with the names of those expressing their desire to study the subject further. Among those attended the meetings were government officials, students, principals of schools and colleges, and even princes of the former Qing dynasty.
After Peking, Frederick were appointed president of Central China Union Mission in 1925. The Lees again moved back to Hankow. But the situation in Hankow was very chaotic at that time as Chiang Kai-shek tried to unify the country. Strong anti-foreigner sentiments surfaced in many provinces. Many foreigners were evacuated to Shanghai for safety reasons, but the Lees remain in Hankow. By 1927, the local situation deteriorated further and the Lees also returned to Shanghai, where Frederick was appointed Editor of the Chinese Signs of the Times, a post he held until 1935. In addition to his editorial duties, he was also the Ministerial and Evangelism Director of China Division. He traveled throughout the country to conduct training workshops for local ministers. While they were in Shanghai, their daughter, Dorothy, who was about 13 at the time contracted scarlet fever. Tragically, she died and was buried in Shanghai. The grief over her death was something they would carry the rest of their lives.5 Frederick and Minnie had four children: Anna Lillian Lee Williamson, William Milton Lee (who later became known as the American Evangelist who spoke Chinese with a perfect Mandarin accent), Dorothy Marie Lee (who died in 1932 in China), and Mary Louise Lee Gregory.4
Returning to USA
In 1935, due to Minnie’s poor health, Frederick and Minnie returned to the United States permanently. Frederick pastored a local church in California for a short period of time before being called to be the Associate Editor of the weekly English church magazine, The Review and Herald for 19 years until 1958. In 1947, he took a short leave of absence from the Associate Editorship in US and went to Peking to conduct a series of evangelistic meetings jointly with his son Milton Lee, who was then a very popular Mandarin speaking public evangelist in China. That event was reported in the Ministry Magazine.3 Frederick retired at age 70 after 49 years of service with the church and moved to Climesa, California where he was active in the local church.
After his wife Minnie passed away in 1968, Frederick remarried Emma Iverson Paul in 1970. Emma was one of Minnie’s cousins. Frederick Lee himself passed away on October 11, 1988 in Loma Linda, California at age 100.6 He will always be remembered for his unparallel passion and enthusiasm for public evangelism and his lasting contribution in the print ministry of the Chinese mission field and the world-wide church.
“Former Review Editor Dies”, Adventist Review, November 3, 1988, Vol 65, No. 44, p.6.
Lee, Frederick, Evangelistic Effort in Peking, Asiatic Division Outlook, June 1920, p. 2.
Lee, Frederick “A New Evangelism for China 1 & 2”, Ministry Magazine, January & February 1949, Available from: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1949/01/a-new-evangelism-in-china-1 and https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1949/02/a-new-evangelism-for-china2.
“Lee, Frederick Obituary”, Adventist Review, March 16, 1989, Vol 66, No 11, p.23 and 25.
Lee, Helen, “China Missionaries”, Unpublished Manuscript, 2002, Section on “Frederick Lee”, available Adventism in China: “Lee, Milton & Helen Collection”, Center for Chinese Adventist Heritage, Hong Kong Adventist College, Hong Kong, China. Downloadable URL: https://ccah-collection.weebly.com/leef.html.
Lee, Milton, “Frederick Lee”, in Chinese SDA History 中華聖工史 , First Edition, November 2002, Samuel Young (Editor), Chinese Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists, Hong Kong, China.