Northerners and Southerners in Thailand during the American Civil War

Written by Karl Dahlfred on .

I recently came across the curious and amazing story of two American missionary couples who worked together in Thailand during the period of the American Civil War (1861-1865)... despite the fact that they supported opposing sides.  Somehow, through the grace of God, the tragic events of their homeland did not destroy their relationship and the fragile work of planting a new church together on the other side of the globe. 

"Battle of Gettysburg" by Currier and Ives

Rev. J.A. Eakin, writing in 1928, shares their story:

“The terrible time of the American Civil War was keenly felt by that little band of missionaries, located half-a-world away from the scenes or conflict. Mr. McGilvary was from North Carolina and sympathized ardently with the South; Mr. and Mrs. McFarland were from western Pennsylvania and their feelings were just as strongly enlisted on the side of the North. Mail came to them once a month; then they shut themselves up in their homes with letters and periodicals, eagerly reading the news of the war. But when they met afterward they never dared speak of those things which so filled their hearts and minds. On one occasion, after a day spent in such reading, Mr. McGilvary went over to call on the McFarlands. They talked about the Church; they talked about the work; but there were long pauses when they were thinking of a very different subject which must not even be mentioned. One such pause was broken by Mr. McGilvary asking, "Mr. McFarland, have you noticed in the papers what an enourmous national debt England has?" That was a safe topic. Surely in the annals of foreign mission life and work, there is not a more tremendous example of Christian forbearance and self-repression. Those people lived and labored together in most intimate contact all through the war without one word of friction.”

J.A. Eakin, “The Narrative of Petchaburi Station,” in George McFarland, ed. “Historical Sketch of Protestant Missions in Siam 1828-1928,” (White Lotus Press: Bangkok, 1999), p.94.

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