HEPBURN,  James Curtis

HEPBURN, James Curtis

Male 1815 - 1911  (96 years)

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  • Name HEPBURN, James Curtis 
    Born 13 Mar 1815  Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Biography

    • From the web site of Meiji Gakuin University in Japan: James Curtis Hepburn was born in Milton, Pennsylvania on March 13, 1815. Hepburn's ancestors were Scotch-Irish, having immigrated from Scotland to Northern Ireland. A sheltered Hepburn was raised by his devoutly religious parents. In 1831, he entered Princeton University, a school founded by the Presbyterian Church for the purpose of training teachers. After Princeton he aspired to a career in medicine and went on to the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1836.

      Although he was engaged in medicine as a general practitioner, Hepburn also felt the calling to travel abroad to perform missionary work. It was by chance that he met Clarissa Maria Leete, a woman who shared his interest in becoming a missionary. The two were married in 1840, and applied to The Presbyterian Church project to send missionaries to Siam. By March of the next year, they were aboard a boat departing Boston Harbor.

      They arrived in Singapore in July of 1841. Sadly, while the couple was at sea, a pregnant Clara experienced a miscarriage. In Singapore their mission destination was changed from Siam to the city of Amoy in China. However, due to the Opium War, they were unable to immediately make the voyage and their arrival in Amoy was delayed until November of 1843, two years later. During this time, the couple managed to give birth to a single child. However, they once again met with misfortune, as the child passed away no more than a few hours later.

      Though Amoy's scenery was pleasant, its water was of poor quality and malaria was rampant. It was here that Clara gave birth to a son, whom the couple named Samuel David. Samuel was ultimately the only one of their children who survived to adulthood. Clara fared poorly after giving birth, and both she and James contracted malaria. In the face of these troubles, they had no choice but to abandon their mission. The three members of the family returned to New York in March of 1846.

      After Hepburn returned to the United States, he started a medical practice in New York. At that time, numerous people from all over the world were emigrating to New York. Because the hygienic situation was very poor, plagues like cholera were spreading. Hepburn provided medical treatment to many cholera patients and gained a famous reputation as a doctor. He was also familiar with ophthalmology, having earned a degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and his clinic became very popular. Ironically, he and his wife lost their three children (2, 3, and 5 years old) from illnesses (scarlatina and dysentery). Hepburn wrote to his brother Slator (August 1, 1855):

      "My heart is broken. New York is such an awful place. I wish I had wings and flew away from here. If it's a sin, forgive me my trespasses."

      In 1858, the U.S. and Japan entered into a treaty of commerce. Hepburn heard this and applied for a missionary position to Japan through the Presbyterian Church of America, the Overseas Missionary Station. His application was accepted in January of the following year.

      Without his parents' support, Hepburn left his son, Samuel (14) with his friend, closed his popular clinic, and left for Japan on April 24, 1859. He rounded the Cape of Good Hope, stopped at Hong Kong and Shanghai, and arrived at Kanagawa, Japan, on October 17. Hepburn described this trip in his letter to the headquarters of the Missionary Station in New York (March 16, 1881):

      "When I was received the order, I gave up many things that related my heart to my homeland and went to Japan with high hope. As I am always thinking, my first missionary trip and life in China was for the second missionary act in Japan, which is my most important decision in my life."

      The Hepburns settled down at the Jobutsu temple in Japan's Kanagawa prefecture in 1860. Although Christian missionary activities were banned by the Japanese government at that time, medical treatment was permitted. In a letter to missionary headquarters in New York (May 14, 1860) he wrote:
      "When we walk around, everyone smiles and bows. I did not give much medicine to them but I treated 4 people in these days. Three of them were fine warriors assigned to our local guard house. I gave a small surgery and everyone was so pleased because pain was gone after that."

      http://www.meijigakuin.ac.jp/guide/history_en.html
      http://www.princeton.edu/paw/web_exclusives/plus/plus_071807hepburn.html
    Biography

    • After Milton Academy, at the age of 16 he enrolled at Princeton College where he studied chemistry and classics. Instead of choosing law, as his father desired, he entered the Medical College of the University of Pennsylvania, graduating from there in 1836 at the age of 21.

      The following year, he joined the First Presbyterian Church of Milton. The notion of becoming a medical missionary suddenly overtook him. His father strongly opposed it, and he tried to wipe away this notion to please his family. But his heart was not at rest until he decided to go overseas. The sense of mission and calling was simply overpowering. In the fall of 1838, Hepburn opened his practice in Norristown, PA. There he met Miss Clara M. Leete from North Carolina, a teacher at Norristown Academy. In October, 1840 they were married, united also in their desire to enter the mission field.

      After Milton Academy, at the age of 16 he enrolled at Princeton College where he studied chemistry and classics. Instead of choosing law, as his father desired, he entered the Medical College of the University of Pennsylvania, graduating from there in 1836 at the age of 21.

      The following year, he joined the First Presbyterian Church of Milton. The notion of becoming a medical missionary suddenly overtook him. His father strongly opposed it, and he tried to wipe away this notion to please his family. But his heart was not at rest until he decided to go overseas. The sense of mission and calling was simply overpowering. In the fall of 1838, Hepburn opened his practice in Norristown, PA. There he met Miss Clarissa M. Leete from North Carolina, a teacher at Norristown Academy. In October, 1840 they were married, united also in their desire to enter the mission field.

      Not long after their arrival in Japan (1861), Dr. Hepburn faced an assassin, but was spared, Mrs. Hepburn was less fortunate. She was attacked from behind by an unknown assailant with a crowbar. Sustaining an injury, she quietly returned to the States for a while, so as not to endanger the status of her husband’s mission or those of other missionaries. Their children’s deaths and other tragedies visited on them.

      In 1892 the couple completed their 33 years of missionary work in Japan and returned to the United States. They retired to East Orange, N. J. where three of their children were buried.

      David J. Liu
      http://www.laijohn.com/Loas/Lou,KHi/article/Hepburn/2011.htm
    Census (desc) 1850  New York, New York, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    working as a physician 
    Census (desc) 1900  East Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    living at 71 Glenwood Ave. and working as a physician 
    Census (desc) 1910  East Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  [2
    as widowed and a retired physician 
    Obituary
    • DR. JAMES C. HEPBURN DEAD.

      Pioneer Missionary In Japan and the Oldest Graduate of Princeton.

      Dr. James C. Hepburn, oldest graduate of Princeton University, having been 1 graduated with the class of '32, and pioneer missionary In China and Japan, died at his residence, 71 Glenwood Avenue,
      East Orange, N. J., yesterday of the infirmities of age.

      Dr. Hepburn received the decoration of the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan on his ninetieth birthday in 1905 for his work in that country. His wife, who died in 1906, accompanied the missionary to Japan, where she opened the fIrst school for girls.

      Dr. Hepburn was born March 13, 1815, in Milton, Penn. His first journey to the Orient followed his marriage in 1840 to a daughter of Gov. Leete of Connecticut.

      They made the trip in a whaler and remained in China at Amoy until 1846, when they returned to Manhattan owing to Mrs. Hepburn's illness. They bought a residence in Forty-Second Street, and Dr. Hepburn built up a lucrative practice as a physician.

      In 1859, after three of their four sons died in Manhattan, Dr. and Mrs. Hepburn went to Japan, then opened by Commodore Perry, for the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, and they worked In Japan until 1892. Dr. Hepburn assisted in the first translation of the Bible into Japanese and issued the first Japanese-English dictionary. He leaves a son, Samuel D. Hepburn.

      Published: September 22, 1911 Copyright © The New York Times
    _UID 5D1DE00AE7E24648BBD767ED4EF02FA7B5E4 
    Died 21 Sep 1911  East Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Address:
    Rosedale Cemetery 
    Person ID I2980  Milton Families
    Last Modified 30 Aug 2011 

    Father HEPBURN, Samuel,   b. 5 Nov 1782, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 16 Oct 1865, Lock Haven, Clinton, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 82 years) 
    Mother CLAY, Ann,   b. 16 Mar 1788, Walnut Grove, Limerick Township, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 5 Dec 1865, Lock Haven, Clinton, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years) 
    Married 21 Dec 1811 
    Family ID F139  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family LEETE, Clarissa Maria,   b. 25 Jul 1818, Guilford, New Haven, Connecticut, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 6 Mar 1906  (Age 87 years) 
    Married 27 Oct 1840 
    Children 
     1. HEPBURN, Samuel Dyer,   b. 9 Apr 1844, Amoy, China Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 8 Jan 1922, Lock Haven, Clinton, Pennsylvania, United States Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 77 years)
     2. HEPBURN, Charles Leete,   b. 1847, New York, United States Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 12 Jul 2017 
    Family ID F872  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 13 Mar 1815 - Milton, Northumberland, Pennsylvania, United States Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCensus (desc) - working as a physician - 1850 - New York, New York, United States Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCensus (desc) - living at 71 Glenwood Ave. and working as a physician - 1900 - East Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsCensus (desc) - as widowed and a retired physician - 1910 - East Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 21 Sep 1911 - East Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsBuried - Address:
    Rosedale Cemetery - - Orange, Essex, New Jersey, United States
    Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Photos
    James_Curtis_Hepburn.jpg
    James_Curtis_Hepburn.jpg

  • Sources 
    1. [S2] Census - U.S., Image 27 Ward 2.

    2. [S2] Census - U.S., Image 7 Ward 2.

    3. [S99] The New York Times, Obituary; 22 September 1911.