Early Chinese Christians in Maine (1870-1918)

By Gary Libby from the March 2008 CAFAM Newsletter

The earliest known reference to a Chinese person’s membership in a Maine church appeared in the Portland Press on December 26, 1870. It reported that Ar Tee Lam had joined the Congress Square Sunday School on Christmas Day and promised “to become a learner and good exemplar of the Christian religion.” (Mr. Lam’s interest may have been prompted by his recent guilty plea to a charge of bootlegging which resulted in a $50 fine.)

First Baptist Church Sunday school picnic ca. 1920. Courtesy Maine Historical Society.

First Baptist Church Sunday school picnic ca. 1920. Courtesy Maine Historical Society.

Five years later at Calais, the East Maine Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church admitted Zing Neng Chick and five other Chinese men to full communion and elected them to Elders Orders. They were missionaries stationed in China.

About 1880 Mrs. H. F. Crocker, who was active in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union as well as the Second Parish Church in Portland, gathered together a few local laundrymen into the church’s Sunday school. By 1885 the class had grown to nineteen.

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The Chinese & American Friendship Association of Maine provides forums and outreach to promote awareness of and appreciation for Chinese culture. We promote friendship between non-Chinese Americans, Chinese-Americans, and Chinese people, whether from the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, or elsewhere.

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