William Nesbitt Brewster

(1862-1915) Brewster was born in 1862 in Highland, Ohio. He completed undergraduate work at Ohio Wesleyan University, after which he attended Boston University School of Theology. He was ordained in 1888, and he immediately began foreign mission work in Singapore. In 1890, he transferred to work among the Puxian (Hinghwa) speakers of China’s Fujian province. Shortly after arriving, he married Elizabeth Fisher of the Foochow (Fuzhou) Mission. The couple worked among the Puxian for the next twenty-six years, continuing the work of their predecessor, Nathan Sites, and two indigenous evangelists, Sia Sek-ong and Lin Ching-ting. Brewster translated the entire Bible into Puxian, using an orthography that he devised. As a missionary, he established schools, orphanages, and preached from village to village.

In 1904, Brewster was called back to Boston University, where he delivered a lecture on China and missions, the substance of which became The Evolution of New China. He was also Boston University professor of missions for the 1913-14 school year. For his academic work, Ohio Weslyan University awarded him a D.D. in 1908.

Brewster served as delegate to the General Conference of the M. E. Church two times—1908 and 1916 respectively. When returning to China in 1916, he died. Elizabeth continued his work for the next twenty five years in Fujian province. Three of the couple’s seven children (Mrs. George Hollister, Mrs. Frank Manton, and Dr. Harold Brewster) also became missionaries.

The Hinghwa Methodist Church still remembers Brewster as a foundational figure of their church body.


1907. The Evolution of New China. Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham.

1908. The Cost of the Christian Conquest. Cincinnati: Jennings and Graham.

1910. Straws from the Hinghwa Harvest. Hinghwa Mission Press.

1909. A Modern Pentecost in South China. Methodist Publishing House.

1913. The Methodist Man’s Burden. Press of the Methodist Book Concern.


“Charles Nesbitt Brewster,” The Encyclopedia of Methodism (Duke, 1974).