Mateer, Calvin Wilson (1836-1908)

Pioneer Presbyterian missionary in Shandong (Shantung) province and founder of the first Christian college in China

220px-CalvinMateerA Native of Pennsylvania and a graduate of Western Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, Mateer and his wife, Julia (Brown), arrived in the treaty port of Dengzhow (P’eng-lai, or Tengchow) in 1894. Progress in the boys’ school, which he and Julia started, came slowly. By 1872 Mateer had developed a three-point formula for success: all instruction would be in Chinese (not English as in the case of other mission schools); traditional Chinese education would be supplemented by the disciplines of Western science; and standards of admission were raised and Christian character was emphasized. Soon the school was known throughout China. In 1898 classes were extended to include college level, making the school the first Christian college in China. In 1904 it moved inland to the more central location of Weixian (Wei-fang, or Weihsien). A later move took the college to Jinan (Tsinan), the provincial capital. By the time of Mateer’s death, graduates of Shantung Christian University (as it was finally known, were spread over sixteen provinces, serving as Christian teachers in more than a hundred schools. Another achievement was Mateer’s work on a translation of the Bible into Mandarin (1907), the language spoken by the 300 million people of Northern China.

G. Thompson Brown, “Mateer, Calvin Wilson,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 440.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



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Fisher, Daniel W. Calvin Wilson Mateer: Forty-Five Years a Missionary in Shantung, China. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1911.

Hyatt, Irwin T. Our Ordered Lives Confess: Three Nineteenth-Century American Missionaries in East Shantung. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1976.

_____. “The Missionary as Entrepreneur: Calvin Mateer in Shantung.” Journal of Presbyterian History 49 (1971): 303-327.

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Mateer, Robert. Character Building in China: The Life Story of Julia Brown Mateer. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1912.