Alfred Theodore C. Sutton
Alfred Theodore C Sutton was a District engineer for the Rhodesia Railways. A European man born in Baghdad, Sutton died in Umtali, 7th September, 1974.
He was married to Marcelle Sutton and had a son Peter Warren Sutton, a pilot for the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He was killed on active service 25th February, 1945.
1842 – 1907
Father Peter Prestage was born in London, England in 1842. He was educated at Mount St. Mary’s College, the College at Liege and Stonyhurst College. In 1860, he “took steps towards missionary work when he entered the Noviceship of the Society of Jesus at Beaumont.” He completed his theological studies at St. Bueno’s College and was ordained in 1875.
Following ordination, Fr. Prestage joined the missionary work of the Jesuits in Africa, traveling to South Africa in 1877. He taught at St. Aidan’s College in Grahamstown for five years, before joining the staff of the Zambezi Mission, first at Tati and then moving to Bulawayo in 1884. He is credited with opening Empandeni Mission in 1887 – the oldest surviving Catholic mission in Zimbabwe.
Fr. Prestage was forced to withdraw from Zimbabwe due to lack of converts and political developments, but returned in 1890 as a part of the “Pioneer Column.” He advocated for the overthrow of the Ndebele State, which he felt necessary to pave the way for Christianity. The Ndebele kingdom was defeated (First Matabele War) in 1894, and Fr. Prestage returned to Empandeni Mission in 1896. He would remain there until his death in April 1907.
Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society
The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) was the earliest of several missionary societies that are now United Methodist Women. Its origins lie in early missionary efforts of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) in India. As the men worked at establishing churches, “the wives, unnamed and unconsidered in the conference, sought to reach the women who fled from the [male] missionary. [They] saw the way to the evangelization of India through her helpless, degraded, unhappy women.” The men likewise began to recognize that single women missionaries were needed to work with Indian women.”
Based on the experience in India, a handful of women came together in 1869 in Boston and formed the WFMS “for the purpose of engaging and uniting the efforts of the women of the Church in sending out and supporting female missionaries…” Despite opposition from some in the MEC male hierarchy, within only eight months WFMS had recruited and sent out two women missionaries to India.
Following the death of her missionary husband, Helen Emily Springer (later wife of Bishop John M. Springer) returned to Africa in 1901 as the first WFMS missionary in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Stationed at MEC’s Old Umtali Mission (Old Mutare), Helen founded a girls’ boarding school. WFMS would later open and operate girls’ schools/hostels in Mutare and at Mutambara, Mrewa and Nyadiri Missions.
When MEC North united with MEC South and the Methodist Protestant Church in 1939 to form the Methodist Church, WFMS joined other women’s groups to become the Woman’s Society of Christian Service. In 1968, the Methodist Church became the United Methodist Church. 1972 the Women’s organizations in The United Methodist Church merge to form one inclusive organization with the name, “United Methodist Women.”
- Mark Loomis
- James Gavin
- Walter Herdzik
Helen Emily Springer
(1868 – 1946)
Helen Emily Chapman Springer was a pioneer Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) missionary to Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo – DRC). Helen volunteered as a missionary after hearing Bishop William Taylor speak, and sailed for the Congo in 1891. She married a Danish missionary, William Rasmussen, whom she met during the voyage. The couple was forced to leave Africa due to malaria after 18 months. They returned to the Congo with their son in 1894, but William soon died and Helen again “left the field.”
Helen returned to Africa a third time in 1901 following the death of her son as the first missionary with the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) in Zimbabwe. Stationed at MEC’s Old Umtali Mission, Helen founded a girls’ boarding school. She also wrote an important grammar/dictionary and translated Scripture and hymns into the Chikaraunga dialect of Shona.
In 1905, she married future MEC bishop John M. Springer. Two years later, the couple trekked across Africa to scout out locations for mission stations. For the remainder of her career, the Springers initiated and served at missions throughout DRC and Zimbabwe.
Helen authored “Snap Shots from Sunny Africa” and “Africa and Camp Fires in the Congo.” She died August 1946 and is buried with her husband at the Mulungwishi Mission, DRC.
John McKendree Springer
(1873 – 1963)
John McKendree Springer, a pioneering missionary and bishop with the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC), was instrumental in developing Methodism in Africa. He graduated from Northwestern University (1895 and 1899) and received a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Garrett Biblical Institute (1901).
From 1901 to 1906, he was a missionary in Africa serving as superintendent of the Old Umtali Mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Beginning 1907, he and his wife, fellow missionary Helen Emily Springer, journeyed across Africa scouting out sites for new missions. Between 1910 and 1915, the Springers were stationed in the Belgium Congo (DRC) and Western Rhodesia (Zambia). In 1921, Rev. Springer was transferred back to Zimbabwe to serve as superintendent at Mutambara Mission. Another transfer occurred in 1924 when Springer joined the Congo Mission Conference a second time and was appointed superintendent.
In 1936 Springer was elected Missionary Bishop for Africa (including Zimbabwe) and began travels throughout the continent. He retired in 1944 and returned to the United States in 1950. Following the death of his wife in 1949, Bishop Springer wrote “I Love the Trail; A Sketch of the Life of Helen Emily Springer.”
He died in December 1963 and is buried at the Methodist mission station in Mulungwishi, DRC.
Columbus C. Fuller
Columbus C. (“C.C.”) Fuller was born October 1867 in Nelson, Ohio, but lived for many years in Bozeman, Montana. Following studies at Hiram College and the American Institute for Sacred Literature, Fuller worked as a civil engineer with the Northern Pacific Railroad 1889-90 assisting with construction of the “Butte Short Line.” He later entered into the wholesale fruit and produce business in Bozeman with his brother, George Fuller. The business was “caught in the panic of 1893” and the brothers had to sell the business. He was president of the Montana Christian Endeavor Union 1893-4.
Fuller married first Sarah Isabella “Belle” Tucker in 1894. He married second Julia B. McKee in 1901. Julia was a daughter of a Presbyterian clergyman and high school teacher.
The Fullers received a call to be missionaries with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (American Board). They arrived at the Mount Silinda (Mt. Selinda) Mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1902, where “C.C.” Fuller established the industrial department. Just one year after arriving, he was able to build and begin operations of a sawmill for the mission. Machinery for the mill was hauled by ox teams and a steam engine he assembled from Beira, Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) – a trek of over 200 miles.
The Fullers served as missionaries at both Mt. Selinda and Chikore missions until 1932. He died in Los Angeles, California, July 1952.
- The Missionary Herald, Vol. 98 (1902), p. 233
- Fuller, William Hyslop, “Genealogy of some descendants of Edward Fuller of the Mayflower”(1910).
Arthur Jerome Orner
(1888 – 1954)
Arthur Jerome Orner was born March 1888 in Port Jervis, New York. He grew up in New York City and Philadelphia, where he attended the Northeast Manual Training School (Edison High School). Mr. Orner joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (American Board’s) Mt. Silinda (Selinda) Mission in 1909 at the relatively young age of twenty-one. Other than brief periods of furlough in the US, Orner would spend the rest of his life in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).
Prior to becoming a missionary with the American Board, Orner worked in the building and construction trade and for an electrical manufacturing company. His experience made him well suited to supervise and teach at Mt. Selinda’s “Industrial” (or “production”) Department, which provided vocational training, operated a sawmill, made and sold furniture and performed maintenance and repairs for the mission.
In c.1912, Orner married Dorothy Edna from South Africa. Over the years, Orner served in a number of other capacities, including as Mission Secretary, in charge of the boys’ Boarding Department and ultimately Superintendent of Schools. He served at both the Mt. Selinda and Chikore missions. Orner died 1954 in Harare, Zimbabwe. His wife, Dorothy, continued to live in Harare until her death in 1985.
- The Missionary Herald (Vol.105)
- Annual Reports of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
Drs. Giles and Wana Ann Fort
Giles Fort (1924 – 2013) Wana Ann Fort (1924 – 2015)
The Fort family in Zimbabwe, 1960.
Doctors Giles and Wana Ann Fort served with the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board (formerly Foreign Mission Board) as pioneer missionary doctors at Sanyati Baptist Hospital in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) for nearly 36 years beginning in 1952. The Forts were the first doctors at the remote Sanyati Baptist Hospital, which they helped to establish.
Dr. Giles Fort’s medical experience included family practice, general surgery, ophthalmology and anesthesiology. Dr. Wana Fort served as a pediatrician. The Shona people referred to her as “Mai Chiremba,” meaning “Mother Doctor.” The Forts raised five sons in Zimbabwe. Three have served or continue to serve as missionaries with the International Mission Board. Two of the Forts’ sons are medical doctors.
Both Dr. Giles and Wana Ann received their medical training at Baylor University College of Medicine. Giles Fort served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Wana Ann Fort wrote an autobiography of her years as a missionary doctor entitled “A Thousand Times Yes.”
The Forts retired from missionary service in 1988, not long after Dr. Giles Fort was diagnosed with axial dystonia, a muscle condition from which he suffered for many years.
Loy Stanley Mitchell
Loy Mitchell and his wife, Donna, served as long-time missionaries in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) on behalf of the Church of Christ.
Loy was born 1932 in Lawrence, Kansas. He graduated from Abilene Christian College receiving a degree in Bible. He married Donna Taylor in 1954. In March 1958, Loy and Donna moved to the Nhowe Mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) as missionaries with the Church of Christ.
He helped establish the Mutare School of Preaching (formerly Nhowe Bible School and then Mutare Bible School). They later moved to Umtali (Mutare), Zimbabwe. The Mitchells returned to the US in 1997. Donna was the author of two books on their experiences in Zimbabwe – Among the People of the Sun and Beneath Misty Mountains. She died in 2002.
Loy continued to return to Zimbabwe for several years serving as an “advisor” at the Mutare School of Preaching. He died in 2015 at age 82.
Henry Peter Steigerwald
Rev Henry P. Steigerwald & Arminta, 1901
Bishop Henry P. Steigerwald was a Brethren in Christ (BIC) missionary who served in “the Rhodesias” (Zimbabwe and Zambia) from 1901 to 1928. He was born in Ashland, Ohio and married Arminta Grace Pugh in 1893. He was called to the ministry shortly after the death of Bishop Engle, sold his sawmill business and arrived at Matopo Mission in 1901. Several new mission stations were opened under Bishop Steigerwald’s leadership, including Mtshabezi Mission (1906), Macha Mission (1906, in Northern Rhodesia/Zambia), Sikalongo Mission (1916, Zambia) and Wanezi (1924). “He placed strong emphasis on evangelism and education. The first African Brethren in Christ Conference was held in 1919, the first African overseers were appointed in 1921, and the first African deacons elected in the following year.”
He died 6th December, 1928 and is buried at the Wanezi Mission Cemetery.