American Board Mission
Used by permission, Congregational Library & Archives
The American Board Mission (ABM or American Board) opened its first mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) in 1893. Two years earlier, ABM missionaries Rev. Wilcox and Dr. W.L. Thompson were on an exploratory trip from South Africa. As fate would have it, on the boat to Beira, Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique), fellow passenger Cecil Rhodes overheard them talking about a site for a mission. He responded by giving them a track of land on Zimbabwe’s eastern boarder. On subsequent arrival to the designated area, the missionaries mistook the native African enunciation of the Chirinda forest as Silinda and called the mission site the Mount Silinda (Selinda) Mission.
Rev. and Mrs. John Marsh, arriving at Mt. Selinda in 1924, provided the following description:
“[W]e soon realized that the Mission was located in a U-shaped clearing which was surrounded by those soaring trees of mahogany… They covered Mt. Silinda to the south and Gungunyana to the north, and the bottom of the U to the West. But the U opened to the East upon a great view of the Zona valley, through which ran a small stream, which had its origin in the forest. … The Mission buildings were distributed on the grassy hillsides of the U clearing or opening. The road running down through the U to the school buildings in the center, and eventually the beautiful brick church. … It was a fair-sized self-contained community.”
A significant early contribution of the American Board in Zimbabwe was establishing medical facilities and providing medical care to the surrounding area.In 1912, the dispensary became a full-fledged hospital, “Willis F. Pierce Memorial Hospital” (Mt. Selinda Hospital).
Another contribution was in the area of agriculture. Emory D. Alvord, a trained agriculturist, joined Mt. Silinda in 1919 and introduced western farming practices including use of fertilizers and irrigation schemes. In 1926, he left the mission to take up the position of Director of Native Agriculture for Southern Rhodesian.
Mail service to Mt. Selinda was initially every two weeks by postal runner to Melsetter (letters prior to 1924 often have a Melsetter a back stamp). A branch post between Melsetter and Mount Selinda was established in 1897. That same year Dr. Thompson, who had been appointed postal agent, received the first Mount Selinda date stamp canceler. It incorrectly spelled Silinda – “Selinda,” and despite protests from Dr. Thompson, subsequent cancelers continued to use both spellings. In time, “Selinda” became the dominant spelling. Motorized mail service began in 1929.
Today, under the direction of the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ), Mt. Selinda comprises a church, primary and secondary schools with boarding facilities for boys and girls (Mount Selinda High School), farm, the Daisy Dube Children’s Home and the Willis F. Pierce Memorial (Mount Selinda) Hospital.
- Mark Loomis
- Paul Peggie
- James Gavin