J. Landrum Holmes (1836-1861) and Sallie J. Little Holmes (1836-1914)
Landrum Holmes married Sallie Little in July 1858, weeks before they sailed to China as IMB missionaries. Landrum was a native of Preston County, Virginia (now West Virginia) and Sallie was the daughter of English immigrants who settled in Cumberland, Maryland. While a student at Columbian College in Washington, D.C. (now George Washington University), Landrum sensed a call to international missions and, along with Sallie, sought appointment as Southern Baptist missionaries.
Their first two years were spent in Shanghai, learning the language and forming relationships with other missionaries. However, as the Second Opium War (1856-1860) came to a close, treaties between China and European powers opened north China to missionaries, and the Holmeses dreamed of taking the Gospel to places without a missionary presence. Therefore, in late 1860, they moved to modern-day Shandong Province, settling in the city of Tengchow (modern-day Penglai Shi).
The year 1861 would be filled with tragedy. First, the Holmeses’ only child, Annie, died at about the age of 2. Then, in October, Landrum himself was killed when he and an Episcopalian missionary sought to intervene to save Tengchow from destruction by forces of the Taiping Rebellion (a violent civil war that lasted from 1850-1864 and saw millions of deaths). Now a widow, Sallie wrestled over whether to return to her family in the U.S. or stay in China. She chose China, and would remain there for another fifteen years. During this time, other missionaries would arrive in Tengchow, notably Lottie Moon, whom Sallie and her coworker Martha Crawford trained in evangelizing women in remote country villages. In the meantime, Sallie raised her son Landrum, who was born after his father’s death.
The correspondence in this collection comes from two sources: The first is the Holmeses' official IMB missionary correspondence, written to agents of the Board; the other is private family correspondence written primarily by Sallie to her Little relatives, donated by Donald T. Little, a descendant of one of those relatives. Noteworthy letters are Sallie’s November 1, 1861 letter to her sister reacting to Landrum’s death, her December 30, 1861 letter discussing the onset of the U.S. Civil War, and her August 15, 1862 letter describing the impact of a cholera epidemic on the missionary community in Shandong.