Mary Julia McCaslin

1892 - 1974


A Half Century with the Chinese Church

THE NAME OF JULIA MCCASLIN has been associated with the Cumberland Presbyterian Chinese Church in San Francisco longer than most of the people in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church today can remember. For a half-century "Miss Julia" has lived in San Francisco and has been a worker and a friend of the Chinese church.

This General Assembly was coincidentally an event marking the 50th anniversary of her beginning her work there.

The old former Women's Board of Missions sent Miss Julia as a missionary teacher to San Francisco chinatown in 1915. There was no church. There was no building. She went, got an apartment in Chinatown, and this became the headquarters for the beginning of the mission. She taught classes in her apartment. At first she was teacher, treasurer, and manager of all affairs of the mission.

Three years after first going to San Francisco, she attended the General Assembly which met in Dallas (in 1918) and there made the first appeal for a building for the church and mission in Chinatown. she also traveled to many places in Texas seeking support for the work.

Today Miss Julia still lives in San Francisco and continues as a friend of the Chinese church and of the people.

Although Miss Julia does not live in Chinatown, her apartment is not far away--just over two of the famous San Francisco hills from Chinatown. Here many of the young people still come for a visit and for counsel.

"Mother of the Church"

Miss Julia smiled and commented that many people referred to her as the mother of the Chinese church. "And now," with a chuckle, she said, "some even refer to me as the grandmother of the church!"

This meeting of the General Assembly in San Francisco on the 50th anniversary of her coming as a missionary-teacher was a time of significant celebration for Miss Julia.

One of the high parts of it was that she entertained in her apartment five of her longtime friends from over the church.

One of the friends was Mrs. P.D. Starr of San Antonio, Texas, who with Miss Julia was commissioned for missionary work at the General Assembly 55 years ago--in 1910--when it was held in Dickson, Tennessee, at the church birthplace. Mrs. Starr has lived through the years at San Antonio and has been active in many phases of the First church there. She has also maintained a close friendship with Miss Julia and has visited her on several occasions through the years.

Another visitor with Miss McCaslin was Mrs. Katherine King, who has been a friend through the years and was a teacher in the mission for two years--1921-22. She became ill and had to quit the work. She now lives in Los Angeles where she is a member of the Whittier church. Also visiting with Miss McCaslin were Mrs. Grace Johnson Beasley of McKenzie, Tenn., and her sister Mrs. H.F. May of Jackson, Tennessee. Rev. Mrs. Mabelle Reid of Springfield, Mo., also visited with Miss McCaslin.

Soon after 1906 the Cumberland Presbyterian Theological Seminary was reorganized and Miss McCaslin was one of its first students. She, along with Miss Birdie Lee Pallette, now of Oak Grove, Missouri, and the late Rev. Dr. A. D. Rudolph, who died last year, made up the first graduating class of the seminary. This was in 1913.

As Miss Julia and her friends discussed the 1910 Assembly, when she was commissioned as a missionary-teacher, they recalled interesting events at the time. It was a time when Halley's comet was expected to appear anytime. They remembered Rev. B. E. Bowmer and Rev. F. A. Brown being present for that historic meeting.

This Assembly meeting in San Francisco was indeed a fitting tribute to the half-century of Christian witness Miss Julia McCaslin has rendered in behalf of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. CRD

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, July 13, 1965, page 11]

At 83 Julia McCaslin Maintains Keen Interest In San Francisco's Chinese CP Church

San Francisco--Recently a large group of her Chinese friends from the Chinese CP church in Chinatown gathered in the 3rd floor apartment on Larkin Street to wish Miss Julia McCaslin happy birthday. It was indeed a big day of celebration for both Miss Julia and her friends for she had just recently suffered a major stroke and was, as she said, "out of her head" for weeks. Now her friends were celebrating both her remarkable recovery and her 83rd birthday. As a special gift the group brought her a clock-radio which she enjoys so much.

"I don't know why the Lord didn't go on and take me," Miss Julia said to me, with a tone of confidence and faith. I suggested that maybe the Lord had something else for her to do, and anyhow it was not for us to question his doings. She laughingly agreed.

During my planned short visit with Miss Julia--which lengthened out to 2 1/2 hours--this octogenarian lady gave a panoramic view of her long life in the CP church. Most of the facts relate to her life with the people of Chinatown.

It soon became evident that her life is almost synonomous with the history of the Chinese CP church in SF.

A native of Missouri, Miss Julia decided to be a missionary at age 17 and went to Bethel College for training in 1911. She studied months with the idea of going to South America. But somehow destiny had it that she would come to San Francisco in 1916.

The beginnings of the Chinese mission were some earlier--even before the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. And before the CP earthquake--the union and division of 1906.

But the real formation of the mission began in the teen years.

Its hard to imagine that small beginning in view of the tremendous program of the church today. Now with pastor Earnest Chan the church has three morning services; an English service at 9, a Chinese service for youth at 10, and a Chinese service at 11 which is mainly for older people. The church school with classes for every age are also at 10. There are also classes during week days from four to six for courses in Chinese for children and courses in English for older Chinese. And with additional properties a greatly expanded program of education is being carried on in the educational building by the San Francisco Community College district. But this is all another story.

"In 1919," Miss McCaslin recalled, "Mary Graf of the women's Board of Missions and I went to a real estate office and bought the first piece of property on Jackson and the first building was erected the next year." The cornerstone of the old building still in use, gives the date and information of this historic beginning.

In 1926 Miss Julia heard a call to a more ambitious ministry to Chinese people--that year she went to Canton, China to teach in a girl's school and do mission work with Gam Sing Quah. But here work was short lived since civil strife began between the Koumatoung, the party of Sun Yat Sin and Chiang Kai Shek, and the Chinese Communist Party. As a result all missionaries were required to quickly leave to avoid danger. She went to Hong Kong and soon back to resume work in Chinatown in San Francisco. She lived in an apartment near the mission for 46 years.

In more recent years she and her home have served as a liaison between the CP church in the States and missions to Chinese overseas. First to Gam Sing Quah, then to his son and and successor as head of South China missions, Samuel King Gam. Still more recently to McAdow Gam, presently director of Hong Kong missions, and to this family through the years.

For the past eleven years she has lived just 5 blocks away from the church. This means that for 57 years of her life she has been a friend and counselor and advisor to many Chinese people, particularly the young. "Now I have Chinese friends all over this area," she said, "doctors, lawyers, teachers, and leaders in all walks of life."

Her official relation to the church as a missionary ceased long ago. But her interest particularly in Chinese people and in the welfare of the Chinese CP church has not diminished.

Now she is unable to go to the church--and so the church comes to her. For the CP church at large it comes to her through The Missionary Messenger and THE CUMBERLAND PRESBYTERIAN. For the larger church it comes through other magazines: Eternity, Christian Herald, and Decision. All were on her coffee table.

But more importantly the church comes to her in people. Chinese people of all ages visit her. The church also comes to her in a more real way: She told of her pastor, Earnest Chan, recently bringing the communion service to her. CRD.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, September 1, 1974, pages 3, 12-13]


Miss Julia McCaslin, who had spent most of her 83 years living and serving in San Francisco among Chinese people, died October 24. She was 83.

Warren Lowe, an elder of the San Francisco Chinese church, in reporting her death said, "Miss Julia was a great Christian friend to many of the Chinese people here."

In honor of her life's ministry a "Julia McCaslin Mount Hermon Memorial Fund" has been established. This will be used to set up scholarships for Chinese young people to attend Christian conferences at Mount Hermon, which is a youth conference center in California.

In announcing this fund Mr. Lowe said that its purpose "is to perpetuate the memory of Miss Julia who had helped to enrich the Christian lives of many young people by encouraging and helping them financially to go to Mount Hermon."

A wake was held and a memorial service was also held at the CP Chinese church. Five Chinese ministers who were close friends of Miss Julia participated in the services. These included a former pastor, Paul Wu; and others participating were Revs. Paul Hom, Enoch Lau, Stephen Lui, and Ernest Chan, the present pastor of the Chinese church.

Pallbearers were also Chinese friends.

Anyone desiring to contribute to the memorial fund may send it to "Miss Julia McCaslin Mount Hermon Memorial Fund," in care of Warren Lowe, Cumberland Presbyterian Chinese Church, 865 Jackson Street, San Francisco, California 94133.

[Source: The Cumberland Presbyterian, December 1, 1974, page 4]

A Tribute to Julia McCaslin

Miss Julia McCaslin's Christian life was practically synonymous with the historical background of the San Francisco Cumberland Presbyterian Chinese Church. Her life was almost entirely identified with the Chinese people within the boundary of the famous San Francisco Chinatown.

"MACKY," as we fondly called her, was born in 1892; she was always proud to be called a native of Missouri. At the early age of 18, she decided to be a missionary. While attending our Bethel College at McKenzie, Tennessee, in 1911, she seriously considered doing missionary work in South America. However, in 1916 God directed her to San Francisco.

The historic beginning of the San Francisco Chinese Mission took place in 1919 when Miss McCaslin and Mary Graf of the former Women's Board of Missions negotiated with a real estate agent and purchased a piece of property on the corner of Stone and Jackson Streets. Reverend D. Fooks came to San Francisco to serve as superintendent of the new building program. In 1920 the construction of the Church building was completed.

In 1926 Miss McCaslin responded to a call to minister to the Chinese people in the Orient. She went to Canton, China, to teach English in True Light School (a school for girls). She also conducted some mission work with Gam Sing Quah, the father of Reverend Samuel Gam and Reverend McAdow Gam. However, her work in Canton was shortly terminated by the civil war between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kuomintang Chinese National Party. In order to avoid anticipated danger, Miss Julia left for Hong Kong and soon returned to San Francisco to continue her mission work.

She worked many years as a superintendent of the Chinese mission work under the Women's Foreign Missions Board. Upon her resignation from this position, she gave piano lessons and taught English to local Chinese residents and Hong Kong immigrants. In the meanwhile, she also performed voluntary work for the Mission. Miss McCaslin was a strong believer of establishing self-supporting churches. This desire was often shared with her friends. In 1961 she was understandably elated when the General Assembly officially changed our status from "mission" to a self-supporting Congregation.

Miss Julia truly exemplified the philosophy that there is no real happiness in just "having or getting," but only in "sharing and giving." All her friends can attest that she always unselfishly devoted much of her time to people's problems. Her sympathetic ear could only be matched by her kind understanding and great compassion for people.

Her secret of happiness was to have something to do. For over 46 years she lived in a large apartment only one block from the Chinese church. "952 Jackson Street" was a familiar gathering place for many friends and for many purposes--including choir practices and piano recitals. She has been a dear friend and advisor to many Chinese people for over 58 years.

Dur to poor health, Miss McCaslin's official relationship with the San Francisco Chinese Church as a mission worker terminated many years ago. However, her sincere interest in the welfare of the church and the members never ceased. Although her health prevented her from attending church services, she constantly was on the telephone--counseling, advising, and fulfilling the needs of people--young and old.

It is majestic to grow old, if one keeps feeling young. She maintained her youthful enthusiasm and she was frequently surrounded by young people. Her important contribution as a counselor to friends was immeasurable. The Christian lives of many young people have been enriched by Miss McCaslin's influence. Her love for children was illustrated in many photographs of her birthday celebrations. She appeared to be the happiest when surrounded by little children blowing out her birthday cake candles.

Miss McCaslin had suffered several heart attacks within the past few years. Knowing that she greatly admired Dr. Eugene Warren, Director of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church Board of Finance, Foundation and Management, I took him to visit her after her recovery from a major stroke earlier this year. During the course of this pleasant long-awaited visit, she asked Dr. Warren why the Lord did not go on and take her away. I believed that Miss McCaslin found peace and comfort in Dr. Warren's answer. He said, "when the time ocmes, God will let you know. God is not ready for youyet."

On October 24, 1974, this dear Christian octogenarian was called home to be with the Lord. The loss of a very close friend is a sorrow all of us must bear. Miss McCaslin has lived a full influential Christian life. It has been said that such a life is a voyage that is homeward bound.

Although Miss McCaslin was not a wealthy person, she did bequeth all her money to several charitable organizations. Her true wealth was the good she did during her 83 years on this earth. I remember Miss Julia once said to me that nothing in life is to be feared--it is to be understood. She also strongly believed that for a Christian's life to be understood is to follow God's will and guidance. The sweet and tender memory of this devoted Christian friend should strengthen our witnessing to others. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept my faith" II Timothy 4:7.

A "Julia McCaslin Mount Hermon Memorial Fund" is being established. Many people have contributed to this worthwhile fund which will be used to set up scholarships for young people to attend conferences at Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is a great Christian conference center which offers fellowship of Christian friends and a Ministry of God through Nature and Bible scriptures. The purpose of this memorial fund is to perpetuate the memory of Miss Julia McCaslin who had encouraged and financed many young people to attend Mount Hermon Conferences. Perhaps you may wish to contribute to this fund.

Checks should be made out to:
"Miss Julia McCaslin Mount Hermon Memorial Fund"
and send to
Cumberland Presbyterian Chinese Church
865 Jackson Street
San Francisco, California 94133
c/o Rev. Ernest Chan and Warren Lowe

--Warren Lowe

[Source: The Missionary Messenger, January 1975, pages 12-13]

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Updated August 2, 2011