Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Mrs. Lydia Cone Curtis

As published in the Alumni Record, Painesville High School, Painesville, Ohio
Compiled and Published by the Painesville High School Alumni Association in 1925

Transcribed by Linda Jeffery, November 2004.

Mrs. Lydia Cone Curtis, ’72

According to the questionnaires returned, it appears that Lydia Virginia Cone of the class of 1872 is the only P.H.S. graduate who has been in foreign missionary work. After teaching several years, she studied in Oberlin College, graduating in 1880 with the degree of A.B.. She then taught Greek in Doane College, at Crete, Neb. In 1885 she married Rev. William W. Curtis, a missionary from Japan. She went with her husband when he returned to his work in ’86, and they were in this work in Japan for ten years. Mr. Curtis taught for several years in a boys’ school in Sendai, then had charge of the Evangelistic work in Hokkaido, the most northern island of the Japanese group.

Her work was chiefly that of making a home for her husband and children, three of her four children having been born in Japan. The Japanese were frequently entertained in this home, which also served as an object lesson for the people among whom they lived, of what a Christian home is. They were sometimes asked to take Japanese children into their home by those who wanted their children brought up under similar influences. As her children grew older, she had to be kindergarten, day, and Sunday School teacher, as well as C.E. leader and companion for them in every way. The Japanese schools taught nothing that would be helpful to an American child.

She recalls her first New Years, the great day in that country, when calls are made and congratulations and best wishes exchanged. Her husband had gone out to pay his respects to the governor of the province, to the pastor and others teachers in the school, when 12 to 15 school boys appeared at the door. It was slightly embarrassing for her Japanese vocabulary at that time consisted of a few expressions like “Good morning, goodbye, and thank you,” while the boys were no more proficient in English, but the polite thing was to sit on the floor, and bow till the forehead touched it. After such greeting, she served cake and tea, and they departed, satisfied at having had tea and cake, and having see a foreign woman and baby in her own home. They were followed by others during the day, and the same program was carried out, the bowing, the tea and cake.

When she reached Japan in 1886 it was well started in its wonderful development from a recluse island nation, with its ancient civilization, culture, and modes of life and work, to one of the foremost nations, with all modern improvements, Japan adopted and adapted, especially the latter, all that science and invention has given the Western world. First she established a system of popular education. “Education is the basis of all progress” was her motto 50 years ago. In the past 30 years she has advanced by leaps and bounds. In 1886 there were less than 100 miles of railroad in the country, now there are over 7000 miles. Then they had advanced from the saucer of oil and pith wick, to the kerosene lamp; now electricity makes the streets of the cities brilliant, and even little hotels in the mountains, and farm houses are lighted with it, so great are the water power facilities. Then there was a short car line in Tokio, now more than 70 companies operate electric trolley cars, which in 1920 carried over a billion passengers. Formerly her shipping was confined to a few vessels plying along the coast, now she has steamer lines to all parts of the world. The story of her manufacturies reads like a fiary tale. Thirty years ago Osaka was a chimmeyless city, now she exports more cotton goods than any city in the world. As an illustration of this growth, 20 years ago the girls’ school in which Mrs. Curtis’ daughter has been teaching, was moved out of the city and rebuilt in what was a rice field, now the city has so encroached that 20 smoke stacks of factories can be counted from a single window of that school.

Mrs. Curtis, with many other missionaries, who have lived among the Japanese and know them, has faith and confidence in them, and she agrees with Dr. W.E. Griffis, who spent several years in the early 70’s in Japan, and has ever since kept in close touch with everything going on there, when he says, “I cannot but feel that with them rest in great measure the hopes of Asia and that, next the United States, Japan can be the chief medium in the union and reconciliation of the Orient and the Occident for the making of a new world.”

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Last updated 11 Nov 2004

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