When it came to their faith many of my ancestors were willing to travel to the ends of the earth to get the ability to worship without persecution. Religious freedom motivated them to embark on their journey to the new world, and establishing places of worship was one of their priorities when they settled a region. To call them extremely spiritual would be an understatement.
Not only did my ancestors feel the call to worship they felt the need to spread their faith. One such dedicated ancestor was Jehu Lewis Shuck. I have to admit here that I do not know his exact connection to my Shuck line just indications that he is closely connected. Jehu’s father died in 1815 when Jehu and his brother were both under the age of 5. After his death, their mother took her young sons and relocated to be near the Mose Shuck family. Looking at dates of birth and known lines in the area at the time it is possible that Mose and Jehu’s fathers were brothers.
So what’s so noteworthy about Jehu Lewis Shuck that makes him worth mentioning? He was the first baptist missionary to China.
Jehu Lewis Shuck was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1812. His parents were Frederick Shuck (b. Alexandria, VA 1780) and Elizabeth Bogan. Their second son, John Thomas Shuck was born on September 4, 1814. Frederick died February 20, 1815. Elizabeth took her sons and moved to Greenbrier County when Jehu was about 6 years old.
Most of Jehu’s early life has been lost. History notes that he was baptisted at age 10 and the congregation later named a church in his honor (The Shuck Memorial Baptist Church) but those are some of the few notable facts. One mention worthy tale told over time involves how he became involved in missionary work. Jehu was a young man when he attended a missionary meeting. The missionaries asked for contributions when the service was over; while other people gave gifts of monetary value Jehu’s contribution was a card on which there was one word: “Myself.”
By September 1835, he and his new bride Henrietta Hall, were en route to China. They were respectively the first Baptist missionary and the first American female missionary to China.
Due to the significance of his missionary work, much about the adult life of Jehu Shuck has been preserved. There have been several books written about his life and many of his letters are available online. Henrietta also left her mark on history including two published books about her experiences in china and a school in Hong Kong is still named in her honor.
Henrietta died in 1844 at the age of 27 while still in China. She is buried in Hong Kong Cemetery. Jehu married two more times in his life and completed further missionary work both in China and in the United States. He finished out his life in Barnwell Courthouse, SC, dying on August 20, 1863.
Below is a hymn that Jehu wrote during his missionary years. It was published in 9 hymnals between 1845 and 1890. Included is a photo of the hymn as it was published in 1854. It was titled the Missionary’s Adieu.