Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the Papers of Alfred A. and Gertrude C. Gilman, 1865-1966

Accession Number: HC 40
The Papers of Alfred A. and Gertrude C. Gilman
Papers, 1865-1966
Bulk dates: 1901-1948
4.8 linear feet
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

Series I - Personal and Biographical
Series II - Alfred A. Gilman Correspondence
Series III - Gertrude C. Gilman Correspondence
Series IV - China Mission
Series V - Financial Records
Series VI - Photos
Series VII - Audio tapes

Access and Use

Provenance: The collection is a gift of Louise Frances Gilman Hutchins, daughter of Alfred A. and Gertrude C. Gilman and wife of Berea College President Francis S. Hutchins. The collection was received in August, 1989.

Access: The Collection was opened for research in May 2000.

Preferred Citation: The Alfred and Gertrude Gilman Papers, Berea College Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.

Related Archives

  • RG 3.05 - Francis S. Hutchins, 1939-67, Berea College Archives


The Papers of Alfred A. Gilman (1878-1964) and Gertrude C. Gilman (1864-1936) consist primarily of their personal letters written from China and sent home to parents, relatives, and siblings, and later to their children and grandchildren. Other papers in the collection relate to Alfred’s mission work, mission financial records, letters from friends and family, and personal documents.

The collection also contains a number of photographs of the Gilmans, their children and other family members, and people and places in China related to their mission work. Also, there is a set of three cassette tapes containing an interview with Louise Gilman Hutchins on Gilman family history, recorded in the early 1990s.

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Alfred A. Gilman was born on August 3, 1878 in North Platte, Nebraska. He was one of eight children, two of whom were from Alfred’s mother’s first marriage. His mother, Mary Hubbard Kramph Gilman, helped found the North Platte Episcopal Church and helped instill Alfred with his religious zeal. Alfred’s father, Platt Jewel Gilman, was a railroad telegrapher who had a passion for gardening that Alfred inherited. Alfred was a successful and mature student who became interested in politics at an early age. Always a hard worker, Alfred graduated from high school at 13 and the University of Nebraska at 19. After a brief period of struggling between serving in the army and serving God, Alfred entered Philadelphia Divinity School. Following graduation in 1901, Alfred began mission work in Wyoming, but felt called to join the foreign mission field. He was ordained as an Episcopal priest in August, 1902 and left for Hankow, China soon after. Alfred married Gertrude Carter, a fellow Hankow missionary, in 1905.

Gertrude Carter Gilman (1864-1936), the eldest daughter of the Reverend Frederick Brewerton and Fanny Lawrence Carter, was born in Long Island, New York on May 10, 1874. In 1884 the family, which included Gertrude’s four younger siblings, moved to Montclair, New Jersey. Despite her father’s attempts at discouragement, Gertrude had dedicated her heart to missionary work. Gertrude attended Wellesley, and following her graduation in 1896 continued study at the Philadelphia Training School. Gertrude was assigned by the Missionary Society of the Episcopal Church to serve in Hankow, China. She arrived in 1901, the year following the Boxer rebellion of 1900, during which at least 186 missionaries (including children) and over 1900 Chinese Christians were killed.

The Gilmans were married on February 22, 1905. Their first child, John Platt, was born in February, 1906, but died suddenly two and a half years later. Overcoming this tragedy, the Gilmans found great joy in their younger children, Frederick, born in 1907, Louise, born in 1911, and Edward, born in 1913.

Alfred served faithfully as a member of the clergy, learning Chinese and keeping up with political situations and world news. In July 1907, he was appointed priest at the junior high school he had organized. In 1912 Alfred was appointed delegate in the first General Synod of The Chinese Holy Catholic Church, formed by representatives of four mission bodies. He became president of Boone University in 1916. In 1924 the Chinese government imposed a law requiring missions to register property, but Alfred was able to preserve the Hankow mission through contacts and friends in the government, many of whom had graduated from the schools Alfred was associated with. That same year Alfred became acting president of the newly founded Central China University. A year later Alfred became the Bishop of Hankow and initiated a turnover of Church leadership to the Chinese people.

Gertrude served as an English teacher and Sunday school teacher. As an active member of the Women’s Auxiliary, she served as president, treasurer, and educational secretary. She was an active evangelist within the local Chinese communities, raising money when needed through rummage sales and working with the Christian United Poor Relief Association. Gertrude and Alfred were partners in their mission work and together helped found the Chinsan Christian Community to promote flood relief.

The Gilmans were gracious hosts and Gertrude continually opened their home to the needy, especially children. In 1936 Gertrude died unexpectedly of pneumonia. In spite of the loss, Alfred continued with his work. When war broke out between China and Japan in 1937, Alfred played a role in negotiations on behalf of his missions. His work allowed the missions to survive most of World War II. Alfred retired in 1946, only to be recalled to Hankow until 1948; he was then compelled to leave as tensions grew within China. Until his death on September 13, 1966, Alfred spent his remaining years in the United States, traveling, visiting family and friends, gardening, and corresponding with family, friends, and former mission colleagues.

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Series Description
12 Manuscript Boxes, 4.8 linear ft.

(Box List available by clicking series links below)

Series I Personal and Biographical Box 1

These materials, arranged by topic, include autobiographical and family sketches; biographical material; official certificates; sermons, speeches and other writings, and genealogical research. Also included is a folder of Chinese calligraphy letters written to Alfred Gilman upon his retirement, from Chinese government officials. One letter is attributed to President Chiang Kai-Shek. Also in this series is a draft of an essay on Alfred Gilman by his grandson Robert Lawrence Rosser Hutchins, along with Hutchins’ research notes and correspondence.

Series II Alfred A. Gilman Correspondence Boxes 2-5

The correspondence, arranged chronologically, consists primarily of Gilman’s “Dear Folks” letters, which he typed and made carbon copies of to send to family members and friends. Those letters are filled with news on his mission work; observations on political and current events; family news; and details of his hobbies, which included gardening and building radios. Also in this series are handwritten, more personal letters by Gilman and various family members and friends, in particular his mother, his half-sister Annie Kramph, and his children. Also noteworthy is Gilman’s correspondence in his retirement years with fellow China missionaries and former students, and his efforts to aid acquaintances in China suffering from poverty and illness.

Series III Gertrude C. Gilman Correspondence Boxes 5-10

Arranged chronologically, this correspondence consists primarily of Gertrude C. Gilman’s letter to her parents and other family members. Topics of interest include: letters written during her years at Wellesley; her determination to pursue her missionary calling and her efforts to overcome obstacles; details of her mission, household, and family responsibilities; her observations on spiritual, social, political and familial matters; and her descriptions of Chinese people, customs, and geography.

Series IV China Mission Box 10

This series, arranged by topic, includes general information on China mission activities; mission-related correspondence between people other than the Gilmans; a collection of Hankow Church newsletters, some edited by Alfred Gilman, and some containing articles written by Alfred or Gertrude Gilman; and miscellaneous reports, bulletins, and circular letters.

Series V Financial Records Boxes 10-11

Arranged by topic and chronologically when dates are available, this series contains Alfred Gilman’s China mission financial records. Material includes general accounting records, receipts, notes, and account correspondence.

Series VI Photos Boxes 11-12

Arranged by topic, this series includes photos of Chinese art, landscapes, and people; China missionaries and students; Changsha fire and bombings; Wright Brothers’ biplanes; Alfred and Gertrude Gilman, and various family members and friends of the Gilmans.

Series VII Audio Tapes Box 12

Three cassette tapes contain an interview with Louise Gilman Hutchins regarding Gilman family history. Recorded by Richard Troutman in the early 1990s.

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