The Scudder family of missionaries in India

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The Scudders in India devoted more than 1,100 combined years to Christian medical mission service in South India by 42 members of 4 generations of the family.[1]

First generation

Rev. Dr. John Scudder, Sr.

He became convinced that he was called to be a missionary in response to the command to go into all the world to preach the gospel and heal the sick. He then became thoroughly committed to serving God through medical missions of the American Board, later of the Dutch Reformed Board. [2]

He went to Ceylon in 1819 and founded the first Western Medical Mission in Asia at Panditeripo in Jaffna District. He served there for nineteen years in the dual capacity of clergyman and physician. His most important service was the establishment of a large hospital, of which he was physician in chief. He was especially successful in the treatment of cholera and yellow fever. He also founded several native schools and churches. He later became the first American medical missionary in India, beginning more than 1,100 combined years of missionary service there by 42 members of 4 generations of the family. [3]He and his wife Harriet had 6 surviving sons and 2 daughters who all became medical missionaries and worked in South India.[4]

In 1836 John Scudder and Rev. Winslow started a mission at Madras with the purpose of establishing a printing press to issue the Scriptures and tracts in the Tamil language. John Scudder established his residence at Chintadrepettah (Chintadripet). He was in the United States in 1842-1846 and returned to India in 1847 where he spent two years in Madura giving medical aid to the Mission there. In 1849 Scudder returned to his mission in Madras, where he laboured till his death on January 13, 1855., [5]

  • David Coit Scudder Born on 27 October, 1835 at Boston, Mass., the son of Charles and Sarah Lathrop (Coit) Scudder. He is not descended from John Scudder, but rather from a Scudder of the early days of Massachusetts Bay Colony. He Married Harriet Dutton. Their Children were David C. Scudder, Charles Scudder, David Scudder, Eleazer Scudder and Ebenezer Scudder.[6], [7]

He was an American missionary who had been influenced in boyhood to come to India by Rev. Dr. John Scudder, Sr. He Landed at Madras on June 26, 1861. He was in charge of the large and important station of Periyakulam. He had endeared himself to the Christians of the large village congregations of that station. An enthusiastic young American, his emotions overcame him when he arrived in Kodaikanal in 1862, as he recalled:

"I . . . seized our United States flag, shouted out 'Long may it wave!' . . . at the English collector . . . and did other uncouth things".

David Scudder drowned in the Vaigai River 19 November, 1862 between Andipatti & Periyakulam, 20 months after arriving in Tamilnadu. Scudder's body was taken out of the water at Sholavandan in the Madura station. Interment was in the old Anglican Churchyard, at Kodikanal.[7]The inscription on his headstone is still clearly legible. It reads:

Missionary of the A.B.C.F.M.
In Southern India.
Born in Boston, U.S.A.
Oct. 27, 1835
Landed at Madras
June 26, 1861
Drowned in the Vaigai River
Nov. 19, 1862"[8]

Years afterward the Christians of a village south of the river would tell of Scudder Iyer's last Sunday with them; how on that afternoon toward evening he placed his camp chair in the middle of their narrow street and gathered the children all about him, and talked with them about all their troubles and their joys ; how on Monday morning they went with him to the south bank of the river and saw on the other side the American buggy that Scudder Ama had sent for her husband for the journey of nine miles home ; how they saw the river rushing by with the power of a raging torrent, and begged him not to try to cross ; how he said, " I have swam in the ocean, and can I not swim this river ? " ; and how he entered the rapid, swollen stream and had splendidly ploughed his way across to within a few feet of the opposite shore, when suddenly he uttered a deep groan and disappeared under the waves.[7]

A little book, much worn and old, bearing the title: Letters to Sabbath School Children, by Rev. J. Scudder, M.D., Missionary at Madras, with: "Master David Scudder, from his affectionate friend, J. Scudder, New York, August 8, 1843", written broadly across the fly leaf, was found in his library.[7], [9]

The Clancy and Scudder Scholarship founded with a legacy of $300, bequeathed by Mrs. Taylor of New York State to Mrs. Washburn, and transferred by Mrs. Washburn to the Pasumalai Institution. In January 1885 the Mission accepted it as the Clancy Scholarship. But it was not put on deposit until June of that year, when an additional sum of $400 in commemoration of David Coit Scudder from David's brother Horace E. Scudder was added to it. The two donations were deposited together as the "Clancy and Scudder Scholarship". It amounted to Rs. 1,500, and continued until 1906.[10]

Second generation

  • Henry Martyn Scudder, M.D., D.D. (1822-95) was an American missionary and minister. He was born at Panditeripo, Ceylon, the oldest child of Rev. Dr. John Scudder. He graduated from the University of the City of New York in 1840 and Union Theological Seminary in 1843. The following year he went as missionary to Madura, India, and in 1846 to Madras. He labored successively at organizing schools and churches in Madras, Arcot, Vellore, Coonoor, and Ootacamund (Udhagamandalam). In 1850 he founded the mission at Arcot for the board of the Dutch Reformed Church and established a dispensary there. Having studied medicine, he also practised that profession.

He prepared various religious books and tracts in the Sanskrit, Tamil, and Telugu languages. His publications include "Liturgy of the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church" (Madras, India, 1862); "The Bazaar Book, or the Vernacular Teacher's Companion" (1865); "Sweet Savors of Divine Truth," a catechism (1868) ; and "Spiritual Teaching" (1870). These are all in the Tamil language.

In 1856 Madura united with the other American Tamil missions in appointing Henry Scudder as their representative to a convention held in Madras to adopt measures for the new Tamil Bible revision.

In 1864, his health failing in the climate of India, he returned to the United States and engaged in pastoral work for nearly 20 years. He was pastor of the Howard Presbyterian church in San Francisco, California, in 1865-'71, of the Central Congregational church in Brooklyn in 1872-'82, and from 1882 till 1887 of the Plymouth Congregational church, Chicago, from which he resigned to resume missionary work in Japan till 1889.

  • Rev. William Scudder born about 1826, gave twenty-two years of service to India, was then a congregational pastor for eleven years in America. When he was sixty years old he went back to India for nine years of labour, and died in 1895.[11]
  • William Waterbury Scudder, born 1835 at Panditeripo, Ceylon , D.D., Missionary, joined Arcott Mission 1852, retired 1894, buried at Kodaikanal in 1900.[12].
  • Joseph Scudder, M.D., D.D., Missionary, Joined Arcot Mission 1853, died 1860
  • Ezekial Carman Scudder, M.D., D.D. Missionary, Joined Arcot Mission 1855, retired 1876
  • Jared Waterbury Scudder, M.D., D.D. Missionary, was born in Panditeripo, Ceylon, in 1830, was graduated from Western Reserve college in 1850, and the New Brunswick theological seminary in 1855. He was ordained a missionary to India under the Reformed Dutch church. He joined Arcott Mission in 1855 and from 1857 held native charges there. He published Tamil translations of Henry M. Scudder's " Spiritual Teaching " (Madras, 1870), and his " Bazaar Book" (1870), and a " History of the Arcot Mission" (1872). He was a member of the committee for the revision of the Tamil translation of the Bible.
  • Samual Scudder, died while in college
  • Harriet Scudder joined Arcot Mission 1854, retired 1856
  • Louisa Scudder joined Arcot Mission 1855, retired 1861
  • Rev. Dr. John Scudder Jr. M.D., D.D., was the youngest son of John Scudder Sr. He Sailed to India with his wife, Sophia Weld, in 1860. He Joined Arcott Mission in 1861 and died in 1900. Three of his children, including Dr. Ida S. Scudder, became missionaries.
  • Silas Downey (or ? Doremus) Scudder, was a medical missionary, born in Ceylon, November 6, 1833. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1856, studied medicine, and was licensed to practise in New York city. He went to India as a medical missionary in 1860, established himself at Arcot, and founded a dispensary and hospital there which was supported by English and native residents. He also successfully treated a large native out-door practice, and obtained patients among high-caste Hindu women, which had not previously been accomplished. After thirteen years' labor for the American board he returned to New York on account of an illness caused by overwork. He died in Brooklyn, New York, December 10, 1877.
  • Vida Dutton Scudder (born December 15, 1861 in Madurai, India; died October 9, 1954 in Wellesley, Massachusetts, USA) was an educator, writer, and welfare activist in the social gospel movement. After the death of Scudders father, David Coit Scudder, a Congregationalist missionary, she and her mother, Harriet Louisa (Dutton), moved to Boston.

Third generation

Ida S. Scudder as a young Woman
  • Ida Sophia Scudder (December 9, 1870 – May 24, 1960) was a third-generation American medical missionary of the Reformed Church in America. Her father was Dr. John Scudder, Jr. She was a granddaughter of Rev. Dr. John Scudder, Sr. She dedicated her life to the fight against plague, cholera and leprosy and the plight of Indian women. [13] In 1918 she started one of Asia's foremost clinic-medical schools, the Christian Medical College & Hospital, in Vellore, India. Hear Dr. Scudder tell her own story[14]

As a girl, her last idea was to spend her life in India, even though it might be the Scudder family tradition. As a child in India, she saw all too much famine, poverty and disease. After a Massachusetts seminary, Ida expected to get married and settle down in the U.S., but, in her early 20s, Ida Scudder went back to India to help her ailing mother at her mission bungalow at Tindivanam. Ida Scudder took her M.D. at Cornell in 1899, then headed back to India, fortified with a $10,000 gift from a Manhattan banker. With the money, she started a tiny clinic for women at Vellore, 75 miles from Madras. In two years she treated 5,000 patients.

Ida S. Scudder with Mahatma Gandhi, 1928

Ida S. Scudder realized that she would be foolish to go on alone in her fight to bring better health to South India's women. So she decided to open a medical school for girls. Skeptical males said she would be lucky to get three applicants; actually she had 151 the first year (1918), and has had to turn many away ever since. At first, the Reformed Church in America was the main backer of the Vellore school, but since Dr. Scudder agreed to make it coeducational it has the support of 40 missions. Of 242 students today, 95 are men.[15]

In 1953 at a sprightly 82 years old, Dr. Scudder sat in her bungalow Hilltop at Kodaikanal, overlooking the Vellore Christian Medical College and its hospital, and opened a stack of letters and telegrams. Her name is a famous one in India. A letter once reached her addressed simply, "Dr. Ida, India." But the mail was heavier than usual because friends around the world were congratulating her on winning the Elizabeth Blackwell Citation of the New York Infirmary, as one of five outstanding women doctors of 1952. [16] She died at age 90, of a circulatory ailment, in Kodaikanal.[17], [18]

A commemorative stamp was issued on August 12, 2000 as part of centenary celebrations of Christian Medical College, Vellore. The stamp's design depicts the college chapel, the motivating monument of the medical college and a hospital symbolising the ethos of the institution. The First-day cover portrays Dr Ida Scudder, who founded the institute in 1900, working for the medical requirements of pregnant women. [19]

  • Ethel "Beth" Talcott Scudder was born May 17, 1904 in Kodaikanal, India to Ethel Talcott (Fisher) and Lewis Rousseau Scudder. The Scudders were missionaries of the Reformed Church of America (RCA). Beth's early education through the elementary grades was at Kodaikanal School, a boarding school for missionary children in the Palani Hills of South India. She received her high school education in the United States while she was a part of her maternal uncle's family. Ethel graduated from Oberlin College (class of '26) with an A.B. degree and a teaching certificate in Physical education. She served as a short-term Reformed Church in America (RCA) missionary in Vellore, India.

In 1930 she married Dr. William Wells Thoms. Together they went to Jerusalem in Palestine to study Arabic in preparation for RCA medical mission work in Arabia. This was the pre-petroleum era and their pioneering work was in societies very different from today. Beth and Wells served in Amarah Iraq, Bahrain, and Kuwait during the 1930s.

Most of their missionary career was spent in Muscat, Oman, where they went in 1939. Beth assisted Wells in his medical work by training laboratory assistants, organizing and dispensing medical supplies, keeping hospital accounts, meeting payroll, visiting the sick, teaching hospital staff and their families to read Arabic, and accompanying Wells on medical excursions into the Arabian peninsula to treat those unable to come to the hospital. Thousands upon thousands of men, women, and children were treated - from Kings, Sultans, and Sheikhs to the least of the common people (Bedouin, farmers, and laborers). Beth and Wells retired to Stinson Lake, New Hampshire and Flint, Michigan in 1970.

  • Dr. Lewis R. Scudder (Hope College 1931) and Dorothy B. Scudder, served as medical missionaries, a doctor and nurse respectively, with the Reformed Church in America in Iraq and Kuwait. Lewis died in 1975 and Dorothy died in 1991.

Fourth generation

  • Ida Belle Scudder M.D. was a radiologist and medical missionary born in 1900 and graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1925. Ida B. Scudder trained in radiology before moving to Vellore, India for more than 30 years of service at the Christian Medical Colleges (CMC) and Hospital, founded by her aunt, Dr. Ida S. Scudder. In Vellore, Ida B. founded the diagnostic radiology and radiotherapy departments at the hospital. She was influential in CMC turbulent transition to a coeducational college and affiliation with University of Madras for teaching the first two years of its M.B., B.Ss. course to its women students. She campaigned in U.S.A. between 1941 - 1945 seeking funding for the coeducational program. [20] In 1991 the Dr. Ida B.Scudder Radiation Therapy Block at CMC was dedicated She died in 1995. The Ida B. Scudder essay competition was instituted to perpetuate her ideals. The Prize is awarded for the best essay on any subject related to the care of the sick that illustrates that the fullest possible identification with the patient is the best way to serve him/her and meet his/her needs.[21], [22] The Ida Scudder Papers are available at the Schlesinger Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Dr. Marilyn Scudder born in 1939, Daughter of Lewis R. Scudder, Hope College ’31, graduated from Kodaikanal International School in 1956, Hope College in 1960, and received M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1965, lived in Sanya Juu, Tanzania. She was a medical missionary in Tanzania for 35 years. Dr. Scudder received an Outstanding Humanitarian Service Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology on Oct. 22, 2004, and the George Tani Humanitarian Service Award from the Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology on Dec. 10, 2004. Hope College presented her with a Distinguished Alumni Award on May 7, 1988, and profiled her in a story in the August 1985 issue of news from Hope College that had previously been featured in the Kodaikanal International School’s alumni publication. She died on Monday, May 16, 2005, in Dar es Salaam of primary amyloidosis. She was 66 years old.[23]
  • Dr. Galen F. Scudder, Superintendent of the Scudder Memorial Hospital in Ranipet, retired on June 1, 1954 after a distinguished service of 35 years in the cause of the sick and the suffering. Both Dr. and Mrs. Scudder are great grandchildren of Dr. John Scudder (who came to India in 1819), the father of the three founders of the Arcot Mission whose centenary was celebrated early this year. With the departure of Dr. and Mrs. G.F. Scudder, a century's continued association of the great Scudder family with the Arcot Mission comes to a close.[24]
  • Rev. Lewis R. Scudder III, Hope College 1963, son of Lewis R. Scudder ’31. Missionary in the Middle East, including Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain, Turkey, and Cyprus. [25]

Fifth generation

  • John Scudder, son of Lewis R. Scudder III, high school: Kodaikanal International School, college: College of Wooster, MSc: University of Michigan
  • Thomas Scudder, son of Lewis R. Scudder III
  • Beth Scudder, daughter of Lewis R. Scudder III, birthday - 3/13, high school: Kodaikanal International School, college: Macalester, MA: American University, School of International Service; job: American University [26]


  1. ^ "A Thousand Years in Thy Sight:The Story of the Scudder Missionaries in India", Scudder Association, retrieved 7/19/2007, not seen Scudder Missionaries in India
  2. ^ Heideman Eugene P. (2001) From Mission to Church: The Reformed Church in American Mission to India (Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America), Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing Co., Grand Rapids Michigan, retrieved 7/11/2007 excerpts
  3. ^ Waterbury Jared Bell (1870) Memoir of the Rev. John Scudder, M.D.: Thirty-six Years Missionary in India, Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square, New York, retrieved 7/19/2007 full text
  4. ^ A Manual of the Reformed Church in America (formerly Ref. Prot. Dutch Church). 1628-1902 By Edward Tanjore Corwin full text
  5. ^ Memoir of the Rev. John Scudder, M.D., 36 years Missionary in India, by J.B. Waterbury, u.o Rev. John Scudder, M.D.
  6. ^ John Scudder Family, Vol. IJohn Scudder Family
  7. ^ a b c d Life and Letters of David Coit Scudder: Missionary in Southern India By David Coit Scudder, Horace Elisha Scudderfull text
  8. ^ Purdy Strother, Mondaugen's Law, More Gaur and the old Kodai Cemetery, D.C.S. headstone photo, August 05, 2007
  9. ^ DR. SCUDDER'S TALES FOR LITTLE READERS, ABOUT THE HEATHEN. by Dr. John Scudder (1849) full text
  10. ^ Kennedy Dane (1996) The Magic Mountains: Hill Stations and the British Raj, University of California Press, Berkeley retrieved 7/19/2007 Scudder, p. 128
  11. ^ Johnston Julia H. (1913) Fleming H. Revell Company, LONDON AND EDINBURGH, retrieved 9/8/2007Fifty Missionary Heroes
  12. ^ Narayanan P.R. Krishna (May, 1994) Relics of the raj - British cemeteries in India, Contemporary Review, retrieved 7/19/2007 British cemeteries in India
  13. ^ Legacy and Challenge: The Story of Dr. Ida B. Scudder, published by the Scudder Association Legacy and Challenge
  14. ^ Christian medical Collere (2005)Ida S. Scudder
  15. ^ Christian Medical College (2005)Ida S. Scudder
  16. ^ Time Magazine (Feb. 16, 1953) A Family Tradition[1]
  17. ^ biographical information on ISS and the Scudder family, see the inventory for Ida Sophia Scudder, MC 205,Scudder, Ida Sophia, 1870-1960. Papers, 1843-1976 (inclusive), 1888-1960 (bulk) (84-M159) Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, February 1985 Ida Scudder papers
  18. ^ Notable American Women, The Modern Period (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1984).
  19. ^ Financial Express (September 12, 2000)Theme stamps mark this year's Independence Day
  20. ^ Brouwer, Ruth Compton Modern Women Modernizing Men: The Changing Missions of Three Professional Women in Asia and Africa, 1902 - 1969, retrieved 7/19/2007abstracts
  21. ^ CMC Newsline, Vol. No.43.No. 11, September 04, 2006DR. IDA B. SCUDDER ESSAY COMPETITION
  22. ^ Georgia Jennifer (1994)-Legacy and Challenge – The Story of Dr. Ida B. Scudder biography of Ida B. Scudder
  23. ^ Hope College Alumnae Magazine (August 2005)p. 22 Dr. Marilyn Scudder
  24. ^ Dr. Scudder retires, June 4, 1954, the HinduDr. Scudder retires
  25. ^ RCA Profile in Mission for Lewis and Nancy Scudder
  26. ^ Beth Scudder
Faith (for Content):