The collection comprises the papers of two families, joined in the marriage of Sidney R. Sheldon and Eunice M. Fife, in 1916.
Sheldon was an engineer, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, who taught at Nanyang University (known by several other names as well) in Shanghai, China, from 1910 to 1927. In addition to his teaching work, he made many consultation trips into the interior of China to inspect various installations.
His wife, Eunice Fife Sheldon, was the daughter of Elmer E. and Mary Theaker Fife, Presbyterian missionaries to India. The Fifes first arrived in India in 1889, to serve with the Punjab Mission. Elmer Fife founded what was later to be known as Gordon Christian College in Rawal-Pindi in 1893. He and his family then returned to the United States, where he served as pastor of churches in Lincoln, Nebraska and Boise, Idaho, before returning to India in 1904. Elmer Fife served as principal of several Christian schools in Dehra Dun, Mussoorie and Ludhiana during his missionary career.
In addition to the individuals already mentioned, two people who appear prominently in the collection are Mary Elizabeth Fife ("Bessie"), sister to Eunice and daughter to Elmer and Mary Fife, who later married Fred Collins and died in childbirth in 1923, and Elizabeth M. Hutchins Theaker, mother to Mary Theaker Fife.
The collection begins with the correspondence of both the Sheldon and Fife families, arranged in general chronological order with the Fife materials appearing first, followed by the Sheldon letters.
The Fife-associated correspondence extends back to 1851, when David Bell, a cadet at West Point, wrote letters regarding his life there to his niece, Elizabeth Hutchison (later, Theaker, and mother to Mary Theaker Fife). There are also letters from Elizabeth’s brother, David W. Hutchison, a Union soldier under Grant during the Civil War. Hutchison was killed during the battle of Cold Harbor in June 1864, and the letter of notification of his death is included, plus a transcript (typewritten) of all the letters. Another folder contains a few letters and a “memory book” of Elizabeth Hutchison Theaker.
The correspondence of the family of Elmer E. and Mary Theaker Fife follows; much of the correspondence is between the elder Fifes and their daughters, particularly Eunice. The letters provide information about missionary life and work in India, with special emphasis on teaching and education. One folder contains letters ad documents regarding Sadhu Sundar Singh, the Indian Christian and mystic. Singh toured through Europe in 1925 and 1926, and aroused great controversy, particularly among the German clergy (both Catholic and Protestant), because of his claim to miraculous healings and other mystical experiences. Several writers attempted to discredit him as an imposter; others rose to his defense. The letters directed to Elmer Fife request information and documentation as to Singh’s background, as Singh had attended a mission school headed by Fife.
The correspondence of Sidney R. Sheldon completes this series; it dates from 1908 to 1936 and much of it is directed to and from his wife, Eunice, during his business trips. The earlier correspondence with his parents, from 1908 to 1911, describes his travels, his first year teaching in Shanghai, and was saved to form a journal.
The next series includes diaries and documents of various members of the Fife family, including a survey book, dating from 1818 and belonging to Robert Theaker, the diary of Isaac Fife, 1871-1872, a diary of Elmer Fife, 1921, and the diaries of Eunice Fife, 1905 to 1910. Eunice’s diaries, begun when she was 12 years old, are well-written, humorous accounts of domestic life I the missionary and European community in India. The last four diaries are from Mary Elizabeth Fifth covering 1906-1921. She writes of her life in the missionary and European community in Northwest India.
A series of reports, pamphlets and associated items regarding the mission work of the Presbyterian Church in India follows. Of particular interest are the Punjab Mission reports, which give detailed accounts of the activities and projects at each or the mission stations in the Punjab on a yearly basis (although this is not a complete set, by any means).
Appearing next are the texts of Elmer Fife’s sermons, handwritten in most cases, with notes and revisions inserted. Some of the sermons are marked with date and location delivered; some were repeated seven or eight times in different places. The sermons have been kept in the same order they were received, as it is not possible to determine a satisfactory chronological order.
Sidney R. Sheldon’s papers comprise files of teaching materials, letters and documents from his years at Nanyang University in Shanghai. This institution was variously known as Imperial Polytechnic College, government Institute of Technology, Nanyang College and Nanyang University. The latter name appears most often and is used in the finding aid.
The collection ends with a section of miscellany, including documents and published pieces by Eunice Fife Sheldon, pamphlets regarding the Masonic Lodge of China, a thesis by Sidney R. Sheldon and two others regarding incandescent lamps (at the University of Wisconsin), an autobiography of Sheldon on microfilm and Sheldon's scrapbook.
Two boxes of photographs of the Sheldon, Fife, and related families, plus some pictures of Nanyang College, have been removed to the Photograph Collection for preservation reasons.
A series of maps from Sheldon’s trips in Alaska and British Columbia as a young man are included at the end of the collection; many have been cut in strips, probably for easier handling while traveling, and some are in poor repair. An 1867 map of the Johnstone and Broughton Straits and Queen Charlotte Sound is probably the oldest of the group.
Restrictions on Access :
Collection is open to the public.
Collection must be used in Reading Room.Restrictions on Use :
Property rights reside with . Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to . The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Archival may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.
If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.Preferred Citation :
[Identification of item], Sheldon and Fife Family Papers, Ax 079, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon
Collection is organized into the following series:
Series: Genealogical Materials
Series: Diaries and Documents
Series: India Mission Materials
Series: Nanyang University, Shanghai, China, Files
Processing Note :
Collection processed by Cheryl Roffe, Manuscripts Processor, in December 1982.
This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.Separated Materials :
Collection includes maps, some of which are stored separately in the repository's map collection.
Detailed Description of the Collection