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Collection 449 Ephemera of the Stam Family

Identifier: CN 449

Scope and Contents

Memoirs, newsletters, correspondence, diary, photos, film, poems, newspaper clippings and other items that relate to the Stam family, their Christian faith, Star of Hope Mission and the missions and evangelism work of various family members, especially John and Betty Stam who were killed in China by Chinese Communist soldiers in 1934.


  • Created: 1919-2003

Conditions Governing Access

Because of the fragile nature of the letters in folder 1-6, researchers must use the photocopies in folder 1-7 instead.

Biographical or Historical Information

Full Name: Cornelius Richard Stam (“Neil”)

Birth: May 27, 1908 in Paterson, New Jersey

Death: March 9, 2003 in Carol Stream, Illinois


Parents: Peter, Sr. and Amelia Williams Stam

Siblings: Peter, Jr., Clazina, Henry, Jacob, Harry, Catherine, John and Amelia (nicknamed Babe)

Marital Status: Married Henrietta Winter in 1930 (died in 1971); married Ruth Wahlstrom in 1976 (died in September 1998)

Conversion: May 28, 1922 at an evangelistic meeting at his parents’ mission, Star of  Hope, led by Thomas Houston


Circa 1938 - Pastor at Preakness Community Church, Preakness, N.J.

1940 - Founded the Berean Bible Society, which began as a series of Bible studies but began distributing material on the Bible and Christian life through their publication, the Berean Searchlight magazine and radio programs

1945 - Co-founded the Milwaukee Bible Institute with Pastor Charles Baker

1945-1953 - Served as the Academic Dean and Instructor in Bible Exposition and  Dispensational Studies, Milwaukee Bible Institute

1953-1987 - Continued Berean Bible Society (Berean Searchlight, Bible Time Radio Ministry and Conference Ministries), Chicago, Illinois

Other significant information:

Cornelius authored more than thirty books in his lifetime, sharing the good news of the Gospel, especially through the theology of Paul with emphasis on the Mystery and dispensational theology.  All are available from the Berean Bible Society which continues under the leadership of Pastor Paul Sadler.


Full Name: Elisabeth Alden Scott Stam

Birth: February 22, 1906 in Albion, MI

Death: Killed December 7, 1934 in Miaosheo, China by Communist soldiers


Parents: Dr. Charles Ernest and Clara Heywood Scott

Siblings: Beatrice Stevenson, Helen Mahy, Francis and Kenneth.

Marital Status: Married October 25, 1933 to John Stam in Jinan, China by Rev. R.A.  Torrey, Jr.

Children: Helen Priscilla, born in September, 1934

Conversion: As a child, rededicated her life in 1925 at a Keswick conference in NJ


1923-1928 - Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  Received bachelor’s  degree, involved in student government and the literary society.

1928-1931 - Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois for further training in Christian work.  Served on the executive committee of the Missionary Union.


1931-1933 - Sailed to China with China Inland Mission (now called Overseas  Missionary Fellowship).  Assigned to Fowyang in Anwhei province

October, 1933 – 1934 - Joined John in his work in Xiancheng, China, completed her language study and assisted in evangelistic work.

Early 1934 - Traveled to Jingde, China to run the mission station.

September 1934 - Moved to Wuhu, China where Helen Priscilla was born.  Investigated  possibility of evangelistic work in the area.

November 1934 - Moved back to Jindge which was taken captive by the Communist army and was taken hostage and murdered.


Full Name: John Cornelius Stam

Birth: January 18, 1907 in Paterson, NJ

Death: Killed December 7, 1934 in Miaosheo, China by Communist soldiers


Parents: Peter and Amelia Williams Stam

Siblings: Peter, Jr., Clazina, Henry, Jacob, Harry, Catherine, Cornelius (Neill) and Amelia (nicknamed Babe)

Marital Status: Married October 25, 1933 to Elisabeth Alden Scott in Jinan, China by  Rev. R.A. Torrey, Jr.

Children: Helen Priscilla, born in September, 1934

Conversion: May 28, 1922 at an evangelistic meeting at his parents’ mission, Star of  Hope, led by Thomas Houston


1929-1932 - Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois for training in Christian work.


September 24, 1932 - Sailed to China with China Inland Mission (now called Overseas  Missionary Fellowship).

1932-1933 - Attended language school in Anqing, China.

1933-1934 - Assigned to Xiancheng to run a mission station, continued language study, held Bible classes and did evangelistic work.

Early 1934 - Traveled to Jingde, China to run the mission station.

September 1934 - Moved to Wuhu, China where Helen Priscilla was born.  Investigated possibility of evangelistic work in the area and distributed famine relief funds.

November 1934 - Moved back to Jindge which was taken captive by the Communist army and the Stams were taken hostage.

Other significant information: 

While at Moody John received the call to be a missionary and met Elisabeth.  Their friendship gradually grew, although much of John's time was taken up with a rural church two hundred miles from Chicago which he was leading.  Elisabeth graduated in 1931 and sailed to China as a worker with China Inland Mission.  John planned to go out to China the next year, also as a CIM worker.  They had an informal understanding that if after they had worked as missionaries for a year or two in China as single people they still felt the same and it was the Lord's will, they would marry.  On arriving in China, Elisabeth was assigned to Fowyang in the province of Anwhei [Pinyin romanization: Anhui].  John was formally accepted by CIM in July 1932 and sailed for China on September 24.  When he reached Shanghai on October 12, he met Elisabeth who was in the city to meet her family and for medical care for her tonsils.  John and Elisabeth then became formally engaged.

Elisabeth returned to Fowyang and John traveled to Anking [Pinyin romanization: Anqing] for language school.  Upon completing the course in the summer of 1933, he went to the CIM station in Suancheng [Pinyin romanization: Xiancheng] to assist the Birches who worked there and run the mission station during their vacation.  He continued his language study and began holding Bible classes.  In the fall he traveled to Jinan, where he and Elisabeth were married on October 25, 1933 by Rev. R. A. Torrey Jr.

After a brief honeymoon in Qingdao, the couple returned to Xiancheng.  There Elisabeth completed her language study and they both assisted missionaries and Chinese Christians in evangelistic work.  John led several meetings in Kinghsein, drawing on messages he had heard given shortly before by evangelist James R. Graham Jr.  In 1934, the couple traveled sixty miles southwest to investigate Tsingteh [Pinyin romanization: Jingde], which was to be their station.  They were to be in charge of the mission station there in the absence of Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Warren, who were going on furlough.  In September of that year, Elisabeth went to the Methodist hospital in Wuhu, where the Stam's daughter, Helen Priscilla, was born.  John was distributing famine relief funds and planning a unified evangelism effort with Erwin A. Kohfield, who was at the station in nearby Tunki.  They met with local government officials to find out if the area would be safe for missionaries, in view of the continuing fighting between Communist and government forces nearby.  The district magistrate in Jingde, Mr. Peng, told John that there was a good deal of bandit activity in the area and agreed with him when John said perhaps they should not return for awhile.  But the magistrate also personally guaranteed their safety from Communist attack.  Aware that a large body of government troops had been moved to Xiancheng, John and Kohfield agreed that they could return to their stations.  The Stams left Wuhu on November 13 and were soon back in Jingde.  On December 6, the city fell to a sudden, unexpected attack by the Communist forces led by Lo Ping-hui and Fang Chi-min.  First John and then Elisabeth were taken hostage, after money had been extorted from them.  The Red army took the Stams (who were allowed to take their baby) and many Chinese captives with them to nearby Miaosheo.  John was allowed to write a letter to the CIM headquarters, saying they would be released in exchange for $20,000.  He closed the letter, "God give you wisdom in what you do and give us grace and fortitude.  He is able."  John and Elisabeth were executed by decapitation the next day, shortly before the Communist army left Miaosheo.  Helen was left behind and found by a Chinese evangelist and friend of the Stams, Lo Ke-chou.  She was then taken to her grandparents in Jinan.  The Stams death shocked and stirred American Fundamentalists and was later cited as many by the event that caused them to become missionaries.


Full Name: Peter Stam III

Birth: April 26, 1917 in Paterson, New Jersey

Death: December 8, 2009 in Wilmington, North Carolina


Parents: Peter, Jr. And Margaret (Gardenier) Stam

Siblings: John (b. 1918), Margaret Lois (Peggy) (b. 1920), and Ruth Wilma (b. 1924)

Marital Status: Married Mary Lou Kennedy in 1943 (died in 1989); married Jeanelle  Jensen in 1990 (died in 1997); married Anne Zillger in 1999.

Children: Sharon [Rouse], Bruce, Marilyn and Peter Blair

Conversion: 1922 while praying with his mother


1939 - Graduated from Wheaton College, Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy

1940 - One year of graduate work in theology at Wheaton Graduate School

1942 - Transferred to and graduated from Faith Theological Seminary in Wilmington, Delaware, Master of Divinity

One year of graduate work in linguistics with SIL (Summer Institute of  Linguistics) and one year of business administration at University of            Western Ontario

Ordination: 1942 - Ordained by Wheaton Bible Church in Wheaton, Illinois


1942-1944 - General Secretary of Student Foreign Missions Fellowship

1944-1945 - Interim Pastor of the Western Springs Bible Church

1946-1964 - Missions work with Africa Inland Mission in the Congo (Zaire) as principal for a missionary kids school, Bangala language learning, church planting, teaching Bible, leadership training.

1964-1977 - Canadian director of AIM, Toronto, Ontario

1977-1987 - United States director of AIM, Pearl River, NY

1977-1981 - President of Interdenominational Foreign Missions Association (IFMA)

1987 - Latin American coordinator and US Director Emeritus of AIM

1990 - Pastor of Missions, Fourth Presbyterian Church in Maryland; Pastor of  Missions, Myrtle Grove Evangelical Presbyterian Church in  Wilmington, North Carolina


0.60 Cubic Feet (2 Boxes, Films, Negatives, Oversize Materials, Photo Albums, Photographs, Video Tapes)

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Material

[Note: The notation "Folder 2-1" means "Box 2, Folder 1.]

This collection was created by the staff of the BGC Archives and consists of material they have received from various sources about the Christian ministry of the family of Peter, Sr. and Amelia Stam.  The bulk of the collection (Series I) consists of documents relating to missionaries to China John and Betty Stam, who became well known to American Fundamentalists, from books written about their murder by Communist soldiers in 1934. Series II contains material about the work of other Stam family members in North American and Africa.


Sub-Series: I.  Material related to John and Elisabeth “Betty” (Scott) Stam

Arrangement: By type of document, alphabetically; chronological in folder

Date Range: 1923-1940

Volume: 0.5 cubic feet; Boxes: 1-2

Geographic Coverage: China, United States

Type of Documents:  Films, Negatives, Oversize Materials, Photographs, Videotapes

Correspondents: John Stam, Cordell Hull, Hamilton Fish, Robert Glover, William Embery, Charles Scott, Daniel Smith

Subjects: Missions to China, Moody Bible Institute, call to missionary work, Chinese Communism, the China Inland Mission, Christian martyrs

Notes:  This collection consists of correspondence, photos, newspaper clippings, a film, reports, newsletters, poems, clippings, John Stam's will, his college notebook and a few odds and ends such as a bank book and an insurance application. The Archives received the materials from various members of the Stam family. The order and arrangement of the items was determined by the archivist.  Some newspaper clippings were returned to the donor after they had been photocopied.  There are three main themes to be found in these documents: Stam’s attitudes toward missions work, missions in China and the story of the kidnaping and murder of the Stams and its effect on Christians in the United States.

Exceptional items: John's speeches and testimony found in folders 1-11 and 1-16 and Elisabeth's poems in folder 1-15 reflect their belief in and acceptance of salvation from Christ and the commitment to full time Christian worker which, for them, naturally followed from that belief. Of special note in folder 1-15 is the poem "Afraid" by E.H. Hamilton, a favorite of Elisabeth and John's, which was publicized at the time of their deaths. Folder 2-2 contains a notebook of John Stam's filled with notes from classes he took at Moody Bible Institute. Many of the notes regard necessary skills and training for Christian service, including leadership organization, evangelism, teaching, Sunday School administration, etc. There are also many comments in the correspondence in folders 1-3 and 1-5 which describe common Fundamentalist attitude toward the imperative purpose of foreign mission. Folder 3-2 contains a pamphlet written from a letter of Betty’s to her sister, Bunny, in 1926 on her call to be a missionary.  Also of interest are John's comments on Christian marriage which can be found in his letter and diary (folders 1-3 and 1-10).

The correspondence in folder 1-3 contains detailed descriptions of urban and rural scenes from Chinese life, including information on travel, the conflict between Communist and the Kuomintang forces, a typical missionary day, a worship service, meals, medical care, evangelistic meetings, and responses to the Gospel. John and Elisabeth sent these letters to his family in the United States who would then make a typed copy of the letter and send it to family and friends. Most of the correspondence in this folder are the typed copies, although there are a few handwritten letters. John's diary in Folder 1-10 contains much description of his work as a missionary, language study, etc. Other information on missions in China, especially those of the China Inland Mission, can be found in folders 1-1, 1-5, 1-8, and 1-9. These folders contain letters from other missionaries (including Elisabeth's father Charles) in which they describe their work. Scenes of Chinese street traffic can be seen, very briefly, in the video, V1.

Folder 1-7 contains letters by Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Representative Hamilton Fish and other government officials describing what they had been able to find out about the circumstances of the deaths. Enclosed with these letters are several translations of affidavits given by Chinese who were on the scene. These include information on how Lo Ke-chou found Helen Stam. These documents also contain some incidental information about life in China, social structure, the Chinese government, the conflict between the Communists and Kuomintang, attitudes toward the Communists, and the beliefs of Chinese Christians. Some of the reactions to the death, including newspaper stores, memorial booklets, and letters of condolence can be found in folders 1-1, 1-5 and 1-8. OS 14 contains newspaper clippings regarding the kidnaping and murder of the Stams from 1934 to 1936. Photocopies of these clippings can be found in folder 2-1. Duplicates of many, but not all, of these clippings can also be found in another OS folder in OS 14. Folder 1-4 contains correspondence and a telegram from CIM head Robert Glover about John and Elisabeth's deaths and the memorial service and more letters from treasurer William Embery about the disposition of John and Elisabeth's personal effects. The transcript of the memorial service held in Paterson, New Jersey is in folder 1-14.  Folder 3-2 holds an article about the death of the Stams written by Cornelius Stam, John’s younger brother as well as and articles containing his thoughts on their deaths.  The death of the Stams became quite well known among American Fundamentalists and influenced many people who later became missionaries. Of interest is a program in folder 1-13 from a Christian Endeavor club for young people in a New Jersey church.


Sub-Series: II. Material relating to other members of the Stam family

Arrangement: Alphabetical by folder title

Date Range: 1919-2003

Volume: 0.2 cubic feet; Boxes: 2

Geographic Coverage: China, Holland, United States

Type of Documents: Pamphlets, article, memorabilia, photographs, photo album, newsletters

Subjects: Star of Hope Mission, Cornelius Stam, Peter Stam III, John Stam, Betty Stam, Berean Searchlight

Notes:  This collection consists of memorials about Stam family members (folders 2-3, 2-4), biography of Peter Stam III, an AIM worker in the Congo, who later became Home Director of the Canadian and then the United States (folder 2-5), family tree, history and memoirs by Stam family (folder 2-6), newsletters of the Star of Hope mission (folder 2-7) started by Peter, Sr in Paterson, New Jersey as a rescue mission and church, and photographs of various members of the Stam family.  The Archives received the materials from various members of the Stam family. The order and arrangement of the items was determined by the processor.  Some articles in the newsletters of folder 2-7 are in Dutch.

Exceptional Items: 

In the Cornelius Stam material is a 50th anniversary memorial book of the Berean Bible Society that he founded which published Bible studies and devotionals in the dispensational tradition.  It contains brief information and photos of the Stam family as well as the history of the Berean Bible Institute and its published work, the Berean Searchlight and Stam’s radio program.  It also includes a brief section on the North Shore Church in Chicago, Illinois where Stam pastored for a time.  This book can be found in folder 2-3.

“A History of the Stam Family” by Clazina Stam and Helen Stam Fesmire and “Stam Family Memories” by Cornelius give a better idea of what it was like to grow up as a member of the Stam family in Paterson, New Jersey.  These both also contain many reminiscences about Peter, Sr and Amelia Stam as well as of the Star of Hope Mission, a rescue mission founded and run by the Stam family.  It also contains a family history dating back to Holland from where Peter, Sr immigrated.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Archives by members of the Stam family and others between 1990 and 2012.  Some originals of newspaper clippings from accession 90-114 were returned to the donor. Several of the photos of Elisabeth Scott as a girl and young woman with her family were donated by Brian Oxley.

Accession: 90-114, 90-117, 91-50, 91-79, 91-84

March 3, 1992

Robert Shuster

Accession: 94-01, 01-59, 02-03

May 11, 2005

Christian Sawyer

E. Kuehn

Accession: 01-66, 02-03, 03-44, 09-24

February 1, 2009

Noel Collins Pfeifer

Acc. 11-39

July 19, 2011

Bob Shuster

Collection 449 Ephemera of the Stam Family
Bob Shuster
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US