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Collection 186 Papers of M. Douglas Hursh

Identifier: CN 186

Scope and Contents

Two oral history interviews, manuscript material, photographs, and memorabilia relatingn to Marion Douglas Hursh's work with Sudan Interior Mission's Kano Eye Hospital, Kano in Nigeria from 1942-1962. Topics covered concern Hursh's education and work as a medical missionary at the Sudan Interior Mission's Kano Eye Hospital in Kano, Nigeria, as well as various aspects of church life and mission activity in Nigeria.  Events described in the interviews cover the time period from 1904 to 1982.


  • Created: 1904-1982

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

M. Douglas Hursh was born December 21, 1911, in Grand Rapids, MN, the son of general medical practitioner, Marion M. Hursh, and Anna M. Gooch, former Baptist missionary to Burma. He graduated from Grand Rapids High School in 1929 and entered Wheaton College that autumn. While a student at Wheaton, he became a Christian in 1931 through the preaching of a guest speaker on campus and the personal witnessing of a fellow student. Hursh received a B.S. from Wheaton in 1933, and that same summer dedicated his life for missionary work while at a northern Minnesota Bible camp under the ministry of two seminarians, George Kraft (later a missionary under the China Inland Mission) and Laton Holmgren (later secretary of the American Bible Society).

In June, 1937, Hursh earned his M.D. from the University of Minnesota Medical School, and that same month, on June 26, was married to Laura Fershee, a 1935 graduate of Wheaton College from Battle Creek, MI. Hursh took his internship at Southern Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, 1937-38; worked as camp surgeon in the Civilian Conservation Army Medical Corps in Minnesota, 1938-39; and joined his father in general practice at Hibbing, MN, 1939-40. During that last year, he read A. D. Helser's Glory of the Impossible, rededicated his life to missions, was accepted by the Sudan Interior Mission, and took six months of Bible course work at Moody Bible Institute. From 1941 to 1942, he did his residency in ophthalmology at Presbyterian Hospital in Chicago.

In May 1942, Douglas and Laura Hursh sailed for Nigeria in a freighter via the Belgian Congo. Their three-year-old son David had been removed from their passports because of World War II, and was left at the SIM Gowan's Home for Children in Collingwood, Ontario. (He joined his parents in Nigeria in 1945.) The Hurshes took six months of Hausa language study in Jos before leaving for Kano in north-central Nigeria, arriving there in time for the dedication of the 25-bed Kano Eye Hospital which Hursh was to direct. In 1948, the hospital was enlarged to 55 beds, and a Bible for the blind (utilizing a braille Bible in the Hausa language) was begun for those patients whose sight could not be restored. An optical shop was built and equipped, and staffed by nationals under the training of Dr. Stanley Myers, optician and optometrist. Opposition from leaders in the heavily Muslim Kano area receded as surgical successes became well-known.

The Kano Eye Hospital was again enlarged in 1953 to 85 beds, and operations numbered 3500 per year; converts annually were counted at over 100. Leprosaria were added at Kano and at eight outstations. In 1958, the hospital added 50 more beds; the Kano SIM church built a new sanctuary with a capacity of 600; and an Evening Bible School was begun. By 1972, the hospital had grown to 175 beds, with 8500 operations performed annually.

The Hurshes' first furlough was 1946-1947, during which time there was no doctor in charge of the Kano Hospital except for a short visit from Dr. Kenneth Gieser, while Hursh covered his practice in Wheaton, IL. Dr. Richard Scheel directed the hospital when the Hurshes took their second furlough, 1951-52. Dr. Ben Kietzman joined the Kano staff at the time of the Hurshes' third furlough, 1957-58. When in America on his fourth furlough, Douglas Hursh suffered a heart attack that precluded his returning to Kano for full-time work. Between 1964 and 1972, he make five short-term visits to the Kano Eye Hospital.

Laura Hursh worked full-time in the business department of the Kano Eye Hospital and with her husband visited converts in the area and held Sunday morning roadside evangelistic meetings within a 20-mile radius of Kano, an area populated by over one million Muslims. In addition to their eldest son David, the Hurshes were the parents of two daughters, Carol Jean and Patricia Ellen, born 1946 and 1948, respectively, both in the SIM hospital at Jos. A second son, Robert Douglas, was born in 1952, at Oak Park, IL. Dr. and Mrs. Hursh were separated from their children during school terms, the SIM school being in Jos. It was necessary that David stay in Florida to attend high school when the rest of the family returned to Nigeria following a furlough in 1952.

In 1982, Laura and Douglas Hursh made their summer home in Putnam, IL, and their winter residence at the SIM retirement community in Sebring, FL.


0.23 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Material

Series 1: Audio Tapes

Dr. Marion Douglas Hursh was interviewed by Galen Wilson on September 25, 1981 and June 29, 1982 at the Billy Graham Center Archives. The time period covered by the interviews is 1904 to 1982.


Series 2: Photographs

51 photograph of scenes from Kano, the hospital and its personnel.


Series 3: Paper Records (Box List)

Clippings (folder 1-1) consist of articles about the Kano Eye Hospital and Hursh's role there; the most significant of these were published in My Counsellor ( children's publication of Scripture Press) and The Sudan Witness (issued by SIM). Correspondence (folder 1-2) contains four letters, all dated 1942, in which Hursh discusses their departure to Africa, medical work in Nigeria, individual patient cases, problems encountered with separation from their son, language study, native food and dress, travel, animals indigenous to Nigeria, and construction of the Kano Eye Hospital.

Folder 1-3 consists of fifty-eight letters written by Laura and Douglas Hursh to their families in Michigan and Minnesota, 1942-1951, The letters present an insightful look into the mission work in Kano, Nigeria, including these topics:

Medical work; outpatient work; specific case studies Instructions to families for mailing packages; boxes from home Tribal customs and jewelry Leper work Living in Nigeria while son David is detained in the United States; parenting from across the ocean; David's arrival in 1945; m.k. school in Miango, Nigeria A refrigerator Mail delivery British mannerisms Crops in the Kano area, 1943 Interaction among missionaries; strains on missionaries Nationals in domestic work; some prove untrustworthy Process of getting home for furlough, 1946; return to Nigeria by plane, 1947 Christmas services, 1945 Railroad strike, 1945 Mission airplane Death of missionary Dorothy Cook, 1948 YFC speakers Gavin Hamilton and Ray McAffee, 1949 Language exams A secular magazine does a story on the Kano Eye Hospital, 1950 Billy Graham's 1949 Los Angeles Revival mentioned, 1950 Thieves ransack the Hursh home, 1950 Career of mission executive Sidney Correll, 1950

Fellow missionaries frequently mentioned include Dr. Helser, Dr. and Mrs. Harris, Dr. and Mrs. Stanley Myers, the Frames and the Beachems. The letters are written primarily from Kano, although a few are dated from Jos. Some of the letters are not the originals, but rather typed transcripts prepared by Laura Hursh's family to be sent to Douglas's family, or vice-versa.

Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were received by the Billy Graham Center Archives from Dr. M. Douglas and Mrs. Laura Hursh in September 1981 and June 1982.

Accession: 81-89, 81-102, 82-94

February 15, 1982

Galen R. Wilson

F. Brocker

J. Nasgowitz

Revised, August 2, 1982

Galen R. Wilson

Related Materials

The following items have been given to the  Evangelism and Missions Collection of Buswell Library:

Nigeria, 1960. Special Independence Issue of Nigeria Magazine, October, 1960.

Collection 186 Papers of M. Douglas Hursh
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

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Wheaton IL 60187 US