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Collection 496 Papers of Mabel Buyse

Identifier: CN 496

Scope and Contents

Diaries, photographs, correspondence, and a scrapbook relating to Mabel Easton Buyse’s missionary service with Africa Inland Mission among the Dungu and Bafuka people groups in Belgian Congo (later, Zaire) before her marriage and later service in Aru and Kasengu, Belgian Congo; Goli, Uganda; and Opari, Sudan. Buyse was involved with setting up, operating, and teaching in schools in each place she worked. The scrapbook deals with the 1941 sinking of the Zamzam, in which her brother-in-law, Leonard Buyse, and his family were involved. Diaries cover most years from 1913 to 1967 and include two diaries kept by her husband, John Buyse, who worked as a dentist as well as preacher, conference speaker, and field director.

[NOTE: In the Scope and Content description, the notation "Folder 1-1" means Box 1, Folder 1.]

This collection consists of diaries, correspondence, photographs, a scrapbook about the Zamzam incident, and a few miscellaneous items. Of the diaries, twelve were kept by Mabel Easton Buyse from 1913 until 1967 and two by her husband, John Buyse, from 1940 to 1952. The diary entries in all cases are very brief, consisting of a few lines mentioning daily activities, listing people they visited or who visited them, and mentioning health problems. Some of the diaries were damaged by water and are difficult to read.

Folder 1-1 contains a Bible, inscribed to Mabel from John, which has poems and other materials handwritten inside. The correspondence (folder 1-2) consists of letters written to Mabel from her mother, one of which begs her not to take up missionary work in a foreign land. There is also a letter from her brother Herbert; a letter from Mabel to friends telling of her marriage to John; and a letter from her nephew, Charles, with an Easton family history attached.

The first diary, 1913-1917 (folder 1-3), covers the years Mabel spent in Lockport, New York, where she attended school, worked in a factory/office, went to YWCA meetings, and visited hospitals and a Home for the Friendless. In March, 1917, she went to a parlor meeting with Billy Sunday and wrote that she was "Disappointed." She sailed from New York on August 20, 1917, together with "Bwana" Charles Hurlburt and his family, and she described activities aboard the ship and at the various ports where the ship docked (Recife, Brazil; Capetown and Durban, South Africa, etc). She arrived at Kijabe, Kenya, on December 19, 1917. In diary #2, 1918-1919 (folder 1-4), she described her travels through Africa to her assignment in Dungu, Belgian Congo. The third diary, 1920-1924 (folder 1-5) recounted her move to Bafuka, where the hut which she occupied was struck by lightening and burned to the ground, though she and all of her belongings, as well as her native helpers, were saved. She talked about her educational work in the schools, and wrote, "I could kill the man that invented multiplication" (March 1, 1922). In 1923, she returned to the United States for furlough, where she attended "Dr. White's Bible School," went to conferences, spoke in churches, and visited her family. She saw President Calvin Coolidge "at his church."

Diary #4, 1925-1929 (folder 1-6), reveals that she returned to Africa and worked in Aru, where she met John Buyse as he traveled around the district. He left for furlough and while he was gone he wrote to Mabel and asked her to meet him on his return and marry him, which she did. They almost immediately took up their duties in Kasengu, where they worked until 1933, when they moved to Aru. This move was described in diary #5, 1932-1936 (folder 2-1). There are no diaries for the years 1930 and 1931. In 1936, Mabel and John left Africa for a furlough in the U.S., where the diaries record their speaking in churches and visiting conferences, family, and friends.

The sixth diary, 1937-1941 (folder 2-2), has some water damage and the entries for 1937, especially, are difficult or impossible to read. In 1938, the entries record their return to Africa, where they were assigned to Goli, Uganda. Mabel mentioned "Black Friday," September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland and on September 3 she wrote that England had declared war [World War II] on Germany. In 1940, she again mentioned the war, this time the invasion of Denmark (April 12) and of Belgium and Holland (May). It is also in this diary also that the entry appeared of the first news of the Zamzam disaster (see the scrapbook in folder in OS35). Diary #7, 1942-1946 (folder 2-3) contains entries about activities in Goli as well as mentioning the start of the invasion of Europe (June 5, 1944) and "D" Day (June 6, 1944) and V.E. Day (they listened to Churchill and King George VI of Great Britain on the radio, May 8, 1945). Diary #8, 1947 only (folder 2-4), recorded the beginning of another furlough, during which time John had an operation and they attended Park Street Church in Boston to hear Dr. Harold John Ockenga. Diary #9, 1948-1952 (folder 2-5), described the remainder of the furlough, their trip back to Africa, and their work in Opari, Sudan. On June 29, 1950, Mabel referred to the invasion of South Korea by North Korea and the planned resistance by the U.S. and on February 16, she wrote of the funeral of England's King George VI.

Diary #10, 1953-1959 (folder 3-1) continued briefly the happenings in Opari and again the return in 1957 for furlough. It is at this time that the doctors discovered John's heart problem and refused to allow him to go back to the field. The couple moved to Media, the Africa Inland Mission retirement facility, and the remaining two diaries, #11, 1958-1962 (folder 3-2) and #12, 1963-1967 (folder 3-3) recount the activities there, including John's death in 1959. Mabel mentioned that the missionaries had to be evacuated from the Congo (January 24, 1960) and that she watched on T.V. as John Glenn orbited the earth (February 20, 1962). She wrote of visits to and from friends, co-workers, and family as well as daily activities, such as church, Bible study, laundry, ironing, gardening, shopping, cooking, and sewing.

The two diaries kept by John Buyse cover the years 1940-1944 (folder 3-5), mostly spent in Goli, Uganda, and 1946-1952 (folder 4-1), in Goli, the U.S., and Opari. There are many missing entries for various years and his writing is difficult to read. It is possible to compare his daily entries with hers for interesting differences in points of view. In addition to his missionary work of preaching and as a conference speaker, John had learned how to fill teeth and includes entries on the dentistry he performed and the missionaries and their families he served in this capacity.

Miscellaneous materials in folder 4-2 include a "Summary of Answers to Questionaire [sic] on Womens' [sic] Work"; missionary stories written by Mabel; letters, poems, and travel reports, with photographs, written by social worker Amy Tapping, a friend of Mabel's; clippings that have to do with family members and friends; and booklets, such as Peter Cameron Scott and Missionary Cameos, the latter written by Mabel.

The photographs include a wedding snapshot of Mabel and John with "Mother" [Florence] Stauffacher, portrait shots of Mabel, and pictures of Mabel and John in Africa, alone together and with co-workers Beatrice Tannehill King, Fred Lasse, and Florence Levy (there are many references to these co-workers in the diaries as well). Photographs of Mabel's Easton relatives and commercial photographic postcards of Egypt and Beatenberg, Switzerland, have been disposed of except for a few pictures of African tribal people and activities.

There are letters to and stories written by Mabel Easton in Collection 81, folder 20-14, and letters to Mrs. Mabel E. Buyse in John Buyse's file, folder 19-17.


  • Created: 1908-1967

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Mabel Easton Buyse was born on September 24, 1882, to John A. and Martha P. Easton. After attending college, she applied to Africa Inland Mission for missionary service, was accepted, and sailed for Africa on August 20, 1917, on the same ship with Bernard Litchman (CN 451). On board ship, she attended language classes and Bible study sessions. She arrived in Kijabe, Kenya, in December, 1917. After further language study, she was assigned to Dungu, Belgian Congo (later, Zaire), where she helped set up and teach school programs for children and led prayer groups for women. In 1921, she moved to Bafuka and in 1923 she returned to the United States on furlough.

In June 1925, after stops in England and France, she returned to the Belgian Congo for her second term, being assigned to Aru, where she worked until her marriage. On August 31, 1928, she married John George Buyse (1883-1967), a fellow missionary who combined dentistry with ministry. They were assigned to Kasengu, Zaire, where she again worked with the schools, setting up the schedules, teaching, and keeping the grade and attendance books and John continued his dental work as well as preaching and conference work. He also served as the field director for the Congo, Uganda, and French Equatorial Africa district in 1946-1947 and of the Sudan from 1949 to 1953. In 1934, she and her husband were transferred to Aru, where they worked until May 1936, when they returned to the United States for furlough.

On their return to Africa in 1938, the Buyses went to Goli, Uganda (just across the border from their former stations of Aru and Kasengu), and it was here that they received news that John's brother Leonard and his family, sailing to Africa on the Zamzam, were either dead or German prisoners. (They later learned that they had been imprisoned, although after being repatriated they again made their way to Africa as missionaries.) After their next furlough (1947)-1949), they were stationed in Opari, Sudan.

During their 1957 furlough, a routine physical exam showed that John had a heart problem and would be unable to return to Africa. In November of that year, the Buyses retired to Media, the Africa Inland Mission retirement facility in Clermont, Florida, where they both lived until their deaths, John in 1959 and Mabel in 1967.


4 Boxes (DC)

1 Oversize File

1 Photograph Album

1 Photograph File

Language of Materials