Collection 377 Papers of Elias Hatcher
Scope and Contents
Correspondence, audio tapes, photographs, diaries, and periodicals documenting the career of Elias Hatcher as a pilot for Mission Aviation Fellowship in Mexico from 1949 to 1968, and his time as a mission administrator at the U. S. headquarters of MAF from 1968 until his death in 1971. Diaries document Hatcher's military service and education at Wheaton College; correspondence includes love letters between Hatcher and his future wife, and letters with their six children when they were away at Ben Lippen boarding school and college. Audio tape contains a recording of Hatcher’s memorial service. MAF-related material extends chiefly from 1948 to 1959, covering the time of Hatcher's initial contact with the mission to his work with MAF in Mexico as a pilot and administrator; particularly records Hatcher's service to Wycliffe Bible Translators' workers in Mexico; correspondents include MAF administrators Grady Parrott, Charles Mellis and Jim Truxton, and fellow missionary Nate Saint.
- Created: 1941-1978
- Majority of material found in 1943-1974
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
E. W. "Hatch" Hatcher was born May 9, 1924, in Randlett, Oklahoma. His given name was simply "E. W." until June 19, 1959, when he legally changed it to "Elias Wesley" in a California court. He served in the United States Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1945, where he received his training as an airplane pilot and mechanic.
In April 1945, a few months before his discharge from the service, he began corresponding with the newly-formed Christian Airmen's Missionary Fellowship, which later became Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). Although quite interested in the possibility of service with them, he decided to complete his education first and, in the Fall of 1945, he entered Wheaton College.
While at Wheaton, he was very active in the Student Foreign Mission Fellowship (serving as its President for the 1947-1948 school year), along with his friend and fellow flyer, Nate Saint. He and Saint worked together part-time at a local air field, and formed an MAF prayer group at Wheaton.
Hatch met Doris Gale "Penny" Meeker, of Erie, Pennsylvania, at Wheaton, and they were married December 21, 1946. They continued their studies, and Penny graduated in 1947, Hatch in 1948. Their first child, Rodney Allan, was born October 18, 1947.
Hatch had continued his correspondence with MAF and, as soon as he finished school, he and Penny began deputation. They were sent down to Mexico in January 1949, first to Mexico City to get acquainted with the Wycliffe Translators organization in Mexico, whom they would be serving. In February 1949 they settled at Wycliffe's Jungle Training Camp in Chiapas, and remained there and at Villahermosa, Tabasco, where they served the Presbyterian mission until the summer of 1951 when they established a permanent MAF base at Ixtapa, Chiapas. Other MAF aviators and their families joined them there, usually three or four families on the base at one time. During this time, they returned to Mexico City for brief times of language study.
Five other children were born to them during their service in Mexico: Joy Lynn (July 20, 1949), Jonathan Louis (March 21, 1951), Arthur Meeker (October 9, 1952), David Nathaniel (January, 1956--named for Nate Saint), and James Edward (October 3, 1958--named for Jim Elliot and Ed Mc Cully). [Saint, Elliot, and Mc Cully were three of the five missionaries murdered by the Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956.]
From the base at Ixtapa, Hatch flew Wycliffe missionaries into Jungle Camp for their training, did other flying for Wycliffe, and flew for the Reformed Church in America mission in southern Mexico, as well as for the Presbyterian Church, U.S. (Southern), mission there. As MAF grew, Hatch's administrative gifts were soon recognized, and Ixtapa became the training base for newly-recruited MAF aviators to practice jungle and high altitude flying and landing techniques and to get oriented to MAF field procedures and practices.
Hatch became the field director for MAF work in Mexico about 1962. In 1966, supervision of the work in Honduras was added to his responsibilities, and the family moved from Ixtapa to Mexico City, so that Hatch could be nearer to the government offices he needed to maintain relations with. It was also at this time that MAF moved their Mexico base from Ixtapa to San Cristobal de Las Casas, another town in the state of Chiapas. Then, in 1968, Hatch was named Area Director for Spanish-speaking Latin America and he and his family moved back to the United States to the MAF headquarters in Fullerton, California. In 1970, his duties changed again, and he was put in charge of MAF's technical training, evaluation, and orientation.
Hatch was killed in an airplane accident near Corona, California, on the morning of March 2, 1971, along with John Wilson, a potential recruit to MAF. Hatch was giving Wilson a check-out flight, and although there were no witnesses to the accident, it was assumed from the approximate time of the crash that they had been practicing slow flight. The Cessna 185 entered a spin or steep spiral, crashed against the hillside, and was destroyed by impact and fire.
6 Boxes (DC)
2 Audio Tapes
5 Photograph Files
Language of Materials
Arrangement of Material
[NOTE: In the Arrangment description, the notation "folder 2-5" means box 2, folder 5.]
The collection is arranged in chronological order, with documents relating to Hatch's early life at the beginning, and those pertaining to his death near the end. In the MAF file folders, the letters have been left in the order Hatch kept them. The folder titles for the entire collection, except for the Love Letters and Condolences series, were Hatch's.
The diaries (folders 1-4 and 1-5) cover his years of service in the U. S. Army Air Forces in Nebraska, California, and Arizona (1943-1945), as well as the first of his three years at Wheaton College (1945-1948). In them, he made brief notes of his daily activities, and noted important events, such as the day Japan surrendered, ending World War II, and the day he first met his future wife. While in the Army, he made comments on his Christian activities, and on the difference between his way of life as a Christian, and that of most of the other men he served with. During his first year at Wheaton College, he discussed his involvement with the Student Foreign Mission Fellowship and other campus activities, as well as his classes.
Before their marriage, Hatch and Penny (Doris G. Meeker Hatcher) wrote letters to each other while they were apart during Easter and summer vacations, 1946; Penny went home to Erie, Pennsylvania, for Easter and then spent the summer at an aunt's home in Toledo, Ohio, while Hatch stayed in Wheaton. These are in folders 1-7, 1-8, and 1-9, and in them they discussed their love for each other, the part-time jobs they both had, and the activities of mutual friends from Wheaton College.
The MAF Files (folders 2-1 through 2-8, and folders 3-1 and 3-2) document the Hatchers' first years with Mission Aviation Fellowship (1945-1953), which was first called Christian Airmen's Missionary Fellowship. The correspondence begins in 1945, while Hatch was still in the U. S. Army Air Forces, and continued on through his time at Wheaton College, their deputation and preparation for going to the mission field in Mexico, and the first few years of their service there, in Villahermosa, Tabasco, Wycliffe's Jungle Training Camp, and Ixtapa, Chiapas. The correspondence to and from MAF headquarters in the U.S. (with J. Grady Parrott, Charles Mellis, Jim Truxton, and Betty Greene) and with other missionaries on the field (including Jim Lomheim and Nate Saint, his friend from Wheaton College days, then serving with MAF in Ecuador before he was martyred there in 1956), reveals in great detail the early days of MAF procedures and policies; how the organization communicated its work to the Mexican government, to obtain permanent resident status for MAF workers, radio permits, and permission to fly and build airstrips in Mexico; as well as details about the care, maintenance, and choice of airplanes for use on the field. There is a great deal of discussion about flying Wycliffe Bible Translators to and from their Jungle Camp, where they received training for living in the field. Hatch also discussed the difficulties of itineration during the family's furloughs. Most of this correspondence is duplicated in Collection 136, the records of Mission Aviation Fellowship, but the arrangement here is more convenient, as the letters to and from E. W. Hatcher are often in the same folder, whereas in collection 136, the files are separated by author.
The MAF Files series also include Hatch's notebook (folder 2-1), containing notes he used for talks he gave about the work of MAF and for sermons (in both Spanish and English), notes on MAF staff meetings, financial records, and miscellanea; and a folder containing notes on missionary aviation stories (folder 2-2), probably used in deputation talks. These include newsletters from other missionaries in southern Mexico, including Mariana Slocum, Florence Gerdel, John Beekman, and Phil Baer. There are more missionary stories in a folder of Itineration Materials (folder 3-6), and in a folder of Scrapbook Materials (folder 3-7).
The collection also contains a folder of clippings (folder 3-5) telling of some of the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to Protestant mission work in Mexico.
The folder of Mexican Papers (folder 3-4) contains legal papers, in Spanish, concerning the resident status of each member of the Hatcher family in Mexico.
Except during their furloughs and brief periods on the mission field when another teacher was available, the Hatcher children (Rodney Allan, Joy Lynn, Jonathan Louis, Arthur Meeker, David Nathaniel, and James Edward) were schooled at home until they were old enough for high school, when they were sent to the Ben Lippen School in Asheville, North Carolina. The childrens' school records from the various public schools they attended while in the U. S. on furlough are in folder 3-8. While they attended Ben Lippen, the children wrote to their family back in Mexico at least once a week, and those letters, along with their family's replies to them, are in folders 3-9 through 3-11, and folders 4-1 through 4-4. [In 2006, at her request, Joy Lynn's letters and school records were removed from the collection and returned to her.] The children reminisced about their childhood on the mission field and they wrote articulately of their life at Ben Lippen; then when Rod on to college, he wrote about life there too. Rod went to Wheaton College for one year, then transferred to Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada. In his letters to the children, Hatch discussed his activities in some detail, including the family's move from Ixtapa to Mexico City when responsibility for MAF work in Honduras was added to his duties as Mexico Field Director in 1966.
The final section of the papers deals with Hatch's death. There are hundreds of cards, telegrams, and letters of condolence in folders 4-5, 5-1 through 5-4, and 6-1 through 6-5. Fellow MAF pilots, missionary acquaintances from Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Venezuela, and other countries, and friends and relatives from all over the U. S. wrote to Penny and the children, expressing their own grief and offering comfort in the Hatchers' bereavement, often reminiscing about how they had come to know the Hatchers and about their work with them over the years. A number of the letters came from other widows, who shared their own experiences in coping with the loss of a husband. An audio tape of Hatch's memorial service in Calvary Church in Placentia, California, is also part of the collection. Those who spoke at the service talked about how they knew Hatch and they particularly discussed some of the struggles he had been going through with his work at MAF headquarters since returning from the field.
Additional material about E. W. Hatcher can be found in BGC Archives Collection 136, the records of Mission Aviation Fellowship (some of which is restricted), which will give more detail on his career up to 1971. The records of the Presbyterian Church, U. S., Mexico Mission, which are at the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, in Montreat, North Carolina (RG 1), include correspondence about negotiations for MAF to set up air service for the PCUS mission, in which Hatch was involved.
Accruals and Additions
The materials in this collection were received by the Billy Graham Center Archives from James Edward Hatcher in June 1983.
October 30, 1987
Revised, March 21, 1989
- Aeronautics in missionary work.
- Ben Lippen School (Asheville, N.C.)
- Catholic Church.
- Catholic Church. -- Mexico.
- Catholic Church. -- Protestant churches.
- Children of missionaries.
- Hatcher, Doris.
- Hatcher, Elias.
- Intercultural communication.
- Mellis, Charles.
- Mexico -- Description and travel.
- Mission Aviation Fellowship.
- Missionaries -- Training of.
- Missionaries -- Appointment, call, and election.
- Missionaries -- Leaves and furloughs.
- Missionaries -- Training of -- United States.
- Missions -- Mexico.
- Missions -- Honduras.
- Parrott, Grady.
- Saint, Nathaniel, 1923-1956.
- Truxton, James.
- Wheaton College (Ill.)
- World War, 1939-1945.
- Wycliffe Bible Translators.
- Collection 377 Papers of Elias Hatcher
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Roman Script