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Deborah Rees African photographs


Held at: Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College [Contact Us]500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania 19081

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

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Emory J. and Deborah Gorman Rees were Quaker missionaries in South Africa 1899-1903 and participated in Friends African Industrial Mission (FAIM) in British East Africa (now Kenya) from 1903 to 1926.

Emory's great grandparents, William and Susanna Rees, were received on certificate with their children in 1830 by Vermillion Monthly Meeting (IL) from New Hope Monthly Meeting (TN). Their son, John Rees, married Susannah Dillon in 1833. Isaac, Emory's father, was born in 1840 and married Arminta Mills, daughter of William and Hannah Mills. Isaac and Arminta had five children: Emory J. (born Feb. 13, 1870), Alpheus, Olive, Milo, and Anna. Emory studied at Urbana High School and worked as a teacher. He subsequently studied at the Cleveland Bible Training School and briefly served as a minister in Maine. He was recorded as a minister of Vermillion MM and soon joined by Deborah Gorman (born Feb. 26, 1876) of Urbana, Illinois, who also was raised in a devout Christian environment. She and Emory were married in December 1898, and Deborah was received into membership in 1899.

On March 25, 1899, Emory and Deborah Rees sailed for Johannesburg, South Africa, from Philadelphia, Pa., as independent missionaries. They sailed with Oscar Roberts, another missionary bound for South Africa. The Vermillion Quarterly Meeting contributed to the Rees's mission, and Deborah and Emory remained in South Africa until May, 1903. For greater stability in their mission, they joined the newly founded Friends African Industrial Mission (FAIM) in British East Africa (now Kenya). The founding of FAIM was promoted by Edgar T. Hole and William Hotchkiss, who had traveled Africa to find a good location for an industrial mission. They settled on a site near Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria and connected to Mombasa by a railroad line. The mission was officially founded in 1902. Emory and Deborah were accepted as FAIM missionaries in 1903 and arrived at Kaimosi on June 11, 1904.

After working at Kaimosi for a few years, Emory and Deborah Rees moved to the Maragoli Outstation, 12 miles west of Kaimosi, on February 2, 1906. During this, their second period in Africa, both Deborah and Emory worked on translating and creating a written form of Kavirondo, the native language. In 1908, Emory successfully created the first reader in the Kavirondo language. They stayed at Maragoli until 1909 when the couple returned to the United States because of Deborah's illness. Three children born to the couple before 1906 died in infancy.

Deborah and Emory remained in the U.S. until the end of 1911. On April 15, 1910, their daughter, Dorothy Rees, was born. Deborah spent most of her time with her mother, Sarah M. Gorman, while Emory spoke at Vermillion and traveled. They returned to Africa on November 27, 1911. A son, Emory Keith Rees, was born, and Emory succeeded in creating a written version of Kavirondo. Deborah taught both academic and sewing classes. The family remained at Maragoli until they left Africa in 1926. Shortly before his death in 1947, Emory Rees completed a collaboration to translate the Old Testament into the language of the Margoli people. Deborah Rees died in 1967.

Photographs include the Reeses at work in Kaimosi and elsewhere in East Africa, 1899-1909 and 1911-1926. Photographs of Kyavakli Native Yearly Meeting, the people of the villages, buildings associated with the missions, and the Rees family. Some photographs are labeled, none are dated. However, the Reeses worked at Kaimosi from 1904 to 1906 and then Maragoli Outstation from 1906 until they left Africa in 1909. They returned to Maragoli in 1911.

The photographs are arranged in a box by size.

Gift of Peggy Morscheck, 2003. Part of the Deborah Rees African Papers, RG5/239.

This collection was removed from the Deborah Rees African Papers, RG5/239.

Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College
Finding Aid Author
Zoe Peyton Jones
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