The William Hervie Dobson Collection

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The William Hervie Dobson collection presents images of the Yeungkong area in southern China, and its residents, as documented by Dr. Williams Hervie Dobson, pioneer missionary, doctor, and lifelong inhabitant of this area.

William Hervie Dobson (1870-1965) was born in Vineland, New Jersey. In 1897, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) sent Dr. Dobson to southern China where he spent the next forty years practicing medicine at the Forman Memorial Hospital and working as a medical missionary at the Yeungkong Station, South China Mission. The first Presbyterian missionary to learn the Yeungkong dialect, Dobson worked in Yeungkong as an evangelist, surgeon, and teacher until the early 1940s when he was honorably retired from the mission field.(1)

Upon his death in 1965, the Presbyterian Church Commission published a Memorial Minute which recounts the following life achievements and biographical details.

Dobson graduated from George Washington University and the Philadelphia Polyclinic (MD, 1897). Dobson recieved their first medical missionary assignment to Yeungkong Station in fall 1897 which required a week-long journey by boat, 150 miles southwest of Canton.

William Hervie Dobson married Effie Winnifred Moore in 1897. Effie joined William in southern China where she served as a missionary and teacher. Together, they raised two sons: Hervey Alden and Connelly Moore.

During the early 20th century, Dobson’s mission group built a missionary complex, a hospital complex, and a boys’ and girls’ primary school in the Yeungkong area. His mission school and clinic endured throughout the early 20th century, despite the Boxer Rebellion, civil wars, banditry, hostility towards foreigners, and innumerable changes in local governments. Dobson was renowned throughout the Yeungkong area for conducting cataract operations on local patients, under somewhat primitive conditions.

Dobson took special interest in a 200-year-old leper colony located a few miles from his hospital complex. He visited the village at least once a week during his years in Yeungkong, to provide medical care and proselytize to its inhabitants.(2)

William Hervie Dobson retired from missionary service in 1940, at the age of 70, and returned to the United States to assist his sister, H.D. Denniston, who was also engaged in medical work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in caring for his ailing father. Dobson died on May 3, 1965, and is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, New York.

The Presbyterian Historical Society, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, maintains the William Hervie Dobson (1870-1965) Papers. This collection includes correspondence, daybooks, photographs, and other personal records that document his life’s work as a missionary and surgeon in southern China. For more information, contact the Society at:

Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
425 Lombard Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Additional descriptive information for images in this collection was derived from the Dobson Papers and the following newspaper article that details Dr. Dobson’s experiences in China:”A Tie with China,” by Joyce W. Milkie. The Times and Democrat, Vol. 102, No. 51. February 20, 1983. Orangeburg, S.C.

(1) Biographical information derived from the William Hervie Dobson (1870-1965) Papers and Finding Aid, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA.

(2) Information from Memorial Minute, included in William Hervie Dobson (1870-1965) Papers and Finding Aid, Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, PA.