Murders of John and Betty Stam

John Cornelius Stam (January 18, 1907 – December 8, 1934) and Elisabeth Alden "Betty" Stam (née Scott; February 22, 1906[1] – December 8, 1934) were American Christian missionaries to China, with the China Inland Mission (CIM), during the Chinese Civil War. The missionary couple were executed by Communist Chinese soldiers in 1934.[2]

Ransom demandedEdit

Tsingtao (today called Qingdao), a city on the east coast of China, was Betty Stam's childhood home; she (the oldest of five children) grew up there, where Betty's father, Charles Scott, was a missionary.[3] In 1926, Betty returned to the United States to attend college. While a student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago she met John Stam, who was also a student at Moody. Betty returned to China in 1931. When John arrived in Shanghai in 1932, they unexpectedly met again. They married in 1933.[4]

In November 1934, John and Betty moved to their mission station at Tsingteh[5] (now Jingde) (not to be confused with Tsingtao) in Anhui Province, with their three-month-old daughter, Helen.[6][7] On December 6, a messenger from the town's magistrate came to the Stams at 8 o'clock in the morning and warned them that the Communists were approaching the city. At 9:30, they received a message that the Communists were within 4 miles (6 km) of the city.[8](p67) After John confirmed this, the Stams prepared to leave. However, the Communists quickly overran the city, came to where the Stams were staying and broke open the gates to the compound. They demanded all the money the Stams had and it was handed over. The Communists then arrested John and took him to the city prison. They left Betty, baby Helen, the maid and the cook in the Stams' house. The soldiers later came back and took Betty and Helen.[8](p67) The maid and cook begged to go along, but they were threatened they would be shot if they did. Betty and Helen were taken to be with John in the prison. It was still the morning of December 6. That night, John Stam wrote a letter to CIM authorities, but it was never delivered. The letter was found later bundled up in some of Helen's clothes. It stated that the Stams were being held by the Communists for a ransom of $20,000.[8](p68) John Stam also wrote to the mission authorities of how he and his wife had been captured, then wrote, "Philippians 1:20: 'May Christ be glorified whether by life or death.'"

John, Betty and Helen were then taken to the local prison where some of the prisoners were released to make room for the Stams. In the midst of hustle and bustle, Helen started crying, and a soldier suggested that they kill her, since she was only bothering them. Then one of the prisoners who had just been released asked why they should kill the innocent baby. The soldiers turned to him and asked if he was willing to die for the foreign baby. The man was hacked to pieces in front of the Stams. Helen was allowed to live.[8](p69)[3]

Martyrdom at MiaoshouEdit

The next morning, the Stams were forced to march 12 miles (19 km) west with the soldiers, to the town of Miaoshou[9] (which is just under 9 miles (14 km) due west of Jingde). The group stopped for a night, and Betty was allowed to tend to Helen, but in fact, she hid her daughter in the room inside a sleeping bag. The very next morning, John and Betty were being marched down the streets of Miaoshou to meet their deaths. Curious onlookers lined both sides of the streets. A Chinese shopkeeper stepped out of the crowd and talked to the Communists, trying to persuade them not to kill the Stams. The soldiers ordered the man back into the crowd, but he wouldn't step back. The soldiers then invaded his house where they found a Chinese copy of the Bible and a hymnbook. He was led alongside the Stams to be executed for being a Christian.[8](p72) After marching for a short while longer, John Stam was ordered to kneel, and was beheaded. His wife and the shopkeeper were killed moments later.[10]

Rescue of baby Helen, and aftermathEdit

The baby, Helen, was found two days later by a Chinese pastor who took her home and took care of her. The Reverend Lo Ke-chou and his wife then took the baby girl to her maternal grandparents, the Reverend Charles Ernest Scott and his wife, Clara, who were also missionaries in China.[11] The Stams' daughter later came to the United States and was raised by her aunt and uncle, George and Helen Mahy. As for Helen's parents, a small group of Christians found their bodies and buried them on a hillside. The Stams' gravestones read:

John Cornelius Stam, January 18, 1907, "That Christ may be glorified whether by life or by death." Philippians 1:20

Elisabeth Scott Stam, February 22, 1906, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

December 8, 1934, Miaosheo, Anhui, "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life." Revelation 2:10

The story of their martyrdom was much publicized and inspired many to become missionaries.[12]

Red Army unit responsible for the deathsEdit

When the Stams settled into the mission, the area was controlled by the Kuomintang-led Nationalist Government. The Nationalist forces were prevailing in the Chinese Civil War, and the forces of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Red Army) had started their Long March. The Red Army's 19th Division, under commander Xun Huaizhou and political commissar Nie Hongjun, passed through the town of Tsingteh on December 6, 1934, where they captured the Stams. They forced the Stams to march with them, until the executions on December 8.

After the executions, the 19th Division turned south to join a main Red Army force—the 10th Army Group. The 10th Army Group was defeated on December 14 by a brigade from the Nationalist force, and commander Xun was killed in that battle. A few weeks later, on January 27, 1935, the entire 10th Army Group was annihilated by Nationalist forces. Of the officers responsible for the Stam murders, only political commissar Nie survived. After the communist victory in China, Nie became the first deputy chairman of Hubei province, and later deputy minister of the Department of Agriculture. Nie died in 1966.[13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Elisabeth (Betty) Alden Scott Stam". Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity. Charlottesville, Virginia. Archived from the original on October 21, 2014. Retrieved 2017-03-04. Betty Stam was born February 22, 1906, in Albion, Michigan in a pious Christian home.
  2. ^ "CHINA: Undercurrent of Joy". Time. 1934-12-24. Retrieved 2017-03-04. By the time Father Stam read the letter, Son John and Son John's wife had, in fact, 'passed from pain' at the hands of Chinese Communist-bandits.
  3. ^ a b Liardon, Roberts (2016-10-11). God's Generals: The Martyrs. Whitaker House. ISBN 9781629117331. The family moved from Michigan to China and were stationed in the eastern seacoast town of Tsingtao (modern-day Qingdao), overlooking the Yellow Sea where their ministry to the Chinese flourished.
  4. ^ Brosius, Shirley (2006-10-17). Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference. Simon & Schuster. p. 306. ISBN 9781582295763. Betty left for China in 1931, and John followed the next year. They married in 1933. Baby Helen arrived September 11, 1934, and by December the family had settled in Tsingteh.
  5. ^ "Tsingteh, China". Geographical Names. 2009-01-21. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  6. ^ Dunn, Gordon (November–December 1984). "The Martyrdom of John and Betty Stam". East Asia's Millions. Retrieved 2017-02-22. In September 1934 ... their daughter, Helen Priscilla, was born in a Methodist hospital in Wuhu. Two months later the Stams left Wuhu and returned to their station, Tsingteh. The original title of this article was "For the Stams No Deliverance".
  7. ^ Christie, Vance (2008-09-20) [2000]. John and Betty Stam: Missionary Martyrs. History Makers. Christian Focus Publications. ISBN 978-1845503765. OCLC 423062313. The fateful day began with deceptive normalcy at John and Betty Stam's missionary residence in Tsingteh, China.
  8. ^ a b c d e Huizenga, Lee Sjoerds (May 1937) [1935]. John And Betty Stam: Martyrs. Introduction by Will H. Houghton, Foreword by Jacob Stam (3rd ed.). Zondervan. ISBN 978-1258084226. OCLC 5302298.
  9. ^ "Miaoshou, China". Geographical Names. 1995-08-24. Retrieved 2017-02-22.
  10. ^ Wilhelm, Hans Martin (2009-07-30). "2". China Hans: From Shanghai to Hitler to Christ. Trafford Publishing. ISBN 9781426912887. As John was speaking softly, the Red leader swung his sword through the missionary's throat so that his head was severed from his body. Betty did not scream. She quivered and fell bound beside her husband's body. As she knelt there, the same sword ended her life
  11. ^ White, Kathleen (1990-02-01) [1989]. John and Betty Stam. Women and men of faith. Bethany House. pp. 115–118. ISBN 9781556611247. OCLC 21443270. Suddenly a tiny cry broke the silence. Lo hurried in the direction of the sound and had the joy of taking little Helen into his arms
  12. ^ Bays, Daniel H. (Spring 2008). "From Foreign Mission to Chinese Church". Christian History (98): 7–8. Retrieved 2017-03-01. This story gained much publicity and motivated many young people to go to the mission field.
  13. ^ Bartke, Wolfgang (1997-01-01). Who was Who in the People's Republic of China: With more than 3100 Portraits. Volume 1: A-O. Walter de Gruyter. p. 349. ISBN 9783110968231. Nie Hongjun / 1905 Hubei / deceased 1966, Aug 12

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