Stephen and Mary Lourie Mattoon
Born on a farm near Champion, New York (USA) on May 5, 1816. Mattoon’s father, Gershom Mattoon. A farmer, elder and lay pastor in the Presbyterian Church his family was believed to have come from French Huguenot descent. Mattoon’s mother, Ezra Syre, was a strong and devoted follower of Christ
Stephen Mattoon was the fifth son in a family of ten siblings, seven of whom lived to a mature age. Mattoon throughout his life maintained a very strong relationship with his siblings and parents, which is revealed in his extensive letters and correspondence with his family.
At the age of sixteen years old, Stephen Mattoon made his profession of faith and at the age of seventeen he had become a teacher. It was at this time, Mattoon felt called to become a Pastor but had to provide his own way as his family was unable to pay for his tuition. Mattoon would alternate between his tertiary education and teaching to pay for his studies. Finally, after raising the funds, Mattoon was able to start his higher education at the age of twenty-two.
Mattoon went onto graduate from both Union College in Schenectady, NY (1842) and Princeton Theological Seminary (1846). Between his college and seminary education, Mattoon served as a teacher and a stated supply pastor for the Presbyterian Church of Sandy Hills (now Hudson Falls).
During his seminary studies at Princeton, he was required to make preaching tours. These engagements allowed him to meet Mary Lourie in Argyle, New York who was serving there as a teacher. It was also during his seminary studies that Stephen Mattoon wrote to his family that he would be entering into the service as a missionary to Siam. In one letter he wrote:
“I know, dear sister, that it is hard for you as well as for my dear parents to give me up to this foreign mission work. It is hard for me to tear myself away from those I love, but I have tried to examine the subject carefully and prayerfully and the path of duty seems plain to me. I must not shrink from it because it is hard for flesh and blood. What are all these partings and self-denials compared with what Christ endured for our salvation? What are they compared with the worth of one soul from among the heathen we go to benefit?”
Mary Laurie too felt called to marry and join Mattoon in mission service. However, she had to finish her term as a teacher. The two were married on June 3, 1846 in her father’s (George Laurie) home near Coils, NY. The two did a hasty visit among the Mattoon family dispersed in Michigan and New York.
Journey to Siam and First Tour
The newlyweds returned to the east and sailed from New York city of the Barque Grafton on July 27, 1876. The Mattoons were joined by Samuel R. House a medical doctor and bachelor who was to be stationed alongside them in New York. The ship’s journey was unusually long, but arrived safely in Macao on December 28, 1846. A month later they departed for Singapore and on March 22, 1847 the Mattoons arrived in Bangkok. They had been preceded by Dr. Samuel R. House who set off from Singapore to Bangkok in a dispatch boat. The Mattoons and Dr. House were welcomed by the missionaries from the ABCFM and American Baptist Board, and were giving housing arrangements with Rev. Hemenway and Caswell (previously under the auspices of the ABCFM but by that time was serving with the AMA) until housing could be arranged.
Mrs. Mattoon took on the numerous jobs of being a tailoress, dressmaker, housekeeper and gardener, along with learning the Thai language and giving daily English lessons. Stephen Mattoon had the great task in their first year and a half to learn the language, make Christian literature distributions, made calls upon Siamese officials and endeavor to share the Gospel. The death of Mr. Caswell in September, 1848 and the sickness of Mr. Hemenway, caused Mattoon to take on an even heavier role of leading preaching services in Thai and holding tri-weekly services in the bazzar.
The loss of Rev. Caswell was a sorrowful and incalculable loss. In February, 1849 the Mrs. Caswell and her children felt obliged to depart for the USA. In April, the Presbyetrian mission in Siam was reinforced with the arrival of the Rev. Stephen Bush and his wife. On August 29, 1849 the group of five organized the First Presbyterian Church of Siam with Stephen Mattoon as pastor.
By 1850, the Bradley family had returned from the USA now with the AMA. They had brought with them Rev. Dr. L.B. Lane and Professor J. SIlsby. With these reinforcements the Presbyterians who were now occupying AMA property, needed to move. The necessity to buy land for a mission compound was problematic as the King of Siam at the time was growing more hostile with foreigners residing in Bangkok, due to issues with the British government, Some Siamese teachers and servants of the missionaries were beat and imprisoned. Many of the Siamese force fled form working with the missionaries, meanwhile the King of Siam became gravely ill.
When Prince Mongkut ascended the throne he soon after met with Dr. Bradley and asked that ladies of the missions come and assist in teaching English to his wives and concubines. Mrs. Jones (American Baptist Mission), Mrs. Bradley (AMA) and Mrs. Mattoon (Presbyterian Mission) undertook this work spending two days a week in the court. This work lasted until 1854, when an unflattering account of the King was made in a Singapore newspaper, which drew the ire of the King, suspecting missionaries were involved in its publication.
It was during this time that the Presbyterian Mission was able to baptize See Tuen (October 5, 1851), a Chinese man from Hainan. The Presbyterian Mission was soon able to secure a long term lease of a compound and began to move into it in June 1852. A school for Siamo-Chinese boys was opened led by Dr. House. The mission also had the assistance of See Tuen as well as Quakieng who had previously served under the ABCFM and had opened a school for Chinese boys in Ratburi. Mrs. Mattoon had a number of young girls under her care and instruction, including the daughter of Quakieng, She also was able to gain the trust of families in a Pegu village and had girls become boarding pupils as well. One Siamese girl was entrusted to the Mattoon family, named Ruat and was also given the name of Esther. She later became the first Siamese woman convert in the Presbyterian mission.
On March 28, 1857, after Mary Mattoon had experienced extensive illness it was decided she should return to the US, along with her daughter, Mary, and would be accompanied by Esther. A Chinese servant of the Mattoons named Bun Chee also was able to go along by becoming a cabinboy to the Captain, although he did so against the advice of the Mattoon family. They arrived in the US in August and a month later Emma Mattoon was born.
In 1858, Daniel McGilvary and Jonathan Wilson and his wife arrived in Siam. Their arrival allowed for Mattoon to seek a furlough to the US. He was appointed to represent the newly established Presbytery of Siam and returned home to be with his family, arriving in the US on April 18 1859 staying in the US visiting churches, presbytery and General Assembly meetings. Mattoon also had an audience with President Buchanan.
Return to Siam 1860-1865
The Mattoon family along with Esther, Bu Chee and four new Presbyterian missionary recruits (Rev. and Mrs. S.C. McFarland and Rev. and Mrs. A.M. McDonald set sail from the US on 5 June, 1860 and arrived back to Bangko on September 15, 1860. Since their departure a Siamese teacher by the name of Nai Chune had received baptism. He soon took a lead in teaching after the death of Quakieng. Upon their arrival, the Presbyterian missionaries found a mourning Jonathan Wilson, lamenting the death of his wife and little daughter.
With the Mission reinforced, the McGilvary and McFarland familie opened up a new station in Petchaburi (eighty-five miles southwest of Bangkok). Matton again took up the task of revising scriptures. By 1862, he had revised the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles of John and Romans. During this time, Mary Mattoon continued to struggle in her health with asthma. She was advised to depart Siam, but the Mattoons decided that Stephen Mattoon’s Bible revision work was so important, that they could not do so. In July 1864, a ship was found departing for the USA and it was reluctantly agreed that Mrs. Mattoon along with her daughters would return to the USA. She was accompanied by Jonathan Wilson and another young American businessman. The ship arrived back in the USA on June 5, 1864.
Service in the USA
In 1865, Stephen Matttoo had completed his transation and revision work of the Siamese New Testament. Once relief came with the return of Jonathan Wilson and his new wife, Matttoon believed he must end his missionary career and rejoin his family in the US. Upon his return, Mr. Mattton took on the role of Pastor at the Presbyterian Church in Ballston Spa, New York. He was given the degree of D.D by Union College.
In 1870, the Freedmen’s Board of the Presbyterian Church requested Stephen Mattoon to lead as President of the Biddle Institute (later becoming Johnson C. Smith University), a college for freed blacks near Charlotte, NC. He served the college very ably earning the respect of both blacks and whites in a time of much division within. The country. He passed away to an eternal reward on August 15, 1885. He was preceded in death by his wife, Mary Mattoon, who passed away in February 1885.
Sketch of the Life of Rev. Stephen Mattoon, D.D. (Mattoon, Mary)