This letter was written by Frederick Hicks (1834-1871), the son of Uel Merrill Hicks (1801-1896) and Betsy Walbridge (1799-1888). He married (1869) Mary Jane Waters, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke College, in Bennington Center, Vermont.
Frederick Hicks, before attending Williams College, was “for four years clerk in a store in Hoosick Falls, New York. He united with the First Church, Bennington, March 5, 1854, and in 1857 entered college as a Freshman. In college he was a member of the Anti-Secret Confederation, of the Mills Theological Society, or the Lyceum of Natural History, and was one of the party which went to Greenland under the auspices of the Lyceum of Natural History in 1860. Either before coming to college, or while here, he imbibed the spirit of the missionary zeal and enterprise which first showed itself here in 1860. Early in his college course, he consecrated himself unreservedly to the cause of Christ, and the first work he did after graduation in 1860, when he went to Central America as a self-supporting colporteur and missionary, was in the spirit of his earlier consecration…He visited Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Columbia, preaching and distributing bibles and religious tracts…In January, 1865, he engaged in steady Christian work in Panama where he opened a school for the gratuitous instruction of colored children, and at the solicitation of some foreign families, taught their children for a time.”
Unfortunately there is nothing in this letter to indicate to whom Hicks was writing. I can only conjecture that it was a young member of the Congregational Society in Bennington, Vermont who aspired to become a physician and use his talents as a missionary in Central or South America such as Hicks and sought his advice. [Note: the Seller of this letter claims it was addressed to R. D. Douglas but I see no evidence of that from the letter itself.]
May 5, 1860
My Christian Bro.
Without preliminaries I will tell you at once I am right glad to know you, and was most happy in receiving your letter. I would that I could give you a hearty shake of the hand as an expression of my feelings. What I regret is that I am bound to pen and ink as the only means by which to talk about the things of Kingdom. I am sure I could sit down with you for hours and talk of this mission work to advantage of both.
I will tell you in brief what my plan is. I expected to work my way out to some South American country and look over the field in which God might place me with a view to laying plans and making arrangements for a self-supporting mission. I had two companion classmates who would join me in the mission after completing their theological courses. I was intending to devote my time entirely to their support if God did not otherwise provide for us. I had looked at the Argentine Republic as an important point to be occupied. I thought that by locating at the confluence of some of those immense streams which reach far into that & the neighboring states and there having a deposit of Bibles, tracts, &c. a mission school & preaching, we could probably reach a wide district in our influence. I did not know what could be done but I was to make a trial. I had a college debt on hand and was to give my brother help to get through his course so you can see there were some obstacles but I knew God was sufficient to accomplish all. I calculated that with ten dollars I could get there & I knew that there was no danger of one of God’s children suffering for food.
Two weeks before I expected to go, God sent me off to an entirely different section. I was provided with ways and means to go to the center of New Granada. At Panama, my friend and myself found that we were shut out from that point by war. I was then provided with a chance to go to Granada and my friend went to Japan to start a mission work there. In Granada. I was led to see that God had designed a more extensive work for me than I had previously contracted for. I was led to think that all of their countries could be cultivated by the medium of lay-member work as well if not more effectually than by direct mission effort, and with a view to effect a Christian emigration movement to that state, I went over the entire state and collected notes of everything I saw and heard that would aid the work. I am in hopes when they get before our public that they will be used by God to lead many out there. Mind I say emigration, not colonization. From what I saw and learned, I am still of the opinion that such is the most effective method for these countries & I may say for much of the world.
Now I am not intending to say that missionaries — educated missionaries — are not needed also for they are. In this state, missionaries can come and proclaim the truth without interference but in most of the other states there would be more or less opposition to that direct labor. The climate of Guatemala is one of the finest in the world and of course very healthy. I can speak with considerable certainty when I say that all of the highlands throughout the tropics are cool and healthy for our northern people. With temperance and good morals, there is no more to be feared from the climate than from our own. I can say of many of the large sea port towns that they are so located in reference to the seas as to get fresh air. Northern people could not endure physical exercise in them and be healthy. Most of the inhabitants of these countries dwell in the highlands. The people as a class are generally very degraded much as you would expect to find them under the bondage of Catholic superstitions. They are in any and every sense of the word heathen. They have not light enough among them to be made the instrument of their salvation.
As for mental outfit, I do not deem it necessary in order to the highest usefulness in their countries that one should go through a full theological course, and yet if the theology is all sanctified the more the better. My views are that the method used by Christ and his followers for propagating the truth is the one for us as missionaries to follow. They were physicians and reached men’s hearts by healing their bodies and although they had the gift of miracles, the righteous prayers are in our our power.
I was glad to hear that your plan was to study medicine. Foreign physicians are always successful in these countries. A reliable M. D. in Granada told me that a good physician from the States might calculate on four or five thousand a year in these countries. Let us go as physicians and not charge the people for our work as Christ did and use our influence over them for their souls welfare and we would see similar results to the apostle’s work. We could go like Paul, raising up little churches throughout all their counties.
If you can take Matthew 6.19.34; Luke 12.22-34; & the 37 Psalm and a few such portions of the Word in their simplicity, you do not need any means. You can pay your way all over South America without a cent. Your outfit of clothes should be just such as you use at home. I am wearing here a woolen suit all the time. Without you should come with a definite point in view, let your baggage be as light as possible, and as small as possible. Don’t bring a wife when you first come and I would say that there is enough of Paul’s work to be done out here for a good number of us to lead Paul’s life. Nevertheless, if you find a partner of joys and sorrows who is willing to go anywhere and do anything for Christ, you will find such a piece of furniture a “handy thing to have in the house.” I can say plainly that I have no doubt about your being able to support yourself and work at the same time as effectively and far more independently than you could under any board or church. What is most needed is a spiritual outfit and I can give no other advice about that than by seeking it from the service from whence it came. On your knees with the open Bible before you, plead the precious promises and then follow the Spirit’s movings. I would be so glad if you and your friend would go to the Argentine Republic and start that work there. If we could make three such points as Granada, this state, and the Argentine Republic, we would get a strong foot hold in South America. I am also looking to Chile as another point. Try and get as many to write with you as possible. I am dissatisfied with this letter but you must ____. I would say if I could. I have so many things that I wish I could talk to you. I am sure you will not give up looking to South America. I have great hope for great results from what God will do for this country in the next few years.
Your brother in the great work, — Frederick Hicks
Address: Bennington Center, Vt.
I wish you would find me two spiritual ministers — one for Granada City and one for this place. They will have liberal support from the people. We want them now.