Nam Art Soo-hoo (司徒)

It’s been a bit since the Chan family, so I thought I’d tackle another large family of Chinese Christians. Again, like in my post about the Chan family, I’ll start with the patriarch, who had no university schooling in the United States. However, unlike Rev. S. K. Chan, he did feel very strongly the importance of education for both himself and his children.

Nam Art Soo Hoo (surname 司徒, pinyin Sītú) was born in November of 1856 in China, probably in Chick Hom (Chikan, Kaiping), Guangdong. He came to America for the first time in 1875, but this first visit to America was not for schooling, but for work – his mother was widowed and he had younger brothers to support, so he immigrated to California to work in a cigar factory (Middletown Daily Argus, 29 Apr 1895). However, although his main goal in coming to America was not education, he soon took advantage of the educational opportunities available through the local churches in San Francisco. “I took my book with me and attended four Sunday schools and several meetings every Lord’s day. After awhile I became converted,” he said in 1895; the article would run in several local newspapers nationwide (cited in Middletown Daily Argus, 29 Apr 1895). The quotation seems to have come from a book called “The Chinaman As We See Him”, a book about missionary work both in China and among the Chinese in America (Condit, 131). The profile of Nam Art Soo Hoo from this unsurprisingly racist work states that he moved to Santa Rosa not long after and opened a laundry, as well as a school (131). He returned to China in 1882 (The Church at Home and Abroad, 1916, p. 47) and married a woman with the maiden name of Quan around 1883.

Rev. Soo Hoo Nam Art

Newly converted to Christianity, Nam Art Soo Hoo began theological studies in China, serving in the Canton (Guangdong) Mission. He returned to America to continue helping grow the mission in Santa Rosa (Condit, 132), but returned to China once more in 1890 (Church at Home, 47). Back in Chick Hom again, Nam Art Soo Hoo was ordained by the Canton Presbytery in 1893 (Middletown Daily Argus, 29 Apr 1895; Condit, 131), and returned again to America in 1894 (Condit, 132). This is the most back-and-forth I have seen yet from anyone in the Boxer cohort, by the way. He and his wife had four children in this time: Peter Soohoo, born in 1884 when Nam Art was first back in China; Clara Soohoo, born in 1891 immediately after his second return to China; Paulina Soohoo, born in 1892 as he was becoming first an elder, then the pastor of the Canton Presbyterian Church; and Nettie Soohoo, born in 1894 just before he returned to America for the final time. It seems clear that his wife stayed in China from 1883 to 1890, since there is a seven-year gap between the Soo Hoo’s oldest son Peter and their oldest daughter Clara, and after that there is never a gap of more than 4 years between their children.

 

So, the whole family moved to California in 1894-1895, making this Nam Art’s third trip across the Pacific. All of the children attended high schools in California and most went on to study at American colleges, and I’ll be profiling them in later posts. Nam Art Soo Hoo himself worked in the San Francisco Presbytery under the direction of Rev I. M. Condit, who ran the Chinese mission in California (The Assembly Herald, Aug 1903, pg. 367).  By 1900, the family was living at 920 Washington Street in San Francisco, across the street from the Chinese mission. The four children had become six, with Andrew Soohoo and Lily Soohoo being born in California. Interestingly, although the children used Western names in school, the 1900 Census lists almost everyone under their Chinese names: Peter is Peter, but Clara is “Ye Quan”, Paulina is “Ye Quai”, Nettie is “Yut Yan”, Andrew is “Fun Doc”, and Lily is “Yut Oy” (link to Ancestry.com copy).

 

Nam Art Soo Hoo moved around California as his missionary work took him. In 1906 he was in Oakland for a missionary conference (Oakland Tribune, 1906). Around that same time, the family moved to San Rafael (Marin Journal, Vol. 52), possibly due to the San Francisco earthquake and fires of 1906 (Young Yu, Chinese Historical Society of America), an event in which Nam Art helped greatly to evacuate the residents of San Francisco’s Chinatown (Jorae, 2009).  Nam Art and his wife had had four more children by 1910: Lincoln, Mansie, Theodore, and Minnie. Their youngest son, Carroll, was born later that year, for a total of 11 children. In 1913 the family had moved again, this time to Berkeley to live nearer to the university, which two of Nam Art’s daughters were attending (Berkeley Daily Gazette, 18 Nov 1932; Marin Journal, Vol. 52). The family originally lived at 2114 Channing Way, but eventually moved into 2116 Channing Way (or possibly the numbering of the houses had changed), and most of the Soo Hoo family members would call this address home at one time or another.

 

Several of his children would return to China and live there for many years. Peter and Clara both lived and worked in Canton, and Clara later moved to Tientsin. Nettie and Lily lived in Shanghai for a time, but both women, as well as Clara, returned to America to work and study again. However, neither Nam Art Soo Hoo nor his wife ever returned to China again after their final immigration in 1895. They were both living at 2114 Channing Way in 1910, and Nam Art was working at the Presbyterian Church in Benicia, but he died in Berkeley in 1920 (Berkeley Daily Gazette, 18 Nov 1932). His wife lived at 2116 Channing Way until her death in 1932 (Berkeley Daily Gazetter, 18 Nov 1932).

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