A Missionary in Siam
Dan Beach Bradley was born on July 18, 1804 in Marcellus, NY. He was a deeply religious individual but because of a lack of funds he was unable to attend seminary, instead deciding to pursue the study of medicine. In 1832, after applying for a missionary appointment in Asia, he was accepted by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions. After receiving his Doctor of Medicine in 1833 he courted and married Emilie Royce so that he could have a helpmate on his mission. Soon after their marriage in 1834, they set sail from Boston on July 2 and arrived in Bangkok, Thailand a little over a year later on Bradley’s birthday.1
At the time of the Bradley’s arrival Thailand was actually called Siam and was under the rule of King Rama III. Unlike his predecessors, who had implemented an isolationist policy with the West, Rama III allowed a limited increase of trade and other interactions with European powers.2 The Bradley’s took up residence with another Presbyterian minister who was already residing in Bangkok and Mr. Bradley almost immediately set up a dispensary to treat the people of Siam.
While treating 75 to 100 patients a day Bradley slowly acquired the Siamese language by working very hard with a teacher.3 Despite a slight speech impediment he had in both languages he gave sermons in both English and Siamese. He also worked with Brother Charles Robinson on creating a printing press with Siamese characters and published the first newspaper in Thailand called the Bangkok Recorder.4 In 1845 Emilie Royce Bradley died of tuberculosis leaving Dan to care for their three remaining children.
Bradley traveled with his children back to America in 1847 after a break with the Board of Commissioners over the idea of Christian perfectionism. While in America he became associated with the American Missionary Association and while raising funds met his second wife, Sarah Blachly, at Oberlin College. They waited a year and then traveled back to Bangkok in 1850 with Dan’s two remaining children, Sophia Royce and Cornelius Beach. Dan’s oldest child, Emilie Jane, had died during their stay in America. In 1857 the AMA cut its ties to the mission in Bangkok donating the printing press to Dan Beach Bradley so he could continue to support himself. Bradley did so until his death in 1873, when the printing plant was given to Sarah Bradley who continued to print tracts and teach women of the royal court English until her death in 1893. Dan and Sarah had five children: Sarah Adorna, Dwight Blachly, Mary Adele, Dan Freeman, and Irene Bell Bradley.5
Dan’s eldest living daughter, Sophia Royce, married Rev. Daniel McGilvary and became a missionary to the Loas tribes in Northern Siam. Cornelius, Dan B. Bradley and Emilie Royce’s other child, moved back to the States to complete his education at Oberlin College, returned briefly to Bangkok as a mission before settling in California. Sarah Adorna and Dwight came to the states together to attend Oberlin College but both of them returned to allow their younger siblings a chance to go to college as well. Sarah married a Dr. Marion Check and went to the same mission as Sophia but returned to the States after Marion’s death and settled in California with her children. Dwight married Ana Davis and became the chief interpreter to the Siamese government’s Foreign Office and when he died the King of Siam paid for the education of his children. Mary Adele married her first cousin, Arthur Blachly, and bore him eight sons living a frontier life, finally coming to settle in Colorado. Dan Freeman attended Oberlin College Seminary and stayed in the States becoming the president of Iowa College married to Lillian Jaques. Irene Bell, Dan and Sarah’s youngest child remained in Siam her entire life and the compound passed to her at Sarah’s death and at Irene’s death in 1939 it passed back into the hands of the Siamese government.6