September 10, 2009
1909 - 100 years ago - Sibu
The rice huller arrived in 1908 and by 1909 every one was really amazed how much it could do!! 1909 was a good rice year. Both Ibans and Chinese benefitted from the rice huller which was a gift from America. According to family history my grandfather who had great engineering skills had a hand in fixing the rice huller together with Rev James Hoover .
The first students of Mr and Mrs. Hoover.
The young Hoovers.
1909 was a happening year in Sibu.
That year the Hoovers had already spent 6 years managing the new settlers and the new mission which already had 5 churches. Mrs. Mary Hoover wrote " there are now 134 Christian women in Sibu and we need a Bible woman to help them...."
Mrs. Hoover started to teach the girls to read the Bible in Romanised Chinese. The boys had started to stay in the boarding house. The Church building then included the home for the Hoovers;the main Church room for Sunday service; a school room and a boarding room for the boys.
More and more Foochows were arriving from China.
The Bishop Oldham arrived and was able to pursuade the Rajah to release some more land for more rubber and rice cultivation. By September that year the Foochows were able to cultivate more land and the Ibans had been finally pacified to share their land with the new comers. There was to be no more land disputes. Furthermore according to W.T. Cherry (the District Superintendent then) "The Bishop also interceded on behalf of the colonists on asccount of their debts and the Rajah cancelled unconditionally $25 000 which he held against the colonists." This redemption was God's gift to the Foochows for thereafter they were relieved from their debts to the Rajah and they started to work even harder!!
The Bishop noted that there were more than 200 children and 36 of them were under 5 years old. He recommended that schools should be built and the girls must be educated . He wrote "it was an urgent duty to see that the next generation shall think more justly".
My grandfather married for the first time in 1909 age 23.
This is my grandmother Chong Jin Soon a Peranakan from Jogjakarta (she later studied in Singapore) who came to adopt Foochow as her language and Foochow style of clothing from the day she stepped foot in Sibu. It must have been very difficult for her to do so but she was able to overcome all obstacles (including some very lean years ) because of her faith in God.
Actually my grandfather Tiong Kung Ping married my grandmother Chong Jin Soon after the Rev James Hoover introduced her as a good bride for him. He was 23 years old and a very hardworking and trusted Foochow pioneer. She was educated in English and was therefore a great help to my grandfather. Her brother Chong Jin Bok who later became principal of the English school in Sibu came with her too. (Today you can still find a road named after Chong Jin Bok which is quite near Sungei Merah).
On the whole 1909 was a good year for Sibu.
Sources: a) The Methodist Episcopal Church in Borneo (1901-1910) SCAC