Cleaning the IDOL

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In August, 2005, the Idol received a thorough cleaning.

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Location of the inscription

The cleaning revealed an inscription on the Idol's right side by the donor:

More information about Rev. John Farnham, donor of the Idol

See the article on the history of the Idol in the Union Magazine.

The following biography of John Farnham was posted by Edith Bartley, February 14, 2005 at

John Marshall Willoughby Farnham was born in Lebanon, Maine, on 30 Sept. 1829 to Matthew and Mehitable (Keggan) Farnham. His Farnham line goes: Ralph 1,2,3,4, Matthew 5, David 6, Matthew 7, and JMW 8. He died in Shanghai on 17 Feb. 1917. He married Mary Jane Scott, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, on 4 May 1859 in Schenectady, New York; she was born in 1834. He graduated from Lebanon Academy in 1851 and from Union College in 1856. He and his wife settled in China in 1860, and that was their home for the rest of their lives; she died in Shanghai on 22 Feb. 1913, age 79. Six daughters and, lastly, one son, were born to them between 1861 and 1873; only 3 children were still living when he published the second edition of his Farnham genealogy in 1888. The seven were: Elizabeth Scott, b. 14 July 1861; Mary Hittie, b. 6 Nov. 1862, d. 1863; Maggie Scott, b. 29 Aug. 1864, d. 1868; Mabelle, b. 16 March 1866; Bertha, b. 11 March 1868, d. 1870; Katie Thorburn, b. 17 June 1870; and Alfred David, b. 14 April 1873, d. 1874. The eldest, Elizabeth, married Walter Scott Emens on 18 Dec. 1882, and had three children, all born in Shanghai: John Scott, b. 13 Jan 1885, Warren Homer, b. 30 March 1887, and Frederic, b. 10 July 1889. Elizabeth died in 1895, and her husband, Walter, married her sister Katie Thorburn (Farnham) Magowan. Walter died in Shanghai on 10 Jan. 1919 of a heart attack.

On the title page of his genealogy, Rev. Farnham gave his name and title as "Rev. J. M. W. Farnham, D.D., Superintendent of the Presbyterian Mission Press, Shanghai, China". The second edition was published in Shanghai by the American Presbyterian Mission Press, and in New York by Harper Brothers. In his introduction, he said that he had collected material for the book, off and on, for more than 25 years, interviewing the Revolutionary War veteran Ralph Farnham, age 103, in 1859 before leaving for China. He also mentioned doing research on a visit to the US in 1883-4.

Comment on posted by Robert Farnum on February 04, 2005 

Rev. Farnham was a missionary to China who also published a genealogy of the Farnham family. He was a graduate of Union College in Schenectady, New York. He sent a Chinese statue of a lion to the college as a gift. The statue was considered so ugly it was put in storage. When the Rev. Farnham announced that he was planning a visit, the lion statue was put on display. Students promptly covered the statue with paint, necessitating a quick cleanup by the College. Painting the statue, known as the Idol, is now a tradition as different groups try to keep it painted their colors.

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2001-2005 J. Douglass Klein