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Murders of John and Betty Stam

John Cornelius Stam (January 18, 1907 – December 8, 1934) and Elisabeth Alden "Betty" Stam (née Scott; February 22, 1906 – December 8, 1934) were American Christian missionaries to China, with the China Inland Mission (CIM), during the Chinese Civil War. The missionary couple were murdered by Communist Chinese soldiers in 1934.


  • Ransom 1
  • Martyrdom at Miaoshou 2
  • Rescue and aftermath 3
  • Red Army unit responsible for the murders 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


In 1934, John and Betty Stam were new missionaries to China, with their 3-month-old daughter, Helen, working in the small eastern town of Tsingteh (today called Jingde) in Anhui Province. The town's magistrate came to the Stams and warned them that the Communists were coming for them. After John confirmed this, the Stams prepared to leave. However, the Communists caught up to the Stams and when the soldiers did, they demanded all the money the Stams had; and it was handed over. The Communists then arrested John and took him to their headquarters. They left Betty, baby Helen, the maid and the cook in the Stams' house. The soldiers later came back and took Betty and Helen. The maid and cook begged to go along, but they were threatened they would be shot if they did. Betty and Helen were taken to be with John. That night, John Stam wrote a letter to CIM authorities, but it was never delivered. The letter was found later bundled up in some of Helen's clothes. It stated that the Stams were being held by the Communists for a ransom of $20,000. John Stam also wrote to the mission authorities of how he and his wife had been captured, then wrote, "Philippians 1:20: 'May Christ be glorified whether by life or death.'"

John, Betty and Helen were then taken to the local prison where some of the prisoners were released to make room for the Stams. In the midst of hustle and bustle, Helen started crying, and a soldier suggested that they kill her, since she was only bothering them. Then one of the prisoners who had just been released asked why they should kill the innocent baby. The soldiers turned to him and asked if he was willing to die for the foreign baby. The man was hacked to pieces in front of the Stams; thus Helen was allowed to live.

Martyrdom at Miaoshou

The next morning, the Stams were forced to march 12 miles west with the soldiers, to the town of Miaoshou (which is just under 9 miles due west of Jingde). The group stopped for a night, and Betty was allowed to tend to Helen; but in fact, Betty instead hid her daughter in the room inside a sleeping bag. The very next morning, John and Betty were being marched down the streets of Miaoshou to meet their deaths. Curious onlookers lined both sides of the streets. A Chinese shopkeeper stepped out of the crowd and talked to the Communists, trying to persuade them not to kill the Stams. The soldiers ordered the man back into the crowd, but he wouldn't step back. The soldiers then invaded his house where they found a Chinese copy of the Holy Bible and a hymnbook. He was led alongside the Stams to be executed for being a Christian. After marching for a short while longer, John Stam was ordered to kneel, and he was beheaded. His wife and the shopkeeper were killed moments later.

Rescue and aftermath

The baby, Helen, was found two days later by a Chinese pastor who took her home and took care of her. The Reverend Lo Ke-chou and his wife then took the baby girl to her maternal grandparents, the Reverend Charles Ernest Scott and his wife, Clara, who were also missionaries in China. The Stams' daughter later came to the United States and was raised by her aunt and uncle, George and Helen Mahy. As for Helen's parents, a small group of Christians found their bodies and buried them on a hillside. The Stams' gravestones read:

John Cornelius Stam, January 18, 1907, "That Christ may be glorified whether by life or by death." Philippians 1:20

Elisabeth Scott Stam, February 22, 1906, "For me to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

December 8, 1934, Miaosheo, Anhui, "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life." Revelation 2:10

The story of their martyrdom was much publicized and inspired many to become missionaries.[1]

Red Army unit responsible for the murders

When the Stam's settled into the mission, the area was controlled by the Kuomintang-led Nationalist Government. The Nationalist forces were prevailing in the Chinese Civil War, and the forces of the Chinese Workers' and Peasants' Red Army (Red Army) had started its Long March. The Red Army's 19th Division, under commander Huaizhou Xun and political commissar Hongjun Nie, passed through the town of Tsingteh on December 6, 1934, where they captured the Stams. They forced the Stams to march with them, until the executions on December 8.

After the executions, the 19th Division turned south to join a main Red Army force—the 10th Army Group. The 10th Army Group was defeated on December 14 by a brigade from the Nationalist force, and commander Xun was killed in that battle. A few weeks later, on January 27, 1935, the entire 10th Army Group was annihilated by Nationalist forces. Of the officers responsible for the Stam murders, only political commissar Nie survived. After the communist victory in China, Nie became the first deputy chairman of Hubei province, and later deputy minister of the Department of Agriculture. Nie died in 1966.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Bays, Daniel (Spring 2008). "From Foreign Mission to Chinese Church". Christian History & Biography (98): 7–8. 
  2. ^ "Hongjun Nie (1905–1966)", Who is Who, Google books, p. 349 

Further reading

  • Broomhall, Alfred James, Hudson Taylor & China’s Open Century Volume Seven: It Is Not Death To Die, Hodder and Stoughton and Overseas Missionary Fellowship (1989)
  • Huizenga, Lee S. John and Betty Stam; Martyrs. Zondervan, 1935.
  • Pollock, John. Vicitms of the Long March and Other Stories. Waco, Texas.: Word Publishing, 1970.
  • Taylor, Mary Geraldine (Mrs Howard Taylor), The Triumph of John and Betty Stam (1935; The China Inland Mission, Philadelphia & London)

External links

  • Elisabeth Alden (Scott) and John Cornelius Stam Ephemera at Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center
  • Helen Priscilla Stam's Childhood Ephemera at Wheaton College's Billy Graham Center
  • - OMFThe Martyrdom of John and Betty Stam
  • Betty and John Stam: Young Missionaries Martyred by Christianity Today
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