left upper decorative scroll image
King County name logo
right upper decorative scroll image

Benjamin Franklin West

Return to W Surnames.

July 2, 1933

Benjamin Franklin West, M.D.

Benjamin Franklin West is the efficient Presiding Elder of the Singapore District, Malaysia Conference, in Southeastern Asia. A young man in the early forties, a native of Crawfordsville, Indiana, who received his early training in the schools in that city, graduating from Wabash College and later from the Miami Medical College, Cincinnati, Ohio. Largely dependent upon his own resources since a lad of fourteen years, his is that resourceful, energetic type of mind found in so many poor boys, and for all his varied accomplishments there is an abundant call in hi wide-spread mission field.

Soon after graduation he married and began to practice medicine in Angus, Iowa, but there wan that within him which forbade his settling down to his profession. At a conference session he heard Bishop J. M. Thoburn call for missionaries for Malaysia. He offered his services, was accepted and sailed for Singapore with his young wife, son and daughter, in January 1888.

There he taught in the Anglo-Chinese School and practiced medicine among the humble poor. The better to study the difficult Chinese language, he spent a year in Amoy, China, living in the native city. He got the Hokien dialect of Chinese better by this means than most men. He has, besides, a fair acquaintance with the Hakka and Cantonese dialects. He speaks Tamil and teaches in Malay. He is keen, visioned, level-headed, enterprising and , above all, he brings things to pass. He is now founding a training-school for native preachers in Singapore and is projecting a great Chinese colony on the peninsula. - "Station Plan" Prayer Card, 1903

Benjamin West and several members of his family are buried at:
Memorial Park & Funeral Home
11111 Aurora Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98133
(206) 362-5200
(800) 755-1350

[Doctor West died in Seattle, Washington, July 2, aged seventy-six. After returning from Singapore twenty-five years ago, he practiced medicine in Seattle, where he taught a large class in University Church, besides preaching and lecturing in missions. Mrs. West, with four daughters and two sons, survive.- Editor], (The Christian Advocate November 2, 1933)

Benjamin Franklin West

Benjamin Franklin West, who died Seattle, July 2, 1933, aged 75, devoted 20 years as teacher, minister and medical missionary in Southeastern Asia. Attended Wabash College, Indiana; graduated from medical school in Cincinnati; began practice in Iowa, where he was converted, received into the N.W. Iowa Conference in 1887; ordained under the missionary rule, and at Bishop Thoburn's behest went out to the Anglo-Chinese School at Singapore, where he was soon teaching and training the native preachers. He mastered seven languages and dialects; was superintendent of successive districts and did much pioneer work. He was a retired member of the Malaya Annual Conference, and a member of the General Conference of 1904.

A break in Mrs. West's health caused them to return to America, and they established their home in University District, Seattle, where their children could finish educational opportunities. Although without funds, he relinquished all claims for annuities from his conference or the Board of Foreign Missions. He and his daughter, Ruth, conducted a drug store for a few years, and after further study he took up the work of a practicing physician, in which profession he soon enjoyed a large clientele and high esteem from his fellow physicians. He was especially kind to the wards of the Children's Home Finding Society, gave his skillful services to more than a thousand such children without a dollar of remuneration, and was call their "best friend." He was active in University Church, taught a large Bible class, was the Sunday night preacher at the Deaconess Settlement for over three years, and made many missionary addresses. More than a hundred lantern slides have been prepared from negatives made by him. Many of these are intensely interesting and are available for missionary propaganda. Mrs. West, who was his companion and helper on the mission field, two sons, and several grandchildren remain and call him blessed. (W. H. L., Pacific Ed. C. A. October 19, 1933)

Benjamin Franklin West, M.D.

In the death of Dr. Benjamin Franklin West of Seattle, Washington a very gallant gentleman went home. I am fearful lest the Church a large should pay but little attention to the event from lack of knowledge. Dr. West came out to Singapore in the early days of the Malaysia Mission. He was a graduate in medicine from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. The Mission was in the early days of its severest struggle. The Anglo-Chinese School claimed West as a teacher, and very soon he justified and more than justified all our expectations. He was a man of moods, but underneath the surface there beat as royal a heart and as sacrificial a temper could be found amongst the ranks of the missionaries. His sense of humor was not apparent on the surface but served us greatly from day to day, for he always had a bright joke or brilliant epigram with which to divert our attention. I remember one of these. The whole staff of the school was breakfasting together that morning. Serious matters had come. The school was being attacked by rival Institutions, and the attacks were beginning to tell; there was cause for alarm, and as we discussed the situation got more somber. One of our members was taking furtive glances at a newspaper, which had just been received by the mail. Some bright saying caught his fancy and he read the item aloud. This caused another to remember another witty saying, and then came a third that reminded a fourth and then a fifth and so forth, until all of a sudden West, who had been looking more than ordinarily serious burst into an explosion of laughter, and on being pressed to tell us what he was laughing about, he said in his truly inimitable way, "I was just thinking of how all the old jokes, flat-footed, knock-kneed, slab-sided, grim joy, cock-eyed, are on the floor all around us, slapping their sides and saying, I am next." Gales of laughter rocked the company. I thought it was a good time to adjourn and so we did, and the episode was as valuable as a prayer in restoring good spirits. For nineteen years he served on the Mission field and then the education of his family forced him home; but among the names to be ever enshrined in the annals of the Malaysia Conference. I trust there will never be forgotten the name of Benjamin Franklin West, M. D., a man of God, lover of children, and master of the repartee and always the dispenser of laughter and merry moods.

To Mrs. West and the children, we, from the ends of the earth send our loving regards while our prayer ascends to our heavenly Father for His consolation to the mourning widow and deeply loved children. (W. F. Oldham, October, 1933)

Benjamin Franklin West, M.D.

Another towering figure in the history of the Methodist missions in Malaysia has passed to his reward in the death, at Seattle, U.S.A. on July 2nd, of Dr. B. F. West, physician, pioneer, missionary, educator, administrator, linquist, husband, parent, and minister of Jesus Christ. Said Napoleon, "The old Guard dies, but it never surrenders." The old Guard of Malaysia Mission included first, Dr. West, who joined the Mission in 1888; then Dr. Luering, 1889; Dr. Shellabear, 1890; G.E. Pykett, 1891; and W.E. Horley, 1894. Forty-four years after Dr. West joined every man was still living and actively employed: West in an American medical practice, Luering in a German theological school, Shellabear in an American School of Missions and in literary work. All three of them having had to leave the mission field for family or health reasons. Pykett and Horley rounded out their missionary careers in active service on the field, within the forty-four years: Dr. Shellabear and Luering are still teaching and exercising their gifts as linquists... (W.T. Cherry, Malaysia Message)

Dr. West came to Malaysia in 1888 and worked in Singapore with Bishop Oldham. He was one of the very first recruits, and was doctor, teacher, preacher, explorer and handy-man for seven years. By 1895 the work had spread as far as Penang, and he was sent there as Presiding Elder. The Penang District was everything north of the Straits of Johore. In all that district we had 388 members and probationers and 84 baptized children.

In 1899, I arrived in Penang and lived in his home for six months. I have never known a man to stick closer to his job. If you wanted to see Dr. West, you went to his office. If he was not there, he was out in the district. It was no use to call up the Recreation Club or the local loafing place - he was not there. He worked all of the time. In Penang he was everything but Principal of the Anglo-Chinese School and Superintendent of the Deaconess' Home.

In 1902 he was appointed to the Singapore District. Here his District was not so big, but he could not be confined. He visited Borneo, Java, and Sumatra on exploring expeditions. When the Christian colony came to Borneo from Poochow, he visited it twice a year for two years. He also tried out an experiment that was on his heart for a long time. He rented a house on Bencoolen Street, right between two big houses used as quarters for rikisha-pullers. I lived with him a month in this house. For noise day and night, dust, dirt, smells, and general fights and confusion this place was the capital. He stuck to it for a time but had to give it up. I believe it hastened his going from the field.

In 1906 he left us because he needed a rest, and Mrs. West's health was not good. He did 19 years of hard, efficient, faithful work. For many years he hoped to come back, but this was not to be.

Soon after I arrived in Penang it was Conference time. Dr. West asked me to go with him to visit the principal stations on his District. One night about nine o'clock we went on board the "Lady Weld" and soon sailed for Port Weld, the Port of Taipeng. We went on board and laid ourselves down on the deck to sleep. Sometime in the night in a fog we ran into some fishing-stakes. The stakes were bamboo and the "Lady Weld" was a side-wheeler. The crashing of the bamboos as they passed through the paddle-wheels wakened us suddenly with the feeling that the boat had struck a rock and was breaking up into kindling wood. Early the next morning we arrived at Port Weld and took the train for Taiping, getting to Mrs. Curtis' school in time for breakfast. The Mission was talking of building or buying a bungalow on Taiping Hill, so as soon as breakfast was over we started from the school, walked to the top of the hill, inspected the bungalow and likely sites, and were back to the school in time for supper. That night the Doctor held the Quarterly Conferences. I rested. The next morning we were off for Ipoh. We crawled into a box on two wheels called a shandydan. When we got to the foot of the hills, we got out and woked, thankful that the pony could pull the cart up. When we started down the other side toward the Perak River, trouble began - There was danger of going right over that pony. When we got to a place where the pony could stop, we got out and walked to Enggor. There we were ferried across the river and took a waiting train for Ipoh, arriving just about sundown. After a bath and dinner, I went to bed - The Doctor held Quarterly Conferences! The next morning we took the train for Telok Anson and there took a boat for Klang (Port Swettenham was not yet open.) I remember little of this trip except being nearly swept off the deck by branches of trees under which the boat passed going up the Klang River. That evening we arrived in Kuala Lumpur where the Doctor held Quarterly Conferences. The next morning we were off again to Klang and by shandydan to Port Swettenham where a boat was anchored in the roads. The road through the swamp was not so bad, but the scenery could only be likened to the picture fo the face of the moon. That night about two o'clock we arrived in Malacca. We started out to find the Chinese preacher-in-charge, and after much searching we found him in a shop-house inone of the crookedest, dirtiest, narrowest streets in Malacca. That same day after holding Quarterly Conferences, we were off for Singapore, arriving just in time for the Doctor to rush into the Annual Conference, read his report, and come up smiling.

He was a little man, but he was awfully tough, and long legs like mine had to get into action when his short ones began to twinkle; and faint-heart and weak faith were put to shame in the presence of his sturdy character. His good humor, clear vision, and absolute devotion to his task, carried him through many years of strenuous pioneer service, and we from a later generation in wonder view his labors into which we entered. (James M. Hoover, D.D.)

Dr. West was a physician with a good practice at home, when one day, Bishop Thoburn came into his town to speak, met Dr. West, and induced him to give up his practice and come to Malaya to work as a missionary. When he arrived in Singapore, he found that he couldnot carry on as a practicing physician, as he lacked the necessary British credentials, to do active work in British Colonies. He was then appointed to teach small wriggling boys in Standard IV in the Anglo-Chinese School in Singapore. Once I heard him say that many a night, he had walked the streets of Singapore, and had fully made up his mind to go down the next day, take passage on the first boat leaving Singapore and go home. When asked why he did not do it, his reply was characteristic of the man. He said, "Because I could never quite get the consent and approval of my conscience to actually do the thing." It is well for the work in Malaya that he could not do so. It would have meant an inestimable loss to the work for which he came.

I first met Dr. West shortly after I left home to come to Malaya. He was making a last trip through Indiana, before he returned to Malaya, and came to talk with me about my coming. A few months later, he met me at the boat in Singapore, and saw me safely off to Taiping where I was first stationed. Again and again I found him a friend and adviser, as I struggled with problems there in Taiping, and later here in Singapore.

To me one of the finest things about Dr. West was the close contact he maintained throughout his stay in Malaya, with the Asiatic people. He spoke Hokkien, and gave himself unstintedly in service to anyone in need. When he started the Jean Hamilton Training School, he went to live with the men.

The mother of one of our most active young men in one of our largest churches today told me how Dr. West found her ill and about to die. During the night, heart complications arose, and for hours she hovered between life and death. All night long, Dr. West sat beside her; now his hand on her pulse, now administering the medicine that was to keep her alive.

She was not a Christian and could not understand whey he watched over her so carefully. She finally remonstrated with him, told him she was but a poor woman with no money to pay him, and that he would better leave her to die. Still he sat and watched as the night deepened, and the danger of her dying increased. Again she told him she was poor, and had no money to pay him. Finally Dr. West said, "But Nonya, I am not her for pay." Then she said she looked at him in amazement and asked, "You do not want pay? You will not take pay? Then why are you watching over me so carefully?"

Then Dr. West told her why he had come to Malaya and that God wanted her to recover and give her life to Him and serve Him. He then told her of Christ and asked her to think of this when she was better and able to do so, and if she could to give herself in service to Christ.

In telling it later, she said, "Oh Missie, I had to believe in Jesus as he told me that Jesus lived me and wanted me to live and b a follower of Him. Why Dr. West was doing just the things that he told me Jesus went about doing, and I had to believe." That woman became an active worker in the church, as long as she lived, and her children today are all active in the work of the church.

One of our outstanding women, one who has rendered invaluable service in the church and Mission told me, when her husband, a practicing Chinese physician died suddenly and left his business badly involved, how Dr. West came to her help, went in to the dispensary, looked after her interests, spent many days working to get matters settled so that she could carry on and earn enough to get a living for herself and her family.This same woman said conclusively, "Of course we had to believe in his Christ. Why, he lived what he told us Christ taught, and it was true."

There are still a few here and there in Malaya who could bear like testimony. Dr. West was loved and revered because he served and lived as he knew the Christ had lived and served others. (Catherine E. Jackson)

Contributed by
Linda Cox of Los Alamos, NM