Saturday, 6 October 2007

Dr Savin of Chaotong

Dr Savin was born at Faversham in Kent, England in 1864. His father was a devote member of the Bible Christian Church which was a powerful influence upon his son, Lewis Savin. As the boy grew up he was trained for and entered the teaching profession.

About 1885 the Bible Christian Church started work in Yunnan, west China. It soon became clear that for the health of the missionaries, and the Chinese, trained medical workers were required. But no qualified doctor could be found, Yunnan suggested another planet. Lewis Savin was looking at the ministry, an appeal was made and eventually he was persuaded, after qualifying as a doctor, to go to west China.

Seven weeks by liner to Shaghai, 600 miles up the Yangtse river to Hankow by river steamer, 400 miles furhter up to I-Chang by a still smaller steamer, and then several hundreds of miles by chinese junk . The river journey ended at Sui-Fu, some 1800 miles from Shanghai. From Sui-Fu it was two weeks of travel over the Yunnan Mountains, before reaching the mission at Chaotong. A journey of six months from England to Yunnan.

Arrived he had to go through the prelimary struggle with learning the Chinese language. There was no hospital, practicaly no equipment, and only small supplies of medicines. Nor was he settling in a district where he was wanted or welcome. To the Chinese all missionaries were foreign devils. Chinese doctors and vendors of native medicines spread fanastic and malicious rumours. For example as infanticide was common, baby girls were thrown outside the city walls. Foreign doctors it was aserted, and widely believed, collected the bodies to use them for their medicine.

Doctor Savin never got used to the dirt and squalor of Chinese life, the foul strench of the street, the lice and other insects. Yet at any time day or night he would give his very best attention to the poorest, most ragged or the most disreputable patient. Often going out at midnight to try and save some life, where there had been opium swallowed by a would-be suicide or an outburst of quarelling ending in the mutual slashing of knives. Always with these calls there was the possiblity that it was a trap to lure him onto darkened streets where his Chinese medical rivals could remove so powerful competitor.

What won him the respect of the common people was his quite but confirm refusal to allow Chinese notions of rank interfere with hospital arrangements. At first it was demanded by the Chinese that poor patients be turned out of his hospital to make room for those of higher rank as this was Chinese etiquette. But Dr Savin would not turn out a poor person even for a Mandarin of the highest rank.

In 1912 and for several years after Chinese life went up in the flames of revolution. Law and order disappeared. War Lords enriched themselves by indiscriminate murder and plunder, fighting each other for the spoils. Chaotong was threatened again and again, but at last an actual battle was fought outside the city. The War Lords did not bother with any army medical corp. But Dr Savin and his hospital now had a high reputation. So the wounded soldiers flocked there. The hospital built for 100 patients was besieged by thousands. It had been almost imposible to get supplies through because of the nationwide anchary. So all day long and far into the night the doctor struggled with the disorderly mob, many of whom had wounds turned gangrenous. Somehow, amid the hundreds of surgical cases and operations, one of his hands received a slight scratch which turned septic. As a result Dr Savin, soon died from typhus, it was the year 1918.

Source: Writing by C N Mylne (Sch. of Oriental & African Studies, London)

Monday, 1 October 2007

Good News From Australia

To the Editor of the Bicester Herald


The following letter addressed to myself and Mr Thomas Savin, of Launton, from the village formed by a portion of my late flock, who were assisted by me to emigrate to Australia about six or seven years back, will interest many in your town and neighbourhood.

Muddy Creek, Hamilton, 10th August 1860

My Dear Brothers

I write to inform you that I had your letter on the 18th of June. I hope this will find you all well, as it leaves us at present. Give my love to all my brothers and sisiters, and tell them I have purchased 51 acres of land, freehold property, I have got the deed in my box. I gave John Freeman, one hundred pounds for his share. He has bought another piece, 24 acres. I have ploughed 33 acres. I have sown 25 of wheat, and 8 of oats and the rest is grass. It is all fenced in. A good home I have got thank God. It is a fine country. I never felt better in my life

We have, at the Chapel, which we have built, on Sunday, preaching in the morning and afternoon, and a prayer meeting at night; and school for the children, one hour and a half in the morning and afternoon. My son John is married. He is a carter, and earns a good bit of money- £3 or £4 a week. His team and dray are worth £100, and he has got money in the bank. He is going to buy a farm when the bill is passed at £1 per acre.

My daughter Mary and her husband, have 120 acres of good land of their own, freehold property. My son Wiliam is working for them, for 30s. per week, and his grub; £3 a week in harvest and his grub. What do you think of that ? Tell Launton young men of that, they will say, "We don't believe it is true." Tell Mr John Fenemore I have a good farm. I sow one bushel and a half of wheat to the acre, and two bushels of oats, and it grows as high as my head, and then we reap it. Tell John Shirley and John Young I ave found Australia better than all the books told me. I have a goodfarm, and had 4000 bushels of oats last year.

My dear brother, I have made my fortune ! but if I had stopped in Launton, I should have been starved to death. The longest day is the 21st of December, and the shortest 21st of June; harvest in January. When the snow is on the ground at Launton, tell them your brother is carrying his corn. I have had four crops of wheat off my land, besides stubble every year.

No more, at present, from your affectionate brother,

Samuel Savin

Source: Bicester Herald 23 Nov 1860

Sunday, 23 September 2007


We have already met Andrew Savin with his story of survival of the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Remarkably he has another tale to tell.

In 1946 Andrew after returning home to Rumania decided to finish his studies. He married in 1948 and had a son two years later. They all lived in his in-law's apartment which was not unusual as there was a housing shortage. As an "oppositionist", his past political activity was recognized by the Communist Party which had come to power after the war, but he was not fully trusted because he was not of peasant or worker origin, but middle class. Also as he had continuous correspondence with his sister, who emigated to Israel in 1951 then onto Canada, and had contact with Americans when they liberated him from the concentration camp at Buchenwald, the Party were often checking up on him.

However as a propagandist for the party and after many requests in 1967 he was allowed to visit his sister in Canada for three months. He could see for himself the better life enjoyed in the Western countries as during this time he also took a trip to see his uncle in NewYork and travelled back via Paris and Rome. Everybody was telling him to remain in Canada but he could not just leave his family to fend for themselves back in Rumania. However after returning from Canada he was not regarded as politically trustworthy and therefore was demoted at work.

In 1968 the Soviet army marched into it's eastern block ally Czechoslovakia because Russia was fearful of the liberal policies being introdued there. In October Andrew, his wife and son separately obtained tourist visas for Czechoslavakia. He only told one other person of their real intent, to escape to Canada, via Austria. They travelled by car through Hungary on the way to Czechoslovakia but before crossing the Czech border tried the Hungary-Austria border. There the Hungarian customs officer took their passports, stamped them, so it was recorded they wanted to pass over the border, but then turned them back. Andrew knew that when they returned to Rumania and had to deposit their passports with the police, they would know about their intention and therefore would never get another chance for a visa to leave Rumania for any foreign country.

They drove to Czechoslovakia but were told by a Czech friend that the border with Austria was controlled by Russian soldiers. They tried two small border checkpoints on minor roads but were not even allowed to get close to the border. Before finally crossing back into Hungary they tried the last border station at Bratislava as Andrew by then did not care about the outcome. There was a long line of Austrian and German cars. Andrew's car was the only one with a licence plate from an eastern country. It took hours to advance to the checkpoint. The custom officer asked for their passports, looked at them and said "You Rumanians what the hell do you want?" Andrew stuttered in German that they would like to go home through Austria. The officer went inside an office with their passports. Meanwhile his wife and son scolded him "It will happen the same as at the Hungarian border, another stamp in our passports" They were scared to death. After 15 minutes the officer came back, told them to spend their Czech money at the border shop, gave back their passports and pointed them to the direction of Austria. They grabbed supplies at the shop and drove off fast to the Austrian border checkpoint where, without getting out, showed their passports to the Austrian officer. He waved them to pass as Rumanians didn't need a visa to enter Austria.

They drove a couple of kilometers further, then stopped at the road side, got out and lay on the grass, not believing they were in Austria. But why had the Czech officer let them through? They could only presume that he had sympathy with Rumanians because Rumania was the only eastern country who were against the Russians when the Soviet army earlier that year had taken over Czechoslovakia.

They drove to Vienna and found a friend of Andrew's sister who gave them help and money. Five months later they left for Canada, their Canadian brother in law acting as their sponsor for the emigration.

Source: Dreaming and Survival, M.I.G.S. (A. Savin)

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Return of Colonists

In about 1868 John Savin, his wife and three children with a large number of families from NewYork, Pennsylvania and some of the southern states, led on by glittering promises of the agents of the Brazilian Colonization Society, assembled in New York and emigrated to Brazil. They were given to understand, on leaving for Brazil, that each man was to be presented, on his arrival at his destination, with a tract of land and a small house, and that all would be furnished with steady and renumerative employment.

After three weeks delay in Rio Janerio they were forwarded to the colony of St. Catherine, 150 miles from the city of that name. On reaching the end of their journey they found that no provision had been made for them and that all was a wilderness. The agents appointed by the Brazilian government to superintend the affairs of the colonists were employed at nine dollars a month, neglected their duties, gave very little labour to the colonists and so grossly mismanaged affairs that great want and suffering prevailed from the first establishment of the colony. It was useless to cultivate sugar cane or any other product for the market, as that was 150 miles distant, with no means of comunication, except by launches on a treacherous river, and as there was no employment to be had the colonists were reduced to the extremities of want.

Finally, after enduring their hopeless circumstances for two seasons, in which time many left for other parts of South America, most of the colonists abandoned the wilderness and set out for home. In coming down the river their launches were capsized, resulting in the loss of nearly all their baggage. On reaching St. Catherine's the American Consul procured transportation for them to Rio, Where, after some delay, they were placed by the Brazilian government on board the British steamer "Rakaia", chartered for the purpose, and sent to New York. They reached this city utterly destitute, and the Commissioners of Emigration declining to have anything to do with them, they gathered their bundles and boxes together and slowly dispersed. About fifty people are left at the colony in Brazil, who will leave as soon as possible.

Source: The NewYork Herald 23 Feb 1870

Night of the Invasion

In 1942 Fred Savins with his wife Evelyn and children Lola, Ronald and Kevin were living on a farm at Lennox Head, near Ballina, New South Wales, Australia. It was in the middle of World War Two. At the time tension was high because the Japanese were off the east coast of Australia and Fred had been told they could invade anywhere at any time.

Fred was a member of the Volunteer Defence Corp and had to patrol the headland and beaches at night and keep check that others living in the area had their windows covered so that house lights weren't visible from the sea. If there was a landing, Fred was under instructions to destroy all manner of food, vegetable meat etc., turn on all water taps, let the animals out and clear them away from the shoreline. Nothing ws to be left for the Japs to utilize. Evelyn also learnt to drive the family car so that she could gather up the children, grab a few belongings and leave the area as quickly as possible.

One summer night while all the family were in bed, a wild storm blew up and there was a very heavy downpour. The farmhouse, like many built back in that era, had a wide verandah around three sides and there was no fence around the house.

Suddenly there was a lot of heavy trampling on the wooden verandahs. Fred's first thought was "this is it, the Japanese have landed". Fred stuck his head out through the bedroom window to check out the commotion. He thought he might as well have his head cut off right then instead of in the bedroom.

Fortunately Fred kept his head and much to his relief it wasn't the invasion but a lot of frighten calves coming in out of the heavy rain.

Source: Savins in Australia (GH &IF Savins)

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Imperial Justice

In May of 1976 Richard Savin with his fiancee was en route for Pakistan where he had a work contract. They crossed the border into Iran by car at Tayebad. At this time The Shah of Iran was ruling the country as a despot with a repressive hand.

Vehicles were being searched, in the bay next to them a Landrover's interior was pulled apart and wrecked, but nothing was found. An official walked around Richard's car three times then asked them to take all their luggage out. "I want to look" he said, but he didn't look, "Doesn't matter" he then said. Looking up to Richard the official said "Mister you have hashish". He walked around the car again kicking each wheel as he went. "It's in this wheel and this wheel and this wheel". The search crew came dragging a large hydraulic jack, a wheel was taken off, the tyre seal broken on one side and lifted clear of the rim so that a hand could be slipped in. The officer then pushed his hand in up to his wrist. "Yes hashish mister". Richard was suddenly looking down the barrel of a gun as he stepped forward to look for himself but was jerked up short as someone snapped on a cuff, so he saw nothing.

A smuggling charge was trumped up, but why? Was it revenge for the run-in he had with a police officer earlier who had stopped them, looking for a handout of money, but got none or the argument he had with some locals for overcharging him for some bread taking advantage as he was a foreigner or something else, he never found out.

In due course Richard was taken to the notorious Vakil Abad jail, but his fiancee was set free. Despite being only five years old amenities in the prison were broken and delapidated. The food was meagre, the place was totally unhygenic and stank, occasionally he was beaten by the guards, all prisoners suffered from lice. Richard was taken ill a few times, once seriously with hepatitus but recovered in the prison hospital despite it only having out of date medicine. But being one of a few europeans he was treated better than the other prisoners, especially the political prisoners who were routinely tortured. He did receive some visits from the British embassy but there efforts were ineffectual.

In August Richard was taken to trial and assumed the boys in prison were exaggerating about court proceedings. The whole process seemed to be carrying on without concern for his presence. The judge started to read out the charge in Persian. In desperation he grabbed at the man next to him who turned out to be the translator. The judge paused, looking irritated and said "What is it?" in perfect English. Richard replied "I'd like to know what is happening here" and then pointed to various officials wanting to know who they were. One was his lawyer. "Well get him over here because he cannot defend me unless he knows what the defence is". His lawyer reluctantly came over to him and was given a transcript of his defence. The judge decided he would conduct the trial in English. "Where is the evidence?" Richard asked firmly but respectfully. The judge frowned "We do not need any evidence" and waved the pink paper I'd signed at gunpoint. "Here is your confesssion.You have signed it". "But you will see from the signature it was signed unread and under force" Richard protested. "Doesn't matter " said the judge. "What about the State's witnesses" the judge looked mildly shocked "Will the State not even prove my presence at Tyebad. "Why should we" objected the judge "it is you who must disprove". The judge left the room to consider the findings. "That was a very good try" the interpreter conceded. "Do I have any chance?". The interpreter laughted, "You cannot win in this court. Everybody is guilty. You will get two years and a fine". The judge returned "You are guilty. Two years plus fine". It was back to Vakil Abad prison.

Then in October 1978 Richard is set free, along with a few others, after two and a half years in prison. No explanation from the prison authorities was given nor did the British embassy have any idea why. For five days they were allowed to do what they liked in the city then Richard was recalled by immigration he was to be deported and therefore locked up in conditions as bad as the jail. On the fourth day of incarceration he was questioned by two secret police about his contact with the political prisoners and their organisation Mashad in Vakil Abad. Getting nowhere with this line of questioning he is punched to the ground by one of the police, they leave. The next day he is released and under escort put on a train going to the border, then handed over to immigration. At the border Richard's passport is inspected, "Where is your car", the official pointing to the place in the passport. "It was confiscated" replied Richard. "Without the car you cannot leave Iran". Through a side door appeared the two secret police, the reason for the charade. "It is an offence to leave a car without paying could get 5 years for this.......who do you know in Mashad?" Richard was exhausted and replied "Beat me up, shoot me, do what you like". Half an hour later one came back, gave him his passport, "Go" and shoved him through a door marked Turkey.

Source: Vakil Abad- A Survivor's Story (R. Savin)

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Servant Gets $20 million

A former Czecho-Slovakian immigrant chambermaid, who was making the beds and sweeping the floors in the $6 million, seventy five room mansion of Frank W Savin, retired stockbroker at Port Chester, New York, three years ago, is mistress today of his $20 million fortune ($240M in todays terms), as a result of his death from an appendicitis operation on Tuesday. Mrs Savin who left the servants' quarters on Jan. 8, 1937 to become her employers fourth wife, has at her command eight Rolls Royces and two other expensive limousines, a team of twenty servants and the right to call the palatial home her own.

But how long she will remain at ease in this queenly state is problematical, for the legal pot has started to boil with the claims of former wives, cast-off children and others who the old broker left in the wake of his kaleidoscopic 79 years of his life. The present Mrs Savin, formerly Anna Mary Schieis, 47, who became a domestic in the mansion on the Sound 17 years ago and remained to become the bride of her boss has first claim. But before her proper heritage canbe determined, the courts probably will have to go back through the entire stormy history of Savin and weigh the claims of two disinherited natural children, two foster children and the near kin of three former wives.

Savin started from scratch, having been cut off with but $1 by his father a wealthy sea captain. But he quickly built this up through real estate and stock investments, and when he married the beautiful Arriba Wheat of New Haven in 1871 he was reputed to be on the highway to wealth.

His first wife obtained a legal separation in 1898, charging him with being "coarse, tyrannical, brutal and inhuman" after he had thrown out and disinherited their two children Frank W. Jr. and Josephine after they were taken to court for mistreating a servant.

Savin next married Mrs Sarah Hamilton West , who later was exposed as the Sadie West of the Lexow investigation of vice and gambling in New York. When she died in 1911, he buried her in an unmarked grave beneath the tennis court on his estate, but his third wife compelled him to exhume the body and bury it elsewhere.

The third Mrs. Savin was, like the fourth, a servant in his house. She was Mrs. Sarah M. Treadwell, the housekeeper. She died in 1925. During this union, the broker adopted Muriel Elizabeth Withnall, a 4 year old orphan. And he also adopted Charles Ely Monroe, the former Mrs. Treadwell's brother-in-law. Monroe, to whom Savin gave his own name and referred to as "my only son" and Muriel, who also took Savin's name, lived at Port Chester throughout his fourth marriage.

Source: Chicago Tribune 2 Jan 1930