History of the Mission in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Missionary History
This tour is about Chiang Mai Missionary History. It is a journey back in time. Christian missionaries have left a legacy in Chiang Mai that is still very much alive. Today we bring you to several historical sights related to the history of the Presbyterian Mission. Your guide and driver will meet you at the hotel at 0800. We will drive to the Warorot Market where our samlor drivers wait for us. Then we will continue to the first wooden Church of Chiang Mai by traditional bicycle taxi.
American Reverend Dr. Daniel McGilvary founded the Laos Mission of the Presbyterian Church in Chiang Mai in 1867. Missionary doctor Marion Cheek designed and constructed the wooden church in the early 1880s, which is now part of the Chiang Mai Christian School.
Here our samlor tour ends. We look at the church and enter if we can get permission. In 1968 the church moved less than a kilometer north to a new building. We continue to the new church by car and visit its small but interesting museum.
Dara Academy, the former Girl’s School
We continue to Prince Royal’s College, the former Boy’s School. At its present location, the school opened in 1906 under the direction of Reverend William Harris. Here we will visit the Harris House, a colonial-style building that houses a small museum. Crown Prince Maha Vajiravudh, who later became King Rama VI, came to Chiang Mai to lay the stone for the first classroom building. He then renamed the school The Prince Royal’s College.
Further east down the road is the missionary hospital McCormick and our next destination: the Dara Academy. Reverend McGilvary and his wife Sophie founded the school in 1878 as a Girl’s School. Its original location was on the Ping River, close to the current Nawarat Bridge. The school has an outstanding museum, which we will visit.
Gymkhana Club, the social life of Chiang Mai
Then it is time for lunch which we will enjoy at a riverside location. After lunch, we will visit the McKean Rehabilitation Center, the former leprosy colony. On the way, we will stop by at the Gymkhana Club because this was the social meeting place for foreigners in Chiang Mai a century ago. Most British employees of companies involved in the teak industry founded this club in 1898.
The club organized Christmas and New Year’s meetings. There are many missionaries on the group pictures that adorn the walls of this club. Right next to the club is the small Foreign Cemetery. It is the last resting place of Daniel and Sophia McGilvary and other missionaries. We briefly pay our respects before we continue to McKean Senior Center.
Our last visit today is the beautiful McKean Senior Center, formerly known as McKean Leprosy Asylum. This should be a protected heritage site in Chiang Mai. There are not only several heritage buildings at McKean but also centuries-old trees at this compound. American Missionary Dr. James McKean founded the Chiangmai Leper Asylum in 1908. The ruler of Chiang Mai gracefully donated land to establish a place for sufferers of leprosy to live and receive treatment.
Nowadays, McKean is a rehabilitation center for elderly physically disabled people. Many of the buildings and houses date back from around a hundred years ago. The McLanahan Memorial building and the Thaw Chapel are the most outstanding historic buildings, for example. There is hardly any traffic at the McKean Center, making it a popular destination for bicycle tours. We will visit the historic buildings, the small museum and the center where disabled people produce souvenirs.
Unknown to many people is a memorial stone along the Ping River where Reverend Dr. Daniel McGilvary stopped on his boat trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in 1867.
After this, we will bring you back to your hotel.