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Early Riser - 1844

Samuel Robbins Brown, missionary to Japan.


Samuel Robbins Brown worked his way through college, waiting tables, singing on the side, and teaching music. He graduated debt-free with $50 extra in his pocket. After teaching school in the United States, he sailed with his wife, Elizabeth, to China where he taught Chinese students and made translations into their language. During a return to America necessitated by Elizabeth’s health, he resuscitated a dying church in New York and established Elmira College, the first chartered women’s college in America. Later he was a founder of the Dutch Reformed Church in Japan, where he helped translate the Bible into Japanese and took some of the first photographs of the Japanese. He wasn’t all work and grind, however. In a letter to his sister Fanny, from Victoria, Hong Kong, on this day, March 29, 1844, while describing his home and the routine he had established for his pupils, he made merry of his “habit” of rising many hours before her.


“We rise betimes in the morning, that is, at the time we get up. I dare not mention the hour, lest you should think us late risers, though I can assure you we are not a whit behind you in that respect, for we can boast of rising at least twelve hours earlier than our folks do at home. President Day and the faculty used to say that, if a man was up the proper time in the morning through his college years, he would acquire the habit and it would not easily forsake him. Perhaps this may account for my habitual early rising. If not, I don’t know how to explain it.

“Before breakfast the boys (twenty-eight are now here) go to the schoolroom. At half-past seven they come into the dining room to family worship, when all the older boys read with us….After reading we sing and eight o'clock comes breakfast, a light meal. At nine the boys, who have likewise breakfasted, re-kneel before the Lord our Maker. Then all turn to the schoolroom, and their English studies commence.”


Griffis, William Elliot. A Maker of the New Orient: Samuel Robbins Brown. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1902.

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