Missionary Pioneering


Mr Charles Wilson's Work in South America


Otago Daily Times

Issue Date

13 January 1905


Julius Vogel & William Cutten






Missionary work among heathen people is carried on in many parts of the world, and the accounts of its progress are always interesting. Six years ago the Australasian South American Mission, an undenominational body, was formed in Melbourne, and the first missionaries sent out by it were Mr and Mrs G. Allen (of the Taieri), Mr Ernest Heycock (son of Mr A.H. Heycock, of this city), and Mr Chas. T.W. Wilson (also of Dunedin). Of this quartet, Mr Wilson, who is a native of Dunedin, has returned on furlough, after five years' work among the Indians of the Argentine Republic and Bolivia. A representative of the Times called upon Mr Wilson at his residence in Forth street on Wednesday morning, and learning from him some details of the work in which he has engaged and something of the customs of the people among whom he has laboured.

The first year of our work, said Mr Wilson, was spent in Buenos Ayres, where we studied the Spanish language preparatory to setting out to carry the Gospel to the Quechua Indians in Bolivia, descendants of the old Incas. I then went to Cordoba, 600 miles to the north-west. In order to obtain a better mastery of the language I made the journey with Mr Rufus Garrett, a missionary from the United States. We travelled on mules. Bibles had been sent on ahead of us to the different stations. That journey occupied five months, during which time we visited many homes in the interior. The people are simple and hospitable, speaking the Spanish language, and we found that our services were very much appreciated by them. We sold over 1000 copies of the Scriptures and gave away thousands of tracts. Many of the homes had never before been entered by Protestant missionaries, and some of the people had never before heard the Bible read.

No, travelling does not involve much danger. Of course, we had to pass through forests and desert places, and to cross rivers. The savage puma still abounds in some quarters, but it will not attack a grown-up person. We saw some young pumas in the forests. We slept mostly in the open, having rugs to cover us, and using our saddles as pillows, as the weather was warm; but sometimes we used a tent. Of course, we had to take provisions with us into the far-back regions. Sometimes the people could not afford to pay for the bibles, and we would then accept eggs or other edibles that augmented our stock of food. It was our intention to go into Bolivia on this trip, but I caught the chu-chu (fever), and we returned to Buenos Ayres. There I was engaged for two years in tent work, and formed a little church in Quilmes.

Then I mad a second trip northwards. I was accompanied by Mr G. Allen and Senor Guerrero, an Argentine native. Before finally setting out we had to buy mules at Tacuman-three riding mules and two pack mules. It is a very exciting, not to say exhilarating, task to buy mules. Some of them are wild, and it is a common occurrence to get thrown off while trying them. I was thrown once myself when testing a mule I wished to buy. A good animal costs £10. On this trip we sold 2000 copies of the Scriptures, and met with some very interesting cases with whom we had left precious volumes on our previous visit. This trip, which occupied four months, was rougher than our first one. It was over mountainous country, and the rivers were more frequent. In addition to the Quechua we met several other tribes of Indians, among them being the Tobas and the Matacos (semi-civilised), who cannot read, and have no missionaries among them. On arrival at La Paz, which is the capital of Bolivia, we sold our mules. Mr Allan returned to the Argentine, and brought up his wife and two children. He recognises the urgent need of his presence in Bolivia, and is now settled in Cochabamba, four day's journey from La Paz by stage-coach, which is one of the chief means of travelling in the country. He is studying the Quechua language; as also is his wife, with a view to giving further instruction to the Indians. Senor Guerrero went on to Peru, and is now working among the Quechua Indians there. After staying 12 months in Bolivia, and studying the language and doing work among the Spanish-speaking people, I left to come to New Zealand on furlough. There is no direct communication between South America and New Zealand, and for taht reason I had first to go to London, and there take a steamer for the colony. Some of the Home-going steamers call at Monte Video, so that one may reach South America in three weeks from New Zealand, but it takes nine weekds to come from South America to New Zealand.

I hope to return to South America when my furlough is ended. I had several attacks of fever, and before leaving my condition was very low indeed. I have brought back with me a number of lantern slides showing the class of people and the scenery of the country, and I hope to exhibit these at lectures here and there in New Zealand. In conjunction with Mr W. Payne I have written a book called “Missionary Pioneering in Bolivia,” which contains a very full and interesting account of all the customs and modes of life of the people I have met. Mr Payne, I may mention, is a missionary from England. He is the gentleman who was mobbed Cochabamba. Some 2000 fanatical Indians broke into his house, determined to secure him to burn him, but failing in this they took his furniture out and made a bonfire of it. A regiment of native soldiers arrived just in time to rescue Mr Payne from the attacking party.

Bolivia was a wonderful place before the Spanish conquest; the civilisation of the people was remarkable. The people we find there today are very docile, and show their gratitude for anything done for them. Both men and women, who wear their hair handing down the back, take off their hats to us. The people are for the most part agriculturalists and miners. Many of them live in huts on their little farms, growing enough to live on. They take life easily. We have been very much encouraged in our work and have seen much blessing. There is great need of missionaries to preach the pure Gospel of the Saviour among the various Indian tribes. Many of these people are more drunken an immoral now than they were under the mild rule of the Incas, and a third of the year they spend in drunken feasts.

Mr Ernest Heycock has been engaged in missionary work in Buenos Ayres all the time. He has a splendid knowledge of the Spanish language.

Mr Wilson is to be welcomed of the Australasian South American Mission to be held in the Choral Hall to-night.





Date Known

22 April 1899

The Australasian South American Mission is formed, in Melbourne, Australia and sends out its first missionaries: George Allan, Mary Ann Smail Stirling, Ernest Heycock and Charles T.W. Wilson, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sources: 4


George Allan, Charles T.W. Wilson and Senor Guerrero spend 4 months exploring mountinous country between San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina and La Paz, Bolivia on mules, selling copies of the Scriptures on behalf of the Australasian South American Mission as they travelled. Sources: 1


George Allan and Mary Ann Smail Stirling, with their children Amelia and Joseph, move from Argentina to Cochabamba, Bolivia in order to carry out missionary work for Australasian South American Mission among Quechua people. Sources: 1