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John Mason Ferris

John Mason Ferris was the son of Isaac Ferris, who, as the first secretary of the Reformed Church Board of Foreign Missions, helped modernize education in Japan through sending out missionaries such as Samuel Brown. Mary E. Kidder’s school in Yokohama was named Isaac Ferris Seminary in honor of his efforts.  John Ferris was born on January 17, 1825, in Albany, New York, and first went to New York University as part of the class of 1843.  He then went to study at the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in 1849 and became part of the Dutch Reformed Church, for whom he would preach in Tarrytown.

Although he never visited Japan, John Ferris was closely connected to that country through becoming, like his father, Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Reformed Church between 1865 and 1883.  There, Ferris was able to communicate to missionaries in Japan from America and especially help guide and network Japanese students who wanted to study abroad. In one notable example, he helped Guido Verbeck bring the Yokoi brothers to New Brunswick, where they would be among the first Japanese students in America.  Ferris would then become the editor of the The Christian Intelligencer, an organ of the Reformed Church, from 1883 until his death in 1911.

Compared to people like Griffis, Verbeck, and Brown, Ferris played just as critical a role in modernizing Japanese education through being the anchor in America that eagerly set up Japanese students for success and gave them opportunities for higher education.  Through his efforts, Japanese students had a friend who could be trusted for advice while studying abroad in America.



Beauchamp, Edward R. Foreign Employees in Nineteenth Century Japan. Routledge, 2019.

“Obituary for John Mason Ferris.” The New York Times, 31 Jan. 1911, New York, New York.