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Name: WATSON, Mary 'Minnie', Mrs
Birth Date: 3 June 1867 Dundee
Death Date: 12.2.1949 Dundee
First Date: 1899
Last Date: 1931
Profession: Worked in Scottish mission
Married: In Mombasa 18.12.1899 Thomas C. Watson (1858-1900)
Book Reference: Web, Gazette, KAD, Red 31, Hut, Playne, Drumkey, Medals
Web - Minnie Cummings Watson, the first woman missionary of the East Africa Scottish Mission (EASM), pioneered education work among the Kikuyu people in Kenya and established a system of Christian schools that became the model for primary education in the colony. She was actively involved in the evangelism work of the mission, and was especially instrumental in promoting the education and welfare of Kikuyu girls and women. Minnie Cumming was born in Dundee, Scotland on June 3, 1867, the daughter of William Cumming, a ship captain, and Janet Lawson Cumming.
Little is known of her early life, but people who knew her at the Kikuyu Mission report that she had long expressed a strong desire to be a missionary in Africa, and was delighted to have the opportunity to come to Kenya to become the wife of the Rev. Thomas Watson.
The rail head reached Kikuyu in December 1899, and Thomas Watson took the train to Mombasa to meet the ship bringing Minnie Cumming to Kenya. They were married on Dec. 18, 1899 at the Church Missionary Society (CMS) station at Freretown near Mombasa, and returned to Kikuyu by train.
The scene that greeted the newly wed Mrs. Watson on her arrival in Kikuyu was horrific. There had been heavy locust invasions in 1894-96. A devastating drought had gripped the area since 1897. Rinderpest had wiped out all of the cattle. Hundreds of people were lying all over the area dead or dying of starvation. The same ship that had brought Minnie to Mombasa also brought authority from the mission board to begin famine relief, and the Watsons began a relief camp at Thogoto on January 8, 1900. On the very next day, a smallpox epidemic broke out in the camp. By February 20, 1900, Thomas and Minnie were caring for eighty-one people with smallpox in small tent camps scattered around the mission area and were feeding another 200-300 people daily. Thomas Watson, weakened by his illnesses and exertions in recent years, contracted pneumonia and died on December 4, 1900, just two weeks before he and Minnie would have celebrated their first anniversary. Minnie Watson refused to abandon the work. She stayed at the Kikuyu Mission Station as the only European. Living in the small mud and wattle building that had originally been constructed as a kitchen and store for the manse that was not yet built. Minnie Watson assumed responsibility for running the mission. Under extreme hardship conditions, she continued to carry on the evangelism and teaching programs that she and Thomas had begun.
By 1900, the board of the EASM had come to the realization that they did not have the resources to continue to support the Kikuyu Mission Station on their own. Negotiations were begun to turn the mission and all assets over to the Church of Scotland. Agreement was reached in 1901, and the transfer process was begun. The Church of Scotland immediately sent Dr. D. Clement Ruffelle Scott from the Blantyre Mission in Nyasaland to run the mission. Clement Scott arrived in Kikuyu on December 21, 1901, and took the reigns from Mrs. Watson. Scott's April report to the mission board noted that she was due back wages of 2700 Indian Rupees, the equivalent of about 180 Pounds, for the year that she labored alone.
Minnie Watson continued at the mission as a teacher with a growing number of day students. Mrs. Watson was described by her former students as an outstanding Christian role model, always loving, humble, and patient. They remember Minnie as being very kind, but also very strict. She insisted that students must be able to recite the previous day's lessons perfectly each day. However, she also frequently gave them sweets and small presents and was always there to talk with them when they needed her.
Minnie maintained her reputation as "Lady of the Camps" by organizing camping trips for students. She also frequently took a small tent camp to the villages, where she went from house to house teaching young mothers sewing, knitting, and other domestic skills. She also taught school subjects, evangelized, and tried to convince parents to send their children to the mission schools.
Mrs. Watson was the first director of the church choir, and headed one of the evangelism teams that led meetings in twenty-four nearby villages. The CSM staff found that evening meetings were better attended, and a regular routine for spreading the Gospel was developed. As The Kikuyu Mission pamphlet described them: "Accordingly on Sunday and Thursday evenings the members of the staff, along with the boarders, are divided up into parties, and with lanterns and bugles in their hands they go off to appointed villages within a reasonable radius of the station. A fire is kindled in the centre of the village, and around this gather the villagers, to join in the hymns, and to hear the old, old story."
The first Kikuyu catechist, Filipo Karanja, was baptized by Dr. Scott in 1907 from the doctor's deathbed. Slowly but surely, the people became more open to Christianity and to the influence of the mission. Minnie Watson was one of the most cherished and respected members of the CSM community. She was chosen to lay the cornerstone of the Church of the Torch at Kikuyu in early 1929. Reaching retirement age in late 1931, she returned to Dundee, where she died February 13, 1949. Her ashes were returned to Kikuyu, and she was reunited with her husband on September 25, almost exactly fifty years after their wedding. The inscription on the headstone reads, "Aria marehire utheri wa Ngai Kikuyu" (they brought the light of God to the Kikuyu people).
Gazette - 29/10/1919 - Register of Voters - Kikuyu - Minnie Watson - Missionary, Church of Scotland Mission, Kikuyu
Medals - East African Nursing Service - Margaret Watson, Honorary Nurse ?
Playne has Mrs Watson (arrived 1899) at CSM Kikuyu
Barnes - Church of the Torch,, Kikuyu Cemetery - Kirikano kia atigairi Thomas ne Minnie Watson aria marehire utheri wa ngai kikuyu Thomas Watson askomire 4th Dec 1900 Minnie Watson aakomire 12th Feb 1949 gukenya ni aria - In memory of T & M Watson who brought the light and knowledge of God to the Kikuyu TW laid to rest 4th Dec 1900 MW laid to rest 12 Feb 1949 happy are those who die in the Lord
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