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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Fifteen


From Ichang, on the way to Hankow, we made a fast run on account of the strong current. On leaving our office to go on board the steamer a big deputation of Chinese accompanied us from the Chamber of Commerce and more fire crackers were set off. From a barge there were so many exploded that the smoke prevented our seeing any distance.

We sailed Thursday at midnight and arrived in Hankow early Saturday morning. While on the way we noticed that the river had risen to near the danger point of overflowing the fields. The country adjoining the river is a great alluvial plain made up of the sediment from this river. The great wonder is, how it is possible for the water to carry for hundreds of miles such a large amount of soil to deposit on the land when it overflows. It is this constant addition of silt that keeps the land so fertile. The river is continually changing its course by cutting new channels and tilling up the old ones, which makes it very crooked and increases the distance between ports. The crops were heavy and the harvest was well advanced. We saw the farmers working to finish the harvesting before the river could overflow the land. After the water falls, in a month or six weeks, they will plant a second crop and get it off before winter comes on.

On arrival at Hankow we went immediately to our hong, which we make our home while in this city, and had breakfast. It is a very comfortable and well furnished house. Had conferences with our business associates during the day, and found our affairs in a satisfactory condition. Sunday morning went to church and ;n the afternoon went across the river to Wuchang, where we were present at the dedication of the Y. M. C. A. building, that I had provided money to erect and furnish, as well as to buy about half the land. It is very well located on one of the principal streets, the land running through from street to street. When the city was looted a few days ago and a good part of it burned, it was fortunate that the soldiers spared this budding. It was said that when they were told it was a Y. M. C. A. building they did not apply the torch, although they did not spare buddings in the immediate vicinity. While the looting was going on, the building and grounds were filled with terror stricken inhabitants, who felt sure of safety from the soldiers in a Y. M. C. A. It is significant that this was the first use the building was put to. At 3:30 p. m. the dedication services commenced. On the platform were representatives of the civil and military authorities of the province accompanied by a very large military band. The audience hall seated 600, all standing room was fully occupied and many were turned away for lack of room.

it was certainly a very representative gathering of the higher class, though not so very long ago it was stated that only the coolie class was interested in Christianity, and now we find the highest in the. land helping the good work along. The late President of China, General Li Yuen Hung, furnished part of the money to buy the first piece of land on which the building stands. And so the cause of Christianity is increasing rapidly in China, not only on the seaboard, but here in this city 800 miles from the ocean, and the geographical center of China. A great many speeches were delivered, all too laudatory of what I was doing. Herewith are some of the newspaper reports of the dedication.

EXTRACT FROM THE CENTRAL. CHINA POST

"Captain Robert Dollar, the venerable, veteran business man of America, and leading lumber merchant of the Pacific Ocean, returning to Hankow from a visit to the Upper Yangtse gorges in Szechuen Province, dedicated yesterday afternoon (June 26, 1921) the new building of the Wuchang Y. M. C. A. in the presence of a representative audience. The donor of the building, Captain Dollar, was the recipient of hearty thanks and appreciation from the audience, and especially from the twelve speakers, none of whom omitted a well deserved remark of thanks and admiration.


Y. M. C. A. BUILDING AT WUCHANG, ERECTED BY ROBERT DOLLAR, 1921

"In opening the ceremony, Mr. Li Wei-ling, Chairman of the Board of Managers of the Wuchang Association, made a brief address welcoming all those present and the donor of the new edifice, Captain Dollar. After the singing of the National Anthem, and offering of prayer, Dr. Z. T. K. Woo, General Superintendent of the Han Yang Iron and Steel Works, speaking in English, officially thanked Captain Dollar for the generous gift to the cause of young men of Wuchang, of the fine, modern, commodious building which all rejoice in having.

"Then the Captain stood up, and in his usual pleasing manner, expressed his gladness at seeing the speedy finishing up of the building. Reminding his hearers that his prime purpose in giving the building is to benefit Chinese young men, making them all around men. Captain Dollar emphatically remarked that he had never made an investment for any purpose unless he knew it to be productive of good. In the case of the Wuchang Y. M. C. A. he expressed foil confidence in leaving it to Chinese management, and publicly thanked for the work done, Dr. Yen Teh-ching, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Wuchang Y. M. C. A. now in America on government service, Mr. A. M. Guttery, and Mr. W. C. Jordan. Touching upon his trip to Szechuen, the Captain forcefully pressed on his audience the tremendous possibilities of the Upper Yangtse Valley, which, lie said, no one in the room could possibly imagine. Next the Captain urged all Chinese to appreciate and make good use of their wonderful heritage. (He especially asked his interpreter to bring this home to his Chinese listeners in clear Chinese.) After expressing his deep regret on seeing the destruction of property in Wuchang, the speaker emphasized 'This must be remedied and changed* and then said, 'a word to the wise is sufficient."

"The other speakers who followed were representatives of the Tuclnin, Civil Governor, and Chief of Finance Bureau, Intendent of the District. Provincial Educational Director, former Magistrate of Wuchang, Mr. Kuug Tze-tsai, a Chinese lawyer in Wuchang, Mr. C. H. I. Kai, Commissioner of Foreign Affairs, Mr. J. C. Huston, American Vice-Consul, Mr. A. E. Marker, Chairman of the British Chamber of Commerce of Hankow, ami I)r. A. A. Oilman, President of Boone University.

"Mr. Huston expressed his admiration of the Christian manhood of Captain Dollar, who is known in America, he said, from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast. He closed by advising all young men to join the Y. M. C. A. Mr. Marker suggested that the best way to express appreciation of Captain Dollar's donation was to support the new work now before the Wuchang Association. Dr. Gihnan, speaking first ;n Chinese and then rendering the same into English, emphasized that the Y. M. C. A. works internationally in its scope, and is the best for constructive efforts to uplift the people in virtue and wisdom."

Suffice it to say that everything went off smoothly. I looked over the building, and found it exceeded my expectations. It is of reinforced concrete and built to stay; as it is fireproof, it should be a good serviceable building fifty years hence. It is well furnished and well adapted in every way for the purposes for which it is intended. The architect and all those connected with the management deserve great credit for producing such a good building for so much less than was expected, as all the money subscribed was not expended, but will be used for future improvements. In addition to the main building there are two dormitories, and there is room for a tennis court which will be installed at once. There is a good w ell on the premises. In digging it they came across old building stones and bricks, and at a depth of 24 feet they found a fairly well preserved brick wall and a lot of crockery, showing this to be a very old city, probably dating back to long before the Christian Era.

This was a walled city dating back so far that there is no record of it. The present wall was repaired and rebuilt more than 200 years ago. Some of the gates look as if they had been built more than 2000 years ago. We know that the gates in the Great Wall were built before the Christian Era and the gates of Wuchang look much older, but the masonry is in as good condition as the day it was built. It is a study to think of the countless millions of people that have passed through those arches during centuries long past.

Turning to something more modern, on the Hankow side of the river we have bought the land on which to build the terminus for our steamers, and have a good hulk, which was once a failing ship, connected to the shore with pontoons which makes a good landing place. It is centrally located in the Russian concession. This in time should develop to be a valuable auxiliary to our shipping interests. Outside of the German concession we own a big piece of land adjoining the railroad, part of which is used for our lumber yard, on which we have built our modern and commodious office building with Jiving quarters for our manager and staff upstairs.


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