The Legacy of Henry G. Appenzeller ... Missionary from First Church to Korea

Henry was born in Souderton, PA, 1858. After graduation from high school he studied at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, PA, graduating in 1882. He attended First Church and became a member in April, 1879. While still in college he served as assistant pastor at First Church where he met and fell in love with Miss Ella Dodge, a member of the congregation. They were married on December 17, 1884. Having felt the call to ordained ministry Henry attended Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, NJ and graduated in 1885. Henry felt sure that God was urging him to the mission field. Working with the Board of Foreign Missions of the Methodist Episcopal Church he accepted an assignment to Korea. Ella was a devout Christian and became an eager partner in the common call to cross the sea to serve Christ. Following ordination in February 1885, they set sail for Korea, landing there on Easter Sunday, April 5, 1885. Their first child, Alice, was born in Korea on November 9, 1885. She was thought to be the first white child born in Korea. Her blue eyes and blond hair were an oddity to Koreans who came to love her.

Henry began working on the missionary compound upon their arrival and soon after founded Pai Chai Hakdang Boys School, translated, “Hall for Rearing Useful Men,” which ultimately became Pai Chai University in Daejeon, Korea (left, campus monument). Today the university has more than 14,000 students with five colleges and a graduate school. Henry also founded the Chung Dong First Methodist Church in Seoul (below, right) and served as its pastor from 1887 until his death in 1902. This Methodist Church continues its ministry today in a much larger building attached to the structure Appenzeller built in the 1890s with an impressive range of programs and ministries and a congregation of more than 5,000 persons. Henry was also a leader in translating the Bible and other literature into Korean.

Henry Gerhart Appenzeller lost his life in 1902 at age forty-four when the Japanese ship on which he was a passenger sank after colliding with another vessel. He was drowned while helping a young female passenger. It was shocking news for Ella who at the time was living in Lancaster where their four children were receiving their education. Henry ‘s body was never recovered. A cenotaph in his honor was erected at the Yanghwajin Foreigners’ Cemetery, Seoul, South Korea.

The Legacy of Alice R. Appenzeller ... Missionary from First Church to Korea

Alice was the first child of Ella and Henry. She was born on November 9, 1885 in Korea. She had three siblings, Henry, Ida, and Mary. Alice was sixteen when her father died. Ella and the children had returned to Lancaster where they were being educated. Alice completed high school and graduated from Wellesley College in 1909. She taught school in Lancaster until 1914 and in 1915 was commissioned a missionary teacher by the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and assigned to Ewha Kindergarten School where she taught. While she was on furlough in the USA in 1921 she earned a Master’s degree in education and later went back to Korea to continue working with young girls in high school and then young women at Ewha College.

From these primitive beginnings, begun in 1886, Ewha Woman’s University became a reality and was the primary focus of Alice’s ministry. She was the university’s second president from 1922 until 1939.  She stepped aside when Dr. Helen Kim, an Ewha alumna, assumed the presidency. Dr. Kim was the first Korean to secure the position and was a celebrated international educator and leader. Today, Ewha is perhaps the largest women’s university in the world.

Alice was committed to helping women obtain an education with a democratic and Christian perspective. Her whole life was given to the task her father and mother had begun – making Jesus Christ a living reality in Korea. A group of First Church Lancaster women organized an Alice Appenzeller Circle and helped to support her work for many years.          


Alice Appenzeller was much loved and known for her warm personality and generosity. She received numerous honors during her lifetime. Leading worship in the Ewha chapel on the evening of February 20, 1950 she suffered afatal cerebral hemorrhage. Her death was the occasion for national mourning.

For many years thereafter First Church has observed “Appenzeller Sunday” to remember the ministry of the Appenzeller family. The most recent building renovation included a chapel which was dedicated to the memory of the Appenzellers. The rapid growth of Christian churches in Korea is attributed to early missionaries like the Appenzellers who took their ministry to Korea in the 19th century and beyond.