Passing of Johan Alfred Rinell

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In June Johan Alfred was not feeling well at all, and so entered Faber Krankenhaus (Faber Hospital) in Tsingtao.

He was in Faber Krankenhaus on the second floor and first room on the left. The doctor diagnosed that his heart was bad, and he had pneumonia. He sounded like a coffee peculator with his breathing. He was not exactly thinking clearly. The Swedish Baptist Conference was in progress in Stockholm. In his physical and mental state Johan Alfred thought he was in Sweden and at the conference. While in his bed Johan Alfred gave a long sermon to the attendees of the conference. His son, sitting my his bedside, wrote down the sermon. The rest of the family was at the family summer house in Iltis Huk.

Johan Alfred Rinell passed away in Thursday, July 3, 1941, at seventy-five years of age at Faber Krankenhaus.of congestive heart failure. He had been in the hospital about one month. His body was carried to the morgue, just a minute or two walk from his hospital bed, and put with ice blocks in a tub to keep the body cool. Eventually his body was surrounded by flowers, all gladiolus.

Word reached everyone at Iltis Huk. A feeling of emptiness and depression settled in.


Grave of
Johan Alfred Rinell
Tsingtao, China

Many people from many nations came to his funeral two days later at the International Cemetery in Tsingtao.2 J. E. Lindberg, Johan Alfred's old schoolmate and co-worker for some fifty years conducted the service. A large number of flower wreaths adorned the grave site. In the Baptist church in Kiaohsien (Jiaozhou) about one hundred scrolls and banners from Johan Alfred's many Christian and non-Christian Chinese friends hung in the church. Members of various church organizations, gave speeches and others spoke about the loss of their friend. After the funeral in Tsingtao, the church in Kiaohsien held a memorial service. The many Christians and non-Christians present to honor the "old Pastor" impressed everyone present.

It was fitting that the funeral be held in Tsingtao. In the early days the rural surroundings of what was then a fishing village was a enjoyable hunting ground and summer resort. He saw the city grow into a modern city. He planned to spend his retirement in Tsingtao. He was laid to rest near the graves of other famous people of Tsingtao, among them being Dr. Faber after whom the hospital was named, and Dr. Voskampage

He witnessed many exciting changes in China. The year he and his wife arrived the in China the Sino-Japanese war broke out they, along with other missionaries fled for their lives. Chinese troops mistaking the party for the enemy opened fire on them.3a They were rescued by an American gunboat off the coast of China.

During the Boxer Uprising in 1900 when many missionaries were killed he and his family fled again to Tsingtao. While taking refuge in the German Custom house at Mato, the building was set on fire. While on a trip to Chefoo by bicycle, bandits destroyed his bicycle and he walked the rest of the four hundred kilometers. Perhaps the most impressive monuments to his life was the founding and growth the church Kiaohsien, and local Christian churches in the district of Kiaohsien.

For many years he was Chairman of the the Swedish Baptist Mission in the southeast section of the province of Shantung. Many years before the Chinese government accepted Western educational ideals, he established schools for the teaching of Chinese children of any class, rich or poor, male or female. He founded the post office in Kiaohsien and was in charge of it for some time. He was often involved in relief work at the request of the local Chinese government during many years of war, famine and banditry. In later years, to be more efficient with his time, he learned how to drive a motorcycle, and later when he was close to seventy years of age, an automobile during a time when most roads were built for donkey and cart.

An interest in the life and culture of the people of China, Johan Alfred contributed his valuable ethnographical collection to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.3 He authored five books in Swedish and a large number of articles for various periodicals.

Johan Alfred's spent most of his life in China. He came to be known to his Chinese friends and the Chinese congregations as "The Old Pastor." During almost fifty years in China, he had only three furloughs back to his homeland of Sweden. It may be said that his adopted land of China became his homeland.4

Not long after his death the Chinese erected a memorial stone to Johan Alfred. The translation of the Chinese text is:

A Memorial Headstone for Rev. J. A. Rinell Pastor

Rev. J. A. Rinell, a Swede from Europe, preached in China from 1894. In September he came to Jiaozhou [Kiaohsien] from Dengzhou and set up a Christian church in the southwest. He educated and led many Christians for many decades. He got to know China well and the Jiaozhou natives accepted him. They loved him and respected him. They even forgot he was a foreigner. Rev. J. A. Rinell contributed to the local charity. In 1897, he went to Qingdao [Tsingtao]. In 1914, Jiaozhou was flooded. What a terrible sight! The great pastor felt sorry for the people. He gave away food and clothing. He treated them. In 1918 he set up Rui Hua Hospital, and then Rui Hua Primary School in 1900, and Ruihua Middle School in 1910. He also operated the post office and made great contributions to communications in Jiaozhou [K. Rev. J. A. Rinell] paid much attention to literature and history. He wrote many books. Unfortunately, he died on July 5, 1941, in Qingdao. In memory of him, we set up this memorial headstone to show our love and respect for him.

The memorial headstone was erected in October by all the classes of Jiaozhou.

[Translated by Xu Yanni, English teacher at Jiaozhou #1 Middle School, Jiaozhou]

Slap in the Face - Circa 1941

One day Johnny and a friend named Arne Bergman, and Robert Bloomdahl went to the train station in Kiaohsien to watch the train coming in, just for something to do. The Japanese army transported trucks and artillery on trains. This plus the occasional passenger train were fun to watch roll by.The station was a very simple building comprising one big room. The ticket counters were on the left as you walked in, and to the right of the ticket counter the door to go out to tracks and the two roofless platforms.5

The boys walked into the station, where Japanese soldiers were standing, which was not unusual for Japanese soldiers seemed to be everywhere. A Japanese officer among the group suddenly walked up to Arne Bergman and slapped him across the face for no reason. Arnesson did nothing in response, for he could do nothing. They all left the station immediately.6


Roy and Margaret Jewett moved to Hawaii in 1940.

After one or two residences they moved into a new, spacious and beautifully furnished house with a superb 'commanding' view. At the edge of the property was the ocean with a '300 foot pier, a sailboat, two rowboats, good fishing, good swimming for those who can desist from playing footie with the crawling sea life at the ocean's bottom, bananas and papayas galore, a nice lily pond and garden, a ping pong table, an excellent grill on on of the porches, and a fireplace indoors.' They lucked out in finding the place. The landlady simply liked the looks of them, cutting the rent in half to meet their price. During their year or so at this 'rich man's Paradise' they put on parties, enjoyed informal grilled steak dinners with friends, and entertained Roy's friends who one would guess were friends from work. Though trained as a nurse, it does not appear Margaret was practicing nursing at the time. Perhaps she could not because of licensing requirements. To pass her time she took classes in the art of Chinese cooking from Mrs. Sia who had been a neighbor in Peking, touched the art of Japanese flower arrangement, tried out block printing, and volunteered at the Red Cross. Their life and daily routine changed dramatically, however, on December 7, 1941. From their home that Sunday morning they could see planes in the sky above. The experience is best told by Margaret.58

The planes seen cavorting through the skies seemed to us to be in the throes of a magnificent 'mock' battle, and when smoke walled up; marking "What and effective smoke screen, e what?"Then gradually the horrible truth began to dawn on us that the vibration of exploding bombs which rattle the windows of our house and the rat-tat-tat of machine guns was REAL. WAR? IMMPOSIBLE! Slowly I began to feel that nervous sinking sensation settling in the pit of my stomach.

In the thick of all this, a young bride of 20, and my nearest neighbor (whose sailor-husband had just answered the emergency call to duty) came to our home. She was obviously disturbed and on the verge of tears. That sort of brought me to for a moment as I put forth my most-composed-front to pooh-pooh the dangers involved; why the Japs didn't have a ghost of a chance; wasn't this the Gibraltar-of-the-Pacific . . . said I boastfully. Then something stopped me DEAD and deflated me like a blowout in a tire RAT-TAT-TAT distinctly on OUR ROOF over the bedrooms - and YE GODS Roy upstairs open porch taking in the aerial show! Somehow or other I steered my shaking knees up the stairs - and guess what? There he stood - unharmed - still gaping through his binoculars at the enemy's planes! My relief immediately turned to anger as I rather incoherently shouted to him to stop being smart, acting as a target for the enemy. All this didn't make sense to him at all as the motors of the planes overhead had completely drowned out the noise of the machine gun firing. But when he viewed the evidence of shingles he was pretty happy that their aim fell wide of the mark. And don't think I wasn't!

Upon collecting ourselves after the first scare, we immediately donned our clothes and reported to the nearest base. I was assigned to the main dressing room. It was pretty awful! During the next three days and nights we remained at the post[,] sleeping at one of the officer's homes and filling our days with much work. The blacked-out nights were squeamish beyond description; if someone saw a star shinning unusually bright it was suggested that it might be a flare; if a sentry outside your window discharge his gun in a state of nerves, you would imagine he was blasting a landing party of Japs into eternity; or if you happened to be tuned into the police calls or a Mainland radios station, you were convinced by morning the Japanese parachutists and troops would have complete control of the Island! Were we jittery!

Marshall Law was declared after which everything fell into a regular if not a dull pattern. Lights were doused from 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM. No one was permitted on the streets at night except for the defense workers going to or from work and home. No street lights were lit. If one gave a dinner party one must also be prepared to put up the guests for the night. Therefore, practically no one entertained. Dancing at hotels and night clubs stopped. Movie theaters opened at 10:00 AM and closed at 5:00 PM. No liquor was on sale, not even a glass of beer. Gasoline was rationed though there was no shortage. Cars remained in the garages, and most everyone took a bus or walked. Food was plentiful and not rationed though some tried to profiteer on some items of food. Margaret mentioned the some places were asking the exorbitant price of 25 cents for two pounds of Irish potatoes. Profiteering was curbed by pegging prices on some foods. Gas masks were distributed to everyone. "They are horrible things," Margaret writes, "I do hope we won't ever have to use them." Shortly the government was to provide to everyone, so Margaret heard, helmets. Not only were people worried about attack from the outside, but also from within. Of the total Oahu island population of 423,000, about 158,000 were Japanese and about 37,000 of these alien Japanese. [Check figures]. "A nice little army in itself," Margaret writes, and no doubt many others thought the same. Japanese radio programs were taken off the air.

After nearly two months since the Japanese attack the army and navy remained very much on the alert, which Margaret felt she should not write further about. Many had built air raid shelters though Roy and Margaret had not. Many of their friends had returned to the mainland, and many others were planning to do so. If the Japanese were to attack Hawaii again, it was best to be elsewhere. Federal projects were running seven days a week. Most people it seemed were working on a defense job including women and older people. Roy was overwhelmed with work, supervising three jobs, which was a big strain on him. Margaret was no longer needed for her nursing skills, but was on the Reserve List should any emergency arise. Though life now had its inconveniences it was not all bad, however. "Life has become very simple and unpretentious for us all. The change is definitely GOOD for us." Margaret was actually content to stay where they were. "As for me," Margaret writes, "I am perfectly happy here, come what may."

Public schools were opening again after seven weeks vacation.

House Arrest

Earlier when the Japanese first entered China Charles and Macy decided to stay on in China. The Japanese had never mistreated them or done anything to them. Charles felt he could work under them. This all changed.


Lally Rinell
Janet and Georgie Reinbrecht
Dollan Rinell, Johnny Rinell


Early on December 8, 1941 the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese, Charles and Macy Reinbrecht and their children Janet, Chuck and Georgie were put under house arrest at their mission compound in Kiaohsien on the other side of town from the Rinell family. 70 Guards were posted at their walled compound gate. "Luckily we lived behind a wall, so we could play outside. BUT . . . we were not allowed to go outside the gate and luckily Chinese cook and friends would bring us things." Georgie says. 75 Though they were under house arrest their friends, the Rinell family, tried to communicate with them when they could. "[The] Rinells came over and we yelled back and forth from [the] upstairs window so we could see them. But not often because there were Japanese guards at the gate . . . .76 Some Japanese guards did not mind if the Rinell family and the Reinbrecht family yelled back and forth to each other it if was not very long. Other guards would not allow it. To be on the safe side they would not ask direct questions, such as "How are they treating you?" but rather innocuous questions like "What did you have for breakfast?" 79 The Rinells did manage to communicate some news of the world to the house internees.

Japanese soldiers themselves now and then came to the compound and entered the Reinbrecht's home. It seemed they liked visiting, and for good reason. The soldiers were often served warm milk with sugar cubes. And, no doubt, the soldiers were also interested in seeing the inside of an American family's home. Some soldiers were nice and polite, and some rude and unpleasant.

One day in February the Japanese ordered them to leave their Lutheran compound in Kiaohsien and travel to Tsingtao, supposedly to board a ship. They took took the family by train to Tsingtao where they were housed with other families in the home of another missionaries. The home was crowded with families from Tsingtao, Kiaohsien and Tsimo. In this house of four bedrooms were about eight adults and nine children. They waited expectedly for the ship, but the ship never came. Why this was they never found out.

After the Reinbrechts left the Lutheran compound everything was badly damaged by the Japanese. The house itself was torn apart including the woodwork in the doors and windows. The trees were cut down for firewood and the "Catholic cows" let out on the compound's lawns to feed on the grass. The German Lutheran, Frieda Strecker, was allowed to continue living at the compound. After all she was German and Germany was an ally of the Japanese. She was very much loved by the members of the Lutheran Church. One of the members later built a one-room house in his small yard for her to live in when the others had gone.

After some time they were all ordered to pack their suitcases and bring them outside, which they did, placing them on the grass. Soldiers ordered the missionaries and their families to open their suitcases, and then they checked them all, confiscating whatever they said the missionaries could not take.77 Then the missionaries, and other aliens were all trucked to a small hotel in Iltis Huk called Iltis Hydro Hotel .About two hundred people were forced in the hotel including the the Cook family. They settled in the rear of the hotel. Later Joyce Cooke remembered the Reinbrecht family including Georgie and her sister Janet.One day at breakfast they witnessed Japanese soldiers tormenting a beggar boy who they tied to a tree with a dog chain and color and stuffed his mouth with orange peels.

Joyce and her family were waited on by Chinese servants who served them meals, and their Russian friends, Katie Maevsky and family occasionally brought over Russian delicacies which they gave to the Cooke family at the large green gate at the front of the hotel.

Soon this collection of people organized themselves as a little community. The children were taught school subjects by some of the adults, and others made the meals from food brought into the hotel.

Eventually the Japanese told them they were to leave the hotel, and were given an hour to pack their bags. They all climbed aboard trucks, along with their suitcases, and put on a train to Weihsien. The Cook family at least was not told where they were going or how long it would take to get there. On the train the made themselves as comfortable as possible. The Cooke family sat on tatami mats of the floor of the train during their trip to Weihsien.96

The group from the hotel were perhaps among the first to get to Weihsien. Weihsien was a mess.

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2. Cemetery was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The exact location of John's grave is no longer known.

3. Swedish name: Vetenskapsakademien. On September 8, 2007 emailed Maria Asp Romefors, archivist, at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to ask if she has any record of John Alfred Rinell or who I could ask.

3a. Verify they were fired upon.

4. Most of this information of Johan Alfred Rinell taken from Shantung Daily News, July 8, 1941. See also article by Rudex (pen name for Oscar Henry Rinell) in the Chinese Recorder, September, 1941, page 506.

5. In 1982 when John Rinell visited again the station was just the same.

6. Interview John Rinell, September 2004, San Louis Obispo, CA

  • Read This
  • Acknowledgements
  • Background
  • Forward
  • (1866-88) Beginnings
  • (1888-90) Bethel Seminary
  • (1891) Johan & Hedvig Engaged
  • (1892) God's Prophet
  • (1893) Out to this Far Off Land
  • (1894) Sailing to China
  • (1895) Escape to Chefoo
  • (1896) A New Home
  • (1897) Germans Take Tsingtao and Kiaochow
  • (1898) Margaret Born
  • (1899) Twins Born in Sweden
  • (1900) Boxer Rebellion
  • (1901) Oscar's Childhood
  • (1902) Oscar to Boarding School
  • (1903) Girl's School Begins
  • (1904) Lindberg Children off to Boarding School
  • (1905) First Baptism Chucheng
  • (1906) Furlough in Sweden
  • (1907) Edith to Boarding School
  • (1908) Another Missionary
  • (1909) Church in Wangtai
  • (1910) First Clinic in Kiaochow
  • (1911) Egron Travels to Sweden
  • (1912) Oscar Leaves Boarding School
  • (1913) Church Consecrated in Kiaochow
  • (1914) Oscar Attends Seminary
  • (1915) Journey Overland
  • (1916) Girls School in Chucheng
  • (1917) Edith Graduates
  • (1918) Conscientious Objector
  • (1919) Sisters to America
  • (1920) Oscar Meets Hellen
  • (1921) Oscar & Hellen Engaged
  • (1922) Hellen Graduates
  • (1923) Oscar & Hellen Marry
  • (1924) Hunting Rabbits
  • (1925) A Son is Born
  • (1926) Meeting of Dr. Sun Yat-sen?
  • (1927) Margaret & Roy Jewett Married
  • (1928) Fighting in Kiaochow
  • (1929) Peace Again in Kiaochow
  • (1930) Fighting Near Kiaochow
  • (1931) Oscar Leaves Göteborg University
  • (1932) Poppies and War in Shantung
  • (1933) First Chinese Pastor Steps Down
  • (1934) Sports, Severed Heads & a Mission Conference
  • (1935) Successful Mission Schools
  • (1936) Sacred Aspen
  • (1937) Travels to America and Sweden
  • (1938) Japanese Take Tsingtao
  • (1939) Sharks Attack Officer
  • (1940) New Pastors for Chinese Churches
  • (1941) Passing of Johan Alfred
  • (1942) Blomdahl Shot
  • (1943) Piano Lessons
  • (1944) Lally & Dollan Baptized
  • (1945) Peace & War
  • (1946) Liberation
  • (1947) Communists Attack Kiaohsien
  • (1948) Dollan Emigrates to America
  • (1949) Hedvig Leaves China
  • (1950) Hellen Leaves China
  • (1951) Last One Out
  • (1952) Sweden Again
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Named Persons
  • Place Names
  • Organizations
  • Addresses
  • Audio & Visual Recordings
  • International Cemetery
  • Passenger Lists

  • Foreign Devils: A Swedish Family in China 1894 to 1951
    © 2012-14 Lennart Holmquist
    Lorum • Ipsum• Dolor • Sic Amet • Consectetur
    Updated: 10-Feb-2017