"Old China Hands in Greensboro - Parts 1 & 2"

The Greensboro Historical Society's 2016 & 2017 Summer Panel Presentations and 2017 Exhibit

The Greensboro Historical Society’s 2017 summer exhibit featured four Greensboro families whose ancestors were American citizens who traveled to China in the 1800s and whose succeeding generations were born, grew up and lived in China into the 1940s and left China during the turmoil created by the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s. The focus of the exhibit was the connection that drew these families together both in China and then later as summer and year-round residents in Greensboro. The Old China Hands in Greensboro exhibit showed – through photographs, film, documents, artifacts and a map and timeline – what took the Winston/Hale, Corbett, Houghton/ Freeman and Allman families to China, how they lived, where they worked, and how world events shaped their lives. The “Old China Hands in Greensboro” exhibit provided an opportunity for residents and visitors of Greensboro and surrounding areas to learn about the lives of families from the community and a slice of what life was like for them in China. The GHS would like to thank the Freeman Foundation for sponsoring the exhibit.

Left to right: Moderator: Allen Davis, Panelists: Graeme Freeman; June Bascom; Neal Burnham; Eliza Burnham; Richard Allman, Tony Irwin

On Monday night, August 8, Fellowship Hall was transported to China between the World Wars, to the lives of the Greensboro Old China Hands who lived and worked there. Four Greensboro families with connections to the China of that era were represented: Winston-Hale-Bascom; Corbett-Irwin; Houghton-Freeman; and Allman-Burnham. Over ninety Greensboro Historical Society members and guests attended. One of the two surviving China Hands, Margaret Hale Bascom, was honored as the “Matriarch of the China Hands”.

Fellowship Hall was converted to the China of that time by Michael Hoffman who projected photos of the families on large screens in the hall – with the effect of transporting us all to their houses, clubs, households and businesses, mostly in Shanghai and some in retreats in the mountains and seashore north of Bejing.

Three of the families, Hale, Freeman and Allman worked for the insurance company that is known today as American International Group (AIG). All the families had to eventually leave China when the Japanese invaded. Some were interned in Japanese camps. The fourth family, the Corbetts (Harriet Irwin), had been in China since the 1860’s, the descendants of a missionary. They all knew each other in Shanghai. The families came to Greensboro at different times and renewed their friendships here. The families worked together to curate the GHS Exhibit about their families for the summer of 2017.


"Old China Hands in Greensboro - Part 2: Life Stories."

The Greensboro Historical Society's 2016 & 2017 Summer Panel Presentation

Descendants of the Hales, Allmans and Corbetts shared stories of their families uncommon lives growing up in China. June Bascom spoke about the experiences of her mother, Margaret (Hale) Bascom, her mother’s family, parents William and Elizabeth (Winston) Hale and brothers Ted and Rich, and their imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp in Shanghai. Eliza Burnham spoke about the experience of her grandfather, Norwood Allman, as a Consular Officer, Assessor on the International Mixed Court and a lawyer in Shanghai. Tony Irwin spoke about the multigenerational experiences of his family; great grandfather Hunter Corbett, a Presbyterian missionary in northern China, and grandfather Ross Corbett and mother Harriett (Corbett) Irwin both born and brought up in China. This panel presentation provided further insight into the families featured in the Greensboro Historical Society's "Old China Hands in Greensboro"-summer 2017 exhibit.