Dr. R. W. Large – Medical Missionary in Steveston

The Japanese Methodist Mission was established in Steveston in 1896 to serve the needs of the Japanese fishermen of the area, offering spiritual and moral guidance as well as providing medical assistance when needed. A small building was erected on the property of the Phoenix Cannery to house the mission.

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The Methodist Japanese Mission in Steveston, ca. 1898, with several early missionaries posing on the stairs. Rev. Thomas Crosby is at top right, (with beard), Dr. R.W. Large directly in front of him. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 8)


Almost as soon as it was ready, an outbreak of typhoid fever made it necessary to use the building as a hospital. The hospital operated for two years with the help of volunteer Japanese nurses.

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The Methodist Japanese Mission set up as a hospital ward. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 3)

In 1898 the Canadian Methodist Church hired Dr. Richard Whitfield Large ( 1874 – 1920 ) to work at the mission during the fishing season.

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Rev. R.W. Large, MD. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 1)

Dr. Large was the son of a Methodist Minister in Ontario and graduated from Trinity Medical College in Toronto.  The photographs shown in this post were taken during his two seasons in Steveston and offer a view into the primitive conditions encountered by doctors serving the small communities on the coast of British Columbia. They were donated to the Archives by a member of his family.

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Dr. and Mrs. Large in the Doctor’s office in Steveston. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 6)

Dr. Large married Bella Geddes in 1899 and she assisted him during that season in Steveston. The next year he was appointed to take charge of the Mission in Bella Bella and worked there until 1910 when he transferred to the Mission Hospital in Port Simpson. The R.W. Large Memorial Hospital in Bella Bella was named in his memory after his death in 1920.

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Dr. Large performs the first operation in Steveston. Mrs. Large assists as the anaesthetist. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 3 7)

In 1900, the Japanese Fisherman’s Hospital took over the medical needs of the Japanese community in Steveston and operated until 1942 when the internment of Japanese-Canadians took place.

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The Steveston Japanese Hospital took over the medical needs of the Japanese community starting in 1900. Image ca. 1920. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 1978 14 10)