Born near Monongahela, Pennsylvania, Happer graduated from Jefferson College, Canonsburg, in 1835 and taught school for five years. Prior to going overseas, he studied theology at Western Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh (1840-1843), and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (1843-1844). In 1844 he sailed for China and settled near Canton. In 1847 he married Elizabeth Ball (c. 1864), with whom he had five children. He subsequently married A. L Elliott (d. 1873) in 1869 and Hannah J. Shaw in 1875.
Happer’s evangelistic work grew slowly, but his medical and educational work flourished. Within ten years he established two dispensaries which annually treated 10,000 patients. In 1854 he turned over the medical work to Dr. John G. Ken, who developed the practice into a major medical center. Happer then devoted himself to education. During the 1850s he founded several day-schools and a training school for pastors and teachers. He served on the China-wide committee to revise the Chinese Bible, chaired the editorial committee of the Presbyterian Press at Shanghai, and served as editor of the Chinese Recorder (1880-1884). In 1862 he also organized the first Presbyterian Church in Canton, where he served as pastor. Happer’s educational work culminated in 1886, when he founded Canton Christian College, now Lingnan University. He left China in 1891 and returned to the United States where he died in Wooster, Ohio.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- A. P. Happer, The State of Religion in China (1881) and Influence of the College in the Civilization of the World (1985). Loren W. Crabtree, “Andrew P. Happer and Presbyterian Missions in China, 1844-1891,” Journal of Presbyterian History 62 (1984): 19-34; Henry V. Noyes, “In Memoriam: Rev. A. P. Happer, M.D., D.D., L.L.D.,” Chinese Recorder 26 (January 1895): 31.