Rev James Richards

Rev James Richards

Abington, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 3 Aug 1822 (aged 38)
Tellippalai, Northern, Sri Lanka
Burial Tellippalai, Jaffna District, Northern, Sri Lanka
Memorial ID 162442329 · View Source
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James Richards was enrolled in Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1806 he and four other Williams students gathered in a nearby field to pray and consider how to bring the Christian message to foreign lands. As they prayed and talked, a thunderstorm commenced, and the group took refuge in the lee of a haystack to continue their discussion. James Richards eagerly committed himself to preparing for missionary service. From this “Haystack Prayer Meeting” came the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), one of the largest and most active missionary societies in America.

James Richards graduated from Williams College in 1809, and from Andover Theological Seminary in 1812, when he offered himself for service to the ABCFM. Under the direction of the Board, he studied medicine and surgery so he could be even more useful in the mission field.

In May 1815, James Richards married Miss Sarah Bardwell of Goshen, Massachusetts, and he was ordained on June 12. Under the auspices of the American Board, they sailed on October 23rd for Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). His mission station was first in the town of Batticotta (now Vaddukoddai), and then at the nearby town of Tellippalai, north of Jaffna City, on the Jaffna Peninsula in the northern part of the island.

With outside financial support, James Richards and another missionary established a small temporary hospital in Tellippalai, where they were able to lessen the suffering of many.

Unfortunately, his health deteriorated in the tropical climate, and much of the time, he was unable to engage in the vigorous service that he longed to perform. However, he provided much encouragement and moral support to his fellow missionaries, who spoke warmly about him and his contributions.

“It must be remarked that he was highly useful as a friend and counselor, as a companion and fellow-laborer. He was under very favorable circumstances for giving counsel and advice both to individuals and to the missionaries as a body. Consequently, he was very useful in promoting that spirit of union and brotherly love which has hitherto subsisted among them . . . The example of this dear brother is a rich legacy, which his surviving fellow laborers will highly value.” [Meigs, Benjamin C.: “Rev. James Richards.” In Pierson, H. W.: “American Missionary Memorial.” New York: Harper & Brothers, 1853, p. 72.]

His illness was tuberculosis, which went into partial remission now and then, but which caused him much suffering. It finally led to his death on August 3, 1822, in Tellippalai. He was buried in the afternoon of the next day.

"The Mission House at Tillipally station stands in an enclosure of about one half acre. The church edifice is near the south-west corner of this yard, and at the west end of the church is the little Christian burying-ground of that station. There, under a beautiful margosa tree, rest the remains of Richards. The monument over his grave is built of coral stone . . . and common mortar, with a tablet giving his name . . . etc." ["Dedication of the Missionary Monument in Williamstown, 1867," p. 19.]

James Richards left his wife Sarah and his young son, James Bardwell Richards, not yet five years old. His daughter, Sarah Bardwell Richards (named after her mother) was not born until December after her father’s death. His widow later married Rev. Joseph Knight.

[It is of some interest that not only was James Richards sent as a missionary under the auspices of the ABCFM, but so also was his younger brother William. (Click on William's name on the list of James's siblings below.) William spent half a lifetime as a missionary in the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii), and is buried there. Their youngest brother Austin also became a pastor.]

Family Members



In memory of
The Rev. James Richards, A.M.
American Missionary
who died August 3, 1822,
Aged 38 years.
One of the first projectors of American Missions,
He gave himself first to Christ, and then to the heathen.
A physician both to soul and body,
He was
In health, laborious,
In sickness, patient,
In death, triumphant.
He is not; "for God took him."

Tamil inscription translated:
In memory of
The Rev. James Richards, A.M.
American Missionary
who died August 3, 1922,
Aged 38 years.
He came to this country to tell you that,
excepting through Christ Jesus,
there is no way to escape Hell and obtain Heaven.
Believing in this Savior,
He died, rejoicing in hope of eternal happiness.
Let all who read this prepare for death also.

  • Created by: Wilma Spice
  • Added: 10 May 2016
  • Find a Grave Memorial 162442329
  • Wilma Spice
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev James Richards (23 Feb 1784–3 Aug 1822), Find a Grave Memorial no. 162442329, citing American Mission Cemetery, Tellippalai, Jaffna District, Northern, Sri Lanka ; Maintained by Wilma Spice (contributor 47298809) .