This funny-named gentleman is Mr. Epperson Robert Fulkerson, a resident of Pennsylvania who distinguished himself as both a Methodist missionary and later as U.S. Vice Consul at Nagasaki, Japan. Fulkerson is one of the first strange name American diplomats to be profiled here on the site, and he certainly won't be the last! The rare portrait of Fulkerson shown above was located via the genealogical website www.fulkerson.org, which also fielded nearly all of the details on his early life and education.
Born in the town of Newcastle, Pennsylvania on October 2, 1859, Epperson R. Fulkerson was one of eight children born to William Brown Fulkerson Jr (1828-1890) and his wife Mary Sheddon Fulkerson (1832-1909). Little could be found on Fulkerson's adolescence, although it is known that he migrated to Missouri with his family sometime in the 1870s. He is listed as attending college at the Marion Collegiate Institute and later studied at the Simpson College in Iowa. Fulkerson was awarded numerous degrees from other institutions later in his life, including an honorary literary degree from Taylor University and an LL.D. from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1906.
Religious work was a prominent theme throughout Fulkerson's life and numerous sources give note as to his being a Methodist minister. He was admitted to the Arkansas and Nebraska Conference of Methodist churches and would marry in September 1886 to Ms. Kate Strong. The couple would eventually have four children: Anson (1887-1964), Walter (1889-1972), Raymond (born 1892), and Earl (born 1899). Kate Strong is listed as dying of diabetes in 1903 and two years later Epperson remarried to her younger sister Anna, with whom he had two daughters.
In 1887 Epperson and his wife traveled to Japan as missionaries of the Methodist Church, and shortly after their arrival he was named to a professorship at the Anglo-Japanese College in Tokyo, this being mentioned in the 1915 edition of Who's Who in American Methodism. Following a two year stint at this college, Fulkerson was appointed as a principal at the Chinzei Gakuin, a missionary project founded by the Methodist church in Nagasaki, Japan. Fulkerson would continue to serve in this post until 1907 when he resigned because of health concerns.
This sketch of Epperson Fulkerson appeared in the August 1900 edition of the San Francisco Call.
Epperson Fulkerson's inclusion on the site here rests on his service as U.S. Vice Consul in Nagasaki from 1898-1900. His tenure in this diplomatic post came at a very interesting time in regards to American foreign affairs, as the Spanish-American War was raging and the Boxer Rebellion in China occurred towards the end of his foreign service in Japan. A newspaper report in an August 1900 edition of the San Francisco Call mentions that Fulkerson viewed the fracas between the Boxers and foreign military forces with much concern, stating:
"I regard the situation in China as one of the most serious that civilized nations have ever had to contend with. War cannot be avoided between that country and the foreign powers, for blood has been spilled and property destroyed and these acts of hostility must be avenged."
From the August 5, 1900 edition of the San Francisco Call.
While a war with China never came to fruition, the ongoing rebellion in China was viewed as "suspicious" by Fulkerson, who stated that the "the present Boxer movement, I believe, is backed by the Empress Dowager, if not by the entire Chinese Government." The Boxer uprising was eventually crushed by an eight-nation alliance of foreign powers (including the United States, Britain, Japan, and Russia) and the Boxer Protocol Peace Agreement was signed in September 1901. In August 1900 Epperson Fulkerson returned to the U.S. out of health concerns but returned to Japan sometime later to resume his duties as Principal of the Chinzei Gakuin school.
In 1907 Fulkerson made a permanent move back to the United States, eventually settling in the town of Galt, California. In 1908 he became a member of the Columbia River Conference of the Methodist Church, and six years later removed to Canon City, Colorado. In his later years, Fulkerson made numerous appearances on the lecture circuit, speaking on topics related to Methodist church doctrine as well as his past services in Japan. In May 1930 he made an appearance in this author's hometown of Jamestown, New York, lecturing at a joint service at the First and Brooklyn Heights churches. An article on his Jamestown visit appeared in the May 1, 1930 edition of the Jamestown Evening Journal and is shown below.
From the Jamestown Evening Journal, May 1, 1930.
Epperson Fulkerson continued to reside in Canon City, Colorado until his death on May 29, 1940 at age 80. Although a burial location couldn't be found for him, it is presumed that he was buried somewhere in the vicinity of Canon City, where he had resided for over twenty-five years.