Several years ago, while researching his book, One Square Mile: A History of Trenton Junction, NJ, local historian, author, and West Trenton resident Mark Falzini came across mention of “a most exotic visitor” to West Trenton , then known as Trenton Junction, in 1905.
Rose Ermina Lamb was the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. M.T. Lamb, who lived in Trenton Junction. In June of 1891, Rose married Reverend Samuel Alden Perrine, a Baptist minister. In March of 1892, the American Baptist Mission assigned them to serve in the Naga Hills of northeast India, nearly 8,000 miles, and a world away, from Trenton Junction.
The Perrines were passionately devoted to their work, and bravely accepted a mission in a land far removed from familiar civilization, sacrificing family and comfort, risking their lives, and going to work among poor primitive tribes with no written languages, where tigers would prey on livestock, and head hunting was still practiced.
The Perrines joined a precious few missionaries already at work in the Naga Hills, including a couple who had begun work in 1872. But the work of establishing housing, schools, communication and trust with the Nagas was slow and laborious. The Perrines were especially interested in educating the youths, and translating texts into the local language, including prayers, Bible passages, and especially hymns. Music, they found, often broke the barriers, helped to build trust, and united the missionaries and people.
Twelve years passed, and the Perrines needed to return to the US for health reasons. But they were encouraged to take with them an “outstanding” youth, Shanjamo Jungi, who had shown great promise in their school. He understood and spoke English well, and had excelled at his studies. The goal was to further educate him in America, and have him return to educate his people.
And thus in December 1904, a most exotic visitor did come to Trenton Junction. Shanjamo, about 22 years old and about 5’2” in height, lived with the Lambs, and attended school at the Trenton Junction Schoolhouse in 1905. When the Perrines accepted a church position in Port Norris (Cumberland County), Shanjamo attended the Port Norris Public School briefly. He was then gifted with tuition to attend a private secondary school, the Mount Hermon School, in north-central Massachusetts. Ultimately he completed his education in the US, and returned to Nagaland in 1908. He went on to be ordained, and served Naga as a Baptist preacher, educator, WW1 enlistee, and general ambassador of goodwill. He lived to be 70 years of age, and is known in Naga as being the first to be educated in the U.S.
And the second visitor? Fast forward to one year ago, to November 2019. Mr. Falzini received a strange Facebook message from someone in India. Knowing no one there, he assumed it was a scam, but decided to research the message.
He came to realize that it was in fact legitimate. California resident and educator Jan Nienu, formerly of Nagaland, had written and published a biography of Shanjamo. But she had recently discovered Falzini’s book which told of Shanjamo’s visit to the area.
That “Trenton Junction” connection was the only portion missing from her biography, because Dr. Nienu could find no “Trenton Junction” in New Jersey while researching the book. Excited, she sought to arrange a visit to Trenton Junction/West Trenton.
Falzini happily complied, and thus the second “exotic visitor” arrived just about a year ago. Falzini proudly provided a tour of the places Shanjamo had known over a century before, showing Dr. Nienu the former Lamb home on Grand Avenue, the former Trenton Junction School (now Princeton Mortgage), and even the Clinton Avenue Baptist Church in Trenton, where Shanjamo had worshiped and given talks.
Incredibly, the connections were even deeper for Mark Falzini, as his family had purchased the school building after a fire relocated the schooling of children, and his family had been members at the Clinton Avenue Baptist Church.
Dr. Nienu has updated her book, Shanjamo Jungi, A Biography, with this final link in the story of remarkable lives with a Trenton Junction connection.
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Again, my thanks to Mark Falzini for sharing this story.
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