American Protestant Missions in Pontos

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Sam Topalidis (2023)

This paper describes the American Protestant missionary movement[ The Protestant doctrine believes in direct communication with God, basing its faith upon the authority of the Scriptures alone. Protestants object to the adoration of saints, the use of icons and other images, excessive rites and ceremonies, toleration of alcohol and a casual attitude towards respecting the Sabbath as a day of rest (McGrew 2015:17). ] from the 1830s to the 1920s in Pontos, the north-east corner of Anatolia adjacent to the Black Sea coast (Figure 1). These missionaries, assisted in their work by financial contributions from overseas, worked to benefit the lives of local people, initially through education and later to include medical care. Their goal was to spread their particular form of a ‘true’ Christian faith, but over time their approach shifted to include a more secular curriculum which focused on Western secondary schooling and vocational training. Bible studies continued to be included as part of their teaching.[ McGrew (2015:xv).]

Reports of their activities abound but they also include stories of opposition from within the Christian community and a lack of pastors in their communities. A major focus in this study is on Merzifon which developed and thrived as a centre for the missionaries until 1921. This focus in no way diminishes the significance of missionary activities in other centres.

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Figure 1: Settlements in north-eastern Anatolia (Turkiye) (scale: 290 km from Samsun to Trabzon).

Tanzimat Reforms
The Tanzimat period of legislation and reform in the Ottoman empire (1839–1871) included educational, economic and other law reforms by the sultans. In 1844, the death penalty for renouncing Islam was abolished.[ Zürcher (2017). ] Later in 1856, a new reform charter, Hatt-i Hümayun, proclaimed the principle of freedom of religion in the Ottoman empire and this contributed in the dissemination of Protestantism in the empire.[ Konstantinou (2020). ]

However, in 1874, the Ottoman government outlawed the conversion of Muslims to Christianity and prohibited the sale of Christian scriptures written in Ottoman Turkish [using the Perso-Arabic script]. The Ottoman Ministry of Education also began to restrict foreign schools, particularly those aspects of their curriculums that emphasised Christian superiority and anti-Muslim hatred.[ Shaw and Shaw (2002:158). Words within ‘[ ]’ within a reference are the author’s words. ]

The American Protestant missionaries acknowledged that despite some liberal trends in the Ottoman empire, Christians in the Ottoman empire still had to deal with a government which was hostile to the spread of Christianity.[ The Missionary Herald (July 1886:252). ]

American Protestant Missionaries in Anatolia
In the early 19th century, missionary societies were established in the United States to spread their evangelical mission to the world. This had much to do with the revised approach of the so-called religious revival, the ‘Second Great Awakening’, to an individual’s role in his or her own salvation and destiny and a new sense of social responsibility. Imbued with a social purpose, some men and women were inspired to travel to spread the Gospel around the world. In this context, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) developed into the most active missionary organisation in Anatolia.[ The Evangelical church is any of the classical Protestant churches or their offshoots but especially, since the late 20th century, churches that stress the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ, personal conversion experiences and active evangelism (the winning of personal commitments to Christ) ( Erol (2018:337–338). ] These American institutions provided a modern education and, to their credit, prepared students for life after school.[ Avaroğullari and Yildiz (2015:59). ]

In 1819, American missionaries began working in the Ottoman empire. As Turkish officials prevented them from trying to convert Muslims, the missionaries focussed on converting Armenians and Greeks to Protestantism. The first Greek Evangelical community was established in 1867 in north-west Anatolia.[ Göktϋrk (2015). It is important to remember that the American Civil War was raging between 1861 and 1865. ] For the early American missionaries, the way of life in Anatolia would have defied comprehension as the structure and ethos of the Ottoman Turk culture resembled little in western Europe or the United States. It is important to note that it was not missionary intervention alone that spurred the formation of Protestant churches among Armenians and later, among Greeks. The Protestant missionaries were few, concentrated in a handful of population centres and not overly aggressive as proselytisers. Forces within the local Christian communities often involved conflicts over communal authority or apportionment of taxes [e.g. to the Orthodox Church], produced ruptures and sometimes the founding of independent Protestant churches without any direct missionary involvement.[ McGrew (2015:8; 23–24).]

The Greek Orthodox church and the Gregorian Armenian church [sometimes called the Armenian Orthodox church or the Armenian Apostolic church], fiercely resisted Protestant attempts to convert their congregations.[ McGrew (2015:17). ] However, the relations between the members of Orthodox and Protestant denominations were not always bitter, e.g. at Merzifon (Figure 1) where the work of the American schools and the American hospital on the Merzifon campus created a relatively peaceful atmosphere.[ Göktϋrk (2015:229). ]

During the reign of Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II (1876–1909), the first Ottoman attempts to limit Christian missionary activities began. However, the Ottoman administration had difficulty in closing missionary schools and most opened without a licence. Interference by foreign powers also inhibited Ottoman efforts to limit missionary activities.[ Avaroğullari and Yildiz (2015:59). ]

The Protestant missionaries witnessed the difficult life of Anatolian women and girls who were basically treated as servants. They were denied a full education and obliged to marry in early adolescence. Young wives were commonly denied permission to speak to anyone but their husbands until after the birth of a first child. Educating women was seen by the missionaries as an opportunity for shaping the behaviour of mothers and home life. However, due to Ottoman social segregation, access to the female population was possible only for women missionaries.[ McGrew (2015:63). ]

American Protestant Missionaries in Pontos
Most of the information on American Protestant missionaries in Pontos is available for Merzifon, Ordu and Trabzon—details on other centres are often limited. Most of the information in this study was sourced from the monthly newspaper, The Missionary Herald published by the ABCFM in Boston which reported on the activities of their world-wide missions. It is important to note that at least in the relation to its work in the Ottoman empire, The Missionary Herald was carefully edited to ensure it did not offend the Ottoman authorities. Information from this valuable source on many of the American Protestant missionary centres in Pontos follows below in alphabetic order. For the most part, the centres are located in Figure 1.

The village of Alacham is located west of Bafra. In 1885, two Protestant Greeks held regular meetings on Sunday with four companions. There was little persecution against them as the two richest men there were Protestant and they held Protestant meetings in their own houses. In early 1895, the congregation rose to 50 followers.[ The Missionary Herald (March 1886:99; April 1887:144; May 1895:194). ]

In 1898, weekly services as well as a daily prayer-meeting were maintained. By 1900, the period of persecution against the Protestants in the town had passed. Mr Brussaiefs became an evangelist along the Black Sea coastline, with headquarters at Alacham. His operations were financially supported evenly from local and missionary sources.[ The Missionary Herald (February 1898:63; April 1900:157; October 1900:405). ]

In 1836, the population in Amasya was said to comprise from 3,000 to 4,000 Turkish, 750 Armenian and up to 150 Greek houses.[ Hamilton (1842). ] In 1862, a small and rather unstable Protestant congregation had gathered in Amasya in the face of strong opposition. By 1879, the Evangelical Christians had increased to 160 followers and in 1880, they had secured a house for use as a school and for Sunday church services.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1862:148; March 1879:103; February 1881:62). ]

A Protestant mission was established in the town of Bafra in 1880 although the Protestant congregation struggled to survive. A young Greek preacher, a recent graduate from the Merzifon Theological College and his Greek wife arrived in 1895 and were taking hold with special effort for the Greeks of the town. By 1897, the Greek preacher’s congregation was mostly Armenian and by the next year his followers were putting up a building for worship.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1891:403; May 1895:194; November 1897:465; February 1898:63). ]

Charshamba is east of Samsun (‘Carsamba’ in Figure 1) and in 1865 a Protestant mission was established. In 1899, after long being without regular Protestant preaching, the congregation settled down under pastor Mr Babasinian. By 1900, Charshamba had a female teacher (a graduate from the Merzifon Girls’ Boarding School) for its Protestant school. The work of the gospel was conducted without financial aid from ABCFM.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1891:403; November 1899:481; April 1900:157). ]

In 1867, a Protestant mission was established. By 1872, the town of Chorum was intensely Turkish with strong contempt for Christians. A little Protestant school existed where a few people met for evangelical worship.[ The Missionary Herald (March 1873:84; October 1891:403). ]

Dere Keoy
In 1884, a Protestant mission was established at Dere Keoy. It was the principal village (of more than 20 surrounding villages) in the heart of the mountains, up to 50 km north-west of Merzifon. By 1897, Protestantism had spread to six of those villages.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1891:403; April 1897:153).]

By 1900, a new Protestant church was erected, almost wholly at the expense of the local people with a ‘brother’ who had become pastor of a congregation practically without compensation. In 1910, the religious meetings were still held without a formal pastor on the weekends (no meetings were held during the week) and the congregation reached 120 or more. A Sunday school for the young was also held.[ The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1900:54); The Missionary Herald (April 1900:156; May 1910:220). ] There was no indication if the congregation was Greek or Armenian or both.

Fatsa is located west of Ordu and in 1886, it had a Protestant mission. In 1895, the brethren received Mr Manousarides [a Greek] as their preacher—a graduate from the Theological School in Merzifon. From 1899, Mr Papadopoulos [the new preacher, also a Greek], his wife and her sister as a teacher of girls, worked at Fatsa. The Greek population had been stirred and the crowds who came to hear the Protestant preaching far exceeded the capacity of the stone shanty where they worshiped. They lost their first church building, owing to the persecution by Orthodox Greeks. The teacher of the Greek Orthodox school preached each Sunday in the Greek Orthodox church and was on very good terms with the Protestant preacher. They used to meet in order to prepare their sermons.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1891:403; May 1895:193; October 1900:404–405). ]

Geul Keuy
Geul Keuy was about 12 hours’ horseback ride inland from Ordu. There seemed to have been some split with the Orthodox church between their bishop and the villagers and some moved to the Protestant church. A young preacher graduate of the Merzifon Theological College was sent to Geul Keuy—there was much local opposition. In 1901, it was reported that 200 people had been enrolled as Protestants.[ The Missionary Herald (August 1901:327–328). ]

Giresun is located on the Black Sea coast, east of Ordu. In 1898, there were only two Protestants, an Armenian and a Greek in Giresun. Both men held their position against opposition. They believed that many people of the town were seeking something different from the unsatisfying forms of their old churches and would welcome a Protestant preaching service.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1898:404). ]
From Ottoman ‘population figures’ (between 1905 and 1906), central Giresun possibly had a population of 8,440 of which half were Turks and the rest were Greeks and Armenians.[ ]

Herek is a village 58 km north-east of Amasya. In 1869, there were 25 families ready to declare themselves Protestant if they had a preacher. A Protestant mission was established in 1873.[ The Missionary Herald (August 1869:257; October 1891:403). ]

In 1879, the Protestant preacher spent his summers at Azabaghin (20 km south-west of Herek), a village on a forest-covered mountain and his winters in Herek which had a little church. In 1899, Herek had 50 Protestants and a place of worship that held 200 people. From 1890 to January 1900, it had a preacher except for two or three years. An elderly merchant and his sons were the leaders of the congregation.[ The Missionary Herald (March 1879:103; November 1899:481; April 1900:157). ]

Kara Hissar (Shebinkarahisar)
Kara Hissar is located around 100 km south of Giresun. By late 1871, most of population were Turks with about 1,000 Armenian families and some Greeks. Many of the Armenian merchants had accumulated much wealth. The mountains north of the town were full of alum. Nearby, there were also mines of silver, lead and iron. There was one evangelical preacher in the town with a small congregation on Sunday of up to 30 people who were subject to considerable persecution against them.[ The Missionary Herald (July 1872:216–217). ]

In 1885, it was reported that the silver mine 16 km from Kara Hissar, employed some 500 men, mostly Greeks. The mill for cleaning the ore employed 130 men. The preacher from Kara Hissar spent one Sunday a month at the mine where he was received well from all nationalities and he found good demand for his religious books.[ The Missionary Herald (November 1885:470). ]

In 1910, it was reported that the ecclesiastical heads of the Moslem, the Orthodox Greek and the Armenian communities organised to keep out the Protestants. However, their persistent Protestant preachers continued their gospel work; a small Protestant church was secured, but no school. A large Armenian Gregorian community school had developed with no instruction from the Bible. A few men wished to establish a school in which the Bible should be taught and offered their patronage to the evangelical preacher, Mr Kessabbashian and his wife, which was accepted. In the school they tutored 53 boys and 24 girls and an assistant was provided.[ The Missionary Herald (July 1911:306–307). ]

Early Beginnings up to 1915
The main access to Merzifon, located at almost 800 m above sea level, was through the Black Sea port of Samsun from where, a three-day ride by horseback took travellers [105 km south-west] to Merzifon. The trip from Merzifon to Istanbul via Samsun required at least a week.[ McGrew (2015:33–34). ]

The American Protestant 16 hectare campus at Merzifon was enclosed by a wall, just outside the town’s walls. It attracted primarily Armenian and Greek Christian girls and boys eager to improve their future through education and practical training. Most Turks kept their distance from the campus.[ Özerol and Akalin (2019). McGrew (2015:xv–xvi). ]

The Greeks in the town of Merzifon were originally largely of indigent miners who had settled there after the 1850s when the silver mines in the Gumushane region (south of Trabzon) became exhausted. Gradually, the Greeks constructed a humble Greek Orthodox church and began to maintain Greek schools. The Protestant mission at Merzifon commenced in 1851.[ McGrew (2015:99). The Missionary Herald (August 1872:233–234). In 1912, the Greek population was believed to be about 500 (The Missionary Herald, March 1912:131). ]

In 1866, the Sunday Protestant congregation on the American campus sometimes amounted to over 200. Sunday school in the chapel averaged nearly 100. In different parts of the town, there were two mission Sunday schools—most of them Armenian children. It was reported that in November 1867, the pupils of the Theological School at Merzifon commenced their four months’ vacation preaching and teaching away from Merzifon.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1866:141; March 1868:87). ] The sending of students from the Theological College continued each year and allowed preaching to occur (if even for only up to four months) to many of its out-stations.

In 1869, the Protestants built their new church on the American campus and about 1,200 people came to the dedication. By 1872, the town had an ‘estimated’ about 15,000 inhabitants, most of whom were Turks, nearly 5,000 Armenians with a few Greeks. In the town there was at least, a Catholic church and a new Protestant chapel and school. There was also an Armenian [Orthodox] church and school.[ The Missionary Herald (January 1870:22; August 1872:233). ]

In 1873, an evening Protestant school opened for 50 mostly non-Protestant Armenian men (and many interested spectators) operating five nights a week during winter. Another Protestant school opened to teach women to read. In 1874, the Protestant schools on the American campus had 300 pupils of whom 175 Armenian boys and girls were not yet Protestants. These 175 pupils also came regularly to Sunday school and attended divine service. Another school was for young girls and newly-married brides. Much of the friendly feeling at the campus was due to the care and nursing of the sick and the provision of medicines by the women of the campus. The gratitude for such kindness cultivated friendship for the missionaries and they were sometimes gradually drawn over to Protestantism.[ The Missionary Herald (March 1874:92; August 1874:240–241). ]

In 1886, the number of Protestants [in the town and in the American campus] had increased to 2,010; the Sunday congregations boasted 1,990 in attendance and the pupils in the schools up to 1,185. The Boys’ High School on the American campus also had its course of study extended and renamed Anatolia Boys’ College. Boys entered the high school following exams in their native language, Turkish, geography and arithmetic. Most did not know English, so emphasis was placed on preparing them for the English curriculum.[ The Missionary Herald (September 1886:328; May 1899:185). McGrew (2015:112). ]

In November 1895, in Merzifon, a Turkish mob killed 125 male Armenians and looted Armenian property (Note 1). The American campus was spared and many people fled there for protection. On the same day, the Ottoman governor came with 40 soldiers to protect the campus.[ White (1918:35). More details can be found in Topalidis (2022). ]

In 1898–1899, there were 246 students in the Anatolia Boys’ College and the Boys’ High School. The Self-Help Industrial Department offered the youth at the campus the opportunity to work their way through their education. Departments such as a joiner’s house, bindery, shoemaker, tailor and trial farm were established in order to allow students to earn money. Nearly one-third of the students met some of their expenses by their labour in the Self-Help Industrial Department. These departments also provided the students a professional job.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1899:187). Özerol and Akalin (2019:38). ] Girls in the high school and the orphanage were involved in weaving clothes, rug making, quilt making, sewing, embroidery and the manufacture of narrow gingham cloth etc.[ Maksudyan (2010:62). ]

In 1900, it was reported that many Muslims and non-Muslims from Merzifon and the surrounding villages came to the Merzifon campus for medical help. They were very grateful and did not leave without hearing a good deal of the Bible. The new American campus hospital buildings at Merzifon were completed in 1914 (Plate 1).[ The Missionary Herald (December 1900:530). Özerol and Akalin (2019:36). By 1914, the town of Merzifon had an assumed Armenian population of 10,400 (Armenian Patriarch census (Kévorkian 2011:452)). It is unknown how many Turks lived in the town at this time. ]

In 1913, the Anatolia Boys’ College on the Merzifon campus listed 32 staff comprising 11 Armenians, 10 Americans, nine Greeks, one Swiss and one Russian. During the year, 425 students were enrolled in the four College and four Boys’ High School classes, which included 200 Greeks, 160 Armenians, 40 Russians and 25 Turks. There were 275 pupils in the Girls’ School and about 100 patients at any one time in the hospital. Missionary families, teachers and their households, employees, students and others, brought the number of people on the campus to around 1,000. Promising graduates were employed as teachers. They were also assisted to take advanced courses overseas to prepare for permanent service.[ White (1918:23; 67). ] The Anatolia College instructors noted students’ fears and suspicions of proselytising.[ McGrew (2015:105). ]

The Girls’ School was a finishing school [including teaching young girl’s social graces] at approximately high school level. There was also a highly regarded School for the Deaf. In addition, one of the few nurses’ training schools in Anatolia and a Theological School for preparing young men to become pastors in the Protestant churches throughout Anatolia were located on the campus.[ Compton (2008:65). ]
In the Girls’ School, the prevalence of marriage in the mid-teens for females led most girls to leave before graduating. At the same time, the Department of Domestic Science was introduced to teach cooking, sewing, and dressmaking.[ McGrew (2015:118). ]

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Plate 1: New American campus hospital at Merzifon (completed in 1914) (Özerol and Akalin 2019:37).

1915 Armenian genocide
In March 1915, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP),[ The Young Turks led a revolutionary movement against the Ottoman sultan. The influential Young Turk organisation known as the CUP advocated a program of reform. The actual impetus for the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 came particularly from members of the Ottoman 3rd Army Corps in Macedonia. This revolutionary group merged with the CUP in 1907. In 1908, the 3rd Army Corps led a revolt against the provincial authorities throughout the Ottoman empire. The Young Turks took effective control of the government in 1913 when the CUP under Talat Pasha, Cemal Pasha and Enver Pasha, set themselves up as the real arbiter of Ottoman politics ( ] the real arbiter of Ottoman politics, decided to annihilate the Armenians in the Ottoman empire in what is called genocide. On 9 August 1915, deportation of Armenians from the town of Merzifon was in full swing. On 11 August, Armenians were removed from campus buildings (72 people taken[ Şahin (2018:57). ]). Women and children were loaded onto carts with a few men and older children trudging along beside them on their journey to exile. A few days later, soldiers loaded [63] girls from the Girls’ School into carriages and they too were taken away. The teachers, Miss Willard and Miss Gage from the Girls’ School [true heroines] were later allowed to follow after the girls. Most of the girls and the two teachers were able to return to Merzifon.[ Compton (2008:69–70). The two teachers caught up with most of the girls (22 girls had been detached from the original group and perished). They brought back 41 of the original 63 girls who were taken away (The Missionary Herald, December 1915:581). ]

1916 closure of the American campus
In early 1916, during World War I, the north-east region of Anatolia near the Black Sea was occupied by the Russian army. In May, the Ottoman town leader declared the American campus schools closed and all Americans and staff (11 adults and four children) were to leave for Istanbul. The campus was to be used as a military hospital. About two months later, five of the staff were allowed to return to the Merzifon campus.[ The Missionary Herald (March 1920:116–120). ]

1919 reopening of the College
During World War I, the Merzifon campus Girls’ School remained open. In March 1919, the campus hospital was handed over to the American charity organisation, Near East Relief.[ Compton (2008:88). The Near East Relief was formed in 1915 as a result of USA Ambassador at Istanbul, Henry Morgenthau’s request for aid for the Armenians who had been deported in Anatolia ( ] The campus reopened in October 1919.[ In May 1919, the Greek army landed at Smyrna on the west coast of Anatolia. From June to September 1919, there were 80 British troops at Merzifon (Özerol and Akalin (2019:42), Mango (2002:213)). ]

Protestant church services on Sunday continued and usually attracted a congregation of at least 600 people.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1919:425). ] At this time, there were 166 boys in the high school and approximately the same number of girls in the Girls’ School. In addition, the campus also housed some 600 Greek and Armenian war orphans. There was also a ‘Baby House’, with about 30 Armenian girls.[ Compton (2008:88). ]

1921 Christian genocide
On 18 March 1921, General Jemil Jahid announced that evidence had been found of a Greek revolutionary plot on the campus and the buildings were to be searched.[ The Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) was still waging in western Anatolia. ] They only found the following three items which they considered (falsely) to be evidence of subversive activities:

- A map of St Paul’s missionary journeys where an area of Anatolia was labelled Pontos. They claimed that the Greeks were planning to reclaim this area.
- The list of officers in the Anatolia College Greek Literary Society.
- A black and white picture of a football team wearing striped shirts. The investigators claimed that the shirts were blue and white, the Greek national colours (most probably Plate 2).

As a result, the campus was closed and the Americans were told to leave Anatolia. However, the many orphans on the campus could remain. The missionaries, Don Hosford, Carl and Ruth Compton were permitted to stay to look after the orphans and the campus property. Their main activities for the orphans were both recreation and training in trades.[ Compton (2008:89–90). ]

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 Plate 2: Merzifon College football team 1906 (Fotiadis 2019:657).

Retributions continued against the Anatolia College Greek literary and athletic club. Six Greek teachers and two students, were charged with subversion, sent to Amasya and hanged. Mr Pavlides, pastor of the Greek Protestant Church in Merzifon town, suffered the same fate.[ Compton (2008:94). Pavlides graduated from the Merzifon Theology College in 1903 and was hanged in September 1921 ( ]

A massacre of Christians in Merzifon began on 23–24 July 1921 when Topal Osman and his brigands spent four days pillaging and killing. This carnage was followed by several days of murder by the local Turks in the town, assisted by gendarmes and troops. The town was comparatively quiet during the day as Christians sheltered at home, but at nights gangs broke into Christian houses to steal, rape and murder. Hundreds of Greeks and Armenians fled to the Merzifon campus. The governor of the province intervened and put a stop to Topal Osman’s killings.[ Morris and Ze’evi (2019:412). Shenk and Koktzoglou (2020:229). ] Mr Hosford summarised the massacres at Merzifon as follows:

… From a Christian population of 2,000 to 2,500, almost all men were killed … Women and children were also killed, in all upwards of 700. All [the remaining] Greeks were deported. About 700 Armenians were left in the city … [ Meichanetsidis (2015:133). ]

Opening of the Anatolia College in Thessaloniki
In July 1922, the Near East Relief organisation sent new workers to the Merzifon campus.[ In 1923 in Merzifon, three ladies resided most of the year (Willard, Phelps and Noyes). Willard ministered to a small remnant of Christians. They gave English lessons to the families of prominent officials. No regular organised school work was undertaken (The Missionary Herald, September 1923:391). ] Carl and Ruth Compton then left for Istanbul. Following the forced closure of the schools on the Merzifon campus [the orphanage was still operating] by the Turkish government in March 1921, the Anatolia College relocated to Thessaloniki, Greece in 1924 [and it is still operating today]. In 1925, the Comptons moved to Thessaloniki, to work at the Anatolia College. In 1926, the Comptons returned to Merzifon to ship the items wanted in Thessaloniki and to sell off the rest. Later, the Merzifon buildings and grounds were sold to the Turkish government.[ Compton (2008:8; 115–116). ]

In 1867, there were only eight Protestant families with no preacher in Ordu, but the Protestant Greeks had aroused the suspicions of the Turks and the Greek Orthodox bishop. By 1869, the Protestants had a chapel and a school with 60 pupils and were in dire need of a female teacher as the preacher Boghos found his double burden too heavy.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1867:138; July 1867:204; February 1870:54). ]

In 1871, a report indicated that the early Sunday morning Protestant service comprised at least 125 people. In the afternoon and evening there were more sermons. Each of the three sermons was followed by a meeting for the Protestant women.[ The Missionary Herald (August 1871:249). ]

In summer 1873, it was reported that it was the custom for everyone who could do so, would leave the town during the hot months (refer to the discussion on Tsampasin). In 1874, the Protestant [Armenian] pastor, Reverend Der Kalousdian, arrived in Ordu and was still there 36 years later in 1900.[ The Missionary Herald (April 1874:114; September 1910:411). ] He was the pastor in Ordu in 1915 when he perished during the Armenian genocide.[ Payaslian (2009:293). ]

In 1882, the Protestant Armenians and Protestant Greeks worshipped together using the Turkish language. However, in 1887, the Protestant Greeks (with a congregation of 200 people[ The Missionary Herald (May 1888:208). ]) out-numbered the Armenians and decided to worship in their own building using their Pontic Greek dialect. The Armenians remained in their old chapel and schoolhouse. In 1888, the Protestant Greek church was led by Reverend Philadelphets who remained until at least 1917 (see later). (In 1888, the town had a guesstimate of 1,000 Greek, 300 Armenian and 200 Turkish houses.[ The Missionary Herald (August 1888:353–354). ]) A permanent Protestant Greek church and school building was completed in 1892 but the opposition by the Orthodox Greeks was so fierce, the congregation suffered repeated stoning. The Protestant Armenian and Greek congregations in Ordu numbered up to 600 people. During the 18 months from late 1892, the Protestant Greek chapel was closed due to the opposition of the Greek Orthodox community. In May 1894, when 300 Protestants were able to meet in this church, a mob of Orthodox Greeks stoned the church.[ The Missionary Herald (April 1892:161; July 1894:271; August 1894:313; May 1899:195). McGrew (2015). ]

In 1899, a new Protestant Greek church and school were officially opened.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1899:194–196). Ordu also had three Greek Orthodox Churches, two mosques and one Apostolic Armenian church (Hewsen 2009:61). At the end of the 19th century it also had one Protestant Greek and one Protestant Armenian church. ] In 1913, Ordu was reported to have had the largest Protestant Greek church in the Ottoman empire. There were around 400 people crowded into the church.[ The Missionary Herald (November 1913:517). According to the Greek Patriarchate in Constantinople, the Pontic Greek population (1910–1912) in the kaza of Ordu was 18,930 (Alexandris, 1999:64). According to the Armenian Patriarchate, the Armenian population (1913–1914), for the kaza of Ordu was 13,565 of whom 3,000 lived in the town of Ordu (Hewsen (2009:53), Kévorkian (2011:483)). The kaza of Ordu stretched to over 70 km to the south of the town and was around 50 km wide. ]
In August 1917, a Russian flotilla bombarded Ordu (during World War I). The Russians entered the town and destroyed ammunition depots. Two thousand Greeks scrambled aboard the Russian ships and were taken to Trabzon.[ The New York Times, 7 April 1918. ] Pastor Philadelphets and his wife found their Protestant Greek church and school torn down and their home in flames, so they joined the 2,000 Greeks on the Russian ships.[ The Missionary Herald (December 1917:571). ] (Note 2.)

A Protestant mission was established in Samsun in 1862. In 1871, it only had a small Protestant congregation of Armenians and Greeks. About 30 people met every evening to engage in prayer in Turkish. In 1880, they started a Protestant School with a Greek student as a teacher. In 1885, the evangelical community met for the first time in a room erected for divine worship. In 1887, the focus of the Protestant work was on the Greeks. They acquired a Greek female teacher in a school with 40 pupils which was largely self-supporting.[ The Missionary Herald (April 1871:107; July 1880:267; March 1886:100; April 1887:144; October 1891:403).]

Semen was some 15 hours from Ordu in the interior in the mountains, 16 km from Tsampasin. In 1874, the Protestant community there suffered bitter persecution and they remained without a preacher. In 1876, the village people were all Greek Christians, with 150 houses—about 20 households were Protestant. The Armenian teacher from Ordu laboured at Semen during the summer. His language with the Greeks was in Turkish which they understood only imperfectly. They needed a suitable place of worship. The climate is severe and in winter, the men go to towns seeking employment.[ The Missionary Herald (April 1874:114; February 1877:57–58). ]

It was reported in 1886, that in summer, the people go to their parhar[ Parhar is a Pontic Greek word for the village in the mountains that people moved to with their livestock in the hot summer months to escape the heat and to allow their animals to graze on the pastures. ] to find meadow and pasture land. The Protestant chapel had been enlarged at the Semen parhar so that it could accommodate at least 250 people. There was no formal preacher at Semen, except for a brother from the village. From 1897, Mr Manousarides served as the pastor in Semen (having spent a short time preaching at Fatsa). He was succeeded in 1904 by Mr Anastasiades.[ The Missionary Herald (February 1887:147–148). McGrew (2015:99). ]

In 1834, the ABCFM established a minor mission post in Trabzon. The town boasted an American ‘College’, an important Armenian private school and from 1846, a large Armenian Protestant congregation.[ Hewsen (2009:56). ]

In 1857, two Protestant services were held each Sunday with an average attendance of only 35 people. A Sunday school was also formed. The Protestant Mission School had 32 pupils. In 1858, Mr Hagop was ordained as pastor of the Protestant church.[ The Missionary Herald (September 1857:288; December 1858:369). ] An American missionary, Dr Parmelee, resided permanently in 1878 in Trabzon and died there in 1902.[ ]

Between 1859 and 1885, Trabzon was an out-station of Erzurum. After becoming a main station, Bey Alan [near Tsampasin], Sinanlı, Yenipazar and Gulkoy [their location is unknown] became out-stations of Trabzon. The ABCFM not only took part in the station in and around Trabzon, but also at Gumushane (south of Trabzon), Rize, Lazistan and in Giresun.[ Alan (2008:111). ]

In 1891, the number of Protestant adherents in Trabzon had increased to 820. The attendance for worship rose to 650 while the pupils rose to 410 and 750 copies of the scriptures had been sold. Dr Reverend Crawford [Principal of the American School] said that of the 10,000 Greek-speaking Greeks in Trabzon, only a few Greek families had welcomed the evangelical preachers.[ The Missionary Herald (July 1891:292; July 1897:265). ] This was due to the strong organisation of Greek Orthodox priests in the many Greek Orthodox churches and Greek schools.
In October 1895, Dr Parmelee was an eyewitness to the murder of Armenians in Trabzon. The Armenian losses in Trabzon [and other places] precipitated a prompt relief effort to save survivors. Most of the distribution of goods in Trabzon was carried out through Dr Parmelee, assisted by the other American missionaries in the area. Parmelee continued to offer shelter in his home to around 200 refugees for several weeks. He and Dr Crawford alleviated the suffering of some 5,000 people by the distribution of blankets, clothing and money.[ Merguerian (2009:268). ]
The new pastor, Mr Dombalian, came in 1900 and as a result the two Sunday services increased to four.[ The Missionary Herald (August 1901:327). ]

In 1915, Dr Crawford wrote that the Russians bombarded Trabzon in January with 400 people taking refuge in his and his wife’s house and a further 100 people went to the American consulate. The American missionaries gave weekly aid to more than 300 families.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1915:234; August 1915:378).]

Later in 1915, after the deportation and murder of Armenians out of Trabzon [Armenian genocide] approximately 300 children attending the American school were left under the care of the American missionaries Dr and Mrs Crawford. The Ottoman authorities directed Crawford to place the children and their money and articles left with them under government supervision.[ Payaslian (2009:288). ]

In 1916, the Crawfords cared for orphans and others and conducted religious services in Greek and in Turkish. In [April] 1916 the Russians captured Trabzon. Dr Crawford wrote that as the Russians entered, about 500 Armenians suddenly emerged from the mountains. Others, mainly young children taken by Greek and Turkish families, were handed over to the Russians. In October, it was reported by Mrs Crawford that an interest was attached to their Sunday services as many came who understood only Russian.[ The Missionary Herald (March 1916:131; March 1917:128); Morris and Ze’evi (2019:186). ] This is a curious statement and probably means that some of the occupying Russian soldiers were attending the services.

Dr Crawford died in late 1918. His funeral in Trabzon was conducted by a Greek Orthodox bishop [most probably Chrysanthos] who was probably the bishop that Crawford referred as a ‘friend and neighbour’. In 1922, Mrs Crawford was the only American missionary worker in Trabzon and it was reported in September 1923, that no American missionaries remained in Trabzon.[ The Missionary Herald (January 1919:11; March 1922:122; September 1923:392).]

In 1886, the town of Tsampasin, 58 km south of Ordu, was reported to ‘supposedly’ have some 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants. [It had a larger population in summer than in winter, since it was the parhar of Ordu.] In addition to a mosque there, the different Christian communities had their own churches, which also served as schoolhouses. In the vicinity of Tsampasin there were up to 10 Greek villages, some of considerable size.[ The Missionary Herald (April 1887:147–148). ]

The two Protestant pastors from Ordu [Greek and Armenian] would normally be found in Tsampasin in summer when the Protestant Greek congregation and many Protestant Armenians from Ordu would go en masse to Tsampasin. At the mountain village of Bey Alan [near Tsampasin] there were some 60 Greek houses. By 1898, the Protestant adherents of Bey Alan amounted to 95 people.[ The Missionary Herald (December 1890:517; October 1898:402). ]

In 1866, a Protestant mission was established at Unye. Also in 1866, Mr Smith (from Merzifon) visited the Greeks of Unye for one week and every evening from 30 to 50, mostly men, came to hear him preach. He preached in Armenian which had to be translated, sentence by sentence, into Turkish and was often reinterpreted into Greek. A Greek teacher who had charge of 170 boys worked in the Greek Orthodox School, teaching the gospel and evangelical songs to his pupils. He then declared to his directors that he was Protestant. His directors allowed him to continue teaching as they feared he would leave and set up another school under Protestant auspices and his students would follow him. The Greek Protestants asked for a preacher and hired one of their own as a teacher at their recently opened school—local persecution followed.[ The Missionary Herald (June 1866:176–177; December 1866:376; October 1891:403). ]

In 1880, there was still a small band of Protestants led by a Greek doctor and they had just purchased an old house for use as a chapel. In 1900, it was reported that Unye had no paid preaching for 20 years. The little congregation was still led by a good physician, [most probably Dr Meimarides], while the school students were being taught by his wife.[ The Missionary Herald (December 1880:505; April 1900:157). ]

Vezirkopru is a town in the mountains [around 40 km] north of Merzifon. In 1862, the population was ‘estimated’ to be from 8,000 to 10,000 Turks and Greeks (mostly Turks) and about 1,000 Armenians. In 1863, a Protestant mission was established.[ The Missionary Herald (May 1862:147; October 1891:403). ]

In 1874, there was a Protestant church with Mr Garabed as pastor. Of the Armenians, one fourth were Protestant and in 1875, they boasted a congregation of 300 followers.[ The Missionary Herald (July 1874:213; September 1874:280; December 1875:382). ]

Zile is a town south of Amasya. A Protestant mission was established there in 1876. In 1885, when their Protestant preacher of the past nine years died, his role remained vacant. In the fall of 1886, two theological students from Merzifon spent their vacation there. The Protestant school increased to 70 students and the congregation rose to 150 people, but they had local opposition. The Protestant believers were condemned by the local Orthodox Christians and as a result, some stopped attending church services and some took their children away from the school.[ The Missionary Herald (October 1886:386; October 1891:403). ]

From 1886, Sunday services usually comprised 50 people but when Mr White and Miss Gage from Merzifon visited Zile the congregation he preached on Sunday was nearly 300 and 400. On the Monday, Miss Gage had a meeting with 100 women and girls. During the 1895 Armenian massacres by the Ottoman Turks, the Protestant church was spared. Due to the amount of suffering following the Armenian massacres, the government distributed bread rations for six months. Money was distributed by the Protestant Church Committee so that 31 looms were operating in the town, turning out gingham cloth where there is a ready sale.[ The Missionary Herald (March 1897:111–112). ]

In 1912, the Protestant church congregation numbered up to only 50 people in a town of ‘perhaps’ 40,000 people (all but 1,000 were Moslems). The Protestant church had been without a pastor for two years; and was supported by four men of the church who took turn in conducting services.[ The Missionary Herald (April 1912:180). ]

The End of the Protestant Missions in Anatolia
Most of the missionaries within Anatolia were expelled by the Turkish nationalist leaders in 1921. According to the government, the mission societies could only be associated with Christian minorities in the country. The missionaries were regarded to be of no further use after the 1923 exchange of Muslim and Christian population between Greece and Turkish territory when the remaining Christians were forced to leave Turkish territory.[ Yücel (2012:63). ] (Note 2.)

Following the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), the institutions of the ABCFM throughout Anatolia were operationally idle (except Istanbul). In 1924, further constraint was placed on the missionaries with a new law that prohibited any religious ‘propaganda’ at schools and medical institutions. However, the ABCFM continued its mission in Turkey despite the stringent conditions. They applied a new strategy based on establishing contact with people through educational and medical institutions and teaching them religious principles outside these Protestant institutions.[ Yücel (2012:63–64). ]

The negative attitude of officials towards the missions was the biggest obstacle for missionary activities despite such ongoing difficulties. However, in 1924, the Anatolia College in Merzifon moved from Turkey to Thessaloniki in Greece. Some Protestant activities remained but were limited to certain centres such as Istanbul and Izmir.[ Yücel (2012:64). ]

Christianity in Pontos and in Anatolia came in many forms. In addition to Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Protestantism spread primarily due to the efforts of American missionaries from the 1830s to the early 20th century. Greeks and Armenians who adopted Protestantism, were greatly outnumbered and at times abused by adherents to the Orthodox church. These Protestants were indeed resilient. However, these Protestant missionary schools with the Orthodox church schools helped to improve the education of at least the Christian population in Pontos and Anatolia. These schools also applied pressure on the Ottoman and Turkish schools to increase the number and the standard of education of their own schools.

The American Protestant missions aimed to influence the Ottoman and Turkish society by educating children at established Christian schools where they could mentor leading figures who could assume prestigious positions in society. As we have seen, many settlements struggled to establish viable Protestant worship and practice. However, major centres such as Merzifon developed a highly effective administration and established schools, hospitals, social clubs and industrial workshops which brought services for their communities which aligned closely with their Protestant missionary purpose.[ Yücel (2012:65). ]

Note 1

1895 Armenian massacre
The last decades of the 19th century saw the emergence of an Armenian national movement in the Ottoman empire. This development alarmed Ottoman sultan Abdulhamid II, who suppressed separatist sentiments. The Hamidian massacres were a series of atrocities carried out by Ottoman forces and Kurdish irregulars against the Armenians in the Ottoman empire between 1894 and 1896. A wave of killing occurred in September 1895, when the Ottoman authorities’ repression of an Armenian protest in Istanbul turned into a massacre. The incident was followed by a series of massacres in towns with Armenian communities that culminated in December 1895 (

Note 2
After the Russians left Ordu, the Turks ordered the first Greek exodus (Genocide) out of Ordu in 1917. More than 3,000 Greeks were deported into the Anatolian interior. Many were deliberately murdered (Saltsis (1955), Hionides (1996:275)). Later, in December 1920, the Turkish bandit, Topal Osman, entered Ordu and damaged buildings and murdered Christians (Hionides 1996).

In June 1921, the Kemalists decided to deport the Pontic Greeks from Ordu. Approximately 800 men and children [probably boys] were taken south. By the end of August 1921 nearly all the Greek men from the Ordu region had been deported (Shenk and Koktzoglou 2020:151). During the deportation (genocide), many were killed by armed bandits led by Topal Osman and Shaki Ali. In September, an additional 4,910 Greeks from the Ordu area were forced into the interior (Korucu and Daglioglu 2019:25).

Later, in February 1922, Topal Osman and his bandits rode into Ordu again and torched Greek houses (Morris and Ze’evi 2019:416). Immediately after the defeat of the Greek army in western Anatolia (Greco-Turkish War) in August 1922, Greeks were pressured to leave Anatolia. Some of the Greek women and children had not been exiled to the Anatolian interior but the men (those that had survived) were still in exile. Many Christian women and children from Ordu boarded ships for Greece in late 1922.

After the Lausanne Convention and the protocols about the exchange of Orthodox Greek and Turkish Muslim populations were signed in January 1923, those Orthodox Greeks who had not left Ottoman lands were forced to leave for Greece. Although Protestant Greeks and any Greek Catholics were technically excluded from the exchange of populations (because they were not of the Orthodox religion) they preferred leaving over remaining in Anatolia (Göktϋrk (2015:236–237). Protestant Greeks were not excluded from the genocide by the Ottoman Turks and Kemalists.

The author warmly thanks Mr Michael Bennett and Mr Russell McCaskie for their comments to an earlier draft.

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