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|Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 3:31 pm Post subject: The First Iran's American Freedom Activist Martyr
The First Iran's American Freedom-Loving Activist Martyr
Cover of a booklet to mark the 50th anniversary of
Howard Baskerville's death. Kayhan Press, 1959.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Howard Baskerville (April 10, 1885 - April 19, 1909) was an American teacher in the Presbyterian mission school in Tabriz, Iran.
In 1908, during the Constitutional Revolution of Iran, he decided to join the Constitutionalists and fight against the Qajar despot King Mohammad Ali Shah. He was shot while leading a group of student soldiers to break the Siege of Tabriz.
The affection that many Iranians have for America perhaps may have roots in Tabriz, where this Nebraskan missionary was killed. Baskerville was a teacher in the American School, one of many such institutions created by the American missionaries who had worked in the city since the mid-19th century. He arrived in 1908, fresh out of Princeton University and, swept up in the revolutionary mood in Iran, fought a royalist blockade that was starving the city. On April 19, 1909, he led a contingent of 150 nationalist fighters into battle against the royalist forces. A single bullet tore through his heart, killing him instantly nine days after his 24th birthday.
Many Iranian nationalists still revere Baskerville as an exemplar of an America that they saw as a welcome ally and a useful “third force” that might break the power of London and Moscow in Tehran.
Iranians still pay tribute to Baskerville and consider him a martyr. He is buried in Tabriz, Iran.
This United States biographical article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.
This Iranian biographical article is a stub. You can help Wikipedia by expanding it.
The U.S. flag flies over The US Consulate near Arg e Tabriz, Tabriz, Persia (Iran), during Persian Constitutionalist Revolution in the early 1900s. The Arg was attacked and bombed by 4000 Russian troops in December of 1911. The Persians held out for four days. While the US consulate was in the line of fire, some Americans like Howard Baskerville, took to arms, helping the people of Persia (Iran).
Iran's American martyr
By Robert D. Burgener
August 31, 1998
Iranians are great storytellers. As an American storyteller trying to stay focused on collecting anecdotes about the Allied involvement in Iran during the World War II, the other stories about this ancient land were a fascinating temptation. When I would ask Iranians about what contacts their country had with Americans before 1940, two names always came up: Morgan Shuster, an advisor to the palace in the 1910's, and Howard Baskerville, a missionary killed in Tabriz in 1909.
Based on the stories both older and younger Iranians told me about "the American missionary" -- most couldn't remember his name -- this guy was going to be much more interesting. First, because as with most stories coming out of Iran, there is an element of conspiracy. The American had been shot by a sniper - but which side was the sniper on? Was he a "Royalist" supporting the despot Shah in Tehran who had abolished the Iranian constitution or was this sniper on the side of Sattar Khan and the "Constitutionalists" who were trying to gain advantage through intervention of European powers by creating a martyr?
The second aspect to this Baskerville character was the legend which had grown up around the events of his death in 1909 and now spanned several generations in Iran. Over tea at a Washington, DC cafe on DuPont Circle, Iran's former ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Javad Mahallati, told me of several schools in Tabriz and other cites which had been named after Baskerville. Long before the "hostage crisis" or the CIA escapades, Ambassador Mahallati said Iranians remembered this American in much the same way Americans honor Lafayette, Von Steuben, Kostushko and the other foreign military officers who helped win our independence.
As a scholar, Professor Thomas M. Ricks, Director of the Office of International Studies at Villanova University, has collected a considerable amount of material for his forthcoming book about Baskerville. Professor Ricks served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran during the 1960's, but it was the story of his subsequent visits to Baskerville's grave in Tabriz during the 1980's and 90's that caught my interest.
At the height of the anti-American sentiment in Iran during the 1980's, Prof. Ricks commented that whenever he visited Tabriz and went - unannounced - to the place where Baskerville was buried, the tomb was always covered with yellow roses. Given the political climate, no one claimed any knowledge of who had placed the flowers on any particular day, but there was general agreement that the tomb always had fresh flowers on it.
Armed with the knowledge that Baskerville was serving with the Presbyterian mission in Tabriz, I located the archives of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. and found every researchers dream: two enthusiastic and knowledgeable librarians, Susan Sullivan and Margery Sly. With their help, the files on Howard Conklin Baskerville were opened to me.
Even after thirty years, I still get a thrill out of untying the string of a musty file folder and holding documents in my hands that were created by people who made history. It may be argued that curiosity is both a blessing and a curse to researchers on a deadline. In this case, after I had identified the basic documents which included Baskerville's hand-written application to the Board of World Wide Missions in which he explained that he would soon graduate from Princeton University and wished to gain experience in foreign language and culture before entering the seminary to study for the ministry, and the various letters and telegrams which were exchanged as he requested and was turned down for a position in China and then accepted a "short-term teaching" position in Persia.
I continued looking through the files, partly out of simple curiosity and partly by way of gathering background on what kind of people became missionaries and what problems they faced. On a badly blurred set of 16 typewritten pages that began with the words, "You have heard long before this letter reaches you that your dear boy has laid down his life," the story of this young American teacher's life and death was told with such tenderness and emotion that by the time I reached the last page and saw the writers' name, the first thing I did was rush into the librarians office and ask her who Annie R. Wilson was. She recognized the family name of Wilson as one that had been prominent in the Presbyterian church for generations.
Back in the files we were able to determine that Annie Rhea Wilson was the wife of the headmaster of the Presbyterian Memorial School in Tabriz. The letter, which was addressed to Baskerville's parents back in Minnesota, had been written over a ten-day period and was a sort of diary of the siege of Tabriz complete with descriptions of all the players from the American diplomat who warned the young American not to become involved in the internal politics of his host country, to the leaders of the Nationalist movement who welcomed the energetic foreigner and his band of student soldiers.
Convinced that this was a documentary in its own right and Mrs. Wilson's letter was the script which should be left alone and used exactly as she wrote it , I turned to Prof. Ricks for a scholarly blessing as to the chronology of events, which he gave. Next, in keeping with a formula/ethic I had learned many years ago as a young journalist , I sought another source for confirmation of the material. Since the story took place in Iran, it seemed reasonable that the source had to be Iranian.
Mohammad Batmanglij, the guiding spirit of Mage Publishers had been my sounding board for nearly a year on the original documentary about Iran and World War II and I had come to respect his critical comments because they were always followed with a scholars direction as to where I could find the information -- often lent from his own library -- that would put me back on track. I read him the parts of Annie Wilson's pertaining to the 1909 uprising in Tabriz, complete with the conspiracy theories, the siege by Royalist troops dispatched from Tehran, and the eventual victory of the Nationalists led by Sattar Khan. Batmanglij added his academic blessing, but as a publisher wondered if I would find an audience.
Using the Annie Wilson letter as our screenplay, we have prepared a pilot production - starring an original Oliver typewriter of the same type as was probably used at the mission school in Tabriz. Because a documentary by its nature is both guided and limited by the actual historical documents available, we needed to fill in some gaps for the audience. Mr. Harold Jossif, a retired American diplomat who served as the Consul in Tabriz at the time of the 50th a anniversary of Baskervilles's death, narrates a brief summary of the background events, supported by excerpts from British and American newspaper accounts of the day.
Howard Baskerville described in his own words the decision to join his students in the Nationalist movement as a matter of conscience. In telling his story, albeit from only the American perspective, I hope to encourage Iranian film makers to create a companion piece that will place this story in the context of your history. April 19, 1999 will mark the 90th anniversary of Baskerville's death. Perhaps we can honor this American idealist and his Iranian comrades by telling their story to a new generation.
Robert D. Burgener is a documentary film maker in suburban Washington, DC. He founded International Connections (INTERNECT) in 1978 as a multi-national organization to connect people and new information technologies across cultural boundaries. In 1976 he was an Associate Field Producer for ABC Television news based in Tokyo with assignments in Korea, traveling with the President of the United States. From1973 to 1975 he was visiting professor at the Department of Psychology, Sophia University, Tokyo, Japan, presenting lectures on cross-cultural communication from both the personal and mass media dimensions. From 1968 to 1975 his U.S. Army assignments included the Office of the Chief of Information at the Pentagon and a photo journalist and editor with Pacific Stars & Stripes, the official armed forces newspaper in South East Asia.
GRAVE SITUATION AT TABRIZ. DANGER TO EUROPEANS
From our Special Correspondent
TEHERAN, APRIL 19. Alarming news comes from Tabriz. The local Nationalist Assembly is believed to intend organizing an attack upon foreigners if the Powers do not immediately intervene to save the situation.
The famished mobs are restrained from rioting with the greatest difficulty. The revolutionaries under arms have supplies and will never surrender, but the provisions in the town are almost exhausted and the inhabitants find themselves between starvation on the one hand and the Shah's ruthless tribesmen on the other.
In their frenzied condition they see no escape but by sacrificing Europeans and bringing Russian troops on the scene. Unless the representations which are expected to be made to the Shah by the British and Russian Legations tomorrow are productive of important results, it would appear as if a tragedy were inevitable in Tabriz within the next few days.
A NATIONALIST SORTIE.
TheNationalist forces in Tabriz made a determined sortie this morning, but with little result. An American missionary, Mr. Baskerville, who joined Sattar Khan a fortnight ago, was killed during the fighting.
In consequence of the gravity of last night's news from Tabriz, evolutionary forces, as well as the Nationalist, designed a dastardly attack upon the Europeans in the town, the British and Russian Legations dispatched telegram to the respective Counsuls containing mesages for Sattar Khan and the revolutionary leaders to the effect that the outrages in contemplation "would exclude all concerned from any amnesty and ensure the most vigorous punishment of those responsible."
THE RUIN OF PERSIA
April 1, 1909
TEHERAN, MARCH 31 - Another Englishman has been robbed on the Shiraz-Ispahan road, which is now less safe than ever. Lingah is reported to be in the hands of the Nationalists. The Shah's obstinacy in the face of the ever growing revolutiuon is much commented upon. Almost all the available sources of evenue are cut off. It is not believed that Tabriz will hold out much longer, unless a diversion is created by the march of other Nationalists troops on Teheran - REUTER
THE SHAH'S TROOPS
OF GERMAN HELP
ST.PETERSBURG, APRIL 6 - According to a telegram to the "Russ" from Teheran, it is persistently reported there that General von der Goltz of the German Army, has been entrusted by the Shah with the task of repressing the existing anarchy, and will shortly arrive to take over the command of the troops.
The correspondant adds that the conclusion of a German loan depends upon the results achieved by General von der Goltz. - REUTER
THE LAST SORTIE PITIFUL SCENES IN TABRIZ MR.BASKERVILLE'S END STORY OF THE "REGIMENTOF SALVATION"
April 22 1909
From a Special Correspondent
TABRIZ, Wednesday - All yesterday rumours were flying about the city that the Consulates were in serious danger of being attacked. I have authentic information that there is very good ground for these reports of an onslaught. They probably come from the famishing crowd, directed by the more sinister and well-armed element anxious and ready to take desperate courses.
The British Consular Guard of six Indian sowars is quite inadequate for such an emergency. The Russian Consulate possesses fifty Cossacks with a Maxim gun. The French and American Consulate have no guards. Germany possesses only a Consular Agent appointed a few weeks ago, who signalised the occasion of his appointment by offering to the Anjuman, presumably on instructions from Teheran, to act as intermediary between them and the Shah, an offer which the Anjuman refused.
I must now chronicle the gallant death of Mr. Baskerville, an American, lately master of the mission school. Some retrospect is necessary. On March 31st, by a curious coincidence, he left the fence of neutrality and decided to throw in his lot with the starving town, thereby sacrificing his appointment in the American school.
It may now be admitted, without detriment to the town's situation, that a pitiable and profound demoralization has succeded the former courage and confidence, and that the Anjuman is weak and utterly powerless. The riflemen have never been organized and are now throughly disheartened, while disipline is reduced to the vanishingng point.
The military power is supreme in the town, but unable to make any headway against the enemy, neither side being capable or willing to attack the Royalists, who are wisely content with the powerful weapon of starvation.
REGIMENT OF SALVATION
Baskerville was given charge of 150 men and myself 350. On the strength of my Oxford University Volunteer Corps knowledge, I taught them the rudiments of attack as practised in the British Army - an interesting and not unamusing spectacle. This force became known as the Foje Najat or Regiment of Salvation - which I presume, would also be the Persian translation of Salvation Army - and during the past three weeks contributed largely to maintain the town in stable defense and chock the demoralization
A DWINDLING PARTY
We reached the rendezvous at eleven, and had to wait for the men. We only began to move at 4:30 a.m. Baskerville led 150 men to the right. By the time he arrived within range of the enemy, the number had dwindled to nine.
With these he gallantly began the attack at 5:30, but was shot by a bullet through the heart when leading on. He died almost immediately.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia
During the Great War
Michael Zirinsky, Ph.D.
This paper focuses primarily on American Presbyterian missionary activity at
Urmia, western Azerbaijan, during the years 1914-1919. Although American
missionaries began as neutrals in the Great War, with good intentions toward all,
they became embroiled in wartime public events and inadvertently roiled an
already turbulent situation. The subject is fascinating in part because it marks the
interaction of several separate histories which normally are considered only in
isolation from each other. These topics include American social history, Christian
Church history, and the history of twentieth century international politics, as well
as modern Iranian history.
American Presbyterian Church archives, the most important source for this
paper, detail the domestic and international history of Iran during the Great War
because Presbyterian missionaries were interested observers and meticulous record
keepers. At regular intervals, they were required by their Board of Foreign
Missions in New York to report on local conditions and on their own activities. In
addition, they wrote regular, formal letters to the churches and individuals in
America who sponsored them and paid their expenses and salaries. The
Presbyterian archive also contains collections of private papers (letters, diaries,
photograph collections and other personal materials), which have been made a part
of the historical record by retired missionaries and their families. All of these
records are carefully preserved by a Church which understands the study of history
to be one way human beings can try to know the will of God on earth.
From the perspective of this secular historian, Presbyterian missionaries at
Urmia seem to have had more worldly than religious impact. They worked in the
world, as doctors and nurses, as educators, even as agronomists. They themselves
valued democratic self-government and patriotic love of community. Indeed, the
government of the Presbyterian Church, which emphasizes democratic local
control and election of higher authorities by individual self-governing
congregations, is one of the Puritan origins of the secular American system of
Presbyterian missionaries in Iran consequently helped to stimulate the
development of modern national feeling among Iranians, including several
minority groups. An intriguing example of this is the brief career of Howard
Baskerville, a young short-term teacher at the American Mission Boys' School in
Tabriz. During the Constitutional Revolution Baskerville became so caught up in
Iran's struggle for freedom that in 1908 he resigned from the Mission to join his
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 2
students in the Democratic armed forces. He died for Iranian Constitutional
liberty.1 Another example is the career of Ahmad Kasravi, arguably the first
modern Iranian historian, both in his use of primary sources to recount the past "as
it actually occurred" and in his Iranian secular nationalism. In this regard it is
important to recall that Kasravi had been a teacher in the Mission's Tabriz Boys'
School, where he also studied English.
Despite their beneficent and peaceful intentions, however, during the war
their actions made worse existing conflicts among communities which were
religion-based. They became involved in a struggle which came to take on some of
the aspects of a Crusade against a Jihad. The Great War in Iran has been obscure in
written history. In western Europe its dates are clear enough, from 28 July 1914 to
11 November 1918, but in Iran they are less precise. It began with Ottoman
Turkish attacks on established Russian positions in Iranian Azerbaijan in October
1914. After years of chaos, the war ended only with the reestablishment of order by
Reza Khan sometime after his February 1921 coup d'état. This new order was
signaled most clearly by Reza's deposition of the Qajar dynasty in 1925.
Although these Iranian events have largely been ignored by western
historians of the Great War, they were of vital importance to Iran itself. Russian,
Ottoman, British, French, and German military forces ranged freely over the
country despite Iran's nominal neutrality. The war destabilized Iran's already weak
political structure and led directly to the establishment in 1926 of the Pahlavi
dynasty which dominated the country until 1978. Destabilization took the form of
the rise of minority autonomist movements, tribal, confessional, and national -- the
Kurds and the Assyrians for example.2
One of the most powerful aspects of destabilization was the high mortality
imposed by the war and resulting struggles for power among various groups in
Iran. In addition to people killed by violence, the Great War interrupted food and
energy supplies, ripped people from their homes, and spread epidemic disease.
Perhaps one-quarter of the population died of starvation, exposure, dysentery,
typhus, typhoid fever, cholera, smallpox, malaria, or influenza. All of Iran was
affected by the war, but mortality was highest in the north, worst of all in western
1USNA, RG 84, Tabriz Consulate, 1908; Rezadeh Shafaq, "Howard Baskerville," The
Tehran Journal, 14 December 1959; PHS, H5 reveals that Baskerville applied to be a
missionary as an undergraduate at Princeton, with a letter of recommendation from his
history professor, Woodrow Wilson.
2Despite speculation about Azeri nationalism, reinforced by the recent independence of
ex-Soviet Azerbaijan, there seems to be no evidence in Presbyterian archives of Great
War-era Azeri separatism; American missionaries saw the Azeri-Turkish speaking Shia
population of Azerbaijan as Iranian.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 3
Azerbaijan, site of intense American Presbyterian missionary activity.3
The American Presbyterian Mission
American Protestant missionaries first came to Urmia in 1834 to work with
Assyrian Christians.4 As elsewhere, these missionaries were responding to early
nineteenth century evangelical revival, which called on American Protestants to
preach the Gospel to all humankind. At first the work was supervised by the
Congregational, Boston-based American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
Missions. In 1871 the mission was transferred to the New York-based Presbyterian
Board, which sought to minister to Jews and Muslims as well as Armenian and
Assyrian Christians. The Presbyterian Board also expanded the Mission throughout
northern Iran: stations opened at Tehran in 1872, Tabriz in 1873, Hamadan in
1880, Rasht and Qazvin in 1906, Kermanshah in 1910, and Mashad in 1911. In
1883 the Presbyterian Board reorganized the Iranian field into two separate
missions. Urmia and Tabriz constituted the "West Persia Mission" and the
remaining Iranian stations were called the "East Persia Mission." The two
jurisdictions were not reunited until 1931.5
After half a century of American Protestant missionary work in Iran, the
growing numbers of missionaries created need for the United States to establish
diplomatic relations with Iran. S.G.W. Benjamin, himself the child of Protestant
missionaries in the Ottoman Empire, arrived in Tehran as the first US Minister in
June 1883.6 US consulates were established at Tehran and Tabriz, but elsewhere
American missionaries continued to depend on Great Britain for consular
assistance. Until the expansion of US activity following the Second World War,
the Presbyterian Mission remained the most important American interest in Iran.7
3Nikki R. Keddie and Yann Richard, Roots of Revolution; an Interpretive History of
Modern Iran (New Haven, 1981), 79-93. See also Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between
Two Revolutions (Princeton, 1982), 102-135; M. Reza Ghods, Iran in the Twentieth
Century, A Political History (Boulder, Colorado, 1989), 45-92; and Richard Cottam,
Nationalism in Iran (Pittsburgh, 1979).
4See John Joseph, The Nestorians and Their Muslim Neighbors (Princeton, 1959).
5See Frederick J. Heuser, Jr., A Guide to Foreign Missionary Manuscripts in the
Presbyterian Historical Society (New York, 1988), 71.
6FRUS 1883, 702ff; James F. Goode, "Samuel Greene Wheeler Benjamin: Unorthodox
Observer of the Middle East," Middle East Studies Association of North America,
Washington, D.C., December 1995.
7See, for example, Department of State, INFO series #30, 28 August, 1934, "American
interests in Persia today center largely around the activities of the Presbyterian Board of
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 4
Growth brought the American Mission into contact with many European
missionary societies active in Iran. These included a large French Catholic Mission
(the Congregation of the Mission, popularly known as the Lazarists, established
first at Urmia in 1839), and several English groups, notably the Church Missionary
Society (CMS, established at Isfahan in 1875, with other stations later created at
Kerman , Yazd , and Shiraz ) and the Archbishop of
Canterbury's Assyrian Mission (AAM, established at Urmia, 1884-1914). There
were also a small German Lutheran Orient Mission (established at Sauj Bulaq
[Mahabad] in 1905 and transferred to American Lutheran control in 1911) and a
highly political Russian Orthodox Mission.8
In order to avoid the twin dangers of unwanted duplication of missionary
efforts and conflict between societies with similar aims, the Presbyterians
negotiated a comity agreement with the English Church Missionary Society in
1895. The boundary between the two missions would be
a line drawn from Khorramabad, Luristan, to Kashan, thence along
parallel 34E N. to the Afghan frontier: Khorramabad to remain in the
American sphere of influence & Kashan in that of the Church
The phrasing of this agreement as well as the division itself foreshadowed the 1907
Anglo-Russian political partition of Iran.
This agreement and a similar one with the Lutheran Orient Mission aside10,
American Presbyterian relations with other Christian missions in Iran remained in
a state of rivalry until the outbreak of war in 1914. Despite the American Mission's
original intention to improve the indigenous Assyrian Church, the development of
an "American Church" as a schismatic off-shoot of the Assyrian "Old Church"
provided a challenge to other missionary groups. The American Mission was seen
as wealthy and powerful by its French and British rivals, who both marveled at
American ability to build imposing schools and hospitals and criticized American
work as tantamount to buying adherents.
The Lazarist mission was militantly Catholic; in the context of French
history, this often meant hostility to Protestantism and secularism, and French
Foreign Missions," USNA, RG 59, 899.00/1596.
8Recently, we surveyed the educational work of some of these missionary groups,
"Missionaries, Education, and Social Change in Iran, 1834-1941," Middle East Studies
Association of North America, Providence, Rhode Island, November 1996.
9CMS PE G2 PE/O, 1895, 105.
10To date I have seen only US State Department records pertaining to this mission,
USNA, RG 59, 391.1163 Lutheran Orient Mission.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 5
Catholic rivalry with American Protestants is amply represented in the Lazarist
archives. However, even after the formal separation of the French State from the
Catholic Church in the early twentieth century, the French government saw the
Catholic mission as an important French influence in Iran.11
The Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission ostentatiously distanced itself from
other missionary enterprises, denying any expansionist ambition and declaring a
purpose to revive the Old Church "from within," i.e., by education. In the 1888
words of Archbishop E. W. Benson, the mission "will not proselytize - not baptize,
communicate, or ordain any member of that Church into the Church of England."12
This position brought the English mission into conflict with American, French, and
Russian missions, which sought to build Presbyterian, Catholic, and Orthodox
Churches among the Assyrians. The AAM focused its attention on the hierarchy of
the Assyrian Church, trying to assure a good, English-style education to the priests
and bishops. When the Iranian Assyrian Church nevertheless joined the Russian
Orthodox communion following Russian military occupation of western
Azerbaijan, the AAM withdrew from Iran in 1914. The impression is left, even
more than with CMS in the south, that there was close connection between this
mission and the British government.
American Presbyterians shared the disappointment of the Archbishop of
Canterbury's Mission at Russian success in converting the Assyrian Church.
However, the Presbyterians chose to remain at Urmia and to work with Russian
civil and military authorities, as they had worked with Iranian authorities before the
1907 Russian occupation.13 The outbreak of war in 1914 effectively ended intermission
rivalries. Under pressure of wartime hysteria, all Christians in Urmia came
to perceive the war as a conflict between Ottoman-led Islam and Russian-led
Christendom. Consequently American missionaries allied themselves with other
Christian groups and saw the Russian Army, and its locally recruited Assyrian and
Armenian levies, as "our army."
Who were the American missionaries, and what did they do? Analysis of
personnel records indicates that they came from prosperous middle class families,
mostly from the northeastern United States. They were highly educated. Twothirds
of them were female. They tended to be assigned in families (siblings
serving in the same field, children assigned as missionaries to their parents' field,
and so forth). Most missionaries declared a vocation for the missionary life as
11Le Journal de Teheran, 17 May 1945, preserved in the Archives Lazaristes.
12J.F. Coakley, The Church of the East and the Church of England; A History of The
Archbishop of Canterbury's Mission (Oxford, 1992), 119.
13To date, I have seen reference to Russian activity only in American, British, and French
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 6
adolescents. Typically they stayed in Iran until retirement, only returning to
America on furlough after every seven years on the field.14
In normal times the missionaries' work was of three sorts. Evangelists sought
to preach the Gospel of Jesus to those who would listen. Medical missionaries tried
to minister to medical needs, alleviating suffering and treating and preventing
disease. Educators worked to inculcate a modern laity and clergy for the Iranian
Church they sought to make. Educators also sought to bring modern science and
technology to a "backward" land. The Presbyterian missionaries all sought to live
lives of Christian service to Iranians. Implicitly, they also preached the "gospel" of
the United States as a promised land. Thus the Church they established was known
as the "American Church" and many of their schools' alumni sought further
education -- and citizenship -- in the US.15
The West Persia Mission was large and wealthy. On the eve of the war there
were 21 Presbyterian missionaries at Urmia, plus their children. In addition, there
were perhaps a dozen missionaries in Tabriz. As early as 1895 the Mission had
established 117 schools in the Urmia region, enrolling 2,410 mostly Assyrian or
Armenian students. The Mission also maintained a teaching hospital in Urmia.16
The senior Presbyterian missionary at Urmia during the Great War was the
Rev. William A. Shedd, D.D. He was born at Urmia in 1865 of missionary parents,
John H. Shedd and Sarah Jane Dawes of Ohio; he returned to Urmia as a
missionary himself in 1892, after his education at Marietta College (Ohio) and
Princeton Seminary (New Jersey). He was well connected; his first cousin,
Chicago banker Charles G. Dawes, later became Vice President of the United
States. Before the outbreak of war, Shedd acted informally as US consular agent at
14See Michael P. Zirinsky, "Harbingers of Change: Presbyterian Women in Iran, 1883-
1949," American Presbyterians: Journal of Presbyterian History (1992), 173-86.
15Yahya Armajani, "Sam Jordan and the Evangelical Ethic in Iran," Religious Ferment in
Asia, Robert J. Miller, editor (Lawrence, Kansas, 1974), 23-36; Michael P. Zirinsky, "A
Panacea for the Ills of the Country: American Presbyterian Education in Inter-War Iran,"
Iranian Studies (1993), 119-37. Armajani was the first Iranian ordained a minister in the
Mission-founded Evangelical Church. The mission's Tehran cable address was
In 1890 a man tried for the murder of an American stated, "My mother was an
Assyrian ... my father ... was of the Armenian sect, ... but I myself belong to the sect of the
Americans," FRUS, 1890, 681; pre-WWI Tabriz Consulate files are full of papers
regarding problems associated with Iranian Christians' desire to acquire US citizenship,
USNA, RG 84.
16John Elder, History of the Iran Mission (Np, nd), 19; Mary Lewis Shedd, The Measure
of a Man; the Life of William Ambrose Shedd Missionary to Persia (New York, 1922),
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 7
Urmia, registering births and deaths, renewing passports, etc., on behalf of US
consul Gordon Paddock at Tabriz. In 1914 Paddock urged him to accept an official
commission as honorary vice consul at Urmia, but Shedd demurred. "Besides the
work it might involve," he wrote, "an objection to my being a regular agent here is
the misunderstanding that might arise to our political position. People here are
apt to consider missions as political agencies."17 The war, however, was to change
In times of crisis, missionaries tended to drop all normal activity and engage
in "relief work." For medical workers this was a continuation of normal work, but
under much more extreme conditions. Evangelists and educators were faced with
new and unfamiliar tasks as buyers and distributors of food, financial agents,
organizers of refugee camps, sanitation workers, and buriers of the dead. During
the Great War in Iran, crisis loomed large. The Presbyterian Mission at Urmia
rushed to meet it.
The Great War in Iranian Azerbaijan
From the viewpoint of Urmia, the Great War in Iran may be divided into six
phases, briefly sketched below. This conflict came to have a religious-national
structure, and it took on genocidal proportions. It came thoroughly to involve the
American Presbyterian Mission.
1. Between the Ottoman Empire's entering the war against Russia in late
October and the end of 1914, there was extensive skirmishing between Ottoman
and Russian forces along the border west of Urmia. Much of this activity involved
probing actions by irregular Kurdish forces operating from Ottoman territory, a
prelude to the massive invasion which followed.
Russian forces, in occupation of Azerbaijan since the 1907 Anglo-Russian
partition of Iran, reacted to Ottoman attacks by reinforcing their army, largely with
Georgian and Armenian conscripts from the Caucasus. They also armed Iranian
Assyrians and organized them into a military force. The newly armed Assyrians
attacked Muslim villages near Urmia, even as Russian authorities hanged Iranians
suspected of corresponding with the Turks, including members of the ulama. Thus
the quality of relations between Muslim and Christian communities sharply
declined even before the Ottomans invaded.18
17W. A. Shedd, Urmia, to G. Paddock, Tabriz, 2 Sept. 1914, DOS, RG 84, Tabriz
Consulate; Charles G. Dawes to Secretary Bryan, 18 Jan. 1915, RG 59, 391.116/47;
Shedd, Measure, 26-53; PHS, H 5.
18Laura McComb Muller, "Recollections of the Diary of Laura McComb Muller," 10-11;
Hugo Muller to "Dear Ones at Home," 15 October 1914, PHS, RG 91-18-14.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 8
2. During the winter of 1914-1915, the Ottomans launched a major offensive
against the Russian Caucasus. In the final analysis, this attack was a disaster for the
Ottomans, but in the short term they achieved local successes. Urmia fell to them
on 2 January and remained under their control until 24 May. They took Tabriz on 8
January, holding it only three weeks.19
This brief Ottoman occupation of Iranian Azerbaijan led to horrors.20 A large
portion of the Christian population fled as refugees to the Caucasus, along with the
Russian army. Most of the Christians who remained took refuge in the American
and French mission yards. Kurdish irregular forces preceding the Ottoman army
sacked Urmia and its villages, taking food, money, rugs, clothing, and jewelry
where they found it, killing or wounding those who resisted their plundering.
American missionary sources also record extensive "massacring," "outraging of
women" and abduction of women and children to Muslim "harems" for the purpose
of forced conversions to Islam. Once the Ottomans were firmly in occupation of
Urmia, however, their officers ended these depredations. Although the Ottomans
honored Mission sanctuaries, where 15,000 sheltered under American and 10,000
under French protection, the first five months of 1915 were horrible. About twenty
percent of all refugees died from disease. The American Mission alone buried
3,000 of the 15,000 people in its care.
3. From late May 1915 until 1917, Azerbaijan again was under Russian
control. The Ottomans remained on the defensive, even as Russia disintegrated.
Before its collapse, however, Russia carried a genocidal war into eastern Anatolia,
killing as many as eighty percent of the Kurdish population.21 Revolution ended
Russian army discipline, and soldiers looted civilian property. By late 1917 the
Russian army in Azerbaijan virtually ceased to exist.
During this time too, perhaps as many as 50,000 armed Assyrians from
Hakkari (Jilus, led by their primate, Mar Shimoun) and Armenians from Van
descended on the Urmia plain as refugees. Because of their wartime experiences
19Robert M. Labaree, Tabriz, to Robert E. Speer, New York, 8 Feb. 1915, PHS, RG 91-5-
18; G. Y. Holliday, Tabriz, to H. Wilson Allinson, Isfahan, 16 Feb. 1915, copied to
Lambeth, 11 Mar. 15, CMS, 1915, 27. Stanford J. Shaw and Ezel Kural Shaw, History of
the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, volume 2, Reform, Revolution, and Republic:
The Rise of Modern Turkey, 1808-1975 (Cambridge, 1977), 310 ff.; David Fromkin, A
Peace to End All Peace; Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922 (New York,
1989), 119-21; George Lenczowski, The Middle East in World Affairs (Ithaca, New York,
1980), 54-56; also see Shedd, Measure 138-88.
20See Hugo Muller, "1915 Diary," and Shedd, Measure.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 9
they were wretchedly poor and bitterly anti-Muslim. By culture they were
pastoralists, and they had little understanding of agriculture or urban life. Thus they
destabilized life in the plain, taking food without payment, pasturing animals in
grain fields before harvest, and cutting fruit trees and vines for firewood, thereby
destroying the local economy and causing famine. Also, local Assyrians
encouraged the Jilus to shift their destruction to Muslim properties, adding to intercommunal
4. The situation in Azerbaijan grew worse as revolution broke out in Russia
and its army disintegrated. As the Rev. Frederick N. Jessup wrote in his annual
report for 1917, "The troops feel compelled to live off the country, and ...
[consequently] in some places actual famine conditions prevail."23 As the Russian
army disintegrated and withdrew from Iran, responsibility for Allied defensive
positions on the Azerbaijan front came to fall increasingly on Assyrian and
Armenian Christian forces, originally established and armed by Russia but now
under tenuous direction by Great Britain. The British had no significant armed
forces near Urmia, however. Therefore they sought to use the American Mission
there as their agency, as leaders of the Assyrian-Armenian Army. This stage of the
war lasted until the Urmia front collapsed, at the end of July 1918.24
In February 1918 civil violence erupted among Iranians, Assyrians, and
Kurds. A Muslim effort to seize control of Urmia was suppressed by the Assyrian
army. The subsequent assassination of Mar Shimoun by Ismail Agha, Simko, chief
of the Shikkak confederation of Kurds,25 further bloodied the already nasty
situation. Assyrians believed that Simko had been induced to act as he did by
Iranian government officials, and in reprisal they carried out a "reign of terror"
against Muslims. Iranian nationalist historian Ahmad Kasravi claimed that "nearly
ten thousand innocent people were killed...." Nothing seen in missionary or
22W.S. Vanneman, Tabriz, to Scott, New York, 16 Aug. 1915, PHS, RG 91-4-18; F.G.
Coan, Urmia, to Robert Speer, New York, 11 July 1916, PHS, RG 91-5-19; Shedd,
Measure, 205; c.f., Kasravi, Eighteen Year History, chapter XII.
23Jessup, Tabriz, to BFM, New York, December, 1917, PHS, RG 91-5-20.
24Shedd, Measure, 224 et passim.
25Martin van Bruinessen, "Kurdish Tribes and the State of Iran: The Case of Simko's
Revolt," in Richard Tapper, editor, The Conflict of Tribe and State in Iran and
Afghanistan (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983), pp. 364-400; Robert Olson, The
Emergence of Kurdish Nationalism (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1989).
Unlike most Kurdish leaders, Simko supported the Russians during the war, not the
Turks; USNA, RG 84, Shedd to Paddock, 30 Sept. 1914.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 10
diplomatic archives suggests Kasravi exaggerated.26
5. From 1 August 1918 until the signing of the Mudros armistice at the end
of October 1918, Azerbaijan remained under Ottoman control. The presence of
their army did nothing to alleviate the famine and epidemic disease stalking the
land. Missionary sources for this time are chaotic, but the broad outlines of what
occurred seem clear.
The bulk of the Assyrian and Armenian Christian fighting force was drawn
away in a bungled attempt to link up with British forces at Sain Kala. When the
Ottomans pushed into Urmia during the night of 31 July - 1 August 1918, the vast
majority of the Christian population fled in panic, accompanied by senior
American missionary William Shedd and his wife. Along with thousands of others,
Dr. Shedd died along the way, of cholera.27
Those Christians who remained at Urmia again sought refuge in the walled
mission compounds. Again the Ottomans honored US neutrality and the American
Mission was able to provide sanctuary. The French Mission, however, fell to a
crowd of looters. Six hundred people were murdered there, and the French mission
was stripped of all its valuables.28
After the worst damage was done at Urmia, the Ottomans interned the
American missionaries and took them to Tabriz. There they were held under
relatively luxurious conditions until the war ended, when they were all released.
6. After Ottoman forces withdrew from Azerbaijan, Iran sank further into
anarchy. The British Army's North Persia Force sought to bolster anti-Bolshevik
elements in the Caucasus. It faced Iranian opposition, notably in Gilan from Mirza
Kuchik Khan's Jangalis. In the mountains tribal forces such as Simko's Shikkak
Kurds expanded their authority. In Tehran, British officials made and unmade
governments at will. They obtained the appointment of Vosuq al-Dowleh as Prime
Minister in hope that he would support an agreement transforming Iran into a
British protectorate. In February 1919, Vosuq sent the Cossack Brigade, under the
command of Russian Colonel Starosselsky, against the Jangalis. Britain supported
this action, carrying out "purely coercive measures to further political ends," in
26Kasravi, Eighteen Year History, chapters XIV-XV; Shedd, Measure, 213-236; PHS, RG
91-25-2; AAM 1919, 311-330; USNA, RG 84, Tabriz Consulate, 1919. Missionary Ned
Richards described the Christian army, largely made up of Jilus, being "as wild and
untamed as any bunch of savages you ever saw," circular letter, Urmia, 26 February 1918.
27Shedd, Measure, 255-271.
28USNA, RG 84, Tabriz Consulate, 1919; Pierre Franssen, C.M., "Memoires d'un
missionaire en Perse," 94-105.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 11
support of "Starosselski's reign of terror in Gilan."29
Despite the unsettled conditions at Urmia, the American mission nonetheless
sought to re-establish itself there. In early 1919 Dr. Harry P. Packard visited twice,
the second time bringing his family and intending to stay. Soon afterwards, a riot
broke out. Although initial fighting seems to have involved an Iranian government
attack on Simko and a Kurdish reprisal attack on Urmia, Iranian rioters attacked
the American mission grounds, looting it as thoroughly as the French mission had
been stripped the summer before, murdering some 270 people. Packard and his
family survived, rescued from the crowd by Iranian government forces.30
This riot was the climax of the American Mission's experience of war in
western Azerbaijan. In some ways it was the result of growing popular Iranian
perception that Americans were associated with Assyrian and Kurdish attacks on
Iranian Muslims. This riot ended the Presbyterian presence at Urmia until 1923. It
also was a prelude to the end of the Mission at Urmia, imposed by Reza Shah in
The Presbyterian Mission During the War
Having surveyed the war from the viewpoint of Urmia, let us now look
specifically at American Presbyterian missionary involvement during the six
phases of the conflict outlined above.
1. 1914. During the opening months of the Great War, American
missionaries sought to be neutral and even-handed. At the onset of hostilities,
Germans took refuge from the Russians with neutral Americans. As best they
could, the missionaries maintained amicable relations with Russians, Iranians,
Assyrians, Armenians, and Kurds. Because these groups fought each other,
however, American neutrality became increasingly difficult to maintain. Faced
with inter-communal conflict, the Mission was forced to take sides.
As from before the war, the Rev. William Shedd, senior American missionary
at Urmia, acted unofficially as US consular agent. In this capacity he reported on
political and military conditions, knowing that US Consul Paddock in Tabriz
shared his information with British, French, and Russian colleagues. While the
indigenous Christian population of Urmia panicked on hearing of Russian
withdrawal on 2 January 1915, many thousands fleeing to the Caucasus, the
29Houshang Sabahi, British Policy in Persia 1918-1925, 43.
30USNA, RG 84, Tabriz Consulate, 1919; Franssen, "Memoires," 119-139 (the bulk of
these pages are an eye-witness account by Fr. Antoine Clarys of the French mission).
31Michael P. Zirinsky, "Render Therefore unto Caesar the Things Which Are Caesar's:
American Presbyterian Educators and Reza Shah," Iranian Studies, 1993, 340-342.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 12
American missionaries remained. They trusted in their neutrality, gave sanctuary to
fifteen thousand Christians, and tried to protect their property.
2. January-May 1915. With the coming of the Ottomans to Azerbaijan in
January, the American Mission was plunged into the heart of the war's darkness. At
first the Mission simply sought to alleviate distress. A vivid example of this was
Dr. Harry P. Packard's dramatic ride to the village of Goegtapa. Dr. Packard was
born in Illinois in 1874, and he graduated from high school in Pueblo, Colorado,
and took degrees from Colorado College (AB, 1898) and the University of Denver
(M.D., 1901). Before becoming a missionary at Urmia in 1906, he served with the
Colorado Militia during the Cripple Creek mining troubles. In Hugo Muller's
words, "Dr. Packard was a big man with a big voice, and on horseback he looked
like a general."32 Displaying a US flag to emphasize his neutral and extra-territorial
status, Packard rescued hundreds of besieged Assyrian Christians at Goegtapa from
what he characterized as imminent massacre by invading Kurds. Packard knew the
Kurdish leaders as their physician, and he was able to persuade them to let the
Assyrians walk away from Goegtapa to refuge in Urmia, if they would give up
their arms. Equally important to the peaceful outcome of this incident, Packard
was able to persuade the Assyrians that they would be safe under American
protection at Urmia.33
The American Mission made its yards at Urmia a refuge for Assyrian and
Armenian Christians who feared massacre at the hands of the Ottoman Turks and
their Kurdish allies. To make room for this mass of people, ultimately numbering
some 15,000, the Mission annexed to its own compounds adjacent Christian
properties. These properties included the yard of the Archbishop of Canterbury's
Mission, which had been left in charge of the Rev. Y.M. Neeson, an Assyrian
priest who had taken Episcopalian holy orders in America, where he also acquired
US citizenship. Order was maintained in the mission yards by an unarmed Assyrian
police force under the command of the Rev. Hugo A. Muller, who also was in
charge of mission finances during the occupation.34
To signify the neutral, extraterritorial, status of the Mission under the
Capitulations, the Presbyterians flew the Stars and Stripes, the flag of their neutral
nation. However, missionary faith in the flag appears to have been curiously naive,
32PHS, H 5; Hugo Muller, "1915 Diary," 5.
33H. P. Packard, "The Relief of Goegtapa," October 1915, 9 pp. typescript, PHS, RG 91-
5-18; letter from John Mooshie et al., Tiflis, to the Archbishop of Canterbury, AAM
19/16-17; Shedd, Measure, 143.
34Hugo Muller "1915 Diary"; AAM, 19/12-13, J.D. Barnard to Archbishop, 2 February
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 13
as if Old Glory were a talisman to ward off evil. As Hugo Muller wrote about this
time, "The person who has never been far away from his country cannot well
realize the emotions that steal over one at the sight of the Stars and Stripes in a
strange land. It is like a rose in a desert." The flag, he continued, "symbolized two
great causes, and united them, the cause of Christ and the cause of America ... very
many of the persons who came within the influence of this flag regarded it the
symbol of Protestant Christianity quite as much as they did [as] the symbol of
The mission also protected Christian property, including the entire cash assets
of the Urmia branch of the English-owned Imperial Bank of Persia. American
missionaries acquired and doled out food and clothing for Christian refugees, using
the property deposited with them for safe-keeping to this end. They also withstood
Ottoman efforts to confiscate from them the assets of the English Bank and to
impose a war levy on them. However, they did pay ransom for individuals held
hostage by the Ottoman authorities.36
In the course of the five months' occupation of Urmia by the Ottomans,
Presbyterian missionaries acted as caretakers for 15,000 Christian refugees,
sheltered within their walls. They obtained food and water from the Muslimdominated
city and countryside, and did their best to maintain sanitation. Despite
their best efforts, approximately 3,000 people under American care died, mostly of
filth-bred epidemic diseases (dysentery, typhus, typhoid fever, and cholera).
Virtually all the missionaries themselves became ill. Several Americans died,
including Dr. Shedd's wife, Louise Wilber Shedd, and the Rev. Hugo Muller's
newborn baby boy.37
These experiences politicized the Mission and made it explicitly pro-Entente.
In the course of the suffering they endured and witnessed, American missionaries
came to see "pan-Islam," i.e. the Ottomans and their allies and sympathizers, as
their foe. Embittered by their own experiences, they were more willing than in
1914 to commit themselves to the Entente cause, which they now saw as
3. May 1915-December 1917. During the period of renewed Russian
35Hugo A. Muller, "Faith in the Flag" (New York, 1918); this pamphlet seems to have
been intended as part of a fund-raising effort for the Presbyterian Mission and its relief
activities; its hyperbole should be seen in the context of irrational, war-related
transformations in American language, when the "Pennsylvania Dutch" ceased speaking
German and sauerkraut became "liberty cabbage."
36Hugo Muller, "1915 Diary."
37Hugo Muller, "1915 Diary."
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 14
occupation from late May 1915 through 1917, the American Mission worked
increasingly closely with Allied military authorities and their local, Christian
clients. The Mission had always worked well with Britain, as the historic reliance
on British consular assistance and the comity agreement with CMS demonstrate.
Under pressure of war and in the context of a common Protestant Christian faith
and language, the American Mission found it natural to work even more closely
with Great Britain and its allies.
During this period, too, the Mission came to see the war more clearly as a
crusade.38 They had worked intimately with the Assyrians for 80 years, and also
with the Armenians. More often than not they tended to accept at face value the
horror stories of Turkish massacres. Perhaps more to the point, they sympathized
deeply with the suffering of the refugees from eastern Anatolia, and sought to
alleviate their distress as well as that imposed by them on the peoples of the Urmia
The American Mission enthusiastically embraced the April 1917 US entry
into the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary. Although the US did not
declare war on the Ottoman Empire, missionary cooperation with British, Russian,
and French officials in Azerbaijan grew even closer. Especially as discipline began
to break down in the Russian army, the Mission became ever more closely
involved with the administration of Christian defense. The leading role in this
action was taken by the Rev. William Shedd.
4. January-July 1918. In order to protect the community at Urmia, in
January 1918 Shedd accepted an official commission as US consul there. Many of
his missionary colleagues were dubious about thus breaking down the separation
between their church and the US government, but they accepted his advice that this
was the best course of action in a difficult time. Shedd was an active consul,
conferring regularly with Allied leaders as well as Iranian Muslims. To the
Christians defending Urmia he was a sage whose advice was always sought --
perhaps in part because of the relief funds he controlled.
One aspect of the Mission's work is that "relief" provided by New York came
as money, not as food, thus obliging purchase of food locally. American Relief
consequently added inflationary pressure to local food prices. When obtaining food
became difficult for the mission, it doled out money instead; the Mission thereby
came to subsidize men of the Assyrian and Armenian Christian fighting forces as
well as local Muslims, women, and children. Although intended for food, some of
38See, for example, the words of Jessie Ellis, who described in 1919 how the previous
July she had destroyed "the records of the expenditures for the crusade the Syrian forces
had been engaged in for months against the Turks...."; reproduced by her son, Robert B.
Ellis, in "See Naples and Die: a World War II Memoir of a United States Army Ski
Trooper in the Mountains of Italy," ms. provided me by Mary Cochran Moulton.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 15
this money may well have been spent on arms.39
Shedd was quite aware of what he was doing. Writing to the Armenian and
Syrian Relief Committee in New York on 21 July 1918, Shedd claimed,
that the safety of the whole community and the possibility of doing
relief work at all depended on the defeat of the Turkish attempt to
take this place and that we were not only justified in aiding the
Syrian and Armenian military forces but were compelled to do so.
Accordingly we have done so and the amount of help given is large
amounting to forty or fifty thousand dollars. We have reason to
believe that this will be refunded by the British Military authorities,
although we have no guarantee that this will be the case. However
that may be, there was no other source from which money could be
had to supply the men who were fighting with food and we did so. The
reasons for it were the same as those that led me as honorary
American Vice Consul to abandon a position of neutrality for one of
active participation in military affairs.40
Because of his unneutral action, Shedd came to be seen by Ottomans and Iranians
as a belligerent, even as leader of the enemy, Allied, Christian army.
Shedd's second in command during this conflict was Dr. Harry Packard, who
acted as head of the armed Assyrian police. Together with other missionaries,
Packard arranged for the maintenance of order by buying food and distributing it or
money to the needy. His police also arrested thieves and murderers and punished
them, although not frequently or harshly enough for Shedd's taste.41
The American Mission clearly supported the "Assyrian-Armenian Army" on
behalf of the Allied war effort and at explicit request of the British army. After the
war, the British Foreign Office tried to avoid repaying funds thus expended on
behalf of Great Britain. However, on being given documentary evidence of the
assurances made by Captain Gracey (who had come to Urmia during the siege as
an official representative of the Allied high command in the Caucasus), the British
government paid. As one British Legation official in Tehran put it in a June 1919
40William Shedd, Urmia, 21 July, 1918, to C.V. Vickery, Armenian and Syrian Relief
Committee, 1 Madison Ave., New York, PHS, RG 91.
41In his last letter from Urmia, 23 July 1918, Shedd wrote Robert Speer in New York,
"We have ... prevented the massacre of the Christian population. It has been with great
loss to the Moslems and with many crimes that one would like to have punished
summarily. I believe most fully in capital punishment under these circumstances, when
the way to save life is to take the life of murderers," PHS, RG 91.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 16
memorandum to British Minister Sir Percy Cox, "Capt. Gracey doubtless talked
rather big in the hopes of putting heart into the Syrians and holding up this front
against the Turks. [Consequently,] We have met all the orders issued by the late
Dr. Shedd which have been presented to us and a very large number of Assyrian
refugees are being maintained at Baquba, chiefly at H.M.G.'s expense."42
5. August-October 1918. During the second Ottoman occupation of
Azerbaijan, the American mission was interned and had little opportunity to
undertake war-related activity. Nevertheless, they cared for about 450 Christians in
their yard. Half of these refugees, including almost all of the children, died in the
few weeks before the Ottomans evacuated the missionaries to Tabriz.43
On 8 October, on two hours' notice and over protests of missionaries who
wished to stay, the eighteen remaining Americans were deported from Urmia to
Tabriz. The American Mission was thus separated from its remaining proteges at
Urmia. At Tabriz they were kept in "the splendid garden of the Russian Bank
people where we stayed til our release. We were quite comfortable and could get
good food.... In ten days [on 22 October] we were informed that we were free...."
Ottoman negotiations with the Allies for an armistice, signed on board H.M.S.
Agamemnon at Mudros on 30 October, already had begun.44
6. 1919. Some of the worst mortality and atrocities occurred during this
period. Starvation and epidemic disease stalked the land, and American
missionaries participated in relief efforts along with other members of the foreign
community in Tabriz, including consular and British military officials and French
missionaries. At Urmia the small remaining Assyrian population were without
American leadership, but Mrs. Judith David, an Assyrian leader in the "American"
Church, gathered refugees in the American Mission and organized their care.45
In Spring 1919, contact was established between the American Mission at
42E.S.S., 26 June 1919, FO 248, 1919, Assyrians, 9, 15, 137, 138; and 18 Jan. 1919
Baghdad telegram, Political, no. 710, and the Legation's minute on it seem to confirm that
American missionary Robert McDowell served as Gracey's assistant ["Gracey &
McDowell interviewed Simko together"].
43Ellis, Tabriz, 4 Nov. 1918, to Speer, New York, PHS, RG 91; Dodd, Urmia station
report, Tabriz, 1 Nov. 1918, PHS, RG 91-5-21.
44Ellis, Tabriz, 4 Nov. 1918, to Speer, New York, PHS, RG 91; Dodd, Urmia station
report, Tabriz, 1 Nov. 1918, PHS, RG 91-5-21; Fromkin, Peace, 366-73.
45Judith David, Treasurer and Director, American Persian Relief Committee, Urmia,
"Urmia after the Evacuation by the Christians," copied by W. P. Ellis to Paddock, Tabriz,
13 Sept. 1919, Tabriz, Near East Relief papers, v. 2, USNA, RG 84.
American Presbyterian Missionaries at Urmia During the Great War 17
Tabriz and Assyrian refugees at Urmia. The bulk of the surviving Assyrian
community was under British supervision near Baghdad and wanted to return to
their pre-war homes as soon as possible. Because of unsettled political conditions
in the vicinity of Urmia -- this phrase also covers British indecision as to whether
or not they intended to establish an autonomous Kurdistan -- British authorities
refused permission for Assyrians to return home.46 Iranian government authorities
also sought to keep Assyrians, and perhaps their American protectors as well, away
In February 1919 Dr. Packard nevertheless made a brief inspection tour and
argued it was essential for him to return to Urmia, in order to encourage Assyrians
to get on with spring planting. In April he went to Urmia with his family. After a
few weeks of apparent peace, all hell broke loose.
On 24 May 1919 a riot destroyed the American Mission at Urmia. Amidst a
famine so severe that highwaymen were reported to be laying in wait for travelers
to cook and eat, a crowd of Iranians overwhelmed the Mission's Kurdish guards
Last edited by cyrus on Sat Nov 19, 2005 2:31 pm; edited 1 time in total
Joined: 24 Jun 2003
|Posted: Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:17 pm Post subject: An American Revolutionary
|An American Revolutionary
Charles Kurzman is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has written numerous articles on 20th century Iranian democracy movements, and is currently preparing a book comparing the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1906-1911 with democracy movements elsewhere in the world during the same period. He has traveled to Iran twice in the past year and is trying to forge research partnerships with scholars in Iran.
Robert Burgener, Howard Baskerville researcher and historian. Mr. Burgener tracked down the original correspondence from the Presbyterian mission in Tabriz that described Baskerville’s life and death. Using additional interviews, he produced a pilot for a film to be called A Matter of Conscience. Mr. Burgener studied at the University of Madrid, Spain and University of Vienna, Austria before graduating from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Harold Josif, retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer. As U.S. Consul in Tabriz from 1957-1959, Mr. Josif coordinated celebrations there in April 1959 honoring Howard Baskerville on the 50th anniversary of his death.
Joined: 24 Jun 2003
|Posted: Thu Mar 22, 2007 4:11 pm Post subject: Famous Americans in Iran
|Famous Americans in Iran
Howard Baskerville, Iran's first American martyr.
Elgin Groseclose, Treasury General, Persia.
Samuel M. Jordan whom "Jordan Ave." in Tehran is named after
William M. Miller
Arthur Millspaugh, Treasury General, Persia.
Richard Nelson Frye
Arthur Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, Persian Culture revivalists.
Morgan Shuster, Treasury General, Persia.
||All times are GMT - 4 Hours
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