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Posts Tagged ‘Turkey’

“I left Harpoot the 17th of May, going alone three days’ journey to Diarbekir, somewhat to the scandal of the missionaries along the way. However, I knew the road well and was not in the least afraid, and after all nothing happened.” (Letter of Dec 3, 1915)

“I left Harpoot the 17th of May, going alone three days’ journey to Diarbekir, somewhat to the scandal of the missionaries along the way. However, I knew the road well and was not in the least afraid, and after all nothing happened.” (Dora Mattoon, letter of Dec 3, 1915)

What inspires a woman to throw over her life from one day to the next, to go from apparent comfort and a great job in a big city to a remote post in a country she’s never been to, where they speak a language she hasn’t studied at all?  And what would possess her to leave the first country after five years of hard work for an entirely different one, retraining herself all over again?  (more…)

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Mosul. Erbil. Erzurum. Aleppo. Adana. Armenians. Yazidis. Kurds. Read the news lately? If you have, then these words suggest something to you.   Undoubtedly, we’ll all be even more familiar with them soon enough.

But in the archives “everything old is new again.” Or maybe it’s more accurately the reverse, everything new is old, with new associations mingling with older ones. Around here, the words above are likely to remind us of our many Amherst College missionaries who left the campus to make new lives in the Middle East, often for decades and generations.

For example, when I hear “Kurds,” I think “Koords” (having a weakness for old-timey spellings). And then I think “Earl Ward. Missionary and photographer in Turkey between 1909 and 1913.” And then, “Nesbitt Chambers, missionary in Turkey for forty-five years.”

Earl Ward, ca. 1910

Earl Ward, ca. 1910

William Nesbitt Chambers, ca. 1880

William Nesbitt Chambers, ca. 1880

We may be hearing a lot about the Kurds these days, but Ward and Chambers heard about them before we did, including their reputation for being fearless warriors, a reputation that’s still talked about today.

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As a cataloging librarian, one of the questions I’m often asked about my job is “do you have to read a lot of the book (thesis, script, video…) when you catalog it?” The answer is usually “no” because most published materials have helpful indexes, tables of contents, blurbs, or external reviews to help sort out the subject matter. (Most librarians will tell you that a very long “to read someday” list is an occupational hazard, because we don’t have time to read all the cool things we see every day.) Cataloging unpublished manuscripts is a little different, requiring more skimming and historical detective work (of the type I discussed in a blog post from last year). Last week I cataloged an unpublished manuscript that was entirely hand-written. Deciphering that much handwriting was a first for me, and fascinating!

Rev. Royal Merriman Cole graduated from Amherst College in 1866 at the age of 27.¹ In the summer of 1868 he graduated from Bangor Theological Seminary, married Eliza Cobleigh (who had attended Mt. Holyoke Seminary), was ordained by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and set sail from New York on August 15. They arrived in Erzroom (Erzurum), Turkey, on Sept. 30, 1868. Cole wrote in an 1873 letter to an Amherst professor: “I was able to take hold of the language with great earnestness, and have, I feel, succeeded beyond my best expectations. In six months I preached my first regular sermon…written in full, in the Armenian character. From that time on I have used simple notes and have now come to speak with about as much freedom, I think, as I should in English. Of course I have not so wide a range of words.”

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