Fr. Misael Karydis is one of many odd, mysterious figures from early American Orthodox history. We’ve discussed him at length in past articles. He was the longtime pastor of Holy Trinity Church in New Orleans, from 1881 until his suicide in 1901, and besides his pastoral work, he was apparently something of an inventor. Among the unexpected facts of Karydis’ life is that he was reportedly neither Greek (the dominant ethnicity in the New Orleans parish) nor Russian, nor Syrian, nor Serbian. According to all the sources I’ve seen, he was, of all things, Bulgarian — a nationality that, even today, represents a minuscule proportion of American Orthodoxy. Needless to say, if Karydis was, in fact, from Bulgaria, he represents the first Bulgarian priest ever to set foot in America.
Recently, I stumbled onto the 1900 US Census record containing Karydis’ information. (And just to be thorough, he was in the 6th Ward of New Orleans, Supervisor’s District 1, Enumeration District 60, Sheet 7, Line 74.) Fr. Misael’s last name (another ambiguity, as it’s listed in various sources as “Karydis” and “Kalitski”) is reported in the census as something like “Rache” or maybe “Kachi.” Or something else — the census entries are handwritten, and the census employee who recorded Fr. Misael’s name didn’t have the best penmanship. (See the above image.)
According to the census, Fr. Misael was indeed born in Bulgaria, of Bulgarian parents, in October of 1847 — making him 53 at the time of his death. He came to America in 1880, but never obtained US citizenship. His occupation is listed simply as “priest.”
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]