Tuesday, March 14/27, 2012 marked the two hundred and forty fifth anniversary of the repose of Colonel Philip Ludwell III, a native of Williamsburg, Virginia. The metrical books of the Russian Orthodox Church in London, England record that Ludwell died at his home in London at 5p.m. on March 14 O.S., 1767, having previously been confessed and received holy communion and holy unction. His funeral was served several days later in the London church. He is the first known convert to Orthodoxy in the Americas, having traveled from Virginia to be received at the Russian Orthodox Church in London, England in 1738. Further details of his life may be found elsewhere on this site.
With the blessing of Archimandrite Luke, Abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York, a memorial (panikhida) was served in English by Archpriest Gregory Naumenko, rector of the Protection of the Mother of God Church in Rochester, New York, who teaches pastoral theology and homiletics at Holy Trinity Seminary. Responses were sung by a small choir of seminarians under the direction of Reader Ephraim Willmarth, who is the administrative assistant to the dean of the seminary. Members of the monastic community and local Orthodox believers also joined in the prayers. Archpriest Gregory also remembered the other known Orthodox members of Colonel Ludwell’s family: his daughters Hannah, Frances and Lucy, and the latter’s husband John Paradise. A short reflection on the significance of Colonel Ludwell’s life for the Orthodox Church in Russia and the Americas, and his role in early American history, was offered by Nicholas Chapman before the commencement of the memorial.
On the evening of the same day a pahikhida was also served at the St. John of Kronstadt Russian Orthodox Memorial Church in Utica, New York. The parish’s rector, Archpriest Michael Taratuchin, when announcing the service on the previous Sunday, had noted that his own place of birth was very close to the church in the East End of London, where Colonel Ludwell was buried in 1767. Archpriest Michael chose to remember Colonel Ludwell as a voina (warrior) because of his role in the appointment of the young George Washington as a colonel in the colonial militia and his work with Lord Loudon (Commander in Chief of British Forces in North America), with whom Ludwell interceded for the strengthening of the Virginia frontier.
Both memorials were served with the blessing of Metropolitan Hilarion, the first hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church outside of Russia, in his capacity as the head of the ROCOR diocese of Eastern America. It is not known to the writer at the present time whether other memorials were held on the same date elsewhere or on the date of Ludwell’s repose according to the revised Julian (new) calendar.
May Colonel Philip Ludwell’s memory be eternal!
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, New York, March 28, 2012
This week is a busy one:
March 14, 1767: Philip Ludwell III, the first Orthodox convert in American history, died in London. Decades earlier, in 1738, Ludwell had joined the Orthodox Church in London. He was just 22 at the time, and was a rising star in the Virginia aristocracy. Remarkably, the Russian Holy Synod gave him permission to bring a portion of the Eucharist back to Virginia. In 1762, Ludwell brought his three daughters to England to be received into the Church as well. Of course, we would know none of this were it not for the exceptional research and writing done by Nicholas Chapman, whose articles we’re proud to feature here at OrthodoxHistory.org. Click here to read Nicholas’ first article on Ludwell, and here to read about Ludwell’s landmark translation of an Orthodox catechism. And if you find Ludwell as fascinating as I do, I would highly recommend that you invest $4.95 to download Nicholas Chapman’s recent lecture on Ludwell. (And for $9.95, you get a CD of the lecture, a copy of Ludwell’s portrait, and the Ludwell family book plate.) I rarely encourage our readers to buy stuff, but trust me: this is worth it.
March 14, 1853: Chronologically, after Ludwell, the most important American Orthodox convert has to be St. Alexis Toth, who was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 159 years ago this week (most of my sources say March 14, but Wikipedia has his birthday as March 18). Originally a Greek Catholic (“Uniate”) priest, Toth was assigned to serve a Carpatho-Rusyn parish in Minneapolis in 1889. But the local Roman Catholic archbishop didn’t want Toth’s “kind” — that is, Greek Catholics — in his diocese, and the two men clashed immediately. In 1891, Toth and his Minneapolis congregation joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Dozens and dozens of Uniate parishes followed suit over the next two decades, and Toth was one of the chief advocates of Uniate conversion to Orthodoxy. He died in 1909 and was canonized by the OCA in 1994.
March 13, 1868: Fr. Nicholas Kovrigin was sent on a pastoral visit to San Francisco, establishing the first foothold of the Russian Church in the contiguous United States. It all started back in the 1850s, when San Francisco’s growing Orthodox community organized into a mutual aid society. In the early 1860s, Russian ships visited the area, and some local Orthodox children — including the future Fr. Sebastian Dabovich — were baptized by a Russian navy chaplain. But there wasn’t a Russian parish until Kovrigin came along later in the decade. His visit was precipitated by the arrival, late in 1867, of the renegade Ukrainian priest Agapius Honcharenko, who moved to the Bay Area and tried to start some kind of hybrid Protestant/Orthodox parish. The Orthodox people seem to have realized that they needed to get an actual, legitimate Orthodox priest in their city, so they sent a formal request to the bishop in Alaska, who responded by sending Kovrigin for a visit. Initially, it was just that — a visit — but later in 1868, Kovrigin was formally assigned to be the pastor of a new parish in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Kovrigin seems not to have been made of the strongest moral fiber, and he ran into all sorts of trouble, ultimately being suspected of foul play in the death of his superior, cathedral dean Fr. Paul Kedrolivansky. Kovrigin was finally sent away in 1879, by the newly arrived Bishop Nestor Zass. On a more positive note, despite many trials and tribulations (and name changes), the San Francisco parish has survived to this day, and is now Holy Trinity, a cathedral of the OCA.
March 15, 1896: Archimandrite Theoclitos Triantafilides celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in Galveston, Texas. I’ve written about Fr. Theoclitos recently: he was one of only three Greek priests to serve under the Russian Mission. Previously, he had been the tutor to the future king of Greece and the future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. His Galveston parish was multiethnic, composed of Serbs, Greeks, Syrians, Russians, Copts, and American converts. To this day, his old parish of Saints Constantine and Helen venerates him as a holy man. To learn more about Fr. Theoclitos, read this article by Mimo Milosevich.
March 15, 1898: The future Antiochian Metropolitan Antony Bashir was born in Douma, in what was then the Ottoman Empire and what is now Lebanon. Bashir led the Antiochian Archdiocese of New York from 1936 until his death in 1966. This was the era of the “New York-Toledo” schism, when the Antiochians in America were divided into competing archdioceses (one based in New York and the other in Toledo, Ohio). Bashir was a major proponent of pan-Orthodox cooperation and the proliferation of English in church services.
March 13, 1904: Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated to the episcopacy by Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin and Bishop Innocent Pustynsky. This was the first episcopal consecration in American Orthodox history. Technically, St. Raphael was a vicar bishop under St. Tikhon, the Russian Archbishop of North America, and St. Raphael’s “diocese” was actually a vicariate for Syro-Arabs. Reality was considerably more complicated, and St. Raphael basically functioned as a mostly independent diocesan bishop with ties to both the Russians and the Patriarchate of Antioch. (As he put it, his diocese was a diocese of Antioch, “notwithstanding its nominal allegiance to the Russian Holy Synod.”) He served as bishop until his death in 1915.
March 12, 1914: Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky, dean of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, returned to Russia after nearly two decades of service in America. He went on to suffer under the Communists, died a martyr’s death, and has since been canonized a saint.
March 18, 1956: The exiled Serbian bishop Nicholai Velimirovich died at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. He had first come to America in the 1910s, as a representative of the Serbian Church. After World War II, Bishop Nicholai returned to the United States as a refugee, and he went on to teach at several Orthodox seminaries in the US. I feel like I should have a lot to say about Bishop Nicholai — who, after all, was canonized in 2003 and is famous for his prolific writings (most notably the Prologue from Ochrid), but to be honest, I don’t really know all that much about the man. There are a couple of informative biographical articles online, but I should note that both are written from a somewhat hagiographic (as opposed to a strictly historical) perspective. Click here for one published in The Orthodox Word, and click here for one from the periodical Orthodox America.
March 16, 1960: The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas — better known simply as SCOBA — held its first meeting. SCOBA arose from the ashes of the “Federation,” a 1940s attempt to foster pan-Orthodox cooperation in America. And while many initially thought that SCOBA might lead to the unification of the various jurisdictions, that obviously never happened. In 2010, SCOBA was disbanded and replaced by the Assembly of Bishops. The two organizations are different in many ways, but two are of particular note: (1) SCOBA included on the heads of the jurisdictions, while the Assembly includes every active, canonical bishop in America, and (2) the “Mother Churches” tolerated SCOBA, but the same Mother Churches actually created the Assembly. Along the same lines, SCOBA was a voluntary association, whereas the Assembly is an official ecclesiastical organization with a clear mandate from the Mother Churches. I realize that I didn’t really say much about the first SCOBA meeting, but that’s a story for another day.
March 13, 1965: On the very same day, both Albanian Bishop Theophan Noli and Greek Bishop Germanos Liamadis died. As far as I know, this was the only instance of two American Orthodox bishops dying on the same date.
March 18, 1981: OCA Metropolitan Ireney Bekish died. He had been the Metropolia/OCA primate from 1965 until his retirement in 1977 — so, the period when the OCA received its Tomos of Autocephaly and established its current identity — but I’ve never heard anyone talk of him as a major historical figure. Nobody talks about the era of Ireney, because it really was the era of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who effectively led the OCA during Ireney’s entire episcopate.
March 16, 2008: ROCOR’s First Hierarch, the revered Metropolitan Laurus Skurla, died, shortly after helping to accomplish the reunion of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate. Met Laurus had led ROCOR for seven years, and while he is most remembered for that tenure, the bulk of his hierarchical career was spent as abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York.
March 13, 2011: Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese (ACROD) died of cancer after more than a quarter-century as primate of ACROD. A year later, his position has yet to be filled. ACROD has established a memorial web page for Met Nicholas; click here to view it.
It is generally considered that the first Orthodox clergy to set foot in the Americas were part of the group of Russian monastics who landed in Kodiak, Alaska in September 1794. I have recently come to hold a different view, as whilst researching another story I encountered evidence of an earlier Orthodox clerical presence on the Eastern seaboard of what is now the United States: that of a priest of Tartar descent (A Turkic language people group within the Russian Empire of Mongolian origin), who in 1747 made his way from his native Transylvania (part of present day Romania), via northern continental Europe and England, to the eastern seaboard of North America, landing in the then British colony of Maryland. It was some time towards the end of 1747, some forty-seven years before the Russian hieromonks reached the distant Pacific shores of Alaska.
Unlike the Russian monks, this priest, Fr. Samuel Domien, appears to have had no interest in sharing his Faith with the then predominantly English settlers of the Eastern seaboard. His concern appears to have been scientific, in particular spreading awareness of electricity. It seems to have been this that brought him from Maryland, via New England, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the winter of 1747/1748. There he was the guest of a somewhat better known figure in early American history – Benjamin Franklin. It is from the pen of Franklin that we have the most substantial account I have yet found of Fr Samuel and his travels. In a letter from Philadelphia dated 18 March 1755, Benjamin Franklin writes to John Lining in Charleston, South Carolina:
All I know of Domien is, that by his own account he was a native of Transylvania, of Tartar descent, but a priest of the Greek Church; he spoke and wrote Latin very readily and correctly. He set out from his own country with an intention of going round the world, as much as possible by land. He traveled through Germany, France, and Holland, to England. Resided some time at Oxford. From England he came to Maryland; thence went to New England; returned by land to Philadelphia; and from hence travelled through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina to you. He thought it might be of service to him, in his travels, to know something of electricity. I taught him the use of the tube…He wrote to me from Charleston, that he lived eight hundred miles upon electricity; it had been meat, drink, and clothing to him. His last letter to me was, I think, from Jamaica…. It is now seven years since he was here. *
Franklin goes on to say that he believes it was Domien’s intention to make his way home to Transylvania from Jamaica via Cuba, Mexico, the Phillipines, China, India, Persia and Turkey! Apparently, Domien promised to keep Franklin informed as he traveled but nothing further was ever heard. This led Franklin to conclude that Domien had either died en route or perhaps been imprisoned in New Spain (Modern day Mexico). He concludes to Linings with classic understatement: He was, as you observe, a very singular character.
Domien’s presence in America is confirmed by an advertisements he placed in late 1748 in the South Carolina Gazette to come and see his many wonderful experiments in electricity. The last of these was on December 26, 1748. As at this time America was still on the Julian calendar, then eleven days behind the Gregorian, and this would suggest he probably left Charleston and headed south to Jamaica in early 1749. Thus, in total, he would have spent more than one year traveling throughout what is now the United States.
Is the story of Fr Samuel Domien of any real importance for the history of Orthodoxy in the Americas? I think it is and here’s why: The very existence of Domien and his presence in America nearly half a century before the Russian mission to Kodiak once again illustrates that mainstream America was not completely unknown to the wider Orthodox world of its time, centered as it was in Russia, the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.
At this juncture, I should mention that I am aware of the writings about Domien by Demetrius Dvoichenko-Markov, who published an article A Rumanian Priest in Colonial America in the October 1955 issue of The American Slavic and East European Review. Markov attempts to argue that Franklin did not really understand who Domien was and essentially mistook an eastern rite Catholic for an Orthodox. I do not think that any of the arguments Markov makes stand up to closer examination and will be writing a separate article to address these more closely. Suffice it to say at this point that Markov’s arguments all seem to flow from the assumption that Franklin would not have known the difference between eastern rite Catholic and Orthodox, despite the fact that Franklin’s own words quoted above, but a priest of the Greek Church, seem to fly in the face of this very assumption.
I also think it is too early to say with certainty that Domien did not have any churchly interest whilst in America. Franklin identifies him as a priest of the Greek Church and for him to have done this demonstrates that Domien was not keeping his identity in this regard a secret. Franklin clearly had some awareness of Orthodoxy long before his meeting with Domien. The second edition of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard Almanack” tell its readers that the year 1733, makes since the Creation by the account of the Eastern Greeks 7241 years.
We also know that by the 1760s Franklin was a friend of Philip Ludwell III of Williamsburg, Virginia, who converted to Orthodoxy at the Russian church in London at the end of 1738. They saw each other regularly whilst both living in London in the early 1760’s, but I have not yet been able to establish if this was when they first met. Ludwell was definitely in Philadelphia in the 1750’s and it is not at all impossible that their friendship went back even earlier than this. As Franklin states that Domien went to Virginia, a visit to the colonial capital of Williamsburg and some interaction with Ludwell cannot be ruled out. Finally, I came across Franklin’s account of Domien whilst researching another interesting figure of pre-revolutionary America who also had contacts with the Orthodox East. But as one of my favorite British comedy shows says: More on that story later.
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, NY, March 2, 2012
* Sparks, Jared, The Works of Benjamin Franklin Vol 5, Boston, Tappan & Whittemore, 1837. The quotation is on page 348, within the section “Letters and Papers on Electricity.”
March 10, 1866: The future Archbishop Arseny Chagovtsov was born in Kharkov, in what was then the Russian Empire and what is today Ukraine. A widowed priest, he became a monk and came to America in 1903 to serve in the Russian North American Mission. He was instrumental in the establishment of St. Tikhon’s Monastery in 1906, and in 1908 he was assigned to be the administrator of Russian churches in Canada. Arseny — at this point an archimandrite — returned to Russia in 1910, fled to Serbia after the Revolution, and, in 1926, was chosen to return to Canada as the Bishop of Winnipeg. In 1936, he was apparently shot (I don’t really know about the details of his incident). After this, he retired from the episcopate and ultimately moved to St. Tikhon’s Monastery in Pennsylvania, where he was involved in founding what became St. Tikhon’s Seminary. Archbishop Arseny died in 1945.
March 10, 1895: Fr. Sebastian Dabovich dedicated Holy Trinity Orthodox chapel in Portland, OR. The small Portland community included Greeks, Syrians, and Russians, among others. The man most responsible for its establishment was a layman named Lavrenty Chernov. An Alaskan Creole, Chernov was born in 1848 and eventually moved to Portland. The ramshackle chapel was used for perhaps a decade, but it eventually fell out of use. In the first decade of the 20th century, the Greeks of Portland began using it for their own church, which was also called Holy Trinity.
March 5-7, 1907: The Russian Archdiocese held its first “All-American Sobor” in Mayfield, PA. A few years ago, OCA archivist Alex Liberovsky gave a nice lecture on the Sobor, which you can read on the OCA website. The Sobor was held concurrently with the convention of the Russian Orthodox Catholic Mutual Aid Society. And while it was called “All-American,” it was a purely “Russian” affair: the other ethnic groups affiliated with the Russian Archdiocese, such as the Syro-Arabs and the Serbs, were not included. That said, the Sobor was a major step for the Russian Mission in America.
March 7, 1915: The funeral for St. Raphael Hawaweeny was held in his Brooklyn cathedral. Something interesting, which I’d never noticed before: St. Raphael was apparently friends with an American named Gary Cronan, who got permission from the New York Heath Administration to have St. Raphael buried in a crypt in St. Nicholas Cathedral. Cronan reportedly built the crypt himself. (My source for this is the unpublished St. Vladimir’s Seminary M.Div. thesis by A. Issa.) St. Raphael actually didn’t rest in the crypt for very long — Bishop Aftimios Ofiesh acquired a new cathedral in 1920, and St. Raphael’s relics were transferred to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1922. Today they rest at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, PA. Anyway, I’m really curious to learn more about Gary Cronan.
Back in December, we reprinted Isabel Hapgood’s very good New York Tribune article on Raphael’s death and funeral.
March 6, 1921: Fr. Kallinikos Kanellas, one of the first Greek Orthodox priests in America, died in Little Rock, AR. Kanellas came to America from India, where he had been the priest of the Greek Orthodox church in Calcutta. He initially came to America just for a visit, but he fell ill and was forced to stay for awhile. He became affiliated with the Russian cathedral in San Francisco, which had a very large Greek population. He made at least one major mission trip through the country, visiting Georgia, New York, and Chicago, among other places. He was one of the first Orthodox priests to visit Chicago. In 1892, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov took over the Russian Diocese, and he released Kanellas, who then traveled to the eastern part of the United States. He eventually spent eight years as rector of the Greek church in Birmingham, AL, which was under the Church of Greece. Later, he became the first priest in Little Rock, where he died in 1921. Toward the end of his life, the Greek-American Guide described Kanellas as “a very sympathetic and reverend old man.”
UPDATE: To listen to a podcast based on this article, click here.
March 2, 1865: Fr. Agapius Honcharenko served the first public Orthodox Divine Liturgy in New York. Way back in 2009, I wrote a pair of articles about that liturgy; click here and here to read them. What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that Honcharenko had celebrated the Divine Liturgy at least once in New York prior to March 2 — on January 6, which was Christmas (December 25) according to the Orthodox calendar in the 19th century. But the March 2 liturgy was the first public liturgy. Rev. Morgan Dix, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church and one of the most prominent Episcopalian clergymen of his day, wrote of the liturgy in his journal, “This 2nd. day of Lent was a memorable one, because the Liturgy of the Eastern Church was sung in Trinity Chapel, at 11 A.M. This never occurred before so far as I have heard, in any Anglican Church. Bishop Potter was to have been there, but backed out, and went down to S. Paul’s instead, to the noon day communion.”
February 28, 1904: Barbara MacGahan died in New York. A native of Russia, MacGahan was the widow of a famous American war correspondent, and she became a renowned journalist in her own right. She was the principal founder of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church (later Cathedral) in New York City, and she played an important role in the Russian Mission until her death. In MacGahan’s day, a disproportionate number of the Orthodox in America were men. And the status of women in turn-of-the-century America was certainly far more restricted than it is today. I mean, today, we don’t bat an eyelash at the thought of a woman chairing a parish council, but such a thing was probably inconceivable more than a century ago. It was in that world that MacGahan became a major player in the Russian Mission, right at the time when it was expanding beyond its original focus of Alaska. Barbara MacGahan may have been the most influential woman in the early history of American Orthodoxy.
February 28, 1914: The choir of New York’s St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral performed at the White House for President Woodrow Wilson. Some of the robes worn by the choir members at this event have survived, and are held at the OCA archives in Syosset, NY.
February 27, 1915: St. Raphael Hawaweeny, the Syrian Bishop of Brooklyn, died. What can be said of St. Raphael that has not already been said? How about this quotation from Rev. T.J. Lacey, a notable Episcopalian priest who had a strong affinity for the Orthodox Church:
Bishop Raphael was a master-builder. He laid strong enduring foundations, gathering a large constituency and acquiring valuable property for the congregation. He was a man of wide education and keen intelligence, a master of many languages. He possessed rare gifts of administration, and was unselfishly devoted to the spiritual and material welfare of his people. His death, in 1915, deprived the Syrian Church of a strong leader.
February 28, 1937: The Ukrainian Orthodox Bishop Bohdan Spylka was consecrated by the Greek Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou.
UPDATE: In the original version of this post, I said that Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky returned to Russia on February 27, 1914 (so, the day before his cathedral choir performed at the White House). But my fellow SOCHA director Aram Sarkisian informed me that this was incorrect — actually, Hotovitzky was present at the White House concert, and he left for Russia on March 12. The reason for the error is that March 12 is February 27 according to the Old Calendar. We’ll make note of Hotovitzky’s departure in a couple of weeks, when we get to the actual anniversary.
Also, I originally said that the choir concert was on February 29 (the date reported by other sources), but as Aram points out, 1914 was not a leap year. The concert actually took place on February 28.