Posts tagged 1886
Fr. Misael Karydis served at Holy Trinity Greek Church in New Orleans from 1881 to 1901. Throughout the 1880s, he was the only Orthodox priest in between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, and even in the 1890s, he was basically the only Orthodox priest in the American South. As such, his duties were not limited to the New Orleans parish alone.
In 1886, Karydis stopped in Chicago en route from New York back to New Orleans. I don’t know why he was in New York, but when he got to Chicago, he was met by a multiethnic community of Orthodox Christians. From the Chicago Herald (5/31/1886):
As novel a church service as any that ever took place in Chicago was that of Rev. Dr. Mixall, of the Greek Church, at Berry’s Hall, corner of Washington Boulevard and Sangamon street, at 9:30 yesterday morning. There is no Greek church in this city, and never has been, and, aside from the novelty of the service on this account, it was made still more peculiar by reason of the mixed character of the audience which required that the services be conducted in the Greek and Slav tongues at the same time.
Dr. Mixall is the pastor of the Greek Church in New Orleans, and was passing through the city on his way home from New York. An altar had been improvised out of two dry goods boxes, covered with sheeting. On the larger six candles were placed, and two on the smaller beside some bread, a spear-shaped knife and a chalice of wine.
Dr. Mixall is a stout, flord-faced man, with long, wavy hair, a high forehead and thick moustache and chin beard. When he entered the church his congregation rose to greet him, and when he stepped aside at the altar to put on his robes of office, which are similar in many respects to those of the Romish Church, five Greeks with musical voices stepped up to one side of the altar and a score of Slavs to the other side. The mass was intoned first by the Greeks and then by the Slavs, but the service, aside from this dual character and the quaint music of the singers, was not much unlike the Catholic church service.
I find it especially interesting that there were two sets of chanters, and that the service was done in both Greek and Slavonic. It’s not clear from the description whether the Greeks and Slavs went back-and-forth in their singing, or whether the Greeks did the first half of the service and the Slavs the second. Either way, it was an creative way to deal with the multiethnic situation.
The Herald went on to explain that almost 100 people attended the service, despite the fact that only a part of the Orthodox community had been notified of Fr. Misael’s arrival. And they were generous, too — the newspaper reporter was impressed with the size of the collection, saying that it was “far more liberal than those in English-speaking churches.” The reporter concluded, “It is likely that Dr. Mixall’s visit will result in the founding of a Greek church in this city.”
In the past, we have discussed at length the later history of Orthodoxy in Chicago — how the community tried to form a parish, but failed, and how, in 1892, separate Greek and Russian parishes were founded almost simultaneously. But Karydis’ visit predates all of that, and his 1886 Divine Liturgy seems to have been the first ever celebrated in Chicago.
Benachi was born in 1812 on the Greek island of Chios, and he was living in New Orleans at least as early as 1852, when he purchased a large piece of choice real estate in the city. (He went on to build a mansion, known as the “Benachi House,” on some of the highest ground in New Orleans. It still stands, and is now an upscale bed and breakfast.) Benachi himself was a formidable figure. Here’s one description:
Benachi was a Greek businessman who worked in the New Orleans cotton trade for the Greek firm of Ralli Bros. They were international cotton brokers with offices in London, Cairo, Athens and India. [...] He was Consul of Greece in New Orleans, a speculator in real estate and slaves, a hunter, horseman and founder of the first Greek Orthodox Church in the Western Hemisphere
Being the most prominent figure in the Greek (and Orthodox) community in New Orleans, as well as being a slaveowner, Benachi was probably involved in the organization of the Greek militia regiment during the Civil War. His daughter went on to marry Demetrius Botassi, the Greek Consul in New York City, and Botassi became a major figure in New York’s Orthodox community.
Benachi lived for another two decades. He died in New Orleans in 1886, at the age of 74.