Posts tagged 1889
In its early years, the Russian cathedral in San Francisco had a number of homes, including:
- 3241 Mission St. (the home of a parishioner named Mr. Seculovich)
- 509 Greenwich St.
- 911 Jackson St.
- 1108 Pierce St.
- 829 Greenwich St. (owned by a German Lutheran church)
- 1713 Powell St.
Most of those buildings were occupied for only a few years each, but in the Powell St. location, the cathedral found a long-term home. They took up residence there in 1881, and remained at that address until the 1906 earthquake. The present cathedral was built on Green St., in 1909.
In 1889, the Powell St. cathedral was seriously damaged in a fire, and had to be completely renovated. There were all kinds of conspiracy theories about the cause of the blaze, and many parishioners suspected arson. This took place in the middle of the Bishop Vladimir scandals. I’ll talk about those scandals, and the fire itself, another time. Today, I want to present a rather exciting new discovery — photos of the Powell St. cathedral both before the fire, and after the 1889 renovation.
Here is the “before” shot, taken sometime in the 1880s:
And here is a photo of the cathedral after the renovation. This latter image is from sometime in the 1890s:
The latter photo appears in the 1975 OCA book Orthodox America: 1794-1976, but I don’t know if any Orthodox are aware of the existence of the earlier image. Taken together, these two photos clearly show how dramatic the 1889 renovation was.
UPDATE: I had erroneously said that the Powell Street cathedral was occupied until 1909. In fact, it was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. I’ve corrected the above text to indicate this.
In the comments, Fr. Andrew Damick posted a link to another photo of the post-1889 Powell St. cathedral. It appears to be from the back of the church, and it’s such a great shot that I have to post it here:
According to some sources, Archimandrite Kallinikos Kanellas was the first ethnic Greek priest to serve in America. And those sources may be right, depending on your definition of “Greek.” The only other candidates would be from the Greek church in New Orleans. Fr. Stephen Andreades was the priest in the late 1860s, and Fr. Gregory Yayas served there from 1872-74; considering their names, both were almost certainly Greeks of one sort or another. Archimandrite Misael Karydis (or Kalitski) was the priest from 1881-1901, but he was reportedly from Bulgaria. In any event, Kanellas was one of the very first Greek priests in America.
I don’t know anything about Kanellas’ early life. I do know that, before he came to the United States, Kanellas had spent some time in India. From 1880 to 1886, he was the rector of the Greek church in Calcutta (the origins of which dated to the 1700s; see this fascinating history for more information). He first shows up in the US in 1889, as one of the priests of the Russian cathedral in San Francisco. He seems to be the first of several non-Russian priests brought over to America to serve in the Russian Diocese — “client clergy,” as Fr. John Erickson has called them. Soon, he would be followed by people like Fr. Ambrose Vretta, Fr. Theoklytos Triantafilides, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich, Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny, and Fr. Michael Andreades. But Kanellas seems to have been the original.
I’m not sure what Kanellas was doing from 1886 to 1889, but I suspect he might have been in Russia. This would explain his connection to the Russian Diocese in America.
Kanellas appears to have been trusted by Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky, who appointed him to serve on the Alaskan Spiritual Consistory, the group of clergy which ran many of the day-to-day affairs of the diocese. He was particularly useful in ministering to ethnic Greeks. In 1891, he made a cross-country missionary trip. He stopped in Savannah, Georgia, and baptized a Greek child. The Columbus Enquirer-Sun (6/24/1891) reported that the child’s father spent $650, which presumably included transportation and lodging costs. The paper said that the amount “includes a handsome fee.” $650 seems outrageous, though. I checked an online inflation calculator, and it estimated that $650 in 1891 is equivalent to over $15,000 in 2008.
From Savannah, Kanellas went to New York City, where he baptized the daughter of Anthony Ralli (who was possibly connected with the well-known Ralli Brothers merchant firm). The New York Sun (6/26/1891) said that Kanellas had a “patriarchal beard and jewelled gown.” According to one account, he actually had to bring his own baptismal font — can you imagine taking one of those on a train?
I’ve seen some references to Kanellas having served in Chicago. That’s a bit of a puzzler… In July 1891, the Chicago Inter Ocean (7/11/1891) reported that a certain Archimandrite Lininas, “who presides over a temple in San Francisco,” was visiting Chicago and holding services for the Orthodox there. I haven’t been able to find evidence of this Fr. Lininas being in San Francisco, and it’s very possible that this was actually Kanellas, on his way back from New York to California. However, the Inter Ocean says that Fr. Lininas “is a finely educated gentleman, speaking German, Russian, and French fluently, but his English is best understood through an interpreter.” So according to the paper, he didn’t speak Greek (which, if true, means he wasn’t Kanellas).
In 1892, amid much turmoil and scandal, Bp Vladimir was recalled to Russia and replaced with Bishop Nicholas Ziorov. On July 1 (June 19 Old Style), the members of the Spiritual Consistory (of which Kanellas was apparently no longer a member) wrote to the new bishop,
Today, the Archimandrite Kallinikos was informed that he has to leave the Mission as of July 1. He replied that he has nowhere to go. In accordance with Your Grace’s will, we deemed it was better to say nothing in reply: Your Grace has ordered not to drive him out.
Obviously, something was up, but I don’t know what. The 1893 San Francisco city directory doesn’t list Kanellas among the cathedral clergy, so he didn’t stick around much longer. And for the next 18 years, I can’t figure out he was. I’m pretty sure he stayed in America, and by at least 1911 (and probably earlier), he was pastor of the Greek church in Birmingham, Alabama. In the 1913 book Greeks in America, Thomas Burgess, writing about the Birmingham church, said,
Of its former pastor, says the “Greek-American Guide,” “The Rev. Arch. Kallinikos Kanellas is a very sympathetic and reverend old man of whom it is possible to say that of the Greek clergy in America he is the most—shall we say ‘disinterested’? The Greek word is a dandy, (literally, ‘not loving of riches’). Plutarch used to use that word.
In 1913, Kanellas moved to Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. He spent the rest of his life there. This is from Annunciation’s parish history:
Father Kallinikos Kanellas was brought to Little Rock on a permanent basis in 1913, and services were held in an upstairs meeting hall near 9th and Main Streets for the next eight years. This hall included a small chapel for Liturgies and Sacraments such as weddings, baptisms, etc., as well as a place for social gatherings. Incidentally, research indicates that Father Kanellas probably was the first Orthodox priest of Greek ancestry to come to the United States. When Father Kanellas became seriously ill, young Theo Polychron visited him daily, bringing soup from his little café. Father died in 1921 and is buried at Oakland Cemetery where most of the early Greek immigrants were also interred.
As you can see, Kanellas’ story has a lot of missing pieces. I suspect a lot of the gaps could be closed by a letter Kanellas wrote to Archbishop Meletios Metaxakis on March 16, 1918, in which he gave an account of his career in both the Russian Diocese and the Greek communities in America. That letter appears on page 333 of Paul Manolis’ History of the Greek Church in America in Acts and Documents… unfortunately, though, I can’t read Greek, so for now, I don’t know what the letter says. If any of you out there can read Greek and are interested in Kanellas, email me at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
Continuing on the theme of Rev. A.N. Experidon (aka “the Bulgarian Monk”) from yesterday, I thought I would check out some of the claims made by our itinerant friend.
In the Atlanta Constitution (April 30, 1876) Fr. Experidon is reported to have met Loring and Colston, two former Confederate soldiers, in Egypt, where they were in the service of the Egyptian Khedive. About 50 ex-Confederate soldiers did go to Egypt after the Civil War, and both William W. Loring and Raleigh E. Colston were given rather high positions. Both ended up returning to the United States before their deaths, and Loring wrote a book about his experiences, called A Confederate Soldier in Egypt (1884). There’s no mention of Fr. Experidon in the book.
Speaking of books, Fr. Experidon claimed to have been a tour guide in Jerusalem for a group which included Mark Twain. Twain did in fact visit Jerusalem in 1867, and he sent accounts of his experiences back to a U.S. newspaper. In 1869 they were published under the title Innocents Abroad. Again, no mention of Fr. Experidon.
Fr. Experidon also claimed to have met Brigham Young and attempted to convert him to Orthodoxy. This is reported as early as January 8, 1876 (in the Atlanta Constitution). Young died in 1877. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of Fr. Experidon in the various books about Young available on the Internet, but, as Reader Mo suggested in the comments yesterday, it’s possible that the Mormons — who are great record-keepers — have some record of that visit.
So the famous people Fr. Experidon is supposed to have met were in the right places at the right times. That doesn’t necessarily mean he actually met them, of course, but it helps. I suppose in the case of Twain, Fr. Experidon could have simply read Innocents Abroad and then made up the claim that he had met the author. The reporter in the Constitution article on January 8, 1876 remarks, “He occasionally quoted Mark Twain, and it is the opinion of your reporter that it is from this history, he obtained most of his information.” In other words, Fr. Experidon is a fraud who is basing his tales on Twain’s book. I personally don’t buy that argument, but it’s easy to see why someone might come to that conclusion.
One last thing — in the article I posted yesterday, from the San Jose Daily Evening News (March 28, 1889), we find this sentence: “He is a Bulgarian by birth and in his own country was a lawyer by profession.” Over on our Facebook page, Florin Curta pointed out that Bulgaria (and Jerusalem, for that matter) were under Ottoman rule when Fr. Experidon lived there. Florin writes, “There was no other law in the Empire than sharia modified by kanuni (imperial decrees and/or lawcodes).” In other words, since Fr. Experidon was a Christian, he simply could not have been a lawyer in the Ottoman Empire. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t some kind of lawyer, somewhere (Greece, perhaps, as Florin speculates?). But whatever the truth, it is complicated.
UPDATE (9/14/09): I contacted the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and they could find no record of Fr. Experidon’s visit to Brigham Young. However, they said, “It is very possible that he visited and it was never recorded.” And while I still suspect that Fr. Experidon did meet Brigham Young, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Mark Twain wrote extensively of his own encounter with Brigham Young in his 1872 book Roughing It, which was a prequel to his earlier Innocents Abroad. I can certainly see why some people thought Fr. Experidon was just ripping off Twain.
In the latest episode of my American Orthodox History podcast, I talk about Rev. A.N. Experidon, better known as “the Bulgarian Monk.” He was, without a doubt, the weirdest man in the history of American Orthodoxy.
For the whole story, I’d encourage you to listen to the podcast, but below, I’m reprinting an article from the San Jose Daily Evening News (March 28, 1889):
A BULGARIAN MONK
He Will Preach on Santa Clara Street This Evening
A Man With a Mission and a Strange History – A Former Guide in the Holy Land
A Bulgarian monk, was on the streets to-day and attracted much attention. He called at the office of the Mayor this morning to secure permission to preach at the corner of First and Santa Clara street, in the open air, this evening. A large crowd gathered around the man, attracted by his strange garb. He was dressed in a long black gown reaching to his heels. His hair is long and he wears a red cap.
A reporter for the EVENING NEWS engaged the monk in conversation and found him to be a man of pleasing address, and evidently of intelligence and education. His name is Rev. A.N. Experidon and he says he is a Bulgarian monk of the Christian Church of Jerusalem. He is 60 years of age and has been engaged in his mission for 30 years.
FORMERLY A LAWYER
He is a Bulgarian by birth and in his own country was a lawyer by profession. In his early life he acted as a guide at Jerusalem to many prominent American tourists, among them the United States party under Dr. Gibson. In this party was Mark Twain, then a young man, and it was during this journey that Mark got his material for “Innocents Abroad.” The traveling monk therefore finds numerous old friends among prominent people in the United States. There is one gentleman in Woodland, a clergyman there, who was piloted through the
WONDERS OF THE HOLY LAND
By him. Thirty years ago the monk entered upon his mission of teaching the gospel to the people of the earth in accordance with the belief of his church. He studied at St. Marys, Oxford, being associated there with many who are now prominent in the politics of England and Canada. He afterwards studied at Paris, St. Petersburg, Berlin and Constantinople, his studies there being largely devoted to theology and languages. He speaks now thirty-two languages and dialects, and if he has the same command of the others as he exhibits in English he may be said to be fluent in all.
The Christian Church of Jerusalem, of which the Rev. Experidon, or “the Bulgarian Monk,” as he advertises himself, is a member, is what is known in Russia as “Stahto Bratsu,” “The Old Brotherhood.” It preaches the Gospel of Christ, love and charity, regardless of any sect, and recognizing no arbitrary teachings,
And no canonical laws. Indeed, the monk seems to delight in demonstrating from the Bible the inconsistency of the teachings of each of the Christian sects. He quotes Timothy to prove that women are forbidden to preach until after they are 60 years of age, and offers it as an indication of the absurdity of any divine inspiration being received by the Salvation Army or the Methodist female revivalist.
The Bulgarian monk has been thirteen years in America and has preached through Mexico and
EVERY STATE IN THE UNION
Except California. He is now “doing” every county in this State and from here goes to South America. If he manages to finish the countries there he will return to the United States and end his days here. He will die somewhere on this continent, and while prosecuting his self-appointed mission of preaching the gospel of Christ, free from arbitrary interpretations and canonical laws. He is engaged also in the preparation of what he states is a cyclopedia of the world, which he intends for publication.
He will lecture this evening at the corner of Santa Clara and First streets. He states that his subject will be “To Convert all American Preachers, Priests and Christians.”
Was he Orthodox? Originally, yes, but by 1889, I’d guess not. He had been in the United States for around 15 years at that point, and he became stranger and stranger as time passed.
The message of the Bulgarian Monk, if indeed there is a message, seems to be this: America is a frontier for Orthodoxy. I’ve said this before; Orthodox America, like the Wild West, attracted both heroes and outlaws — the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the Bulgarian Monk is one of the ugly ones.
I think the point is, not all of the Orthodox clerics who came to America were saints, or missionaries, or even normal human beings. We had our fair share of oddballs, of whom the Bulgarian Monk might be the oddest.