Posts tagged 1895
This past weekend, those of us on the New Calendar celebrated the feast day of St. John Kochurov, the Russian New Martyr and former priest of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Chicago. With that in mind, I thought I’d talk a bit about St. John’s arrival in Chicago.
John Kochurov was just 24 years old when he became a priest, in the summer of 1895. The ordination took place in Russia, but it was done by the visiting Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, the head of the Russian Mission in America, and Fr. John was to accompany Bishop Nicholas back to the United States. They arrived in November, just as Fr. Raphael Hawaweeny was getting settled in Brooklyn.
The young Fr. John was entering a bit of a sticky situation. From the Chicago Tribune (11/25/1895):
Nicholaei of St. Petersburg, Archbishop of All America, held solemn mass in the Greek [that is, Orthodox] Church, at No. 13 South Center avenue, yesterday morning for the installation of Father Kochureff as assistant priest of the parish. He was assisted by the local priest, Father Kazantsier, and assistant, and two pages from St. Petersburg. The vacancy of assistant priest was caused by a difference of opinion between Archbishop Nicholaei and R.A. Bouroff, late assistant pastor, who has come under the displeasure of his superiors by attendance at the University of Chicago.
Nearly 100 persons were crowded into the little room reserved for the congregation of the Greek Church in Chicago. It is the front room of a ground flat in a modest three-story building erected for a dwelling. The chancel occupies an adjoining front room. The service is more elaborate than that of the Roman Church, and differs radically in much of the ceremony, being conducted behind a high chancel screen, sometimes with the single entrance closed. All the appointments of the altar and chancel are different. The service is unique in many ways.
A pretty standard description of vestments, candles, etc. follows. Then, we read,
There is a division in the Greek congregation owing to the retirement of Assistant Priest Bouroff. It is said that a wing of the congregation is at outs with the authorities because of loyalty to the younger priest, who persists in carrying on his studies at President Harper’s institution. These members credit Archbishop Nicholaei with having caused the exile of more students to Siberia than any man in Russia. On this account it is easy to believe, they declare, that the Bishop of All America will never forgive the independence of ex-Assistant Pastor Bouroff.
About a dozen clergy from all over the country came to Chicago for Bishop Nicholas’ visit; these included Fr. Alexis Toth of Wilkes-Barre, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky of New York, Fr. Anatolii Kamenskii of Sitka (the future bishop and confessor), and Fr. Theodore Pashkovsky of Jackson, CA (the future Metropolitan Theophilus).
Several things, right off the bat: Bishop Nicholas was not actually an archbishop, and his title was “Bishop of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska,” not “Bishop of All America.” Other newspapers give various names for the other Chicago priest; the most accurate rendition is probably “Fr. Pavel Kazanski.” Also, the Chicago Inter Ocean says that the parish is called “St. Ivan.” Originally it was “St. Nicholas,” and this was soon changed to “St. Vladimir” and later “Holy Trinity.” I’m not sure if, at some point, “St. Ivan” was used, or if this was a reporter’s mistake.
In the Tribune article quoted above, Fr. John Kochurov is named as the assistant priest, with Fr. Pavel Kazanski as the parish rector (having apparently replaced Fr. Ambrose Vretta, who was transferred to Seattle). However, I’ve found several reports from 1896 which put it the other way round, with Kochurov as the rector and Kazanski as his assistant. It’s possible that the earlier Tribune article got it wrong; certainly, it would be odd to have a formal “installation” for an assistant priest. Most probably, Kazanski held down the fort until Kochurov arrived, at which point the former became the latter’s assitant.
In any event, the most interesting part of this story is the Fr. Bouroff, who was apparently removed from his post for daring to attend the University of Chicago. I know some of our readers here have connections to that institution; perhaps there is something in the school’s archives which could shed more light on this episode?
Of course, for the Chicago parish, everything worked out fine in the end. Kochurov would prove to be a dedicated and exemplary pastor, and he would lead the community for more than a decade. It’s interesting; recently, we discussed the fact that Fr. Evtikhy Balanovitch, in New York, got into trouble and was replaced by a saint, Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky. Here, at exactly the same time, Fr. Bouroff got into trouble and was replaced by another saint, Fr. John Kochurov.
For the rest of the story on Fr. Basil Bouroff, click here.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
P.T. Barnum was the greatest showman of the 19th century. Today, he’s most closely associated with the circus that bears his name, but in his own day, he was much more than a circus organizer. In an era before blockbuster movies, Barnum was the closest you could get to a larger-than-life Hollywood producer. He was impossibly famous, and impossibly rich.
By 1874, the 54-year-old Barnum was a household name. He’d only been in the circus business for a few years, but before that, he had owned the Barnum Museum, the biggest attraction in New York City. It was, in short, at the height of his powers when the widowed Barnum married 24-year-old Nancy Fish, an English girl and the daughter of one of Barnum’s longtime friends. Here’s how the New York Times tells the story 20-odd years later (8/8/1895):
She was the daughter of a Lancashire, England, cotton miller named Fish. In 1858 Mr. Barnum lectured in Manchester, England, and after the lecture Mr. Fish called on the great showman to tell him that his success in life was due to his reading of Mr. Barnum’s autobiography, which fired his ambition to make money. When Mr. Fish built a new mill, his daughter christened the engine “Barnum.”
After the death of the first Mrs. Barnum, Mr. Fish visited America. His daughter’s letters so delighted Mr. Barnum that, as he put it, he fell in love with her before he saw her. They were married in 1874. The bride was half the age of her husband.
The couple remained together until Barnum’s death in 1891. Four years later, in 1895, Nancy Barnum remarried. She had been engaged in a very discreet courtship with Demetrius Callias Bey, a Greek from Turkey. Callias had supposedly made millions in the olive business, but there were rumors that he actually had no money at all. In any event, he was handsome, and according to one story (which may or may not be true), the pair met when Nancy was visiting Egypt and happened to fall off of the Great Pyramid, whereupon Callias caught her. The couple was married on August 7, 1895 at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in New York City, with Fr. Agatheodoro Papageorgopoulos officiating.
At least, that’s according to the New York Times the following day. I’m inclined to believe the report, although the Boston Globe passed this along (by way of the Knoxville Daily Journal, 8/13/1895):
The minister who married Mrs. P.T. Barnum to her wealthy Greek lover Wednesday is named Rev. Agathedorus Papageorgepouto, according to the New York Journal, Priest Archimandrite Paisius Ferentinos, according to the New York World, and Agathodoros Papageorgopoulus according to the New York Herald. It would have delighted Mrs. Barnum’s late husband to get either of those names to put among his curiosities.
Fr. Paisius Ferentinos, mentioned above, was the former priest of Holy Trinity, New York’s other Greek church.
The name of the officiating priest notwithstanding, the marriage between Nancy Barnum and Demetrius Callias Bey didn’t last long. A little over a year later — September 22, 1896 — Callias died of liver disease in Constantinople. His wife was on a brief visit to America at the time, and after learning of her husband’s death, she left the United States for good. Two years later, in Paris, she was married for a third time, to a French nobleman. The marriage was apparently pure business — the baron got some of Nancy’s money to pay his debts, and Nancy got to call herself a baroness. Nancy’s real love, it seems, was her departed Greek husband. When she died in 1927, she was cremated and then buried, not next to P.T. Barnum, but to Demetrius Callias Bey.
In the grand scheme of things, the story of Nancy Barnum and Demetrius Callias Bey isn’t all that significant. It is, however, an early example of an Orthodox-related story that made its way into newspapers across the United States. And the marriage of Barnum and Callias has always struck me as a sort of distant forerunner to the union of another famous American widow to a wealthy Greek man — Jacqueline Kennedy and Aristotle Onassis.
[This article was written by Matthew Namee. In writing it, I relied on both contemporary newspaper articles and on the book P.T. Barnum: The Legend and the Man by A.H. Saxon (1995), 329-330.]
As regular readers of this website know, I am particularly interested in the “Americanization” of Orthodoxy in the New World — things like clergy appearance (beards vs. shaved faces, cassocks vs. collars), pews, church music (organs and mixed choirs), early converts, the use of English, and so forth. Today, I’m going to talk about organ music.
A disclaimer, up front: I am not an historian of church music. In fact, I’m not particularly musical at all — I don’t sing in the church choir, don’t play an instrument, and can’t even read musical notation. However, I’ve become reasonably adept at picking up a phone and asking questions, and by now, I’ve accumulated enough information to have a general sense of when organs became popular in Greek churches in America. Like so much of what I write, this article is merely an introduction to a topic, rather than the last word. Hopefully, five years from now, we’ll know a lot more than we do today about the history of Orthodox music in America.
There seem to be two general theories about how organs became popular in Greek-American churches. These theories aren’t mutually exclusive, and taken together, they sound pretty darned convincing. The first theory is similar to the pew theory — that early Greek communities bought existing Protestant or Roman Catholic church buildings, inherited the previous church’s organ, and adopted it for use in the Orthodox church. Of course, it has the same problem that the pew theory has — namely, that most early Greek churches were actually built by the Orthodox community, rather than purchased. Also, the chronology doesn’t fit: as we’ll see, organs were typically added to existing Orthodox churches, rather than introduced when a building was acquired.
The other theory is that Archbishop Athenagoras Spyrou, who took over the Greek Archdiocese in 1931, was a big fan of organs and encouraged their use in America. In his 1976 book From Mars Hill to Manhattan, Fr. (later Bishop) George Papaioannou wrote about Abp Athenagoras and organ music:
Athenagoras was a lover of music. His ministry to the people of Corfu, who had and still retain the reputation of being the most musically inclined in Greece, encouraged him to introduce a revolutionary idea into the Orthodox worship. That was the use of the organ. His people enthusiastically endorsed the idea, but the Church hierarchy condemned it as a terrible unorthodox innovation. From the official publication, St. Spyridon, 1928, we are informed that a case was brought against him in court by members of the Holy Synod for having introduced into the church a musical instrument that was foreign to Orthodox tradition. Athenagoras refused to yield to the Synod’s pressure, claiming that a similar musical instrument had first been used by the Byzantines in the Church of St. Sophia. A renowned church historian and liturgical scholar, Fr. Constantine Callinikos, came to Athenagoras’ defense, advising him not to give in and continue his praiseworthy policy of upgrading the Orthodox worship. Athenagoras ignored the demands of his fellow hierarchs and apparently the case was dropped because the organ continued to be used in the services at the Cathedral of St. Spyridon. Today, St. Spyridon’s in Corfu remains the only church in Greece to include the organ in its services.
Be all that as it may, Abp Athenagoras did not introduce organs into Greek-American churches. Oh, he certainly contributed to the spread of organs, but well before his arrival in 1931, Greek churches in the United States had begun to adopt the instrument.
The first organ ever used in American Orthodoxy was actually in the very first Orthodox church in the contiguous US — Holy Trinity in New Orleans. I was rather shocked to learn that the New Orleans parish introduced an organ way back in the 19th century. This is from Elizabeth Cumings, “Where it is Summer in February,” in the journal Music, April 1895: “In the tiny Greek church far down the Esplanade is an American melodeon with a fine American squawk of its own.”
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the melodeon:
A melodeon (also known as a cabinet organ or American organ) is a type of 19th century reed organ with a foot-operated vacuum bellows, and a piano keyboard. It differs from the related harmonium, which uses a pressure bellows. Melodeons were manufactured in the United states from 1846 until the Civil War era. While it was sometimes used as a substitute for the pipe organ in small churches, it was primarily used in domestic settings.
It seems like the New Orleans parish introduced this organ sometime between 1885 and 1895. I’ve seen a few descriptions of church services there from the mid-1880s, and they seem to suggest (but don’t say outright) that the music was acappella chanting.
I don’t know why the New Orleans parish added an organ. It’s just a theory, but perhaps it had something to do with the priest, Fr. Misael Karydis. We know that he was obsessed with building a flying machine, and if he fancied himself an inventor and tinkerer, he may have been intrigued by the innerworkings of an organ. I’m not sure whether the New Orleans church kept using the organ after Karydis died in 1901, but if they did, they would have been an anomaly. Excepting New Orleans, I have yet to find a Greek church with an organ prior to the 1920s.
St. Sophia’s in Washington, DC didn’t have an organ in 1908, when the Washington Herald (11/1/1908) said, “Not a note of instrumental music accompanies them, for in the Greek Church it is forbidden.” But by the early 1920s, the parish had added an organ. From the Washington Post (4/8/1923): ”On this Greek Easter Day the choir of St. Sophia’s, L and Eighth Streets, N.W., is of unusual interest, there being only five Greek Orthodox churches in the world having mixed choirs and an organ.” (Earlier this year, I spoke with the current priest of St. Sophia’s, Fr. John Tavlarides. Fr. John has been there since the 1950s, and he told me that he actually stopped using the organ in 1967. It is now only used for occasional wedding processions.)
The Washington church had an influence on its Baltimore neighbor, Annunciation. From Nicholas Prevas’ House of God… Gateway to Heaven:
By the mid-1920’s, choirs and organs accompanied the Divine Liturgies – a departure from customs in the homeland where this type of music was considered a ‘western innovation’ and not typically used. Historically, up to this point, only the psaltes (cantors) sang the responses to the priest during religious services. In April 1923, however, records show $50 was paid to host a Greek church choir from Washington, D.C. Their performance must have been impressive.
Soon after, the spring 1923 general assembly approved the ‘installation of European music’ with organ accompaniment and hired Spyridon Safridis as the first music director. Within a few months, a small choir was singing liturgical hymns for the first time in the church on Homewood Avenue. The community was slowly adapting to American culture though not without objections. The following year, after many debates, parishioners voted at the general assembly meeting on March 9, 1924 as to whether or not this type of music should be kept in the church. The music remained and by the mid-1930’s a vibrant choir of voices complemented liturgical services at Annunciation.
We’ll discuss the question of mixed choirs in a future article. For now, it’s enough to note that organs were beginning to grow in popularity in the mid-1920s. The innovative priest Fr. Mark Petrakis, who had introduced pews in St. Louis, oversaw the addition of pews, an organ, and a mixed choir to Ss. Constantine and Helen Church in Chicago. From the parish history: “In 1927, George Dimopoulos, a talented chanter and choirmaster, organized a choir that included women. The choir was accompanied by an organ. Pews and an organ represented a departure from traditional Greek churches and a movement towards Americanization.”
Holy Trinity Greek Church in San Francisco had added an organ by at least 1925. When Abp Athengoras arrived in 1931, the majority of Greek churches still didn’t have organs, but the instruments were not totally unheard of. After 1931, and throughout Athenagoras’ tenure as archbishop, many more Greek churches introduced organs. This was certainly with the encouragement of Athenagoras, but he was not the originator of the practice.
I don’t have a clear answer to the question, “Why were organs introduced into Greek churches?” However, it seems like the parishes that introduced organs did so with the conscious desire to “Americanize.”
Most Honored Sir — I want to know if it is a crime to wear a beard? I suppose that this may appear to be a foolish question to you, but to me it means a great deal. I am the pastor of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church on Pacific street, Brooklyn, and my profession calls for the wearing of a beard. When I got out on the street the boys and young men mistake me for a Jewish rabbi and insult and assault me.
They often throw decayed vegetables at me. If I were a rabbi, would that be an excuse for loafers to assault and insult me? I am a citizen and as such should be protected from assault.
I have borne the insults and assaults patiently up to last Saturday night, when an incident occured that made me lose all patience. I was alighting from a car at Seventy-third street and Thirteenth avenue, Brooklyn, when a little loafer hit me with a decayed vegetable, which I believe was a more than ripe tomato. This exhausted my patience. I went for the lad, who, luckily for him, escaped.
Hoping that you will do what you can for me and gain for me the protection I deserve, I am sir,
BASIL M. KERBAWY.
The mayor didn’t take long to reply. On April 12, 1911, he wrote to Kerbawy,
Reverend and Dear Sir: Your letter informing me that as you walk about the city visiting the homes of your parishioners people apply opprobrious names to you, and throw empty cans and rubbish at you, and otherwise assault you, on account of your beard, is at hand. You ask me, “Is it a crime in the City of New York to wear a beard”? No, it is not. I wear one myself and nobody ever takes any notice of it. How is it they take notice of your beard? Have you trimmed it in some particular way, contrary to the Scriptures? For you know the Scriptures say, “Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.”
Yes, if they assault you, and throw cans at you, you have a right to defend yourself to the last extremity; but if you find it necessary I will have a detective go around with you for a few days until we arrest some of those who are wronging you. Are you certain that it is your beard which is the cause of the trouble?
Kerbawy actually took the mayor up on his offer of a detective. From the New York World (via the Washington Post, 4/28/1911):
The clergyman will be a striking figure with his tall, shiny hat and ruddy face almost hidden by the luxuriance of his black beard. It is not of such a length, being very neat in its trimming, but it is so abundant that only mere patches of the priest’s red cheeks show above it. Softly behind Father Kerbawy will tread a sleuth ready to promptly pounce upon the first person long the way who shies sticks, stones, objurgation, tomato, or even a spitball at the worthy priest.
Kerbawy’s reply to the mayor? “It was very kind of the mayor to give such prompt attention to my case. I shall probably write to let him know that my whiskers are trimmed in full accordance with the Scriptures.”
(Alas, I don’t have a good picture of Kerbawy, so I can’t show you his beard, which one newspaper described as being of the “lace curtain” variety. I’ve said it before, but if newspapers today wrote like they did a century ago, they wouldn’t be a dying industry.)
Of course, Kerbawy’s bishop was St. Raphael Hawaweeny, who, in 1895, had arrived in America with a bushy beard and a rather wild head of hair (see above).
But, as we saw on Monday, Raphael soon changed his appearance, cutting his hair, trimming his beard, and, outside of the church, trading his cassock for a suit and collar. In 1904, he told the New York Sun (5/22/1904), “I do not wish to attract attention by any peculiarities. There is no reason why I should be so extreme.” By the end of his life, St. Raphael looked like any other respectable gentleman a hundred years ago.
In the early 20th century, beardless faces were much more common among Russian priests than among their Greek counterparts, who tended to have full beards until around the 1920s. But not all the Russians were thrilled with clean-shaven clergymen. Fr. Joseph Stephanko, pastor of Ss. Peter & Paul Church in Passaic, New Jersey, dared to pick up a razor in 1913. A Russian-language newspaper in Jersey City accused Stephanko of “making void the Orthodox faith because he shaved himself.” The priest responded by filing a $25,000 libel suit against the paper (New York Times, 8/20/1914). A couple of years later, he was awarded $1,000 — a fraction of his original demand, but still a healthy chunk of change in the 1910s.
Orthodoxy has been in Portland, Oregon for well over a century, and its history is of particular interest to me, as my in-laws live in the city, and I have visited there many times. Today, we’re going to look at the beginnings of organized parish life in Portland.
According to Brigit Farley, there are records of some sort of Orthodox religious activity in Portland dating to at least 1881. That year, Fr. Vladimir Vechtomov, the rector of the San Francisco cathedral, visited Portland to bury a Russian woman. That said, organized church life didn’t begin until the 1890s. In November of 1892, 29-year-old Fr. Sebastian Dabovich baptized two Greek children, in what the Oregonian (11/7/1892) called “the first ceremony of the kind that ever took place in this city.” The service was held in the St. Charles Hotel, the first brick hotel in all of Portland. The paper went on,
The Greek colony in this city only comprises about 20 members, but they are very active in church matters. They are at present contemplating the building of a church on the East side, and have purchased half a block of land at Twentieth and East Morrison streets. The structure will cost $5000, of which $1000 has already been raised. The Russian government contributes about $400,000 annually to the support of the Greek church in North America, and part of this fund will be available for the construction of a church in Portland. The bishop, of San Francisco, will furnish the chancel, pictures and other fixtures for the church, and will be present at the laying of the cornerstone.
I’m not sure how many actual Orthodox Christians were in Portland. The article says that the city’s Greek colony had only 20 people, but there were surely Orthodox of other nationalities, and there were also Greeks in neighboring communities. In fact, I’ve found evidence that at least one member of the Dabovich family was living in Portland at the time. In any event, Fr. Sebastian was convinced that Portland was the right place for an Orthodox chapel.
In March of 1894, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov, accompanied by Dabovich and Fr. Alexander Pustynsky, paid a visit to Portland. It was his first stop in the city, but he actually wasn’t the first Orthodox bishop to set foot in Portland. In 1890, Bishop Vladimir Sokolovsky had spent a night in Portland while en route from Alaska to San Francisco, but there’s no evidence that he interacted with the small Orthodox population of the city.
Anyway, Bp Nicholas made another visit in June, on his way to Seattle. Then, in July and August, Fr. Sebastian Dabovich spent three weeks in Portland, raising money for the chapel. Instrumental in this was an Alaskan Creole named Chernov, who was living in the city and apparently had some means. By August 15, construction had begun at East 20th and Morrison. The chapel’s name would be “Holy Trinity Greek Russian Mission.” Dabovich was telling the locals not just that it was an Orthodox chapel, but that it was a part of the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
With things going smoothly in Portland, Dabovich then left for Seattle, where he hoped to replicate his success. The pattern repeated itself the following spring: Dabovich visited Portland to dedicate the new chapel in March, and then traveled to Seattle to perform the same service. The two communities, Portland and Seattle, would be closely linked years to come. The Russian diocese never assigned a priest to the Portland chapel, so it operated as a sort of dependency of St. Spiridon Church in Seattle.
It’s often said that the current OCA parish in Portland, St. Nicholas, is identical with this original Holy Trinity chapel, which was founded in the 1890s. This isn’t really accurate… By the early 1900s, the original chapel had fallen into disrepair, and the Greeks organized their own parish in 1908. There wouldn’t be a Russian church in the city until 1927, when St. Nicholas Church was founded.