Posts tagged John Paradise
Yesterday, I published a brief article on Fr. Stephen Andreades, the first resident priest of the first Orthodox parish in the contiguous United States — Holy Trinity in New Orleans. The entire early history of that parish is something of a mystery. We know who the early priests were — Andreades, Fr. Gregory Yiayias, Fr. Misael Karydis — but we don’t know much about them, and we don’t have a clear understanding of the early life of that parish. The hints that we do have are tantalizing. For instance, Holy Trinity used an organ decades before any other American Orthodox church is known to have added one. But we don’t know the story behind it.
Anyway, all this got me to thinking about some of the toughest cases to crack in my research into American Orthodox history. I’ll run through some of them today.
The Ludwell-Paradise story
This is really Nicholas Chapman’s turf, and it’s just loaded with great mysteries. Among them:
- How exactly did a young Philip Ludwell III decide to convert to Orthodoxy?
- What was his family’s connection to the Orthodox Church prior to his conversion?
- Were there any other Orthodox converts in colonial Virginia, aside from the Ludwell family?
- How long did Ludwell’s descendants remain Orthodox?
- What — if any — connection existed between the Ludwell-Paradise family, the New Smyrna colony, and the Russian mission to Alaska?
St. Peter the Aleut
Did he exist? If so, was he martyred? If not, how and why did the story of his martyrdom develop? We’re making progress on this front, but the critical questions remain unanswered. The frustrating thing is that I know that the Russian government contacted the Spanish government about this at the time, and the Spanish did an investigation, and there are records of this investigation in Madrid. But I can’t get anyone there to get back to me.
The aborted New York church of 1850
The January 1850 issue of the Home and Foreign Record of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America reported this:
Efforts are now making in New York to form a congregation of Greek Christians. We observe an announcement that a priest of that denomination, with an interpreter, is now in New York, and will doubtless take charge of the movement.
But the first documented Orthodox congregation in New York wasn’t organized until Fr. Nicholas Bjerring arrived in 1870 — 20 years later. So what was going on in 1850? I haven’t found any other traces of this story.
The phantom Galveston parish of the 1860s
Lots and lots of secondary sources refer to a very early Orthodox parish in Galveston, Texas. This parish was supposedly formed in the 1860s and used the name “Ss. Constantine and Helen.” But the earliest traces I’ve found of organized Orthodoxy in Galveston are from the mid-1890s, when Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides founded a parish of the same name, which still exists. In fact, according to Triantafilides’ biography by Milivoy Jovan Milosevich, Triantafilides intentionally revived the old parish name. From the bio:
It is known that with the outset of the American Civil War, a group of multi-ethnic Orthodox Christians were having regular prayer meetings in Galveston, as early as 1861, and they called themselves “the Parish of S.S. Constantine and Helen.” [...] [I]t was Arch. Fr. Theoclitos’ decision to use the name S. S. Constantine and Helen Church, because the congregation that started on its own should be remembered.
But was this “congregation” a full-fledged parish, as some have suggested? Was it simply a group of Orthodox laypeople gathering for reader’s services? Was it somehow connected to the New Orleans parish — perhaps the earliest “mission” community (as we now commonly use the term) in the contiguous United States? We just don’t know.
Another tantalizing piece of information: at exactly the time when this congregation was supposedly formed, the descendants of Philip Ludwell III were living in Galveston. Were they still Orthodox? And were they connected to this “parish”?
The mysterious death of Fr. Paul Kedrolivansky
We’ve covered this one before: Kedrolivansky, the dean of the Russian cathedral in San Francisco, died under suspicious circumstances in 1878. I’m pretty sure that Kedrolivansky was murdered, but I don’t know by whom. Was it his rival priest, Fr. Nicholas Kovrigin? Gustave Niebaum and the powerful Alaska Commercial Company? A “nihilist,” as some later speculated? We don’t know, and this is a mystery that will probably never be solved.
The Kodiak Bell
The bell from the first Orthodox church in the New World — Holy Resurrection in Kodiak, AK — currently hangs in a Roman Catholic church in California. And nobody really knows how it got there.
Fr. Raphael Morgan
For a long time, all we knew for sure was that the first black Orthodox priest in America was alive in 1916, and disappeared from the historical record afterwards. Now, we can say with confidence that he was dead by 1924. But 1916-1924 is a pretty big range, and we still don’t know how and where he died, where he’s buried, and whether he remained Orthodox until the end.
This little run-down is just the tip of the iceberg as far as American Orthodox historical mysteries go. If you have any insight into these conundrums, shoot me an email at mfnamee [at] gmail [dot] com.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
Recently, Holy Cross Orthodox Press published the Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Churches, edited by Alexei D. Krindatch. I contributed several pieces to the Atlas, including the article “Ten Interesting Facts About the History of Orthodox Christianity in the USA.” With Alexei’s permission, we’ll publish excerpts from that article over the next couple of months. To purchase your own copy of the Atlas (for $19.95), click here.
1. The first American convert to Orthodoxy was an aristocrat in British Virginia who joined the Church in 1738.
Very recently, Orthodox researcher Nicholas Chapman made an astounding discovery: in 1738 – three years before Bering discovered Alaska for the Russian Empire – prominent Virginia aristocrat Philip Ludwell III traveled to London and was received into the Russian Orthodox Church. Ludwell lived in Williamsburg, Virginia; in fact, his home was the first to be restored by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. His grandfather had been the first British governor of the Carolinas, and his father a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. Ludwell’s relatives include two U.S. Presidents and famed Confederate General Robert E. Lee. It was Ludwell who, in 1753, gave a young George Washington his first commission in the British army. Ludwell attended the same Anglican parish as Thomas Jefferson, and his manservant was actually the father-in-law of Jefferson (and the father of Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s reputed mistress).
Ludwell became Orthodox when he was just 22 years old, and his reception into the Church was formally authorized by the Russian Holy Synod. Remarkably, the Synod also gave permission for Ludwell to bring a portion of the Eucharist back with him to Virginia. Ludwell was blessed to translate into English the famous “Confession” of Metropolitan Peter Moghila, and later, he made a fresh translation of the liturgy.
Despite living an ocean away from the nearest Orthodox church, Ludwell never left the faith, although he may have hidden his Orthodoxy from British authorities. He traveled to London rather often, and in 1762, he brought his three daughters to be chrismated. One of those daughters, Lucy, went on to marry a man named John Paradise, who was born in Thessaloniki to a Greek mother and an English father (who himself was Orthodox). John Paradise seems almost like a fictional character – a member of the great Royal Society, he hobnobbed with the intellectual elite of London. His friends included American founding fathers Franklin, Jefferson, and Adams. It was Paradise who taught Jefferson to read Greek, and in the middle of the Revolutionary War, Franklin arranged for Paradise to become a U.S. citizen – possibly the first naturalization in American history. Later, Paradise worked as a secret agent for the Russian Empire, administering a pro-Russian propaganda campaign in England. Empress Catherine the Great awarded Paradise a large pension as a reward for his service.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
On the latest episode of our American Orthodox History podcast, Nicholas Chapman recounts the almost incredible story of Orthodox Christianity in colonial Virginia. Last month, we published Nicholas’ first article on the subject. Below, he continues his series.
On July 4, 1789, after nearly five years of service, Thomas Jefferson was coming to the end of his time as US minister plenipotentiary to France. It was the eve of what would come to be known as the French revolution, but this did not prevent Jefferson from hosting a celebration to mark the recently won independence of the United States. The party was attended by many of Jefferson’s closest friends in Paris, including John Paradise, the son in law of Philip Ludwell III.
John Paradise was by any account a remarkable man: an extraordinarily gifted linguist with a talent for friendship which brought him into contact with almost all the great men of his day. English was probably only his seventh language and by all accounts he never spoke it well! He was, however, able to converse freely in Greek, Italian, Turkish and Arabic amongst others and almost certainly knew Russian. He used his gifts to teach Thomas Jefferson classical Greek whilst visiting him in Paris.
John Paradise was also an Orthodox Christian. His father, Peter Paradise, had been the British Consul in Salonika (Thessalonica) and his mother was half Greek. It is possible that his paternal grandfather was also both English and Orthodox, making John Paradise a third generation English Orthodox at the time of his birth at Salonika in April 1743. His father, Peter, had contacts with monks from Mt. Athos during his years in Salonika and it is not known whether it was these, or his marriage, that had brought him to the Church.
After his early years in Greece, John was sent to the University of Padua (modern day Italy) and ultimately to Oxford to complete his education. At some point in the 1760’s it seems that the Paradises met Philip Ludwell and his three daughters in London. On April 20, 1766 they are all recorded as partaking of the sacrament of Holy Communion at the Russian Orthodox Church in London. When Philip Ludwell III died less than a year later, Peter Paradise became one of the legal guardians of Ludwell’s three daughters. When Frances died less than a year after her father and Hannah (the eldest daughter) married in March 1769, Lucy Ludwell went to live at Peter Paradise’s London home. Barely two months later Lucy married Peter’s son John.
Philip Ludwell III’s London house was also a home for an extended Virginian family including three of his sister Hannah’s children: Alice, Arthur and William Lee. It was William who was to marry the eldest Ludwell daughter in March 1769. She was also his first cousin. Close to the Ludwell house in Cecil St. was the London home of Benjamin Franklin, who at that time was on his second extended visit to England. Franklin was one of the early members of the Royal Society, to which John Paradise would subsequently be elected. Philip Ludwell III was very proud of the inventive achievements of his fellow countryman and in 1762 commissioned a portrait of Franklin. This became Franklin’s preferred painting of himself.
Franklin was an intimate of the Ludwell household and on his return to America he sent his “best wishes to Miss Ludwell and the other ladies.” This familial contact with Franklin was to prove vital for John Paradise and Lucy Ludwell Paradise. The division of the Virginian estates of Philip Ludwell III after his death was to prove complex and made even more so by the outbreak of war between the American colonies and the British Empire. By that time Franklin was the first US minister plenipotentiary to France. In this capacity John and Lucy Ludwell Paradise visited him in Paris in 1779. Through his office John Paradise was to be granted US citizenship in October 1780, whilst the War of Independence was still raging. It can be said therefore that one of the first (and perhaps the first) naturalized American citizen was an Orthodox Christian, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church of mixed English and Greek ethnicity!
It was not until September of 1787 that John and Lucy Ludwell Paradise were finally able to travel to their estates in Virginia. During their time in America they were able to spend four days at Mt. Vernon with General George and Martha Washington. Washington’s diary for Sunday, December 30, 1787 records that at around eleven o’clock that day “Mr. Paradise and his Lady, lately from England but now of Williamsburgh , came in on a visit.” Sadly, we have no detail of the conversation that was exchanged during their stay, although it is known that Washington suspended the normal conduct of his affairs during their visit, which was not his normal practice. As John Paradise was on intimate terms with the two most important representatives of the United States overseas (John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) and personally acquainted with so many other persons of note, it is not difficult to think that Washington would have found his visit of immense interest.
Barely two months after their visit to Mt. Vernon, the Paradises were to receive the shocking news of the death of their daughter Philippa, aged only thirteen, in London. So it was, that shortly afterward, they were to return to London. Here it was that they met the newly appointed Russian priest, the Rev. Yakov Smirnov, who was to become Lucy’s cherished spiritual father. John Paradise was to work very closely with Fr. Smirnov is 1791 in a concerted public campaign to persuade British public opinion against war with Russia. For his service in this respect Paradise was awarded a pension of £150 p.a. by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great, a substantial sum for its time.
It also seems likely that Paradise recruited the assistance of Frederick North, the future Earl Guildford, whose father Lord North was British Prime Minister during the American War of Independence. The young North was secretly baptized as an Orthodox Christian in Corfu in 1791 and at the same time was composing and publishing sonnets in praise of Catherine the Great! When John Paradise died in 1795 he left Frederick North some of his most precious possessions, thereby indicating the closeness of the relationship they must have enjoyed during his lifetime.
I have only briefly skimmed the facts of John Paradise’s life and adventures here. There is more to be written. But it must be of considerable interest that a man who was clearly an active Orthodox Christians was on intimate terms with the first three Presidents of the United States. James Boswell in his famous “Life of Johnson” penned the best obituary of him. He wrote: “John Paradise (1743 1795). Son of the British Consul at Salonica and a native woman of that country. He was distinguished by his learning and a very general acquaintance with accomplished persons of almost all nations” (Boswell’s Life of Johnson, vol. IV, p. 364, note 2).
Nicholas Chapman, Yonkers, NY, December 14, 2009
A note from Matthew Namee: What follows is a first glimpse of what is, I am confident, the most exciting research currently being done on the subject of American Orthodox history. As I’ve been telling others, my own research is pretty interesting stuff, but Nicholas Chapman’s work blows mine out of the water. Nicholas is a native of England, but he now lives in New York, where he works for the presses of both St. Vladimir’s and Holy Trinity (Jordanville) seminaries. I hope to interview Nicholas for my American Orthodox History podcast in the near future, and his article below is only the first of many.
It will come as a surprise to many, if not all Orthodox Christians in America, to learn that the story of their Church here begins not in 1794 but in 1738. Not in Russian Alaska, but rather British Virginia. Furthermore, what began in 1738 was not a mere blip on the radar, a passing moment of no historical import. Otherwise, how could it be that the daughter of a man described as “renowned in early Virginia history “(Annette Gordon-Reed: The Hemingses of Monticello) would write to President Thomas Jefferson early in his second term of office (Aug 27, 1805) “With the blessing of God I am now in good health, and with my priest’s blessing and command who is the Rev. Mr. Smirnov.”
Where does this story begin and who are its principal characters? Where are there descendants today and what became of their heritage of Orthodox faith and life that lasted for at least sixty/seventy years? My early research is only beginning to answer some of these questions, whilst posing many more.
Let’s begin with Colonel Philip Ludwell III, a third generation Virginian. He was the man who in 1753 gave George Washington his commission in the army and they exchanged frequent correspondence. Ludwell was a cousin of Washington’s wife, Martha. He was also a relative of Confederate General Robert E Lee and Presidents William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison, amongst many other distinguished figures of American history. His grandfather, Philip Ludwell I was the first British Governor of the Carolinas and his father, Philip Ludwell II a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and Rector of the College of William and Mary. (The second oldest college in the USA and its first University.) Ludwell’s English manservant, John Wayles, was the father in law of Thomas Jefferson and the father of Jefferson’s African American mistress, Sally Hemings!
When, where and why did Colonel Philip Ludwell become Orthodox? He was received in the Russian Orthodox Church in London, on December 31, 1738 (Old style) by Fr. Bartholomew Cassano, a half French, Alexandrian Greek whose wife Elizabeth (nee Burton) is one of the first recorded English converts to Orthodoxy. Ludwell would have been twenty-two years old at the time. His reception was authorised at a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Church of Russia, who blessed him to take the Holy Gifts back to Virginia and which approved of his translation into English of the “Orthodox Confession” written by Peter Moghila, Metropolitan of Kiev, one hundred years earlier. They also granted him a dispensation to continue attending the Anglican church in Virginia, taking into account his position as “an important Royal official” and recognising that “apart from the Province of Pennsylvania, all religions but Protestantism are banned.”
His extensive business interests seem to have led him to travel frequently between Virginia and London. The London parish register documents his participation in the sacraments of confession and Holy Communion on twelve occasions between August 5 1760 and his death on March 14, 1767. (This is very frequent by the standards of the time when once a year communion was the norm.) On April 3, 1762 (Holy Wednesday) he brought his three daughters to be chrismated and somewhat unusually also stood as their sponsor.
His health began to fail him during 1766 and the register records that on Sunday, September 17, 1766, “The sick Philip Ludwell received Holy Communion in his house during the day.” On February 22, 1767 it states “the sick Mr. Philip Ludwell confessed and received Holy Communion, and was anointed with oil at his home.” Shortly thereafter on March 14, 1767 “Philip Ludwell died at five o’clock in the afternoon” and that the following day the “Canon after the departure of the soul from the body” was read at the church. On March 19, 1767 (the fourth day of Great Lent) his funeral took place. On March 22,1767 he was buried in the crypt of the church of St. Mary Bow. (A small Anglican Church to the east of the City of London, which at that time was a distinct village apart from the city.)
Another hint of the intensity of Ludwell’s commitment to the Church is found in Edward L Bond’s 2004 work Spreading the Gospel in Colonial Virginia. Writing in the context of what Bond describes as “Private devotional exercise common among some of Virginia’s elite gentleman” he states that “Philip Ludwell III transcribed from the Greek his own translation of the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom “The Divine and Holy Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as it is performed without a Deacon.” ” Did Ludwell’s so called “private devotion” set him on a path to Orthodoxy? Perhaps it is so.
For now, I have only one clear statement, which is found in a letter written in 1791 by the Russian Ambassador in London, Count Vorontsov to his brother Alexander in St. Petersburg. The relevant passage is actually focusing on John Paradise (of whom there is much more to say.) Vorontsov writes “By a strange coincidence an Englishman, a friend of his (i.e. Paradise’s) father’s, who had some property in Virginia, took it into his head to read in the original all the Fathers of the Church and become convinced that our religion was the only true one; he forsook his own to study it and brought up his only daughter who afterwards married my friend Mr. Paradise.”
As mentioned previously, Ludwell in fact had three daughters, but only one was alive in 1791 and known to Count Vorontsov. All three daughters had been baptized as Orthodox Christians and at least one (Lucy who wrote to Jefferson in 1805) was married in the Church. In my next articles I will turn to their stories and those of the men they married.
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, NY, Nov 11, 2009