Posts tagged New Orleans
In the past (for instance, here), I’ve referred to a Fr. Stephen Andreades, who, in 1867, was the priest of Holy Trinity parish in New Orleans. He was one of the first Orthodox priests in the contiguous United States, but we know virtually nothing about him. In fact, until now, the only source I had for Andreades was the following note in a 1967 St. Vladimir’s Quarterly article by Fr. Alexander Doumouras:
The priest who succeeded Fr. Agapius [Honcharenko] in New Orleans was an archimandrite named Fr. Stephen Andreades. One of his sermons, which was delivered on December 15, 1867, was translated into Russian by Thomas Kraskovsky and printed in the Alaska Herald on March 15, 1868. In this sermon Fr. Andreades stated that he had been “invited from Greece” to come to America and serve the parish in New Orleans. He did not state who invited him and who appointed him.
I’ve never seen the original Alaska Herald source, and while we could state pretty confidently that Andreades was the first Greek Orthodox priest in America — and the first pastor of the New Orleans parish, given that Honcharenko was never actually the resident priest — we didn’t know anything else.
We still don’t know much, but on Google Books, I found this note from Understanding the Greek Orthodox Church by Demetrios J. Constantelos (1982):
In 1867 the congregation moved to its permanent church and appointed its first regular priest, Stephen Andreades, who had been invited from Greece. He had a successful ministry from 1867 to 1875, when the archimandrite Gregory Yiayias arrived to replace him. The New Orleans congregation also acquired its own parish house; a small library, which included books in Greek, Latin…
And of course, this being just the “snippet view” of Google Books, I can’t get any more information.
My own research conflicts somewhat with Constantelos’ information. He has Andreades in New Orleans from 1867-75, followed by Fr. Gregory Yiayias. However, I found a reference to Yiayias in New Orleans in the September 13, 1872 issue of the Petersburg Index, a Virginia newspaper. Also, Henry Rightor’s Standard History of New Orleans, Louisiana (1900) puts Yiayias’ tenure at 1872-74.
So we’ve got two sources — one of them contemporary — which put Yiayias, and not Andreades, in New Orleans in 1872. Which makes me wonder where Constantelos got his dates. Obviously, I need to look at Constantelos’ actual book, rather than a Google snippet view.
The early history of the New Orleans parish remains shrouded in mystery. We know the names of some of the priests — Andreades, Yiayias, and the strange Fr. Misael Karydis — but we don’t know much about them, or their relationship to the church hierarchy. If anyone has more information, please let me know.
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.
2. The first Orthodox liturgies in New York and New Orleans were celebrated by a controversial Ukrainian who claimed to be hunted by Tsarist agents.
Born in what is now Ukraine in 1832, Agapius Honcharenko attended the Kiev Theological Academy and then became a monk at the renowned Kiev Caves Lavra. He was ordained a deacon at 24, and the following year, he was assigned to the Russian Embassy church in Athens, Greece. From the beginning, there was trouble. Honcharenko was insubordinate, and at one point a young boy accused him of making improper advances. Honcharenko also claimed to have secretly wrote articles in a famous socialist journal. At some point, he may have been ordained to the priesthood by a Greek bishop, although the circumstances surrounding this ordination aren’t clear and our only source for this information is Honcharenko’s own later testimony. In late 1864, Honcharenko set sail for America, where he would be subject to much less oversight. He arrived in New York, and in 1865, he celebrated the first Orthodox liturgy in the city’s history. A choir of Episcopalians sung Slavonic words which had been transliterated into English.
Soon, Honcharenko received word that there were Orthodox people in New Orleans. Arriving in the city just two days after the Civil War ended, Honcharenko celebrated the first Orthodox services in the American South, borrowing an Episcopal church that had, during the recent Union occupation, been used as a stable for horses. Honcharenko spent Holy Week and Pascha in New Orleans before returning to New York. But in his short time away from the city, things had changed. As news of his landmark New York liturgy spread around the world, reports of his more controversial activities began to surface. The Orthodox of New York informed the renegade priest that they no longer had any use for him.
Thus began Honcharenko’s life outside of the Orthodox Church. He traveled across the country – marrying an woman in Philadelphia along the way – and he eventually reached San Francisco. There, in 1867, Honcharenko attempted to set up a “Russo-Greek Methodist Episcopal Church.” San Francisco already had a lot of Orthodox residents, who, motivated by the embarrassing activities of Honcharenko, decided to unite and form an Orthodox parish. Led by the local Russian consul, they asked the Russian Bishop of Alaska to send them a priest. This marked the first-ever presence of a Russian parish in an American state.
Honcharenko purchased land just outside of Oakland, and over the coming decades, reporters would occasionally find their way to the Honcharenko ranch. They wrote articles about the “Apostle of Liberty,” and Honcharenko began to make increasingly outlandish claims – that he had been the Russian ambassador to Greece; that he was Leo Tolstoy’s confessor; that he was the first to discover gold in Alaska; and that he was hunted by Tsarist assassins. Honcharenko died on his ranch in 1916, at the age of 83.
This article was written by Matthew Namee.
This article was originally published on October 30, 2009.
On July 19, 1870, a Philadelphia newspaper called the North American and United States Gazette published the following report:
The Russian Ambassador has received instructions from his government that three bishoprics of the Greek Church are to be established forthwith in this country – one at New York, one at New Orleans, and one at San Francisco, in each of which last named places there is already a Greek church and a Russo-Greek priest.
A few days later, the journal Christian Union (7/23/1870) reported on the move of the Russian bishop from Alaska to San Francisco, and on the founding of Bjerring’s chapel in New York City. Citing the Pacific Churchman as its source, the article then stated the following:
New York is expected to be, in time, the seat of a Greek Orthodox Eastern Church arch-diocesan, and of the cathedral church of that hierarchy on the American continent, while New Orleans and San Francisco are to be episcopal seats. It is further stated that Mr. N.L. BJERRING, of Baltimore, a recent convert from the Roman Church, has been selected as one of the Orthodox bishops for this country, and that he has been invited by telegraph, from St. Petersburg, to proceed thither, to be baptized, ordained into the ministry, and be consecrated a bishop.
It’s interesting to read about a plan calling for New York to be the headquarters of an archdiocese; it would be more than three decades before this would actually happen. Also, Bjerring, being married, could not have become a bishop. It’s possible that the Russian Church wasn’t initially aware of this, and did at some early stage consider him a candidate for the episcopacy. It’s also possible that the newspaper reporter misunderstood something.
Anyway, within a few more days, the New York Sun had run a piece on all this. I don’t have the original Sun account, but it was picked up by various papers, including the Cleveland Herald (7/30/1870), the Chicago Tribune (8/1), and Flake’s Bulletin of Galveston, Texas (8/20). This is from the Cleveland Herald‘s version:
The Russian Government has decided to establish a Bishopric of the Greek Church in New York. The fact was made known to a number of Episcopal clergymen by Count Catacazy, the Russian Minister, and the Count recently offered the position of Prelate of the proposed See to the Rev. Samos [the other versions say "James"] Christal, an Episcopal minister, who is understood to have favored the plan of Dr. (now Bishop) Young of uniting the Episcopal and Greek churches. Mr. Christal has, however, declined to accept the office, on the ground that he could not subscribe to the articles of the Seventh Synod of the Greek church, relating to the images and creature worship, and the new Bishopric has not yet been filled.
Two other Bishoprics are to be established by the Russian Government, one in San Francisco and the other in New Orleans, but the candidates have not yet been named.
On August 27, Christian Union (which had already published a report on July 23 — see above) ran a similar story, but cited Pittsburgh’s Presbyterian Banner.
Finally, in October, a correction of sorts began to appear. From the Christian Advocate (10/10/1870; the same appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin on October 29):
The Russian Government does not contemplate sending Bishops of the Greek Church to form dioceses in this country. Greek Church communicants are too few to require them, and these few, it seems, do not desire foreign Bishops.
That is the last thing I’ve found on the plan.
All of these reports were coming during a time of transition for American Orthodoxy. During the same summer of 1870, Bishop John Mitropolsky was assigned to replace Bishop Paul Popov as the Russian hierarch in North America. The diocese itself was restructured, and the new Diocese of the Aleutian Islands and Alaska was created. (Previously, Bishop Paul had been merely a vicar in the Diocese of Kamchatka.) Bishop John moved the hierarchical residence from Sitka (or New Archangel) to San Francisco. This move wouldn’t be officially recognized until 1872, but for all practical purposes, it took place with the change in bishops in 1870.
Also, in May of 1870, Nicholas Bjerring went to Russia and was ordained a priest. He returned to the US that summer, and news began to circulate that the Russian Church planned to establish a chapel in New York City.
Is it possible that the Russian Church (and the Russian government) was making initial efforts to implement St. Innocent’s recommendation from a few years earlier? Late in 1867, Innocent recommended, among other things, that
- The diocesan seat be moved from Sitka (New Archangel) to San Francisco,
- The American part of the Diocese of Kamchatka be separated from the Diocese (Innocent recommended that it be formed into a vicariate under St. Petersburg, so creating a separate diocese would have been an even bolder step),
- The former bishop be recalled to Russia, and a new bishop be appointed who is familiar with English, and
- The new bishop be allowed to ordain American converts to the priesthood for service in America.
It’s also interesting to note the apparent resistence of the few Orthodox living in America. The San Francisco community was probably not the source of the problem, since they were the one city that did receive a Russian bishop in 1870. The New Orleans parish may have taken issue with this proposal, though, since they were a mostly independent group connected with the Greek consulate and nominally affiliated with the Church of Greece. But, details being so scarce, it’s hard to know just what the real story is.
There are a couple of avenues one might pursue to get to the bottom of all this. Obviously, the Russian Orthodox Church may have records of this plan (and I would expect them to be in St. Petersburg). There also might be something in the records of the Russian embassy, since the Russian ambassador was the one who approached Chrystal about the proposal. It can’t have just been the imaginings of American newspapermen, and I for one would love to know rationale behind the plan — and the reasons why it was abandoned.
This article was written by Matthew Namee and was originally published on October 30, 2009.
In September of 1896, Bishop Nicholas Ziorov made his first archpastoral visit to the brand-new parish of Ss. Constantine and Helen in Galveston, Texas. This multiethnic church was founded just a few months earlier by Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides, the great Greek archimandrite who served in the Russian Mission.
Just after the bishop’s arrival on September 19, a reporter from the Galveston Daily News paid him a visit (see Galveston Daily News, 9/20/1896). The reporter was told that Bishop Nicholas had fasted all day in preparation for the next day’s Divine Liturgy, and ”was about to retire into the room for the purpose of self communion and prayer.” On his way out, though, the reporter ran into Bishop Nicholas in the hall. The reporter wrote,
Bishop Nicholas is a typical Russian in appearance. He is large of frame, with a full, round face, somewhat thin beard and long, heavy, black hair. Though somewhat heavy, the features are those of a man with a strong mentality. From those who are in a position to know, it was understood that he is a man of great culture and scholarly attainments. He speaks very little English, but French and German fluently. He was attired in a long, black gown, similar to the ones used by the priests of the Roman church. From around his neck a gold chain was suspended, with a crucifix pendant.
Through a translator, Bishop Nicholas explained, “I am the only bishop on the American continents, and the head of the church in North and South America.” This is one of the earliest explicit assertions of Russian jurisdiction throughout the New World. The bishop continued, “My headquarters are in San Francisco, and I came here direct from that city. From what I have seen of Galveston, I think you have a beautiful city, and I like it very much.”
The reporter asked, “How many churches of the orthodox Russian-Greek faith are there in America?”
“There are about twenty-five churches and about sixty chapels scattered throughout the country,” the bishop said. “The largest are in Alaska, where the members are chiefly Russians, and therefore conform to the orthodox church. There are quite a number in Pennsylvania, but many of them do not belong to the orthodox church.” Of course, Bishop Nicholas was referring to the Uniate parishes, which began to join the Russian Mission in earnest during Bishiop Nicholas’ episcopate.
The reporter continued, “What is the difference between the orthodox and the unorthodox church?”
“The members of the orthodox church in America believe that God is the head of the chruch and the czar the first son of the church,” explained Bishop Nicholas, “while upon the other hand, owing to the political conditions of Russia, the people there have to believe that the head of the church is the pope. That is why the Russian people like America. They are free here to follow the dictates of their conscience, which they can not in Russia.”
I suspect that something got lost in the translation, because Bishop Nicholas was pretty obviously referring to the Carpatho-Rusyns living in Roman Catholic lands (particularly the Austro-Hungarian Empire), who retained many Orthodox traditions but acknowledged the authority of the Pope of Rome. The bishop certainly didn’t mean to say that otherwise-Orthodox people in Russia recognized the Pope and couldn’t “follow the dictates of their conscience” in Russia.
In any event, the interview concluded as follows:
“Is the church growing much in America?”
“Yes, it is growing steadily.”
“Do you expect to return or be recalled to Russia?”
“I may return, but not to work there. My field will be in America.”
The next day, Bishop Nicholas celebrated a hierarchical Divine Liturgy in the Galveston church (Daily News, 9/21). A few interesting notes about that service:
- The service commemorated “the bi-centenary of the independence of the church under Prince Nicholas of Montenegro.”
- The congregation was mostly composed of Greeks and “Slavonians” (mainly Serbs and Montenegrins). Bishop Nicholas may well have been the only Russian in the building.
- Prayers were offered for the Prince of Montenegro, the Tsar of Russia, the Patriarch of Constantinople, the clergy, and the President of the United States. The newspaper doesn’t mention it, but I assume that the Holy Synod of Russia was also commemorated.
- Bishop Nicholas gave his sermon, on the doctrines of the Church, in Slavonic, but Fr. Theoclitos Triantafilides translated it into Greek.
- After the service, in addition to receiving holy bread, the parishioners were given “a religious book in Greek or Slavonic and a small metal cross,” both gifts from the bishop.
- Also after the service, Bishop Nicholas appointed the trustees and officers of the church. I don’t know if the parish held elections which were merely ratified by the bishop, or if Bishop Nicholas actually made all the choices himself.
Bishop Nicholas left Galveston for New Orleans the following day, September 21. Just before he left, a Galveston Daily News reporter (probably the same one mentioned above) caught up with him for a final interview. Here is the resulting article, in full (Daily News, 9/22):
Bishop Nicholas, the head of the Russian Greek orthodox church on the continent of America, left Galveston yesterday afternoon at 4.30 for New Orleans, en route to Chicago and the larger cities of the east.
A News reporter called upon the reverend gentleman a few hours prior to his reparture and found him just about to partake of some tea with a dash of lemon in it, a la Russian. He courteously invited the reporter to join him in a cup, which invitation was promptly accepted.
In response to the quesiton if he had enjoyed his stay here, the bishop replied in the affirmative with considerable emphasis.
“I like Galveston very much,” he said by way of continuation. “It is a beautiful city, but a little too warm just now. I shall try to come here and make a long stay — say about two months.”
“You did not dedicate the new church yesterday?”
“No; the report in The Galveston News of this morning was correct about that. The people of the church here are going to try to build a residence for the pastor, a school house and make other improvements. I shall try to come back again in December next. I will dedicate the church then.”
The bishop here rose and, going to a desk at the other end of the room, took from it a small book and, handing it to the reporter, said with a smile:
“If you will study that you will be able to give the service in full when I come again.”
The book contained the liturgies of the Russian Greek church, printed in Greek on one side and English on the other. The paper was of fine quality and the book was neatly bound.
“Where are you going from here?” inquired the scribe after he had returned due thanks for the gift.
“I go to New Orleans from Galveston, then to Chicago, Pittsburg, Philadelphia, New York and other large places,” replied the bishop.
“In what condition did you find the affairs of the church here?”
“O, very good; very satisfactory. When I come back I will tell you all you want to know about the church, but I must now prepare to take the train,” and the bishop rose as an indication that the interview was ended.
It’s not known whether Bishop Nicholas visited the Orthodox church in New Orleans when he passed through the city. There is no evidence that the parish was a part of his diocese, but given Bishop Nicholas’ own view that he had jurisdiction over the entire Western Hemisphere, he may well have considered the New Orleans parish to be under his authority. It would be very interesting to know what, if any, contacts the New Orleans Orthodox community had with the Russian bishop.
In any case, Bishop Nicholas can’t have been in New Orleans for very long. He arrived in New York on September 25, in time to celebrate the Elevation of the Cross with two of his newest priests, St. Raphael Hawaweeny and St. Alexander Hotovitzky (New York Times, 9/26/1896).
[This article was written by Matthew Namee.]
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Editor’s note: The following article appeared in the New York Times on August 4, 1873. That’s nearly two decades before Greek immigrants began to flood into America. According to the book Race, Ethnicity, and Place in a Changing America, only 217 immigrants came from Greece to the US in the entire period from 1824 to 1872. Another source (Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait) has similar numbers, reporting 188 immigrants in the 1821-1870 period. Yet another book, Greeks in America (1913), reports just 77 Greek immigrants via New York from 1847-1864, and 77 more from 1869-1873.
To be honest, I’m a tad skeptical of these statistics. The article below talks about 20 Greek custom houses in the US in 1873 (including 12 in New York alone), plus two Orthodox communities with large Greek contingents in New Orleans and San Francisco. From the article, it sounds like Greeks sailed to America pretty regularly, looking for temporary work before returning home. Add it all up, and I would guess that there were maybe a couple thousand Greeks in America in 1873, rather than only a few hundred. Either way, though, the numbers were quite small, and this article presents a rare snapshot of Greek life in America long before the Ellis Island era.
Comparatively little is known about the Greeks in America. Reference is made occasionally in the daily Press to the Greek merchants of this City, whose enormous transactions in cotton and grain form an important item in the exports of the country; but beyond that we seldom see a Greek name coming before the public in the daily incidents of this cosmopolitan City.
Greece is so thinly populated that she can hardly spare any hands to emigrate to foreign countries, and we seldom see any Greeks among the nationalities mentioned in the regular reports of our Commissioners of Emigration. Yet a great many Greeks arive daily on our shores, but they come under the quality of sailors, working their passage on board sailing ships of various nationalities. As soon as they land here they apply to their Consul in this City, Mr. D.N. Botassi, for work, when with few variations, the following dialogue takes place:
“When did you arrive”
“Any particular profession?”
“What do you expect to do?”
“Anything, your Excellency.”
“Have you got any money?”
“Not a cent, your Excellency.”
“Where are your lodgings?”
“Our traps are at the door; we shall go anywhere your Excellency will send us.”
“Can you speak English?”
“Nothing but Greek, your Excellency.”
There are two sailors’ boarding-houses in this City doing a thriving business. The Consul invariably sends them there, and it seldom occurs that they do not find work in a short time. They begin by doing rough work in loading and unloading merchandise at our piers, and, being generally very temperate, they soon accumulate some savings.
Their first care is to send the little which they can spare to their families in Greece. The family ties are so strong among all her classes, particularly the lower ones, that even years of absence in foreign lands cannot diminish their love for their native land and the dear ones they have left behind. The love of their country is one of the strong characteristics of the Greeks; they emigrate under compulsion to better their condition, but the hope to return one day to their country under more comfortable circumstances is always strong and paramount.
Few of the Greeks who arrive at this port go West to become agriculturalists. This means to become in time owners of land whereon to build their new home. But, as we said before, the Greek has always the hope to return one day to his country. They mostly go to Chicago, where they easily find work in loading vessels and navigating the lakes. On the water they find themselves happy, being in their element. As soon as the lakes are frozen in the Winter time they go down the Mississippi River, and many of them are working on the steam-boats plying between St. Louis, Cincinnati, Louisville, Cairo, and New-Orleans. Over 200 of them are to be found in the Crescent City, where they seem to be thriving under the more genial climate, not dissimilar to that of their own country. They have all sorts of professions; many are fruit dealers, keep little restaurants and coffee houses, where the American bar is combined with little tables a l’orientale, round which are seated Greeks talking all at the same time generally, all the idioms of the Grecian Archipelago, drinking coffee, and smoking paper cigarettes. Many of them are oyster dealers and oyster fishers, owning generally their little craft, which they navigate themselves, and trade all along the coast from New-Orleans to Indianola and Matamoras, or on the other side through the lakes to Mobile and Pensacola. The writer tasted, some years ago, an excellent glass of sherry cobbler made by a Greek barkeeper on one of the steam-boats on the Alabama River. In New-Orleans the Greek colony is important enough to maintain a church of their own religion, built some five years ago by subscription, and divine service is celebrated every Sunday in the Greek language by a priest educated in the National University of Athens.
The Greek colony in San Francisco numbers about 300 members, and is the best organized of all the Greek colonies in the States of the Union. They maintain a little chapel of their own, and have established a benevolent society. This latter was rendered necessary from the quantity of new-comers of their countrymen to the Golden State, with the hope of finding gold in abundance. It is strange with what great expectations these children of Hellas go to California, and their disappointment in not finding gold in the streets of San Francisco can be better imagined than described. They seem utterly astonished when they are told that they must work in San Francisco, as everywhere else, to gain their living, and the idea of gold is so deeply rooted in them, that many go to the mines of California and Oregon with the hope of enriching themselves one day by some sudden smile of fortune.
Even in those distant localities they do not forget their native land. They write to their families in Greece from time to time, and are subscribers to a Greek newspaper, to learn the news. To the positive knowledge of the writer eight copies of a Greek newspaper are sent to Greek miners in Placer County, California, and a Greek roaster of pea-nuts in Galveston, Texas, is a subscriber to one of the best Greek newspapers. The only subscribers in America to an Ecclesiastical Review, published in Athens, are an American Episcopalian clergyman in New-York and a Greek boarding-house keeper in Chicago, Ill.
There are no students from Greece in this country, with the exception of one, who is studying agriculture at the expense of the Greek Government, in the Illinois Industrial University, in Champaign, Ill., on the scanty allowance of $40 per month.
The average salary of sailors, on board Greek vessels, is about $10 per month; it is no wonder, therefore, that those who come to this country are reluctant to go back, getting, as they do, from $30 to $40 per month. But they get even more on land. Last year a Greek vessel arrived at this port from Sicily with a cargo of brimstone. The crew, consisting of twelve men, refused to go to Havana, where the vessel was bound, and remained in New-York. They soon found their way to Athens, below Albany, where they engaged to work at the railroad depot. They ahve worked there for one year, saved $300 each, which they sent to Greece through their Consul, and worked their passage home recently on board an American vessel. Their abstinence from drinking and their hard work were much remarked by the employees of the railroad.
But the most remarkable incident of the strength of family ties among the Greeks which came to our knowledge is that of a Greek boy who came to this country thirty years ago. He was educated for the ministry and pursued his avocation. A year ago he made inquiries about his relatives in Greece, and finding that a sister of his, a widow, was still living, but very poor, he opened a correspondence with her. They have never seen each other, but the expatriated Greek felt an inherent duty to assist her. He sends her now very regularly a yearly pension, with which she lives at present comfortably in Athens.
We mentioned above a Greek vessel which arrived at this port last year. The father of her Captain has a rather curious history. He was the owner of a small vessel employed in the grain trade during the Crimean war. A tthe time he was in the City of Kertch, in the Crimea. The Russian ports were blockaded by the allies. A Russian regiment was ready in Arrapa, on the Black Sea, to come to the Crimea. But how? The Greek Captain made an arrangement with the Russian General to run the blockade, and bring the regiment where it was needed. He ran the blockade successfully, took the regiment on board, and was nearing the coast of the Crimea, when he was discovered by the English cruisers, who began to fire on him. He succeeded in landing the Russians safely, but his vessel was captured. The Russian General was delighted. Acting on superior orders, he paid to the Greek 5,000 silver roubles, and added a Russian schooner in the bargain. But the port was shortly bombarded by the allies, and his schooner was destroyed. Nothing daunted by this reverse, the Greek started for St. Petersburg, and, laying his case before the Emperor Nicholas, he had the satisfaction to receive 10,000 silver roubles as an additional compensation for his services to the Russian cause, besides a medal of honor.
There are twelve commercial Greek houses in this city, dealing largely in cotton, grain, and East India produce; four more are in New-Orleans, similarly engaged; one in Mobile, one in Memphis, Tenn., and two in Boston, Mass. These latter deal principally in Mediterranean produce, mostly dried fruit from Constantinople and Smyrna, exporting thither New England rum, machinery, and Yankee notions.