Posts tagged Philip Ludwell III
This week is a busy one:
March 14, 1767: Philip Ludwell III, the first Orthodox convert in American history, died in London. Decades earlier, in 1738, Ludwell had joined the Orthodox Church in London. He was just 22 at the time, and was a rising star in the Virginia aristocracy. Remarkably, the Russian Holy Synod gave him permission to bring a portion of the Eucharist back to Virginia. In 1762, Ludwell brought his three daughters to England to be received into the Church as well. Of course, we would know none of this were it not for the exceptional research and writing done by Nicholas Chapman, whose articles we’re proud to feature here at OrthodoxHistory.org. Click here to read Nicholas’ first article on Ludwell, and here to read about Ludwell’s landmark translation of an Orthodox catechism. And if you find Ludwell as fascinating as I do, I would highly recommend that you invest $4.95 to download Nicholas Chapman’s recent lecture on Ludwell. (And for $9.95, you get a CD of the lecture, a copy of Ludwell’s portrait, and the Ludwell family book plate.) I rarely encourage our readers to buy stuff, but trust me: this is worth it.
March 14, 1853: Chronologically, after Ludwell, the most important American Orthodox convert has to be St. Alexis Toth, who was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire 159 years ago this week (most of my sources say March 14, but Wikipedia has his birthday as March 18). Originally a Greek Catholic (“Uniate”) priest, Toth was assigned to serve a Carpatho-Rusyn parish in Minneapolis in 1889. But the local Roman Catholic archbishop didn’t want Toth’s “kind” — that is, Greek Catholics — in his diocese, and the two men clashed immediately. In 1891, Toth and his Minneapolis congregation joined the Russian Orthodox Church. Dozens and dozens of Uniate parishes followed suit over the next two decades, and Toth was one of the chief advocates of Uniate conversion to Orthodoxy. He died in 1909 and was canonized by the OCA in 1994.
March 13, 1868: Fr. Nicholas Kovrigin was sent on a pastoral visit to San Francisco, establishing the first foothold of the Russian Church in the contiguous United States. It all started back in the 1850s, when San Francisco’s growing Orthodox community organized into a mutual aid society. In the early 1860s, Russian ships visited the area, and some local Orthodox children — including the future Fr. Sebastian Dabovich — were baptized by a Russian navy chaplain. But there wasn’t a Russian parish until Kovrigin came along later in the decade. His visit was precipitated by the arrival, late in 1867, of the renegade Ukrainian priest Agapius Honcharenko, who moved to the Bay Area and tried to start some kind of hybrid Protestant/Orthodox parish. The Orthodox people seem to have realized that they needed to get an actual, legitimate Orthodox priest in their city, so they sent a formal request to the bishop in Alaska, who responded by sending Kovrigin for a visit. Initially, it was just that — a visit — but later in 1868, Kovrigin was formally assigned to be the pastor of a new parish in San Francisco. Unfortunately, Kovrigin seems not to have been made of the strongest moral fiber, and he ran into all sorts of trouble, ultimately being suspected of foul play in the death of his superior, cathedral dean Fr. Paul Kedrolivansky. Kovrigin was finally sent away in 1879, by the newly arrived Bishop Nestor Zass. On a more positive note, despite many trials and tribulations (and name changes), the San Francisco parish has survived to this day, and is now Holy Trinity, a cathedral of the OCA.
March 15, 1896: Archimandrite Theoclitos Triantafilides celebrated the first Divine Liturgy in Galveston, Texas. I’ve written about Fr. Theoclitos recently: he was one of only three Greek priests to serve under the Russian Mission. Previously, he had been the tutor to the future king of Greece and the future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. His Galveston parish was multiethnic, composed of Serbs, Greeks, Syrians, Russians, Copts, and American converts. To this day, his old parish of Saints Constantine and Helen venerates him as a holy man. To learn more about Fr. Theoclitos, read this article by Mimo Milosevich.
March 15, 1898: The future Antiochian Metropolitan Antony Bashir was born in Douma, in what was then the Ottoman Empire and what is now Lebanon. Bashir led the Antiochian Archdiocese of New York from 1936 until his death in 1966. This was the era of the “New York-Toledo” schism, when the Antiochians in America were divided into competing archdioceses (one based in New York and the other in Toledo, Ohio). Bashir was a major proponent of pan-Orthodox cooperation and the proliferation of English in church services.
March 13, 1904: Archimandrite Raphael Hawaweeny was consecrated to the episcopacy by Archbishop Tikhon Bellavin and Bishop Innocent Pustynsky. This was the first episcopal consecration in American Orthodox history. Technically, St. Raphael was a vicar bishop under St. Tikhon, the Russian Archbishop of North America, and St. Raphael’s “diocese” was actually a vicariate for Syro-Arabs. Reality was considerably more complicated, and St. Raphael basically functioned as a mostly independent diocesan bishop with ties to both the Russians and the Patriarchate of Antioch. (As he put it, his diocese was a diocese of Antioch, “notwithstanding its nominal allegiance to the Russian Holy Synod.”) He served as bishop until his death in 1915.
March 12, 1914: Fr. Alexander Hotovitzky, dean of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral in New York, returned to Russia after nearly two decades of service in America. He went on to suffer under the Communists, died a martyr’s death, and has since been canonized a saint.
March 18, 1956: The exiled Serbian bishop Nicholai Velimirovich died at St. Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania. He had first come to America in the 1910s, as a representative of the Serbian Church. After World War II, Bishop Nicholai returned to the United States as a refugee, and he went on to teach at several Orthodox seminaries in the US. I feel like I should have a lot to say about Bishop Nicholai — who, after all, was canonized in 2003 and is famous for his prolific writings (most notably the Prologue from Ochrid), but to be honest, I don’t really know all that much about the man. There are a couple of informative biographical articles online, but I should note that both are written from a somewhat hagiographic (as opposed to a strictly historical) perspective. Click here for one published in The Orthodox Word, and click here for one from the periodical Orthodox America.
March 16, 1960: The Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas — better known simply as SCOBA — held its first meeting. SCOBA arose from the ashes of the “Federation,” a 1940s attempt to foster pan-Orthodox cooperation in America. And while many initially thought that SCOBA might lead to the unification of the various jurisdictions, that obviously never happened. In 2010, SCOBA was disbanded and replaced by the Assembly of Bishops. The two organizations are different in many ways, but two are of particular note: (1) SCOBA included on the heads of the jurisdictions, while the Assembly includes every active, canonical bishop in America, and (2) the “Mother Churches” tolerated SCOBA, but the same Mother Churches actually created the Assembly. Along the same lines, SCOBA was a voluntary association, whereas the Assembly is an official ecclesiastical organization with a clear mandate from the Mother Churches. I realize that I didn’t really say much about the first SCOBA meeting, but that’s a story for another day.
March 13, 1965: On the very same day, both Albanian Bishop Theophan Noli and Greek Bishop Germanos Liamadis died. As far as I know, this was the only instance of two American Orthodox bishops dying on the same date.
March 18, 1981: OCA Metropolitan Ireney Bekish died. He had been the Metropolia/OCA primate from 1965 until his retirement in 1977 — so, the period when the OCA received its Tomos of Autocephaly and established its current identity — but I’ve never heard anyone talk of him as a major historical figure. Nobody talks about the era of Ireney, because it really was the era of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, who effectively led the OCA during Ireney’s entire episcopate.
March 16, 2008: ROCOR’s First Hierarch, the revered Metropolitan Laurus Skurla, died, shortly after helping to accomplish the reunion of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate. Met Laurus had led ROCOR for seven years, and while he is most remembered for that tenure, the bulk of his hierarchical career was spent as abbot of Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York.
March 13, 2011: Metropolitan Nicholas Smisko of the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese (ACROD) died of cancer after more than a quarter-century as primate of ACROD. A year later, his position has yet to be filled. ACROD has established a memorial web page for Met Nicholas; click here to view it.
It is generally considered that the first Orthodox clergy to set foot in the Americas were part of the group of Russian monastics who landed in Kodiak, Alaska in September 1794. I have recently come to hold a different view, as whilst researching another story I encountered evidence of an earlier Orthodox clerical presence on the Eastern seaboard of what is now the United States: that of a priest of Tartar descent (A Turkic language people group within the Russian Empire of Mongolian origin), who in 1747 made his way from his native Transylvania (part of present day Romania), via northern continental Europe and England, to the eastern seaboard of North America, landing in the then British colony of Maryland. It was some time towards the end of 1747, some forty-seven years before the Russian hieromonks reached the distant Pacific shores of Alaska.
Unlike the Russian monks, this priest, Fr. Samuel Domien, appears to have had no interest in sharing his Faith with the then predominantly English settlers of the Eastern seaboard. His concern appears to have been scientific, in particular spreading awareness of electricity. It seems to have been this that brought him from Maryland, via New England, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the winter of 1747/1748. There he was the guest of a somewhat better known figure in early American history – Benjamin Franklin. It is from the pen of Franklin that we have the most substantial account I have yet found of Fr Samuel and his travels. In a letter from Philadelphia dated 18 March 1755, Benjamin Franklin writes to John Lining in Charleston, South Carolina:
All I know of Domien is, that by his own account he was a native of Transylvania, of Tartar descent, but a priest of the Greek Church; he spoke and wrote Latin very readily and correctly. He set out from his own country with an intention of going round the world, as much as possible by land. He traveled through Germany, France, and Holland, to England. Resided some time at Oxford. From England he came to Maryland; thence went to New England; returned by land to Philadelphia; and from hence travelled through Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina to you. He thought it might be of service to him, in his travels, to know something of electricity. I taught him the use of the tube…He wrote to me from Charleston, that he lived eight hundred miles upon electricity; it had been meat, drink, and clothing to him. His last letter to me was, I think, from Jamaica…. It is now seven years since he was here. *
Franklin goes on to say that he believes it was Domien’s intention to make his way home to Transylvania from Jamaica via Cuba, Mexico, the Phillipines, China, India, Persia and Turkey! Apparently, Domien promised to keep Franklin informed as he traveled but nothing further was ever heard. This led Franklin to conclude that Domien had either died en route or perhaps been imprisoned in New Spain (Modern day Mexico). He concludes to Linings with classic understatement: He was, as you observe, a very singular character.
Domien’s presence in America is confirmed by an advertisements he placed in late 1748 in the South Carolina Gazette to come and see his many wonderful experiments in electricity. The last of these was on December 26, 1748. As at this time America was still on the Julian calendar, then eleven days behind the Gregorian, and this would suggest he probably left Charleston and headed south to Jamaica in early 1749. Thus, in total, he would have spent more than one year traveling throughout what is now the United States.
Is the story of Fr Samuel Domien of any real importance for the history of Orthodoxy in the Americas? I think it is and here’s why: The very existence of Domien and his presence in America nearly half a century before the Russian mission to Kodiak once again illustrates that mainstream America was not completely unknown to the wider Orthodox world of its time, centered as it was in Russia, the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean.
At this juncture, I should mention that I am aware of the writings about Domien by Demetrius Dvoichenko-Markov, who published an article A Rumanian Priest in Colonial America in the October 1955 issue of The American Slavic and East European Review. Markov attempts to argue that Franklin did not really understand who Domien was and essentially mistook an eastern rite Catholic for an Orthodox. I do not think that any of the arguments Markov makes stand up to closer examination and will be writing a separate article to address these more closely. Suffice it to say at this point that Markov’s arguments all seem to flow from the assumption that Franklin would not have known the difference between eastern rite Catholic and Orthodox, despite the fact that Franklin’s own words quoted above, but a priest of the Greek Church, seem to fly in the face of this very assumption.
I also think it is too early to say with certainty that Domien did not have any churchly interest whilst in America. Franklin identifies him as a priest of the Greek Church and for him to have done this demonstrates that Domien was not keeping his identity in this regard a secret. Franklin clearly had some awareness of Orthodoxy long before his meeting with Domien. The second edition of Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard Almanack” tell its readers that the year 1733, makes since the Creation by the account of the Eastern Greeks 7241 years.
We also know that by the 1760s Franklin was a friend of Philip Ludwell III of Williamsburg, Virginia, who converted to Orthodoxy at the Russian church in London at the end of 1738. They saw each other regularly whilst both living in London in the early 1760’s, but I have not yet been able to establish if this was when they first met. Ludwell was definitely in Philadelphia in the 1750’s and it is not at all impossible that their friendship went back even earlier than this. As Franklin states that Domien went to Virginia, a visit to the colonial capital of Williamsburg and some interaction with Ludwell cannot be ruled out. Finally, I came across Franklin’s account of Domien whilst researching another interesting figure of pre-revolutionary America who also had contacts with the Orthodox East. But as one of my favorite British comedy shows says: More on that story later.
Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, NY, March 2, 2012
* Sparks, Jared, The Works of Benjamin Franklin Vol 5, Boston, Tappan & Whittemore, 1837. The quotation is on page 348, within the section “Letters and Papers on Electricity.”
Today being a Monday, I normally would publish the next edition of my “This week in American Orthodox history” series (in which I would say, among other things, that today marks the 97th anniversary of St. Raphael Hawaweeny’s repose). But that will have to wait until tomorrow, because I need to report on a pretty exciting development.
On Friday, ROCOR’s Eastern American Diocese announced that Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of ROCOR, has blessed the parishes of his diocese to hold an annual panihida (memorial) service for Philip Ludwell III on March 14, the anniversary of his repose. (ROCOR being on the Old Calendar, the panihida will take place on March 27 — that is, March 14 according to the Old Calendar.) Regular readers of OrthodoxHistory.org are no doubt familiar with Ludwell, the first known Orthodox convert in American history. Here is how the ROCOR article describes him:
He converted to the Orthodox faith at the Russian Church in London on December 31, 1738, several days after his twenty-second birthday. He was blessed by the Holy Synod of the Russian Church to return to Virginia with the Holy Gifts and increasing evidence now points to the existence of a lay Orthodox community headed by him in mid-eighteenth century Williamsburg.
Beyond dispute, he brought his three daughters up in the faith, and they were formally received into the Church in London in 1762. Some of their descendants also appear to have remained in the Church for several generations following Ludwell’s repose. He died in 1767 while resident in London. His funeral was served at the Russian Church in London on Monday, March 19/30, 1767 (at that time the calendar difference was only 11 days.)
Whilst still in Virginia, Ludwell translated The Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom as it is performed without a deacon and The Liturgy of St. Basil the Great as it is performed without a deacon. He also translated The Orthodox Confession of the Catholic and Apostolic Eastern Church, which was published in 1762, and penned what appears to be a short work of his own, entitled How to behave before, at, and after the Divine Service in the Church.
In all of these labors, he demonstrated an evident love for God and the Orthodox faith. He was also known for his cheerful and vivacious disposition, given to hospitality and to contributing to the needs of the poor. He also played a vital role in strengthening the defense of the Commonwealth of Virginia through tireless intercession with the British military authorities in his capacity as a member of the Royal Governing Council.
Ludwell’s story was uncovered by the indefatigable researcher and OrthodoxHistory.org columnist Nicholas Chapman. To read Nicholas’ articles about Ludwell (plus a couple less impressive pieces by me), click here. Also, be sure to visit the Eastern American Diocese website to read the full story on the upcoming panihida.
All of this prompts me to ask: are any other jurisdictions, bishops, or priests interested in participating in this annual memorial? I mean, Ludwell is, in a real sense, a forefather for all of American Orthodoxy, regardless of jurisdiction. If you’re a priest, would you consider serving a panihida (or pannikhida, if you prefer), or a trisagion service, for Ludwell’s soul? I’d love to see others in American Orthodoxy follow the lead of Metropolitan Hilarion and ROCOR.
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.