Fr. Ambrose Vretta: the rest of the story

Fr. Ambrose Vretta as depicted in the Chicago Tribune, 1895

Fr. Ambrose Vretta as depicted in the Chicago Tribune, 1895

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Fr. Ambrose Vretta, the first parish priest of the Russian churches in both Chicago and Seattle. Toward the end of the article, I said,

In December of 1896, Vretta was transferred from Seattle… And I’m not sure where he went. He was only 37 years old, so he presumably had a long career ahead of him, but I can’t find him on any later lists of clergy (and I’ve got lists for 1906, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1918).

As it turns out, the answer to the mystery of Vretta’s whereabouts after 1896 was right under my nose all along. In various places on this website, we’ve linked to Brigit Farley’s fascinating article, “Circuit Riders to the Slavs and Greeks: Missionary Priests and the Establishment of the Russian Orthodox Church in the American West, 1890-1910.” Vretta is one of the clergymen discussed in that paper, and in footnote #36, Farley writes, “Fr. Vretta had financial problems that made it necessary for him to return to Russia, where he soon died.”

Unfortunately, Farley doesn’t give a source for this information, and there aren’t any details beyond that one sentence. But it does explain why the 37-year-old priest suddenly vanished from the American Orthodox scene.