#29: The first exodus (1916)

The Third College Decade ended in 1916. On the tenth of May all the principal government officers of the city visited our premises and informed us that in view of the Russian invasion by Erzroum and Trebizond, our section of Asia Minor was reckoned to be within "the zone of war". All Americans, therefore, being foreigners, must withdraw to Constantinople; and all our grounds and buildings would be requisitioned for the purposes of a military hospital.

I sent at once for Miss Willard, Dr. Marden, Mr. Getchell, and Mr. Pye, that we might receive the communication and consider it together. The officials had brought with them armed gendarmes, had posted them at all our gates, at several points outside, and had established patrols in different parts of our premises. Mr. Getchell, in attempting to cross the narrow street that separated our College and Hospital premises to call Mr. Marden, was prevented by a gendarme with the threat of using weapons.


Our Board in Boston had fully authorized its representatives to act in emergencies as their own best judgement determined, and sustained us in such decisions as we were constrained to make. After counsel at Constantinople among ourselves and with others, Mr. and Mrs. Getchell, Miss Willard, Miss Gage, and Miss Zbinden remained at the capital till they could obtain permission, after several weeks of toilsome appealing, to return and reside in Marsovan, hold the situation and render all possible service, while the others of us went on to America. Several of our American circle, for over-ruling reasons, had left for America earlier in the war.

When the five who returned to Marsovan reached "home" again, they were allowed to occupy some corners of the American grounds and buildings, while all the main structures and facilities were used by 2,000 sick soldiers, who later increased to 4,000; one American residence was occupied by typhus patients and another by those who had smallpox. But besides holding the situation, in general our associates were of immense aid and comfort to many until the end of the military occupation, April 2, 1919. The ladies soon gathered some of their pupils together and re-opened the Girls' School. Indeed, the Girls' School was never really or officially "closed". Many sick were comforted and cared for; many Greeks from along the sea coast latterly were helped to procure food and supplies, when the exigencies of war drove them from their homes as exiles.

In this great and supremely difficult service Miss Gage succumbed, worn out, and reached the culmination of her great, and at several points tragic, life-work, in the place where her life-work really began. She died July 15th, 1917, and was buried near the Girls' School in the Mission compound at Marsovan, Turkey, her grave shaded by tall poplars and dark pines.

NEXT: Casualties of war (1919)