#3: The local people (1891)

But as we became acquainted we found the people, whether Christian or Turkish, prevailingly of a friendly, kindly, progressive type, as is often the case with simple-minded people in times of peace. I always liked the common Turkish people unless they were stirred to passion by militarists. The fields and villages of the plain were almost entirely in the possession of the Turks, though there were a few Kurds and Circassians, while nearly half of our fellow towns-people were commercial and industrial Armenians. There were also some Greeks in the city, and great numbers dwelling among the mountains round about, whither they had been driven by the invading Turks of earlier generations to seek safety.

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There was not a foot of railroad nearer than Constantinople. Mail came usually once a week, after the censor had kept what he wanted. Not a single newspaper had ever been printed in the city or in our section of Turkey. It was a day of small things, crude beginnings and a few great expectations, but was all under the suspicious and repressive officialdom of Sultan Abdul Hamid.

In the College two classes were called preparatory, while four bore the ordinary college class names. The schools from which our students came did not carry them far. When Americans first came to Turkey, hardly any vernacular was taught anywhere. Instruction was in classic tongues and religious lore. But our students for the most part came with a purpose in modern life. They wanted to attain a worth-while and useful manhood and they felt that the College could give them a start.

One student told me in after years that when he came to Marsovan he was really illiterate, that is, he could not fairly read his native tongue, or any other. But he had no chance of learning more in his native village. For a number of months he was cow-boy for an American family, and eagerly studying too. Then a year or two in the lowest classes helped him toward really a creditable manhood. Dartmouth and Williams and other American colleges may boast some fairly parallel examples in their early years.

NEXT: Learning Turkish (1891)

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