#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.
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)