#48: Macedonia (1927)

"The area and boundaries of Macedonia were very nearly the same as in the days of Philip of Macedon, who first put his little country "on the map" and of his son, Alexander the Great, who conquered the world and wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. Slavs at different times had over-run considerable parts of the province, but no Slav power ever ruled in Saloniki, neither Serbian nor Bulgarian. The term Macedonia was sometimes used by extension and as a geographical expression for southern Serbia, but that region was never truly Macedonian.

The Slav plowman and the Greek seaman met at the Free Zone in Thessaloniki, but many of the refugees from Pontus, Thrace, and other provinces were naturally tillers of the soil and wanted land. This urged the Government undertaking of two great reclamation projects. The Vardar River came down from the mid-Balkan area and just beyond its source began the Maritza, flowing northward, reaching the beautiful "blue" Danube below Belgrade. These waterways formed an almost straight north and south wrinkle on the face of Mother Nature from the Danube to the Aegean Sea, which had been followed by colonists and conquering hosts at intervals through all the ages. This now had become part of a main line of railroad travel and traffic from the English Channel and Paris to the Aegean Sea. But the untamed river breaking through the mountains had washed down and spread out the detritus in vast, marshy flats, chiefly productive of mosquitoes and malaria. The "Vardar Reclamation Project" was planned to provide about 20,000 twenty-acre farms and was a national enterprise of noble proportions undertaken by the "Foundation Company" of New York. Of course, it was the work of years.

Just over the ridge east of Thessaloniki, the Struma River followed an almost parallel course from the Balkan mountains to salt water, and the Monks-Ulen Company undertook a similar vast reclamation project among the marches and swamps of the Struma, only a little smaller than the Vardar project. Thessaloniki was also on the line of the old Egnatian Highway, running east and west, connecting not only the banks of these two streams, which were about one hundred miles apart; indeed, the Via Egnatia was first built to connect Rome and Constantinople, and it still serves this purpose. These projects were of exceedingly great commercial importance for the agricultural development of the region, for the commercial and industrial possibilities, and for the supply of food for the people without their needing to buy too much of foreign countries. Incidentally, a good many of our Anatolia boys secured employment with one or the other of these two great American companies. Thessaloniki was recognized as "the nearest port to the heart of the Balkans".

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