#6: Ugly incidents (1893)

January 5, 1893, students returning from Week of Prayer evening meetings in the city church found a placard posted on the College Gate, calling on the Turks to rise and apply the same medicine for the ills of the country that the people of India had employed. That meant to invite the British to assume control of Turkey and was clearly revolutionary and incendiary, though rather mildly put. But the Turks were furious, and charged that these placards, widely posted in Marsovan and the region, emanated from the College. They were printed on a cyclostyle, an instrument rarely found in Turkey. Dr. Herrick and the administration emphatically denied the charge of college complicity and certainly the administration was free from any knowledge of the affair. But two Armenian teachers were arrested, Professor Thoumayan and Mr. Kayayan, and sent to Angora for trial, along with scores of other alleged revolutionists. It was a dark time, trying to our souls. We Americans were strong in the consciousness of freedom from any share in revolution. We were in honor bound to our American government and to the government of Turkey in whose country we were guests. Many persons were imprisoned and there were sad echoes of beatings and torture, of threats and bribes, of alleged revolution and cruel oppression, deceit and violence. College students were in a panic; we Americans, well-nigh helpless. Ultimately our two teachers were released owing to British government pressure but were exiled from the country. Imagine it all!

About midnight February 1, 1893, we were awakened by the cry of fire, and jumped out of bed to find that our new Girls' School was in flames. The building was in process of construction. The frame timbers were completely in place, and so were the workmen's ladders and scaffolding within. Incendiaries had evidently carried tins of kerosene to the top of the building and along the foot walks under the ridgepole to the eaves, pouring kerosene all the way and carrying the stream down the central ladders and then dropped a lighted match and ran. In an instant in the quiet winter night the whole building was on fire from ground to roof, from end to end. Officials were on the ground so quickly as to rouse suspicion. But they immediately charged that the incendiaries were Armenian revolutionists whose aim was to foment trouble in the country. We had no reason to suspect any Armenian, but investigations were conducted by the American Consul from Sivas, and then by an international commission of Turks and Americans from Constantinople and ultimately the Turkish government accepted the responsibility for failure to protect our premises and paid us an indemnity of Ltq. 500, $2,200, estimated to cover the amount of our pecuniary loss. We revised our plans and rebuilt the School.

NEXT: Armenian dissidents, Turkish riots (1893-1895)