The First Silver Bay Martyr

I don’t think Turkey was in Daniel Miner Rogers’ original plans. Raised in New Britain, Connecticut, he went off to Princeton, joined the Bird Club, saw a Great Horned Owl, read his Bible every morning and evening, befriended the friendless, made his way through college without ever excelling, or caring if he excelled. He was a tall lad, not terribly handsome, just a good person.

After graduating from Princeton with the Class of 1903, he came to Silver Bay for a summer conference. In the autumn, he began his studies at the Hartford Theological Seminary, in Connecticut. The next summer, he came to Silver Bay again; most likely, it was at Silver Bay that the seeds were planted for his future as a missionary. He graduated from Hartford in 1906, and won a prize for his diligent study of Hebrew. More importantly, it was at Hartford that he met Mary Phelps Christie.

Mary Christie was all about Turkey. She was born in Marash, the daughter of missionaries, the Rev. Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Christie of the Central Turkey Mission. She was raised and schooled there, at the Adana Girls’ Seminary and the American College for Girls in Constantinople. During the Hamidian massacres, also known as the Armenian Massacres of 1894-1896, she and her sister Anna were sent to Athens for their safety. She continued her education in Switzerland, then rejoined her family in New Haven, Connecticut, where she completed high school. Mary entered Bryn Mawr College in 1900; from there, she went on to Hartford Theological Seminary.

Since leaving Hartford, Miner Rogers had been serving as pastor for a church in East Dorset, Vermont. Mary graduated in 1908, and on May 29th, she and Miner were married. In September, they sailed for Turkey, to fulfill their lives’ ambitions, working at a mission in Hadjin. A son, Miner Rogers Jr., was born on February 4, 1909.

In April of 1909, the ministers working in Turkey met in Adana for a conference. Dr. Christie and Miner Rogers were there, with many others. Arson and gunfire began on April 14th, as 250 Turkish “irregulars” arrived by train and began killing Armenians and setting fire to their homes. The Armenians were a prosperous Christian minority in a country where nationalist fervor was rising amidst a call for a nation free from all European and Christian influences. It was a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” that would become all too familiar in the years to come. When uniformed Turkish troops arrived to restore order, they joined in the looting.

Mary Rogers and her mother were at the mission in Tarsus; the murder and arson had begun there as well.  Helen Davenport Gibbons was working as a teacher. In a letter to her mother dated April 14, 1909, she wrote, “This is the regular order of things – kill, loot, burn.”

In both Tarsus and Adana, thousands of Armenians fled to the Christian missions for refuge. As the fires spread in Adana, the missionaries there feared the flames would consume the Girls’ School, leaving those inside, including 80 school girls, defenseless. Two American missionaries, Stephen Trowbridge and Henry Maurer, took crowbars and axes to destroy the wooden parts of nearby houses, in hopes of stopping the fire before it reached the school; they carried pails of water to douse flames as they sprang up.

Across the street from the school, Miner Rogers was guarding the dispensary run by Miss Wallace, an English nurse. Maurer and Trowbridge called to him for help, and he joined them in carrying pails of water. On his third trip with a pail of water,  Rogers was shot and fell in the street; he called out to Stephen Trowbridge as he fell. Maurer, a Mennonite missionary from Indiana, was shot while on a ladder; his crowbar fell from his hands, but he managed to climb down before collapsing next to Rogers. Trowbridge, on a nearby roof, felt bullets pass by him as he climbed down Maurer’s ladder to aid the two men in the street. He and Dr. Christie carried the two men into the mission, where they died within minutes.

The violence stopped as suddenly as it had begun. The Christian quarter of Adana was destroyed; more than 15,000 were dead.

In a few days, Dr. Christie and the Rev.  Herbert Gibbons, husband of Helen Gibbons, returned safely to Tarsus. Dr. Christie’s first task was to tell his daughter that her husband was dead.

Memorials to Miner Rogers were raised at the South Congregational Church of New Britain, at his church in East Dorset, Vermont,  and at Silver Bay. Today his plaque can be seen in the auditorium.

For the Armenians in Turkey, the worst was yet to come. The Armenian Genocide began in earnest six years later, on April 24, 1915, with the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population through massacres and forced marches. The total number of Armenian deaths is generally held to have been between one and one and a half million.

* * *

“Brooklyn Man Saw Missionaries Shot: Stephan Trowbridge Describes Killing of Rogers and Maurer by Moslems at Adana” The New York Times, May 2, 1909

“Massacres Continue Adana Terrorized: Thousands of Soldiers Loot, Shoot, and Burn- French Schools Destroyed: Apprehension for Hadjin and Tarsus, Dead Number 30.000, Armenian Women Traded for Horses” The New York Times, May 5, 1909

The Red Rugs of Tarsus: A Woman’s Record of the Armenian Massacre of 1909 (1917) by Helen Davenport Gibbons

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6 thoughts on “The First Silver Bay Martyr

  1. MNHS.org has the Christie papers., including correspondence from Turkey in this time frame. I really appreciate the way this blog was written.

    I am in the middle of scanning and reading Carmelite Brewer Christie’s (Mary’s mother) for the years 1915-1919. All I can say is that being a missionary in that part of the world was not easy.

  2. Chris, I’m curious how you became interested in this family’s story. My husband is Mary Christie Nute’s grandson. I started wondering about this chapter in his family history recently while working on a University of California Press book that includes material on the Armenian massacres in Smyrna. I knew about the papers in Minnesota, but I’m not sure who in the family has read them.

  3. I always wondered why the grave of that young man was in the school I am working for, and I started searching. My God, I am so worried now that all this happened. I am writing this message right from the garden of Tarsus American College, formerly Saint Paul Institute. In the meantime, I couldn’t find any record about his son, Miner Roger Jr., or his offsprings. Anyone in Silver Bay over there, please accept my appologies. Best regards…

  4. I’m a student in Tarsus American College (formerly St. Paul Institute) and his myterious grave between the houses where the foreigner teachers live have always been acctractive for me. I got suprised when I found the information about him very easily. The story is very interesting and sad. It’s something horrible that my folk has done, but our county has been destroyed and those people were confused. I hope you have empathy for our people, because we have empathy for your people

    • Hi Bea and all,
      First, Thomas and Carmelite are my mother’s father’s parents and am interested in genealogy research. Thus I have communicated with several Nutes and their descendants, plus numerous Christie relations. I try to be sensitive about revealing information about those who have lived sometime during the last 50 years.

      I should add that I am still annoyed with myself for not taking the time to figure out how to get to Tarsus in 1968 after my Peace Corp service in Somalia. I spent a couple of days in Beruit and 10 days in Istanbul sort of decompressing. What was I thinking?

      Just saw Mert’s post via my email account. I like to say in my culture’s context, when you point your index finger at someone, 3 other fingers point back at you. If you do a little research on Thomas, you will understand that he saw horrible things in the American Civil War. I personally have empathy.

  5. Life is strange and filled with coincidence. I taught English at the school in Tarsus from 1976-78. The grave site in the garden always gave pause to us as contract teachers. Turkey in the 70s was going through a revolution of all types – agrarian, industrial and political. The school was also going through many challenges as well. Another coincidence is that I am from the Adirondacks and lived in Ticonderoga for many years and lived on the Hague Road not that far from Silver Bay…. I never realized the young man who had died in Cilicia all those years ago had a connection here…. Dave Donohue

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