LeRoy Pennysaver & News - page 11

I was filing some Ely family
genealogy papers the other day,
and happened to read a newspa-
per clipping about two sisters,
Charlotte Elizabeth Ely, and her
Ely. The LeRoy newspaper was
datedMay3, 1904.
“For more than thirty years,
the Misses Ely have been mis-
sionaries in Turkey. They were
sent out by theAmericanBoard.
Soon after locating at Bitlis they
en and named itMount Holyoke
Seminary in honor of theirAlma
Mater. They are well known in
LeRoy and throughout Western
I just had to learn more about
these twowomen.Ourclippingfile
hadanobituary forMarywhodied
in1913 inTurkey.Shehadbeen in
Turkey for 45 years but had been
back toLeRoy tovisit relatives just
a few years before her death. Her
Avery andMrs.Harmon.
Mary was born in 1841 her
obituary says she was born in
Batavia, but the history files at
Mt. Holyoke say that she was
born in Wilmington, Delaware.
Her sister, Charlotte, was born in
1839 inPhiladelphia. Isearched the
Ingham data base and I am pretty
sure they never attended Ingham,
however theydidattendElmiraand
graduated fromMountHolyoke.
Mary’s obituary also men-
tioned that she taught school at
a “select school” in Stafford,
and that will take a little more
research. In any event, theymet
weremissionaries in Turkey and
decided to go toBitlis, Turkey in
1868 where the sisters opened
the school.
There are numerous articles
about the Ely sisters that can
be found in various missionary
magazines. Mount Holyoke has
two boxes of their letters and
communications in theirarchives.
MaryLyon, the founderofMount
Holyoke, taughtherstudents togo
out into theworld - - to become
missionariesand to“Gowhereno
one else will go.” It was written
that the Ely sisters’ theory was
“to retain as much as possible
the native customs and to avoid
Westernizingormodernizing (the
students) so that they would not
be separated from their families
or villages.” It was verydifficult
for the Ely sisters to overcome
the local traditions in Bitlis that
placed higher value on boys, not
girls.Thepeople inBitliswereAr-
menianChristians andMuslims.
In 1870, Charlotte bought a
Steinwaypianoandhad itshipped
to Turkey. It arrived at the port
of Trabzon and had to be carried
by porters 200 miles to Bitlis.
Charlottehoped that teaching the
students to singwould introduce
them toWestern civilization.
In 1895, the Armenians were
attacked andmanykilled and the
Ely sisters had to care for hun-
dreds of orphaned children, but
soon the sisters were forced to
leave for their own safety. They
returned in1897 and rebuilt their
school.During this time, thearea
was alsohit by an earthquake.
Unfortunately, Bitlis was in
themidst of uprisings that led to
andTurkeyand thebeginningsof
WorldWar I. This was the time
of what is called the Armenian
Genocide - an issue that resur-
faced last year on the hundredth
anniversaryof this tragicevent in
Mary developed a heart con-
dition and was evacuated to an
American hospital in Beirut,
where she died in 1913. Char-
lotte continued to live in Bitlis,
but according to one story that I
read, shewas capturedby rebels,
and was held in captivity for
severalmonthsduring thewinter.
After she was released, she was
reluctant to share her story and
to accuse her captors. Bitlis was
taken over by soldiers, and she
had to move to a nearby town,
where she died in1915.
The more I read about these
two women, the more I was
amazed thatnearly150yearsago,
they were facing similar condi-
tions thatweare readingabout in
today’s newspapers. They hoped
that their efforts would make a
difference and help create peace
in the midst of turmoil. But it is
ing itself.Lastnight Isearched the
Internet to readmoreaboutBitlis
andArmeniancommunity that the
Ely sisters dedicated their lives
to. Itwas too terrible to imagine.
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