Home » Essays » Orphans Came to US – Hatzidimitriou

Some Observations Concerning the so-called Orphans that Came to the United States During Greece’s War of National Liberation 1821-1829

Dr. Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou

Many of the researchers who have studied America’s involvement in Greece’s war of liberation refer to information concerning young boys and girls who were brought to the United States by American missionaries, philhellenes such as Johnathan P. Miller, Samuel Gridley Howe, and others.1 Most often they are called orphans and the number of individuals who arrived in the United States between 1821 and 1829 are often given as forty.2. What is clear however, from even a cursory reading of the sources, is that not all of these individuals were orphans, the number forty cannot be considered certain, and that several returned to Greece or went to other places in Europe after their stay.

Like the topic of American involvement with Greece’s war of liberation in general, the subject of the so-called orphans of 1821 is little studied and full of many popularizations which have often led to distortions and rarely deal with basic questions that often remain unanswered. Instead, most accounts of the orphans phenomenon concentrate on a few individuals who became famous for one reason or another and made important contributions to nineteenth century America. While Greek-Americans in particular, are fully justified in being proud of and highlighting their accomplishments, often the same information is presented with little regard for documentation and conflicting factual errors.3 The purpose of this brief overview, is to discuss the nature of our sources concerning these young refugees, to highlight a few considerations that future research needs to address in more detail, and then as is appropriate in an essay presented in connection with the celebration of the bicentennial of Greece’s struggle for freedom in 1821, to call attention to some of their contributions to both America and Greece.

It appears that only two of these 1821 refugees, Christophorus Plato Castanis and Christodoulos Leonidas Miltiades Evangeles [Evangelides], have left us first-hand accounts of their American activities in relation to the Greek struggle and widespread American support and philanthropy. As is immediately apparent, the names they used in their new home were meant to emphasize their connection with the hallowed legacy of ancient Greece and appeal to their American supporters.4 In 1851, Castanis published an autobiographical account concerning the massacre of Chios and his escape, and his subsequent experiences in Greece and America.5 It is an invaluable source that has yet to be thoroughly exploited and is deserving of a separate study. Through this account we learn many details about how he travelled throughout the northeast with the assistance of Philhellenes and local philanthropic Greek committees to raise funds, and how he and other Greek refugees were educated and treated. In fact, he is the source for the number forty that is so often mentioned in connection with the children rescued during the war. He also identifies other Greek refugees that he met during his travels which allows us to place them in particular communities at a particular time.6

Unlike Castanis, Evangeles, also known as Evangelides, did not publish an autobiography, but has left behind what is likely the earliest diary (1834-1840) by a Greek-American. In fact, there are two diaries, one written when he first arrived until his return to Greece, and another written later 1856-1860), partially in Greece and in the United States when he returned. Unlike Castanis his diaries do not present a coherent narrative but a day by day account of his activities and experiences. These are supplemented by letters to friends and family, and texts of appeals and speeches he made to ask Americans for political and economic aid on behalf of Greece.7 The main value of the Evangelides material is that they provide details about how the refugees were financially supported, how they felt they were treated and educated, and how some of them went about supporting the cause of Greek liberation if and when the opportunity arose. While there are other published biographical accounts of some of the other refugees, as well as documents and letters, none are focused on their activities in relation to Greece and only occasionally mention information that is Greek related. The only exception to this that I am aware of, is the remarkable two-volume account of G.A. Perdicaris concerning his experiences as the first official diplomatic representative of the United States to Greece which describe his travels there during his stay. This account however, is focused upon his experiences as a U.S. Consul in Greece and not upon his life in the United States.8

I am certain that there are many published and unpublished family archives, ships logs, missionary and church records, and local letters and documents concerning these refugees and their activities in America between 1821-30 and beyond, that have yet to be studied and analyzed. In most cases, not even the records that survive from those who brought the children to America and the organizations and educational institutions related to them have been looked at in any detail. Local newspapers in particular wrote about them, since they were newsworthy during the Greek struggle that so many Americans cared about, and these stories are rich in details concerning their subsequent lives and contributions.9 Even, advertisements and legal deeds and contracts often reveal information that would otherwise remain unknown. These American sources also need to be compared and evaluated with similar documents in Greece.10 In fact, like the historical records of Greeks in America during the entire period before the era of mass immigration in the twentieth century in general, only a very small amount have been the studied in any systematic way.As I have already mentioned, even the actual number of these young refugees remains unknown, a fact which can be illustrated by mentioning two individuals who are usually never counted or discussed among the so-called forty orphans. The pioneering work of Stephen A Larrabee, remains unsurpassed concerning the range of sources and details provided concerning nineteenth century Greek and American official and informal contacts.11 Since Larrabee, only Steve Frangos, has systematically dealt with the early Greek presence in America through the study of a wide range of individuals and topics.12 In one of his articles Frangos used contemporary newspaper accounts and other documents to provide details of the life of one Nicholas Kanaris Maniates, who came to America in 1828, enjoyed a long and successful career as a druggist and doctor, and even served as a Michigan government official.13 Maniates settled permanently in America, married and established a large and prominent family yet he is largely missing from the list of refugees studied, as is someone named Portius, who I uncovered while researching accounts of the distribution of American aid in Greece. In 1828, Samuel Woodruff from New York who was involved in distributing American aid, met him on the island of Syra when young Portius was in the service of none other than President Capodistrias! Portius told him that he had been educated in New Haven, Connecticut, supported by someone named Judge Baldwin among others, and that he had been recently directed by the Greek government to take charge of a school in Poros.14 Apparently, this individual like others we know of, returned to Greece after obtaining an American education and used it to pursue a career and contribute to the development of modern Greece. Clearly, there were must have been more of these refugees than the usual names highlighted in our current accounts. In fact, even among the well-known individual 1821 refugees, only four have been studied in any detail, despite pioneering efforts by Steve Frangos, who has provided brief sketches based on preliminary research on many others.

As a group there are a number of basic questions that need to be considered concerning these children in order for us to fully appreciate this phenomenon and how it relates to the history of Greek-American relations and these early immigrants who settled in the United States. For example, the circumstances of their coming to America and how many were actually orphans remains unclear. It would appear that the horrors of the Chios massacre which became well known in America resulted in a significant number of Greek orphans that became associated with those that were brought to America.15 In fact, Castanis was a Chios survivor, but not technically an orphan since he records that he was reunited with his mother upon his return to Greece from America.16 On the other hand, several others were in fact orphans from Chios while others were orphaned and had survived massacres from elsewhere. Similarly, some were rescued by missionaries, others by philhellenes, merchants and naval officers. In some cases, such as that of John Zachos, they were sent to America by their family and we know that he was initially supported by his family apparently in an effort for him to procure an education and better their future prospects. The arrangements both in terms of how they travelled by ship to America, who supported them, when they arrived, and where they went also differed from refugee to refugee and remains to be investigated in detail. Clearly an American education was highly prized as was the ability to learn English, a language that would open career opportunities in Greece and elsewhere. In fact, in the Spring of 1829, the New York Committee for Education in Greece noted that there were some twenty young Greeks studying at American Colleges who were prepared to return as teachers.17

The issue of religious conversion is also a factor that needs to be considered, for we know that at least two of the refugees, Photius Fisk and John Zachos became prominent American clergymen, while several others returned to Greece as part of missionary efforts. On the other hand, the religion of others who remained or returned to Greece remains unclear. Was conversion to a Protestant denomination expected of all of the children, and was it part of the price of economic support and social advancement in their new lives in America? — for the vast majority we don’t yet know. We do know that it was true for Evangelides, because he records in his diary that his New York patron expected him to return to Greece as a missionary upon graduation from College, as a condition of financial support.18 In his case, he fulfilled the bargain by founding a private school in Syros that promoted Protestant values. Additionally, the records of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) indicate that there was a systematic effort to recruit young Greeks, educate them in America, and then have them return to Greece to introduce American educational methods by founding schools, and winning converts to the Congregational faith.19 Their systematic study with regard to early nineteenth century Greece is still in very early stages. As in the case, of Portius and Evangelides cited above, we also know that initially, Greek authorities welcomed aid from these early American missionaries and American educated Greeks. There was also a female counterpart to these efforts which sought to establish schools for young girls in Greece to imbue them with American religious and cultural values.20 Over time however, there was a strong reaction from the Greek Church and local elites against what was viewed as a form of cultural imperialism. The well known case of Jonas King for example, even required some official American governmental action.21

Although there is no doubt, that Christian charity, humanity, compassion and romantic philhellenism were the major motivational factors among most of the rescuers, other interests may also have played a role. We have already noted that missionaries recruited Greek youths as part of a plan. There is some evidence that others thought that these young orphans could help raise funds and garner sympathy for the Greek cause. For example, one of the first to arrive, Photius Kavasalis who later took the surname Fisk, later recalled that they were initially shown around “like a couple of baboons and George M. Colvocoresses, who also arrived in 1823, dressed in his native garb, participated in a large ball in Baltimore to raise funds for the Greek cause.”22 Two of the later refugees, Castanis and Evangelides are known to have participated in speaking tours and fund raising activities dressed in Grecian costumes– and Evangelides became the subject of a celebrated poem, “The Greek Boy,” by William Cullen Bryant one of the most famous literary figures of the time.23 Exactly how each of these children were financially supported and what role if any they played in fund-raising certainly differed and is another question that remains to be investigated.

Given the harsh circumstances of trans-Atlantic travel and the moral constraints of the time, it is perhaps not surprising that the group was overwhelmingly male—only two girls are recorded– although there may have been others that remain to be discovered. One of these young girls, Garifalia Mohelby (1827), although she tragically died not long after her arrival, nevertheless was celebrated to such a degree, that ships were launched named after her, young American girls adopted her name, and it has even been suggested that the famous sculpture, “The Greek Slave,” by Hiram Powers was inspired by her.24 We also know of a young Greek girl named Sappho from Thebes, who was initially supported in Greece by Miller, travelled to America with Howe in the same group with Castanis, and was later adopted by the family of Thomas L Winthrope, Governor of Massachusetts and Chairman of the Boston Greek Committee.25 It is also clear that because of the widespread philhellenic “Greek Fire or Fever,” throughout the country, unlike future Greek immigrants, these refugees were given access to the highest levels of American society, the finest schools, and became instant celebrities.26 Additionally, according to our limited sources, all of the refugees who remained in America were always proud of their prestigious Greek identity and passed it on to their children. This is not to say, that they did not also sometimes encounter some anti-immigrant or Greek sentiment, since among some Americans the Greek struggle did not enjoy strong support.27 Even our limited information, however, shows that some of them assimilated to American society to such a degree that they changed their names, married into local elites and pursued careers without any connection to their Greek origins while others maintained their ties to their homeland. It is also clear that some of them also maintained contact with each other and shared news.28 It is interesting that a significant number of the children were sent to study at the at Mount Pleasant Institute at Amherst, Massachusetts to learn English and prepare for higher education. Castanis mentions that the school employed two Greek teachers in 1828, one of whom was G.A. Perdicaris who had come to America in his twenties, already having a command of English and a higher education. The other teacher is identified only by his last name which is given as Mengouses.29 Because of the similarity of the name, I believe that this teacher may be the same person as Petros Mengous who published a book in New York in 1830 with the title, Narrative of a Greek Soldier: Containing Anecdotes and Occurrences Illustrating the Character and Manners of the Greeks and Turks in Asia Minor, and detailing events of the Late Greek War.30 The mechanisms and decision-making concerning the educations and dissemination of the newly arrived refugees is also a topic that needs to be investigated and the archives of the Mount Pleasant school and various American universities might yield important information that we can only surmise at the present time.

It remains to briefly highlight some of the achievements of the most prominent of these refugees beginning with the first to arrive.31 In February 1823, Photius Kavasales from Hydra and Anastasios Karavelles from Zante arrived in Salem, Massachusetts aboard the brig America that had picked them up in Malta. An uncle had committed Photios to the care of the missionary Pliny Fisk so that he may gain a useful education, whose surname Photios eventually took as his own. Anastasios was the son of a Greek priest who also agreed to send him with Reverend Fisk to gain an education. Of the two Photios Karavelles Fisk became the most prominent. After being educated at the expense of the Missionary Board at the Foreign Mission School and the Hopkins Academy in Connecticut, he returned to Greece but did not remain there but returned to the United States and became a chaplain in the U.S. Navy and famous for his advocacy for human rights. His writings led to the abolishment of flogging aboard American ships and he was a prominent abolitionist both before and after the Civil War. In fact, he contributed to and supported John Brown’s unsuccessful attempt to free slaves and supported other abolitionists who needed funds or other forms of support. He is also known to have kept in contact with family members in Greece and visited there several times. Throughout his life, he supported the poor and helped his friend Anagnos at the Perkins School for the Blind.32

In August, 1823 the brig Margarita arrived in Baltimore with eight Greek boys. One of them, George Calvocoresses from Chios and had been enslaved after the massacre but purchased and freed by his father who sent him to America. There, he was supported by Allen Partridge, the head of a military school in Norwich, Vermont, and upon graduation joined the navy. George steadily rose in rank and served on many American ships with distinction. One of his most noteworthy voyages was on the scientific expedition of the USS Porpoise which toured the world and explored and first named Antarctica. His book about the expedition was extremely popular and made the voyages’ many discoveries better known to the American public. He also commanded ships during the Civil War and served with distinction. He was married twice into prominent families had four children, his son also pursued a naval career and rose to the rank of Admiral.33

In May 1824, the brig Cypress brought four youths from Chios to Boston under the auspicious of American Board of Foreign Missions. Among them were the Rallis brothers who attended and graduated from Yale University and whose family eventually became international traders, especially in cotton, with headquarters in London and New York–one of the wealthiest families in the world.34 Also aboard was Alexandros Paspatis, who had survived the Chios massacre, had been enslaved and was ransomed by his mother in Smyrna. Alexandros graduated from Amherst College went to medical school in Italy and Paris and became a prominent physician and scholar. He practiced medicine in Constantinople for many years and founded important Greek literary societies and educational institutions there and throughout Greece and Asia Minor. Paspatis was also one of the founders of Byzantine archaeology and a scholar of international fame who was reputed to know fifteen languages. He also periodically returned to the United States and was awarded a M.A. in 1835 and a LL.D. in 1886 by Amherst because of his many accomplishments. Towards the end of his life, he settled in Athens where he continued to have a major impact upon the Hellenic diaspora and Greek education.35

In June1826, the brig Romulus brought three Greek youths from Smyrna to Boston. All three had been protected and encouraged to go to America by James Perkins a prosperous merchant and by the American missionary Jonas King. One of them was Gregory A. Perdicaris who was twenty years old, was already well educated and spoke English and French and had previously met King in Jerusalem. He quickly became a leader among the Greek refugees and was extremely active in promoting the Greek cause in America during the war. As we have noted he was one of two Greek teachers at the Mount Pleasant Institute where many other Greek arrivals first studied, taught at several other institutions and worked with Edward Everette, Howe and the Greek Committees in raising funds and promoting education in Greece. Eventually he settled in New Jersey where he invested in real estate and a gas company and became an extremely wealthy and successful businessman. He was also commanded a ship during the Civil War and was prominent in local government. As we have already noted, he returned to Greece for several years as the first official representative of the United States to the Greek State. Apparently he was so successful that also owned an interest in an Arizona silver mine in 1870.36

Sometime prior to 1827, a youth by the name of Constantine Fountoukakis Rodocanakos came to Boston from Smyrna. As we have previously seen, he changed his name to Newell, settled there and established a highly successful importing business. In the Spring of the same year, the brig Suffolk brought ten-year old Garifalia Mahabey to Boston. She had been orphaned in Psara and enslaved in Smyrna. She was rescued by a prominent American merchant named Langdon and raised as a daughter by his family in Boston. Tragically she died 1830, but as we have already noted, she became something of a celebrated media sensation and left a lasting legacy. The American painter and miniaturist Ann Hall created a miniature portrait of her.37

During the winter of 1827, the brig Jane arrived in New York with Dr. Howe and John Stuyvesant who had been in Greece to distribute relief supplies from America. Howe was determined to organize additional assistance for Greek relief through the Greek Committees who would help him organize speaking engagement and fund-raising events throughout the country.38 They brought with them three young Greek boys and a girl. One of them was Castanis, who had survived the Chian massacre and who had been Howe’s personal assistant in Greece. In his book he wrote that his motivation for going to America was to “obtain the privilege of gaining instruction.”39 We also know that he eventually returned to Greece and then came back to America to supplement his education, promote support for Greece, teach and author a book on the Greek language, and obtain additional professional skills. It is unclear if he returned to Greece again or remained in the United States, perhaps future research may uncover details concerning his achievements and subsequent career.

Another of the youths, was John Kalivergos Zachos, the son of a prominent family from Constantinople was sent by them to America to obtain an education. In this, he succeeded brilliantly becoming one of America’s foremost educational innovators, the author of many books, and the inventor of a phonetic based system to teach illiterate persons to read. He was also a prominent abolitionist, who first served as a doctor during the Civil War, and then as an administrator of a large plantation on Parris Island, South Carolina, where he taught hundreds of former slaves to read and helped them transition to freedom. After, founding several schools and teaching at various universities, including Antioch College at the invitation of Horace Mann. Zachos ended his distinguished career as a professor and curator at the famous Cooper Union Institute in New York City.40

Less is known about John Anastakis, who was from Megara, and Sappho, the young girl who was from Thebes. John was taken under the protection of Stuyvesant in Greece and supported by his brother Peter in the United States. We know that he attended Kenyon College in Ohio (as did Zachos) but not much else. Sappho, whose last name is currently unknown, was adopted by the family of Thomas I. Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts and Chairman of the Boston Greek Committee.41 Nothing further is recorded concerning Sappho and Anastakis, although I strongly expect that research among both the Stuyvesant and Winthrop family archives, Kenyon College archives, and contemporary press will reveal additional information.

Naval records indicate that four Greek boys were taken about the famous American frigate, the USS Constitution when it docked at the island of Milo on April 8th 1827. One of these youths was eight year old George Sirian, who was befriended by Lt. Robert Randolph, the ship’s purser, who was from a famous Virginia family. The orphan was originally from the island of Psara and was saved by his mother who he saw the Turks kill. After serving aboard the Constitution, Sirian was brought to America by Randolph who had him educated at Newport, R.I., after which young George pursued a long naval career (53 years) eventually becoming the most celebrated gunner and second longest serving U.S. sailor, in American naval history. A fascinating side note to the Sirian story is that naval records indicate that Sirian was taught gunnery by U.S. naval Gunner named George Marshall, a Greek from the island of Rhodes, who received his U.S. naval appointment on September 22, 1822, and who wrote the first gunnery manual for the navy that was standard for many years. Nothing else is currently known about Marshall and how he came to America or joined the navy. Young Sirian served on many ships and returned to the USS Constitution as a gunner and participated in some of its most famous voyages. Sirian’s distinguished service is still remembered today and a naval award is named after him.42

The year 1828, saw the arrival of three other refugees, among them was C.L. Evangelides, W. C. Bryant’s “Greek Boy,” who we have already mentioned above. He was supported in New York by Peter Vandervoort and then by the family of Samuel Ward. Like Castanis, Evangelides was extremely active in promoting support for Greece during and after the war. After graduating from Columbia College in 1838, he returned to Greece where he established a famous school on the island of Syros, engaged in various businesses including real estate, and even served as a U.S. Consul—a role that earned him the nickname “the Greek Yankee.” Throughout his life he maintained close ties with his American friends and patrons including W.C. Bryant, Samuel Howe and his wife Julia Ward Howe. Evangelides even returned to the United States during the Crimean War in order to unsuccessfully plead for American aid for unredeemed Greece including his native Macedonia. During his second American journey he also obtained a Masters degree from Columbia and continued to advocate for close ties between American and Greek educational methods. His son, Alexander, also came to America and was a journalist and public official in Brooklyn.43

The summer of 1828 saw the arrival in Boston, of the brig Camilla carrying the Rev. Josiah Brewer and three young Greeks: Petros Mengous, George Maniates and Evangelos Apostolides Sophocles. I have already mentioned Maniates and Mengous. As we have already noted, Steve Frangos has documented many previously unknown details about the career of Nicholas Maniates. Apparently, he was from the island of Psara and was orphaned when a ship carrying his parents was sunk by the Turks. He also claimed to be related to the famous Greek admiral Kanaris. He was brought to America at age fourteen by the Reverend, George Jones an acting chaplin on the USS Brandywine who supported him like a son. After being educated in New Haven, he worked at a naval hospital in Washington D.C. and eventually gained enough experience and medical training to practice medicine in Michigan. He became a naturalized American citizen in April 1834, married and established a family, and was successful enough and active in the community so that he was elected to the position of City Recorder, for Marshall, Michigan in 1860. He enlisted as a surgeon during the Civil War but died in 1861 and never served.44

It remains to say a few words about Sophocles, who in some ways became the most famous and interesting of the so-called orphans. Sophocles was from a small village Tsangarada, Pelion, in the mountains of Thessaly. Although he is usually included among the orphan children, he was approximately twenty-four years old when he arrived. He had lost his father before the Greek war and was raised by his mother and his uncle, Konstantinos, who was closely associated with the famous monastery of Mt. Sinai in Egypt, where young Sophocles spent most of the war years. Before the war he had studied with some of the most celebrated scholars of Greece especially Athimios Gazes who became his mentor. With the end of hostilities he returned to Greece, and on the island of Poros was introduced to the missionary Josiah Brewer who encouraged him to continue his education in the United States. Initially he was supported by the Foreign Missionary Society (A.B.C. F.M.) and studied at the Academy at Monson, Massachusetts. After joining other refugees at the Mount Pleasant Institute where he also taught, he studied at Amherst College but did not complete a degree. He then moved to Hartford, Connecticut where he was an assistant at the Yale library and he taught mathematics. His profound knowledge however, of ancient and modern Greek language and literature made him a highly sought after teacher of the classics. He then first taught Greek at Harvard from 1842-45, and then again in 1847. In 1859 he was made an assistant professor of Greek and he so impressed the College that the following year they created a new professorship for him of Ancient, Byzantine and Modern Greek for him which he held for the next 41 years.

Sophocles became the most celebrated scholar of Greek in the United States where he also promoted the study of the vernacular modern language. Early in his career he published one of the first grammars of Modern Greek in America which went into several editions.45 Throughout his long academic career, he was known for his eccentric personality, colorful sense of humor, and austere life-style, which did not prevent him from being beloved by many of his students and remembered in the community for his kindness to those less fortunate. His unique personality and lifestyle was remembered at Harvard for decades. His honesty and teaching style which challenged many of the preconceived notions about ancient Greece by his students was legendary. One student recalled, that when he discussed the famous battle of Thermopylae he told them that the Spartans stayed in the pass not because they were particularly brave, but because they were afraid to run away!

For all of his years at Harvard, Professor Sophocles lived in the same single room bare of most comforts and cooked his own food on a small open stove which also provided heat, and he ate at his desk. He had no bookcase or books and the library provided everything he felt he needed. He loved all animals and especially chickens, and he kept one with him whenever it needed attention. His other beloved chickens were kept for him by a friend and each one had a name corresponding to his colleagues. He was often generous and kind despite his severe demeanor. Although his room was bare he built an aqueduct in his naïve village, helped support his relatives and regularly sent gifts to the monks of Mt. Sinai. He also never forgot the children and grandchildren who had befriended him during his early years in America. He is known to have visited Greece twice and his mother was still alive during his first visit.

Although he does appear to have been very active in any of the efforts to support Greece in collaboration with other refugees or Greek relief Committees, through his colleague Professor Fenton he had contacts with scholars and schools in Greece in order to promote educational efforts between America and his homeland. He also remained steadfast in his ancestral faith and devoted to the monks of Mt. Sinai to whom he periodically sent financial assistance and remembered in his will. When he died on February 14, 1883, he left his printed books and stereotype plates to the College in order to support the Constantius Fund named after his beloved uncle. The fund was to be used to buy Greek, Latin and Arabic books and support the Library catalogue. Among his various publications is his renown multi-volume, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine PeriodsB.C. 146- A.D. 1100 which remains standard even today.46

When the distinguished Philhellene, Johnathan Peckham Miller, who was known as the “Yankee Daredevil,” returned to Vermont in May 1828, after his years of service during the Greek struggle, he brought with him a three year old boy from Livadia who he formally adopted and raised as his son. Loukas Miltiades Miller became a lawyer and served in the U.S. army during the Mexican War in 1853 as a Colonel. He moved to Wisconsin from Vermont where he became a wealthy, successful businessman who also held various positions in local government. As a state senator, for the Wisconsin Assembly in 1853, he advocated on behalf of the Menomonee Indians, he was also a member of the “Free Soilers” Party dedicated to limiting territories that wished to become states where slavery was legal. Known as a reformer and community activist, Miller holds the distinction of being the first Greek-American elected to serve in Congress (1891-3) as a Democratic Congressman. He only served one term and returned to Oshkosh, Wisconsin where he died on December 4, 1902.47

Some accounts mention that Miller arrived in America with two or three orphans one of whom was female instead of just one. Additionally, usually the exact date of his arrival, the port and the name of the ship are not also given.48 Fortunately, the published portions of Miller’s diary provide answers to these questions and assist us in understanding what being an orphan meant in war-torn Greece, and how the term adoption was used in our sources. In order to understand the evidence in needs to be quoted in full:

[June 17, 1827] “Adopt an Orphan Boy. While walking in the streets, I observed a boy and girl hand, almost naked. The girl appeared about nine, and the boy about seven years of age. On inquiry, I found that they were both orphans, and that their father had been driven from Haivali (a town in Asia Minor) by the Turks, and had nobly fallen in battle. This boy I have taken as my own, with the consent of the Government; and by the blessing of God, who early taught me to feel the loss of a father, I am determined, that in me he shall ever find a friend and protector. The little girl, when she found her brother was preferred wept most bitterly; but what can I do? Great God! thou knowest my heart; if I could save this people, I would not count my life dear unto myself.”49

[July 18, 1827] “Adopt a Little Girl.” “A Little Girl almost naked came to me on the evening of the18th, and desired me to take her with me saying that she had neither father nor mother living. As she was only nine years old, I could not refuse her request. I accordingly took her as one over whom I intended to exercise the office of a father; but what was my surprise to find the next day, that she not only had a mother but a father also, who were living, and in such distress, that they had sent little Sappho to palm herself upon me as an orphan.”

“On my asking the mother how she could teach her child to deceive in such a way? she replied, that not only Sappho, but her other five children must perish for want of food, as soon as the meal which I had given them was expended; and she thought, that if her daughter passed herself on me for an orphan, I might be induced to take her, and thus save one of her family from starvation.”

“When I saw the anxiety of the mother to save the life of her child, I had not sufficient resolution to give her up, and though my means are small, yet by the blessing of God, I am resolved to do the best I can to support her.* [*This child is now in the family of Governor Winthrop, of Mass., where she is treated and sent to school like one of his own children.]”50

[September 17, 1827] “Gave to Capt. Bray, with the approbation of all concerned in the distribution, one barrel of beef, one of flour, and one of bread, and twenty okas of rice, to serve as provisions for the Greek children to be sent to the United States.”51

[November 11, 1827] “Made an arrangement with Captain Proctor to take three orphan children to America, one girl and two boys. One of these boys has been adopted by Dr. Howe, and one by Mr. Stuyvesant. To these children we gave three blankets and sundry articles of clothing…”52

[November 13, 1827] “Dr. Howe and Mr. Stuyvesant, with four Greek children under their protection, left Poros this morning in the Brig Jane, bound for the port of New York.”53

[November 20, 1827] “The little girl which I had adopted was sent to the United States with Captain Proctor, in the brig Jane, under the care of Dr. Howe and Mr. Stuyvesant. This afternoon the step-father called, and pretended much sorrow at my having sent his child away; but I knew that the scoundrel had, on his second marriage, endeavored to kill the child, and had gone off and left her without a para (1/2 of a cent) for six months in Poros, I gave him a sound flogging with a cowskin, and sent him about his business….”54

[January 14, 1828] “After getting a few articles of small stores for my voyage, I had but five doubloons left. With this sum I and my little boy Ankrion must find our way to the United States, if war and winds and health prove favorable.”55

[Prior to January 14,1828] “Take Another Orphan Boy. I had taken with me aboard the Enterprise an orphan boy, of five years of age, whose father was killed two years since in Livdia, and whose mother died last summer at Napoli di Romania. He has a brother who is ten years of age. Their aunt, who is their nearest relative living, brought them to me about two months since, saying that she was obliged to beg, and if I did not take the boys, they must starve. I to consented to let them remain in my house until I should start for the United States. The elder boy, named Anastasius, Dr. Russ decided on taking as his own. I therefore gave the aunt a barrel of flour, and sent the younger boy, little Ankrion,; back to her but the little fellow did nothing for two days and nights but cry to return; so I ventured on taking him, trusting that I might find a place for him in the United States, and so prevent him from starving.”56

Miller provides several other entries from his diary concerning his lengthy and difficult trip back to the United States with little Ankrion. At one point, in Corfu, the brother of Capodistrias asked him to let the boy remain in Greece with him. Miller told him that he would consider it but once again little Ankrion cried and insisted that he wanted to go to America with Miller. When the two of them finally reached Malta, they were finally able to book passage on the American brig Leander which arrived in Salem, Mass. on the evening of May 17, 1828.57

Based on the information presented above, I believe I can suggest some tentative observations. Since there are several children mentioned and at least two different ships named with regard to the transportation of Greek children, it is not surprising that various historical accounts have them confused. Two different sets of children were sent to America in 1827 on ships that had come to Greece to deliver philanthropic aid. One group was aboard the Statesman whose captain was named Bray, and another group aboard the Jane whose captain was named Proctor. We possess detailed information on the four that travelled with Howe on the Jane which also included the girl Sappho that Miller had “adopted” and discovered she was not an orphan at all, but had a terrible stepfather that he gave a thrashing to. We are not given the names or the number of the “orphans” that travelled with the Statesman whose captain was Bray. No mention of that particular ship appears in the refugee sources that I have been able to survey thus far.

Miller also mentions three so-called adoptions at three different times. One on Poros in June, and another July of 1827, and a third in January 1828. It was only little Ankrion who was adopted by him in 1828, who travelled with him to the United States. He does not indicate what happened to the little seven year old boy he “adopted” with the consent of the government in June 1827. Clearly that boy did not travel with him to the United States and as Miller indicates, little Sappho, who he had “adopted” travelled to America with Howe on the Jane and was finally sponsored or adopted into the family of Governor Winthrop. It appears likely that it was Ankrion who was renamed Loukas Miller and eventually was elected to Congress in Wisconsin. It also appears that the status of being an orphan was used to procure aid from foreigners because of the dire conditions in war-torn Greece. Parents were apparently willing to give them up and never see them again to save their lives. It also appears that the term adoption is used in the sense of support and sponsorship rather than in a legal sense—we know of only three possible examples of this (Photius Fisk, Loukas Miller, and Garifalia Mohaby) among the group of refugees. The only one that is certain is that Miller. Clearly, a great deal of work needs to be done in order to further illuminate and understand the complexities involving the lives of these early Greek refugee immigrants. One hopes that this brief survey and tentative analysis contributes to a better understanding.


1 For an overview of the literature, see: Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou, ed., “Founded on Freedom & Virtue”: Documents Illustrating the Impact in the United States of the Greek War of Independence, 1821-1829 (Aristide D. Caratzas, New York/Athens: 2002), pp. 369-75; to which should be added: Angelo Repousis, Greek-American Relations From Monroe to Truman (The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio:2013) pp. 25-56; Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou, “Revisiting the Documentation for American Philanthropic Contributions to Greece’s War of Liberation of 1821,” Journal of Modern Hellenism vol 31, (2015) pp. 1-XXXX; Maureen Connors Santelli, The Greek Fire: American-Ottoman Relations and Democratic Fervor in the Age of Revolutons (Cornell University Press, Ithaca/London: 2020).

2 My understanding of the term orphan commonly used at the time is that it means the loss of both parents. See my discussion below of how Miller experienced the orphan issue. Most of the contemporary American newspaper accounts concerning the children often dramatically emphasized that they had survived horrific massacres such as that of Chios, enslavement, and were destitute and in need of financial support. The number forty is based on a statement made by Castanis, see below.

3 Compare the most commonly cited early narratives concerning the 1821 orphans which are conveniently presented in a chart and discussed by George A. Kourvetaris, “Greek-American Professionals: 1820’s-1970’s,” in Balkan Studies vol. 18, no. 2, (1977) 290-1, 311-12, and Appendix 1. to each other and the number of surveys and studies on many of the individual refugees listed in his table and other information published since 1977. That errors continue to occur even in recent scholarly works, is demonstrated by the comment that one of these refugees was adopted by Samuel Gridley Howe; see: Santelli, The Greek Fire, 104: “Howe’s adopted son was John Zachos who became an author, educator, and abolitionist.” While it is certain that Howe to some degree supported, and subsequently maintained a relationship with Zachos, there is no evidence that he adopted him or that he had a close relationship with him throughout his life. In fact, Zachos was not even an orphan since we know that his mother and stepfather asked Howe to take him to America to improve his education. See my brief overview of Zachos and reference to the best detailed study of him by Eva Topping in the appropriate place below.

4 This is clearer in the case of Evengeles[ Evangelides] from his diary; it is less clear if Castanis used the middle name Plato in Greece or if this was added on upon his arrival in America.

5 Christophorus Plato Castanis, The Greek Exile or A Narrative of the Captivity and Escape of Christophorus Plato Castanis During the Massacre on the Island of Scio, By the Turks, Together with Various Adventures in Greece and America, Written by Himself (Lippencott, Grambo, & Co., Philadelphia: 1851; reprinted by the Cultural Chapter of the Chian Federation, Astoria, NY: 2002). All references will be to the reprint. The page numbers differ from the original based on my comparison.

6 Castanis, The Greek Exile, 161: “About twoscores of Greek youth were brought by American philanthropists, during the Greek revolution to this country, and educated in the Colleges of Yale, Amherst, Princeton, Hartford, Athens (Ga.), Kenyon (Ohio), Easton (Pa.) and Knoxville (Tennessee)…”

7 Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou, “Christodoulos M.L. [Evangeles] Evangelides (1815-1881): An Early Greek American Educator and Lobbyist,” in Journal of Modern Hellenism vol. 21-22, (2004-05), 205-238, where the manuscript information and bibliography on him can be found. Recently, a Greek scholar has studied and evaluated his educational activities in Greece using Greek sources, see: Anthony L. Smyrnaios, “An Early Controversy over Educational Innovation: Christos Evangelides vs. John Valettas in Syros (1851-1852) in History of Education & Children’s Literature XII/1 (Edizioni Universita di Macerata, Italy: 2017) 399-413. The creation of the internet has resulted in more and more information being made available, see for example, the entry on him on AHEPAHISTORY.ORG, and the American Philhellenes Society https://www.amphso.com/ Even more than Castanis, the sheer volume of the letters and other documents that survive both in the United States and Greece concerning him and his son Alexander, who also lived and worked in America, deserve and are in need of a full study.

8 G.[Gregory] A. Perdicaris, The Greece of the Greeks, by G.A. Perdicaris, A.M., late Consul of the United States in Athens (Paine & Burgess, New York: 1845) 2 vols. See the detailed review in The North American Review, vol. 62, no. 131, (April, 1846) pp. 429-447. I know of no study of the remarkable life and career of Perdicaris, who in addition to the account of his years as the first U.S. Consul in Greece, was extremely active in promoting Greek causes both during and after the war.

9 Contemporary newspaper accounts must also be critically evaluated since for example, often the refugees were all uniformly called orphans even if this was clearly not the case. I believe this was done both to dramatize their plight and solicit funds for their support and Greek philanthropic activities. For example, Frangos in his article on the orphans (see note twelve below) quotes from an issue of the Sandusky Clarion of April 7, 1824, that George Calvocorreses, “the Greek boy who arrived in this country last year, and whose parents and six brother were murdered by the Turks in Scio..” George was sent to the United States by his parents and was later visited there by one of his brothers. See the overview below about him and the fine study by Eva Topping which is referenced.10 For example see note six above where local documents from Greece have been used to illuminate Evangelides’s educational activities in Syros.

11 Stephen A. Larrabee, Hellas Observed: The American Experience of Greece 1775-1865 (New York University Press: 1957); concerning the refugees see pages 157-8, 179, 189-90, 199, 267.

12 Steve Frangos has most often published his research in the form of newspaper articles appearing in the National Herald newspaper English edition. Although popular he often cites his sources within the body of the text. A significant number of these articles can now be accessed online using the Modern Greek Studies Association’s link under Greek-American Studies Portal: https://www.mgsa.org/Resources/Frangos.html and in a new online archive created by the National Herald newspaper:

https://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/APA/Ekirikas/#panel=home. Concerning the orphans see his: “Revisiting the Legend of the Forty Orphans of the Greek Revolution,” The National Herald, November 26, 2009.13 Steve Frangos, “Hellenes in America During the Greek War of Independence,” National Herald Newspaper, English Edition, Saturday, January 2, 2010, page 1, 4. Only Maniates’s arrival with the J. Brewer on the ship Camilla is mentioned by Larrabee, Hellas Observed 181, who also adds that he had been purchased from the Turks by George Jones, who was aboard the USS Constitution.

14 Samuel Woodruff, Journal of a Tour to Malta, Greece, Asia Minor, Carthage, Algiers, Port Mahon, and Spain, in 1828: as an agent of the NY Greek Committee (Harford: 1831), pp. 83-4.

15 The main non-Ottoman sources on the Chian massacre are collected in Philip Argenti, The Massacres of Chios (London: 1952). For representative American newspaper accounts that circulated at the time, see: Hatzidimitriou, Founded, 52-6, and pp. 117-21, which contains a personal account of a young lady survivor that circulated as part of a pamphlet; see also the emotional survivor account of Castanis, The Greek Exile 22-69.16 In his book he informs the reader that he returned to Greece after two and a half years in America, (circa 1829-30) and searched for his mother which he eventually found, see pages 111-118.

17 Larrabee, Hellas Observed p. 189.

18 Hatzidimitriou, “Christodoulos M. I., [Evangeles]” p. 208 and note 15, to the Evangeles Society in his Church. In his unpublished NYHS Society mss. diary, the entry for April 3, 1835 reads: “On Friday evening I accepted M. S. Ward’s propositions-which is-to carry me through College (Columbia) and Seminary (in Greenwitch) and then send me to my dear country Greece to be one of the humble instruments of Him who left his throne and came and suffered for us in enlarging his Kingdom.”

19 Theodore Saloutos, “American Missionaries in Greece, 1820-1869,” in Church History (June 1955, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 152-174, the program which included bringing boys to the United States for a formal education is outlined on s 155-7. That this was not only a missionary effort is indicated by the document from the New York Greek School Committee’s interest in establishing schools in Greece, see: Hatzidimitriou, Founded pp. 364-8.20 See Angelo Repousis, “The Trojan Women”: Emma Hart Willard and the Troy Society for the Advancement of Female Education in Greece,” in Journal of the Early Republic (Autumn, 2004, vol. 24., no. 3) pp. 445-476; and Santelli, The Greek Fire pp. 172-78

21 In addition to Saloutos cited above, see Angelo Repousis, “The Devil’s Apostle”: Jonas King’s Trial against the Greek Hierarchy in 1852 and the Pressure to Extend U.S. Protection for American Missionaries Overseas,” Diplomatic History (November 2009), vol. 33, no. 5, pp. 807-837.

22 Larrabee, Hellas Observed 177; Eva Catafygiotu Topping, “ George M. Colvocoresses USN: From Sea to Shining Sea,” in Dan Georgakas and Charles C. Moskos, eds., New Directions in Greek American Studies (Pella Publishing Company, New York: 1991) 21.

23 For the poem, see: Henry C. Sturges, The Poetical Works of William Cullen Bryant (D. Appleton and Company, New York: 1907) 120-21. Castanis notes that soon after their arrival with Dr. Howe all three boys participated in a fund raising event during which “The three boys, dressed in their native costume, were present and placed on a conspicuous place on the platform.” see: Castanis, The Greek Exile 96.

24 Garifalia is mentioned in Harris J. Booras, Hellenic Independence and America’s Contribution to the Cause (Rutland, Vermont:1934) 195, without any references. Details are provided by Frangos, “Revisting the Legend of the Forty Orphans,” pp. 7-8 who provides sources for his information.

25 Concerning Sappho see, Larrabee, Hellas Observed, 319, and my discussion of J.P. Miller below. Castanis, The Greek Exile 87, mentions her as part of the group that travelled to America with Howe.

26 Concerning the widespread American popular support for the Greek struggle for freedom see my introduction and the bibliographic essay in Hatzidimitriou, Founded xvii-xx, 369-375, especially the books noted by Cline and Pappas. The main additions to the bibliographic essay are Angelo Repousis, Greek American Relations From Monroe to Truman (Kent State University Press: 2013), and especially the recently published work of Santelli, The Greek Fire (2020).

27 Evangelides noted what he called “mishellenists” in his diary and published newspaper speeches, see Hatzidimitriou, “Christodoulos,” 210. Admiral Colvocoresses felt that his father’s advancement in the U.S. Navy had been limited by “narrow national prejudice;” see: Topping, “George M. Colvocoresses,” 32. See also the chapter on American interests in Ottoman commerce in Santelli, Greek Fire 116-151.

28 For example we know that Nicholas Maniates pursued a successful career as an druggist and then doctor in Michigan, became a U.S. citizen, held office in local government, and married into a distinguished Yankee family; According to Castanis, Constantine Fundulakes-Rodokanakes was a student at the Mount Pleasant Institute when he was a student there and that he had died when he published his book, Castanis, The Greek Exile 98. We also know that he became a successful Boston merchant who imported goods from Greece and took the name Newell; See S. G. Canoutas, Hellenism in America or The History of the Greeks in America From the Early Days to the Present Time [text mostly in Greek] (Boston? 1918) pp. 65-73, in which several remarkable letters written in English between Newell and Evangelides are published in Greek translation.

29 Castanis, The Greek Exile 98.

30 On page 227 of his book he informs the reader that he had visited in New England. Apparently his family in Smyrna was well acquainted with the American missionaries, and in fact, his sister, Aspasia Annetta Mengous married Reverend Jonas King, see: Larrabee, Hellas Observed 195.

31 This overview is not meant to be complete or comprehensive and is largely based on secondary sources.

32 He life is well documented in the book by Lyman F. Hodge, Photios Fisk, a Biography (Boston: 1891); a detailed account drawn from various sources is also available on the AHEPA History website cited above. Concerning details concerning his relationship to the missionaries, see Saloutos, “American Missionaries,” pp. 154-56.

33 As noted above, there is a well -documented study of him by Eva C. Topping, “George M. Colvocoresses, USN,” pp. 17-34.

34 Concerning the Rallis family in America, see Michael Contopoulos, The Greek Community of New York City: Early Years to 1910/em> (Aristide D. Caratzas Publisher, New York: 1992) pp. 33-36; and the account on the AHEPA History website cited above.

35 Paul Koken, Theodore N. Constant and Seraphim G. Canoutas, A History of the Greeks in the Americas 1453-1938 (originally published in 1938, reprinted by Proctor Publications, Michigan: 1995) pp. 44-6. See also the entry on the AHEPA History website cited above.

36 Larrabee, Hellas Observed, 179; Koken, et.al., A History p. 46; AHEPA History website cited above. A rare $100 Bond certificate from the Rosario Silver Mining Company- Arizona. Santa Cruz. Tyndall 1870 was recently offered for sale online. In the description it is stated that “The company was incorporated in New York in 1868. The bond was also signed by the trustees, G.A. Perdicaris and Imaih Moore.”

37 Koken, et.al., A History p. 55 also discusses Newell. Concerning Garifalia Mohalbi see the article on her in Wikipedia the online encyclopedia and the article by Steve Frangos previously cited above with sources. She is also mentioned in the book by Harris J. Booras, Hellenic Independence and America’s Contribution to the Cause (Rutland, Vermont: 1934) p. 195 who cites no sources.

38 Concerning Howe see James W. Trent, Jr., The Manliest Man: Samuel G. Howe and the Contours of Nineteeth Century Reform (University of Massachusetts Press: Amherst and Boston: 2012) pp. 29-50 on his activities in Greece; and Santelli, Greek Fire pp.104-5 on his fundraising in 1827. There is no detailed study of Howe’s involvement in Greece and Crete and related philanthropic activities.

39 Castanis, The Greek Exile p. 87. The AHEPA History website contains a summary of his life based on the contents of his book.

40 Eva Catafygiotou Topping, “John Zachos, Cincinnatian from Constantinople,” in The Cincinnati Historical Society Bulletin vol. 34 (1976) pp. 47-69 provides the most detailed study. See also the article in Wikipedia.41 See the discussion below concerning W.P. Miller concerning Sappho.

42 Steve Frangos, “Greek Orphan Becomes Top U.S. Navy Gunner,” in the National Herald newspaper, English edition, Saturday, April 22, 2006. Supplemental information is also found in George Jones, Sketches of Naval Life with Notices of Men, Manners and Scenery on the Shores of the Mediterranean in a Series of Letters from the Brandywine and Constitution Frigates, By a “civilian.” ( H. Howe, New Haven: 1829) volume 2.

43 The relevant sources are given in the discussion of his diary above.

44 Maniates was in fact an orphan who had seen his parents killed by the Turks when their boat sank. He may have also been related to Admiral Kanaris. Maniates was befriended by George Jones who was the acting chaplain on the USS Brandywine. Jones brought him to America and treated him like a son. See the book by Jones cited in footnote 41 above.

45 E. A. Sophocles, A Romaic Grammar, Accompanied by a Chrestomathy with a Vocabulary (Hartford, 1842, 1857, 1860).

46 The most scholarly account of Sophocles using the Harvard archives is by George Soulis, “Evanggelinos Apostolides Sophocles,” in the journal Athena LVI (1952) 125-141, who however leaves out many of the more colorful details of his eventful life. For these and his impact on his students by one of them, see George Herbert Palmer, “Reminiscences of Professor Sophocles,” in Atlantic Monthly vol. 67 (1891) pp. 779-881. See also the AHEPA History entry online which reproduces the Palmer article. Also of interest is the review of his famous Lexicon by A. C. Zenos, in the Classical Review, vol. 4, no. 1/2 (February 1890) pp. 41-44.

47 Steve Frangos, “The Oshkosh Greek and the Learned Zachos Taught a Lot About Society,” National Herald Newspaper, English Edition, Saturday, July 11, 2011; and his “Colonel Lucas Miltiades Miller (1824-1902)” Indiana University, Bloomington, typed manuscript. Paul Koken, et. al., A History of the Greeks pp. 49-51. On Johnathan Peckham Miller, see Larrabee, Hellas Observed, pp. 107-112.

48 For example see: Booras, Hellenic Independence, pp. 195-6. Larrabee, Hellas Observed, 158, is the exception he only mentions one child and gives the date of Miller’s arrival in Salem as May 17, 1828.

49 Col. Johnathan P. Miller, The Condition of Greece in 1827 and 1828 Being An Exposition of the Poverty Distress and Misery, to Which the Inhabitants Have Been Reduced By the Destruction of Their Towns and Villages, and by the Ravages of their Country by a Merciless Turkish Foe ( J. & J Harper, New York: 1828), p. 69.

50 Miller, The Condition of Greece pp. 91-2.

51 Miller, The Condition of Greece p. 119.

52 Miller, The Condition of Greece p. 140.

53 Miller, The Condition of Greece p. 141.

54 Miller, The Condition of Greece p. 146.

55 Miller, The Condition of Greece p. 169.

56 Miller, The Condition of Greece p. 171.

57 Miller, The Condition of Greece pp. 178-9, 189, 191, 193.