Christie, Thomas, 1761-1796

Alternative names
Birth 1761
Death 1796

Biographical notes:

Thomas Davidson Christie was a Congregational missionary who worked in Turkey from 1877 to 1920. He was born January 21, 1843, in Sion Mills, County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of James and Eliza (Reid) Christie. In 1846 the family immigrated to the United States and settled on a farm in Clyman Township, Dodge County, Wisconsin. Educated in country schools, he was an insatiable reader of the family's many books.

In October 1861 he, along with his brother William, enlisted in the First Minnesota Light Artillery Battery at Fort Snelling, Minnesota . They served in the First Battery until 1865. After his discharge he surveyed land for the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company near Winona, Minnesota. In April 1866 he entered a preparatory school in Beloit, Wisconsin. In 1868 he entered Beloit (Wisconsin) College, graduating in July 1871. In August 1871 he started teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. On March 14, 1872, he married Sarah Carmelite Brewer of Lee Center, Illinois. He returned to Beloit College in September to teach and to complete work on his Master of Arts degree, which he received in 1874. He then enrolled in Andover (Massachusetts) Seminary, from which he graduated in 1877, and was thereupon ordained a minister in Beloit.

In September 1877 he and his family left for Marash, Turkey, where they spent sixteen years doing missionary work. In 1893 they moved to Tarsus, Turkey, where Thomas assumed the presidency of St. Paul's Institute, a privately funded college supported by Colonel Elliott Shepard of New York City. Colonel Shepard died soon afterward and left the college without adequate funding, which obligated the Christies to continually seek funds for the school.

The Christies were in Turkey during the Armenian massacres of 1895, 1909, and 1915, and they provided refuge and relief to many Armenian people. Thomas and Carmelite Christie returned to the United States in 1920. Thomas Christie died May 25, 1921, in Pasadena, California.

Sarah Carmelite Brewer was born April 25, 1852, in Lee Center, Lee County, Illinois, the daughter of James (1821-1896) and Eliza (Pratt) Brewer (1825-1888). Her father was a minister and a farmer in Lee Center.

From 1868 to 1871 she attended Rockford (Illinois) Seminary, graduating on June 28, 1871. She taught school in Lee Center until her marriage on March 14, 1872, to Thomas D. Christie. In September 1877 the family sailed for Turkey, arriving in Alexandretta, Turkey, on October 23, 1877.

During their life in Turkey, Carmelite was often left alone with her children when Thomas visited outlying missionary stations and when he went on trips abroad. In addition to her family responsibilities, she was involved in the activities of St. Paul's Institute and the education of women. For two periods (1888-1890, 1897-1898), she returned to the United States with her children to establish a home while the children attended school.

In June 1915 Thomas went to Constantinople to ask the government not to deport teachers; he was not allowed to return to Tarsus. Carmelite remained alone in Tarsus from 1915 to 1919, at which time Thomas rejoined her. During that time she kept St. Paul's Institute open and distributed relief supplies.

In 1920 Carmelite and Thomas resigned from St. Paul's Institute and returned to the United States to live. After Thomas died in 1921, Carmelite lived with her daughter Jean in Pasadena, California. She traveled and maintained her large correspondence. Carmelite Christie died October 17, 1931, in Pasadena, California.

Elizabeth Norton Christie was born on February 23, 1873, and died on February 12, 1876. She was named Elizabeth for her two grandmothers and Norton for one of Carmelite's teachers at Rockford Seminary. She was an "intelligent, merry, and happy" child who died of scarlet fever.

Anna Carmelite Christie was born on June 2, 1875. Anna was named for Anna Keep, a friend of Carmelite's in Beloit, Wisconsin. Anna spent her early life in Turkey. In 1892 she left Turkey for the United States to continue her studies in Andover, Massachusetts. Anna's special interest was music. Her health was poor and she consequently returned to Turkey in 1894; because of the 1895 massacre, she and her sister Mary were sent to school in Athens, Greece. In 1896 she went to Beloit, Wisconsin, to live with Ann Keep. She later joined her mother and siblings in New Haven, Connecticut, where they lived for two years while the older children were in school. After her mother returned to Turkey, Anna lived with Alice Stacy. Many of her letters picture a life spent quietly, centering around her family and charitable works. At the time Anna died, on October 11, 1910, it had been twelve years since she had seen her mother.

Emerson Brewer Christie was born on March 17, 1878. Emerson was named for a Professor Emerson at Beloit College. Emerson left Turkey with Anna in 1892 to continue his education in the United States and was gone for four years. He went to Newton High School (Newtonville, Massachusetts) and graduated from Phillips Academy (Andover, Massachusetts) in 1896. He returned to Turkey and taught a year at St. Paul's Institute before returning to the United States and entering Yale University, from which he graduated in 1901. Emerson accepted a governmental teaching position in the Philippine service (1901-1904) and was an assistant in the Ethnological Survey in the Philippines from 1904 to 1907. He remained associated with the Division of Ethnology until 1915 when he returned to the United States.

While on a vacation from the Philippine service in 1910, he attended Harvard Graduate School and renewed his friendship with his cousin, Clara Pray (1871-1951). On May 9, 1911, they were married in Hong Kong, China. Their two children were born in the Philippine Islands: Jean Ogilvie (February 8, 1912) and Donald (August 7, 1914).

After the family's return to the United States, Emerson taught Spanish at the University of Michigan (1915-1916) and French at Temple University (1916-1917). His work for the State Department began in 1918 as a special assistant and culminated in his appointment as chief of the newly formed Translation Bureau in 1928. He received a Master of Political Science degree from American University in 1928. Copies of some of his published articles can be found in the biographical information. A copy of his book, The Subanuns of Sindangan Bay (Mindanao), 1909, is available in the collection. Emerson died on November 29, 1967.

Mary Phelps Christie was born on January 11, 1881. She was named for a Mrs. Phelps, a friend of Carmelite Christie. She spent her early life in Turkey and in 1895 was sent to a mission school in Istanbul. During the 1895 massacre she and her sister Anna were sent to Athens, Greece, for safe keeping. She later continued her education in Switzerland. In 1897 she rejoined her family in New Haven, Connecticut, where she completed high school. Mary entered Bryn Mawr College in 1900. After one year there, she returned to Turkey for health reasons and taught school there for a year. In 1902 she returned to Bryn Mawr; from Bryn Mawr she entered Hartford Theological Seminary, graduating in 1908. While attending Hartford, she met and married Daniel Miner Rogers (1882-1909). They departed for Turkey soon after their marriage, on May 29, 1908. Their son, Miner, was born February 4, 1909. On April 15, 1909, Daniel was killed during the massacre in Adana, Turkey. Mary and her baby returned to the United States, where she remained for two years. In 1911 she returned to Tarsus, Turkey, where she taught English and French at St. Paul's Institute. There she met William L. Nute, whom she married on April 29, 1915. Because of the Turkish political situation, Mary and Miner returned to New York City where a son, William L. Nute, Jr., was born February 18, 1916. William Nute, Sr., who had stayed in Tarsus with Carmelite Christie, sailed back to the United States in summer 1917.

The family remained in the United States while William Nute completed medical school. During this time a second son, Cyril Haas Nute, was born on April 2, 1921. In 1924 the family returned to Turkey where William was associated with a rural medical clinic. During a furlough home, a daughter, Mary Carmelite, was born on September 21, 1927, in Pasadena, California.

Mary taught school until 1934, at which time the Turkish government ordered her to stop teaching. She then served as a receptionist for the clinic. William and Mary Nute retired from missionary work in 1959, returning to Claremont, California. Mary Nute died on September 28, 1975.

Paul Theodore Christie was born on August 23, 1883. He spent his early life in Turkey. During the time from 1888 to 1890, the family lived in Beloit, Wisconsin, while the children attended school. The family again returned to the United States from Turkey (1897-1898), so the children could attend schools in New Haven, Connecticut. Paul graduated from Hotchkiss School (Lakeville, Connecticut) in 1903 and from Harvard University in 1907. He worked briefly for a railroad company before joining the faculty of St. George's School (Newport, Rhode Island), where he taught French and served as an athletic coach. He remained at St. George's for 37 years, retiring in 1943.

He married Miriam McLeod on January 30, 1913. They had three daughters: Eleanor (April 16, 1915), Carol (July 4, 1917), and Miriam Brewer (November 11, 1923). Paul died on November 19, 1959.

Agnes Emily Christie was born on March 15, 1887. She was named for Agnes Cheetham, an English friend of Carmelite Christie. In 1901, after an early life spent in Turkey and the United States, she went to the Belles Roches School in Lausanne, Switzerland. She also attended school in Germany before returning to the United States to attend high school in Hartford, Connecticut.

Because Agnes' health was not good, her school years were not consecutive. She entered Mount Holyoke (South Hadley, Massachusetts) in 1908. She suffered a breakdown in 1911 and returned to Turkey to recuperate. While living in Turkey, she became engaged to Kevork Damlanian, an Armenian who had been a student and a teacher at St. Paul's Institute. This engagement was broken by mutual consent. In 1915 Agnes returned to the United States and entered Forsyth Dental Infirmary for Children to receive training as a dental hygienist. She suffered another breakdown in 1916. She graduated in 1917 and worked at various offices as a dental hygienist. Plagued by ill health, Agnes became more depressed and committed suicide on December 30, 1919.

Jean Ogilvie Christie was born on June 29, 1891. She was named for an ancestor, Jean Ogilvie. From 1891 to 1897 she lived in Turkey. In 1897 the family lived in New Haven, Connecticut, while the children attended school. She returned to Turkey with her mother and her sister Agnes in 1898. In 1905 Jean attended a girls' school in Adana, Turkey. She returned to the United States with her sister Mary in 1906 and lived with Elizabeth Shapleigh and Elizabeth's father in Brookline, Massachusetts, while she attended high school. In 1910 she went back to Turkey for a year, returning to the United States to enter Wellesley College, graduating in 1915. Jean did postgraduate work at Columbia University before departing in July 1916 for Constantinople, where she taught school. Jean was ordered to stop teaching in 1917, after which she began work with the YMCA in France and, later, in Constantinople. After Agnes' death, Jean went to Tarsus to help her mother move back to the United States. Jean and her parents settled in Pasadena, California. She joined the faculty of Occidental College (Los Angeles) in 1921 and taught there many years. She completed her requirements for a master's degree from Occidental College. Jean married Eugene Lien in 1935. Jean died in 1984.

From the guide to the Thomas and Carmelite Christie and family papers., 1804-1977 (bulk 1865-1955)., (Minnesota Historical Society)


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Ark ID:


  • Armenian massacres, 1849-1896


  • Educators--Turkey--Tarsus


  • Philippines (as recorded)
  • India, Asia (as recorded)
  • Tarsus (Turkey). (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Turkey (as recorded)
  • Jamaica, Central America (as recorded)