My previous post highlighted a new series documenting the lives of the first international students to attend Messiah College and the woman who made it all possible, Miss. Rebecca Krikorian. This is the beginning of her legacy.
Photo from the Messiah College Archives: Rebecca Krikorian (sitting) is pictured along with Meshach K. (to her right), Jacob E. (center), and Hrant A.(to her left).
Rebecca’s story begins in Aintab, Armenia, Turkey. She was the daughter of the late oldest evangelical minister of Turkey, Pastor Kirkore Harootunian.
My father was the only son in the fourth generation from our ancestor BALU, the younger of the two Christian Armenian brothers from Persia that were going to Jerusalem on a pilgrimage in 1706. Balu was afterwards known as the “Benefactor” of the Armenians of the city of Aintab in his time.:”
Rebecca Krikorian, Jerusalem. p 8
Photo of Pastor Harootunian from Jerusalem by Rebecca Krikorian.
Her father emerged as one of the first converts when the missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions arrived in Aintab. Pastor Harootunian was also the first native pastor of the first evangelical church of the Century Turkey Mission. On May 14, 1908, at the age of 84, he passed away in his home. His last words were, “…Never let the poor suffer. Always supply their need as soon as you can and relieve them” spoken to his son Coffing, father of Samuel Krikorian. He was survived by thirteen children: Mariam, Harootune, Anna, Jevhear, Hohanness (John), Moses, Benjamin, Rebecca, Coffing, Armenag, Samuel, Persape (Bathsheba), and David.
Rebecca’s mother was Pastor Harootunian’s second wife. She was a widow with three little children. The two wed for “In those days” her father explained, “there was not another woman among our community like your mother, so worthy and able to fill a niche like that in every respect.” She was remembered as a sweet charitable women following her death from cholera during an epidemic in 1890. She caught the disease while tending to a young man who fell ill.
As a teenager, Rebecca began to work as a Sunday School teacher to one hundred children (and I complained about being a teacher to 25 preschoolers). At the age of sixteen, she was sent by the principal of the American Girl’s Seminary at Aintab to a village on the Mediterranean coast as a teacher. She returned to Aintab completing seminary. Upon her completion, Rebecca was sent to the Girl’s College in Constantinople.
Rebecca at the American Girls’ College in Constantinople
Her work continued throughout Aintab. Returning to London, in 1892 Rebecca obtained her diploma from the London Obstetrical Society. A year later she delivered her nephew, Samuel Coffing Krikorian. She spent the remainder of her time in Aintab raising money for the poor and continuing her work as a local missionary in her hometown. Taking note of Rebecca’s efforts, her principal once again decided it was time to sent Rebecca away from Turkey to minister in a new land. She chose America.
Her story will continue.
Until the next post,