Thomas Davidson Christie

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Rev. Thomas Davidson Christie

Birthplace: Sion Mills, County Tyrone, Ireland
Death: May 25, 1921 (78)
Pasadena, Los Angeles County, CA, United States
Place of Burial: Newton Cemetery, Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Immediate Family:

Son of James C. Christie and Eliza Kirkpatrick Christie
Husband of Sarah Carmelite Christie
Father of Emerson Brewer Christie; Mary Phelps Christie; Paul Theodore Christie and Jean Ogilvie Christie Lien
Brother of Pvt William Gilchrist Christie; Alexander S. Christie and David Bertie Christie

Managed by: Private User
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About Thomas Davidson Christie

Thomas Davidson Christie (21 Jan 1843 - 25 May 1921) was a Civil War veteran and a missionary and educator in Turkey from 1877 to 1920. He was born in Sion Mills, County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of James and Eliza (Reid) Christie. He married Carmelite Sarah Brewer in 1872. His wife was related to David Josiah Brewer, Stephen Johnson Field (both US Supreme Court Justices) and David Dudley Field I. Their correspondence, diaries and papers are located at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Early family life

James Christie left Dundee Scotland to work in the flax mills in Ireland. His two brothers, Alexander and William, emigrated in the 1840s to the United States where they worked as machinists. During the winter season they worked in Cuba, operating machines designed by Dudley Pray used in the sugar cane fields. In 1846, they sent for the James Christie family in Ireland and their extended family in Dundee. Eventually all settled near each other in Clyman Township, Dodge County, Wisconsin.

Thomas's older brother, William Gilcrist Christie went to Minnesota. James sent Thomas there to help William with his farm.

Civil War

In October 1861, Thomas and William enlisted at Fort Snelling MN in the 1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery. They were in the "Hornet's Nest" in the Battle of Shiloh, the Siege of Vicksburg, and in 1964 joined Sherman's army for the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. They participated in the Battle of Atlanta and Sherman's March to the Sea. Both Thomas and William wrote to their family during their service. Thomas mustered out in 1865.

College and seminaries

After his discharge he surveyed land for the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company near Winona, MN. In April 1866 he entered Beloit College and graduated in July 1871. He met his wife at Rockford Seminary for Women where she graduated in 1871. In August 1871 he started teaching at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He married in March 1872 and returned to Beloit College in Sept 1872 to teach and to complete work on his masters degree, which he received in 1874. He went to Andover Theological Seminary for further studies and was ordained a minister in Beloit.

Turkish period

In September 1877 he and his family were sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to Turkey. He taught in Marash, Turkey at the Central Turkey Theological Seminary for 16 years. In 1893 they moved to Tarsus, Turkey where he assumed the presidency of St. Paul's Institute, a privately funded college. At times Thomas was away from the college for extended periods (once for 4 years) and Carmelite acted on his behalf.

The Christies provided refuge, relief and assistance to many Armenian and Turkish people. They were in Turkey during the troubles of 1895, 1909 and 1915. Thomas and his son-in-law were at a gathering of ministers and missionaries at Adana in 1909, while Carmelite worked with the local Turkish government to protect the College and hundreds of refugees when Armenian Christians came under attack by the Turkish army. Thomas's speedy and brave actions saved hundreds, if not thousands, of refugees from death by removing them to the school grounds at Tarsus, where he and his wife begged and borrowed to shelter and support them—and bury those who didn’t survive. Their son-in-law was killed, among thousands who died in the massacres that inflamed the province. Thomas was said to never be the same after Adana.

Thomas and Carmelite returned to the United States in 1920 and lived in Southern California. Thomas and Carmelite are buried in the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Mission's plot in the Walnut Street Cemetery, Newton Massachusetts.


Thomas and Carmelite had 7 children, 3 did not reach their 25th birthday.

Emerson Brewer Christie (1878–1967) was an ethnologist and linguist. He worked with the Subanun people of the Philippines Island. He worked for the State Department as a special assistant and was Chief of its Translation Bureau (1928–1944). He worked to mediated the "Chaco" boundary between Bolivia and Paraguay. He married Clara Pray, his cousin.
Mary Phelps Christie(1881–1975) was an educator. After her first husband was killed in 1915, she married Dr. William Nute. The Nutes worked in Turkey in rural health and education.
Jean Ogilvie Christie Lien (1891–1984) was an educator. She received a degree from Wellesley College, taught in Turkey, Occidental College and University of California at Berkeley with her husband.
Paul Theodore Christie (1853–1959) was an educator. He received his degree from Harvard University and taught at St. George's School, Newport Rhode Island. He married Miriam McLoud, granddaughter of Rev. Anson McLoud, a Congregational minister (1841–1869) of Topsfield Massachusetts.

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Thomas Davidson Christie's Timeline

January 21, 1843
Sion Mills, County Tyrone, Ireland
August 23, 1883
Kerhan, Marash, Turkey
June 29, 1891
Kahramanmaraş, Kahramanmaraş, Turkey
May 25, 1921
Age 78
Pasadena, Los Angeles County, CA, United States
Newton Cemetery, Newton, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA