25 February 2009

Lorenzo Pease, Missionary to Cyprus

Among the zealous young men who set out from Auburn Theological Seminary to minister in the foreign mission field was Lorenzo Warriner Pease. Born in Hinsdale, Massachusetts, on 20 August 1809, the son of Erastus Pease and Persis Chapin. The family settled in Auburn in 1811 and Lorenzo attended local schools. After graduation from Hamilton College, he returned to his hometown to complete a course of study at Auburn Theological Seminary.

(Read a letter sent to Lorenzo Pease at Hamilton College by his mother.)

Pease married Lucinda Leonard at Auburn on 9 July 1834. On 2 August, they sailed from Boston on the brig Padang and arrived in Smyrna in October. In December, Rev. and Mrs. Pease arrived at Larnaca, where he established a mission station among the Greek Orthodox inhabitants of the vicinity. He explored the island, and became fascinated by its rich archaeological heritage. The journal of his travels on the island was published in The Missionary Herald for 1835 (pp. 398-408, 446-452).

Although the Patriarch of Constantinople issued an encyclical letter against Protestant missionaries in Orthodox lands, the condemnation did little to generate hostility on Cyprus, where the archbishop exercised a degree of independence from the patriarch. At Larnaca, Protestant tracts and books were politely received, and the Pease family enjoyed friendly relations with the community, including the Orthodox clergy.

Seventy students attended the mission school at Larnaca, and fourteen were enrolled in the teacher training institute. The literacy rate was quite low, and, in a population of more than five thousand, only sixty-seven persons (besides the priests) could read. Pease determined that there was a great need for more schools in the thirty-six villages of the region. An account of the mission at Larnaca was published in History of the Missions of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions to the Oriental Churches, Volume I, by Rufus Anderson.

When one of the Pease children died, the funeral took place in the Orthodox church and the Greek priests led the funeral procession. They sang the traditional burial chants, but, in deference to the religious sensibilities of the child's father, omitted from the rites the ornate cross, cherubim, and incense. Rev. Pease was stricken by fever and died at the age of twenty-nine years on 28 August 1839. In the spring of 1841, his widow returned to the United States with her two surviving children.

On 9 March 2007, London auctioneer Argyll Etkin Ltd. offered for sale one of the very few letters mailed from Cyprus to the United States in the days before the advent of the postage stamp. The long letter, dated 1 November 1839, was written from Larnaca by the widow of an American missionary pastor to her mother-in-law at Auburn. The letter, from Lucinda Leonard Pease to Persis Chapin Pease, was carried as a ship letter to Boston, and was handstamped in red ink "SHIP" and "BOSTON" on 2 April 1840. In it, Lucinda told of the difficulties of travel and quarantine arrangements, and the sickness which caused the death of her husband and afflicted her children. The £300-400 recommended bid for the letter attested to the unusual postal history that it represented, but also to the adventurous and arduous lives abroad of a young married couple from Auburn.

Lucinda Pease died in Auburn at age ninety-six. She is buried with her daughter, Sarah Pease Wadsworth in Fort Hill Cemetery. Rev. Lorenzo Pease lies buried with another daughter in the churchyard of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Lazarus in Larnaca, Cyprus. (An article in Family Tree Magazine, Vol. 05, No. 05, March 1989, includes an item regarding the records of burials of members of the Pease family in Cyprus.)