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1915: The Second Exodus from Urmia: Letter from Mr. Rugo A. Muller (Treasurer of the American Mission Station at Urmia)
by Mr. Rugo A. Muller
Posted: Tuesday, July 18, 2000 03:26 pm CST


On Thursday, the 5th August, the rumour spread that the Russian troops were again to be withdrawn from Urmia. This very naturally frightened the entire Christian population, and on Thursday evening all Christians, except those already on the road and those physically unable to be on the road, were in the streets of the city and on the roads leading northward from the city, waiting for the departure of the foot-soldiers, with whom they intended to leave. Knowing the probable fate of any who might stay behind, we were, of course, not ready to discourage the people from going. Still, we had no official word of the anticipated evacuation, and were, therefore, perplexed as to our own duty. The breaking up of a good proportion of our missionary work, the removal of the bulk of the relief work to a different place, and the uncertainty of America's future position all contributed to indicate that a portion at least of the Station should move in case of an evacuation. On Friday morning we learned that the foot-soldiers had left, and one of our men, on visiting the Russian Consul, was told that all who were going should be off by 2 p.m. that day. The Station felt that its force should be reduced to the minimum, and that at least all women and children should leave. Very hasty preparations were made. Mr. McDowell, Mr. Labaree and Dr. Packard volunteered to stay in Urmia, and all the rest were to leave. When we got on the road, however, we found that Mrs. Packard and her children and Miss Burgess were not of the party. Mrs. Packard had decided to brave the Station vote and stay by her husband, and Miss Burgess stayed to be with Mrs. Packard and to assist the medical work. The fugitive party, therefore, consisted of Dr. Shedd and his two daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Allen with their two sons and one daughter, Dr. and Mrs. Coan, Mrs. Cochran, Miss Lewis, Miss Lamme, Miss Schoebel, and Mrs. Müller and myself with our daughter. We went in carriages, using some donkeys and horses bought the last two hours before our departure.

At the end of our second day's journey we reached a village Kudchi, where we found perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 Syrian refugees, whose further flight had been arrested by the Russian commanding officer with the good news that a decisive victory had made the evacuation of Urmia unnecessary. All were told to go back. Unless the missionaries would return , however, the natives were unwilling to trust themselves alone. Nothing was left but for some to return, especially since this was requested by the officer in command of the troops there. Dr. Shedd and his daughters, Mrs. Cochran and Dr. and Mrs. Coan consequently turned back.

This gave the crowd heart and they, too, went back. But the tables were soon turned again, and before the foot-sore crowd reached the city they were again turned back with the word that there was fighting with the Kurds on Mount Seir. The missionaries had reached the city and were there during the fighting on Mount Seir. It seemed advisable for them to leave again, as conditions were very uncertain, in spite of the fact that the Russian Consul with a number of Cossacks had stayed by his post during all this time. They, that is Dr. Shedd and his two daughters, and Dr. and Mrs. Coan, left for the second time on Friday the 13th August. This time Mrs. Cochran stayed behind.

Meanwhile, those of us who had continued on our journey from Kudchi arrived in Tabriz on Friday the 13th August, after a journey free from mishaps, but nevertheless wearing for us who were still typhoid and typhus convalescents. Every one in the party with the exception of Mrs. Allen and the Allen children had recently had the fever.

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