One American Utopian community was not in America. The American Colony was a established in Jerusalem (1881). The founders were led by Anna and Horatio Spafford. It was founded in East Jerusalem, a neigborhood in East Jerusalem is still called the American Colony. They led a small group of Americans to Jerusalem, which at the time was apsart of the Ottoman Empire. Their Christian community became known as the "American Colony". They were joined by Swedish Christians. The society committed itself into to philanthropic work in Jerusalem.
They worked in the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian communities. Palestine at the time was a verry poor region, one of the poorest in the Ottoman Empire. Not only was it poor, but the people had little access to modern medicine. The situation deteriotated even more with the onset of World war I. The American Colony carried out extensive philanthropic work to assist the local people as well as Armenians who managed to survive the Ottoman Genocide. The Americans sponsored soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and various other charitable activities. Ottoman authorities continued to allow the American Colony to work, even after America entered the War (1917).
The American Colony closed (1940s). Some individuals continued to work in charitable activities.
Horatio Spafford was a well-to-do attorney and Presbyterian church elder living a quiet life in Chicago with his wife, Anna, and their four young daughters. Chicago wa a booming town where the the produce of the prarie was processed and sent by rail to the growing industrial cities of the Midwest and more established eastern cities. The Great Fire erupted in Chicago (1871). It virtually destoyed the city constructed almost entirely of wooden buildings. Recovering from the fire, the family planned an extebded stay in Europe, The orimary purpose was to bnefit Anna's health. Anna and the girls set out for England aboard the steamer S.S. Ville du Havre with friends. (November 1873). Horatio had to remain in Chicago to finish some urgent business. A British ship his the steamer and it snk almost immediatey (November 2). Anna was rescued, but all children were tragically lost. She cabeled her husband plaintively, "Saved alone. What shall I do?" A tragedy of this dimebsion is difficukt to comprehend. He immidiately sailed for England. During the voyage he wrote the lyrics of the hymn "It Is Well with My Soul." Horatio wrote the hymn as he passed over the watery grave of his beloved daughters. Philip Blis later composed the music. The Spaffords returned to Chicago and attempted to put thir lives back ogethe, but it was difficult without the girls. They had a daughter, Bertha (1878). A son, Horatio Jr. followed (880), but he died in an epidemic of scarlet fever.
Horatio left the Fullerton Presbyterian Church, which he had helped build. He concluded tht the tragedies visited upon him was 'divine retribution'. He organized a group of friends which a reporter called 'the Overcomer'. He decided to tru to obtain some solice in Jerusalem.
One American Utopian community was not in America. After the birth of a another daughter, Grace (1881), the Spaffords set out for Jerusalem s part of a group of 13 adults and three children, including Bertha and Grace. They established a utopian colony in Jerusalem (1881). They set up in East Jerusalem. A neigborhood in East Jerusalem is still called the American Colony. They led a small group of Americans to Jerusalem, which at the time was apsart of the Ottoman Empire. Their Christian community became known as the "American Colony". They were joined by Swedish Christians.
The society committed itself into to philanthropic work in Jerusalem. They worked in the Muslim,Jewish, and Christian communities without any religious bias. They gradually gained the trust of the three communities. This was in part because they did not prosletize or connect their work with religious teachings. Palestine at the time after several centuies of Ottoman rule was a very poor region, one of the poorest in the Ottoman Empire. Not only was it poor, but the people had little access to modern medical care. Images from Palestine in the late-19th anbd early-20th century are like stepping back in time centuries. Palestine had made virtually no material prigress for centuries.
Finncing philanthropic work requited money. There were some contributions from America. Elijah Meyers, a member of the Colony, began taking photographs of places and events in and around Jerusalem (about 1900). This is important because the Palestinians were so backward at the time that they were not taking photgraphs. There were some photograpohers in the Ottoman Empire, many of Greek or other European origins. They were not, however, operating to any extent in Palestine. Thus the work of the American Colony photiographers are of considerable historical interest. They provide some of the few available immages of Palestine before World war I. There was great interest iunteret in America for photographs of the Holy Land. This soon proved a a profitble ctivity to help support the Colony. As a result, her photographic efforts gradually expanded into an important photographic division. including Hol Lars (Lewis) Larsson and G. Eric Matson became especially involved. They renmed the effort the Matson Photographic Service. They not onlt took photographs of religious site and ethnigraphic scenes, but archeological sites as well. A plague of locuts stripped the Jerusalem area and other areas of Palestin of vegitation (1915). Thic added to the griwing problem associated with the War, especially the food supply. Djemal Pasha, Supreme Commander of Syria and Arabia, attempted to organize a relief effort. He asked the American Colony photographers to document the locust infestation. Later the Turlish commander asked them to document the War. The Colony's invaluable photographic collection was evetually donated to the Library of Congress and is available on-line..
The situation deteriotated even more with the onset of World war I. The Ottomans joined the Central Powers and launched an attck across Sianai to seize the Suez Canal. They were repulsed by the British, but this was the beginning of th Palestine Campaign. America at the time was neutral so the Ottoman did not interfere ith its operations. And contributions from America help finance relief efforts. They opened soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages, and other needed charitable efforts. The American Colony assumed an increasingly important role in supporting the local populace. The Ottoman military commanders governing Jerusalem had come to trust the Colony. They asked their photographers to crete a photographic record of the war. The Allied naval blockade created many problens for the population as well as Ottoman war policies. The Ottomans conscripted the younger men into the army, Older men were formed into work brigades. Food supplies dwindled, both because agricultural harvests suffered and the Allied naval blockae. The Ottoman confiscated available provisions to feed it men. The poorly fed population Weakened by malnutrition, contrcted typhus and other diseases in large numbers. The Colony also struggled for its very existence. Money from friends in America kept the Colony functioning. The American Colony carried out extensive philanthropic work to assist the local people as well as Armenians who managed to survive the Ottoman Genocide. The Americans sponsored soup kitchens, hospitals, orphanages and various other charitable activities. Ottoman authorities continued to allow the American Colony to work, even after America entered the War (April 1917). Finally the British victories before Gaza and other locations forced thecOttoman armies to retreat. The American Colony took charge of the terribly overcrowded Ottoman military hospitals. When General Allenby, entered Jerusalem just before Chritmas the Colony offered their philanthropic services to the Allies (Decembe 11).
The Colony's post-War work continued after the War. Conditions iproved with the arrival of the British nd the end of the Allied naval campaign. The Colony ran an orphanage to care for the many children separated from their parents by the War. They worked under the auspices of the newspaper, Christian Herald (1818-22). They provided both material and spiritual care to the prphans.
The American Colony closed as the community members developed irronciable greviences (1950s). Some individuals continued to work in charitable activities. The charitable work begun by the Spaffords, however, continues in the original Colony house ajoining the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. There the Spafford Children's Center provides medical treatment and outreach programs for Arab children and their families.
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