Benjamin Eshoo

By Levi Clancy for Student Reader on

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Student Reader  |  P76SPFFD7R
1880 July 24th

There was a religious notice,

BY INVITATION of the rector, permission having been granted by Bishop Coxe, the Rev. Ben. Eshoo, a deacon of the Assyria Church, will speak at St. John's Church next Sunday evening, in behalf of the sufferers from the terrible famine at present afflicting the part of Persia from which he comes. Mr. Eshoo will wear the dress of a deacon in his native church. Service begins at 7:45 P. M.

The Buffalo Commercial, 1880 Jul 24

Student Reader  |  GDFPB4LQLV
1880 July 26th

Very interesting notes. Mr. Eshoo says his nation – the Assyrians – was one of the first to convert to Christianity. He says that the Church of Assyria is Protestant, and a branch of the Episcopal Church. He says it is identical to the Anglican and American Episcopal churches. The emphasis on the Assyrians being Protestant may be a means to gain favor at St. John's which was a Lutheran church.

According to Mr. Eshoo, after centuries of persecution by Muslims, then the Assyrians scattered – but it is not exactly clear from where – around Persia, Kurdistan, and elsewhere.

Interestingly, he grew up in Urmia, and said it is the land of ancient Media – so he understood it was not the ancient Assyrian heartland, but its Assyrian inhabitants came there due to persecution. It is remarkable to think of a tradition saying that the three wise men were specifically from Urmia. They were obviously not Christian nor were they Assyrian. They were perhaps Zoroastrian.

It is even more remarkable to think that the Assyrians were some of the lost tribes of Israel. The ancient Assyrians were the exact opposite of the lost tribes: they were the enemies of the Jews. However, perhaps the Jews who were settled in the Assyrian homeland did in part convert and these would then be known as the Assyrian Christians. This is reinforced by later mentions about various similarities between Assyrian and Jewish traditions.

WORDS FROM THE PULPIT.

An Appeal for the Famine-Stricken People of Persia – Visiting Clergymen at Various Churches.

Last evening at the conclusion of the regular service at St. John's church, permission having been granted by Bishop Coxe, the Rev. Benjamin Eshoo, a native of Persia and a deacon of the Assyrian church, addressed the congregation on behalf of his fellow countrymen who are suffering from a terrible famine which is at present prevailing over that part of Persia to which Mr. Eshoo belongs. On coming forward the reverend gentleman who speaks but indifferent English, said it was not his intention to detain them very long; he would merely state as briefly as possible what he had come to say. The country from which he comes was the most ancient one in the world. It was the ancient Media. There was no doubt he was born in the city from which the wisemen journeyed who come up to worship the baby Saviour – our Lord Jesus Christ. It was very interesting he thought to look into the history of this ancient land because it was one of the first countries in which the worship of God was taught. The ancient Church of God was first established in that country, and out of it has sprung the present Church of Assyria, which is one of the branches of the Episcopal Church. There is no real difference between the English Church or the Episcopal Church of America and the Church of Assyria; each alike worships the one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in almost the same form. The present Protestant Church of Assyria has survived through centuries of Mohommedan persecution which has scattered its followers far away. Some are to be found in Persia, some far away in Koordistan, others elsewhere. He believed the people of his native town to be one of the ten tribes of Israel. He believed he was one of the lost tribes, and his first reason for believing so, was because among them they have nothing but scripture names, names found all through the Old Testament. His second reason for believing they were one of the ten tribes, was that like the temples of the children of Israel, their churches are divided into five or six different departments, into one of which no one but the bishop or high-priest enters. There is one apartment set aside for baptisms, one for sacrifices – for they use sacrifices somewhat similar to the ancient Jews – another for public worship, and so on, each department having a separate use. They have also bishops, priests and deacons corresponding to the high-priests, priests and elders of the children of Israel, and their marriage and funeral ceremonies are similar to the ancient Hebrew rites. Still their belief is the same as the Protestant churches of England and America; they believe in one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. At the present time a terrible famine is prevailing over the greater part of Persia, thousands daily dying in the streets for want of the common necessities of life. It was not the Christians alone who suffered, but Turks, Armenians, Koords – all suffered alike. The terrible famine was caused by the failure of the crops, brought on by an unusually dry and hot season. All the streams were dried up, and the people were dying of thirst as well as of hunger. He had come to them as a missionary from the church and from the people, asking their aid in this, their great need. His people, he believed, had already received over $20,000 from American generosity, and England and Germany are collecting some money to send to his suffering countrymen. The services of the Assyrian church, to which he belonged, was, he said, written and read in the same language spoken by our Savior, and the children of Israel.

The reverend Mr. Eshoo having resumed his seat, the rector the Rev. Mr. Hughes gave out a hymn stating that at its conclusion a collection woule [sic] be taken up in behalf of the sufferers by the famine in Persia, and he hoped those present would remember that the unfortunate people whom they are called on to aid were men and brothers, suffering the agony of a hunger they saw no means of appeasing. He hoped they would give liberally, even if necessary depriving themselves of something for a day, remembering the awful need of those on whose behalf the appeal was made. After the singing a collection was accordingly taken.

The Rev. Benjamin Eshoo is a native of Oroomiah, a town of Persia in the province of Azerbijan, 65 miles southwest of Tabriz. He is thirty-five years of age, and the son of a minister of the Assyrian Church. He was educated at a college in Seir, close to his native place, and some seven or eight years ago visited England, where he completed his education at St. Augustin's College. He has since traveled over the continent of Europe, and recently came to America to enlist the sympathies of Americans on behalf of his starving countrymen.

Buffalo Morning Express, 1880 Jul 26

Student Reader  |  SNSL5ZHQH3
1880 July 26th

The Rev. Benjamin Eshoo, a deacon of the Assyrian Church, and a native of Ooromiah, Persia, last evening delivered an address at St. John's Church on behalf of the famine-stricken Christians of Persia. A collection was taken for the fund for their relief.

The Buffalo Commercial, 1880 Jul 26

Student Reader  |  JVBFPGNRC3
1880 November 30th

Fascinating information from and about an early Assyrian-American. He describes the relationship of Assyrians and Nestorians in an interesting way.

AN INTERESTING STRANGER.

An Hour With a Native of Zoroaster's Birth Place.

The Fire Worshipers – The Ancient City of Oroomiah – Its Newspapers – Persian Punishments – The Garden of Eden.

Near the base of Mount Ararat, in Persia, where the Good Book says Noah's ark first rested, stands the ancient City of Oroomiah, the birthplace of Zoroaster, father of the Fire-Worshippers. Believing that a chat with a native of that far-off place would prove interesting a reporter of the Free Press yesterday called upon the Rev. Benjamin Eshoo, at his temporary residence, at No. 52 Adams avenue west. A brief account of a lecture given by Mr. Eshoo at Grace Church appeared in these columns on Thursday last, since which time the intelligent Persian has been visited by numbers of citizens.

"I see that the Nestorian Church is often spoken of as the Assyrian Church, Mr. Eshoo. Why is that?"

"It is the Assyrian Church properly," replied the Persian in his peculiar, rich dialect. "Nestoris was a Bishop of our Church, and we are called Nestorians by people outside the Church."

"You said in your lecture that you, in the church, spoke the language that was spoken by Jesus Christ, – then it must be that you do not conduct the service in the Persian language?"

"No, we dod not. The language of the Church is the old Assyrian, which in its modern form is still spoken in different parts of Persia. It is the language of Oroomiah. At the time of our Savior the Syrio-Chaldaic language was spoken in Judea, and Jesus preached in that language, but His utterances to God were in the language which He learned from His Assyrian mother, and which we Nestorians use in the Church today."

"Are there many Sun or Fire Worshippers in Persia now?"

"A few. There are a great many in Afghanistan, and some still left in Oroomiah."

"Can you tell me anything about their worship?"

"I know little about their religion except what I have seen with my own eyes. They worship the sun as their supreme God, and fire in any form bears some relation to their God. Diamonds are holy with them. Fourteen years ago I saw what I see a correspondent of the New York Sun calls a 'Mohammedan' miracle. He did not know what he was writing about. This of which I speak took place in Oroomiah. Five members of a society of Fire-Worshipers went into a blazing big fire, and remained several minutes without being burned or scorched. A great many persons assembled to see the sight. The Sheik, who is a priest among the Fire-Worshipers, sat, or kneeled, upon a small piece of carpet and mumbled a prayer or incantation in a language which no person but himself could understand. As soon as he began the five men, naked except a girdle about the waist, walked into the fire and stood there swaying their bodies to and fro. The fire was made of large sticks of wood and was very hot. A large sheet of copper, which had been heated red like blood, was in the fire, and this they took up and put upon their heads. They remained in the fire until the Sheik stopped praying, when they came quickly out."

"Do you not think he five men applied some chemical to the skin which prevented the fire from burning them?"

"I do not see how that could be. Not even their hair or beards were scorched. We were all astonished."

"Did the Fire-Worshipers make many converts out of this 'miracle'?"

"Not one."

"Have you many newspapers in Persia?"

"Oh! yes, some. Oroomiah has 60,000 inhabitants, and there are two weekly papers published there. They sell for a pannabat per copy. A pannabat is equal to between 8 and 10 cents."

"Has Oroomiah a Mayor or Governor who is under the Pasha?"

"Yes, and his word is law. If he say, 'Take off that man's head,' it comes off."

"How do you punish crimes in Persia?"

"Well, if you steal something the first time, they strip your feet bare and tie them to a stick. Then you are whipped on the naked feet until you swoon away. The second time, – one fo your hands will be cut off and you are fined a lot fo money. The third time another hand comes off, and the fourth time your head. For some crimes they lay a man in a hole in the earth, and pressing open his jaws pour melted lead down his throat, which kills him quick."

Mr. Eshoo is a very interesting and earnest gentleman, whose mission here is to secure help for the famishing people of Persia. He is about 48 years of age, and acquired his education at St. Augustin's College. He has visited Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the River Jordan, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy, and is familiar with the Seven Churches of Asia Minor.

Accepting some cards upon which were lithographed the Lord's Prayer in the language it was first uttered, the reporter thanked Mr. Eshoo for an entertaining and interesting hour and bade adieu to one who was born near the gates of the Garden of Eden, close by the Rivers Tigris and Euphrates, where the human race was first planted and where occurred nearly all of the important events recorded in Holy Writ.

Detroit Free Press, 1880 Nov 30; and again in Chicago Tribune, 1880 Dec 05