1841: Rev. Benjamin Schneider to Rev. Lewis Pennell

Missionary Benjamin Schneider

Missionary Benjamin Schneider

This letter was written by Rev. Benjamin Schneider, an American missionary to Broosa, Turkey. The following is a biography of Schneider that was written by Kyle L. Miller:

Rev. Benjamin Schneider, D.D. — the first son of Henry Schneider and Anna Maria Nyce, was born on the 18th of January, 1807 in “Swamp” New Hanover Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Rev. Schneider spent his early years on the Schneider plantation along Swamp Pike. He was sent to school in Pottstown at an early age and attended the academy at Norristown in May of 1823. At this age of sixteen and seventeen, Schneider also taught at the Markley School in Swamp. In the Fall of 1826 he entered Hamilton College at Clinton, New York, and subsequently transferred to Amherst College in the Fall of 1827. Schneider completed his college education in 1830 and continued to Andover Theological Seminary. In 1833, Schneider graduated from Andover with the desire to become a missionary abroad. In September of that same year, he married Eliza Cheney Abbott in her hometown of Framingham, Massachusetts. About two months later the newly married couple began the treacherous journey across the Atlantic to their missionary station in the Ottoman Empire.

In February of 1834, Rev. Schneider and his wife arrived in Constantinople. After a long and difficult search for housing, they finally settled in Broosa in July of 1834. Their mission, he believed, was not to prosthelytize Muslims, Jews, or Orthodox Christians but rather to live by example, sparking curiosity, and enabling enlightenment as well as reform within the existing Christian churches. Rev. Schneider taught, preached, and distributed the New Testament in the various languages of the common people.

In 1842, Rev. Schneider partnered with the church of his forefathers, the German Reformed Church. They took over his financial support from the Presbyterian Church, at which time Rev. Schneider became the first Reformed Missionary abroad. In 1845, Mrs. Eliza C. A. Schneider published her book, “Letters From Broosa, Asia Minor.” Rev. Schneider removed his missionary work from Broosa in 1849 and went to Aintab (Gaziantep). In 1866 Rev. Schneider formally ended his missionary work but remained to live in Broosa and later taught at the Theological School in Marsovan. He returned to the United States in 1872 but was called back into service leaving for the Near East in December of 1874. He taught at the Turkish and Greek Theological Seminary until his health began to fail, at which time he went to Switzerland and made a final return trip to America. After suffering a fall, Rev. Schneider died in Boston at the age of 70. His funeral took place at the Shawmut Avenue Church in Boston, and services where also held in Brooklyn, New York where he was buried in the family plot at Green-Wood Cemetery.

Missionary Schneider wrote the letter to Rev. Lewis Pennell (1803-1883) of Northbridge, Massachusetts. Pennell graduated from Bowdoin College in 1830 and was ordained in 1833. He labored as a missionary among the churches in Maine until 1836 when he went to the South and to the West doing missionary work. He served as pastor of a church in Northbridge, Massachusetts from 1839 to 1843 and in Weston, Connecticut from 1844 to 1849. He subsequently served in New Fairfield, Connecticut; West Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and then Southport, Connecticut.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Rev. Lewis Pennell, Northbridge, Massachusetts, U. S. America

Broosa, Asa Minor
March 22d 1841

My dear Brother Pennell,

Your favor of the 8th of January reached me on the 20th inst. I am sorry to hear that you have been so much afflicted in your family. How long Mrs. Pennell has been feeble. May her trials be sanctified to her spiritual good & may she find indeed that it is good to be afflicted. And may that little precious and whom the Lord has sent you prove a great comfort to his dear parents & one of God’s rich blessings in this world.

My family are all well. Both Mrs. Schneider, though she has been much careworn — both she & myself — & our three little ones are daily called upon to give thanks to the Lord for his increasing mercies to us. We would be mindful of our favors. Before this reaches you, you will probably have learned that Br. Powers & his wife have left us, having returned to America on account of the utter failure of her health. They left us in August last & on the 3d inst. they sailed from Smyrna for the United States. She will, to all human appearance, never return again, & whether he ever will is highly problematical. How long we shall be alone I cannot say, though I hope not a very long period. Still, as there is such a paucity of missionaries, we may be without associates a great while. But if the Lord grant us his special presence, we shall not feel lonely.

The large coin I sent you must be a beshlik, equal in value to 4/5 cents; the middle one is called yirmilik & is worth about 5 mills; the smallest is called anlook & is in value 2½ mills. You will see from this, that Turkish money is great in bulk while its value is very small. Hence, it becomes very burdensome when there is occasion to transport it in any quantity. If I get time, I may at some future time send you another box or parcel. But my hands are now so full that I can hardly find time for such business.

I suppose you get all the political news of these regions from the papers, so I will not spend my paper on that subject except to say that I do not think that the business with Mehmed Ali ¹ is yet finished though he has nominally submitted. Depend upon it, some great events, yet future, stand connected with that matter. I shall not be surprised if the final result shall yet give an entirely different phase to matters & things in this quarter; I hope, all for the better.

Is it Catharine Bucher who is carrying on that diversion with Dr. Woods in the Bil. Repository?

But it is time I alluded to other topics. You will  be glad to hear that our prospects are much improved. I have daily opportunities to sell & distribute books. Our intercourse with the people is unrestrained. Their confidence in us & our operations are increasing. The influence of our station is evidently increasing & extending, & I find my hands full of labor & missionary work of one kind & another. I now preach again in Turkish regularly on the Sabbath & what is of peculiar interest, the hearers — though not numerous — are very attentive & often deeply interested. The solemnity, and not infrequently, the moistened eye of the audience, indicate that the truth is applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit. In fact, we have indubitable evidence of the presence of this business agent. Three or four give us pleasing evidence of a saving change, & 10 or 12 others are more or less interested on the subject of personal religion. Two or three of these very particularly so.

Incidents are constantly occurring to them that here & there, an individual has his attention directed to spiritual things. You must not infer that a great work is going on here, but I trust it is a genuine one. And there is reason to think that these impressions are very slowly spreading though at present the number affected is not great. There is a readiness to hear & a tenderness, on spiritual subjects, with those few once whom we have the most influence, which we have never before witnessed. We do hope & pray that these taken for for good may long, long continue. Pray for us, dear brother, & ask all your church to pray for us very particularly. After the Lord has thus begun a work, will he not carry it on? Is he not willing to do so? If fervent & humble prayer be offered, will he not hear & answer? Do not forget this request. Tell your dear people how much good they may do these perishing souls by their importunate prayers. Oh what an influence true prayer has. Eternity alone can fully reveal its magnitude.

Our very kind regards & sympathy in her feebleness to Mrs. Pennell. Write again soon. We are today expecting Mr. H. Van Lennep, ² missionary of our Board at Smyrna, & a graduate of Amherst College, on a visit to us of 2 or 3 months, to learn Turkish. It will be very pleasant to engage his society.

Yours very truly, — Benjamin Schneider


¹ In 1839, the Ottoman Empire moved to reoccupy lands lost to Muhammad Ali in the First Turko-Egyptian War. After suffering a defeat at the Battle of Nezib, the Ottoman Empire appeared on the verge of collapse. Britain, Austria and other European nations, rushed to intervene and force Egypt into accepting a peace treaty. The Ottoman Empire invaded Syria, and Hafiz Pasha, accompanied by Moltke, marched an army into Syria. Battle of Nezib: Hafiz Pasha’s army was routed by the Egyptian army under the command of Ibrahim Pasha. On July 1, the Ottoman fleet sailed to Alexandria and surrendered to Muhammad Ali. From September to November 1840, a combined naval fleet, made up of British and Austrian vessels, cut off Ibrahim’s sea communications with Egypt. This is followed by the occupation of Beirut and Acre by the British. On November 27, 1840, the Convention of Alexandria took place. British Admiral Charles Napier reached an agreement with the Egyptian government, thereby abandoning claims to Syria and returned the Ottoman fleet. In February 1841, Ibrahim left Syria and returned to Egypt.

Mary E. (Hawes) Lenepp

Mary E. (Hawes) Lenepp

² Henry J. Van Lennep was a Christian minister, missionary, writer and educator, was born in Smyrna (present-day Izmir, Turkey) in 1815. In 1830 he was sent to the United States for his education. He prepared for college at Mount Pleasant Institute, Amherst, Mass., and Hartford (Conn.) Grammar School. After graduating from Amherst College in 1837, he attended Andover Theological Seminary for one year, then studied with Rev. Joel Hawes in Hartford and was ordained a Congregational minister in 1839. He served as a missionary with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions for twenty-nine years beginning in 1840, in Smyrna (1840-44 and 1863-69), Constantinople (1844-54), and Tocat (1854-56). Van Lennep traveled extensively throughout the region of western Asia and Egypt. After losing his sight from cataract in 1869, he returned to the United States. He taught as a professor of natural sciences and languages at Ingham University, a women’s college in Le Roy, New York (1876-78), and subsequently was co-principal, with his son E. J. Van Lennep, of the Sedgwick Institute, a small private boarding school in Great Barrington, Mass. Van Lennep was married three times: to Emma L. Bliss (1839-40), Mary E. Hawes (1843-44), and Emily Ann Bird (1850-?). He had six children. Van Lennep died in Great Barrington, Mass., in 1889.


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