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Sanford Richardson Papers

Call Number: RG 311

Scope and Contents

The Sanford Richardson papers include six letterbooks of correspondence related to his service as a missionary to the Armenians in Turkey from 1857 to 1879. The letterbooks contain both copies of the letters Richardson sent and the original letters that he received, arranged in general chronological order. An index at the back of each volume provides identification of letters from particular individuals or regarding places and topics. Correspondents included clergy and missionaries, family members, diplomats, consular agents, Turkish officials, Armenian and Greek clergy and educators, as well as American educators, journalists, and medical doctors. Letters are interspersed with other documents, including a few sketches and photographs.

Letters exchanged with clergy and fellow missionaries scattered throughout the Ottoman Empire provide descriptive details about their work in Bible and tract translation, distribution of religious literature, the establishment of schools, churches, and medical facilities, as well as the training of native Armenians as teachers and preachers. Frequently discussed were the religious and political problems they faced from leaders and clergymen of the Armenian Apostolic Church as well as "Papists" and Muslim officials and clergy. Other discussed topics include religious, political, and military incidents related to the Crimean War, the Russo-Turkish War and the American Civil War, local famines and epidemics, rural uprisings, and the procurement of materials. Letters from medical missionaries in Turkey such as David H. Nutting, Fayette Jewett, Moses Parmelee and H.S. West describe their medical and religious work among the indigenous populations.

Letters sent to Richardson's parents, siblings, and in-laws provide extensive detail regarding missionary social activities, travels, and the schooling of their children.

The letterbooks are supplemented by Richardson's 300 page manuscript autobiography, which he wrote after his return from Turkey. This unpublished work describes Richardson's relationships with fellow missionaries and mission officials, their mission activities, and trips taken through the countryside, often by caravan and endangered by bandits and Kurds.

The Mission Records of Series III include detailed minutes of annual meetings of the Armenian (later Western Turkey) Mission of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, as well as annual reports of the Arabkir, Broosa, and Marash mission stations.


  • 1857 - 1879


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased, 2018.


The collection is arranged in three series:

I. Letterbooks

II. Biographical Documentation

III. Mission Records


2 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Extensive correspondence, reports, and an autobiography document the work of Sanford Richardson, missionary among the Armenians in Ottoman Turkey from 1857 to 1879, serving under the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Biographical / Historical

Sanford Richardson was born in Monroe, Ohio in 1825 his to Alpheus and Lucy Cove Richardson. In 1836 the family emigrated to Illinois. While attending Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois Richardson was baptized by Presbyterian evangelist Rev. George W. Gale. After graduation from Knox College in 1846, Richardson spent five years in teaching and in Bible and tract distribution before entering Union Theological Seminary in New York in 1851. Following his graduation from seminary and ordination in 1854, Richardson was appointed as a missionary to the Armenians of Western Asia by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.

Richardson married Rhoda Ann Scott (1828-1915) in 1848, with whom he had five children, four born in Turkey. In Ottoman Turkey, Richardson worked among the Armenians in Erzurum (Erzroom) (1854-1856), Arabkir (1856-1866), and Broosa (1867-1879). He returned to the United States in 1879 and died in 1886 in Cazenovia, Illinois.

Processing Information

Place names were modernized in the description, with the name originally used in the collection material or in an older version of the finding aid in parenthesis: e.g. “Beijing (Peking)” or “Benin (Dahomey)”.

Guide to the Sanford Richardson Papers
Martha Lund Smalley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

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