“I think my great grandfather was the founder of your church.” I received this message after posting a story about my childhood church on this blog. It wasn’t possible, I was certain. I had studied the original members and the entries in the church records. I found no members with the name he provided: Kalaidjian.
As it turned out, when I went looking for the name, I looked only at the church members. In later interactions with this gentleman, I learned that his great-grandfather had been the minister in an Armenian church, and he was pretty sure it was in Troy. He sent me an obituary that said “…he went to Troy where he built the Armenian Calvary Congregational Church of that city.” There was only one Protestant Armenian church in Troy. I returned to the church records. There were three volumes. One covered 1906-1927, the second covered to 2005, and the last covered through the closure of the church. But the second one had a more detailed history of the pastors, going back to the founding of the original church. This one included Rev. Mihran Kalaidjian, 1912- … no leaving date listed. But a note in the record read, “Built the church.”
The church’s early history was somewhat sketchy. The people who founded the original church were primarily Congregationalists, and originally met in people’s houses and in other existing churches. In 1906 when the church members wanted to build their own church, they were discouraged by the Congregationalist American Board. The local Presbyterian synod offered financial assistance if they adopted the Presbyterian affiliation, which they did. They built the Armenian Presbyterian Church, starting with a groundbreaking in 2008.
By 2010, there was dissent within the church members, Presbyterians vs Congregationalists. The Congregationalists returned to borrowed space and pastors, and the plan for a separate church began to grow. They hired Rev. Mihran T. Kaladjian in 1912. Rev. Kaladjian and his wife worked tirelessly to expand the church activities beyond weekly services and midweek prayer meetings. And they confronted the issues of the Armenian community within the larger Troy community, such as language, and sanitation, and employment. A 1913 article in The Troy Times reflected the personal investment by both Reverend and Mrs. Kaladjian.
And, while he didn’t actually build the church, Rev. Kaladjian led the planning for the construction of the Armenian Congregational Church.
The actual reasons for Rev. Kaladjian’s departure—we think in 1914—are unknown. The construction of the new church didn’t begin until 1916. But the plans were drawn, the land was purchased. It likely was a matter of pulling together the finances to make it happen.
In all the research I had done up to the point of contact with Rev. Kaladjian’s great grandson, I hadn’t put all these pieces together. And the way this project has been evolving over the past three years, I’m guessing there could be more pieces to the puzzle of Troy’s Protestant Armenian community that will become part of my historical fiction.