Lee County Biographies

Brewer / Christie
Family Connections
Contributed by Chris Collman


Sarah Carmelite Brewer was born April 25, 1852 in Lee Center, Lee County, Illinois, the daughter of James (1821-1896) and Eliza (Pratt) Brewer (1825-1888). Her father was a minister and a farmer in Lee Center.

From 1868 to 1871 she attended Rockford Seminary (Rockford, Ill.), graduating on June 28, 1871. She taught school in Lee Center until her marriage on March 14, 1872 to Thomas D. Christie. In September 1877 the family sailed for Turkey, arriving in Alexandretta, Turkey on October 23, 1877.

During their life in Turkey, Carmelite was often left alone with her children when Thomas visited outlying missionary stations and when he went on trips abroad. In addition to her family responsibilities, she was involved in the activities of St. Paul's Institute and the education of women. For two periods, 1888 to 1890 and 1897 to 1898, she returned to the United States with her children to establish a home while the children attended school.

In June 1915 Thomas went to Constantinople to ask the government not to deport teachers; he was not allowed to return to Tarsus. Carmelite remained alone in Tarsus from 1915 to 1919, at which time Thomas rejoined her. During that time she kept St. Paul's Institute open and distributed relief supplies.

In 1920 Carmelite and Thomas resigned from St. Paul's Institute and returned to the United States to live. After Thomas died in 1921, Carmelite lived with her daughter Jean in Pasadena, California. She traveled and maintained her large correspondence. Carmelite Christie died October 17, 1931, in Pasadena, California.


Thomas Davidson Christie was a Congregational missionary who worked in Turkey from 1877 to 1920. He was born January 21, 1843 in Sion Mills, County Tyrone, Ireland, the son of James and Eliza (Reid) Christie. In 1846 the family immigrated to the United States and settled on a farm in Clyman Township, Dodge County, Wisconsin. Educated in country schools, he was an insatiable reader of the many books that were in his home.

In October 1861 he enlisted at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, with his brother, William, in the First Minnesota Battery of Light Artillery. They served in the First Battery until 1865. After his discharge he surveyed land for the Winona and St. Peter Railroad Company near Winona, Minnesota. In April 1866 he entered a preparatory school in Beloit, Wisconsin. In 1868 he entered Beloit College (Beloit, Wis.), graduating in July 1871. In August 1871 he started teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. On March 14, 1872 he married Sarah Carmelite Brewer of Lee Center, Illinois. He returned to Beloit College in September to teach and to complete work on his Master of Arts degree, which he received in 1874. He then enrolled in Andover Seminary (Andover, Mass.), from which he graduated in 1877, and was thereupon ordained a minister in Beloit.

In September 1877 he and his family left for Marash, Turkey, where they spent sixteen years doing missionary work. In 1893 they moved to Tarsus, Turkey, where Thomas assumed the presidency of St. Paul's Institute, a privately funded college supported by Colonel Elliott Shepard of New York City. Colonel Shepard died soon afterward and left the college without adequate funding, which obligated the Christies to continually seek funds for the school.

The Christies were in Turkey during the Armenian massacres of 1895, 1909, and 1915, and they provided refuge and relief to many Armenian people. Thomas and Carmelite Christie returned to the United States in 1920. Thomas Christie died May 25, 1921 in Pasadena, California.


Elizabeth Norton Christie was born on February 23, 1873, and died on February 12, 1876.
Anna Carmelite Christie was born on June 2, 1875.
Emerson Brewer Christie was born on March 17, 1878.
Mary Phelps Christie was born on January 11, 1881.
Paul Theodore Christie was born on August 23, 1883.
Agnes Emily Christie was born on March 15, 1887.
Jean Ogilvie Christie was born on June 29, 1891.

Back Home