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Amelia Peabody Tileston

and her

Canteens for the Serbs


, • ••





R 1821 L



•• « •


THIS little volume is a memorial of Amelia Pea-
hody Tileston and her work for the Serbians. I
am giving a brief outline of her life, preceded by a
sketch of the experiences of Serbia during the World
War, drawn from various sources, and followed by
selections from her letters from the Balkans from 1916
to 1920. It is meant to keep her in remembrance, and
also the bravery, the sufferings, and the needs of the
nation in which she was so deeply interested.

Mary Wilder Tileston


Serbia in the World War 1

Amelia Peabody Tileston 13

Letters of 1915 43

Letters of 1916 51

Letters of 1917 66

District Visiting in Macedonia 87

Letters of 1918 108

Letters of 1919 134

Letters of 1920 163

Memorial Service 171

Tributes to her Memory 185

Grateful acknowledgments are due to Mrs. Ruth
S. Farnam, author of "A Nation at Bay," and
Messrs. Bobbs-Merrill Company, the publishers, for
their kindness in permitting the use in this book of
the photograph of Miss Emily Simmonds.


Amelia Peaeody Tileston Frontispiece

Amelia Peabody Tileston 16

Amelia Peabody Tileston 20

Refugees at Vodena 34

Emily Simmonds 58

Refugees at Vodena 78

Children's Camp at Avala 144

Hotel Bregalnitza. Emily Simmonds and

the Seven Workers in Front .... 152

American Free Canteen 161

Amelia's Room and Svetozar 167



After the fatal battle of Kossovo, June 28,
1389, Serbia was under the iron rule of the
Turks for nearly five hundred years, until
finally freed by the Treaty of Berlin, 1878.
She had kept her love of country and longing
for freedom through all those weary centuries,
and rejoiced in throwing off the yoke at last.

In the early autumn of 1912, she united with
Bulgaria, Greece, and r\Iontenegro in the Bal-
kan League against Turkey, and, in a few
weeks, the campaign ended in overwhelming
victory, and much Turkish territory was divided
among the members of the League. In 1913,
Bulgaria, dissatisfied with the portion awarded
her by the Treaty of London, made secret
preparations, and, at the end of June, suddenly
attacked her late Serbian and Greek allies.
Roumania joined them before long, and Bul-
garia was obhged to surrender.

Serbia was involved in war again, in 1914,
for the third time within three years. Ai'ch-
duke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Hapsburg


throne, and his morganatic wife, were assassi-
nated, under mysterious circumstances, in the
streets of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia, June
28, 1914. On July 28, the Austro-Hungarian
Minister at Belgrade handed to the Serbian
Government an ultimatum asserting that Ser-
bia had been aware that these murders were
being planned, and was responsible for them,
and making many extreme demands for re-
dress. All these were granted except the last
one, which would have involved the surrender
of her independent sovereignty, and this Serbia
offered to lay before the Hague Tribunal. The
Austrian Minister departed at once, breaking
off diplomatic relations, and his government
immediately declared war, and suddenly bom-
barded the defenceless city of Belgrade, the
capital, on July 30. The Serbian ministry, and
the diplomatic corps and other officials, had
pre\'iously left the city, and had made Nish
the seat of government. By August 24, the
Austro-Hungarian army had been driven from
their soil. A second invasion was attempted in
September, and again the enemy were driven
back. In No\'ember, the Austrians made a


third attempt, and entered Belgrade in triumph
early in December. The Serbs were now pro-
vided by the Allies with munitions, which were
sorely needed, and, by desperate fighting, they
drove the invaders, who were many times their
number, out of their country, and took sixty
thousand prisoners. There were great rejoic-
ings at that Christmas season, and peace
reigned for many months, but they little knew
the terrible experiences which were before them.

The cruelties of the Austrians and Hunga-
rians in their first and subsequent retreats were
indescribably horrible, especially their treat-
ment of women. In an official report upon
these atrocities, it is said that the outrages com-
mitted against the civil population were even
more dreadful than those in Belgium. Whole
villages were destroyed, many victims were
dreadfully mutilated before being killed, and
many were burned alive.

The Austrian prisoners who had been taken
were a source of untold sufTering to Serbia.
Scattered through the country, they spread
far and wide the terrible typhus fever with
which many of them were infected. It raged


for three or four months, being nearly over
about the end of April. Its ravages were like
those of the Black Death in the Middle Ages.
It is said that, at first, about eighty per cent
died of those who were attacked; later, the
percentage was reduced to twenty per cent,
but over seventy thousand died. Nearly a
third of the Serbian doctors died, and two-
thirds of the remainder had the fever. Serbia
cried for help to her Allies, and soon British,
French, and Russian units were hurried to her
assistance, and America, also, sent relief.
Many of these doctors, orderlies, and nurses
fell victims in their turn.

During this spring of 1915, Germany and
Austria were preparing to attempt to cut their
way to Constantinople through Serbia, and the
Serbs, knowing that they could not resist them
effectually alone, applied to the Allies for help.
If the latter had reinforced the Serbian armj'-
of two hundred and fifty thousand men with
as many more Brilisli and French soldiers,
which was all that was asked, the whole course
of events might luivc been different. The
Greeks would j)robably have joined them, and


the Roumanians also; Bulgaria would not have
dared to join the Central Powers, the situation
in the Dardanelles would have been relieved,
and the war might have ended in a few weeks
or months. But the Allies were under a fatal
delusion about Bulgaria, beheving that she
would soon join their cause, and supply the
military aid needed, herself.

Three hundred thousand Austro-German
troops began an assault on the Danube frontier,
and four hundred thousand Bulgarians poured
in from the east. The Serbian army fought
with wonderful heroism, but could not stand
against the long-distance guns of the enemy;
and, being out-numbered nearly three to one,
and not having sufficient ammunition, it was
forced to retreat. By great miUtary skill, this
retreat was saved from becoming a rout, but it
involved untold sufferings.

It was the retreat not only of the army, but
of a large number of the Serbian people. An
endless stream of refugees poured along the
road. Thousands of women and children, old
men and babies, driven from their homes by
fear of the cruel, advancing enemy, were mingled


with the army in their difficult journey through
the almost impassable mountains of INIontene-
gro and Albania. Day after day, and week
after week, they plodded on painfully, over
passes five thousand feet high, among moun-
tains eight thousand feet in height, through
deep mud and snow, more and more dying from
the constantly increasing cold, the greater and
greater deficiency of food, and the exhausting
fatigue of the journey. Of the thirty thousand
boys who were with them, less than half sur-
vived to reach the Albanian coast, and only
five or six thousand lived to arrive at their
final place of refuge. The Italian navy trans-
ported the army to Corfu, and the refugees
were taken to Corsica, and southern France.

Many thousand Serbian soldiers died after
reacliing Corfu, in consequence of the hard-
ships they had undergone. The little neigh-
boring island of Vido, the quarantine camp of
the sick, was called the "Island of Death," so
great was the mortality there, especially after
a severe epidemic of cholera developed.

The army had a prrifxl of comparative rest
for several Tiioiitlis, and, l)y A]iril, 1916, they


began to return to the field to take up their
difficult task. Between early April and June,
a hundred thousand in number, they were trans-
ported to the Macedonian front, where, at
Salonika, they joined the Franco-British troops
of over three hundred thousand men, Italian
and Russian contingents being added by the
end of July. The whole was called the Army of
the Orient. The post of honor, and the most
difficult part of the whole front, was assigned
to the Serbian army. The campaign began in
August, and, by tremendous efforts, and heroic
fighting, under Field Marshal Mishitch, they
succeeded in taking the town of Monastir,
November 19, 1916, and were once more in
Serbia. But, for nearly two years, they were
unable to drive the enemy from the heights
above the town, from which the Bulgarians
continually bombed it, causing great destruc-
tion of life and buildings, and the campaign
settled into trench warfare, with no essential
gains on either side.

For nearly three years, the Bulgarians treated
the civil population of Serbia with incredible
cruelty, and the Serbs were rapidly perishing


from starvation and brutal treatment. The
Austrians, also, oppressed them most unmer-
cifully. The invaders requisitioned all the
materials of production, and machinery, robbed
the peasants of their horses, oxen, carts, cattle,
poultry, and every kind of farming and house-
hold utensils, took possession of the harvests,
and crushed the people by enormous taxes.
They deported and interned very large numbers
of civilians, leaving their families hopelessly
destitute. It was said that more than eighty
thousand men perished from disease, cold,
hunger, and hard labor in the Austrian and
Hungarian prison camps. Thirty thousand
men, women, and children were deported from
three provinces, and interned in Asia Minor.
Eight thousand women and young girls were
destined to be delivered to the Turks, but many
of them, preferring death, threw themselves
from the trains.

In March, 1918, after Field Marshal Foch
had taken command of all the Allied forces, he
ordered the Army of the Orient to prepare for
a general offensive. They fought with great
vigor and success, and on the 29th of September,


the Bulgarians begged for an armistice. On
October 12, the Army of the Orient captured
Nish, which cut the Berlin-Constantinople rail-
way, and Turkey sued for peace, a few days
later. Austria soon did the same, leaving Ger-
many alone, and she, too, asked for an armis-
tice, which was granted November 11, 1918.

After this, for some time, the condition of
Serbia was even worse than before, as the enemy
had carried off everything that he could take,
and had destroyed what he could not remove.
The country is gradually recovering, but it will
need sympathy, and intelligent, generous assist-
ance for some time to come. Medical, agri-
cultural, and educational help, and relief for
the hundreds of thousands of fatherless chil-
dren, are among its most urgent needs.



Amelia Peabody Tileston was born on
October 30, 1872, in Dorchester, Massachu-
setts. She was the fourth of the seven children
of John Boies Tileston and Mary Wilder Foote.
TVTien she was two years old, her father bought
a farm in Concord, Massachusetts, where the
family lived for eight years. It was a milk
farm of two hundred acres, on the slope of
Punkatasset Hill, running down to the Con-
cord River, and it gave the children the free-
dom and varied interests of country life.
Amelia was a very pretty and intelligent child,
with blue eyes and golden hair, full of energy
and spirit.

After 1882, when the farm was sold, they
lived for a few years in Salem, and then in
Brookline, where she enjoyed greatly the com-
panionship of other children, which she had
not had before. In Brookline, she went to
Miss Baker's school, and then, from Milton,
to which town the family moved in 1889, she
went to St. Agnes' School in Albany for a


year, and, afterwards, to Miss Folsom's School
in Boston.

She made her first trip to Europe in 1895,
and went abroad many times afterward. She
w^as especially fond of Italy, its scenery and
art, and people; and of Cortina, in the Tyrol,
where she took long tramps through the beauti-
ful mountain country — very different from her
fatiguing foot-journeys in her w^ork in the

A friend wTites, ''I met her in London in
the summer of 1895, on her first visit to Europe,
when she was twenty-two years old, and I
was interested to note the impression she made
upon my English friends.

''Her personality was striking and her charm
rare. With what may be called a wealth of
golden hair, daintily piquant features, clear
blue eyes, and delicate coloring, she was a
vivid figure that drew all eyes. Gifted with
unusual vigor of body and mind, her expres-
sion was always alert and challenging, and her
wit lighted up ever}^ conversation in which she

"One of the most striking things about her



was her love for honesty of character, and its
reverse, a scorn for hypocrisy and sham. With
evil that frankly confessed itself as such, there
might be some dealing; but woe to the sinner
masquerading as the saint — in iier presence
his sense of security fled, and her scorn, when
it broke, was deadly and uncompromising.

"Inevitably, as time passed on, she became
more conscious of the needless suffering, and
the seeming injustices of life, and of the in-
adequacy of the forces that work for correc-
tion. But her spirit remained undaunted. No
task was too small for her patience, none too
large for her courage, and resourcefulness. The
'instant need of things' sent its clear call to her.
Her methods were direct and forceful, short-
cutting the devious paths of officialdom when
possible (or even impossible!), making enemies,
creating great and immortal friendships.

"When the Great War came, with its im-
pelling cry to natures such as hers, she gave a
service disciplined in patience, trained in en-
durance, eager in love and hope. There are
such natures; but few of them stand up under
the agony and disillusionment of the war as


did hers. All that she was she carried with her
to the very gates of death."

Another friend writes, "I wish that I could
express something of the impression that AmeUa
always made on me. It would take a skilful
pen indeed to adequately picture her — her
spirit, vivid and sparkling, was like a brilliant
bird that flashes before one's eyes, and is gone
in the shadows of the forest.

"She never ceased to delight and sometimes
baffle me; and yet when I stopped trying to
analyze her and simply loved her, as I did
indeed, and well she knew it, she then showed
herself as simple as she was complex, as gentle
and compassionate as she was critical and
severe. I used to feel almost bewildered by
the complicated way in which she often reacted
to what was happening. And yet her nature
was peculiarly simple and direct. In spite of
her great gifts of mind and heart, she seemed,
much of the time, to lack the power to happily
and naturally express them. She could be a
torrent of contradictions all in one breath, and
would misrepresent herself cruelly in much that
she said and did. She was so superbly honest.


and always thrust the worst foot foremost with
such conscientious care.

''How she did talk sometimes! It was al-
most impossible to keep pace with her lightning
thought and wit. 'Do go more slowly, AmeUa;
I want to hear what you are saying.' 'Lucky
to miss it,' she would flash back, with one of
her quick smiles. Great depths of tenderness
were hers, and love of truth, and courage, and
endurance to fight a good fight.

"It is well to think of her body resting among
the Serbians for whom she died. 'I like the
Serbian peasant. He is simple and honest, and
loves the right things.' I think those were
her very words when speaking to me, last
summer, of choosing to work for them. Her
always beautiful eyes, that had grown so
charged with expression, must have brought
courage and reassurance to many a weary
sufferer. Her whole being sprang to the chal-
lenge of Serbia's need. Her great heart had
found a home."

After her father's death in 1898, she went
abroad for a year with her mother and three of
her sisters. On their return, they lived in


Boston for eight years, and returned to Milton
in the autumn of 1907.

When living in town, she used to take dogs
from the Animal Rescue League to walk, — a
small act of kindness, but she had great sym-
pathy with animals as w^ell as human beings.

Early in 1903, she took a three months' train-
ing course in nursing in subacute and chronic
cases, under Miss Isabel Strong. The practical
part was given at the bedside, in the Roxbury
and South Boston districts, most of it among
the very poor; and a very wide range of cases
was given this particular class. Among those
whom she nursed w^ere some w^hom she visited
and helped to the end of her life. This training
w^as of immense value to her later, when she
was among people who had no medical help
or advice.

In 1905 and 1907, she worked in Day Camps
for tuberculous patients. The first Day Camp
in America for these was opened in July, 1905,
on Parker Ilill, under the auspices of the Boston
Association for the Relief and Control of Tuber-
culosis, in charge of Dr. David Townsend. He
writes, "Miss Tileston came from the Society


to the Camp, and continued her visits right
through the season, which ended in October,
helping by her kindly interest, ready sympathy,
and quiet courage, to make the patients happy
and cheerful; a most important feature in their
care and treatment. Her kind attentions she
carried to the homes of the patients, where they
were appreciated.

"In the third year of the Camp, from June,
1907, to February, 1908, at the Mattapan Hos-
pital, Miss Tileston was of great assistance in
building and keeping up the morale of the
Camp, making frequent and regular visits. At
the Christmas tree, her enthusiasm and efforts
contributed greatly to the happiness of the
patients. She brought many articles, sweaters,
mufflers, toys and books, carried twenty pounds
of candy, herself, from town, and helped to
decorate the tree and distribute the gifts. Her
great sympathy and genuine interest in the wel-
fare of the patients, especially the children,
created an atmosphere of rest and cheer which
aided much in their recuperation."

She labored to the point of exliaustion to
relieve the distress caused by the Chelsea Fire


in April, 1908. In October of the same year,
she went to New York, and stayed there for
five months, working under Miss Jessie Belyea,
under the direction of Dr. Theodore C. Jane-
way, in a Special Employment Bureau for the
Handicapped. She was in the tuberculosis
section, and one part of her work was to visit
business offices continually, to try to find em-
ployment for the men, which was difficult
to accomplish. The Bureau was discontinued
after that winter.

In March, 1912, after the death of her
youngest sister, Eleanor, she went to New
Haven, and did Social Service work there in
the New Haven General Hospital, under Miss
Belyea, for eight months. Her sister Margaret,
Mrs. David Linn Edsall, died in the following
November, and Amelia took charge of her
household until the spring of 1914.

When the World War began, in August,
1914, she felt the urgent call to help to relieve
the suffering whicli ensued, and she went in
October to England, where she worked for a
month in the Anglo-American Hospital in
Paignton, Devonshire, doing night-duty, but


she found it was abundantly supplied with
nurses. Then, having been joined by Miss
Belyea, she did relief work for Belgian refugees
in London and Paris, but found both places
overcrowded with workers. They w^ent to
Italy in January, 1915, and the disastrous
earthquake, which caused so much distress,
occurred a week after they reached Rome.
They wanted to help in the ravaged districts,
but could not obtain permission to do so.
While they were in Rome, they were told of
the great suffering and need in Serbia, where
t3T)hus fever had been raging for a number of
weeks. They went there early in February,
hoping to be of real assistance, but circum-
stances beyond their control obliged them to
give up their undertaking, most reluctantly.

They went to Athens next, having letters to
Venizelos, through whom they hoped to find
useful work to do, but his ministry fell the
very day they landed at the Piraeus. Queen
Sophia heard of their arrival, and sent for them
in order to ask about a number of details of
nursing in America, as she was interested in
buildmg and running a new hospital in Athens.


She wished, also, to send some Greek gu'ls to
the United States to learn to be nurses. Amelia
was shocked at the scorn with which she spoke
of her Greek subjects, while giving the most
unbounded praise to her beloved Germans.

Miss Bclyea and she went next to India,
where they had reason to think that they could
be useful, but they found, when they arrived
there, that it was not practicable. They re-
turned to America by way of Java, China, and
Japan, reacliing home in September, 1915.

That autumn brought overwhelming disaster
to the Serbian army, and they were driven out
of their country by the Austrians and Bul-
garians. Then followed their terrible retreat
over the Montenegrin and Albanian Mountains,
and then the transportation of the army and
of the refugees to Corfu, and other places of

Amelia was much deprossod during that
winter, 1915-1 91G, wliile living at home in
Brooklino, by intense sympathy with the Ser-
bian sufferings, and the great difficulties in the
way of going to their aid, and she tried in many
ways (() hclj) them. She collected money for



the Serbs in various ways. As she thought
that many would be willing to give small sums
— as in the case of the Salvation Army — she
obtained a license from the city to station men
with contribution-boxes on the Common, and
in Harvard Square, for the four weeks before
Christmas. She got the men from the Way-
farers' Lodge, and this helped, also, the needy
men, more or less handicapped, to whom she
gave emplojonent. She studied the Serbian
grammar assiduously, through the long even-
ings, to prepare herself for usefulness, when the
opportunity should arrive.

She sailed for Europe March 3, 1916, and
spent several months endeavoring to reach a
point where she could help them. ^\Tiile
waiting, she nursed for a month at a hospital
in Florence, and for another month in a hos-
pital on the road up to Fiesole, during the hot
weather, when many nurses were away. At
last, October 30, 1916, she succeeded in reach-
ing Salonika, and joined Miss Emily Simmonds,
who had been working for the Serbians from the
beginning of the war. A few weeks after the
capture of ^Vlonastir by the Serbians on Novem-


ber 19, 1916, Miss Simmonds and she went to
a dressing station at the front for two months.
After this, they gave rehef to many hundred
refugees at Vodena for a number of weeks.
While there, Amelia started a canteen for
Serbian troops returning to the front from the
hospital, and, about the middle of May, went
to Vladova, where she established another,
and, from that time on, she continued this
kind of work.

She came home for two months in the spring
of 1919, largely for the purpose of arousing
fresh interest in Serbia. It was her first visit
to America since March, 1916; it was not a
period of rest, but of constant activity and

She sailed for Europe July 10, and on her
arrival joined Miss Simmonds for two months

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