Father George Mavrelis

The historical society performs research of local cemeteries. One such cemetery, Mount Olivet in Colma, offers a glimpse of the first wave of Greek immigrants that settled in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Mount Olivet has a two sections of Greek grave sites that date back over one hundred years.

(see Mount Olivet photographs)

As we were documenting each site, we noticed a gravesite covered in moss but the photograph on the gravestone was of a Greek priest (see photo). Our historical society has photographs of every Greek priest that served in the area and the photograph did not match anyone we knew.

We removed the moss from the gravestone.  We had a name. The tombstone said Αιδ. Γεώριος Μαυρέλης. (Giorgos Mavrelis or George Mavrelis).

The abbreviation Αιδ.  = Αιδεσιμώτατος meaning ‘reverend’. This word is not commonly used today.

He was born in Tousla (Turkish: Tuzla), a small town and a suburb of Istanbul/Constantinople. The bottom line of the tombstone says “κ/πολεως,” an abbreviation for Κωνσταντινουπολεως. It conveys that he was a priest was from Constantinople. More specifically, Tousla, a suburb of Constantinople. He was born in 1845 and died in 1927.

There were many Greeks living in Turkey at the turn of the century. By the late 19th and early 20th century, the Greek population was only predominant in Constantinople, Smyrna, its ancient area of settlement on the western and northern coasts, and a few cities in the interior such as Alasehir. Prior to to the outbreak of the First World War, up to 1.8 million Greeks lived in the Ottoman Empire. Even though they were Greek, Turkey was their home.

During World War I and the years immediately following Turkey initiated a violent campaign against the Greek population in Turkey. We found that Fr. Mavrelis and his family were refugees.  They left Constantinople after the 1922 Turkish offensive in Smyrna.  They left for Greece and from Greece they boarded a ship to the United States.

Father Mavrelis entered the United States on December 4, 1923, with his family. The family’s final destination is listed as San Francisco. After San Francisco they are going to the home of

Elias P. George
534 4th Street
Richmond, Calif.

We thought that Fr. Mavrelis may have served parishes in a temporary capacity to fill in on a Sunday for a sick priest. We found that he did not perform any sacraments.

His new life in the United States was cut short.  Fr. Mavrelis passed away on August 9, 1927 at the age of 82.  He left behind a wife, a sister, and three sons.  Bishop Kallistos Papageorgopoulos, the newly enthroned bishop of San Francisco, performed the funeral service on August 11, 1927, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sophia on Hayes & Pierce Streets.

What started with a photograph on moss covered tombstone led to a story of a priest who had to leave the only home he knew to ultimately find rest in America.

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Contents Copyright -- Jim Lucas & Greek Historical Society of the San Francisco Bay Area