The Itinerary of Katerina, Gregory and Elenche Tsilka in America (1905)





City and State

Source of Information



15 Jan 1905

Leominster, Mass.

Fitchburg (Mass.) Daily Sentinel, 12 Jan 1905, p. 5,

[Leominster News Items] “Madame Katerina Tsilka who was with Miss Ellen Stone in Bulgaria will lecture at the Orthodox church Sunday evening.  She will be accompanied by the baby which was born in captivity.”



3 Feb 1905

Springfield, Mass.

Fitchburg (Mass.) Daily Sentinel, 4 Feb 1905, p. 2,

“A large and appreciative audience greeted Madame Tsilka at Stone Chapel last night.  Her address, which was a vivid account of her experiences among the brigands of Macedonia, was extremely interesting as well as instructive.  Her baby clambered bravely upon the platform to be greeted by a storm of applause.  Mme. Tsilka is a charming speaker and held the closest attention of the audience during the entire evening.” – The Springfield Republican.  In Rollstone church, Monday evening.  See advt.


6 Feb 1905

Fitchburg, Mass.

Fitchburg (Mass.) Daily Sentinel, 16 Jan 1905, p. 2

Fitchburg has been fortunate in securing a lecture by Madame Tsilka who, in company with Miss Stone, was captured by the brigands in Bulgaria.  She comes to the Rollstone church on Monday, Feb. 6, and will be accompanied by Baby Ellencha, born in captivity.”


6 Feb 1905

Fitchburg, Mass.

Fitchburg (Mass.) Daily Sentinel, 7 Feb 1905, p. 6, “Mme. Tsilka Tells Story of Her Captivity”

“Monday evening some 300 to 400 attended the lecture in Rollstone church by Mme. Tsilka who in a simple, earnest manner told the story of her capture by the brigands, the torture of suspense as they journeyed not knowing whither, and the release and the meeting with her friends.


Rev. W. O. Conrad presented Madame who at once spoke of the first time she met Miss Ellen M. Stone, when with a group of other children she saw Miss Stone wearing a hat.  None but men in that land wore a hat, yet the garments were those of a woman.  Madame was brought up in a Greek priest’s family and that means that any missionary was to be shunned.  These children followed Miss Stone to the mission not intending to enter, but they heard music and the effect of it was never to be forgotten.  From this time till Madame Tsilka and her husband came to this country for their education and returned to Macedonia to teach their people little was related, but the real story of the capture and their journey began when a party of 13 started on horseback to a town where they were to begin their work.  Not far had they traveled when they were surrounded by brigands.   Madame told of her attempts to hide a watch and some money in an amusing way.


It seems that the Greek brigands will not harm a woman in any way, not even search for valuables they know she possesses.  She hoped the object was simply to rob them and let them go.  But they signaled Miss Stone and herself, and mounting them and giving them in charge of four men each, carried them away.  While among the mountains the chief came and told them that personally the brigands had nothing against them, but were desperately in need of money and should hold them for a ransom -- $110,000 – which must be furnished in 20 days.  Knowing this to be an impossible sum, they expected death would follow.


‘The eternal God is our refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms’ were the words that came to the women as they realized what was meant by what the chief had said and with these in mind they slept for the first time.


As they journeyed the chief got a sprained ankle which tortured him, and a doctor among them treated it in a way to make it worse.  Miss Stone who knew that Madame had trained in a hospital—an amusing reference was made of this training – [note: Katerina trained in the field of  obstetrics, so this may account for the reference] suggested that she offer to assist him.  This she thought she could not do but finally she asked him if she could help and so relieved him that sleep came.  This helped in their treatment later making him kinder to them.


The effect of the coming of little Ellencha on the men was described and one man said that a baby’s presence would unfit them for the work they had to do.  The ransom was lowered to $64,000 on account of the little girl.


The story as it came from Mme. Tsilka’s lips seems little less than miraculous and the effect on the godly lives of these two women on those brutal men was marvelous.  While they did not show them actual kindness the brutalities that might have been expected were abated to some degree.  Of course it was necessary to keep them alive to procure the ransom.  The audience was intensely interested during the hour and more of the story and when little three years old Ellencha dressed in whit clambered up the steps to her mother applause followed.


If the recital of this story does not make all who heard it thankful for the blessings of good government, nothing can do so.


The father at the close of the lecture held the little child in his arms, while almost the entire audience went to greet her.


6 Feb 1905

Fitchburg, Mass.

Ltr, Margaret E. Conrad, 493 Boston St., Guilford, CT, dated 8 May 1978 to Richard M. Cochran

“I have nothing to add…of an official nature, but I should tell you of my personal contact as a little girl.


My father was pastor of the Rollstone Congegational Church in Fitchburg, Mass. In the early 1900s.  A matter of deep concern to everyone at that time was the capture by “Balkan Brigands” of two American missionaries, Miss Ellen stone and Madame Stephanova Tsilka, whose little daughter Ellenchia (sp?) was born in captivity.  They were in the care of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (“ABCFM”).  After their release, they were in great demand as speakers in this country.


We entertained Madame Tsilka and Ellenchia on such a speaking engagement.  I can vividly remember building block houses for Ellenchia to demolish for the better part of an evening at the parsonage while her mother was speaking at the church.



Both Madame Tsilka and her daughter were “beautiful people” who made friends everywhere.


Years later, when I became involved in the Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing, as student, staff member and eventually Associate Dean and Director of Nursing of the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, I felt well acquainted with one of our most colorful alumnae!”


8 Feb 1905

Newport, R. I.

Newport (R.I.) Mercury, 11 Feb 1905, p. 1

“Madame Katerina Tsilka, who was held in captivity with Miss Ellen Stone by brigands in the Balkans, gave an interesting lecture on that thrilling experience at the United Congregational Church on Wednesday evening.  The chapel, where the lecture was given, was completely filled.”


8 Mar 1905

Windsor, Mass.

Springfield (Mass.) Republican, 9 Mar 1905, p. 10

“Mme. Katerina Tsilka, Miss Ellen Stone’s companion in Turkish captivity, lectured yesterday evening in the Congregational parish-house on the subject: “The story of my captivity.”


23 Apr 1905

Elyria, Ohio

Elyria (Ohio) Democrat, 27 Apr 1905, “Madame Tsilka’s Talk”

“To be able to hear from the lips of the two captives, Miss Stone and Mme. Tsilka, the renowned story of their capture by the brigands of Macedonia, has been the privilege of Elyria people. Miss Stone was here as a lecturer on the Institute Lecture course in a previous year.  Easter Sunday night Mine. Tsilka appeared before the congregation assembled in the First Congregational church.  The story of the capture of the two missionaries was preceded by a little recital of personal history and how the speaker came to be associated with Miss Stone. Mme. Tsilka came from a family that had the proud honor of giving to the Greek church a number of priests and the still greater honor of a distinguished bishop. Previous to their capture by the brigands, the path of the missionaries was not always a pleasant one, for they met with opposition in the carrying of  the gospel to the Macedonians.


As a preface, the conditions that predominate in Macedonia were clearly set forth. Turkish oppression is the prime factor in the creation of the perils that overcast the country's horizon.  The flower of Mace- donian youth are practically prisoners, while the able-bodied men take to the mountains and become brigands. Thus the villages are practically given over to the infirm, the women and children.  It is the policy of the hands of brigands to capture those who will bring them a large ransom.  This motive was the underlying one in their carrying the two women to the mountains. Mme. Tsilka is a magnetic speaker.  Her vivid description of their course through the mountains and the meeting with the rival band of brigands made an impression that can never be conveyed by a written description. A woman of deep religious convictions, she saw in all their

escapes from imminent death the hand of Providence that is over all.  Would there be anything more thrilling than her simple account of their perilous final journey across the river? Men and horses were well-nigh swept down the stream in the current, let alone the women and babe

under their guidance and protection.  Mme. Tsilka’s little daughter, born in this captivity, now a child of about four years of age, accompanies her and is second only to her talented and devoted mother in the interest of

the public.


5 May 1905

Newark, Ohio

Newark (Ohio) Advocate, 29 April 1905, p. 6

At Plymouth Church

Lecture to be Given May 5 by Mme. Tsilka Will be Treat – Miss Stone’s Companion.


A rare treat is in store for the people of the city in the way of a lecture delivered by Mme. Tsilka who was the only companion of the missionary, Miss Ellen Stone, at the time of, and during her captivity by the brigands of Macedonia.


Mme. Tsilka will be accompanied by her husband and her child, Baby Elentcha, who was born among the Balkan brigands.


Miss Stone and Mme. Tsilka , as will be remembered,  were captured about September 3, 1901, and were released February 21, 1902, being held for ransom of $110,000.00.  Mme. Tsilka Is the daughter of a wealthy and prominent gentleman of Macedonia, who sent her to a boarding school, where she became a Christian and.  Upon his learning that she had become a Christian, he drove her from home, but has since relented and pieces been restored between the father and child .


Mme. Tsilka Came to the United States and fitted herself for a medical missionary.  She has diplomas from four American schools, the Moody schools of Northfield, the Sloan Maternity, the Presbyterian Training School for Nurses, and the school of Obstetrics, of Cornell university.  She is to lecture and at Plymouth Congregational church on Fourth street the evening of Friday, May 5, and it is expected that the lecture will be an interesting one.


5 May 1905

Newark, Ohio

Newark (Ohio) Advocate, 6 May 1905, p. 8

Tsilka Lecture


At Plymouth Church Friday Night was Enjoyed by Newark People – Miss Stone’s Companion Talks


Mme. Tsilka’s lecture Friday night at Plymouth Congregational church was one of the most interesting ever listened to in Newark.


Mme. Tsilka and her baby were the only companions of Miss Ellen Stone during her captivity, and her lecture was along this line.  She also told the story of her life, and the dramatic, first meeting with Miss Stone.  She then gave a very vivid description of the of the Turkish brigands, known as “Christian” brigands, who upon becoming brigands cut all human bands, and although robbers and murderers possess a great amount of mercy, as was shown when the captain of the band was sent to kill the babe, shortly after its birth, and upon seeing it, refused to kill it, but sent  the other members of the band to see and worship it.  The person of a captive is held sacred although if the required sum is not paid, the captive is murdered, the murderer being chosen by lot.


They were held for a ransom of $110,000, but were released for $64,000.


The lecture was very interesting and the persons who heard it throughout the two hours, were well paid. 


Mme. Tsilka goes from here to Cincinnati, and will remain there for eight days.  She is accompanied by her husband and one child.  The family soon expects to return to Bulgaria to again take up the missionary work. 


16 May 1905

Marysville, Ohio

Marysville (Ohio) Tribune, 16 May 1905, p. 2



For Lecture To-Night


Mme. Tsilka Will Relate Story of Her Captivity to Marysville Audience.


There was an immense crowd of people out to hear the lecture by Madame Katerina Tsilka, at Springfield, Monday evening, which the Press-Republic of that city characterizes as the most interesting and  thrilling story that could possibly be imagined. 


Mme. Tsilka, her husband, and their little girl, Elentcha, who was born during the six months that Miss Stone, the missionary, and Mme. Tsilka Were held captives by the Bulgarian brigands, arrived in Marysville at noon today, and are stopping at the Oakland.


At the Congregational church, at 7:30 this evening, Madame Tsilka will tell the story of her captivity and release to a Marysville audience which should fill the church to overflowing.  There will be no admission fee, but a free will offering will be taken. 


Mme. Tsilka Speaks only broken English but it is not difficult to understand her.  Her unaffected manner and the charm of her sweet voice is intensely interesting.


In speaking of her lecture at Springfield last night, the Press-Republic  says:


“It was better than Miss Stone’s recital of the captivity, for Miss Stone’s personal appearances not attractive.  She had told her story so often and it had been so widely printed that there was little new in hearing her tell it.  With Madame Tsilka it is different.  Her version is new and the charm of her manner wins for her the instant sympathy of the audience.”


The family has been in America for about two years.  The husband is a minister of the Congregational church and represents the American Board of Missions of that church.  They are preparing to return to their native land in the fall.  From Marysville they will go to Sandusky where Madame Tsilka  will deliver her lecture in Rev. E. A. King’s church.


17 May 1905

Marysville, Ohio

Marysville (Ohio) Tribune, 17 May 1905, p. 2

Story of Her Captivity

Interestingly Told by Madame Tsilka, and Baby Elentcha Appears Before Audience


Every seat was taken last night at the Congregational church and many people sat on chairs or stood in the aisles and in the rear of the auditorium, to get a glimpse of Madame Katerina Tsilka and hear her remarkable story.  There was an almost breathless silence during her thrilling narrative, which was so beautifully and earnestly told in Mme. Tsilka’s broken English that no one wanted to lose even a word.


Madame Tsilka was the native Macedonian companion of Miss Ellen Stone during their memorable captivity for six months, while held by Bulgarian brigands for ransom.  She was educated in one of the Christian colleges of the United States, where in 1900 she was married to Mr. Tsilka, also a native of Macedonia, and they returned home to take up missionary work among their people.


The story of the capture of Miss Stone and Mme. Tsilka in August, 1901, is fresh in the minds of most Americans, for the incident created a great sensation at the time and the papers were full of the accounts of the efforts to raise the ransom demanded, $110,000, and speculation as to the probable fate of the women.  Great popular interest was aroused later when it was found that Madame Tsilka , who had been married lass than two years before, and whose husband, during her captivity, spent the time wandering through the land from city to city, searching for news of the captives, had given birth to a girl baby while held in the mountains by the brigands.


Mme. Tsilka told the thrilling story of the capture, and of the hardships, the constant terror of being killed and at last, while facing what seemed to be certain death at the hands of their captors, the baby was born.


She said that soon after its birth the brigand chief came to their little hut, evidently for the purpose of putting the infant to death, for its presence and likelihood of crying was a constant menace to the safety of the outlaws.  Upon his arrival Miss Stone dropped the little bundle of humanity in the arms of the sullen bandit chief and his face relaxed into something approaching a smile, and it soon appeared that the whole band had fallen in love with the infant.


Mme. Tsilka gives the child credit for thus saving the lives of both herself and Miss Stone, for in order to cut the negotiations short, that the little one might not suffer any longer from hardships, the brigands reduced their demand from $110,000 to $64,000, and the latter was paid by the Christian people of the United States.


She told of the joyous excitement of their releases from captivity, how she and Miss Stone reveled in water and a change of clothing, the first opportunity they had to remove the clothing they had worn for the six months of their captivity; how they enjoyed the food that was so great a constrast with their mountain fare; how they could have wept for joy at the comfort of once more sleeping in a bed, between sheets, and how, so great had been the power of habit, they found upon awakening, the first morning after being released, that both had gone to bed with their shoes on.


The speaker was telling of how she had met her husband, he almost overcome with joy at finding her again, how he caught up the baby girl he had never seen, and how she clasped the child to her beast with a prayer and feeling of thankfulness she had never known before – and just at that moment there was a patter of childish feet in the aisle.  A dainty little girl dressed in white, with a big bow of red ribbon in her hair that set off her dark complexion, laboriously climbed onto the pulpit platform and ran into her mother’s arms.  It was Baby Elencha, and the audience half rising to its feet to catch sight of her applauded and waved handkerchiefs until the latter were required to do service in another direction, for half of the people were in tears.


The child, now three years and four months old, had come in the rear of the church with her father.  The mother caught up the baby and held her while she finished her address.  Someone in the audience called for the father and he responded by appearing on the platform and making a few remarks.


The simple lecture and its dramatic close was effective and touching, and rarely has a Marysville audience seemed so pleased.  This satisfaction was visibly expressed in a liberal free will offering, which was made to assist Rev. and Mrs. Tsilka in their missionary work.


The collection amounted to $32.50, with which Mme. Tsilka was very much pleased.


From Marysville they went to Sandusky where Mme. Tsilka will deliver her lecture in Rev. E. A. King’s church.


19 May 1905

Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky (Ohio) Star-Journal, 19 May 1905, p. 5 “Mr. and Mrs. Tsilka Here”

Gregory M. Tsilka and wife are registered at the Sloane House.  Madame Tsilka is the young woman who was captured by brigands with Miss Stone a missionary several years ago.  She is to give a lecture at the Congregational Church.


19 May 1905

Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky (Ohio) Star-Journal, 20 May 1905, p. 3 “Kindness To Brigand Chief Save Her Babe’s Life; Madame Tsilka, in An Interesting Lecture at Congregational Church, Told of Her Thrilling and Trying Experiences.”

Madame Tsilka, the Macedonian woman who was captured by the brigands with Miss Stone, the missionary, delivered an interesting talk at the Congregational church Friday evening.  With here were her husband and three-yea,r-old child, who was born during their stay with the brigands in the mountains of  Macedonia.


Madame Tsilka spoke with a very broad foreign accent, but it did not interfere with a perfect understanding of what she said. She told of the varied experiences of herself and Miss Stone during their 6 months' captivity.  During all that time no chance was given the women to even change their clothes.   No injury of any kind was offered by the brigands and they treated the women with every courtesy that the situation would warrant.  The brigands were simply after the ransom money. Their travels over the mountains were all by night and during the day they were kept hidden in sheep folds without any roof in many instances,


The child’s life was undoubtedly saved in an unusual manner. Madame Tsilka had been to the United States prior to her capture by the brigands and while here had been in a nursing training school.  Soon after their capture by the brigands, the captain of the band fell over a steep embank-ment and injured one ankle so that lie would have been a serious impediment to the progress of the band.  The rule among the brigands required that an injured member should be put to death for fear of his being captured and thereby betraying the entire band under torture to which he would be submitted..  Madame Tsilka's hospital training here became valuable and she cared for the injured brigand so that he did not have to pay the usual penalty for his injury.  In fact she really saved the captain's life.


When her baby was born it too became an impediment and nuisance to the hand of brigands.  That is would have been killed was certain, but for the inter-ference of the captain, who in return for the kindness shown him by Madame Tsilka, interfered in behalf of the child and saved the baby’s life.


Madame Tsilka’s talk was entirely a recount of her personal experience and she gave no indication as to her future plans.


? Jun 1905

?Ashtabula, Ohio

Bellefontaine (Ohio) Weekly Examiner, 7 Jul 1905,    p. 5  “Ellenche at Chautauqua”

Ashtabula, Ohio, July l. --Ellenche Tsilka, the little girl who was born while her mother and Miss Stone were captives among the Bulgarian brigands, is now nearly three and a half years old . When she came to the United States with her parents, which is about two years ago, she was but 16 months old. She is perfectly healthy and always cheerful.  “Ellenche" means "Little Ellen." By the brigands she was called "Little Good Luck." It will be remembered that in the arms of a brigand she led the way during the memorable night marches.


Little Ellen began to walk when 11 months old, and could talk at a year and four months.  She early learned a few words, not only of Bulgarian, but also of Albanian, Turkish and English. Now, how-ever, she speaks English exclu-sively, and whenever her papa and mamma converse in their native tongue she is quite disgusted, and insists that they talk her language. Ellen has traveled ever since she was 3 days old, and enjoys it hugely. She has no fear of an audience, either large or small. When she goes upon the platform with her mamma she looks eagerly about until she sees some little boy or girl of her own age.


A few nights ago Ellen came up into the pulpit where Mrs. Tsilka was speaking, and, when it was about time for the little one to be introduced she was missing.  She had slipped behind the church organ, and was found only after a childish voice had called out “Peek-a-boo"


5-10 Jul 1905

Baltimore, Md.

Record of Christian Work, vol. 24, no. 8 (Aug 1905), p. 586-587.

The Twenty-second International Christian Endeavor Convention was held at Baltimore, July 5-10…Another very interesting meeting was that devoted to “The Brotherhood of Christian Endeavor.”  The addresses were all necessarily brief, but the occasion testifies to the widespread influence of the movement…Macedonia [was represented] by Mrs. Katrina Tsilka.


21 Jul 1905

Bellefontaine, Ohio

Bellefontaine (Ohio) Weekly Examiner, 5 May 1905,    p. 1  “Chautauqua Program Made”

“Sunday, July 21.  This is the closing day and will be marked by the appearance of Madame Tsilka and her baby which is now about 3 years old.  Madame Tsilka is a native of Macedonia and after studying in America went back to her native country as a Missionary and was with Ellen Stone, the American Missionary, taken into captivity under awful privations that her child was born and her story is intensely interesting.” 


August 1905

Clay Center, Mo.

Kansas City (Mo.) Star, 22 Jul 1905, p. 4

“The Clay Center Chautauqua assembly next month will have for its speakers such distinguished reformers as Richmond P. Hobson, Frank Nelson of Lindsborg and Mme. Tsilka and her baby.”


7 Oct 1905

Gardner, Mass.

Fitchburg (Mass.) Sentinel, 7 Oct 1905, p. 5 “Gardner News”

“Madam Tsilka, who was captured with Miss Ellen Stone by the Bulgarian bandits some years ago, will speak in the Congregational church, Sunday night, under the auspices of the Woman’s Missionary society.  Mr. and Mrs. Tsilka are to sail for their native land, Oct. 13.”