Dr. Thom was educated
at Rush Medical College in America, graduating in 1874. He was an
American citizen of Scottish birth. He sailed from New York on
September 23, 1874, and arrived in Mardin in November of that year.
Only three times
during his long missionary career, did he take furloughs in America, but
only for a year or less each time. His first return to the U.S. was
from September 4, 1885 – September 16, 1886. His second landing in New
York was December 22, 1895; he stayed in America until September 1896.
The third time he returned to Montreal on September 7, 1907 and returned
to Turkey on July 18, 1908. Over forty years were given were given to
medical and missionary work in Mardin, and they were years full of
service. No records are available of his entire life and service there,
but during the first twenty-six years he treated over 290,000 patients,
or over 11,000 per year. After he got a hospital building in the
nineties, he had a large number of surgical cases also. But he was
chiefly a physician. Most of his surgical cases were for lithotomy.
He gained a fine use
of the Arabic language and was very successful in personal work for
souls. His practice covered a wide range of country as well as in the
hospital and city of Mardin. He was often called long distances to
minister to some missionary colleague.
life was full of interesting incidents. He was on good terms with
Turkish officials as well as with Armenian and Syrian peasants. On one
occasion he was decorated by the Turkish government ‘for long and
faithful services in Mardin, also for services in Diyarbakir during the
cholera epidemic in 1894.’
One night in March,
1912, he saw a light in his office after he had left it. Supposing it
was an emergency case, he rose from his chair and crossed the hall. At
that moment, he met two men coming towards him. Suddenly they dashed
his lamp to the ground, and he realized they were robbers. He grabbed
one of them, but was struck down by the other, dragged along the hall,
stabbed in the neck and was nearly killed. However, prompt care saved
His first wife died
early in 1888. After a year and a half he married Miss Helen Dewey, who
had come out from America with Dr. and Mrs. Thom a few years earlier.
For many years during the latter part of her life, Mrs. Thom was an
invalid. She passed away in September, 1915. Soon after that, Dr. Thom
with Dr. Andrus and Miss Fenenga were taken away from Mardin by the
Turkish government. They were allowed to stop at Sivas. Here Dr. Thom
aided Dr. Clark in the care of the many sick in the Mission hospital.
It was while caring for the typhus patients there that Dr. Thom
contracted that dread disease. He passed away on December 8, 1915. His
two daughters were in America at the time, one of them having married
Rev. Edward G. Freyer, formerly treasurer of the Syrian Protestant
College in Beirut, a year before.
Dr. Thom was in
charge of a large Sunday school for a long time where some four hundred
pupils gathered under his inspiring leadership. He was fond of touring
and visited the whole region many times over, in spite of having lost
the toes on one foot by frostbite before coming to Turkey.
He was a man of warm
sympathies; impulsive and exceedingly frank in denouncing wrong-doing.
But the pupils knew his heart was with them and they took rebukes from
him that they would not have endured from anyone else.