Genealogy of Caleb W. Lawrence & Family

The Great Fire of Smyrna or the Catastrophe of Smyrna was a fire that destroyed much of the port city of Izmir (then generally referred to by its ancient name of Smyrna in English) in September 1922. Eyewitness reports state that the fire began on 13 September 1922 and lasted until it was largely extinguished on 22 September. It occurred four days after the Turkish forces regained control of the city on 9 September 1922, effectively ending the Greco-Turkish War in the field, more than three years after the Greek army  had landed troops at Smyrna on 15 May 1919. 

Estimated Greek and Armenians deaths resulting from the fire and massacres range from 10,000 to 100,000. Approximately 50,000 to 400,000 Greek and Armenian refugees crammed the waterfront escaping from the fire and were forced to remain there under harsh conditions for nearly two weeks. The systematic evacuation of Greeks on the quay started on 24  September with the permission and cooperation of Turkish authorities when the first Greek ships entered the harbor under the supervision of Allied destroyers. Some 150,000 to 200,000 Greeks were evacuated.

The fire completely destroyed the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city; the Muslim and Jewish quarters escaped damage.  There are different claims about who was responsible for the fire, but there were numerous eyewitness accounts of uniformed Turkish soldiers setting fire to Greek and Armenian homes and businesses. (For more information visit

Caleb's wife Helen describes being evacuated from the College my American sailors:

"On Wednesday, the 13th of September, 1922, Mrs. Caldwell, Mrs. Reed, Mrs. Birge and ourselves were ordered to leave for Greece with our families.  Dr. Lorando and his wife and children also came.  Miss Craig, the American girl who taught the American children and lived with me, also came.  We went in a car, driven by a sailor and with an American flag covering the hood.  The road was strewn with dead bodies, and Smyrna houses had all the shutters closed and doors locked.  But looting was going on.  We waited in the American theater until we were taken aboard the destroyer Litchfield and landed at Piraeus the next morning.  Arthur Godfrey, of radio and TV fame, was a member of the Litchfield's crew." 

Below is the diary of Sister Grace Lewis, an aunt of Caleb's wife, Helen, who was an eyewitness to the event.