Chicago Heritage: Assyrians in Chicago

Assyrians are an ethnic group that comes from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. Emigration to the United States was sparked by

Early Days

This is a lithographical portrait of Rev. Henry Lobdell, M.D., made by A.H. Ritchie. Rev. Lobdell was a missionary of the American Board at Mosul. He described being in Mesopotamia in 1852, in his diary, which was published in Boston in 1859 by Rev. W.S. Tyler, D.D. It was a tribute to the Assyrians—their traditions, life, and history.

General immigration of Assyrians to the United States began at the end of the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century. Initially, they planned to find jobs just to earn some money and to help their families back home. Gradually, Chicago became the main center of Assyrian immigration in the United States.

Learn More: Assyrians in Chicago by Vasili Shoumanov

A Family History (the Nimrod family)

Pictured here are Nimrod and Martha, Helen and John’s grandparents in Iran.

The Nimrod family, Anna and Joseph of Seeri Village, Iran, moved to America with their children Helen, Susan, and Joseph, at the beginning of the twentieth century. After some years of traveling through Iraq, Russia, Manchuria, India, and Italy, they settled in Chicago. When they reached America, another son, John, was born. Helen served for over 45 years on the Board of the Presbyterian Homes in Evanston. She also served as the member of the Board of the McCormick Theological Seminary.

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In the 1970s, she became a member of the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation and then became the president of the first Assyrian Service Agency to be open daily and staffed to serve the Assyrian community of Chicago. John served two terms as the state senator in the Fourth Legislative District and three terms as Republican Township Committeman. He was assistant to the chairman of the Illinois Industrial Commission, assistant director of the Illinois Department of Revenue, assistant to the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners, and past president of the Township Officials of Cook County.

Assyrians Today

In 1992, John Hosanna and his friends from the Assyrian American AMVET Post 5 began to collect money to erect a monument in honor of Assyrian-American soldiers who gave their lives and to those who served in World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Gulf War. Shown above is a reproduction of the article, “Veterans Hope to Set Memories in Marble,” from the Chicago Tribune on Monday, July 29, 1996.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, many Assyrians immigrated to Chicago from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey. Thousands of them flowed there after the Iran-Iraq and the Gulf Wars. Today, Assyrians live all over Chicago. The main population is concentrated in Rogers Park, Albany Park, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Morton Grove, and Des Plaines.

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There are more than 20 Assyrian organizations and churches in the Chicago area. Among them are the Assyrian American Association of Chicago, established in 1917; the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation; the Assyrian National Council of Illinois; the Assyrian American Civic Club of Chicago; the Assyrian Social Club; the Assyrian Academic Society; the Mar Zaya Assyrian Organization; and many others.

To learn more about the Assyrian community in Chicago, click here.