An American hero in Iran


April 20, 2009, marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Howard C. Baskerville, Class of 1907, a fact briefly noted on the op-ed page of Saturday's New York Times. Baskerville, a teacher and aspiring theologian, went to northern Iran after college to teach in a school run by Presbyterian missionaries. While there, he became increasingly sympathetic with students who fought in favor of the constitutionalist government, and eventually he joined the cause. Leading 150 troops in defense of Tabriz, the city where he taught, Baskerville was shot and killed by a sniper. He became a martyr in the town and remains revered by many.

In a May 2007 PAW story, Mark Bernstein ’83 described Baskerville's gravesite:

Set in a small walled courtyard amid apricot and almond trees, the grave is a plain stone sarcophagus carved with the martyr's name -- Howard Baskerville, a member of Princeton's Class of 1907 -- and the dates of his birth (April 13, 1885) and death (April 20, 1909). A hundred years ago, the site, in the city of Tabriz, was a cemetery and hospital grounds for Presbyterian missionaries. Whoever once carefully tended to Howard Baskerville's grave, and his alone, with fresh flowers, no longer does so. The Armenian man who lives in the adjoining house built the wall in part to discourage pilgrims, but Tabrizis still can direct a visitor to the site.

That it is the grave of an American and a Princetonian makes the place remarkable. That it is the grave of a martyr to constitutional liberty, and that it is still honored in the heart of a nation whose government is hostile to the United States and many of its values, makes it more remarkable still.

To read more of Baskerville's story, click here.