Daniel Bliss

Born: August 17, 1823 in Vermont, United States
Died: July 27, 1916
Occupation: Educator, Founder, Missionary

Source Citation: Dictionary of American Biography and Genealogy of the Bliss Family in America.

Daniel Bliss (Aug. 17, 1823 - July 27, 1916), missionary educator, founder, and first president of Syrian Protestant College (now the American University) of Beirut, was born in the village of Georgia, Vt. He was one of the seven children of Loomis and Susanna (Farwell) Bliss. His early lot was cast on various farms in his native state and in Ohio. His devout and loving mother died when he was nine years old. He spent his youth in the neighborhood of Painesville and Kingsville, Ohio, living with relatives and others, and supporting himself from the age of sixteen by farming, tanning, and tree-grafting. He attended the district schools and in 1846 entered the Kingsville Academy, studying and teaching therein until graduation in 1848. On Nov. 7, 1848, he arrived at Amherst College, Mass., in the middle of the fall term and was admitted upon examination to the freshman class. He was strong-minded, robust in physique, and a liberal in religion--testifying, however, years afterward that he "never opposed what he believed to be true Christianity." What modest debts he accumulated in making his way through Amherst he cleared from the proceeds of a private school which he conducted in Shrewsbury, Mass., during the summer of 1852. He graduated from Amherst in the latter year and during 1852-55 attended Andover Seminary in preparation for the ministry and foreign missions. On Oct. 17, he was ordained at Amherst, and in November was married to Abby Maria Wood, of Westminster, Mass. Receiving appointment by the American Board and being assigned to Syria, Mr. and Mrs. Bliss sailed from Boston on Dec. 12, 1855, for Malta, Smyrna, and Beirut. After a short stay in Beirut they left on Apr. 15 for Abeih, a Lebanon village 2,500 ft. above the sea, where they worked for two and one-half years among the few hundred Christian and Druse villagers. This was Bliss's apprenticeship, and under his hand the school which Dr. Van Dyck had opened in 1843 grew rapidly into an academy of importance. The Syrian work at the time was almost exclusively amongst non-Moslems, for while Turkey was tolerant of Christian missionaries, she did not guarantee immunity to Moslem converts to Christianity. For four years from Oct. 16, 1858, the Blisses were in charge of the Girls' Boarding School in Suq al-Gharb, five miles above Abeih. It was there he preached his first Arabic sermon on Dec. 12, 1858, and displayed further his fitness for educational work. When the Syrian Mission voted on Jan. 27, 1862, to recommend the founding of a "Literary Institution," Bliss was assigned the task and privilege of organizing and presiding over it. He and Mrs. Bliss came at once to America, where he took the first steps in the new assignment. Syrian Protestant College was chartered in 1864 by New York State, and began an independent career under its own trustees with Bliss as president. Enough endowment was raised to enable the institution to open in Beirut on Dec. 3, 1866, the aim being to serve "all conditions and classes of men without regard to colour, nationality, race, or religion." Arabic was the medium of instruction for the first seventeen years; thereafter, English. After existence in various quarters until 1873 the present site was occupied, where the cornerstone of the main building had been laid on Dec. 7, 1871. Bliss acted also as professor of Bible and ethics, and as treasurer. He was the active head of the College for thirty-six years and saw its enrolment grow from sixteen to over six hundred students. In 1902 he resigned, being succeeded by his second son, Dr. Howard Bliss,  but after his retirement he still continued his daily classes, attended faculty meetings, and preached an occasional sermon. A hall of the Beirut institution bears his name, and his memory is preserved by Arabic textbooks of his own composition in moral and in natural philosophy.

#00001 Thomas Bliss and Margaret Hulins of England and Springfield, MA
#00014 Samuel BLiss, Sr. and Mary Leonard of Springfield, MA
#00052 Thomas Bliss and Hannah Cadwell of Springfield, MA
#00139 Deacon Samuel and Mary Loomis of Brimfield and Warren, MA
#00383 Solomon Bliss and Martha Young of Warren, MA
#01059 Loomis Bliss and Susanna Farwell of Cambridge, VT
#02475 Rev. Daniel Bliss Abby Marie Wood of  Vt and Beirut, Lebanon