- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Edwin Munsell Bliss


Note from the administration of the page numbering is preserved, so the book can be used for quoting. Also we did our best to keep the layout as close to the original as possible.

[page 502]



The General Situation — Absolute Destitution — Appeals to America and England — Work in the Sassun Region — Van and Dr. Kimball — Appeals following the Greater Massacres — Clara Barton and the Red Cross — Opposition of the Turks — Letter from Van — After the Massacre in Harput — Suffering in the Villages — Appeal for Help.

NO one can fully understand what these massacres have meant to the Armenian people who does not understand their manner of life; and no one can understand that manner of life by mere description. It must be seen and experienced. A few general remarks, however, will assist. In the first place it must be remembered that there is absolutely no system anywhere in Turkey of banking by which savings can be put aside. Whatever of money is accumulated is immediately invested in land or business, is loaned out or is hoarded. As a matter of fact there is comparatively little of either done by the great mass of the peasantry. The tax-gatherers understand perfectly how much each man’s property is worth, how much the harvest will bring, how much clothing and house furniture he has, and for centuries have made it their particular business to see that it will not so develop as to give him exceptional power. The fact that the general communities have been as prosperous as they have been is, in view of all the circumstances, a marvelous


tribute to their industry and thrift. For the most part, how-ever, all have lived a hand to mouth existence, managing through the summer and autumn to secure enough provision to keep body and soul together through the winter, and starting in on the spring with almost no supplies. Their clothing is of the very simplest; heavy, coarse cloth and cloaks of sheep’s wool. The house-furniture is almost nothing; a few quilts, an occasional mattress, a small table or two, a few pots and kettles, sum up the entire property of the great mass of the peasantry in the villages. In the towns and cities proportionately it is scarcely better. True, the Armenians have had the trade of the entire empire practically in their hands, yet it was rare that they could secure more than a bare living. The collection of debts was almost impossible, especially from Moslems. They were subject to all manner of injustice. On the slightest pretext the municipal authorities would enter in and confiscate anything they chose. In the towns there was possible a certain amount of investment in the way of loans, but most usurious rates of interest were charged, all the way from twelve per cent, per annum to five per cent, per month. The risk, however, was proportionate and many a man was happy if he secured enough of his principal, and enough of his interest together to give him a very slight income. The house-furnishing was more elaborate than in the villages, but by no means such as would be considered even comfortable in this country. A few merchants lived well, but the great mass of artisans and tradesmen were poor with a poverty that is scarcely known even in the slums of our great cities. Under such circumstances, to destroy the homes and furniture, the shops and their merchandise, was in itself a most terrible loss. It left


the people without capital or trade, without the means of everyday life. When to this was added the wholesale massacre of men — the bread-winners, the employers, the laborers — the situation was something terrible. Families without number were left absolutely destitute, with no food to eat, with scarcely any clothing, and in some cases with no clothing, with no homes to lives in, and with absolutely no hope of any support except as it should come from sympathizing friends. Add to this the general demoralization referred to in the preceding chapter; the utter despair as the result of the bitter cruelties of the Turks and Kurds; the terrible outraging of women, destroying the very essence of true womanhood, leaving perfectly blank horror to take the place of home life — and the situation is something which in this country cannot by the most vivid picture be absolutely understood.

It has always been to the honor of America and England that they have been in the forefront to relieve destitution, and no sooner did the cry of these sorrowing and destitute ones come up from every portion of the Turkish Empire than it met with a hearty response in both countries. After the Sassun massacre and through the summer of 1895 repeated efforts were made to bring relief to that comparatively small section. Many were provided with food, and a commission of relief was sent by the English to assist in the distribution and help on the general work. A Turkish commission was also appointed, with what result will be seen below. It would appear as if this was something that would appeal to all; and yet the distributers, some of them American missionaries, some of them English consular officials, found themselves constantly hampered by the opposition of the Turkish officials and, most of all, the Turkish Relief Commis-


sion. Objection was made to the distribution of relief, and when relief was given, the tax-gatherer came around to see that the proceeds of relief came back, first in their own pockets and then in driblets into the imperial treasury. A few paragraphs from letters written in that summer by an American will give an idea of the situation:

“ Dr. R. joined me at Bitlis and we talked with the Governor, who, of course, was very smooth, though I felt he had other things in mind. The promised letter was not quite as I expected, though the Mush Mutessarif seemed to meet us and Mr. S. (an Englishman), pretty cordially, and supplied us with a guard. Promised tents for the sick were not forthcoming, while people from Dalvorsig were in trepidation from fear of the Kurds and were being pressed to sign petitions of thanks to the Sultan, or, as a condition of relief at the hands of the local Mutessarif, who ended his words by saying that if they did not sign such a paper, he would set the ruffians upon them to extermination. So, with Mr. S., I went down to see the Mush Governor, having in mind also to hasten on the supplies for the sick.

“ But, as might be expected, jealousy of the government, local and general — at Mush and Constantinople — leads to throwing about us all possible hindrances. The guard supplied, two men, speak Armenian. One of them is chief secretary of the Mush police, and boasts that he is sent with us to spy out and report all our doings. Of course, we are doing nothing we are ashamed to have him know, only we had put in our protest against two men nominally being supplied when but one, came and he with no gun and deputized from his government to serve as a spy for its purpose, while our men have to feed and serve him.


“ We reached here the 12th inst., and soon put ourselves in communication with the Turkish Relief Commission, composed of five members, two of them Christians — calling on them the day we came. They returned our call the next morning and seemed provoked to good works, as we hoped, claiming to be on the way to hunt out lumber for the buildings, in forests controlled by Kurds. The next day they assigned all of 44 ‘godes’ of millet to this village of more than 70 houses, making a gode to about 28 persons. When I was at Mush on the 23d ult, though I did not succeed in getting into the province, I pushed on a scheme of relief through other hands and inaugurated the sowing of some 65 kilehs (the kileh is 20 to 25 bushels) of millet, the near villages loaning two hundred oxen to help on the enterprise. The time set for the oxen was ten days, but the owners have been patient now for 30 days. The day after our arrival we got a few men at work in a small way on the old desolate walls, though there is but one person left alive in this village, and in Sennik, near by, not one. The commission has been sitting here these three months and, so far as appears, has done nothing, save to give out less than £400 of the reported £2,000 ($8,800) in its hands and distribute 185 godes of millet; not a sound of hammer has been heard towards rebuilding the devastated houses. The members of the commission draw 40 piasters, $1.60, a day (in a country where 25 cents a day is high wages). We have come to give free service for humanity, and they now act the part of the dog in the manger. On Monday I was at Mush and with Mr. S. called on the Governor, arranging matters satisfactorily so far as words go, but, alas for empty words and lack of good deeds in this justice-lacking land !

[page 507] INTERFERENCE.

“ They make their declaration that nothing is to go direct through our hands, though we may oversee — they are the accredited Commission to do the work, and why should we take the trouble ? To this we replied that we had come for work, not ease, and we alone must be responsible for the funds in our hands, just as they are for the funds in their hands, though we will cheerfully consult with them as friends and are willing to show them account of every expenditure, and they may do the same toward us. But they were implacable, boasting of written orders as to how work for all must go on through their hands. At first they suggested, and we accepted the apportionment of their choice, that they get up the lumber while we work at building, as well as feeding the multitude. This time Dr. R. takes his turn at the wheel, and has gone down to see the Mutessarif in company with the Consul (English), most likely to see what the fates are to evolve. There is hope the new Consul may arrive today, and Mr. S. had news by telegraph he could leave. This seems to indicate a bit of progress in the reform line, though the flying in the face of our efforts for humanity by the local government, backed, of course, from Constantinople, looks in the opposite direction.”

More encouraging was the report given by the Van Armenian Industrial Relief Bureau of its work during that same summer, under circumstances where the Turkish Government were unable to hinder as much as in the more isolated villages of the Sassun region. We give a few extracts, not merely to1 show what the work was and how it was done, but to give an idea of the need:

“ This province would be — if common safety prevailed — a great wool-producing country; while abundant cotton. is


brought from our near neighbor, Persia. This suggested a simple solution of the work problem. In response to appeals made in anticipation of certain future demands, some small sums of money had, as early as June, come to us for our distressed people. And on the strength of this money, and the increasingly urgent demands for help, a tentative and very simple beginning was made. A bag of wool was bought, weighed out into pound portions, and whenever a woman came begging for help or work, her case was investigated, her name registered, and she was given wool to card and spin. On return of the thread, it was weighed and examined as to quality: the woman was paid at a rate that it was estimated would supply her with bread, and she was given another lot of wool. The giving of two or three lots in this way was enough to bring down on us a crowd, and speedily we found a large business flooding in upon us — one demanding good organization and a corps of distributers. Cotton was added to our supplies, and all the processes and tricks of the two trades were quickly investigated, and every attempt was made to put the enterprise on a sound business basis. Infinite watchfulness was necessary in guarding against impostors, and in preventing petty thieving and unfaithfulness on the part of those who took work. The medical work had given us acquaintance with the people, and from our ex-patients we were able to select at once those whom our hearts had ached to help to gain a living — those whom sickness had forced to sell everything — and a good corps of helpers was soon organized. Men to keep the door — and it often took three men to do this against the clamoring crowd; men to receive and weigh the wool, cotton, and thread; men for the various demands of the Central Bureau. For the first two months the work


was accommodated in our house, in the rooms used as a dispensary, and we were in a state of siege from morning to night. The long lower hall was devoted to a row of cotton-carders, the twang of whose primitive cards, and the dust of whose work, filled the house from early morning till dark, while a crowd of wretched men and women were never absent.

“ The accumulation of thread brought the necessity for weavers and all the processes of weaving had to be studied with their peculiar tricks and merits. The demand was met at once by weavers who were out of work and in dire poverty. The thread was given them by weight, and the woven goods received by weight; and they, in turn, were paid with due regard to the needs of their families. Then to the children and some who were too weak and sick to do the heavier work, yarn was given to be knitted into socks.

“ Shortly, we found ourselves in possession of a good stock of cotton cloth, woolen goods for the loose trousers worn here, and huge piles of coarse socks. And the question what to do with them came to the front. The suggestion was made that this work might help and be helped by the Sassun relief work, by our supplying materials for distribution there. The proposition was submitted to Messrs. Raynolds and Cole and gladly accepted by them, and this arrangement has been the means whereby our Bureau could double its efficiency, thanks to having an assured market for all its produce, without affecting the said industries here, which, on the contrary, it should help.

“ Our goods are done up in bales here, loaded on donkeys or ox-carts and carried down to the lake harbor. There they are received by the miserable little sail-boats that ply the lake and taken — with prayers for insurance — to the opposite side


of Van Lake, a distance of some sixty miles. Thence they are transported by horses or carts to Mush, the headquarters of the Sassun Commission. The journey takes from ten days to two or three weeks, according to the weather and other exigencies of travel in this land. The entire distance is only about one hundred and twenty miles.

“ In this way we have already sent some 2,000 pairs of socks, and 1,400 webs of cloth, to the value of £ T. 216 ($950). A good market can be had here in Van for all our products, and, indeed, we have sold enough here to bring our total sales up to £ T. 258 ($1,156). But selling here has the disadvantage of bringing down the price of goods and injuring the poor producers, while, on the contrary, our trade with Sassun has had the incidental advantage of advancing the price and thus helping the community by so much.”

The total number of workers is as follows:

Spinners of Cotton and Wool . . . . . . . . . . . 373
Weavers of Cotton Goods . . . . . . . . . . . 49
Weavers of Woolen Goods . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Weavers of Carpets . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Carders . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Spindle Rillers . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Sizers . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Weighers, Door-tenders, etc . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Total . . . . . . . . . . . 476

With the greater massacres that followed the disturbance in Constantinople and Trebizond, there broke upon the Christian world a revelation of horror and of terror that was even greater than any previous. From every side came the most piteous appeals to the Christian world. Language itself seemed to fail in telling of the situation, and many a sturdy


man and high-hearted woman felt absolutely helpless as they looked out over the plains, into the villages and along the streets of the most prosperous cities, and saw starvation and death staring hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children in the face. Some conception can be gathered from the paragraphs in the preceding chapters. Those need not be repeated here. It is sufficient here to say that everywhere throughout England and America there was a prompt and cordial response. We have to do especially with the work in this country. Committees were formed in a great many cities and Armenian relief associations of one kind and another were organized. Armenian Sundays were observed by many churches; collections were taken in churches, Sunday-schools, colleges, societies and mass-meetings; journals opened their columns for relief subscriptions; individuals collected funds privately; Armenians throughout the country contributed from their slender resources; and the money was forwarded promptly to the field.

The question immediately arose as to how this money should be distributed. The first thought of everyone was the American missionaries. They were known to be disinterested, to be wise, to be impartial and thoroughly in sympathy with the need. But they were in a very difficult position. They were looked upon with suspicion by the Turkish Government, and to a large degree by the Turks themselves, many of whom felt that their influence was political and that their work was directed to the ultimate subverting of the whole Ottoman Empire. At the same time there was no one else. The absolute lack of banking facilities throughout the empire made them practically the only persons through whom relief could come. A single illustration of the situation is fur-


nished by the statement that the Armenian Patriarch in Constantinople when he wished to send money to his own people in Eastern Turkey was obliged to come to the Bible House and secure the drafts of the treasurer of the American Missions. Money sent by mail was never sure of reaching its destination. The Turkish postal arrangements were all at odds, and more than that, the reception of money in any interior city by any except foreigners was merely the pretext for the appearance of Turkish officials who sought to deprive the people of what little they had. Moreover, there were many sections that the missionaries themselves could not reach. They were under suspicion in their homes and traveling was almost impossible. For a time there seemed to be hesitancy on the part of many lest the money that was contributed should not reach the people who needed it. The proposition then was made most naturally that the great Red Cross Society should furnish its aid. Its record, not merely in war but in famine, was most noble. In Russia and in this country it has done yeoman service. The appeal came first from the field and from those who, ready and willing to do all they could, felt that the burden was heavier than they could bear. The appeal met with a cordial response and Clara Barton, notwithstanding her advanced years, rose immediately to the emergency and gathered her forces to join with those already on the field for the relief of the thousands of suffering ones. It was at this time that an effort was made to combine the different relief committees in this country, and the organization was effected of a National Armenian Relief Committee, with Justice Brewer of the United States Supreme Court as its president and Brown Brothers, the well-known bankers at 59 Wall Street, New York


City, as treasurers. Other organizations were invited, not to sink their own individuality in this general committee, but simply to co-operate with it. For a time it seemed as if everything was going favorably and Miss Barton was on the point of starting. Then came the well-known objection of the Turkish Government. Word was sent that the Sultan absolutely refused to allow the Red Cross to do the work. In the first place he denied that there was any work needed; affirmed that the stories of suffering were false, gotten up purely for political effect; and that whatever work was needed was already, being done through Turkish officials and could be carried out by the corresponding organization in his own empire called the Red Crescent. Miss Barton, however, and those in charge of the committees, were not discouraged. Appeals were sent through Congress and the President and in an unofficial way pressure was brought to bear by Minister Terrell in Constantinople. The result was that at last objections were overborne and Clara Barton and her associates reached Constantinople. From there they have spread throughout the empire using the means already at hand of assisting those who are overborne, and are bringing relief to the sufferers in all the empire.

To give that work in all its details would require a volume by itself. Erzrum, Trebizond, Bitlis, Van, Mardin, Harput, Sivas, Cesarea, Marsovan, Urfa, Aintab, Marash, are the centres. To them from every direction come in the anxious suffering victims of the most barbaric cruelty the world has ever known. From them go forth the streams of life to the thousands of poor unfortunates unable to leave even the miserable shells of homes left to them. Engaged in this work are noble men and women of high education and


the greatest refinement. It is is no easy task for them to meet the scenes that face them on every side.. Regardless of threats, fearless of disease, anxious only to do for the poor people, whose sole return can be a “ God bless you,” spoken out of depths such as are unknown in more favored lands, they stand at their posts clothing the naked, washing the wounded, binding up broken limbs and soothing broken hearts. Well did Sir Philip Currie, the British Ambassador, say of them, that in the great cloud of disaster and ruin, the one bright thing that stood out before the world was the courage, devotion and common sense of the American Missionaries. And now they are joined by Clara Barton, representing altogether that highest reach of American help for the needy. A grand company, an object lesson to the world of American Christianity.

We can do no better than to give extracts from letters from Van and Harput, describing the relief work in those places. The following was written in Van in December, 1895:

“ Dr. Kimball now employs over nine hundred persons, who represent over forty-five hundred souls who are kept from starving and freezing this winter through her efforts and the contributions of friends. Yet she has to turn away hundreds of applicants who crowd around her daily with such desperate persistance that she cannot walk from her workshop here without being fairly pulled to pieces by the famishing crowd. It can readily be imagined that this turning away of applicants is the hardest part of her work. Of this nine hundred the greater part are spinners and weavers, and are paid off by a native employe; eighty-six are sizers, carders, cutters and weighers, whom she personally pays off. On one Saturday evening she paid off these men and opened a new

[page 515] DR. KIMBALL’S WORK.

account with each between half-past four and half-past six. But since the beginning of the massacres of the last two months, her work has been trebled.

“ Some of the villagers, many in fact, were forcibly kept within their own boundaries, to starve. Thousands of others, in the scanty rags left them, toiled, hungry and half frozen, through the snows to the city. Dr. Kimball immediately undertook, single-handed, to relieve them. Immense crowds of the miserable creatures throng her court daily. She has the case of each investigated, thoroughly and with despatch, then registers him, gives him a ticket on the two bread ovens she has rented and runs herself, and gives him clothing — clothing which has been manufactured by her own workers, from the raw cotton and wool. To avoid being cheated and to give work to more needy people, she has a department which cuts and sews garments for these poor, which she gives out instead of piece goods. She has just started another department which is making bedding for the same poor. Thus in these weeks she has fed and clothed over 4,800. Every detail of the work requires her personal supervision, so you may understand why she is so busy. She has, besides, several surgical cases. Her workpeople beg to be paid in bread instead of money, so she wishes to open another oven. But just now funds seem to be gathering slowly in England, and fearful of debt, she has resolved to register no new cases till the next mail comes at least, with, we hope, more encouraging financial news. One great difficulty is the scarcity of money in the city. The governor gave out that he would open an oven for the poor, and several thousand were registered, but no oven has been opened by him nor ever will be, though he will get the full credit of such a proceeding in Constantinople and Europe.”


The following was written to friends in this country by one of the missionary company at Harput, and gives a very vivid picture of the scenes in that city, one of the great centers of relief work:

“ I never shall forget the moment when I first realized (after the massacre) that the clothes I wore and the change which I had in a shawl bag with me were all my earthly possessions. It was a good feeling, not only because there seemed to be just so much less to separate me from Christ and heaven, but because, surrounded as we were in that college, by 400 of our people who were stripped of every comfort, we could feel that not one of them could turn and say, ‘You cannot understand our sorrows.’ That first night and the next morning after the attack, when to each of us was given a small piece of bread for our meal, again there was a feeling of fellowship which I doubt not did us all good.

“ All honor to the brave cook who first dared to go out to the market and bring us something a little more relishing. It seemed to us a deed almost worthy of being mentioned with David’s brave men who brought him water from the well at Bethlehem. To be sure, every mouthful half choked us, at first, because of the mental strain upon us, but soon we appreciated the fact that it was our duty to try to live. We were, many of us, sleeping on the floor on hard mattresses, five feet long and three and a half wide. Imagine three of us occupying one, with half of the body resting on the bare floor. But sleep was good. It was the awaking each morning to a realization of the horror of our situation which seemed an evil.

“ When the mixtures of feathers, molasses, straw, papers,

[page 517] RELIEF WORK.

flour and canned fruits was cleaned from the two homes remaining to us missionaries, there commenced the work of making bedding and a very little necessary clothing, and gathering together household utensils. At first it was a grave question where we should get any money. The safes of the station had proved no barrier whatever to the greed of the plunderers. Few of us had had enough fear of an attack to try to save money or valuables, or, if we had, the fear was so desperate as to leave no heart to care for worldly possessions. The other world seemed too near for us to have any ‘ thought for the morrow.’ But it was remarkable how, little by little, the market furnished us, not only with money, but with supplies for all our immediate wants. I need not tell you how delightful it seemed the first time we sat on a whole chair, at a table, with a cloth and napkins and with a knife and fork and spoon apiece ! Nor what sleep was, the first time we stretched ourselves upon our beds!

“ As soon as it seemed safe for the people to leave the College and scatter to their homes, we who had been the touring missionaries, Miss Seymour and myself, hired one room where we commenced to have bedding made for the boys in the school. Soon it seemed evident that this was the beginning of a widespread work of relief for the sorely stricken people in all this region. The work has naturally divided itself up among those who were freest to take it in charge.

“ Dr. Barnum and Mr. Gates have stood at the head of the Relief Work. God bless them for their undaunted courage in the time of fear, attack and fire. God bless them for the inspiration of their faith and trust in Him and for their skill and Wisdom in dealing with the difficulties of our situation. Day after day, for many weeks, their rooms have been crowded


with people of all classes. Sometimes there is a procession of ragged villagers shivering with the cold; then again five or six Armenians of influence, now humbled and anxious; later, two or three Turkish officers whose present state of mind and heart we will not pretend to fathom. All sorts of things are wanted, from ‘ Akkul’ (wisdom) down to five paras (half a cent). One man tells how a neighbor has gained possession of his bed and won’t give it up; another of how a Turkish Bey wishes him to sign a receipt for eighty pounds which the former never has paid, and, if he does not sign, the Bey will
burn his father’s house ! Another comes to plead that money may be given to release one of our school-girls, still held in possession by the Kurds. A Turk comes to say that two or three of our horses have been found and he can get them, for a suitable compensation. Another comes to say that he knows where our lamps are. One man wants to rent us a safe, another wishes to get money and another to give that scarcest of all articles. During a quiet evening of rest at home, in comes a Protestant, full of deep anxiety for his sister in a near village. She and all her relatives have become Moslems in name through fear, and now the Turks insist that she shall marry her brother-in-law who has one wife already! A living death is existence on this earth, to such as these.

“ In the midst of all these questions which truly belong to ‘Relief,’ come long consultations about letters, telegrams, College work and funds. Dr. Barnum may be said to possess three tongues, English, Turkish and Armenian, which he uses, at will. To Mr. Ellis falls the work of giving out tickets for bread. He now has some 1,500 hungry people on his list. He also superintends workmen in tearing down or building up walls.

[page 519] RELIEF ROOMS.

“ Miss Seymour and I found the one room far too small for our work. The latter has grown, until we have taken the whole house. Immediately after breakfast Miss Seymour goes there to find the front room packed full of women and girls who have come to bring back the suit of underclothes each took the day before, receive her pay, the small sum of two piasters (nine cents), and take home a new suit to sew. Or, it may be wool for a pair of stockings, for knitting which she will receive nearly sixteen cents. Miss Seymour commences the work of the day by a brief reading from the Scriptures, a few words of comfort, and prayer.

“ Later I came from my Bible class in the Male Department of the College and we worked together at the Relief Rooms the rest of the day. Three other rooms in the house are filled with women who are cutting out garments, and bedding; sewing these; filling ticks with straw and quilts with wool; spinning thread with which to sew and carding the wool for stockings. We also buy cotton and send out to near villages, to furnish the poverty-stricken people with spinning and weaving. At first, it was a grave question how many whole spinning wheels and looms had been left by the vandals who had broken everything they could not carry away or burn. From these rooms have gone out over 2,505 suits of underclothes, 104 pairs of stockings, 220 mattresses, 302 comfortables, besides money and native calico for outside wear.

“ We have various kinds of helpers in the work; one, our Rebecca, a graduate of the College, patiently sits by us all day long, to write down the names of those who are to take suits and cross off the names when they are returned and paid for. Then there is the energetic Vartar, superintendent of all the cutting and sewing; she leaves at home each day


a little son and daughter, both wounded in the massacre here; the little boy has been a great sufferer, and has longed to go and be with Christ. There is Caspar, our touring servant, who now buys our thread and straw and runs on errands generally. Then Asdur, who was the first to brave the dangers of a ride to Mezreh to send telegrams to Minister Terrell, informing him of our condition, and who has ever since gone hither and yon to hunt up cloth and money, dive into Turkish houses after bedding and stolen goods, and carry and bring telegrams and registered letters. Then Giragos from Hoh, across the plain. His home, shop and fields he has been obliged to leave to their fate and flee here to save his life, or, worse than death, to save himself from being made a Moslem by force. His face lights up with joy at every good deed we call upon him to undertake. He found fifty-three refugees from the plundered village of Geoljuk, the other day, and was made happy by the privilege of dealing out a bit of money to each and one hundred and fifty suits of clothes to take back to the village. It is he who buys cotton for us, weighs it and gives it out to villagers and gives us the account. Then come Sitrag, Mardiros and Hohannes. The first fled from the village of Hoh, where he was preaching, just in time to escape the attack there. The second was one of our colporteurs. He was away at a village and was robbed of all his books and most of his clothing and came here bare-footed and bare-headed. The last is a preacher who, the past winter, was sorely discouraged over his work in a near village and became really ill over it, but is now well and glad to work for others. These three are constantly examining into cases needing relief and entering their homes to see whether the need warrants our incur-

[page 521] SAD-EYED WOMEN.

ring expense for them. We are often in sore perplexity over these cases. We are constantly in danger of running on the Scylla and Charybdis of severity and too large mercifulness. It needs the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove to do just right and then we have to run the risk of some criticism, but we know that this must be expected, and we do seek to walk carefully and to obtain wisdom from on high.

“ It would require volumes to tell you the touching incidents of this relief work. How many of those dear boys and girls in the College, whose bedding was freshly and nicely arranged for this term by a kind mother’s hands, were soon to mourn with her, she in some distant city and they here, the massacre of husband and father. The father and two of the brothers of two of our girls were slain in the massacre at Chermuk, which was one of the most severe and horrible of any place. About 650 men were killed in that small town where are only 400 Christian houses. Anna, the mother of these girls, was three times stripped of all but two pieces of underclothing. Finally a kind Turk told his wife that she would be much to blame if she did not clothe and feed that poor widow and her children. But, fearing worse evils, in spite of all the dangers from robbers and the journey in winter, she made her way here, where we have given her clothing, bedding, bread and work, and I trust, some comfort for her wounded heart. Her husband and sons were not even given burial. Our devoted Churkush pastor perished nobly testifying for Christ, and his wife also braved the dangers of the mountain journey rather than be separated longer from her eldest son who is in college here. We look into the sad eyes of these women and do not need to ask them

[page 522] FROZEN TO DEATH.

what they have seen. Oh! the depths of anguish which only one look reveals and yet they are so patient. God comfort them.

“ Another day comes word of an arrival from Malatia, a beautiful woman, with five young children. Last year she was inconsolable over the death of her husband from cholera. Now she tells in the most tragic style of those awful days of fighting; of the surrender of the church in which the Christians had sought refuge; of her discovery of some relatives after having wandered about alone in her flight to the, church; of passing out through files of soldiers; of God’s wonderful protection so that not a Turk or Kurd looked at her or her children for evil; then, with home and property all gone, finally comes the dangerous journey here and a shelter with her poor old mother-in-law, and our supply for her immediate wants.

“ A company of women from Palu came in, who fled from that place of horrors, because defenseless women and girls are constantly being carried off by Turks and Kurds and men are turning Moslem from fear. One poor woman, thin and white, her face almost covered with her veil, in true Palu style, but shivering with cold and nervousness, told of the death of her two-weeks-old baby on the road. The little thing was frozen !

“ A woman from a village on the opposite side of the plain is brought, just rescued from the house of a Kurd, where she had been held captive during the three weeks since the assault. She now works in our rooms and we have tried to do all we can to comfort her for her murdered husband and that awful three weeks, but never a smile lights up her face. More pitiful -still was the case of two little girls, sis-


ters, who had been carried off in the same way. A brother, fearfully wounded, their only protector, and he was not able to save them from the bitter experience so common in these days of lawlessness. More than one mother has brought her daughter to this city to be under our protection as far as possible, fearing greater evils than death.

“ An Oriental woman thinks more of her head-covering than of any other part of her attire. What rags of black kerchiefs now cover the heads which bend low before us until they kiss our feet to beg for charity. Other city women who clothed themselves in silk dresses and sheets, now appear in coarse, loose Turkish trousers and on their heads a common old cloth. They dare not do otherwise, for, if they appear in a shawl, some Turk is sure to say in passing, with a look of hatred, ‘ Ha ! you still wear shawls, do you ?’ The family comb, even, has gone in many cases, and for many days there was an indiscriminate borrowing of this useful article!

“ Very many priests were slain in the massacres and those who have escaped have been to us, from far and near, for bedding and clothing. They are exiles from their homes at present, not daring to return, lest they should be killed. To such we seek to deal most liberally, for we hope to show the true spirit of gospel love and to break down the wall of partition which has so long separated them from us. Henceforth we wish the names Protestant and Gregorian to be merged in the one holy title of Christian.

“ One man from a village where we have long tried to find entrance, but encountered bitter and unconquered opposition, pleaded for help most persistently. Finally I said, ‘ Brother, I do not know you; how can I tell if you are really needy ? If


you were a Hulakeghli, (a native of a village near, where we have had a flourishing church), I should be able to tell your name and your circumstances and to trust your word. Now I want to help you, but am puzzled; see what you have lost.’ I am glad to say that we found a safe way of helping even that dark village, and Mr. Gates was much pleased with the way money was distributed there by their own people.

“ Many have been the wonderful deliverances of our Protestant pastors and preachers. The preacher at Palu was separated from his wife and both were in the greatest peril. He was in hiding in a stable with his wife at first, when the Kurds came in and attacked and killed the men there. Baron Asdur, this preacher, was saved by clinging to two women to prevent their separating enough from each other so that he could be seen. Finally, during another attack there, they were all driven from that spot and he received what was supposed to be his death-blow. His poor little wife sat and wept over him awhile, then fled, alone, for her life, from one spot to another. A Kurd seized her in the street and said, ‘ Now you are to be my wife!’ He dragged her off a little way when she saw two soldiers. She pulled away from the Kurd, crying out, ‘I won’t go with this man!’ and placed herself under their protection (?), half crazed with fear as she was. A well-known Turk in the city saw her, picked up her shoes and veil and put them on, and took her to his house with the assurance that she was to be his wife! Poor child, she was joined there by many refugees and one of them who knew her soon said, ‘ Do you know that your husband is down stairs?’ She hastened down to find him, pale and ghastly, standing in the hall of the Turk’s house. The story of how they were ejected from that shelter, as the Turk’s life was in


danger if he protected them longer, of their appeal to the Governor of Palu, of another kind Turk’s lending them money to escape to Ichme (the wife’s native village, on this plain, and a journey of eight hours), and of his flight from there here, clad in coarse, old village clothes which he had picked up, is too long to relate in detail. He was not safe in Ichme, since our pastor, the priest, and many of the chief men had become martyrs and others left alive had become Moslems. The sequel was that Sara followed him here; we gave them clothing and bedding, and a small salary was continued. A babe was born to them soon after they were nicely settled, but Sara lived only a few days, and one of the works of relief done, by willing, sympathizing hands, was to buy cloth for the burial dress, and for the lining to the outside and inside of the plain wooden box in which her tired body was laid to rest. In a couple more days he buried his old mother, who had fled from the fearful attack on Hueli, another village on the plain.

“ There is a famine of the Word of God in our field, for thousands of Bibles and Testaments in cities and villages have been trodden under foot, torn to shreds, or thrown into the fire to burn; and one of the most touching questions asked us in our Relief Rooms is, ‘ Haven’t you a Bible to give me ? We long, for a Bible.’ We have to tell them that all the great store we had of God’s precious word is gone and even Miss Seymour and I have no English or Armenian Bible of our own, only each a little Testament. So Miss Wheeler is superintending the printing by hand of packages of texts of Scripture, which are distributed with the work each day, and by Dr. Barnum and Mr. Gates to men who come to them. The boys of the school do this printing to earn their schooling.


“ I have said that we examined the cases carefully, to see if we were warranted in giving relief. It is true that there are thousands of cases we can never reach. It is also true that there is scarcely an Armenian family anywhere that does not need help, for with merchandise and tools plundered, with roads too dangerous for travel and public confidence all gone, what is there in the present or future to awaken hope ? How are those who are in these circumstances to live ? Another grave problem is the difficulty of getting money as fast as it is wanted. There is no credit. People cannot get their debts paid, or drafts cashed. In Malatia, where 4,000 Armenians and perhaps 1,000 Turks were killed, the £50 we first sent was divided up among the most needy and about 3½ piasters, or 14 cents, was given to each person, or 22½ piasters to a family of six persons — that is, about 90 cents. Remember that everything is gone, houses, bedding, clothing, stores of food, shops and merchandise. It is said that widows and orphans wander about the streets begging, even going into the market-place in their desperation, and there the Turks often stand and throw out handfuls of nuts, or crumbs of bread, and laugh to see the poor creatures scramble after them.

“ A party of travelers coming from Palu saw a company of people coming down from a mountain toward them. They proved to be plundered Christians, driven out of their homes into hiding-places in the mountains, where they were subsisting, on green stalks of wheat and such herbs as they could find. They begged piteously for bread. Who can describe the anguish of this land ! ‘ O Lord, how long!’ we cry. May God, in His mercy, move multitudes of hearts to give with rare liberality for these suffering ones. If we get these poor widows and orphans through the winter, what means of living


have they for the future ? Can we be too bold in our pleading that, for Christ’s sake, all who enjoy the comforts and luxuries of life will give until they feel it, for so pitiful a case ? Do you wonder, as we think of the blighted hopes for our homes and work, that we say, ‘Is the past a dream, or, is it the present which is the dream, and shall we wake to find the dear old rooms, the mementoes, conveniences, and old, loved paths of duty ? Whichever it is, I tell you that we are content, and only know, more and more surely, that ‘for us to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ ”

This story is simple fact, told by a woman whom the author knows well. He has been a guest in those Harput homes, and in the villages, has traveled over those roads, has shared with those pastors the services of God’s house. Let his own most earnest testimony emphasize every word of this record of devotion and of suffering, and add what force he can to the plea for help — help ere it be too late.


Table of Contents | The Cover, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright Notice, etc.
Introduction | Preface | Turkey in Asia (map) | Table of Contents (as in the book)
List of Illustrations | 1. The Turkish Empire | 2. Population and Languages | 3. Religions
4. The Turks | 5. The Kurds | 6. The Armenians | 7. The Greeks | 8. Other Oriental Churches
9. Rise and Decline of Ottoman Power | 10. Turkey and Europe | 11. Russia and Turkey
12. Mahmud II | 13. Reform and Progress | 14. Treaties of Paris and Berlin
15. Condition of the Christians | 16. The Turkish Government | 17. Protestant Missions in Turkey
18. The Armenian Question | 19. General Situation in 1894 | 20. The Sassun Massacre
21. Politics and Massacre at Constantinople | 22. Massacres at Trebizond and Erzrum
23. Massacres in Harput District | 24. Aintab, Marash and Urfa | 25. Character of the Massacres
26. Religious Persecution | 27. Relief Work | 28. Partition of Turkey | 29. America and Turkey
30. General Survey | Alphabetical Index


Source: Bliss, Rev. Edwin Munsell . Turkey and the Armenian Atrocities. Edgewood Publishing Company , 1896
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

See also:

J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris, Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia
Helen Davenport Gibbons, The Red Rugs of Tarsus
Maj. General James G. Harbord Conditions in the Near East: Report of the American Military Mission to Armenia

Design & Content © Anna & Karen Vrtanesyan, unless otherwise stated.  Legal Notice