- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris


[page 217]






October 22, 1896.

MY DEAR FRIENDS, — I have been asked by some of you why I did not give some account of the journey from Malatia to the Black Sea; so I take up my pen, rather late in the day, to satisfy your inquiries, and to say just a few words about the places through which I passed and the people I met. You will observe that this part of the way has to be written in the first person singular, and if the word “we” ever comes in it will be the editorial and regal “we,” with its affected and deceitful multiplicity.

You will not expect me to say anything about the difficulty of leaving Helen behind me; it is sufficient to say that she rode with me from the modern Malatia for several miles along the North Road, until we came to the ancient Malatia, the Melitene of Church and other history, an interesting walled city, whose ruins I had no time or heart to investigate; and under the walls of the city we parted,

[page 218]

as we believed, in the Will of God, with the good hope of meeting again before long, in the same adorable Will.

The road to Sivas lay for five days over a dreary succession of mountains. The scenery was quite equal to the average of what one had become accustomed to in the central parts of Asia Minor, that is to say, the rocks were limestone and the like, scarcely decently clad with vegetation, and very often as bare as the scalp of death, and blazing as if it were high noon on the Day of Judgment, as indeed it ought to be, if that day is ever going to materialise. Those people who praise the paradisaical character of Turkish scenery, and the speakers who perorate about paradises turned into pandemoniums, seem to me to cast the mantle of their laudations somewhat too liberally over the nakedness of the country. It is not a rich country; too often the interior is like the bare hills of Judea, a country decidedly not flowing with milk and honey.

I passed through very few villages on the way to Sivas. One of the most interesting to me was a town which I turned aside to see, named Khangal. It is celebrated for possessing a very early and valuable copy of the Armenian Gospels. I went to the church to look for it, and found the marks of recent destruction both in the church and in the ruins in the neighbourhood. The Armenian brethren, to whom I had unfortunately no introduction, told me that the book had been carried off by the Turks. That was true, but they did not tell me, what I found out afterwards, that the whole village had performed a three days’ fast, in order to save money enough to buy back their precious book from the robbers. Under such

[page 219]

circumstances I should not have been likely to get very far in the negotiations for the transfer of the book to a place of safety, and I was obliged to leave without having seen anything of the splendid volume. As I have already intimated, there had been plunder, and I think massacre also, in the village, but this is so common a thing that one almost gives up registering it.

At Sivas one strikes the northern civilisation; and from this point on, the scenery becomes more beautiful, the vegetation richer, and the towns and villages are more and more Swiss in their appearance. Pretty tiled roofs begin to appear, ornamental balconies, and the like. Then there is a beautiful American Mission, where we had the heartiest of welcomes from Mr. and Mrs. Hubbard, and from Mr. and Mrs. Perry. There is a British Consulate, presided over by Major Bulman, and an American ditto, whose head is Dr. Jewett. The French Consulate was, I think, vacant. From all of these we received the warmest welcome, though I think Major Bulman was not quite pleased with me for going to the American Mission as headquarters, instead of wrapping myself up in the folds of his hospitable Union Jack. I may say also that I don’t think he quite approved of the wisdom of my conduct in preaching on the Sunday morning in the Protestant church. But what could I do ? The city had been the scene of the most terrible massacre; the pastor of the church had been killed under circumstances that in many ways reminded me of the story of Polycarp. When I tell a little of his story, it will be clear enough that it was an immense honour to me to stand in his

[page 220]

place and speak to his people, even at the risk of some misunderstanding on the part of the Turks.

He was in the bazaar on the day of the massacre, and at the hour of noon the signal was made for the attack upon the Armenians. He fled to a khan, and being pursued, he, with other Armenians, took refuge in an upstairs room, from which there was no escape. Here they were first robbed of their valuables, and afterwards, by relay after relay of soldiers and fanatics, required to abandon their religion and exchange Christ for Mahomet. This was kept up until five in the afternoon, and then the minister declared to them openly and finally that he was not only a believer in Christ, but had been, as they knew, for many years a teacher of His Gospel, and that so he purposed to remain. They might do their worst with him, for he knew they did not mean to spare him. He raised his hands in prayer, and the controversy was ended by a bullet. “Give my salaams,” said the dying man, “to Maritza” (his wife).

Now, was not this a noble piece of Christian fortitude and simplicity? It made, as they told me, a profound impression upon the Moslem population of the city. Four of the daughters of that good man were sheltered at the American Mission; the two eldest were students of Marsovan College, and preparing to be teachers. Their mother I did not see; she was absent, if I remember rightly, on an errand of mercy to some neighbouring scene of devastation. Probably this was Gurun, where 760 houses were destroyed, not one of which has up to the present been rebuilt, such is the feeling of insecurity of the population. I may add that the Turks

[page 221]

refused the rite of burial to the martyred pastor; his body was thrown aside, along with those of the other Armenians that were with him; and of these, one that was left for dead recovered, and to him we are chiefly indebted for the account of the martyrdom.

Prom Sivas I reached Tokat, which is quite a beautiful little town, with excellent shops and khans. The Armenians are in the majority here, and there was no massacre. I had the opportunity, under the guidance of Miss Brewer, of the American Mission at Sivas, of visiting Henry Mar-tyn’s grave, or rather his two gravestones in the Protestant cemetery. The first of these, a flat stone, is the original monument to him, placed originally in the Armenian graveyard under the orders of Claudius Rich, the British Consul at Baghdad; the other is a more imposing stone monument erected by Dr. van Lennep, a former American missionary. The first of these monuments, a stone slab, was evidently inscribed by some one who had a copy to work from which he did not understand, for there are some curious misreadings in it. It runs as follows: —

C. I. R.
A.D. M. (D?) CCCXII.

I have underlined two stone-cutter’s errors (sb. for se., and eidel for fidel). The letters C. I. R. stand for Claudius

[page 222]

I. Rich. Notice Rich’s mistake in calling him William Martyn. Dr. van Lennep’s inscription is wordy and unsatisfactory ; I transcribed the English version of it. But it had one advantage. It told the date of Martyn’s birth at Truro, February 18, 1781, and the date of his death at Tokat, October 16, 1812, and furnished the information that, in the thirty-one years of his short life, he had translated the Scriptures into Hindostanee and Persian.

I mention these points, not only as information, but because I am afraid I have not always done Henry Martyn sufficient justice. The fact is that I do not appreciate the school of piety which he represents, and of which he is one of the few saints; it is a morbid school, and wanting in intellectual and moral courage. However, I see clearly that Martyn’s life ought to be judged by what was accomplished in its brevity, and not to be contrasted with the work or the failures of those who had a longer time than he to work or fail in. The Armenian Protestants have him in their calendar, as the saint of Tokat.

From Tokat I passed through Amasia to Marsovan, where there is the finest equipped of all the American colleges. It was vacation time, so I had no opportunity of meeting the students. Mr. and Mrs. White and Mr. Riggs received me warmly, and on the Sunday Mr. Riggs interpreted for me, while I spoke to a most interesting congregation in the Protestant church. Marsovan was very roughly handled, but seemed to have recovered. The money sent to them for relief had been largely spent in setting fifty looms going, and the sale

[page 223]

of the pretty striped fabrics which they produce had already brought in the whole of the money expended as capital, so that they looked forward hopefully to keeping the population alive through the winter.

At Amasia, which is a large and flourishing city, I understood that the damage done had been entirely met by contributions amongst the Armenians themselves, and that they had neither asked for nor received a penny of relief money. The Armenians have in many places helped one another nobly, but this kind of charity does not get into the newspapers or subscription-lists.

Marsovan College has, inter alia, a fine workshop, with excellent machinery, under the charge of an Armenian from Mr. Edison’s shops on the other side of the Atlantic.

You can see by these stray notes that the civilisation on the north side of the Taurus ranges is quite a different thing from that in the interior. We begin even to find Greek villages; and on the way from Marsovan to the sea there are baths with Greek and Roman inscriptions, which tell of the early development of this part of the country, and of the persistence, to some extent at least, of the ancient culture. The landscape, too, has changed, and the weather. The cloudless sky has been replaced by an overcast one in the English manner, and the clouds hang low upon the hills, and the wind had veered permanently into the north. When I first noticed this the thought flashed across my mind, “Why, this is Pontus, which Tertullian has derided in the opening of his treatise against Marcion.” Yes, this was the native land

[page 224]

of that great heretic of the second century, who denied the God of the Old Testament to be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the country where “the day is never clear and the sun never cheerful, where the sky is always overcast and the whole year is wintry, and where every wind that blows is from the north;” and to this gloomy country he compares Mar-cion, who was born there — “Marcion, more murky than the cloud, more chill than the winter, more abrupt than the Caucasus.” There is no reason to suppose Tertullian had ever visited the Pontus; his language betrays loans from some work on countries and climates. And certainly if he had come from the parched interior and the burning south winds of the desert, he would not have scolded so at clouds and the cool north breeze. So I said to myself that perhaps he might have also failed to understand Marcion, or knew him only by unjust and imperfect report. We would much like to hear Marcion speak on his own account; his message might be useful even in our day and generation.

Of the arrival at Samsoun and the passage to Constantinople and the massacre there, and the journey home, there is little need to write. As you know, I had the pleasant company of three American ladies, who had come from Van by way of Batoum; one of them is known to the whole world for her service to the suffering. Dr. Grace Kimball’s two companions, Miss Frazer and Miss Huntington, have also done good work in this painful and continually extending field of suffering and sorrow.  J. R. H.

[page 225]


Addenda on Progress of Rebuilding Villages near Harpoot.

(1.) Dr. Barnum reports (October 6) : — “You inquire about building in Hooeli (Hoo-i-loo, visited by J. R. and H. B. H.). The work is going on very successfully there, although it has been interrupted occasionally by the threats of the Turks and by fear. Permission for roofing-in the chapel has not yet been obtained, although I have given them some money for the purchase of timber, which is now very cheap.”

(2.) Mr. Hallward reports (October 6) that the work of rebuilding ruined villages (in which we have a share) has been going on successfully in his district. “I buy,” says he, “wood and tools for the villagers, and they do the rest. This has certainly been money well laid out. Kiabi, the village you saw, has been set on its legs again, to a limited extent, of course, but enough to give the people shelter for the winter.”


Further Report on the Eghin Massacre, &c.

HARPOOT, October 6, 1896.

Since the disaster at Eghin scarcely a person has come from there ; even the regular muleteers have not come. A soldier from this city, who had a share in the massacre, has come, and he was much affected in telling his Armenian neighbours of what had taken place there, especially of the heart-rending appeals of the women. Letters received by post to-day place the number of killed at more than 2500.

The proportion of men to the women and children remaining alive is very small. The pastor writes that in his service last Sunday there were 200 women and children and only ten men. I understand that letters have been received to-day from women in Eghin begging that they might be brought here, so as to escape the insults of Turks.

The evidences multiply that there was a plan for a general mas-

[page 226]

sacre, of which the affair at Eghin was but a part, but that it was countermanded, perhaps through the influence of the Ambassadors at Constantinople. Some suppose that it has been merely-postponed.

Hundreds of Armenians are arriving here who have been expelled from Constantinople. They are mostly in a very pitiable condition. They were not allowed to go to their lodgings to secure their clothing and comforts for the journey, or even to their shops to arrange their business. They were hustled away without any ceremony. The most of these men were bread-winners in Constantinople for their families here. Many of them, with their families, will now be dependent upon charity.

The Charsanjak region, to the north-east of us, is ruled and oppressed by a few feudal chiefs. They control the lands, the gardens and vineyards, and even the houses of the people. In many cases this summer, the tenants were not allowed to harvest the grain which they had sown. Their fields were given to others to reap; yet they did not venture to make complaint. Mr. Fon-tana, the Consul, gave to the Vali here a few of the names of the men thus despoiled, and an imposing commission was sent to investigate. The poor tenants, through fear, denied the truth. A Turk of the same district is building a large house, wholly with forced labour. This is the custom of the district, to exact labour without wages. It was one of the charges investigated with the same result as the others.


Table of contents
The cover and pages 1-4 | Preface | Table of contents (as in the book)
Turkish Armenia with Route of J.R. & H.B. Harris (a map)
Letter I | Letter II | Letter III | Letter IV | Letter V | Letter VI | Letter VII | Letter VIII
Letter IX | Letter X | Letter XI | Letter XII | Letter XIII | Letter XIV | Letter XV
Letter XVI | Letter XVII | Letter XVIII | Letter XIX | Letter XX | Letter XXI | Letter XXII
Letter XXIII | Letter XXIV | Letter XXV | Letter XXVI | Letter XXVII | Letter XXVIII
Memorandum: Notes of Information from J. R. H. | Letter XXIX | Letter XXX
Letter XXXI | Letter XXXII | Letter XXXIII | Letter XXXIV | Letter XXXV
Letter XXXVI | Letter XXXVII


Source: J. Rendel Harris & B. Helen Harris. Letters from the Scenes of the Recent Massacres in Armenia. London, James Nisbet & Co., Limited, 1897
Provided by: Aram Arkun, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center
Scanned by: Karen Vrtanesyan
OCR: Irina Minasyan

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