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Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris

LETTERS FROM ARMENIA


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LETTER No. XXXVI.

I. LETTER FROM H. B. H. — VISITING THE WOMEN AT ARABKIR : A MEETING WITH THEM — DISORDER HARSHLY QUELLED BY THE SEXTON — JOURNEY TO EGHIN : A ROMANTIC LITTLE CITY, RUINS OF BEAUTIFUL HOUSES : SAD TALES OF THE MASSACRE THERE, AND AT FIVE NEAR VILLAGES — THE BEREAVED WOMEN IN THEIR HOMES — PROVISION OF WHEAT, BEDDING, ETC., FOR WINTER NEEDS.

II. LETTER FROM MISS BUSH, EGHIN.

III. LETTER FROM MISS SHATTUCK, OURFA.

I

EGHIN, October 15, 1896.

DEAR FRIENDS, — As the dear Arabkir women were forbidden to come to us, Miss Bush and I adopted, during our last two days there, the other alternative, of visiting some of the most needy and worthy of them, on our list — a zaptieh accompanying, by Government orders. He proved himself, however, a very nice friendly young man, who helps rather than hinders us. At one of these visits the gratitude of the dear woman to whom I had given help (a young widow whose husband had been killed), carried her farther than anything I have previously met with, and beyond it I do not think the expression of gratitude can go. She not only embraced me, and kissed my hands and feet, but came back weeping, and, as I reclined on the divan, lifted my “reluctant” feet, and kissed the soles of my boots (all dusty as they

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were!). I tried, of course, to prevent her when I saw her purpose, but in vain.

Our Sunday was a busy one for some of our party, and in the afternoon Miss Bush and I held a meeting for women in the Protestant church, which was crowded to overflowing — a large number, Gregorians and others, standing. While we spoke they behaved beautifully, but afterwards there was a good deal of pushing and surging of the crowd (mostly to reach us), and the soldier and sexton interfered to preserve order in true Eastern style, and I must say, of the two, the sexton was the worse! The soldier used his sheathed sword a little, not severely, but the way the sexton belaboured the women with a stick, on back and shoulder, to drive them to the door, quite took my breath away, and made Miss Bush, who was commander-in-chief both secular and ecclesiastical for the time being, fly upon him, and with her own good hands disengage his from a poor woman, at the same time administering a verbal reproof of no mean force, I should judge! These native Protestant Churches are wonderfully in advance of the Gregorian in every way, and the pastors are generally fairly educated men, with Geikie and Farrar in their libraries, but I shall not go so far as to endorse all the sextons after this ! ! !

We had a very early rise yesterday, the 14th, but not so early a start, owing to the slowness of our muleteers, getting off only at 7.15, and it was just ten hours later that we came in sight of Eghin, after a beautiful but very fatiguing ride up and down mountain sides and passes, and at last for two or three hours along a defile,

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through which flows the Euphrates, or a very large tributary thereto; on one side the mountains rise in every imaginable variety of beauty, grandeur, and sublimity, and on the other, coming down in sheer precipices to the road-side, rocks and hills of many hundred feet in height rise directly above us, overshadowing our pathway.

Eghin is itself the most surprising of romantic little cities, buried amid its surrounding mountains in a sea of verdure, which yet rises terrace upon terrace high up one mountain slope, with occasional beautiful residences peeping out above the general bower of large and most luxuriant trees of many varieties. (See Murray’s “Guide to Asia Minor.”) The narrow but very clean streets are all nights of steps, or stairs up and down, bordered by these leafy gardens, and as you ride up and down them you see nothing but walls — with gates where each house opens on to the so-called street — tree tops, and above them the mountain tops. This remark applies, however, alone to the uninjured parts of the city. We rode yesterday for a quarter of an hour through one district, and have since visited others, where the walls were all down, disclosing ruins of the most painful kind, all blackened by recent fire. Hundreds of once beautiful houses are now nothing but blackened ruins, still showing, however (and in this different to Arabkir, which is but heaps upon heaps), in the Christian quarters remains of their massive stone walls, numerous and spacious apartments, and beautiful woodwork — one house now in ruins is said to have contained seventy rooms. What words can depict the misery and desolation of these ruined homes lately so happy!

[illustration]

Egin, since the Massacre

[caption] From a sketch by Mrs. J. Rendel Harris
Egin, since the Massacre.

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It is a month to-day since the massacre began, upon the wicked excuse of seditious plots in the town, of which there was not, of course, really the least trace, the only at all revolutionary Armenian having previously arrived at Harpoot from Eghin.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

We are staying here, as we stayed at Arabkir, on the Protestant mission premises. It is a fine set of buildings, and happily spared from destruction, though thoroughly looted and all the windows gone, and the pastor’s house robbed of every particle of furniture.

Saturday, 17th. — We have been here now three days, and have met many of the sufferers from the massacre, and have heard many of their sad, terrible tales; one or two of these I will recount.

The leading Protestants were, as usual, of all the Christians the most hated by the Turks, and were hunted to the death with hardly an exception, — some shot, others killed with sword and axe, and one of the noblest of all, who had eluded detection during the three days given for massacre, was killed openly by having his head crushed by heavy stones beaten against it, when he was in the street and supposed himself safe, after the massacre was over. “But you may not kill me now,” he said; “orders have come to stop the killing.” “We may no longer kill with guns,” was the reply, “but stones are different, and we may use them;” so he died.

One Protestant (a very intimate friend of the Harpoot missionaries, especially so of Mr. Browne, who mourns

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his loss almost as that of a brother), and a graduate of Harpoot College, was very rich and influential, as well as eminently good and useful to the town. He had in consequence long been an object of jealousy to some leading Turks, and was named to Mr. Gates, by the kaimakam, as the head of the (imaginary) revolutionary committee. When the kaimakam said this, it was very hard for our missionary friends not to deny it indignantly, knowing him to have ever been most loyal to the Government, and most opposed to any but constitutional methods of reform. (However, from prudential reasons they held their peace.) He was killed most cruelly, — first shot, then cut with swords and knives, and afterwards (some say-while still living, others, when the breath had just left him, and who knows which is true ?) a stake was driven down his throat with the savage sneer, “Here is your Beyship!” — a Beyship, or Lordship, being supposed to have been one object of his ambition. Those killed mostly had their throats cut, or were killed with axes, 100 of which had been made by order of the City Council.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

One commentary on this rebellion, so “bravely” quelled by the Turks, is that not one single shot was fired by an Armenian, or a Turk killed. On the other hand a million liras’ (or Turkish pounds) worth of property was destroyed or stolen (for this was the richest of Armenian cities though so small), of which, it is said, £20,000 have found their way into four Turkish pockets, the heads of the Turkish community here. For the accuracy of these figures I do not vouch, but _____ brought the information to our dinner-table to-night.

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Five neighbouring villages were attacked at the same time as Eghin, and many were killed. At one of these, Pingyan, a number of women (fifteen) and girls threw themselves into the Euphrates and were drowned. Miss Bush and I have been out paying visits to the poor women in their homes here as at Arabkir, and these visits have been very much the same as those, though these women are of a higher social grade as a rule, comparable to our middle class at home. They receive us always in their despoiled homes with an outburst of tears, and generally Miss Bush is embraced as an old friend would be anywhere after such a calamity, and sometimes I am also. Then we sit down in what remains of the “seat of honour,” and they salaam us with great ceremony as if greeting us for the first time; others come in and do the same, and every one salutes every one else, and this takes a deal of time. Then, seated around us, they very soon give full play to their grief and anguish, and various terrible recitals follow each other in quick succession, emphasised by Oriental gesticulation. Then comes the weeping and wailing of many together, and then we put in our words, or Miss Bush does, exhorting to faith, patience, and hope, and then we close with Bible reading and prayer.

Many of these women have lost their husbands, and all, husband or sons, father or brother, mostly killed before their eyes. One dear woman, at whose house we were, had had her husband and two sons of 18 and 20 years of age killed. One woman had had two dear boys killed, and a kindly soldier who knew that their dead

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bodies were lying right in her path as she was coming down the street, called to her with real humanity: “Don’t come down that way !” she was just turning aside when another brutally called to her, “Yes, come; I have something to show you here;” and so she went. “Do you know them ?” he said. “Yes!” she replied. “If you who slew them know them, should not I who bore them ?” This she told us herself, poor creature. But I must not go any further into the details of this tragedy, or I shall only sicken you, when I would interest.

We have the great comfort, amid the gloom, of knowing that we are here with help in our hands, and that we hope to leave the town prepared in some measure to face the winter, the cold of which is already commencing. Prom the Friends’ Fund I have calculated that I can spend about £1500 here, and we are planning how to use it to the best account. Wheat is cheap now, and probably a good deal will go in that, and every needy family will have enough given them to carry them through the winter. The nest need is bedding, for the Kurds and other depredators always relieve every household of these necessaries, then clothing and firing; then I propose putting in the glass to the windows of the mission premises (all broken), to make it at once usable, and to do other things of the kind. I hear also that, while most of the Christian families have had their Bibles destroyed, there is both here and at Arabkir a large stock on hand for sale, and the pastor petitions us to buy and distribute those to the families who have none, which I shall probably do.

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We shall in these various ways find plenty to do for another week, which will probably be about the length of the remainder of our visit, and then our little party will separate, Mr. Browne escorting me towards Sivas, and the others returning to Arabkir and Harpoot. — With love, I remain, yours truly,

HELEN B. H.

Oct. 31. — Arrived safely at Sivas. I could not post at Arabkir or Eghin.

II.

Extracts from a Letter from, Miss Bush, also from Eghin.

October 24, 1896.

Everybody is in a rush of work this morning; a carpenter is in my room, putting in windows, by the kindness of Mrs. H., so that after this Harriet and I will not have to close the shutters on cold days and live in the dark, or shiver in the cold with them open. She also had the windows of the chapel all put in, as they were completely ruined by the Kurds.

Yesterday morning Mr. Gates commenced to give relief money, having been occupied every day previous with the making out of lists.

There have been daily morning prayer-meetings this week, but yesterday, when we saw that the men could not come, and also this morning, we turned it into a women’s meeting and had a great crowd. Mrs. H. speaks to the women, and of course I translate, and speak some myself

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after she finishes. Yesterday morning she spoke on forgiving our enemies. This morning occurred a remarkable coincidence. Just before our half-past six breakfast, I became fascinated with the 49th chapter of Isaiah. As I read the verse I love, “Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee,” the prayer rose in my heart, “Lord, grant that Mrs. H. may choose this to speak on this morning.” We saw that the Protestant brethren had not come, so Mrs. H. and I started, and she said, opening her little daily text-book, “I wish to speak on this, ‘Yea, they may forget, yet I will not forget thee!’” The Spirit was surely with us, for many women wept, and the closest attention was given while we spoke, and many afterwards crowded about us to kiss our hands and give us thanks. It was a touching sight.

Mrs. H. and I have done a little calling this week and seen many women. We had meetings with the women Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday, with very large attendances. I have felt as I went about, as if I was in an awful dream, and was almost stupefied with the sorrow of it all.

Mr. Gates looked pretty weary last evening, after his first day of distribution. The people are so importunate, poor, wretched, and sorrowful, yet they seem much comforted by our coming, and we are glad to have reached them so soon.

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III.

Extracts from, a Letter from Miss Shattuck to H. B. H.

OURFA, September 28, 1896.

Would you could see, as I saw last Friday on going my round, the quiet orderly schools without exception, the pupils studious and advancing rapidly, where at the beginning of our co-operative school work was but the old Gregorian system of studying aloud and general confusion. I could almost weep for joy at the blessing of God upon my honest though feeble efforts, and I know of your constant prayers. They will never want to slip back if this can be kept up through the entire year, and they really taste the better way.

I am so thankful for the gift of money for wheat for our needy families. Such happy grateful creatures would surely give joy to the angels in heaven. It is a great help, and I feel less anxious for them otherwise, now the “ staff of life ” is provided.

October 10, 1896.

The last mail brought a long-expected letter from Dr. Lepsius. He authorises our taking in fifty more orphan children immediately, making his number one hundred in all.

Do you know that your good country-people have generously responded to Miss Mellinger’s appeal, and sent us enough to supply the needy with bourgoul1 till spring!

We praise God for this special relief of distress we saw

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1 A preparation of wheat.

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ahead. Over 700 families have received their portions, and before the rains are getting it cooked and dried. It is so good!

Schools are in excellent state. Teachers and pupils full of enthusiasm; 1265 pupils enrolled. I wish you might go the rounds of visitation in the fifteen rooms and meet our eighteen teachers.

You see God used you for a great blessing to Ourfa, and we all praise Him for it. I wish to tell of our eighteen Bible-women and their work, but I am unable for want of time.

 


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

Acknowledgements:

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

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