- Armenian Literature, History, Religion in in Russian

Rendel J. Harris and Helen B. Harris



Armenian Women at Marsovan.

[caption] Armenian Women at Marsovan.

[page 249]



MARSOVAN, November 18, 1896.

DEAR FRIENDS, — After a very full Sunday at Sivas, with one very crowded meeting of men and women together in the church, and two Bible-classes, besides the little evening service with the dear missionary band, and a very secular Monday, full of innumerable last things, and preparations for our five days’ journey, we set out on the tenth from the shadow of Christian civilisation into our “wilderness journey ” once again.

But I was more highly favoured than I had expected, for instead of having only servants and zaptiehs as my companions, as had seemed likely, on the last day one of the lady missionaries who very much needed a change, Mrs. Perry by name, decided to pay a visit to Marsovan, and to take the opportunity of accompanying me, being protected in her turn by a Circassian cavass belonging to the American Consulate, armed with ornamental dirk, dagger, and pistol, and presenting an imposing appearance.

[page 250]

I had an onbashee (or officer over ten men) and a common zaptieh to take care of me, and they came all the way with us to Marsovan — a most unusual proceeding — and when they left, they carried away two good Turkish Bibles, which they seemed delighted to accept as souvenirs of our journey, and commenced reading them at once.

On our way out of Sivas we passed some very ancient archaeological remains — an old gateway of great beauty and interest, and later the sheet of water where the celebrated forty martyrs were frozen to death in ancient times. The road to Tokat is very mountainous, and the tableland itself, from which the mountains rise, is from 4000 to 5000 feet above the sea-level, so you may fancy how cold it is to travel over.
At Tokat we visited the tomb of Henry Martyn, now in the Protestant mission grounds. It cost some effort to do this, as we did not reach the town till the sun had set, and then it was quite a little walk. However, by the fading light I deciphered the inscription to the memory of this pioneer of the faith, thanking God that “such as he had lived and died.” We brought the native Protestant pastor back to our khan with us and gave him the best dinner, humble as it was, that I expect he had had for some time (I do not wish to be boastful, but as I made the toast and scrambled the eggs myself, I enjoyed his appreciation of them very especially, he being just then rather overworked and unable for native food).

Three days out of our five of travel we were twelve and thirteen hours on the road, and as it was considered much safer to be out in the dark early rather than late,

[page 251]

we started two or three hours before daybreak, rising by 2 A.M. One night our men were so anxious to be in time, they had the oatmeal and hot milk for coffee ready at 12.30, and routed poor Mrs. Perry up at that hour. We each of us had our own araba or waggon to travel in, and when once started I wrapped up and took another nap, that is, when the bitter, bitter cold permitted, which was by no means always. My dear horse came with us, and both Mrs. Perry and I rode him for many hours each day, and so varied the mode of travel; and to Mrs. Perry I have now sold him, and have the pleasure of thinking that he will remain in the Lord’s work and in loving hands, and I hope in time he may become quite “a changed character,” though indeed, when “on the road ” and in full work, no one could wish for a better or gentler horse.

Our last day’s journey was marked by a very special mercy. It had rained heavily the day and night previously, and the roads were difficult in consequence. We, however, proceeded across the plain by a usual short cut, and had just got through some bad mud-holes, when a young man from Marsovan on his way to Amasia met us, and said we could proceed no further on that road without being mired; so he kindly led us some distance across country, to the long but passable road which finally brought us to our journey’s end two hours late; and you may think how grateful we were that he met us where he did, and prevented we know not how much trouble.

About an hour from Marsovan nearly all the missionary station met us, two gentlemen and one lady on horse-

[page 252]

back, and a carriage full besides. These dear missionary-people know how to give a good and beautiful welcome to weary travellers, I assure you, and I had the joy of being welcomed, not only as such by these kind friends, but specially for my husband’s sake, by those who were here when he passed through.

Marsovan is a beautifully situated town, at the foot of a range of mountains, now all covered with snow, while the trees around it are still green. The college premises are the finest we have visited in this country, quite equal, I think, to Robert College itself. There is a large staff of missionaries here, and a fine efficient staff of native professors as well, who can converse fluently in English. All of them came together to call on me yesterday, and we had a very interesting time, and I found the Greek professor had been in Athens the time E. and I were there, and knew Mr. Kalopithakes, Professor Morkos, and other friends; and others had travelled in Europe and America.

The Protestant Church also sent a deputation to call on me, of seven or eight brethren, equally friendly, but all so anxious for good news, and assurances from me for their people. Oh! if only I had had the power to give them!

Here as elsewhere there are tales of distress and heroism of massacre days to hear, and much prospective suffering this winter for want of food, to try to alleviate. I am leaving my “ last penny ” here, metaphorically speaking, and shall send some more from Constantinople, as also to Sivas, if I find any awaiting me there.

[page 253]

I have heard of some very beautiful incidents here, of heroism and Christian fortitude and faith, which I shall save up to tell you when I return (as they would be quite too long to write).

On Sunday the 15th — anniversary of the massacre — I had a meeting with the 120 dear bright girls of the Girls’ College, who, under their most kind and efficient teachers, Miss Gage and Miss Willard, are a credit to the Mission; and to-day, Wednesday, I am to have a women’s meeting in the church, and to-morrow we leave, Mr. Riggs kindly escorting me in their spring waggon to Samsoun, as I leave my horse “Mardin” behind.

SAMSOUN, Sunday, November 22.

The beautiful visit at Marsovan will ever live in my memory as one of the pleasantest of my life, and was all too short and crowded. It is quite an ideal mission, with “ fathers and mothers in Israel,” and the young and gifted laying every power on the altar, and all the work is so divinely natural and cheerful, that it seems wonderful how such life and light can exist amid the surrounding darkness. I left most reluctantly as far as the mission station was concerned, though you know I would not delay in my home-coming a single hour that does not seem necessary from some point of view.

In spite of warm wraps and the spring waggon in which Mr. Riggs so kindly drove me to the coast (a three days’ journey of two short and one long day), the journey, between the cold and the jolting and the almost sleepless nights, was about all I could stand, and I counted every

[page 254]

minute almost on the last day, thanking my heavenly Father with a very grateful heart that it was the last day, for I felt as if another would be impossible (doubtless an exaggerated impression); but oh! how glad I was no words can express, to see the red tiles and white houses of Sam-soun, and the black Black Sea, literally so from clouds, stretching out before me.

To-day it is beautifully sunny and fine, like an English spring day, and in the pastor’s garden here — we visited them after the service — his wife has just picked me a posy with geranium and honeysuckle and carnation, which is on the table before me as I write. It is a very different climate from that of the mountainous region we have left behind us, and a very pleasant change.

I am hoping to get off to-morrow, but am not sure, and a number of “Ourfans” bound for Brusa — from Harpoot — will, I expect, travel with me (besides some others). I may send you another line from Constantinople if I find anything special to tell, but I feel very near the end of our rather one-sided correspondence now, and I do thank you much, dear friends, for all your loving interest in and patience with, my rather prosy letters.

And so with love to all, and praying for a blessing on our meeting one another again face to face if God permit, — I remain, your affectionate, friend,



Edinburgh and London.


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