Hadjin, and the Armenian Massacres
The seaport of Mersin appears to a new arrival one mass of filth and perplexing contradictions. One
walks through the middle of streets crowded with porters carrying huge boxes and bundles on their backs, caravans of camels, laden or kneeling, awaiting their burdens, shop goods displayed outside of doors, peddlers of all kinds, beggars, blind or crippled, praying God's blessings upon you if you have mercy on them. Now carriages with the drivers shouting to the mass of Armenians, Turks, Bedouins, Kurds, Greeks, Jews and the few foreigners, all in their native costumes, to make way. We at once see that the occupant of the carriage is a consul or Turkish officer.
But it is astonishing to note how favorably one is impressed with this same little town after living in the interior of the country for a few years, for Mersin then seems transformed, for we judge everything by comparison.
Here we board the train, passing through Tarsus, the home of the Apostle Paul, and arrive at Adana, the terminus of the railroad.
Here arrangements are made for the inland journey. Our own caravan was composed of a Turkish guard, the mounted missionaries, and as many pack animals as the loads required. The kitchen utensils, dishes
and provisions are packed in a box, the travelling beds and bedding, trunks and valises are balanced on each side of the packhorse, and the cook mounts the smallest load which includes the food box.
The muleteers walk all day long, amused at us for thinking that they must be tired. If all has gone well and we have started no more than an hour later than we had planned, we form a very happy party.
For two days we travel over the vast Adana plain, but several hours takes us beyond the vineyards, cotton fields, lemon, orange and olive orchards and the day laborers at work on every hand. We hear
the jingling of the bells as the large caravans of donkeys, horses and camels heavily laden with cotton, wheat, and all the produce of the interior, meet, or follow us.
The country now becomes more rolling, and the fields uncultivated but covered with shrubs and small trees.
The Turkish guard insists that the caravan remain together and he is on the alert, for he tells us that this part of the country is infested with robbers. As we ride along we hear an unusual sound in the thicket and then see a heavily armed horseman riding towards us. As this suspicious character approaches we
recognize his costume and see that he belongs to the class of Mohammedans who are often farmers during the day—robbers at night. But he now sees our Turkish guard and knows that some explanation must be given. After exchanging salutations and a few casual remarks, the stranger assures us that
a camel of his has strayed and that he is searching for the lost animal, and again disappears into the thicket.
In this region we meet only an occasional traveller or caravan, and after six hours of travel arrive at Khan Derese, a soldiers' station.
This little building is rather dilapidated now, but the government constantly has two soldiers stationed here to protect travelers through this section of the country. This station is situated in the wilderness,
and the howling of the jackals is heard in the distance, while a visit by the wild hogs at night is not unusual.
The first floor is used for a stable where the horses and loads are kept. Half of the second floor is used for a verandah, the remainder being divided into two rooms. The smaller room is for storage as well as for barley and chaff for the soldiers' horses. Government officials, soldiers, reserves, mail-carriers and occasional guests are all entertained in the large room occupied by the two resident soldiers.
Although this is not, properly speaking, a regular khan (inn) the soldiers are hospitable enough to American travellers to share their quarters ; as they know ladies want privacy, the straw is pushed a little farther into one corner of the small room, the barley into another, and we proceed to prepare our evening meal and to put up our cots there. The beds are made as carefully as possible, for the chaff is thickly populated with the contemptible little flea, an insect always in evidence ; at best the bed is rather crowded before morning.
Usually, no matter how fatigued one may be, when the muleteers begin to curry their horses with their rattling currycombs at two or three o'clock in the morning, one is glad to vacate in favor of the little intruders and prepare for another day's journey.
Two hours generally pass before breakfast is over, the dishes washed, the food box packed, the cots and bedding put into their respective sacks and the horses saddled.
Yet we are always grateful for these accommodations for there is only one other place where travellers can spend the night.
In order to reach this second lodging we travel three hours farther. We leave the main road and after riding about half an hour cross what appears to have been at some time a river bed and then through a Mohammedan graveyard. As we approach huge and ferocious dogs begin to bark until all the dogs in the village unite their efforts in attempting to forbid trespassing and at times leap up at one. If the Turkish guard did not interfere and call the villagers to control their dogs they would drag the traveller from
As we meet the villagers and see their savage looks it surely seems that man and animal are partaking of each other's nature.
Here is a dark, filthy little khan. We ride into the enclosure and the doors are closed behind us. The dogs are shut out and we heave a sigh of relief as the khan keeper greets us and we see he is an Armenian. He
tells us there are also a number of Armenian tradesmen in the village.
Here one little corner is reserved as a guest-room and although other travellers and our soldiers each watch this coveted spot with an envious eye, it is given to the missionaries.
But alas ! the keeper has but one lamp and the chimney is broken. The nearest store is six hours' distant.
We search for a candle in the bottom of our food box ; but soon our host returns with a lamp-chimney telling us that the ruler of the town also has a lamp and has loaned us the chimney for the evening as a special favor.
As we ride away in the morning we are happy to bid good-bye to Sigetchet, hoping that we need never stop there again.
Armenians who are travelling must put up at this place and not at Khan Derese, neither are they ccompanied by a Turkish guard; so as long as Khan Derese extends its hospitality we gratefully accept it in preference to the other.
Leaving Khan Derese we continue our journey over the rolling country and we see the remains of an old castle on the mountain in the distance. That is where we hope to be nine hours later if we make good time.
Three hours' journey brings us to a number of large shade trees where we dismount for lunch in the shade.
The fields about us again show signs of cultivation and as we approach Sis we meet many at work in them, gathering oranges and hauling their drinking water from the river in tin cans. These are placed in wooden frames and put on the donkeys' backs. Many of the day laborers live in the mountains but
come to the fertile plain to find work.
If possible we always arrange, in travelling, to spend the Sunday here, as the church and native pastor and his family are always glad to welcome missionaries and have them take charge of the services. Besides, we are glad to have a day of rest.
Early Monday morning we continue our journey so that if possible we may reach Hadjin in two days more and spend but one night on the road. However, unless all in the party are good travellers we cannot make it.
There are three khans stationed by the way and although the first one is new, the fireplaces are not properly made and the rooms are dark with smoke. The courtyard in the centre is filled with loads, horses, camels, sheep, goats, Armenians, Turks. Circassians, men and women, all endeavoring to take possession of a corner.
Rooms are more plentiful here and the distinguished guests are favored. One might as well sleep in spite of the noise, for eyes must be closed as the smoke forbids anything else, and it may be a wise plan not to repair the fireplaces, for the khan is too filthy for any one to remain there at ease with their eyes open.
When the journey is made in two days this place is passed by. The second khan is far more acceptable. You might not feel comfortable in it had you not put up at some of the others.
The third is wretched. There are only two little private rooms, so called, and one of these has no door. The large central room is for the horses and their owners, travellers and herds and everything that happens that wayand needs protection.
The door of the small room opens into this stable so that the guests may be benefited by the heat the animals generate, and there is no outside door.
The room with the door is vacated for the lady missionaries but the larder, the cupboard containing a quantity of little things, our saddles, food box, valises and bedding all keep us company.
An occasional rap at the door informs us that the keeper must enter to get some of the things essential for the comfort of the family that night, for we are occupying their living room.
The board partition between us and the stable even permits the old family cat to go in and out freely through the cracks. A large curtain is hung over the partition to afford privacy, and one must be extremely tired and sleepy to secure even for a few moments an unconscious indifference to the surroundings. Needless to say, we prefer not to stay here when it can be avoided.
Leaving Sis we are at once in the mountains. The scenery is most picturesque as we follow the narrow mountain road by the side of the rushing and roaring stream.
We ford streams frequently and then ascend until the river is heard hundreds of feet beneath us. We reach the top of the mountain only to gaze about and see peak after peak rising before us and around us, and mountain after mountain that must yet be climbed. The river appears but as a thread winding about through the valley below.
The panorama is most beautiful. We wait until the caravan passes, for it is always wise for the riders to lead the caravan when ascending and to follow when descending. The horses and donkeys are sure-footed but at best one or the other will at times make a misstep, and in case this happens and the
animal and load go rolling down the mountainside, the travellers will be safe.
We descend the zigzag path and follow the narrow road that is cut out of the mountain. To our left is the perpendicular mountain rising hundreds of feet above and to our right, hundreds of feet beneath, is a deep chasm where the river rushes with wild abandon. This spot we are told sees the sunshine only
half an hour each day.
In the winter time it is often icy, but in the heat of the summer we appreciate "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."
We ride on and on, and as we again meet an unusual number of people, we are sure there must be a town near by.
We follow the beautiful river and enjoy the grand scenery and the majestic mountains, but notice that now nearly all the mountains are covered with vineyards, and ahead of us in the distance the mountains are bleak and barren and contain no vegetation whatever.
Winding around another mountain we get a glimpse of riders who whip up their horses and gallop towards us as rapidly as possible. Others are coming on foot, and soon we see crowds of people, and amongst them recognize our orphans from the orphanage with their teachers. Every one salutes us with a “Hoshgelden," meaning "You have come pleasantly," or " We welcome you."
We ride across the bridge and get the first view of Hadjin, and a few minutes later are at the end of our journey, having travelled over a hundred miles.
Fair weather is very desirable when journeying thus, for in case of rain, especially during the first days of travel, it is almost impossible to get the bedding dry again except as it is held before the fireplaces in the khans in the evenings or spread on the mountains in the sunshine the following day while we rest and the caravan waits for the bedding to dry.