When liberty was proclaimed there were Mohammedans here and there who objected to the new government and in Damascus and Arabia many pious Mohammedans declared that the government had fallen into the hands of the skeptical, otherwise it would have been impossible to place a Christian and Mohammedan on the same basis. As time passed this feeling spread throughout the country.
The Armenians became alarmed and declared that the Turks were buying large supplies of ammunition and that Martini rifles were freely distributed to the village Turks and yet no Armenians could buy them.
This was contradicted by the Turks and their friends who declared that the government had decided that only the militia should possess this special weapon, which was of course quite justifiable.
Rumors continued to circulate until alarm gradually changed to consternation, yet many of us thought it was needless.
Easter was approaching and the American Board and Native Protestant Conferences were to be held in Adana.
As the American conference preceded the native, Mr. Maurer and one of the American Board missionaries started for Adana three days in advance of the native brethren.
When they reached the plain they wrote telling us of their journey, how very fertile the plain was and how prosperous were the Armenians.
The caravan bound for the conference now bade us good-bye. It was composed of the village pastors, the Hadjin pastors, their delegates, deacons, the head teacher of our girls' home, and merchants who were going to buy goods for their stores and who went at this time in order to have the benefit of the meetings. Many also took their wives with them. This large caravan which left us continued to grow in size as the pastors, deacons, delegates and Christians from the towns and villages along the way joined it.
Scarcely had the caravan left when the alarm increased yet more. On the arrival in Sis, the members of the party were surprised to find so much excitement, since thus far they had found no occasion for alarm, yet many begged them to discontinue their journey.
Although there was some hesitancy, they knew that the least delay would make them too late for the opening of the conference in Adana. They consulted the local officer with regards to the advisability of travelling, but he told them they need not go unless they chose, but there was really no cause for alarm. The pastor of Sis, the delegates, the deacon's wife and a number of merchants joined the caravan as it finally continued the journey.
A Turkish officer from Sis visited us after the massacre and told us of the above and that when the governor gave the advice he knew that the dreadful massacres in Adana had already begun and that the party was riding into the jaws of a most cruel death, but the governor told this officer, "I did not dare to tell them for I knew the Armenians would be alarmed and I am awaiting the arrival of several regiments before they are to know of it." This officer strongly condemned the governor's conduct, for he could have detained the party on any pretense, did he not wish the truth to be known.
Soon after liberty was proclaimed the standing army of Hadjin and the chief military officers had been withdrawn, and the chief civil officer also called away and no one as yet sent to occupy his place or perform his duties.
THE FIRST BLOW
Nearly a year had passed since liberty was proclaimed. On the fifteenth of April the schoolgirls were taken on the mountain for a picnic when they heard the Mohammedans practicing and shouting, “Long live our king."
Only two days later ambiguous telegrams were received. The one received by the Armenian prelate read, "The relief you expect to send to Zeitoun, send at once. Do not come here." Another received by one of the principal men of Hadjin from his son at the coast said, "We are alive but our children have died of starvation." This caused great alarm, for the prelate had no relief to send and all felt sure the message meant to ask for help and to warn them. The sender of the second message had no children and why he should say that they died of starvation when living on the fertile plain was obviously a veiled warning.
It was said that the judge (acting lieutenant-governor) received a telegram to the effect that Adana and Sis were in rebellion and that he should call in the reserves to prevent such a contingency in Hadjin.
On Saturday morning the Mohammedan shops were not opened, it is said, but the officials and other Turks were walking about the market-place anxiously watching the mountain road. Evidently they were informed of something, for the telegraph operator told us he had been kept busy sending messages day and night for nearly a week previous to this.
One teacher after another called, asking if it was true that Mr. Maurer had been killed, and what the American papers say about Turkey's critical condition ; and wondering why we refused to tell them what we knew, for if they were to be massacred it were better to know the worst.
It seemed impossible to persuade them that we knew no more about it than they did.
Early in the afternoon a Turkish storekeeper is said to have closed his shop, drawn a pistol and fired saying, “Whatever is to be, let it be now." About the same time a notoriously wicked Turk from Albustan, whose arrival had aroused suspicion (for although he declared that he brought wheat to sell, all knew he had not), is said to have called to the Turks from the roof of a Turkish house saying, "Are there no faithful here? The Christians of Adana and the villages have been destroyed. Why do you linger?" The government, considering the small number of Turks in Hadjin and their fear of the
Christians, doubts this story.
We have seen for ourselves the Turkish storekeeper rushing through the streets pursued by Armenians and both he and they were firing.
The Armenians had hurriedly closed their stores, rushed to their homes, sent the women and children indoors and armed themselves. The cry went out, “The Turks are coming," and the men rushed to the roads to prevent, if possible, their entering the town.
During the excitement a policeman in town, who hurriedly mounted a horse, was shot, the crowd supposing that he was ready to gallop away to meet the enemy. He was taken to an Armenian home and cared for by the doctor, but was later taken to the government building at his request where he died about ten days later.
The Armenians also met a captain of the reserves who had been out in the villages gathering recruits. Knowing that he also was a notoriously wicked man they demanded that he give up his arms before entering the town but he cursed and swore at them and began to fire. He was promptly shot.
The night passed and yet the Turks had not arrived. The Hadjin people sent a messenger to a village near by telling the Armenian villagers of the danger and they soon came rushing into the town for protection,
but empty handed.
At this point a teacher came to ask if we had a spy-glass for he was quite sure that he saw the heads of men above the mountain ridge and that the Turkish villagers were attempting to climb the steep mountains.
As we looked through the glass he said, “Do you see that rock projecting and the tree over on this side ? Now look carefully for I occasionally see a head appearing above the ridge."
As we looked, to our amazement we saw the head of one appear for a moment and then disappear again and then another and another and still another and we knew the Turks on the opposite side were attempting to climb that mountain, nearly perpendicular, and to come down and surround the town,
or to fill the barracks, at the foot of the mountain.
The prelate, city mayor and chief men of the city called, after having spent the night in consultation and examining the town, to see if there was any hope of self-defense. They begged that we send telegrams to the consuls and ambassadors asking for protection for ourselves, telling us of the ambiguous telegrams and their interpretation.
While speaking, a pale messenger boy suddenly rushed in, having a handful of messages and gave me one. Eager hands were stretched out for it from all directions and all impatiently waited knowledge of its contents. We asked one of our students to read it for us for it was written in the Arabic characters and I was familiar only with the Armenian.
He turned pale but said nothing in answer to our questions. We handed it to another and he read, “Of the Americans, Mr. Rogers and Mr. Maurer are dead. We are awaiting news from you."
It was sent by the missionary in Adana where the massacre had started four days before even the shops had been closed in Hadjin, and where the conference was to have been.
Mr. Rogers was the newly appointed American Board missionary who, with his family, was to come to Hadjin to take up the work immediately after the conference.
Another of our missionaries gone and again we were only four, two having arrived only six weeks before the massacre began.