The American missionaries reported about the 1909 sacking of Kesssab that took place in the immediate aftermath of the Adana massacre that decimated the Cilician Armenia as the lyrics of the folk song known as the “the lament of Adana” (Voghb Anadanayi) poignantly notes.
Stephen Van R. Trowbridge details the sacking of Kessab in his report titled “The Sack of Kessab” in the “The American Red Cross Bulletin” (1909). But Miss Effie M. Chambers’ report about the sacking of Kessab, stands apart. She was engaged in mission work in Kessab and lived the ordeal with the people, although she was not in Kessab when the sacking took place. She reported that she had gone to attend an annual meeting in Adana, presumably the same meeting that the Armenian evangelical pastors where heading when they were ambushed and massacred. She returned to Kessab and reported her eyewitness account in the 1909 issue of “Life and Light for Women” Journal, volume , pages. The American Board of Commissioners published the journal for Foreign Mission (ABCFM), which were arguably the first and the largest American missionary organization on whose behalf Miss Chambers spent 19 years among the Armenians, the last 8 years in Kessab. Stephen Van R. Trowbridge states that she acted as the secretary of the Kessab Relief Committee.
I have reproduced her report as it appeared in the “Life and Light for Women” Journal.
AFTER THE MASSACRE AT KESSAB
BY MISS EFFIE M. CHAMBERS
KESSAB, July 10, 1909
"OH, if you could only know what an awful thing this has been, and what our dear women have suffered and our brave young men – who defended the village for six or seven hours, and kept the murderers back, giving the women and girls a chance to escape to the mountains and hide in the caves and clefts and underbrush, from where they slowly and fearfully made their way down to the seashore – the young men and when they could held out no longer, retreating slowly and forming a rear guard as it were for the fleeing women as they went, carrying their children in their arms or on their backs with older ones clinging to their skirts. In this way the escape was affected on that awful Tuesday, April 23rd.
I was absent from Kessab, as you already know, but my schoolgirls fled with others and were taken into the Presbyterian School in Latakia, where I found them on my return from the scenes of carnage in Adana. They were all safe, not one of them missing, and I was glad and thankful for that at least, but like the rest of us they have lost all, except what they wore. We all alike in Kessab these days. There are no rich or poor, but we are all one. Sometimes the thought comes to me, if they had not burned my house and the girls’ school, I might have given shelter to many, but I am glad on the other hand that I can suffer with them and suffer as they do. It is different from other relief work I have done, but I am not sorry to have it on. It brings us so near together and gives me such an opportunity to help them.
More than 500 families are homeless and we have 5,500 people on our relief list for bread, clothing, household utensils, farming implements and tools, also bedding and mats – for everything went, we had not even needles and thread, thimbles and scissors. We have distributed about 1,000 quilts and blankets, cotton and a few mattresses and pillows, but need still 4,000 more that everyone may have a mattress, and 700 more covers are needed. For clothing to given each person on suit so he may have a change, we need, aside from that we have already distributed, 100,000 yards of cloth.
It is no small problem to plan to house, clothe, feed and find bedding for ten villages, containing in all 8,000 people or more, but it is what must be done before winter or all our people will die of hunger and exposure and we can’t have that. These people must be saved and encouraged and started again. I must do it, as you will excuse me from a vacation this year, won’t you, as they cannot be left alone.
We are having our preaching services out of doors in girls’ school yard and under a big walnut tree for the present, but we are trying o get a floor in the big new school building we made since I can here (it was burned), and if we can do it, we can use the upper story of it for chapel and the lower for schools.
An now you want to know about me, you say. Well, my history during these past weeks can be told in few words. I went to Adana for annual meeting, reaching there on Tuesday evening just before the beginning of that awful time. I stayed there ten days, leaving on April 24th for Tarsus, where I stayed a day or two waiting for the roads to open a bit, then made my way back to Kessab where I have been ever since, except for a brief tour through the outside villages and a short stay in Antioch. I am in a native house, and if you ask bout my circumstances, I am more comfortable than anyone else in the village, and glad to be here and do what I can for these poor people. When court-martial proceedings are over, and a few at least of guilty ones punished, we hope the people will gather some courage. But it is scarcely to be expected they will be very confident until something is done.
I am in a native house since my return – one of the few not burned – but Mr. Gracey has just been down and we have planned a few changes in the former stable in the mission yard which we think will make it inhabitable, and we hope to begin to do it soon. I can have here, at a very small expense, bedroom, sitting room, kitchen and small storeroom; all ground floor to be sure, but better than I now have and quite good enough for me until the people get something.”