Chapter 4



[Land and Buildings]

(Armenian Manuscript Pages 13-20)


(This is a Partial Translation.  [JT])




A. The Land


The village of Perkenik is spread out over a large mountain plateau lying to the north-east of Sebastia at an elevation of 1,2000 meters[1]  (i.e. just under 4,000 ft.).  It is about "one and one-half hours" east of the city of Sebastia according to Fr. Sarkissian.[2]  Hajian[3] states.the distance as "three quarters of an hour.[4]"


Hajian Vartabed, being a native of Perkenik,  knows the village well. He writes:[5]


"The village of Perkenik lies to the east, built on "Perk'nkou Choor", the river waters of a long and narrow valley. The river flows into and merges with waters of the Halys River one-half hour below Sebastia. The cool waters and mountain air are refreshing, but it become brutally cold in winter, which here as in Sebastia persists relentlessly for nearly eight months. The lands owned by the village are extensive, sprawling over an area, three hours in length and about half that in breadth. In the north there stands "Merekom[6]" mountain where in winter the winds howl horrendously, but where in summer warm breezes waft pleasantly, sweet-tasting waters run, and flowers of all kinds bloom in abundance across its high plateau.  As in the mountains of "Piuragniants[7]" so too up on the plateau of Merekom some of the "karakoch" sheep gild (cover with a gold color) their teeth from grazing on some mysterious grasses. [Last sentence of this paragraph goes here. ][8]


"From time immemorial, the Halys River ("Alis Ked")[9] has been one of the natural boundaries of Perkenik separating it from surrounding Turkish villages. This boundary has been officially recognized in the state registry. In 1888 (1868?) by government edict a "tahriri emlak[10]" is established to collect property taxes and on this occasion all the fields and properties of the Village of Perkenik are counted and assessed. At that time, the village of Perkenik had counted 3,700 fields assessed at 1,600,000 tahegan[11] , while the number of buildings was counted at 446, with the assessed value set at 1,010,000 piasters. Based on these valuations, the government imposes an "emlak[12]" i.e. property tax of 10,500 piasters and a 4,500 piaster "temettu[13]" i.e. revenue tax.






B Memorable buildings of the village were:


          1. An ancient church named "Holy Mother of God" existing before 1257 A.D.. Its ruins could be seen near the house of [14]the Melikentz or Arabentz.[15]              

         2. On the west side of the village a sacred place called "luysaghpiur[16]" and called "S. Hovhannes" [St. John] by the villagers.[17]

          3. After the Holy Mother of God church, in 1257 a small church named St. Sarkis is built, according to an inscription discovered in the foundation of St. Sarkis in 1837 wen the church was being rebuilt from the foundation up and enlarged. More on this later.

          4. In 1886 the village had a large boys' school.[18]

          5. A  large, quite aged, rectory for the priests.

          6. A bathhouse built of stone.

          7. The mills of Tavra, as well as the lands of Tavra and a vast open field called Reissiants, belonged to Perkenik from olden times[19].


         We mentioned the bathhouse of Perkenik. It appears that it was built around the 1860s based on the writings of Hajian (around 1866). He writes:


"The Perkeniktsees, desiring to put an end to the improprieties to which their women were subjected because they had to walk to the bathhouse in the city of Sebastia, had been considering building one in the village for some time. .... [I've temporarily skipped a few lines here. J.T.]  ....  In four months, they built a beautiful all-stone and marble bathhouse at the upper end of the village.  The profits from this bathhouse were turned over "in perpetuity" to the village school.[20]"



Mr. Joseph Reissian writes me:


"Outside of Sebastia, there were no bathhouses anywhere else in the region, not in any other village, Armenian or Turkish, except in Perkenik.  Its eastern bathhouse boasted  seven fonts. It was built through the cooperative effort of the villagers themselves. It was large and solidly built with a steeple. The basins [fonts] and the entire interior were marble. The afternoons were reserved for the women in alphabetical order of their family names, whereas the evenings were similarly reserved for the men.  Near the bathhouse was a barber who was also the village's dentist."


To complement this coverage of the topography and buildings I'm also adding the following details kindly provided to me in letters by Mr. J. Reissian to whom I feel compelled again to express my thanks:


"Perkenik Village is situated about five miles nort-east of Sebastia and lies in the midst of  a plush green valley on the MISMIL tributary of the Halys River. The lands owned and cultivated by the village are sprawled over a vast expanse, while the built-up residential area of the village covers an area roughly two miles north to south and one mile east to west.  Looking toward the village lands and buildings from any of the surrounding mountain heights presents a breathtakingly beautiful panorama of meadows, rows and rows of gardens and fields, neat lines of lofty majestic poplars, countless willows, colorful scatterings of fruit trees, fragrant rose trees, and shimmering irrigation brooks branching throughout all the wards.


"The "MISMIL" tributary's sources spring forth from the hazel and oak forests on the slopes of "Sakharoo" mountain, 7 to  8 miles[21] to the north.  The trees of this forest provide firewood for all the neighboring Armenian and Turkish villages.  A little below these woods, in the direction of our village, are the "Bagh-Chermoog" mineral baths with their warm sulfur springs (25-30C = 75-85F).  As the waters of "Bagh-Chermoog" flow toward our village, they gather and merge with the numerous  tasty and cool well-springs gushing from the Mayrakom mountain tableland and the OURIKS belonging to our village.  These merged waters gathered strength and volume sufficient to run two mills as well as spread throughout the village to supply water for the needs of the homes and gardens. To the north of the village the 1000 foot high mountain "Kiz-Kapan" dominates the scene as it overlooks the  "MISMIL."  Atop this mountain are pasture lands with names like "Sokhgerik," "Posdeghik," etc.


"On the east, spreading out below the flanks of Kiz-Kapan, is the plateau named "Yerevor" with its striight gravel road stretching all the way to the outskirts of the city.


"On the other side of  "Sarinklkhin" and "Yerevor" our fields stretch out all the way to the Halys River while beyond that we have the Shrine of St. Severianus.[22]  According to tradition/legend this Saint was beheaded by pagans. It is said that after his decapitation, he got up and with head under arm walked accross hill and dale unti he finally fell into a rock formation at the foot of a tree. The local non-Christians believed this tradition/legend and they too went there on pilgramage.


"To the south, and southwest is the city Sebastia and its adjacent village districts "Tavro" and "Hoghtar."  Tavro has abundant waters and numerous mills.  It is the mill center.  Outside the village are two gravel roads which neighboring villagers use for traffic into and out of the city.


The massive mountain plateau "Mayrakom" or "Merekom" surroundsthe entire western flank of our village. On this plateau the city and neighboring villages have their pasturelands. The plateau is plush and fertile. It is the grain storage location for Sebastia.  With its abundant, healthful, and invigorating fountain-springs, it provides choice recreational sites for vacationers and picknickers.


The villages and towns which border on or are near Perkenik are.  on the east: The Armenian villages Khandzar, Govdoon, Ghavraz, Bingeol, Yamis [or Gamis], and a few Turkish ones.  The village fields are on this side behind the mountains bordering the Yerevor  village  The land is not productive because the water has a bad taste and its supply is meager. The soil is claylike, here and there its red and green.


[Translation to be continued:  The rest of the chapter continues with the detailed topographical descriptions by Mr. J. Reissian.  Besides the names of surrounding Armenian and Turkish villages, he describes the church, schools, houses, etc., in colorful detail.

           Also Fr. Yeprem indicates his intent to insert here the only map he had,  a rough "old and torn" one showing the sections of the villages, the streets, the houses of famous people, the church and schools, cemetery, river, mills, etc. Unfortunately this too is missing along with all the other illustrations.  JT]


[1]Avedik, Beirut, Nos. 10-12, Page 168.[Author E.B.]

[2]Deghakrutiun" Page 64.[Author E.B.]

[3] Hayastani Gochnag, ibid, Page 15. [Author E.B.]

[4] Distances were commonly measured by the time it took to walk them;  variations may be due to how fast the measurer walked, and to the ambiguous start and end points, which can easily account for the different values. The number I heard the most from my forebears was "about an hour or so."  Since the villagers were robust and healthy, let's call it between 3 and 4 miles east by northeast.  Here is a related quote I've translated from (Very Rev. Mesrop Vartabed) Terzian's book (in Armenian on the martyrdom of Perkenik's Catholic Pastor Der Michael in 1708):  "Spread on a mountain plateau north-east of Sebastia, at a distance of 5000 meters and at an elevation of 1,200 meters, lies the village of Perkenik which is irrigated by the waters of the MISMIL."  That 5000 meters is just under 4 miles  Further on in this chapter, Mr. J. Reissian says the distance is "five miles." [JT]

[5] Ibid. No. 31,  Page 736.[Author E.B.]

[6] Variant spellings/pronunciations are: Merekom, Mayrakom, Marakom, Morkom. [Author EB]

[7]Meaning "TenThousand Fountains." [JT]

[8]The meaning of the last sentence of this paragraph is a little obscure to me. so I'll show its transliteration hoping someone can enlighten me as to what it really means. . A better knowledge of Ottoman history would help clarify the meaning of "Sultan khas."  Is it: 1. The royal ward of the Sultan? (All land was owned by the State=the Sultan. 2. Some special ownership related to the Mother of the Sultan? ... The West Armenian transliteration is: " Prkniki  hoghe minag "Sultan khas"i er ipr mayr takouhvo krbanin dzakhoots verakrial."   The gist of this baffling sentence might be: "The "Sultan Khas" property tax revenues of the land and dwellings of Perkenik only amounted to pocket change for the Sultan's mother."  (I'm using "verakrial" here in the sense "assigned to/allocated to" (the Sultan's mother). 

I found a definition of "has"(=khas)" in a German source: Das Osmanische Reich by Josef Matuz, p. 335: Stabspfruende, die ertragsstaerkste  Pfruendenart, zur  Versorgung der osmanischen Grosswuerdentraeger ab dem Rang eines Sandschagbeg mit einem Jahreseinkommen von 100 000 Asper aufwaerts."  J.T translation: " A prebend category intended for the support of an Ottoman high dignitary above the rank of a Sanjak with an annual income greater than 100,000 piasters."  A prebend is subsistence allowance granted by the State for the support of some official, here a Sanjak (Turkish=sancak), i.e. the governor of a province or sub-province   This is one of the highest prebends and according to Hajian's statement [if I've interpreted it correctly] was intended for no less than the Sultan's mother herself (?!)   This is an indication of Perkenik's wealth and abundance, at least during this period of the mid-19th century. Incidentally, no one in the Ottoman Empire owned any land in "fee simple" as we do here in the  good ol' U.S.A.  All land was owned by the State  (the Sultan) and was taxed. Those of you who ever got a real estate license will recognize this as a Feudal System unlike our own Allodial  system which enables us in the West to own our land absolutely in "fee simple" etc.  [After having reread this footnote, it occurred to me that we landowners who must pay R.E. Taxes aren't too different from these villagers but at least we can sell our property as "absolute" fee simple owners.]  [JT]

[9] In Modern Turkish this river which dominates N.Central Anatolia is called Kizilirmak="Red River"

[10]Ottoman Turkish = "land registry" [JT]

[11]Turkish "kurush" = piasters[JT]

[12] Armenian: "galvadzadoork" [JT]

[13]Armenian: "shahadoork" [JT] 

[14]i.e. the house of the Melikian and Arabian families [JT]

[15]Bzommar Archives, New MSS.  No. 445. [AuthorEB]

[16] In Armenian, the name means "Fount of Light."  [JT]

[17]ibid. See  also Avedik 1957 Nos. 10-12. [Author EB]

[18] A separate girls' school came later in 1892. See Chapter 11. [JT]

[19] Agheksandrian", ibid. p.316-317.[Author E.B.]

[20] H. Gochnag, No. 31, p.736 [Author E.B.]

[21]The original has 10 to 12 kilometers.  [JT]

[22]There are interesting accounts about this martry of Sebastia, Severian or Severianos, in Catholic Lives of the Saints or in the Roman Martyriology. Maybe I'll excerpt some info to help separate the facts from the legends.

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