Online Newsrelease


Subject: [Armenian Studies List] The Garabed Bedrosian Collection [Harvard, ARC]

From: "Dennis R. Papazian"
Date: Wed, 09 Jul 2003 22:03:23 -0400
To: Armenian Studies

The Armenian Research Center has Copies only, the Originals at the Houghton Library, Harvard

There are some handwritten notes and strikeouts.  Handwritten notes will be indicated with italics and strikeouts with boldface.

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The Garabed Bedrosian Collection

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    The collection of letters, reports, and photographs in this volume comprises copies of the documents of Garabed Bedrosian (1883-1977), loving son, husband, father, and grandfather. Garabed, a man of great faith, was the interpreter and bodyguard for Leslie Davis, the American Consul to Turkey in Harput from 1915 to 1917. It was during these years that the beginning of what was to become one of the largest genocides of our time occurred. Over one and one half million Armenians were killed from 1915 to the early 1920s. Leslie Davis and Garabed worked closely together documenting the horrible events of that time through their writings and through a series of secretly guarded photographs that they took of the surrounding countryside near Lake Goeljuk on horseback. The two men viewed and photographed over 15,000 dead bodies of Armenian men, women, and children, stripped of their clothing.
    Davis left Harput in 1917 and travelled to Finland where he served in a new post. From then until 1922, he wrote a series of letters to Garabed who was hiding with his family as well as several other families in the Consulate in Harput. Included in Garabed's family were: his wife Aghavnie; his sons, John and Peter; his daughters, Arshaloos and Sarah; and his parents-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Krikor Maghakian, and their surviving daughters Haiasdan and Hatoon. Although not mentioned in these letters, Garabed buried the photographs/films in an earthen jar behind the Consulate stable for safekeeping, as reported by Haiasdan Terzian in the video, Voices of the Lake, produced by the Armenian Film Foundation. It is possible that this jar was placed in the well to which Davis refers in his 1918 State Department report, now located in the National Archives, regarding the Armenian genocide. At some point later, Garabed, most likely as instructed by Davis, gave some of the photographs to L. H. MacDaniels, a Cornell University botany professor, who was living in Harput and working with his wife for the Near East Relief (1919-1920). It is possible that these photographs may have been copies of the originals. Garabed had also served as MacDaniels' interpreter. According to MacDaniels (as reported by Blair, 1989), Davis had requested that MacDaniels safely get the photographs out of the country. Sometime in 1920, MacDaniels led an orphanage of children out of the country with the photographs. Later in 1922, Garabed led another group of orphans out of Turkey. According to Haiasdan Terzian (Voices of the Lake video), the remaining photographs, possibly the originals, were apparently hidden in the tattered clothing of the children as they left Turkey.
    Following the safe delivery of the orphans to Aleppo, Syria, Garabed and his family travelled to Marseilles, France, where they lived for approximately seven months while awaiting permission to go to the United States. A copy of the affidavit is included in this volume. Garabed briefly visited Davis in Finland (see photograph in this volume of Garabed on skis) to give him the photographs. These photographs were kept for years by the Davis family as reported by Davis's adult son, Caleb, on the Voices of the Lake video. During the family's stay in France, Davis wrote another series of letters to Garabed indicating that he had made several attempts to get the other photographs back from  MacDaniels [in the margins is written This is an error. There was another man whose last name name began "M"]. Because MacDaniels had refused to return the photographs, Davis indicated to Garabed that he had begun legal action. Unfortunately, MacDaniels never returned the photographs.
    It was not until 1984 that these photographs were "found". An historian by the name of Susan K. Blair was writing a book, The Slaughterhouse Province: An American Diplomat's Report on the Armenian Genocide (1915 - 1917) (1989), based on Leslie Davis' report to the State Department. Blair was particularly interested in finding the photographs that Davis had mentioned in, but had not filed with, his report. What is puzzling, however, is why Davis did not later submit, to his report, the photographs that Garabed had delivered to him in Finland. In Blair's search for the photographs, she found out about Professor and Mrs. MacDaniels from a friend of a friend. She visited with the MacDaniels, then in their late nineties, who told her about their experiences in Harput, and showed her the photographs, taken by Davis and Garabed, which had been stored in a shoebox. As Blair reports in her book, MacDaniels indicated that Davis had asked him to get the photographs safely out of Turkey. What MacDaniels did not divulge to Blair, was that Davis had attempted to get the photographs back from him and had initiated legal action against him.  Obviously, the action was not effective.  MacDaniels gave the photographs to Blair to use in her book. According to Dr. J. Michael Hagopian (personal communication, October, 2001), director of the Armenian Film Foundation, Blair's publisher, Aristide D. Caratzas, now possesses the photographs, and possibly those, that had been kept by the Davis family. The publisher will not allow researchers to view the prints without paying a sizeable fee. Interestingly, MacDaniels also wrote a series of letters to Garabed from 1921 to 1923, with additional letters in the 1940s. At no time in these letters did MacDaniels even mention the photographs to Garabed, nor the legal issues surrounding the photographs.
    Through the work of Consuls Davis and Jackson, Garabed and his family were able to enter the United States, specifically Rhode Island, in 1923. The family lived in Massachusetts for a short time until they settled in Fresno, California. Davis continued to write letters to Garabed until 1926. There was no record of further correspondence until the 1940s. From 1946 until 1964, Davis' wife, Catharine Davis, wrote letters to Garabed and his wife, Aghavnie. Leslie Davis suffered from several medical conditions, including blindness. In a letter dated October 3, 1960, Catharine Davis provided a detailed description of her husband's heart attack which led to his death on September 27, 1960, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
    Mr. and Mrs. Davis were very special to Garabed and his family. The couple visited the family in Fresno on a few occasions and were treated as royalty. Aghavnie prepared an enormous feast for each of their visits, inviting the entire family to attend. I distinctly recall one such occasion when I was a young child. Everyone in the family was seated in Aghavnie's kitchen at a very long table completely covered with Armenian delicacies. Mr. and Mrs. Davis were seated at the center of the table. Prior to eating, Garabed stood at one end of the table and said a prayer, thanking God for the Davis family as well each member of his own family. At the time, I was too young to understand who Davis was and what he represented to Garabed, my grandfather. I was intrigued, however, about the identity of this elderly man who was blind. I could tell, by the way my family treated Davis, that he was truly someone very important. Over the years, Garabed and Aghavnie showered the Davis family with numerous mailings of fresh and dried fruit from their farm, as indicated in the letters of thanks by both Mr. and Mrs. Davis.
    It was obvious, in Garabed's letter to Davis in 1918, and in another letter to Wilbur Carr, Director of the Consular Services in Washington, D.C., in 1923, that Leslie Davis was held in high regard by Garabed. Davis' efforts directly saved the lives of at least forty-three Armenians, including Garabed and his family. Additionally, he provided financial assistance to hundreds more. Armenians entrusted him with funds that he deposited for them at a bank in Port Jefferson, New York. He maintained 75 pages of typed written records (not included in this volume), listing the name of the person, the amount banked for that person, and to whom the money should be given in the event that the person was killed in the massacre. Records such as these would be invaluable to historians and genealogists. Many of the pages included written IOUs indicating the amount of money that Davis owed to each individual. One such IOU, written to Garabed, is included in this volume. Interestingly, in a letter dated November 25, 1944, Davis wrote to Garabed about the matter of $1.60 that remained in the account of one Armenian woman whom he could not locate. He asked Garabed if he knew the whereabouts of this woman so that the money could be returned to her. Davis was, indeed, a man to be trusted.
    The admiration and respect that Davis had for Garabed was quite notable in the letters that Davis wrote to him. Garabed's faithfulness and bravery were demonstrated on numerous occasions during his role as cavass, or bodyguard. A history of Garabed's life is provided in the eulogy written by his daughter, Arshaloos Bell, and included in this volume. Although Garabed initially worked for Davis, it is quite apparent that the two men became good friends as the years progressed.
    The original documents, from which copies were generated for this volume, were kept in a small cardboard box in a closet in the Fresno home of Garabed, Aghavnie, and their daughter, Sarah. It is amazing to think how a box so unobtrusive could contain such a wealth of information. The documents remained in this box until the recent death of Sarah in November of 2001. It is hoped that these documents will be given to the Houghton Library Archives at Harvard University so that they will be accessible to researchers studying the events of the Armenian genocide. It will be to their delight, as it was to mine, to discover the special relationship between these two great men, Davis and Garabed.
    It has been an honor to work with these documents. For a brief period of time, I was able to walk alongside my Grandfather and see the world through his eyes. To me, he represented so many wonderful characteristics. Faithful. Humble. Brave. Loving. Kind. Thankful. Giving. Obedient. Honest. Patient. Despite all of the hardships he encountered just to get to this country and all of the horrible events he witnessed, his heart continued to be full of God's love. May your reading of the words in this volume be a source of inspiration.  ". . . with God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

Jan Bedrosian
Garabed Bedrosian's Granddaughter
December 11, 2001

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List of Contents in this Volume

Letters Written by Garabed Bedrosian to Leslie Davis and Wilbur Carr

Letters of Commendation for Garabed Written by American Consuls Masterson and Davis

IOU Written by Consul Leslie Davis to Garabed

Letters Written by Leslie Davis to Garabed (1919 - 1926; 1940 - 1947)

Series of Letters Written by Consuls Davis and Jackson Regarding Garabed's and Krikor Maghakian's Wish to Go to America

Affidavit Sponsoring Garabed and His Family to Come to America

Christmas Gift from Davis to Garabed's Family

Account with the Singer Sewing Machine Company

Letters Written by L. H. MacDaniels to Garabed (1921 - 1951)

Letters Written by Catharine Davis to the Garabed Bedrosian Family (1946-1964)

Letters Written by Various People to Garabed (1922 - 1924; 1959)

Notes Regarding the Bedrosian Family History

Eulogy for Garabed Bedrosian Written by His Daughter, Arshaloos Bell

Report Regarding the Armenian Massacre--Unidentified Female AuthorMrs. Tacy Atkinson Who Worked at the Annie Tracy Riggs Hospital and was Married to a Physician [This report appears to be an early draft of the version that ended up in the published Barton collection--GEO]

Assortment of Photographs

Travel Documents

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