A Village Remembered: The Armenians of Habousi - The Compatriotic Union of Habousi

Chapter 4:

The location and the Springs of Habousi

Habousi was surrounded by mountains. The village was but a circle-like meadow. The journey to the east, up to Mount Masdar or Aghjikend, was an hour and a half on foot. To the west, the city of Mezre was three hours walking distance from Habousi over high hills and mountains. To the south, an hour and a half away, were the mountains of Gadafka, and to the north, it took two hours to reach the mountains of Elmlig or Khraj.

Habousi’s meadows were fertile and water was abundant. Only a few spots lacked water, like the region called Larer. Habousi’s soil was dark and rich. Agriculture was the main occupation.

Mount Masdar, with its chained peaks, protected the eastern side of the village for thirty miles or so. From north to west a branch of the Euphrates River ran along the edge of Habousi.

The village of Akhor was located on the highland of the river, inhabited by nearly twenty households. The only water source of Akhor was the small river of Nazig which branched from the Euphrates. It was also known as Boug. The river had plenty of fish, especially in its deeper spots. To the northeast of Akhor lay the village of Bestik. Bestik was a village populated by Turks whose main occupation was the cultivation of grapes. It was the primary market of wine and sweets for the Habousetzies.

From the south, out of the mountains of Masdar, flowed the Aradzani, also called the Khara River by the Turks. South of Aghntsig, Aradzani curved its way around Alisham from the north, twisting like a snake, then headed west, and drew a border between Habousi and Mughur Oghli.

High and thick aspens and willows covered Habousi’s border for almost half a mile, but the trees were unable to protect the village from Aradzani during the flood season. Therefore, the early dwellers built dams to protect their lands against flood.

It was told that Little Habousi, known to the commoners as Kuchuk Habousi, was flooded sometime between 1600 and 1650, and its population was forced to abandon their belongings and to take refuge on top of Akhor Hill, around Gamarov Spring. That location, where two springs were established as the ever-running witnesses of Little Habousi, was believed to be only two streets away from Big Habousi.

To the east of Big Habousi, the meadow and the woods bordering Aradzani were called Salug.

Villagers often found pots and pans and other objects while digging in the soil of Big Habousi—evidence of past dwellers and their lifestyle.

It was said that the Tigris River also flooded sometime during 1600 and 1650.

The Euphrates, like a twisted snake, flowed down from the pretty valley of Kharpert, across the village of Sheikh Haji, past the village of Akhor, and behind the mountains of Kharpert, where it continued its flow toward Malatia from the village of Pertag.

The broad banks of the Euphrates flooded every spring. The fish of the river were delicious. Fishing was a source of income for nearby villagers. Lacking technology, the water of the Euphrates was wasted. The villagers were unable to use it to irrigate the surrounding fields.

On the east side of the river lay the road to Palu. Passengers crossed the river in carts and on bagpipes. Though the Euphrates often drove nearby dwellers mad with frustration, its silver water was also the source of the valley’s charm and wealth.

In the summer, the river was a resort for the youngsters of Habousi who went there with their cattle to swim. To cross from one bank to another, they set groups of oxen free in the river and hung on to the animals’ tails. Fishing was a very pleasant past time.

The hill of Habousi, resembled a pear, its peak was shaped like a human head.

Habousi had a central location among the twelve neighboring villages—Alisham (Turks), Tepejik (Turks and Kurds), Aghntsig (Turks and Armenians), Khoshkala (Turks and Kurds), Genefig (Turks, Kurds and Armenians), Ichme (Armenians and Turks), Zartarij (Armenians and Turks), Sheikh Haji (Armenians and Turks), Akhor (Armenians and Turks), Mughur Oghli (mixed), Elmlig (mixed), and two others.

Habousi had six springs, each with a fame and tradition of its own. These springs divided the village into four sections like a cross.

Four of those springs were man-made and two were natural. The founding of a spring, generally done by the wealthiest men, was considered a great gift to the villagers. A gift that benefited all.

Gamarov (arch) Spring was professionally paved with a kind of stone that endured centuries of rolling carts. On top of the spring, an arm-long structure of polished pink marble was erected.

Gamarov was most probably given its name because of the arch built on top of it during ancient times.

In front of the Gamarov Spring was a pool framed with square stones. The spring ran though a large hole, and the water formed a small round lake.

Jeghig or Jrig (watery) Spring was several feet away from the Gamarov Spring. It began at the top of a hill. Jrig was not as nicely structured as Gamarov. The waters of the two springs flowed into the same small lake which was actually a basin for drinking water and a place for the cattle to bathe.

On warm summer days, the children were allowed to swim only in Jrig’s water. It was forbidden to pollute Gamarov’s water.

Above Gamarov were two roads, lined by vineyards, aspens, and fruit trees. These cool forests were home for birds whose warbling filled the atmosphere. A road led to the cemetery, where Habousetzies lay in peace for centuries. The cemetery formed the last boundary of the village and was hidden behind the green forests.

Gamarov’s water made its way through the shadow of the trees to the road of Boug, where it met the water of the Narzhun or Najjarnerou (carpenter’s) Spring. Narzhun Spring ran from east to west. Two-thirds of the villagers enjoyed the free gift of spring water with which they irrigated their fields and vineyards.

Narjun Spring divided Habousi in half. It reached from the Gamarov Spring to the road to the cemetery. The other half of the village was serviced by Galer (haloes) or Tsegod (fishy) Spring. Narjun Spring faced the roads leading to Ichme, Zartarij and Genefig.

Narjun Spring circled one-fourth of the village from the north. The spring ran behind gardens and orchards, until it reached a small bridge on Boug’s road. Nearby streets also enjoyed use of the spring. The main street of Narjun or Najarian’s Spring passed between the two squares until it reached the center of the hill where there was a third square. In the center of the third square was built a mortar as high as a man’s shoulder called the mortar of the center or the mortar to beat castor beans.

On both sides of the street there were stations for carriages to park. At one point, the two sides of the street were attached to each other by a bridge called Keoshk that most probably was the property of the Antoian family. Main street divided each side street into two after Keoshk and before the Narjun Spring, leaving Galer Spring to its left. To the right and above the bridge, the road reached a pretty square, before it continued north.

Gatnaghpur (milk) Spring was a little further from the village, to the northeast, in the middle of two non-paved squares. It was a sanctuary for mothers with little milk. Mothers bathed in the spring water and placed two eggs by the side of the spring as a gift. There was also a special place to light candles. Villagers believed that a mother’s milk would become abundant after a pilgrimage to Gatnaghpur. Women pilgrimaged to the spring after giving birth to their babies.

Close to Gatnaghpur stood a willow tree, its branches full of clothes. Patients believed that if they tied their clothes to the branches of the willow, their illnesses would leave them and they would return home healthy. On Raffle Days, the spring was a site for the celebration of women and girls.

Galer Spring flowed into the square of two neighboring villages, Aghntsig and Alisham. Its abundant water was perfect for the animals of nearby barns. The road to Aghntsig was close to the barns, while the one to Alisham lay further south. The roads met at the edge of the village orchards. The meeting point was a great deal higher than the plain roads. These roads were eroded from the heavy traffic of carriages. On this elevated section were located the houses of peasants, as well as the workshops and houses of the village potters. The spring flowed through the low section of the village.

Slightly different from Gamarov Spring, the stone on top of Galer Spring was a striking yellow granite, as shiny as marble and as big as two square feet. It lay on top of the spring and it bridged the spring from north to south. A cup was attached to a white brass chain which hung from the middle of the shiny yellow stone. The cup was there for use by villagers. Gamarov and Narjun springs had no cups.

The water of Galer Spring was clear and full of fish. Both sides of the spring were paved. A lake formed at the foot of the spring. Cattle bathed in the lake and the villagers used it for drinking water.

There was a bridge within a stone’s throw away. The water under the bridge ran through the orchards to the south, towards the road to Alisham where the kors (Turkish cemeteries) were located.

Next to the bridge was the famous Gamerchun tree (the tree of the bridge). A stork nested on top. The stork was a beloved member of the Galer Spring. In the winter the Galer Spring flowed to Little Habousi where it joined two other springs and together the three springs poured their water into the deep valley of Akhor and Elmlig.

Galer Spring was separated by a trench from a winter spring called Nor (new) Spring which lay to its north. Close to the latter was a hotel. Along one of the walls of the hotel, on a triangle-shaped spot of land, a blue flagstone four square feet in diameter was placed. Two egg-shape mortars were mounted on the flagstone. Villagers beat their castor beans there. Castor bean oil was used to light lamps.

The Galer Spring began at the blue flagstone which divided the village into two, from north to south.

To the southeast, Nor Spring, before meeting the Narjun Spring, ran around sheep pens and houses, serving their needs.

The street of Galer Spring was famous for its dwellers too. In a house to the west of one of its bridges or keoshks(1) was the birth place of the blind Ashek Gharib(2) Margos Boyajian, a singer, player, and popular poet. His string instrument, the saz, was better known to Kharpert than the Turkish national anthem. His three-stringed santour moved Turks’ and wealthy Armenians’ both with laughter and tears during the years from 1825 to 1858.

From the Boyajian family home, the paved street climbed to the top of a hill, where in the middle of the road, a house gave the shape of an elbow to the street. That was Central Square and the street of Narjun Spring. The square had sidewalks for people to walk on and a dusty road for oxen and buffalo pulled carriages.

All granaries of Habousi were located in the square but none was visible, because they were built five feet under the ground, surrounded by polished stones.