The first syllable “KFAR” is of Syrian origin and means village or town. The second syllable “SGHAB” could be of Phoenecial origin and similar to the Arabic “saab” meaning rugged terrain featured by valleys and hills. It could also be of Hebrew origin “saaf” which means trees, branches and shrubs or could be of Arabic origin “GHAB” meaning a forest. There is an interesting tale handed down from forefathers to descendents about the origin of the name “KFARSGHAB”. It is said that a wild animal used to terrorize the district in the old time and when it appeared on a nearby hill, the inhabitants warned each other by saying “Ban” (meaning in Arabic “appeared” and upon disappearance they uttered the word “Ghab”‘ (meaning in Arabic disappeared”). The location of the neighboring villages, Kfarsghab and Ban, gives support to this legend.
There does not exist a written history that gives the exact date when Kfarsghab was first built. It is, however, believed to be older than 1,000 years, It is written by Father Ignatios Tannous mentioned the village in his book on North Lebanon …. “there was a bridge built in the year 1200 between Kfarsghab and Aintourine
Kfarsghab is situated at an altitude of 1,400 metres and is 127km from Beirut; 41km from Tripoli and 12km from the Cedars.
It lays on a hill, which overlooks the monastery of St. Anthony and the Kadisha (Holy) Valley – a deep gorge resembling the shape of a ‘V’ linking the Cedars and the Mediterranean Sea.
History of Morh
The fact that Kfarsghab is situated in the high mountains covered in snow in winter led the Kfarsghabians to purchase land near the coast so that people and their livestock could spend the winter months more comfortably.
The land was called “MORH” and subsequently became the winter village for the Kfarsghabians.
The first inhabitant ever recorded was Deeb El Bahri. Deeb came from the coast of Batroun and established himself in the district. He married Maureena El Saliba and had three Sons that are the origins of the three families – Abou Mansour, Khoury Youssef and Abou Abraham. The family of Abou Youssef was a descendant of Elias who came to Kfarsghab from the Coast and married a granddaughter of Deeb El Bahri. In his book “A Concise History of the Maronites” Archbishop Darian mentioned that Amir Youssef El Shehabi declared them Sheiks of Kfarsghab and neighboring districts.
The first members of Khoury Jerjis family came to Kfarsghab originally from Jeitta in the Kisrwan region about 300 years ago. These five families mentioned are the forefathers of all Kfarsghabians.
Historical Places in and around Kfarsghab
Kfarsghab lies in a triangular area, which links it to the Maronite history. On one corner is the old church of St. Augustine, the site of the first Maronite Episcopal conference, on the second is the Church of Our Lady of Hawka, the first Maronite seminary. and on the third, the renowned monastery of Kozhaya.
Kfarsghab contains remnants of ruins of historical importance. Among these is St. Awtel’s Church which was once a temple for Idols and then became a church when St. Awtel, once Godless, was converted to Christianity. The finest architectural feature of the Church is the hand-carved wooden grille, which divides the women and men sections. It is the only one of its kind still in existence in Mafonite churches. It was built by the master-craftsmen El Dimiaty in 1795. The site of the church resembles that of St. Raymond’s of Hadchit and Madinet ElRas.
History of Kfarsghab Migration
The Kfarsghab migration commenced in 1880 when Karam Abou Arab and his wife Hala arrived in Philadelphia, USA. Migration to Australia began in 1887, when Youssef Nahnie, his brother Simon, Hanna Doumit, Saba Daniel, Youssef Joubeir, Moussa Jabour Moussa and Tannous Daoud disembarked in Adelaide and went to settle in Broken Hill in New South Wales.
The first immigrants spent only enough time overseas to save sufficient money to build a home or to buy a special lot of ground, and then returned home to hard work. However as they started to enjoy the life and freedom they did not and could not have in Lebanon, they chose to stay abroad and made it their new home. Their descendants reached the number of 12,000 in Australia, 2,000 in the USA. and 500 distributed among other countries in the world. Sadly, The the migration has left only 1,000 inhabitants in our beloved Kfarsghab.
Extract published in the AKLA News Christmas 1970.
Some five hundred years ago our forefathers came to KFARSGHAB and established a household from which stemmed the KFARSGHAB we know today.
His origin is obscure, but not the faith, the self sacrifice and the foresight with he planted the Kfarsghabi tree. He was the first of a long line of great men and women, whose efforts, during the centuries that followed, ensured the continuous growth of this tree.
It was an extraordinary achievement, considering the limited opportunities they had and the difficult conditions under which they worked. They persisted in their efforts to build the Kfarsghab community, contented despite the many hardships and misfortune until Providence opened up to them the frontier of migration. A new soil was an opportunity for further growth and the tree flourished and spread its branches to several parts of the world.
The ‘New Environment’ however confronted them with new kind of hardships and suffering and it was only their stamina and striving which enable them to survive and make easy the way for those who followed them.
The spiritual, cultural and material heritage of the Kfarsghab community today is due, in large measure, to the efforts of thise men and women who set the foundation.. ‘They are the Legend of Kfarsghab’
There is little value in looking back into history unless it is for our enrichment and enriched we are by the tradition which our forefathers passed on to us, a tradition of faith in God, generosity, a great capacity for hard work and love for one another. It is this tradition which the Association strives to uphold in the Kfarsghab of Today.
Every Kfarsghabi in Lebanon and abroad, especially those born abroad, should be fully conscious and proud of the tradition he carries and should follow the example of his ancestors in passing to his children the tradition he has inherited.
In 1927 the Lebanese government delegated Sheik Youssef Estephan, member of the Lebanese Senate to visit the Lebanese migrants overseas. His visit included the United States of America and Australia where he was welcomed by the Lebanese community, and especially the Kfarsghab people. He attended many banquets in his honour in all the cities he visited. It is worthwhile mentioning that Sheik Youssef was the first politician to visit the Lebanese migrants overseas.
The late Mrs Naomi Boulos Bahri was the first person of our community to die in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
The late Mr Hanna Tannous Hanna Nehme was the first person to die in Easton, Pennsylvania, United States of America.
The late Mr Michael Youssef Saliba was the first person to die in Providence, Rhode Island, United States of America.
The late Mrs Shalbieh Simon, who came to Australia in 1891, died on 19 October, 1970, making her the longest settler overseas during these 100 years of migration. It is worthwhile to mention that Mrs Simon walked the distance of 450 miles from Sydney to Cobar in Northern New South Wales hawking along the way and carrying heavy bags.
The late Joseph Basha (also known as Hallak) came to Australia before the year 1900 and he was the first Kfarsghabi to buy a farm near Murwillumbah, New South Wales, and planted it with fruit trees. It was a very successful orchard and was named “Garden of Eden” by the Premier of the State when he visited the farm.
The late Massoud Merhi, who migrated before the year 1900, was the first Kfarsghabi to establish a business in Redfern.
The late Mrs Zahra Youssef Assad Rizk was the first person of our community to discover Parramatta through hawking and the late Mrs Wardy Ghaleb Norman was the first person to buy property in it. The majority of our people in Sydney now live in the Parramatta district.
The late Assad Abraham was the first Kfarsghabi to buy property in Toowoomba, Queensland, where a large number of our people live.
The late Michael Stephen and his sister walked 500 miles on a hawking trip to Queensland. They left Sydney in Christmas week and arrived in Stanthorp, Queensland on Good Friday. From there, they travelled by train to reach Toowoomba on Easter Sunday to celebrate Easter with their relatives. It is known that Mr Stephen was the first Kfarsghabi to grow wheat on his farm at Dalby.
The late Habib Essey migrated to the United States of America and 1914 and was the first Kfarsghabi editor of Arabic newspapers for 50 years in New York. He then returned to Lebanon in 1964 until his death in 1976.
Four Kfarsghabi soldiers died in the battles of the Second World War with the United States Army in Europe and Africa. Many survived both wars and returned safely after performing heroically on many battlefields.
During the migration to the United States of America and Australia, five people were born in-transit in planes and ships and they all arrived safely at their destinations. They were: Margaret Youssef Moussa; Mary Hanna Abood; Saidie Jabour Coorey; Tony Youssef Barakat; and Arthur Nadim Michael.
The late Youssef Hanna Saliba was the first Kfarsghabi to establish a dairy farm in Murwillumbah, New South Wales.
The late Antonios Nakhoul Bahri was the first Kfarsghabi to establish a business in the country; it was in the town of Tenterfield, New South Wales.
The late Samaan Coorey Francis was the first Kfarsghabi to establish a business in Toowoomba, Queensland.
The late Estephan Abdulla Simon and his uncle were the first Kfarsghabis to grow sugar cane in North Queensland. Also, his son was the first Kfarsghabi doctor in Australia.
The widow of Milan Azar was on her way to sell goods in New South Wales and she had to take a ferry to cross the river. Unfortunately, the ferry capsized and Mrs Azar drowned. After a lengthy search, they found her body floating on top of the water with her hands crossed on her chest in the Sign of the Cross and her rosary in her hands.
Mr Hanna Youssef Abood and his wife Hesseny immigrated to Australia in 1912. It is worthwhile to mention that their 165 descendants constitute the largest single Kfarsghab family in Australia.
The late Habib Coorey Francis was the first Maronite to be baptised in St Maroon’s Church, Redfern, in 1898. His father, the late Tannous Coorey Francis, was the head of the first Lebanese community to collect donations in aid of the allies during the First World War. As a result, the French government awarded him the “Legion d’honneur” for services rendered. This award is still kept by his children as a souvenir of their late father’s activities during the First World War.
During the Second World War, a committee of Australia Lebanese was formed to raise funds for the war effort. Included in this committee were a number of Lebanon Australians originally from Kfarsghab. These gentlemen worked hard within the Committee and spared no effort in joining with others to make the Australian Lebanese contribution to the war effort a substantial one.
War Committee Members: Youssef Boulous; Hanna Boulous; Estephan Abdullah Simon; Nicholas Lahood; Youssef Lahood; Moses Hanna; and Mansour Hanna.
The first conference of the World Lebanese Union was held in Beirut in 1959. All countries in the World who enjoyed the presence of Lebanese emigrants appointed delegates to attend the inaugural conference of the World Lebanese Union. In Australia, Maurice S K Moubarak was elected unanimously to represent the Australia Lebanese at the Conference in Beirut.
One of the great events that emerged from the emigration was the formation of the Australian Kfarsghab Lebanese Association (AKLA) on 19 October, 1952 in Sydney, Australia. The greatness of this event lies in the fact that AKLA was and has been endeavouring to strengthen the everlasting link which was formed between the emigrants and their home village.