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Kfarsghab Migration

Kfarsghab Migration2017-05-14T21:40:50+00:00

Religious Vocations

At a time when religion was very strong in the Mountains of Lebanon and migration to foreign countries was unknown, many Kfarsghabi men chose the monastic life and joined the nearby Monastery of St Anthony the Great in the Kadisha Valley.  At one stage, this numbered over sixty monks, most of who were two brothers from each household.  The Monastery records show that vocations from Kfarsghab started on 27 February 1710, and ceased on 17 December 1898 when Br Ephraim Saliba Abood II joined.  Brother Ephraim died on 9 April 1947.  The records also show that the monks from Kfarsghab were of deep faith and worked energetically for the good of the community.  Two of them became Archbishops and several Superiors of Monasteries.

Migration to Syria

At a time when work was scarce and migration to America and Australia had not yet begun, many Kfarsghabi people were forced to leave their village and seek work elsewhere in Lebanon and Syria.

It is said that a certain young woman, the sister of Charlitta Saliba, went to the town of Robly in Syria and married a young man of the Zaitouni family.  The couple had a son whom they named Ibrahim.  Later on, her brother and his family followed her to Robly where their descendants are still there today.

Another family from Kfarsghab went to North Syria, but the name of that family and the place to which they went are unknown.  It is important to note, however, that the story of the Sabbha family mentioned in the same history books is doubtful.  It is said that the Sabbha family left Kfarsghab and went to Aleppo, but there is no one in Kfarsghab who is related to that family.  What is certain however is that the following Kfarsghabi families migrated to Syria:  Beit Zekkr; Teib-Haish; and Krahli.

Migration Within Lebanon

Some two hundred years ago, the family of Younan Abou Mansour left Kfarsghab and went to the township of Tourza in the Besharri district, North Lebanon.  The descendants of that family are still there, and one of them became a famous monk of the Halabi-Maronite Order.  Another Kfarsghabi, Zakaria Haddad, went to Tourza where his descendants are known by the name of Zakaria.  His granddaughter, Mirian, married the late Assad Haddad, a well-known Kfarsghabi.  Also, Masoud from the Hanna family (a branch of the Abou Ibrahim family) went to Tourza.  His descendants are still living in that township.  Finally, the well-known family of Sheik Hanna Elias in Tourza came from Kfarsghab.

The Shamshoum family, a branch of Beit Khouri Youssef, left Kfarsghab and settled in Ras Baalbeck in the Bikaa district.  They adopted the name of Bshirrawee, a name which the local people respected, and which derives from the town of Sharri.  Also Youssef Baleece from Beit Khouri Youssef, married Mahroussi, the sister of Khouri Ibrahim and Khouri Boutros Lahood.  The couple had three boys and two girls.  One of the boys, Boulos, went to Argentina where he had a large family and owned a textile factory. The second son became a monk at St Anthony’s Monastery and took the name of Br Andraos Baleece.  The third son, Youssef, and the two daughters settled in the township of Kaah near the town of Hermel in the Bikaa District. Also, a member of the Lishaa family went to Baalbeck.

Boutros Boulos Nehmeh Hanna, from the Ibrahim family, left Kfarsghab with his wife and three children, (Michael, George and Boulos) and settled in the township of Kfradlaous, near Zxgharta.  They became known as Beit El-Bayeh or the Sghabi family.  A relative of the family, a monk by the name of Father Maroun Sam, who was the Superior of St Anthony’s Monastery, gave them some land to culture as shire croppers.  Subsequently, the family migrated to Brazil, the United States and Australia.

Migration to Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt

Some Kfarsghabi men and women used to travel to Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt to work in the winter months and return with their earnings in spring to work their land.  One of these men, Younis Karam, met his wife, Malkie El Haj (originally from the town Kaytouli in the Jazzine district of South Lebanon) in Alexandria, Egypt.  This temporary migration ceased when migration to Australia and the United States of America started.

Group One: 1888 – 1890

Michael Khoury Youssef and his brother Gerges; Maroon Betros Suleiman; Ibrahim Saad Dawood and his wife; Mrs Sada Youssef Essey; Youssef Lahood Boutros and his brother, Jabour; Hanna Rizk Rahi; Youssef Hanna Nehme; Youssef Rizk Rahi and his wife, Katherine; Merhi Ambor; Zekhia Isaac Abraham and his brother, Tannous; Mrs Foutina Youssef Al Hawr; Youssef Abou Abood; Ehalil Estephan Abood and his brother, Tannous; Simaan Karam; Elias Daniel and Hanna Youssef Haddad.

Group Two: 1890 – 1891

Lahood Tannous Ibrahim Nina (known also as Kahi) and his wife, Clara, settled in Bundaberg, North Queensland; Tannous Khoury Francis; Mrs Kattour Khoury Elias; Miss Hesseny Youssef Moussa; Francis Samia; Estephan Abdulla Simon; Boutros Abdulla Simon; Youssef Budwee Jobier; Tannous Coorey Ibrahim; Isaac Moussa Ahbour and his daughter Shalbeih; Assad Ibrahim Tannous Nina and his wife, Hannie.

Group Three: 1891 – 1900

Youssef Basha (also known as Hallak); Simon Coorey Francis; Massoud Merhi; Nicholas Lahood and his wife, Susan; Mrs Zena Nehma Saliba; Mrs Zahra Youssef Michael Rizk; Mrs Barbara Salim Kanaan; the children of Nakhoul Bahri; Tannous Nicholas; Jabour Nicholas; Hanna Youssef Abood; Mrs Martha Tannous Saad; Mrs Hawa Malkoun; Youssef Saliba; Michael Karam; Elias Moussa; Michael Estephan Khawaja and his sister, Hanna Lahood Hawr; Kheiralla Youssef Saad Dawood; Boutros Sakr; Boulos Haddad; Youssef and Hanna Moussa Ibrahim; Youssef Zeiker; Mrs Essey Abood; Youssef Roukoz; Mrs Hawa Tannous Abood; Khalil Kanaan and his wife; Youssef Jabour Estephan; Moussa Hanna Lahood Samia; Alex Solomon and Joseph Elias Coorey.

Group Four: To Broken Hill, New South Wales

Youssef Boulos Sassine and his brother, Lahood; Hannie, the widow of Roumanos Barakat and her son, George Barakat; Semaan Farhat and Mrs Martha Ibrahim Rouda.

Emigration to New Zealand: 1893

Emigration to New Zealand began in 1893, with Hanna Youssef Karam, after a trip he had made to the United States of America. He was followed by Hanna Youssef Maroon Loucia and his wife; Nemir Merhi and his youngest brother, Maroon; Youssef Bou Habib and his brothers, Tannous Samia and Hunna Tannous Leesha.

On their way to New Zealand, the ship’s engine stopped and the passengers became naturally worried, especially Tannous Samia. After the engine was fixed he was asked by the Captain how old he was. Tannous replied that he was only three hours – the time since the engine had been fixed.

After that group, emigration to New Zealand discontinued. The Kfarsghabis who settled in New Zealand were the children of Nemir Merhi and Maroon Bou Habib and his brothers. The rest of the group eventually returned to Kfarsghab.

Emigration to Brazil

Few Kfarsghabis immigrated to Brazil. Those who did before the First World War were Michael Abdul Ahad and his wife, Yasmine; Youssef Hanna Frome who was followed by his nephew, Maroon; Antonios Coorey; Youssef Nehme and his wife; Mrs Raji Saliba and her two sons, Boutros and Karim. After this group there was no emigration to Brazil.

Emigration to Australia: 1900 – 1914

The number of people who immigrated to Australia from 1900 to 1914 consisted of 62 persons. Some of them returned to the village for a short visit and some returned, got married and brought their brides with them to Australia.
The majority of the Kfarsghab immigrants settled in Sydney, Adelaide, Broken Hill, Toowoomba, Murwillumbah, Lithgow, Glen Innes, Lismore and other places.

World War I

Following the outbreak of World War I, emigration to, and contact with, the West ceased. Lebanon was then ruled by Turkey which was at war against the Western allies. Life in Lebanon during the war was extremely hard, especially for the Maronites who were accused of being loyal to the Western allies and in particular, to France. Many Maronite leaders were executed and the Patriarch himself was forced to live in hiding. Food, clothes and medicine were denied to the Maronites, and what was worse, a plague of locusts invaded the country and destroyed all the crops in the fields. Numerous people died of starvation, cold and various diseases.

It is important to note, however, that fewer people died in Kfarsghab, and those that did were the result of illness, rather than of starvation. There was enough food in the village, which the people shared among themselves. The Kfarsghabis in the United States and Australia were naturally worried about the plight of their relatives in Lebanon, but there was little they could do.
Towards the end of the war, when it became apparent that the Western allies were winning, they began to draft post-war plans and conclude agreements on the spoils of the war.

Lebanon and Syria were taken from Turkey and given to France as “Mandates”, because the allies decided that the people were not ready for independence. At any rate, after the war there was peace and security in Lebanon and the country progressed economically and politically. A Lebanese government was formed with had autonomy in domestic affairs.
Meanwhile, remittances from Kfarsghabi immigrants began to reach the village and Kfarsghab began to prosper and grow. The village leaders recorded in detail the horrible events of the war years and listed all the people that died and sent the list to Kfarsghabi communities in America and Australia. On arrival, the list was read in public gatherings and was followed by sorrowful scenes, as each household had lost someone.

Resumption of Emigration

After World War I emigration to America and Australia resumed, especially after the return of some emigrants in the early 1920s. The first emigrant from Kfarsghab to the United States after the war was Elias Tannous Sama. He arrived in the United States in 1922 via Mexico. After that, immigration into the United States was prohibited except for those who were born in the United States or married to US citizens, or those who were lucky enough to get on the quota list.

Australia

The first Kfarsghabi emigrants to Australia after World War I were Merchid Simon Hanna and his wife Salha. They arrived in 1921 and were followed in subsequent years by many groups. Because of restrictions on immigration to the United States, many Kfarsghabis chose to immigrate to Australia, despite the fact that work was harder and the pay less in Australia than in the United States. The majority of the Kfarsghab people worked as hawkers, the trade chosen by the seven pioneers who arrived in Adelaide in 1887.
In the early stage the Kfarsghab immigrants were poor; they had no businesses, farms or even homes to live in. They had no cars to travel and sell their goods.

The majority used to travel on foot for many miles carrying their heavy bags on their backs. They used to go inland to small country towns, often for several months and even years. They sold things that were light in weight and needed by country people. In this way, they survived the Great Depression.

Things began to improve for them after the mid-thirties until the outbreak of World War II in 1939 when again emigration from Lebanon ceased. But this time, contact between Lebanon and the Western allies was maintained and Lebanon became independent in 1943.

In 1941 the allied army, including an Australian battalion, entered Lebanon where they remained for a period of two years. The Australian Army was stationed in the areas of Jediadeh and Eaal and near our winter village of Morh. They were very co-operative and helpful towards the Lebanese people who had lived in Australia for some time before the wars.

It is worthwhile to mention that some members of the Australian Army, upon their return to Australia, formed an organisation under the name of “Friends of Lebanon”. Its members included both Australian and Lebanese people who had served in the armed forces and, in particular, it included some from the Kfarsghab community.

It is also important to mention that during the last two World Wars many members of the Kfarsghab community served in the armed forces while some gave their lives in action fighting for their new homeland.

In 1946 migration to Australia re-commenced. The first migrant was George Betros. Large numbers of the Kfarsghab community began to arrive in Australia by air. At times the planes were so full that war planes, like the DC3’s which took from four to six days, were used. Entire families migrated not only from Kfarsghab but also from North Lebanon. At this point we would like to make mention of the help and assistance the Kfarsghab people gave to each other and to other Lebanese migrants on their arrival in Australia.

At a time when religion was very strong in the Mountains of Lebanon and migration to foreign countries was unknown, many Kfarsghabi men chose the monastic life and joined the nearby Monastery of St Anthony the Great in the Kadisha Valley. At one stage, this numbered over sixty monks, most of who were two brothers from each household. The Monastery records show that vocations from Kfarsghab started on 27 February 1710, and ceased on 17 December 1898 when Br Ephraim Saliba Abood II joined. Brother Ephraim died on 9 April 1947. The records also show that the monks from Kfarsghab were of deep faith and worked energetically for the good of the community. Two of them became Archbishops and several Superiors of Monasteries.

Migration to Syria

At a time when work was scarce and migration to America and Australia had not yet begun, many Kfarsghabi people were forced to leave their village and seek work elsewhere in Lebanon and Syria.

It is said that a certain young woman, the sister of Charlitta Saliba, went to the town of Robly in Syria and married a young man of the Zaitouni family. The couple had a son whom they named Ibrahim. Later on, her brother and his family followed her to Robly where their descendants are still there today.

Another family from Kfarsghab went to North Syria, but the name of that family and the place to which they went are unknown. It is important to note, however, that the story of the Sabbha family mentioned in the same history books is doubtful. It is said that the Sabbha family left Kfarsghab and went to Aleppo, but there is no one in Kfarsghab who is related to that family. What is certain however is that the following Kfarsghabi families migrated to Syria: Beit Zekkr; Teib-Haish; and Krahli.

Migration Within Lebanon

Some two hundred years ago, the family of Younan Abou Mansour left Kfarsghab and went to the township of Tourza in the Besharri district, North Lebanon. The descendants of that family are still there, and one of them became a famous monk of the Halabi-Maronite Order. Another Kfarsghabi, Zakaria Haddad, went to Tourza where his descendants are known by the name of Zakaria. His granddaughter, Mirian, married the late Assad Haddad, a well-known Kfarsghabi. Also, Masoud from the Hanna family (a branch of the Abou Ibrahim family) went to Tourza. His descendants are still living in that township. Finally, the well-known family of Sheik Hanna Elias in Tourza came from Kfarsghab.

The Shamshoum family, a branch of Beit Khouri Youssef, left Kfarsghab and settled in Ras Baalbeck in the Bikaa district. They adopted the name of Bshirrawee, a name which the local people respected, and which derives from the town of Sharri. Also Youssef Baleece from Beit Khouri Youssef, married Mahroussi, the sister of Khouri Ibrahim and Khouri Boutros Lahood. The couple had three boys and two girls. One of the boys, Boulos, went to Argentina where he had a large family and owned a textile factory. The second son became a monk at St Anthony’s Monastery and took the name of Br Andraos Baleece. The third son, Youssef, and the two daughters settled in the township of Kaah near the town of Hermel in the Bikaa District. Also, a member of the Lishaa family went to Baalbeck.

Boutros Boulos Nehmeh Hanna, from the Ibrahim family, left Kfarsghab with his wife and three children, (Michael, George and Boulos) and settled in the township of Kfradlaous, near Zxgharta. They became known as Beit El-Bayeh or the Sghabi family. A relative of the family, a monk by the name of Father Maroun Sam, who was the Superior of St Anthony’s Monastery, gave them some land to culture as shire croppers. Subsequently, the family migrated to Brazil, the United States and Australia.

Migration to Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt

Some Kfarsghabi men and women used to travel to Palestine, Cyprus and Egypt to work in the winter months and return with their earnings in spring to work their land. One of these men, Younis Karam, met his wife, Malkie El Haj (originally from the town Kaytouli in the Jazzine district of South Lebanon) in Alexandria, Egypt. This temporary migration ceased when migration to Australia and the United States of America started.

In 1880 Kfarsghab witnessed the beginning of emigration to the New World. Karam Abi Arab, the pioneer of Kfarsghab emigration, left his village for the United States of America. His emigration had far reaching effected on his fellow Kfarsghabis who followed his footsteps and, in subsequent generations, immigrated to other parts of the world. Today, there are some 11,000 Kfarsghabis living in Australia, the United States of America, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, United Kingdom, France and Canada.

Emigration to the new world was relatively simple at that time. The emigrant did not have to go through bureaucratic procedures of obtaining passports, visas or health certificates. The only requirement was the payment of the fare (which was about three hundred gold guineas) to an authorised person on one of the ships anchored in the ports of Jounieh, Tripoli, Beirut and Tabarja. However, because there was a ban on emigrated imposed by the Ottoman government which ruled Lebanon at that time, the emigrants had to offer bribes to officials and politicians for arranging their exit.

Emigration to the United States of America: 1880 – 1898

As mentioned above, Karam Abi Arab and his wife Hala left Kfarsghab in 1880 and settled in Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania, USA. Three months after their arrival, Karam’s brothers, Beshara and Younis (with his wife) left Alexandria, Egypt to join them.

Karam and his wife earned their living as hawkers, and after four years of hard work they returned to their village and related their experience and success. Their story aroused much interest among their fellow Kfarsghabis in emigration to the United States of America.

In 1884, Elias Abood (nick-named Shetiah) left Kfarsghab for New Orleans in the State of Louisiana. His brother Hanna followed him and there he married a lady of Lebanese extraction. Hanna and his wife had five sons, one of whom was killed in France during World War II and another who left New Orleans to settle in Providence, in the State of Rhode Island.

One of the three brothers who stayed in New Orleans, Mr Albert Abood, became a brilliant lawyer and close friend of the late President, Lyndon B Johnson. In 1965, Mr Abood visited Kfarsghab when he was representing the lawyers of his State at an international conference in Beirut.

In 1885, Hanna Boulous Moussa and his twelve year-old brother, Youssef, left Kfarsghab for America. A wealthy woman (who arranged for the education of Youssef) wanted to adopt him, but Hanna refused and the two brothers returned to Kfarsghab. Youssef became the first person in the district to write and speak English fluently. Subsequently, Youssef married in the village where today his descendants exceed over 100 persons.

On 13 May 1887, Antonios Assad Saker left Kfarsghab for Mexico after an unsuccessful attempt to enter the United States of America. However, the Jesuit priests (who looked after him for two years and taught him the Spanish language) helped him to enter the United States in 1889, where he settled in St Louis, Missouri. He married a lady of Lebanese origin and in 1912 moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, where he settled permanently.

In 1887, Elias Gazi arrived in Peoria, Illinois, and his brother Simon followed him in 1894. Six years afterwards both brothers returned to Lebanon and subsequently they immigrated to Australia.

In 1989 Mehsen Ibrahim Wehbe and his wife Nazira, the daughter of Karam Abi Arab, left Kfarsghab for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After eight years of hard work, they returned to the Village.

After 1898 emigration to the United States of America ceased temporarily.

Emigration to the United States of America: 1900 – 1914

Emigration to the United States of America started in large groups in 1901 as there were then no restrictions on immigration into that country. In the autumn of 1901 there was a group from Kfarsghab on their way to Australia via Marseille, France, where they had difficulties in finding a ship to take them to Australia.

It so happened that a member of the group, Dawood Saba, met some people from Blawza (a village near Kfarsghab) who informed him that they were on their way to the United States of America and that this was their third trip to America in five years. They also informed him that there were many people from North Lebanon in America and that they were all doing well.

Because of the delay in Marseille, the group wanted to return to the village but Dawood Saba convinced them instead to go to the United States of America. However, two people, Boutros Karam and Tannous Hanna Simaan returned to Kfarsghab, leaving the 23 persons in the group who finally went to the United States.

Group Two left in Autumn 1905 and consisted of nine persons; Group Three left on 31 October, 1906 and consisted of 34 persons; Group Four left in Summer 1907 and consisted of 23 persons; Group Five left on 16 August, 1908 and consisted of 30 persons; Group Six left in 1909 and consisted of 14 persons; Group Seven left on 4 May, 1910 and consisted of 23 persons; and Group Eight left in 1912 and consisted of 33 persons.

To this last group, there is an interesting story which should be recorded. The group was in Marseilles on their way to the United States and were about to embark on the ill-fated ship “The Titanic” when Mr Boutros Ibrahim Kassis, one of the group become ill and was until to continue the journey. Rather than leave him behind by himself, the rest of the group decided to stay with him until he was fit to travel. The ship sailed without the Kfarsghab group and subsequently crashed into an ice-berg. The illness of Ibrahim Kassis and the brotherly feelings shown to him by the rest of the group saved the lives of 33 Kfarsghabi persons. There are still five people alive from that group – Elias Boutros Shumar, in Easton Pennsylvania; Mansour Youssef Badway; Mary Mansour Badway; George Ghaleb Norman, in Providence, Rhode Island; and Nahmtalla Tannous Coorey in Kfarsghab, Lebanon.

Group Nine left on 13 August, 1913 and consisted of 65 persons. One person was added to the group on the way, Margaret Youssef Moussa was born on the trip in the Atlantic Ocean, and Mr Bishara Bou Houssein returned to Lebanon because of ill health. The group travelled on two ships.

Group Ten left on 13 April, 1914 and consisted of 16 persons. Mrs Sahda Antonios Zaneer, a member of the group, remained in Marseille to give birth to her baby. Soon after the birth, the mother resumed her voyage to the United States of America.

The last person to leave the village for the United States was the late Habib Essey, who later became the editor of a large Arabic newspaper in New York. After him, emigration to the United States ceased because of the outbreak of World War I.

The majority of the Kfarsghab community in the United States settled in Easton, Pennsylvania. Before the war there was more emigration to the United States than to Australia, both because of the shorter distance between Lebanon and the United States and the greater financial success of the Kfarsghab community in the United States.

Emigration to Australia 1870-1900

There is no general agreement about the beginning of emigration from Lebanon to Australia. Some say it started in 1870, others in 1875. The likely story is that the first Lebanese migrant, Massoud El-Nashbi of Besharri, arrived in Australia in 1880. He stayed only six months, partly because he was very successful in selling souvenirs which he obtained from the Holy Land and for which the Australians paid large sums of money.

On his return to Besharri, Massoud El-Nashbi recounted his success in Australia and told his fellow villagers about Australia and the friendly and generous nature of its people. On day in the summer of 1886 some Kfarsghabi men paid a visit to Father Gebrail El-Fakhri, the Parish Priest of Besharri, and while there, a letter arrived from his children who had immigrated to Australia shortly after the return of Massoud El-Nashbi. Father El-Fakhri found a cheque for ten pounds enclosed in the letter (a large sum of money in those days), and then proceeded to tell his visitors about the success of his children and their work in the mines of Broken Hill. He promised the visitors the support of his children if any of them wished to immigrate to Australia. The Kfarsghabi visitors expressed a keen interest in emigration and took up his offer.

In February 1887, Father El-Fakhri received another letter from his children in which they asked him to inform the Kfarsghabis to come to Australia. After a short period, the first group of emigrants left the port of Mina.

After several months of sailing, the ship arrived in Adelaide, in the State of South Australia, where Father El-Fakhri’s children received the new immigrants with open hearts. They asked them to discard their original clothes and wear new western-style garments.

Father El-Fakhri’s children rented a room for the immigrants in Broken Hill. During the first night they heard the Town Clock as it stuck midnight. They then woke up, put on their clothes and left their room because they thought it was the toll of the bells of the Church calling the faithful to mass (as was the custom in Lebanon).

In the street, the night watchman stopped them and questioned them about their destination. They responded by making the sign of the cross. The watchman understood and led them to the Church where he woke the Parish Priest and the Dean, named Joseph. After they realised that they were Christians from the East, they took them back to their room.

The Dean, Joseph, then looked after them and taught them a few essential English words, including those connected with money, and bought them each a bag with their name and address on it. He also filled the bags with goods such as needles, pins, etc. and taught them the art of door-to-door selling. After a certain period of time they mastered the art, began to pick up the English language and started to make a good living.

One day, Youssef Nehme and Hanna Doumit lost their way in a thick forest. After three hours of walking they saw a distant light and as they approached it they were attacked by wild dogs whose barks awakened the owner of the house and his wife. The owner questioned the men who were only able to respond with a few broken English words, and then they invited them to their house and fed them and allowed them to spend the night at their home. Youssef and Hanna woke up early, looked out through the window and saw the cut wheat and seedlings spread out over the grounds. They got up and climbed through the window and gathered the wheat into bundles. They then carried them in to be prepared for separating into hay and grain.

The owner and his wife then woke up and were surprised by the men’s initiative and gratitude. As a token of their appreciation, they bought all the goods the men were selling for an amount much more than the real value. They also provided the men with food and drink and arranged for their son to drive them by carriage to their homes. When they arrived in Broken hill, the two men saw their friends’ utter cries of joy because they thought that they had been lost forever and had given up hope of tracing them.

These men had profound effects on the emigration to Australia. It was due to their material success that large numbers of Kfarsghabis began to leave the village and arrive at the port of Adelaide, South Australia. It is worthwhile to mention that Mr George Joseph, the son of the late Khalil Youssef Kanaan, became the Mayor of Adelaide, the city which received the first Kfarsghabi emigrants into Australia.