Family History

The Emergence of the Maronite Families

Foreigners, who intervened in the private issues of Maronite, were the direct cause of the emergence of strong Maronite men. Thanks to their intelligence, wealth and honesty, those men got closer to Lebanese and Syrian governors. This fact helped in preserving the religion’s rights. Some of them reached high posts like governors of northern and southern districts. Those individuals came from the noblest Maronite families. At the epoch, it was wise for the emergent Maronite family to create bonds with Muslim Walis (governors). The Lebanese situation was helpless. Hence, they tried to establish good relations with foreign governors, who enjoyed great power, in order to prevent Maronite from the abuse of the unjust Walis. Not to mention that every emergent Maronite who refused to convert into Islam was sentenced to death.
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The origin of Karam Family

The origin of this honorable family goes back to the beginning of the 12th century with a French colonel, who belonged to the Crusaders coming from Europe, to save the Holy Lands from Muslims, and allow Christian pilgrims, who were mistreated by Muslim governors, to visit Jerusalem. Crusaders lived many years in the East and won many battles, but were utterly defeated in the latest of the 12th century. Historians confirmed that invaders in Lebanon were mixed with its Christian citizens. Many families were attributed to Crusaders such as Zi’inni, Prince, Frangieh, Tarabay and Karam. However, the truth of this attribution was vague, after the loss of many precious writings and monuments.
Members of Karam Family claim that their grandfather was a French commander holding the post of district officer of one of Jerusalem’s districts, and lived in “Jbeih”. After he lived there for a very long time, one of his grandchildren went to Lebanon and lived in Ehden. Nevertheless, other historians claim that Karam family is one of the indigenous Lebanese families. Men of this family were the children of the insurgents who protected Lebanon with their swords and devoted themselves to ensure its freedom and independence. It was known that many Crusaders, who did not leave Lebanon after being defeated, became Lebanese citizens. Despite everything, Karam family is one of the grand Lebanese families, whose sons were famous for their generosity and sense of honor. They knew very well how to combine zeal with magnanimity, religion and patriotism. They were the first to introduce every sort of renascence in the North, especially Youssef Bey Karam who sacrificed himself and his money in its favor. That is why he became the hero and the pride of Lebanon.
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Abu Karam

The first famous person of this family was their grandfather “Abu Karam”, who lived in the beginning of the 17th century.
Emir Fakhreddine Ibn Maan was famous for his glory and influence, but also his generosity and tolerance. In 1624, when Prince Fakhreddine wanted to occupy Tripoli, he gathered his army and went to Baalbeck then to Jebbeh. When he passed by Ehden, Abu Karam’s men were standing on both part of the road holding food. Soldiers passed between them, took what they needed and continued their path. They were 12 thousand soldiers. However, the Prince and his escort were Abu Karam’s guests for launch.
Easterns were famous for their hospitality, even when they were still nomads. This feature did not disappear with civilization and urbanism.
Soldiers headed Tripoli, but the Prince and his escort stayed at Abi Karam’s house. After few hours, the Prince knew that his men occupied the city. They entered it from Tebbaneh and the Prince went back to Deir El Kamar from Kalamoun. Before leaving, he designated Abu Karam governor of Bshari District. Youssef Bey Karam have wrote in his memoirs, which he presented to the Holy Church and France, that the resistance of Maronite in defending Lebanon made them conclude many conventions for peace and conciliation. The Lebanese government was entrusted to a Muslim family named “Maan”. This family used to pay all the rationed money to the Sultan and kept the administrative politic of the country for Maronite. When the Sultan knew that Prince Fakhreddine wanted a total independence, he waged a desperate war against him, brought him to Constantinople and killed him. Ottomans found this a perfect chance to occupy Lebanon and murder all the Christians.
"My grandfather Abu Karam was at that time the governor of Ehden District. He was the first Maronite leader in north. After he had beaten Turks, which sought the help from Constantinople, a big army was sent under the command of one of the greatest Turkish commanders. When my grandfather wanted to protect Maronite from war disasters, he negotiated the commander about submission, on condition that they stop fighting the Maronite. The commander accepted and signed. My grandfather came to Tripoli to meet the great commander. The latter asked him to convert into Islam and promised to confer him the Lebanese government. This request hurt the Christian hero who categorically refused. Hence, Turks tortured him and was evidently sentenced to death".
Consequently, we can clearly see that Maronite have suffered so much. Some foreigners were fighting them also on the rule of Bshari. The last way to get their rights was to deal with Walis of Tripoli. After being the governor of Bshari during the reign of Fakhreddine Ibn Maan, Abu Karam was killed in Tripoli, then two notables from Ehden was in charge in his place: Sheikh Abu Gerbrael Youssef and the deacon Abu Dib Hanna. It was designated after them Sheikh Abu Karam Bshara of Ehden, one of Abu Karam’s relatives. Not to mention that both are ancestors of Karam family
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Karam Ibn Sahyoun – Abu Karam Bshara

He was one of the Maronite sheikhs and notables of the 17th century. He had a strong relation with Ibrahim Aga, the commissioner of Hassan Pasha the Wali of Tripoli, who designated him commissioner on Bsharri in 1676.
When Sheikh Abu Karam was ruling peacefully, Mohamed Pasha came to Tripoli, freed Hamadi Family from persecution and gave them back their districts.
Sheikh Ahmed designated himself governor of Jebbeh. This Sheikh broke the promise he made to residents of Jebbeh, which consisted in not interfering in “religion, honor and blood”. The Patriarch Estephan Douaihy expressed strong disapproval of the sheikh’s behavior; therefore, he left Jebbeh and referred to Prince Melhem Ibn Maan. He then lived in Majed El Maaoush in 1683, in which the Patriarch Youhanna Makhlouf of Ehden used to live. He was close to Prince Fakhreddine in order to escape unfairness and injustice. He lived among his Maronite sons who bought this village after they won a sedition with Muslims. Douaihy lived in Majed El Maaoush for two years. Hamadi family sent him a delegation asking him for submission. Thus he left and went back to his See in Bsharri with all respect.
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Mikhael Ibn Nahlous

Sheikhs of Hamadi family were ruling the northern districts. They were excluded from them, and then the Wali of Tripoli, Mohamed Pasha, designated them on their districts (1691). After a year, Ali Pasha became the Wali of all these districts after he excluded them, and designated Mikhael Ibn Nahlous, nephew of Abu Karam Bshara, Wali on Casa Zgharta and Jebbeh.
It seemed that the rule of Jebbeh became almost restricted to Ehden in general and Karam family in particular. Sheikh Mikhael was one of the famous heroes.
Zgharta was probably one of the properties of Ehden citizens. However, there was a conflict on Metawalis region. Thanks to Ibn Nahlous, they were finally able to annex it. While this hero was in Danniyeh collecting the domanial money, an ambush made by “Ibn Shakrani” attacked him, in which he got murdered (1704). Hamadi family took back the reins of power, increased the taxes and put more pressure on residents.
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Evacuation to Akkar

Residents of Mtawlis became more powerful than Karam family who could not stay there anymore. Thus, they went to Akkar and lived in a village called “Sheikh Taba” for forty years. Subsequently, a strong relation between Merheb and Karam family grew up. During these forty years, the priest Mikhael Abu Aoun son of Abu Karam passed away in Arka in 1711 and was buried in Saint Moura’s Church next to Bkarzla. The priest Sahyoun Karam also died, in March 1723.
When Mtawlis ruled Jebbeh again, they were more severe than ever. Their oldest Sheikh Issa Hamadi humiliated the Patriarch Estephan Douaihy. Therefore, Khazen family came to revenge the Patriarch, but Mtawlis asked for his help to escape from them. After this incident, they became fair and just. They also protected Maronite and maintained their religion, honor and blood, the fact that helped restoring security and peace. Nevertheless, they could not change their habits for a long time. Even their kids (1750) were known for their injustice, vandalism and murder. Those unfair people conspire against Sheikhs of the villages such as sheikh Gerges Boulos Douaihy from Ehden, Issa Khoury, Hanna Daher Keyrouz from Bsharri, Abu Sleiman Awwad freom Hasroun, Abu Youssef Elias from Kfarzghab, Abu Khattar from Aintourine and Abu daher from Hadshit. They could only kill Sheikh Abu Daher and assassinated many notables. Their impudence pushed them also to seize the bishop Joachim Yammine from Ehden.
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The Return of Karamists

Karam family returned to their town Ehden after forty years in Akkar. They found that many residents and Mtawlis appropriated their properties. Nonetheless, they wanted to take back what belonged to them. Karam family had a mill on Rashiin river banks, known as Abu Karam Mill. Mtawlis refused to give it back unless they pay 50 Piaster. Hence, they sold their copper and their wives’ jewels to take the mill back>
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Revolution on Mtawlis

Karam family began to fix things up and decided to revolt on Mtawlis, because residents of Bshari could not endure this disgrace anymore. The revolution broke out in Ehden, where residents faced Mtawlis who wanted to seize the bishop Yammine. Fights began from Ehden till Kanoubine. Men from many different villages came to Ehden and the bishop celebrated a mass in Saint George’s Church in Ehden. The public took oath of integrity. Sheikhs of villages became the governors, but the division of the villages was kept the same. They also agreed with the Wali of Tripoli to pay the domanial money in 1756.
These sheikhs chose local residents to protect the country and designated three men to guide them: Bshara Karam from Ehden, Abu Daher EL Ferz from Bshari and Abu Elias El Afrit from Hasroun. Othman Pasha encouraged and helped them in fighting Mtawlis because of their continuing assault in Casa Zgharta and Tripoli. In 1761, Mtawlis attacked Bsharri from Baalbek where they committed many murders and acts of vandalisms. They did the same in Baalbek and Jbeil. A fight arose in Bsharri, between them and the skeikhs of Jebbeh. After eight hours they brought utter defeat upon Mtawlis and killed twelve of them.
In 1763, Wali of Tripoli guided an army to Jebbeh El Mnaytra and divided it into two parts: a part sent through mountains led by the Major Bshara Karam and won may battles against Mtawlis. However, he did not enjoy this victory, because while he was returning with his men through Mghayre, few Mtawlis set up an ambush and killed him with six of his friends. He became then a martyr for defending his nation.
In 1771, a big battle occurred in Akoura between Prince Bashir Samine, uncle of Prince Youssef Shehab, and Mtawlis, who attacked the prince in Akoura. The fight continued from sunrise till sunset. At that time, the Prince was accompanied with men from Jebeh, such as Sheikh Issa Khoury from Bsharri, Sir Youssef Karam from Ehden, along with some valiant men. They could defeat the Mtawlis.
In the next day, Mtawlis reached Jebbeh. Hence, Sheikh Abu Sleiman Awwad, Sheikh Hanna Daher and their men arrived there. Mtawlis were afraid from the big number of men and escaped with their families from El Mnaytra and Almat Valley. They kept chasing them until Koura
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The Deacon Francis Karam and his son Youssef

Youssef Karam is the son of Sheikh Francis who built in Zgharta a Palace, which is known nowadays by the house of Karam Family. Sheikh Boutros and his son Youssef Bey Karam used to live also in this house, a house built like palaces of feudal princes and sheikhs of Lebanon.
However, people of Aintourine surnamed Youssef Francis Karam by “gentleman”, since his father was a very helpful employee in the French consul in Tripoli. His brother “Hanna” used to live with him in Tripoli. His son Youssef replaced him in this job. He surpassed the fame and the power of his father, to the point that he cut the cord of a hanged, negotiated with the Wali of Tripoli and saved him. As he knew foreign languages, he dealt with traders who called him “gentleman”.
Few years later, the Wali of Tripoli asked him to collect domanial money, which costed huge amounts for residents. Thus, notables and sheikhs of Jebbeh explained the distressing situation to Youssef Bey Karam, who quickly visited the Wali and promised him to pay all the amount of 36 bags (a bag equals 500 Piasters). After two days, he defrayed the money and prohibited the soldiers from entering Jebbeh of Bsharri.
He used his wide power and nobility in favor of his nation and citizens. However, influential people from Tripoli conspired against him and bribed the French consul in order to lift his French immunity. Thus, the Wali seized him, imprisoned him, and tortured him in every possible way. They also penalized him of 9 bags of money and confiscated his house in Tripoli. Many years have passed before he was released from jail. He lived in another house (Berlan House), next to which the church of Saint Michael was built.
After occupying Egypt, the Great Napoleon wanted to occupy Akka (1899). Consequently, the relations between France and the Ottoman Empire were critical. The Wali of Tripoli ordered to seize the house and all the properties of Youssef Bey Karam. The latter went back to Ehden, where he received many French guests escaping the Ottoman injustice.
“When the war was waged between us and Turkey, the majority of French living in Syria and those who were in Tripoli took the mountains of Lebanon as a refuge to escape the ottoman injustice. The Mount was a safe habitat for our French citizens”, Restilhoper said.
This Youssef was the one who built the church of the Lady of Zgharta, which still exist until our days. There is a book of prayers very well preserved in this church dating 1790, in which it was written:”This church belongs to the Waqf of Zgharta. It was built with the help of the good people of Aleppo. This was in the epoch of the gentleman Youssef, son of Francis Karam, who was very pious and took care of every detail of the church. This was also during the epoch of the reverend bishop Gebrael Knayder in Aleppo and the honorable bishop Gerges Yammine, in 1792”.
The tight friendship between Karam and the French was very obvious. They used to refer to him during their problems. When Lazarist fathers left Zgharta and Ehden (1775) and lived in Tripoli, their properties remained between the hands of Karamists, Francis and his son Youssef. The latter used to love France and its language. He wrote on a plate, in French numbers, the date when his house was built. This was considered an act that takes a lot of nerve to make it. At that time, people were afraid to admit their tendency for foreign countries. This friendship got tighter, when he married his daughter to Monsieur Mazoyé, one of the French nobles. After the Napoleon’s occupation of Egypt, French went back to their homeland, but Mazoyé stayed in Lebanon and his family lived in Latakiyah. He was a translator for Tripoli consuls and he accompanied Lamartine (1835) when he visited Sheikh Boutros, son of Youssef Francis Karam in Ehden
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The National Renaissance

“The Karamists led for decades the northern districts, the strongest districts in the mount. They resisted against all the military campaigns and raids, but remained the bulwark of Christianity in the East. Karam family was not only famous for its valiant fights, but also for its piety and its noble relationship with France”, the General Ducrot said.
“Fifty thousand Maronite in Jebbeh of Bsharri live under the rule of Karam family. This region was the strong bulwark of Maronite for more than 1500 years”, the Lord Churchill said. “Sheikhs of Jebbeh, especially the Karamist Sheikh of Ehden, preserved the country’s rights and ruled their districts according to the feudal rule”. Not to mention that Karam family ruled Ehden District until 1760, when all fiefdoms were abolished.
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