HISTORY OF FIRST IMMIGRANTS TO USA
Immigrants to Easton, Pennsylvania (1880-1899)
The first Kfarsghabiyi arrived on September 15, 1880. The group consisted of Karam and Hala Bou Arab (Maneera Baurkot’s Parents) and Unis and Malkee Bou Arab (Susie Unis’s Parents). The group landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. and traveled to Easton, New York City, and Providence, Rhode Island. In 1882, another brother, Beshara Bou Arab, joined them. They stayed in the Delaware Valley where they worked for 6 years, then returned to Lebanon. However, from 1880 to 1901, there were no official settlements of Kfarsghabiyi in America.
In 1884, Elias Abboud Koury and his brother, John Koury, landed in Philadelphia. They settled in New Orleans, Louisiana. Elias died soon afterwards and John stayed in New Orleans and married there in 1888. John Koury became the first to immigrate permanently to the United States.
In 1885, the Utchee Boulous family came to Philadelphia, stayed 2 years and returned to Lebanon in 1887.
In 1885, Hanna and Yusef Boulous Moussa came to Washington, D.C. under the sponsorship of a wealthy American woman. Yusef attended school for seven years. Both Hanna and Yusef returned to Lebanon in 1893. Yusef was one of the few Kfarsghabiyi who could read and write English well.
In 1885, Hanna Yusef “Al Daqer” Karam went to St. Louis, Missouri where he stayed 5 years and returned to Lebanon in 1893 but first stopped in New Zealand.
On May 13, 1887, Anthony Assad Sar left Lebanon with Father Ambrose, a Jesuit missionary. He traveled to Yucatan, Honduras, Cuba, and eventually Mexico, then to Santa Barbara, California, where he left the missionaries and went to St. Louis, Missouri. In St. Louis he met his childhood friend, Hanna Yusef Karam. They spent 3 years together before Karam returned to Lebanon in 1890. While in St. Louis, Anthony met and married Catherine Deeb, a Lebanese girl from Karmsaddeh. The wedding took place in Herman, Missouri. on April 18,1896. Sar and his family moved to Easton in 1917.
In 1898, Mehsen Ibrahim Wehbi and his wife, Nazira Bou Arab Wehbi arrived in Pittsburgh, Pa. Nazira was the daughter of Karam Bou Arab who came to the United States in 1880. Mehsen and Nazira returned to Lebanon in 1906.
From 1894 to 1900 there was a temporary restriction on all quotas to the United States. This restriction was lifted in the autumn of 1901.Had it not been for an extraordinarily long delay in the arrival and loading of a ship heading to Australia in the port of Marseilles, France, the Lebanese probably would have never settled in Easton.
Immigrants to Easton, Pennsylvania (1900-1901)
In late 1900, the First Group of the Second Wave of immigrants, a group of about a dozen Lebanese, having grown dissatisfied with the dismal prospect of earning a livelihood from the stubborn northern Lebanese soil, set out to stake their claim on the mythical riches in the new land of Australia.
But, while waiting for days in the crowded, damp room that was used to hold passengers in transit, the Lebanese noticed that European passengers were boarding certain ships without any problems whatsoever. Puzzled, fortunately they found a Lebanese shipping agent in Marseilles and asked why it was that others wishing to board for Australia were able to do so with such ease, while they had been kept waiting for days. The group was told that those in the fast moving lines were not headed for Australia, but for another land, America, which none of the group knew much about.
Some of the group, bored with waiting for the Australian ship and growing ever more restless, suggested that they board the next ship going to America. A dispute then arose among the group when deciding to go to America.
By chance, group member, Dahoud Saba, met some people from our neighboring village, Blouza, who used to immigrate temporarily to New York City and come back to Lebanon every other year. Dahoud met a man from Blouza named Yousef Ishaq (Khatun) who was going to New York. The people from Blouza would temporarily immigrate to New York and then come back to Lebanon every year. Yousef Ishaq ended up being the son of Khatun, a woman who was from Blouza but living in the neighboring village of Bane. She was known in Kfarsghab because she was a midwife and the children of Kfarsghab knew her children in the monks’ school in Bane. Also, one of her sons used to be instructed by our Father Yousef Mubarak who was instructor.
So the brave Dahoud Saba – who was curious and wanted always to know from where people were coming and where they were going – started asking Yousef Ishaq questions. Yousef informed him that he was going to New York and that it was his third trip in five years. Dahoud started asking about the work and the living conditions in New York and was informed that they were excellent, and that all the people from Blouza, Bsharri, Ayto and the North who went there were successful and that some of them started settling there with their families.
Yousef Ishaq Khatun assured Dahoud Saba by saying:
“Don’t be afraid, O Kfarsghabi, what will happen to us, will happen to you. We will count you as one of us. I will introduce you to the Faour family, Daniel Faourr and his brothers George and Dominic. They are from Haddeth El Gebbeh in Bsharri. They have a big store for selling goods to peddlers like us… And they have a bank, they help people through it, they keep what we earn and give us interest.”
Dahoud felt then more confident and decided to travel to New York. He assembled his father and the rest of the group and informed them of what the Blouzani had told him saying:
“I’m not going to Australia, even if they give it to me [for free]. I’m not going back home from Marseille, my friends will scorn me. Either I go to New York, or I’ll throw myself in the sea.”
Dahoud resolved to go to New York, alone even if no other members of his group wanted to go. His companions, and among them his father Saba, wanted to go back to Beirut, then from there to Australia through Alexandria and Port Said. His companion’s wanted to go back to Beirut, then from there to Australia. But Dahoud has left back in the village his wife, ‘Afifeh, and their children, Rashid and Layla [and found it difficult to go back unsuccessful]. And the members of the group did not have enough money to stay longer in Marseille till the situation improved.
As the Late Saba Danyel [father of Dahoud] knew some English learnt in Australia, he did not want his son to travel alone to the United States. The group agreed to draw straws for going or not to the United States, and the ones who wanted to go stood on one side and the others stood on the other side. The entire group left for the United States and this is how America opened up to the First Kfarsghabiyi group thanks to Dahoud Saba and the people from Blouza.
The group arrived in the Fall of 1901 and consisted of David (Dahoud) Saba, Saba Danyel (father of Dahoud), Abraham Saad and his son, Saad, Barbara Saad and her mother, Naomi Bahri (Naomi Bahri died Sept. 8, 1905 and is buried in Bethlehem, Pa.), Elias Canone, George Elias Daniel, Mawad and Barbara Badway, Michael and Saltony Stevens (Beir), Joseph and Salha Nehme and son Ameen, Peter Haddad, and Martha Shumar.
When they second wave of immigrants arrived in New York in the Fall of 1901, they had little or no knowledge of English. Upon arrival to New York, the shipping agent introduced the Kfarsghabiyi group to Jirjis (George) Faour, a prominent Lebanese business man, who himself had immigrated to Boston in 1888 from Lebanon alongside his brothers Daniel and Dominic.
In New York, Faour assisted in establishing many of the newly arrived Lebanese, providing them with peddling supplies include combs, brushes, pins, and rosaries and in return the immigrants would promise to purchase all goods from him to sell. Faour had setup multiple Lebanese groups whom had emigrated from different villages in groups, in different communities to sell merchandise. Faour had similar operations in Scranton and Philadelphia.
Faour accompanied the immigrants on a train to their new and well-chosen destination, Easton Pennsylvania. Easton was chosen as the destination for the group from Kfarsghab simply because Faour had no sellers in the area. Upon reaching that destination, the immigrants would disembark and immediately begin selling their wares as agents of Mr. Faour, who never left the train station, but always returned immediately to New York.
Faour provided living quarters in a basement of a house on Ferry Street and came every month to collect money for the sold goods, and to provide more merchandise. The Kfarsghabians promised Faour that they would purchase from him all the goods which they might sell.
After many years of physical hardship and problems in overcoming the language barrier, the immigrants began to acquire meager dwellings of their own and eventually most were united in this new world. By 1929 there were about 300 Lebanese in Easton and Faour became a wealthy man starting his own bank however the Great Depression wiped out Faour’s bank.
Immigrants to Easton, Pennsylvania (1901–1921)
The 1901 Group of Immigrants opened the doors for a second wave of immigrant’s post 1901.
The Second Group arrived in the Autumn of 1905 and included Antonios Yousef Elias El Haddad (Anthony Haddad), Hanna El Badwi Karam Kalita (John Badway Karam) who went back to Lebanon in 1912, Hanna Tannous El Mishti El Sayyur and his wife Marina. Hanna died in Easton in 1907. The group included Marrun the wife of Karam Jabbour Karam but she went back to Lebanon soon to be with her sons Youssef, Tannous and Asaad Karam. Wardeeh Sassine the wife of Hanna Sassine and mother of Merhej Sassine was part of this group as well.
In the Autumn of 1905 a group returned back to Lebanon, and while traveling to New York they met the above mentioned group met in Cherbourg, France with the following people who were going back to Lebanon; Danyel Saba, Dahoud Saba, Elias Youssef Kannan, Geres Youssef Elias Danyel, Youssef Nehme and his wife Salha and their daughter Othmalliyeh, Ibrahim Said Dahoud and wife Mantoura, Hanna Said El Tanna, Mouwad El Badwi Nina and his wife Barbara, Michael Hanna Jbeir and his wife Yasmine and their two daughters Cecilia and Barbara, Youssef Hanna Shaia, and Youssef Estphan Karkage and his wife Barbara.
The Third Group arrived on October 31, 1906 and this group included Isaac and Nehia Isaac, Gustine Bedway, Mr. and Mrs. Tannous Yusef Baraket, Mr. and Mrs. Jabour Yusef Baraket, Salim Murray, Mawad and Barbara Badway, Dahoud and Afifi Saba and daughter, Wadad, Kareema Haddad Lahood, John Boulous Sassine, John Saba, Michael and Fakarah Koury, George and Tomam Elias Daniel, John and Daoon Hanna, John and Latiffa Thomas, Elias and Susan Boulous, Susie Unis Lahood and her mother, Milkee Unis Bou Arab.
Five people from this group were diagnosed with Trachoma disease, and were sent to Mexico, but were accompanied by Hanna Saba, the brother of Fakhera and the cousin of Marrun. They were treated in Mexico and finally arrived in Easton in the beginning of 1907.
The Fourth Group arrived around August 6, 1908 on the SS St. Paul-White Star Line and included; John Shaheen, Hawah Nacklee Canone, Joseph and Bahja Jabbour Lawass (Lewis) (the parents of Jacob Abraham Joseph who married Yamna (Emily) Boulous Joseph) , Elias and Wardee Canone, Philomena Koury and her son, Mamah, Michael and Fula Augustine Bedway, Nazeerah Abu Yacoob, Susie Farhat, Fula Farhat Jabour, Assad Jabour and his mother, Saltony, Hydoor Mussa and his mother, Joseph and Chafica Farhat (Joseph died 3 days later), Slabee Issey, Saidah Yusef Koury Francis, Yusef and Salha Nehme and their children, Ameen, Bababa, and Ismaleeya
The Fifth Group arrived in 1909 and included; Butrous El Mahditu, Assad Bader Wehbe, Elias Boulous Sassine and wife Susan, Sultane wife of Jabbour Hanna, Mantoura wife of Yousef Bou Hsein, Malkeh wife of Unis Bou Arab, Khalil Yousef Bader, Mikhael Hanna Jbeir and his wife Yasmine and her daughter Hawwa.
The Sixth Group arrived in New York on May 4, 1910 and included Mantura Yusef Abu Hassain, Elias and Susan Boulous Sassine, Assad Bader Wehbe, Shalleeto Haddad, Chahraban Tannous Constantine (Isthantheen), Anthony and Shashou’aa Rizk (last name was changed to Anthony’s father’s first name of John by immigration officials), Peter Haddad, Joseph and Ilguyla Koury, George Koury and daughter, Rumzee, Tannous Symia and sons, Hanna Yusef and Symia, (Hanna Yusef drowned in the Lehigh river within the year), Habib Issa, Antoun and Sahiddah Zuneel, Lila Jabour Baraket
The Seventh Group, also known as the Titanic Group, that came is the group that came in 1912 and were set to sail on the “Titanic”. One day before sailing Butrous Ibrahim Shoumar (El Kassis) / Peter Kassis, became ill, so the entire group of 24 stayed with him until her recovered. The sickness of Butrous Ibrahim Shoumar delayed the group in Marseille, France and ultimately saved their lives because they all stayed together as a group. The “Titanic” hit an iceberg and sank on April 17, 1912 with very few survivors. This group finally arrived after the wreck of the Titanic. This group of 24 people included; Peter Shaheen, Saleh Karam and daughter, Nahnua, Hesnie Jabour, Habbouk and Gholia Shumar, Elias Shumar, Kareema Haddad Lahoud, Martha Shumar, Shashhua Kalil Khabbaz.
The Eighth Group arrived in two separate boats, the first group arrived on August 13, 1913 and the second group arrived on the SS Torraine on September 29, 1913, in total they were around 40 to 50 people. These groups included; Peter Isaac and daughter Dalel; Assad Utchee (his family was lost at sea in a storm), John & Bargoot Jabour & daughter Mazel, Nehme and Labebe Rizk (last name was changed to Nehme’s father’s first name of John by immigration officials), Eva Haddad; Joseph and Nazah Francis Samia (Joe Sam), John Assis Shumar, Mansour Koury, Michael Burkot, Joseph and Labebe Jabour, Habib Lila Hanna (Mist-Hi), John Karam, Badway Kaleta Karam & son Badway, Tannous and Assad Karam, John and Imsayheeya Simon, Anise and Mike Basha Solomon, Rachael and Wadeh Elias & daughter Tira, Ny-Eem Elias and his mother, Susan, Catherine & Naseem Saad Canone, Yaoob and Saa’deh Jacobs, George and Maneera (Karam) Baurkot, George Lulu, Adoora and Wehbe Bader, Akley (Ollie) and Assad Bader, Tannous Symia & son, Symia, Barbour Joseph, Lila Jabbour Baraket, Boutros l Teran Karam (Husband of Rimi Sassine l Hiyali Karam), Mannoush Slabee Essa, Slaymeh Lahood Samia, Mayjed and Fatima Mussa, Peter (Ad-Bee) Michael, Tannous and Hammamee Symia, Wabhe & Nazah Haddad, Francis Karam.
The Ninth Group was the final group before the United States Quota was closed and World War I began in Europe. The Ninth Group arrived on April 13, 1914.
The group included; Salim and Lila Murray, Bakos Isaac & Ruby Isaac, Tannous & Marianna Younan, Youssef Jabbour Danyel Qatash, Antoun Mikhael El Zanqir and his wife Sada, Rashideh El Anbar, Mansour Mikhael Jabbour (Bou Zaathoura), Ibrahim Elias El Badwi, and Tannous Younan El Labbud and Wife Meryana, and her sister Masihyyeh who would later married Hanna Siman El Theran (Simon Family).
The Legendary, Habib Issey was the last immigrant to enter the U.S. before the quota was closed. World War I was beginning in Europe, and the doors wouldn’t re-open for another big wave of immigrants until 1922. Habib Issey became famous and held high the name of Kfarsghab, and wrote in Arabic newspapers in the US under the name Habib Issey El Kfarsghabi and signed his articles El Kfarsghabi. The name of Kfarsghab became famous thanks to the many article of Habib. He wrote for El Arus, and Al Hoda, both prominent Lebanese Newspapers of the time. Habib and his friends were members of the association “Al Nahda Al Lebnanyieh.”, a cultural renaissance that began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Lebanon, and is often regarded as a period of intellectual modernization and reform of the Middle East. Following his retirement, Habib resolved to go back to his beloved Lebanon, and passed away as his friends Gibran Khalil Gibran and Daoud Ammoun wrote, “having his grave in Lebanon and to have his shroud made from its snow”
Immigrants to Easton, Pennsylvania (1922-1938)
After World War I, the Lebanese bought homes from the Italians and Jews, who were moving away. They learned about clothes, home improvements, insurance and credit. Businesses were branching out, the dry goods and notions business was replaced by grocery stores, butcher shops, coffee houses and truck farms.
The first to enter the United States following World War I was a group in March of 1922 that included; Elias Tannous Samia, El Badwai Mouwad Nina and his wife Dalal, Nazha and Hawla Youssef El Bassta and Muqbel Salim Abboud.
In 1927 the Sheik Youssef Estephan, member of the Lebanese Parliament visited the Lebanese migrants overseas. His first stop was Easton, Pennsylvania followed by a trip to Australia, in both locations he was welcomed by the Lebanese community, and especially the Kfarsghab people. A banquet was held in his honor in Easton, Pennsylvania. Sheik Youssef was the first politician to visit the Lebanese migrants in the United States and Australia.
During this era the Kfarsghabiyi began entering the business world.
In 1929 the Maronites explored the possibility of purchasing the old St. Anthony’s Church, 321 Lehigh Street. A committee headed by John Boulous Sassine, John Jabbour, Peter Shaheen, Jacob Yaoob Joseph, Joseph Francis Samia (Joe Sam), John Badway Karam, and Anthony Sar met with the Archbishop of Philadelphia. John Boulous Sassine Chaired the Committee, and it became known as the Sassine Committee. The asking price of the church was $18,000, a large sum of money during the Great Depression; but with perseverance and patience, the Sassine Committee visited several Maronite parishes in Scranton, Wilkes Barre, Utica, Newark, Philadelphia, and Providence, R.I. and soon the down payment was realized. On April 1, 1931, permission was received to open the church and rename it Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church.
Another group arrived in 1929 and included a 17 year old Raymond Baurkot Sr, the son of George and Maneera (Karam) Baurkot who immigrated in 1913. Raymond would go on to become a well-known Easton businessman opening “Raymond Baurkot and Sons Beer Distributor” in 1933, shortly after prohibition was repealed. Raymond was appointed Honorary Consul General to Haiti in 1965.
In 1935, the son of Kfarsghabi immigrants, Jacob Abraham Joseph who married Yamna (Emily) Boulous Joseph, established an Easton Landmark, Jacob’s Fruit and Produce Co.
World War II and Mid Century (1939-1945)
In 1941, when war was declared, 39 men and 2 women from the Kfarsghabi community in the United States served in the armed forces of the United States. Work, wait, and pray, became the watchwords of the day.
In 1945, the war was over. We lost several soldiers from our community including;
Airman Charles Laholdt from Easton, who died somewhere over Europe in 1944
Shallita (Junior) El Haddad, the son of Shallita El Haddad from Easton, who was lost in Europe during action.
A Son of Hanna Abboud El Khoury from New Orleans, Louisiana, who was lost in action in France.
Wadi Tannous Agab, the song of Youssef Tannous Agab from Providence, who was lost in action in Africa in the sea.
Mikhael Antoun El Zanqir from Smith, New Jersey, who was lost in action in France.
The greatest progress of the Easton Lebanese was made after World War II. Many innovations learned during the war were put to useful purposes. They entered the business, professional, and social world. The parents and children took an active part in the church, school, social, and political affairs.
Modern Era – Lehigh Street (1945 – 1970)
Very few Kfarsghabiyi migrated to the United States after World War II. Several large groups came between 1945 and 1951.
The 1945 Group included; Kalemeh Badway, and sons, Mansour, Maurice, Anice and daughter Marina.
The 1946 Group included; Victor Michael Karam, Choukrallah Youssef Khoury, and his wife whom he married in Paris, Zakieh Samia.
The 1947 Group included; Elias Boutros Haddad, and his wife Souad, and Barbara Tannas Jbeir.
The 1948 Group included; Mansour Farhat, George Karam, Kanaan Nassim Saad, Doura Kanaan Kassis Nassim Saad, Rosa Tannas Moses, Youssef Mansour Jabbour, Mary Simon Karam and her husband Simon. Reverend Boutrous Sam went to the USA in 1948 as well.
The 1949 Group included; Kamel Tannous Rizk with his wife Sally Baurkot, Nazih Rachid Saliba, Tannas Hanna Jbeir and his children Youssef and Michael, Rachidie Boutros Haddad, Azzat Jahjah Melhem, Youssef Tannous Barakat, Samira Nehme George Thomas, and husband George Ajab Thomas, Constantine TAnnas Simon and wife Margaret and their children Joseph and Rene. Reverend Antoun Moubarak visited the USA in 1949 as well.
The 1950 Group included; Aziz Koury, Wardie Milan Solomon accompanied by her husband Sadic, Garbiel Anthony Budwee and his wife and daughters.
Another group arrived in 1951 and included Joseph Mikhael Elias Daniel, the son of Mikhael and Terkemane Elias Daniel,who would go on to become a well-known columnist at “Al-Hoda”, a prominent Lebanese Newspaper based out of New York.
After World War II, the Lebanese Community in Easton razed a thriving, clos-knit multiethnic, and multi-racial neighborhood populated b Lebanese and Italian immigrants, their descendants and African Americans. “Lebanese Town” also known as “Lehigh Street” was in downtown Easton near the railroad station, west of the city center. It was bordered by the Lehigh River and Lehigh and Washington streets to the south, South Fifth Street to the west, South Fourth Street to the east, and Ferry Street on the north.
Households by this time often contained extended families and included second-generation children along with additional relatives, such as the household heads’ parents, siblings, or cousins. People worked and lived in the downtown area and their neighbors ran a great variety of independent shops.
In 1969, Lehigh Street came under the ax of the redevelopment authority. Easton’s “Lebanese Town” was eradicated in stages by a series of renewal projects. By 1977, 870 homes had been levelled. This brought an end to the Kfarsghabiyi on Lehigh Street.
In 1969, our church and rectory were moved to 4th and Ferry streets. The Lebanese were scattered throughout the city and townships. The memories of Lehigh Street live forever and ever, in the hearts of all Kfarsghabiyi who knew it as their first home and haven in America.
Modern Era (1975 – Present)
Immigration has been a constant source of economic vitality and demographic dynamism throughout our nation’s history. The Modern Era has not seen large immigration waves to the United States as in previous generations.
The era has been characterized by growth of the community, and development of a sense of community identity. Second and Third generations of immigrants have grown to achieve higher incomes, more are college graduates, and homeowners; and fewer live in poverty.
Strong relationships are encouraged to maintain the well-being of our relationship between our beloved Kfarsghabiyi in Lebanon, Australia and the United States.
Compiled and Written By Merhej Hanna Sassine Boulos
Composed By Florence (Sar) Frangos
Contributions By Joseph Mikhael Elias Daniel
Updated and Re-Composed By Peter Karam
Translated By Yusif Kamil Yusif Butrus Ilyas El-Laban