Marguerite embarks on one last adventure

Harrison left New York in July 1925 and traveled through Paris before heading to Constantinople. This time she had no trouble getting the necessary permits to proceed to Angora, which she found greatly improved with electricity and new government buildings. The Foreign Office readily gave her permission to tour the farm communities where Turks from Greek territories had been resettled. Then she traveled to Syria to tour the camps where some 45,000 Armenians lived.

Travel was somewhat easier than it had been the year before when she was with Cooper and Schoedsack, but dangers still lurked. On a coastal steamer from Izmir in west Turkey to Syria, she struck up a friendship with an Englishman selling jams and marmalade. When he learned she planned to travel to Aleppo alone, he insisted on going with her. “It ain’t no trip for a lady to take alone,” he told her.

Touched by his concern, Marguerite agreed to let him accompany her. They disembarked at Iskenderun, then called Alexandretta and found a “villainous-looking” Armenian driver willing to take them to Aleppo.

They kept a wary watch out for bandits who they knew lurked along the mountainous road. Progress was slow. By the time they reached the top of mountain, it was nearly dark. They then began to descend into a gorge flanked by tall cliffs that Marguerite and the Englishmen knew was the perfect spot for an ambush.

Suddenly three men armed with rifles jumped in front of their car and ordered them to stop.

The driver halted, jumped from the vehicle and fled. “Now we’re in for it,” Marguerite thought. She didn’t think they would be killed, but she had heard stories of outlaws holding foreigners for ransom or robbing them of all their possessions and setting them loose almost naked.

The Englishman crouched in the front seat in fear as the three bandits jumped on the car’s running board. One of them attempted to grab the salesman’s sample case. Suddenly the Englishman jumped up and punched the robber in the jaw, slid into the driver’s seat, and took off with a jolt that threw the bandits to the ground. He sped forward as the assailants fired at them but missed. Marguerite and the Englishman were soon out of range.

Marguerite reached Aleppo safely and visited the Armenian camps outside the city. She described the refugees as being geniuses at both trade and trouble. They had set up shops selling whatever they had and at the same time organized rival societies and political parties. The French who ruled Syria and the Americans with Near East Relief were exasperated with the refugees, whom Marguerite describe as “rarely grateful, always complaining and always stirring up dissension.”

Marguerite spent a week in Syria not only visiting the refugee camps but also meeting with French military commanders trying to tamp down rebel forces in the Lebanese mountains. Finally, she boarded a steamer in Beirut to begin her journey home.


Harrison visited Armenian refugee camps, such as this one in Aleppo, Syria, c. 1920s.
 
 

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