Yesia Torosian

Yesia Torosian was Betty's Father, Nancy's Grandfather, and Blaise's Great Grandfather.

Turkey §


May 5 -Yesia B. Torosian born in Fenese (Currently Develi) Turkey. He told Esther that his full name was Hadji Yesia because this was his grandfather’s name. He (we assume Yesia’s grandfather) was called Hadji because he had gone to Jerusalem where his (Yesia’s grandfather) mother was born. This could have been a woman who had the last name of either Torosian or Jerahian. Assuming each generation was 22 years younger than the previous one this woman may have been born in Jerusalem ~ 1818.

Map 1912-1919 from book by Mardiros Balaian “Kayseri and its surrounding.”

Father- Hernard (Haroutun) Torosian Born 1858 in Fenese, Turkey or 1850 in Avaran Azerbaijan, which is close to the Caspian Sea. As of 1926, 12% of the ethnic groups in Azerbaijan were Armenian. Mailman Died- unknown, after birth of last child, before Yesia would have been able to remember him.

Mother- Miriam B Jerahian (Djerhian) – referred to as Hadji. Born 1858-??? She may have immigrated in 1912 since she came with John’s wife-to-be and they were married in 1912. The wife’s name was Paroos Takousian born in 1893. When she came to the US, she first lived on the East Coast stayed with Miriam’s children. Then she moved to the West Coast to live with Yesia and John for health reasons. John began living in Turlock as of 1919 and Yesia began living there in 1913. We believe she was called Hadji due to some connection with Jerusalem. In an interview with Esther, Yesia said his real name was Hadji Yesia because Jerusalem where his mother was born. This would mean the woman born in Jerusalem was Yesia’s grandfather’s mother. In 2019 Jim and Nancy explored whether the Armenian Apostolic Church records kept in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem had any record of Miriam being born in or married in Jerusalem. There is no such record. As of 2022, Jim is doing further exploration as to the connection between Miriam and her use of the name Hadji. Died 1924- in Turlock CA, Buried in Fresno CA

Life in Fenese and Constantinople For three years (age 8-11) Yesia had been an altar boy in the Orthodox church in his Fenese. He knew the liturgy music well. He left Fenese (27 miles from Kayseri) when he was 13 to work as a shoemaker with an uncle in Constantinople The trip took 5 days on horseback and he travelled with an aunt and a cousin. It took 5 days to get to Constantinople and he cried when he left Fenese because he had been happiest there. Zaroohie had a photograph of this uncle. At some point he visited the American College in Tarsus with 40-44 boys and men on their way to Symerna.

Siblings: Roupen, Harry, Mariam, John, Arusyag

New England §


Yesia comes to America- with the help of Harry. We had papers, written in Turkish, which may have been the papers he was given by the Turkish government as he left. We left them with George Hintlian in Jerusalem as he advised us that it was not safe to take them to Turkey. This was in 2019 and he has not returned them yet. If they were papers which indicated if Yesia left as a Turkish citizen there would be a strong argument that the property bequeathed to him by his relatives in Fenese should have been given to him. See information in year 1933. He left Constantinople at the age of 17 due to Turkish fear of Armenian revolutionaries. The trip was facilitated by a go-between who helped get money from Harry for Yesia’s trip. The boat left Constantinople Sept 15, 1900. The cost to Marseilles was 3.50 or one napoleon. There were 100 French nuns and 4-5 Armenian refugees on the boat. The boat was full of lice. They spent one night in quarantine in Pera Greece on the way to Marseilles. The go between took the refugees to a hotel in Marseilles where they stayed 15 days. Harry was sent a wire asking for money for the trip. Yesia never knew how much Harry sent. From Marseilles they went to Paris on a one night train which took 12 hours. From Paris they went to Bolognia on another one night train. They spent 17 days on a German ship (Hamberg American Line – also with lice) going to NY. It contained about 30 Armenian refugees. On the boat Yesia barbered earning enough (1.50) to wire Harry who was then to wire a Mr. Iskenderian to meet him at Ellis Island. They landed in NY on Oct 19, 1900 spending the first night in Castle Garden. The cost of the trip from Marseilles to NY was 47.00. Somewhere on the trip, a fellow refugee stole one gold piece from his person (tied around his neck in a little bag) by cutting the string while he slept. It was worth about 750.00. John had given it to him when he left Constantinople. Yesia never told John about this loss . Mr. Iskendarian gave Yesia 5.00 dollars and bought him a ticket to Wooster. Harry picked him up in Wooster even though they did not recognize each other at first. Harry took him to Framingham hoping to catch the train for Milford. However they missed the train and did not arrive in Milford until Sunday morning.


He also worked in a shoe factory in Farmington MA. He worked in a foundry in 1904.

Based on an interview Esther had with him: Yesia saw President Taft when he visited Hopedale Mills Yesia also saw Buffalo Bill in Milford MA Yesia could not join the military because he was not a citizen


Yesia became a citizen on Aug 14 in Worcester MA Yesia worked in Providence RI for the New England Butt Co. He lived in a boarding house on Pearl St.


Feb 15-Yesia marries Azniv Shakargian in Milford MA. Grandma went with Mr and Mrs Kalunian from Providence RI to Milford MA by trolley for the wedding. The Kalunians were going to be the bridesmaid and bride groom. It has snowed all day. When they got off the trolley car the snow was up to her hips.

Nov 5-Esther (Asrig Stella) born in Woonsocket RI, 66 Freeman St.


Harry set Yesia up with a fruit stand business in Woonsocket RI. This only lasted one year. While in Providence RI, Yesia was a pioneer in the Tashnag


June 5-Roxy (Araxy) born in Milford, MA

California §


Yesia and Azniv, Esther and Roxy moved to Fresno Uncle Harry gave Yesia 90 when he went to Fresno from the NE. They came to CA from Milford,on the train with another family (Dostaurian’s). The trip took 5 days. Yesia was a member of the Episcopal Church of Fresno TIME IN FRESNO- visiting Stepan’s house/property Memories of Grandpa Stepan’s home in Fresno- It was a Victorian home with an adjoining kitchen. She thought the kitchen was the original place and that the Victorian part was added. She remembers looking out a window from the kitchen which was an ideal height and width- 14 inches deep and 12 inches up from the floor. There was a step from the adobe kitchen to the house. There was a dining-room but they always ate in the kitchen. She was weaned from the bottle in that kitchen. Grandma threw both her bottle and Roxy’s bottle into a coal fire in the kitchen stove showing them that they were destroyed. Roxy switched to using a cup but Esther just stopped drinking milk. Esther also had a vivid memory of her aunt canning fruit in the kitchen and her aunt sealing the tin cans with a brown resin in dim kerosene light.

They sat by the rabbit cage looking into their pomegranate pink eyes. She remembered that the grapes looked beautiful but were very sour prior to ripening. The apricots and peaches were bursting with luscious sweet meat. The figs were dark purple and ready to fall into their hands at the slightest touch. They wondered why all fruit did not ripen at the same time. Sunday afternoons in the summer were sweet days to remember. On hot afternoons the older cousins were told to go harvest fruit in the fields. They went willingly and filled galvanized pails with nectarines, Alberta peaches, black figs and hugs apricots. When the pails were full the arm was drawn close to the clumpy ground. People pumped out water to cool the harvested fruit when they returned. In the pail the peaches turned an icy grey color when the air bubbles from the water was held by the peach fuzz. They wanted to each that fruit but it needed to be cooled to avoid causing a stomach ache. Harvested watermelons were cut in half and allowed to sit a few minutes to allow quick evaporation and cooling. Neither refrigeration nor ice were readily available.

Grandma’s table held 12 or more people. The table cloth was a blue checkered oil cloth. Cousins or aunts would distribute a little bunch of Thompson seedless grapes, or muscats or plums of two kinds, a couple of apricots, a luscious peach and a few squares of watermelon. They would eat outdoors with friends sitting on straight kitchen chairs in the shade of the house. Grandpa would entertain them with stories from the old country mixed with Aesop’s fables. US apricots could not compare with those in the old country. The fragrance of the musk melon reached a block away. The youth would express doubt but the old folks would all agree to the fact and give case stories to prove it. She loved those times when everyone was sincere and true to each other. The only goals were to be comfortable in their old age and to pay their debts. Those who lived far away would leave about 4 o clock. The uncle would go to the barn to milk the cow. The aunt would warm water on a stove which had warmed the water for births. As the sun set Grandpa would roll a cigarette and wait for the evening meal.

Grandpa Stepan’s ranch was on Belmont Avenue (20 acres). Got up at 4am. Had a cup of Turkish coffee. Esther’s aunt also got up early and made coffee for herself as well as Stepan. Stepan sat on a bleached wood bench with his back against a wall and his elbow resting on the blue oilcloth. The aunt sat opposite Stepan. The room had a haze of smoke and the smell of yeast rising dough. One could tell the seasons by a white rose bush which held a nest of birds by the kitchen window. No words were spoken. Aunt had to pump water to rinse the cups. It was better than a faucet because, once the water came, it flowed 4 times as generously as that from a faucet. Stepan could roll a cigarette using a paper from a book with one hand while returning the silver box to his pocket. He licked one side of the paper and then the other turning his head back and forth. His large mustache was stained an orange yellow from the nicotine. The aunt would roll out paper thin Armenian bread in front of a hot stove for 3-4 hours. Once rolled out she would put it in the oven and pop out a cooked one –on to a white spread. She made enough to last the family for a week. When Esther and the others woke up they would go to the kitchen in their long night clothes and eat the bread most recently cooked. Friday’s breakfasts were different- Armenian pancakes and thick cream with honey. The day’s work was organized at the breakfast table. The two older girls would help my uncle with chores outside and the youngest daughter was to help the aunt do the housework IF she wanted to drive to town the next day. The aunt’s face was red from the continuous heat of the oven. Her faded dress was dusted with flour. The usual pot of beans chuckled madly above her head. The dining room floor was covered with stacks of bread. Sometimes they sat on a plan above the dam and dangled their feet. Her cousins swam like fish. Willow trees met across the water. There were fig trees with leaves so large that on a hot day it was almost chilling to sit underneath them. Sometimes Hindu workmen with pastel pink and yellow, white turbans would walk by. They stayed for years in one place eating pancakes and drinking canned milk. They made grape twig dolls using bits of colored silks clothes were made. One doll was made to look like a girl from Erzincan. The bits of material were given a fragrance in old perfume bottles. At the end of the day they loaded a broad wagon with all their paraphernalia- shovels, hoes, knapsacks holding bread, cheFenese and granite stew pans. Then they sat in the wagon dangling their legs. Stepan’s fox terrier lapped along following the wagon

The Kapigian’s (Stepan’s daughter) home address was 344 M Street in Fresno

Esther and her family used to attend Easter services at the Armenian Orthodox church on Ventura Avenue. 1913 Yesia and Azniv move from Fresno to Turlock CA Azniv and Yesia might have gone to Turlock due to connection with the Azhderian or the Vartanian family. At some point after Yesia moved to Turlock he shook hands with William Jennings Bryant in Modesto CA Ads began for The Racket Store. Address 208 West Main Street. It had a large assortment of merchandise. Oct 21 Eva and her children arrive in the US. They were on a ship named Roma which had come from Franseillos. The four children’s names were Yester (F 10), Ohanis( M 8) and Fartkis (M6), Roza (F3). The nearest relative in Armenia listed was Garabed Chakardjian.


Yesia and the family moved to Turlock.


Oct 20-Betty born- in Turlock CA. Name on original birth certificate was Mary. This was corrected along with the names of her parents in 1976. Yesia was listed as a merchant and 33 years of age. Azniv was listed as a housewife and 28 years of age. Their color or race was listed as “dark.”


The Christmas ad for The Racket Store indicate that it was open from 8 am to 10 pm. Yesia was diagnosed with epidemic encephalitis


Yesia’s brother, John, moved to Turlock and began farming/ranching


Oct 21- Yesia obtained the deed for 244 N Broadway. It was valued at 500.00


Dec 8- Torosian Gift Shop. Eventually it became The Racket Store. Address was 208 West Main Street. Stepan dies


YB rents acreage from the State Land Settlement at Delhi. He leased farm property in Merced County to grow melons. This was a point in time when the melon industry was booming. YB was a melon buyer for Arakelian.


Lucien dies


Fenner worked for California Wine Sales from Turlock


Oct 26 -Esther marries Fenner Fuller (1902 -1964) in Reno Nevada 1st Pres Church 2:30 Oct 26-Roxy marries Hal Griffin Davis also in Reno Nevada Roxy graduated from high school- Turlock


Azniv was a solicitor for Clarence de Veuve & Company. Evidently she worked from 244 N Broadway and her phone number was 1510- one envelope indicates he wrote her in 1931. Clarence was affiliated with the Dubuque Fire and Marine Insurance Company and the Rhode Island Insurance Company.


The Polk directories no longer list The Racket Store. In 2020, the Turlock Historical Society Museum had a display of items related to The Racket Store. The information and photos/artifacts should still be part of their collection. This was the height of the depression


On August 3 Yesia sent a document to the US State Department asking to claim property bequeathed to him by a Torosian relative (Sarkis Efdi Yanuk Garabed Torosian). It included a 3-story stone home and 2 vineyards in Fenese.


A photo of a Sarkis Torosian is in a book by Krikorian with two of his brothers. They were fighting the Turkish as of 1918. He should not be confused with a Sarkis Torossian born in Everek in 1891.

In 2019 Nancy, Jim and Blaise visited the pawprint of Fenese (currently Develi) to see where the Torosian home and vineyards may have been. The guide took us to a place (red dot in the map below) which did not coincide with the location of the vineyards mentioned in papers describing the property. Further the guide thought the name of the relative who bequeathed the property was Sarkis and not Garabed. Using the coordinates of photographs we took, we believe one vineyard was 3 miles east of historic Fenese (using the ruins of the Apostolic Armenian Church- St. Toros as the reference point for historic Fenese) while the second one was 3.5 miles North.

According to a book edited by Nilgun Harmancioglu and Dogan Altinbilek (Water Resources of Turkey- chapter 6 groundwater) The thick and extensive carbonate rocks along the Taurus mountain belt favor formation of productive karst aquifers. The fractured rock aquifers are either low yield or of local importance. Igneous rocks have no permeability and they have very limited outcrops. Groundwater occurs in younger volcanic rocks with limited extension. However, volcanic rock aquifers at foothills of volcanoes, such as Erciyes and Nemrut, may supply a great amount of groundwater where they are recharged by snowmelt. The volcanic rock aquifer in Kayseri is very productive and behaves hydraulically similar to karst due to large lava tubes, where the groundwater flow is conduit flow type. The aquifer is recharged all year long from the snowmelt of the permanent snow cover of the high Erciyes volcano. This corresponds to the description of the vineyards which indicated that both of the Torosian vineyards were watered by ground water.

However, the US officials said they could not force Turkey to do this because it is a sovereign nation. Subsequently it may be possible that reparations could be made IF the individual left Turkey as a citizen. We have papers which may document this but we assume they are still with George Hintlian (as of Jan 22, 2023) in spite of numerous requests for their return.

Many communities in the US are pulling together stories about their Armenian relatives in commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of the genocide. A collection of stories from families in PA, titled From Horror to Hope, includes the stories of families from Kayseri. Here are notes on the problems they suffered in 1915, 15 years after Yesia had immigrated to the US.

Kitabjian Family- the author’s paternal grandmother said that her husband was stoned to death by the Turkish soldiers. They used stones rather than bullets because they were cheaper. One of the husband’s brothers was also killed along with three of a surviving brother’s children.

Minassian Family- the author’s maternal grandfather said that the Turkish people killed his parents and two of his siblings. He survived by hiding over the tall rugs. Then he took two children of the Kitabjian family and they escaped to Kilis. Eventually they went to Aleppo.

Apikian family-The author’s maternal grandmother survived along with all of her siblings. This was partly because the initial order was only to kill Orthodox Armenians. Protestant and Catholic Armenians were to be spared. But then the order was changed. The author’s grandmother was advised by a missionary to convert to Islam. She did knowing God would know it was not her choice. She got papers proving the conversion but her husband was already on a death march. She bribed a Turkish boy with a horse to take the papers to the soldiers accompanying her husband on the death march. He reached the group in time and her husband was spared.


Yesia was diagnosed with Post Eencephalitis Parkinsons Tremors, which made it impossible for him to work


This was the year when Yesia had his first visit to UCSF

Fener and Esther lived in Fresno- 84 or 83 Home Ave.


Fenner and Esther lived at 2635 Napa Road Vallejo as of June Fenner and Esther began living at 419 Merritt Ave Oakland as of July August 2-Betty marries Roy James Maurice Nielsen (Oct 26, 1916- Dec 11, 1991).


July 1- Roxy and Chester (Chester Lavera Stevens, born May 1, 1910 in Ottawa KS- Died 1992)married. Dec 4 - Grandma using stationery with heading State Life Insurance Company Indianopolis for letter to Esther and Fenner.. She says that Betty had asked her to come to Glendale Dec 15 or 16. Dec 25- Nancy Jean born to Betty and Roy in Glendale CA


Azniv used stationery from the Rhode Island Insurance Company in Providence RI in 1944 and from the Dubuque Fire and Marine Insurance Company from 1944-48.


Feb 11- Harry and his wife visit the Bay Area. The wife needed to be hospitalized here. Oct 2 Fenner went to the East to visit his sister Florita and his mother. Florita had lost her husband.


Feb 16- Yesia and Azniv were celebrated on their 40th anniversary. It took place at the Fenner Fuller Restaurant. Representatives of the Kapigians and the Morjigians were there. There is a record of this event, but much of it is in Armenian


Azniv sent a letter on Dubuque Fire and Marine Insurance Company indicating that she, Mrs.Y B Torosian, was a solicitor working at 244 N Broadway, Turlock CA March 29, 1949 Grandma wrote a letter to Esther, Fenner, Betty, Roy, BEDEDIG Nancy. Evidently Mom had a purchased a sewing machine and was going to make a dress for me with Esther. Grandma hoped Betty would get more interested in sewing and wanted the family to come to Turlock for Easter.


May 31-Yesia had a heart attack- pulmonary embolism, extensive anterior myocardial infarction June 16-Betty and Roy and Nancy move into their first home at 638 Viona. Ave. Oakland. July 13-Yesia had a blood clot in his lung which led to pneumonia and a 7 week stay in the hospital. Aug 1- James Bennett born to Betty and Roy in Alameda Hospital.


A health report indicated the following. His first visit to UIHC was in 1938. As of 1919 he had had Encephalitis Parkinsonism from which the tremors made it impossible for him to work. As of 1950 he had a pulmonary embolism. There was an extensive anterior myocardial infarction.


Sept 29- Grandma wrote to Esther and Betty that Mr. Nelson was bringing a TV to her home. She hoped it would work.


Early April-Yesia had another heart attack


Oct 8-Yesia died in Turlock CA at home. Esther took comfort in the universal being of all mankind- she had come closer to eternity. She looked at the moon that night and thought that its light was over her and Grandpa. Sometime before Yesia died Grandma wrote a letter to “evrybody.” In it she says that Papa dressed up that day. Then she said that the very first day Papa ran away from home he went to have his hair cut, but he didn’t tell her. She “luck” all over for an houre. Roxy was about to take a trip to London.

Ararat Cemetery 1929 W. Belmont Ave Fresno CA 93701 (Ararat Cemetery Improvement Association) Latitude: 36.74870, Longitude: -119.83449 From Book titled The Seropians by Nectar Davidian The cemetery was given to the Armenians in 1885

1961, April 18

Museum bond for 6,000,000 carried by a slim margin.


April 29- Fenner died at home probably due to heart disease. Fenner made the restaurant a wonderful experience for many. One man remembered that Fenner would shake his little girl’s head and make his famous clicking sound out of the side of this inner throat. It sounded like clicking teeth. He would shake the child’s head and say something is loose in your head and the children would believe him. Then he would shake it again turn their ears and say “you see I made it go away.” For any little girl who came in for dinner with her doll, Fenner would duplicate her dinner on a demi tasse saucer.


July 19-Azniv moves from Turlock to Oakland CA in one of Esther’s apartments


Oct 15-Esther died at Merritt Hospital- complications from Familial Mediterranean Fever


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