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Samsun


River network    EN

Author: ERLER ΜΕΗΜΕΤ YAVUZ

*Professor of 19 Mayis University, Samsun, Turkey

The lack of a proper land road network, which linked the coastal towns of the middle Black sea coast region with their hinterland, apart from mule paths, till the mid-19th century meant that sea and river transportation was the only way to carry heavy loads between coastal towns. Transportation by sea and river meant that cargoes were carried by small sea vessels or row boats[1]. Moreover there was a significant number of small coastal vessels that carried the goods and the passengers to and from the ships, that were anchored on the roads, due to the insufficient quays of the coastal towns. Some of those vessels, designed to move along the shallow waters of the rivers, carried 10 to 100 passengers, like the “Kırlangıch”, or 40 tons of cargoes like “Mavna”, along with the familiar two pairs of oars[2]. This meant that the important activity of shipbuilding was carried out in the coastal towns of the area. Sailing ships and rowing ships/boats between 50 and 200 tons, were built at Vona, Tirebolu, Kerassund/Giresun and seldom at Fatsa and Unye. The coastal boats were mainly built at Trabzon, Surmene and Rize till 1859 and 1862[3]. In that area, however, a big forest fire of 1870 devastated the raw material for ship building and, as a result, the carpenters, originating mainly from Surmene, migrated to the Samsun region and performed their works in the settled areas of the developing maritime port city[4]. The price of one of these rowing boats has been recorded at about 1,565 silver Ottoman coins in 1868 and another one at 3,310 Ottoman silver coins[5]. One of the archival registers refers the existence of a guild of oarsmen of Samsun in 1872[6]. The growing importance of the traffic and the trade of the port of Samsun attracted quite a large number of employment in the aftermath of the city’s destruction in the 1869 fire.

There were two rivers surrounding the Samsun city centre. Mert River, located to the south of the city, and Kurtun River, to the north, served the transportation to the nearby regions. Thanks to the rivers, the transportation to Kavak, which was close to Samsun, was provided by boats and rafts over Mert River. The construction of the highway extending from Samsun to its hinterland, decreased the share of the river transport of Kumcagız, Charshamba and Ünye ports and concentrated the commercial activities to Samsun and its expanding port.

In earlier days, in the 1830s, the depth of the water of the Samsun port was too shallow and vessels were obliged to anchor at a distance of half a mile from the town, in three to five fathoms, therefore the existing ruined mole afforded no shelter.[7]. Yeshil river located to the south of city and Kızıl river located to the north facilitated transportation from the interior of Anatolia. Yeshil river provided an important water transport network between Charshamba, a town of the Samsun region, and the areas of Ayvacık-Erbaa-Niksar. Imports from European countries were being delivered to Samsun or directly to Charshamba over the Black Sea and were subsequently sent to towns along this route by boats and rafts; exports from these regions, like timber, madder and grain products were sent to the ports of the coast in return. In 1839 there was a wooden bridge, nearly 300 paces in length over the Yeshil river at Charshambah . The melting of the snow caused the river to overflow frequently, thus river transport was danger during spring time, but accessible in December[8]. It is reported that in 1840, grain was brought on camels from Yosgat, Bozook, Chorum to the numerous water mills of Amasya, situated along the Yeshil River running through the town. The flour was then sent to Samsun via Yeshil river for sale and exportation; this continued until the end of the 19th century when the land road was constructed[9]. Yeshil river was regarded as one of those main rivers in the region; it was navigable by boats and timber-rafts almost as far as Amasia, about 60 miles inland. Yeshil's headwaters came from Yildiz Dagh or Star Mountain, not far from Sivas. Its estuary was near the town of Charshamba harbour 16 miles east of Samsun[10]. Yishil river traversed the northern districts, and split in two main tributaries, the Kalket river, flowing from the east to southeast, and the Toozounlue river to the south. Both united at Sonisa, north of Amasya and passing through Charshembah, entered the Black-Sea. The total length of Yishil river was about 260 miles[11].

Kızıl river, in Bafra, had a network which provided t transportation to the remote places located in Samsun’s hinterland. The river itself, though a good quarter of a mile broad was of little use to navigation, owing to the bar it had at its mouth in 1868[12]. However the Kizil river, was the longest river of Anatolia. Its headwaters were partly in the mountains of Kara-Hisar, and partly in the Ildız Dagh. It flowed first towards the south west through Sivas, then took an enormous bend by Kayseri (Kaisaria), passed North West towards Ankara, and ended by flowing to the north east till it joined the sea near Bafra. Its waters were navigable only by shallow vessels. Its total length is nearly 1,000 miles[13]. Cargoes, delivered to Bafra from the Black Sea, such as as salt, were bought from Eflak (lower Danube of Romania), then sent by boats and rafts over Kızıl river to Chorum - Osmancık over 55 hours, to Kayseri over 117 hours and to Sivas over 157 hours. Two big warehouses, where commercial goods were stored at the edge of Kızıl river around Bafra, help us understand the commercial traffic. The Kumcaghız Port located between the piers of Bafra and Samsun was one of the places that barges and sailing ships reached close enough to the shore[14].

Land transportation was also existent between Samsun as a port city and its hinterland. But, it can be noted that, before 1867, the transportation from Samsun to its hinterland was provided by rivers .

 


[1] Mehmet Yavuz Erler, “The Economy of the Ottoman Black-Sea in the XIX th Century”, The Journal of International Social Research, Volume 2/7, Spring 2009, p. 123.

[2] Mehmet Yavuz Erler, “The Economy of the Ottoman Black-Sea in the XIX th Century”, The Journal of International Social Research, Volume 2/7, Spring 2009, p.124.

[3] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p. 284.

[4] Mehmet Yavuz Erler, “1870 Yılında Doğu Karadenizde Çıkan Yangın ve Etkileri”, Tarih Araştırmaları Dergisi, Anakara Üniversitesi Dil ve Tarih Coğrafya Fkültesi, Issue. 31, (1999-2000) Ankara 2000, p. 211, 217.

[5] Mehmet Coşkun, Samsun Şeriye Sicili, H. 1285-1286, M.A. thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1991, p. 226.

[6] Abdurrahman Okuyan, 1772 no’lu Samsun Sheriyya Sicili, M.A. Thesis in Ondokuz Mayıs University, Samsun 1998, p.263.

[7] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.80.

[8] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.79.

[9] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.86.

[10] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p. 290.

[11] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p. 334.

[12] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.331.

[13] Musa Şaşmaz, Trade Reports of the Trebizond Province on British Documents (1830-1914), Vol. I, Türk Tarih Kurumu, Ankara 2014, p.334.

[14] BOA. (Priministerial Archive in Istanbul), HRT., Nr. 0144.


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