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 Sheikhs in the 18th Century
 by Youssef

 The Eighteenth Century Political Context in Jebbet Bcharri
The Muqqadams period
Before the 17th Century, Jebbet Bcharri, the administrative region of Kfarsghab, was governed, for three centuries (1382 - 1621), by two successive dynasties of Muqqadams from the town of Bcharri. The Muqqadams were assisted by local village sheiks for justice and tax collection. On a regional level, those Muqqadams were allied to other regional dynasties, Al Assaf from Ghazir and afterwards Al Sayfa from Akkar, who governed the wilayat of Tripoli for a long period. The Al Sayfa being the secular enemies of Fakhreddine Al Maani, prince of Lebanon from 1590 to 1632, the Muqqadams of Bcharri will be among the victims of the Al Sayfas - Al Maans conflict. The fall of the Muqqadams of Bcharri occured in 1621 when Fakhreddine defeated Al Sayfas, put Jebbet Bcharri under his direct rule and exterminated most of the Sayfas allies in the region. Fakhreddine appointed Abou Safi Al Khazen from Kesrouan as ruler of Jebbet Bcharri.

The Hamadeh and The Traditional Sheikhs Period
After the fall of Fakhreddine in 1632, North Lebanon entered into a transition period where the governors of Tripoli appointed two local village sheikhs as joint governors of Jebbet Bcharri : the Sheikh Abi Karam Yaacoub from Hadeth (1635-1640) and the Sheikh Abi Gebrayel Youssef Karam from Ehden (1635-1641). The period that opened up when those two sheikhs disappeared was full of exactions and violence. Given the instability, the people of Jebbet Bcharri insisted in 1654, on the governor of Tripoli to appoint as governor of their region, Sheikh Ahmad Hamadeh, a member of the powerful Hamadeh family, rulers of Jbeil and Batroun regions. Things got relatively better in the region with ups and downs for the Hamadeh, challenged for the rule of Jebbet Bcharri sometimes by local sheikhs like Mikhael Ibn Nahlous related to the Karam family of Ehden (d. 1704) or by members of their own family. And it was not until 1704 that the Hamadeh succeeded in establishing a stable rule of the region. Between 1704 and 1759, the Hamadeh governed Jebbet Bcharri with success ensuring security and prosperity. For this, they were relying on the traditional sheikhs of the villages who helped them financially and morally in administering the region. 

The Shihabis and the Bourgeois Sheikhs Period (0)
The major event of the eighteenth century for Jebbet Bcharri happened in 1761 when Abou Youssef Elias from Kfarsghab, along with Hanna Al Daher from Bcharri, Gerges Boulos Al Douaihi from Ehden and Abou Sleimane Aouad from Hasroun, took all together the direct collection of the taxes of Jebbet Bcharri from the governor of Tripoli, Osman Pacha the Georgian. They were helped by some of the traditional Sheiks who guaranteed at the Court of Tripoli the payment of the taxes. It was the first serious defeat of the Hamadeh in that century and the rise of the new generation of  "bourgeois Sheikhs". 

But the Hamadeh counter-attacked, helped most probably by local people from Bcharri and Hasroun (1). In their struggle against the Hamadeh that lasted from 1760 till 1772, the bourgeois Sheikhs of Jebbet Bcharri got the support of the governors of Tripoli, Osman Pasha and his son Mohammad Pasha, of the Sunnite Sheikhs of Danniyeh and of the Sheikhs of Zawieh. In 1763, the ambitious Amir Youssef Al Shihabi (ruled afterwards Mount Lebanon from 1770 to 1789) installed in the Jbeil region and being himself in conflict with the Hamadeh, profited from the difficulties of the Bourgeois Sheikhs and manouvred to take from them the collection of taxes in Jebbet Bcharri. He contracted an alliance with the "bourgeois sheikhs" and confirmed their privileges in the tax collection of their districts as well as their right to claim the abandoned properties of the Hamadeh (Baklik). The fight with the Hamadeh will continue for 12 years. It will lead to their eviction from the whole region and to their final defeat in 1772. The Amir Youssef Al Shihabi, and his Shihabis successors, will have the direct rule of Jebbet Bcharri for almost one century from 1763 till 1844, helped by the new generation of "bourgeois village sheiks" of Jebbet Bcharri : Douaihi, Estephane, Awwad and Daher, but also Khattar, Issa Al Khoury, ...

 Kfarsghab Sheikhs in the eighteenth century
The records of the Court of Tripoli (2) show that in 1737 the Sheikh of Kfarsghab, Mansour son of Hanna, vouched for the settlement of the Kfarsghab taxes by the Sheikh Hussein bin Moussa Hamadeh

In 1748, the Sheikh of Kfarsghab, Hanna Abou Mansour, did the same for the Sheikh Assaad bin Moussa Hamadeh. It is interesting to note that in that same year, Abou Youssef Elias from Kfarsghab bought from the same Assaad Hamadeh the land that will become later the village of Morh Kfarsghab. In the property deed established between the two men, Assaad Hamadeh referred to Abou Youssef Elias as "our beloved" and not with the title "Sheikh". Other deeds established by Assaad Hamadeh (Qozhaya, Mar Sarkis, ...) do not contain such a personal reference. I think that Abou Youssef Elias was close to Assaad Hamadeh but not known enough to be his guarantor at the Court of Tripoli.

In 1752, we find in the records of the Court the Sheikh Hanna Son of Mansour from Kfarsghab as guarantor of Assaad Hamadeh.

In 1755, the guarantor of Assaad Hamadeh was a certain Sheikh Elias Abou Youssef son of Bahri or Al Bahri. Here, we can note a strange combination : the first part of the name indicates clearly our Abou Youssef Elias, the second one is a reference to the Abou Mansour family referred to as the Sheikhs of Kfarsghab since 1737. In the tradition of the village of Kfarsghab, Abou Youssef Elias was married to a daughter of the Abou Mansour Al Bahri family : "The first inhabitant ever recorded was Deeb El Bahri. Deeb came from the coast of Batroun and established himself in the district. He  married Maureena El Saliba and had three Sons that are the origins of the three families - Abou Mansour, Khoury Youssef and Abou Abraham. The family of Abou Youssef was a descendant of Elias who came to Kfarsghab from the Coast and married a granddaughter of Deeb El Bahri. " (3)

It seems that, between 1752 and 1755, Abou Youssef Elias became powerful enough to claim the sheikhdom of Kfarsghab and take it from his relatives by his mother or his wife, the Abou Mansour Al Bahri.

In 1761, Abou Youssef Elias from Kfarsghab, along with the other Bourgeois Sheikhs mentionned above, took directly the collection of the taxes of Jebbet Bcharri from the governor of Tripoli. The guarantor of Abou Youssef Elias was a certain Sheikh Hanna son of Rizk from Kfarsghab. This family appeared as sheikhs of Kfarsghab for the first time. Apparently, Abou Youssef Elias was representing by marriage the Abou Mansour family as we can see in the last name Al Bahri added to his own name in the records of the Court. In taking a guarantor from the Rizk family, he ensured the loyalty and support of other families of Kfarsghab.

It is interesting to note that Gerges Boulos Al Douaihi from Ehden,  married to a woman from the traditional Sheikhs Karam family, adopted the same attitude as Abou Youssef Elias in taking guarantors at the Court Sheikhs from the Yammine and  Mouawwad families and no one from the Karams as he represented them by marriage. (4)

From 1755, the Sheikhs of Kfarsghab will be from the Abou Youssef Elias family known later as the Estephane family. This family ran the administration of the villages of Kfarsghab, Toula, half of Karmsaddeh and half of Raskifa. For those two last villages, they shared the administration with another Bourgeois Sheikhs family, the Aouad from Hasroun. The political role of the Estephane family will disappear in the 1950's. (5)

(0) The appellation "Bourgeois sheikhs" is from me to distinguish the new sheikhs of 1761 from the traditional sheikhs of the previous period. The traditional sheikhs were the elders of the largest family of a village. They were replaced in the 1750's by sheikhs who were wealthy people, apparently younger and more educated and probably recently installed in the region. A complete restructuring of the traditional political powers took place in that period, probably encouraged by the Maronite mudabbirs (secretaries) of the Shihabis princes, especially Saad AlGhandour, the secretary of the Prince Youssef Al Shihabi. Those mudabbirs were educated people who elevated themselves in the service of the Shihabis and wanted to create a new "clientele", loyal to themselves and to their patron.
(1) AinTourini in A Concise History of Mount Lebanon – Editor Dar Lahd Khater Beirut 1983 - p. 136 - 137.
(2) Studies of Dr Farouk Hablas and Dr Nafeth Al Ahmar in the Accounts of the First Seminar on Jebbet Bcharri History 1998 - Editor Gibran National Committee.
(3) for the popular traditional history of Kfarsghab, see Aka website - Aka website
(4) for a brief history of this family and their relations with the Karams, see - Caza-Zgharta website
(5) For a brief history of this family, see - Caza-Zgharta website

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