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Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Arathoon Nicholas Story of the Missing Millions

This is another of my occasional reviews concerning Armenian family history. A story of great riches, unpaid legacies and inevitably great disappointment, of women, legitimate and illegitmate children, a woman scorned, a spell in jail, desperate insolvency, a dishonest apprentice and a priest whose head was turned by the contents of a will.

Various documents are slowly being brought together that fleshes out the story of a vast fortune now lost somewhere.

Arathoon Nicholas, son of Nicholas Arathoon Nicholas was born in Julfa around 1807. Like so many Armenians he travelled to India in the hope of starting a business and enriching his life. In 1832 he married Khachkhatun Hyrapiet in Calcutta and they went on to have 8 children, 4 boys 4 girls. During this marriage he had a relationship with a woman called Anna Catchick Ter Astwachatoor. Exactly what her personal circumstances were are unclear, but no marriage record can be found for them. They did however have a son whom they named Tegran Arathoon Nicholas born in 1841. Meanwhile his wife Khachkhatun died in 1858, no formal union appears to have taken place with Anna. In 1883 Arrathoon married the widow Varvar Lucas nee Sarkies with whom he went on to have two daughters.

Arathoon’s fortunes do not appear to have gone successfully as he can be found in government gazettes applying to the courts in Calcutta for relief in December 1855 his occupation listed as River Merchant. It would appear from original documents I have obtained of the insolvency order (see image Nos. 1,6,7 & 8 ) that not only was he applying for relief, he had been in jail since October of that year brought about by Anna the mother of the illegitimate Tegran above for unpaid debts.

Image No. 1
He tried and failed to get court protection from arrest in respect to the debts he owed and hoped that he would be allowed to appear before the court to plead his side. He was refused and remained in jail, how long for is unclear.

His two eldest sons by Khachkhatun, Nicholas and John both die as children aged 5 and 16 repectively. His youngest son Astur died at the age of 22 leaving only one legitimate son Nicholas Arrathoon Nicholas and the illegitimate son Tegran Arathoon Nicholas. These two half brothers became engineers. They worked together on the ship the SS Scotia, Tegran as the chief Engineer and Nicholas as the 2nd engineer. On the 17th June 1876 they were sailing the ship from Calcutta to Penang delivering her to new owners, the ship must have hit a storm it never made it to Penang and nothing was ever heard from her again. All perished.

 Arathoon Nicholas now did not have any male heirs.

Image No. 6

 Jumping forward 70+ years
 A story of a vast lost fortune was the talk not only of Calcutta but of Julfa too.

In a letter written by Mayill Jordan to his nephew Johny Jordan dated 20th June 1947 Mayill explains to him about a lost fortune and how, with Johny’s help they could help recover it and earn themselves a portion for their trouble. 

(See Image No. 9 - transcription of image is below)

Image No. 7

Image No. 8

Image No. 9
20th June 1947

“Now dear old Johny there is a more important and profitable matter which I would like to explain to you as briefly as possible and ask your co-operation.

You must have no doubt heard of the existence of a Amirkhanian Legacy involving several millions of Pounds. I am now explaining you the whole affair as has been explained to me by one of the heirs, Mr. Harutune, the son of Mariam Bulbulian. From the copies of documents shown to me by Harutune it appears that some 60 or 80 years ago there has been a Harutune Nicholas, possessing river steamers and one or two indigo factories somewhere near Calcutta. He had two small sons who could not help him in his business. Harutune Nicholas inherits a young and energetic Armenian called Amirkhanian, who gradually masters the whole business in a faithful manner. Amirkhanian goes to the Straits on business and upon arrival at Penang he gets seriously sick. Ter Sahak is being called form Singapore or Rangoon to make his will. Amirkhanian in this will gives everything to his two step brothers (the two young sons of his kind step father) and goes to the next world. Ter Sahak seeing the weight and value of the will, instead of handing it over to our priesthood in Calcutta puts it in his pocket and while transferred to Julfa he brings the will to Julfa with him without saying a word to any official source, except to his daughter Assaneth. The latter for years tries to get heir of some sort and share the legacy with him. She fails. Upon hearing that one of the real heirs – Levon Tussikian – lives in Tiflis, she takes the will to Tiflis, where Tussikian’s wife becomes aware of the case and makes her [missing text] and to apply for his share. He succeeds, however, in getting [missing text] it being £8.000.000. Assaneth returns to Julfa without [missing text] success where she dies and no body knows what became of [missing text] original of the will. Amirkhanian will has been in every mouth for a score of years. Anybody in American, Afrika, Turkey, and elsewhere bearing that name has claimed to be the proper heir of the deceased Amirkhanian. People with their advocates have gone to Madras Court but have returned as empty as they had gone. Mrs. Mariam Bulbulian claims to be the real heir of the Legacy. She has a pile of documents and certificates proving that and has been following the case since the past 15 years. She has a good advocate who, I am told, has gone 70% of the work and he has got to take Mrs. Mariam to Madras to the madras Court where copy of the Will is and make her claim. To finish the case she needs nearly Rupees 40.000 which I would not mind to accord provided what I have been told are bare facts, they are substantiated by authentic documents, she is really the heir and she will appropriate the legacy. I want you to go through all the file that Mrs. Mariam will put before you. If you find the business clear and solid as has been put before me you may advance her the necessary money for her journey, and that of her advocate, to Madras and for all the expenses for the first session which, as I am told will amount to rupees ten thousand. Should you not have this money at your disposal, or being unable to raise it from somewhere to pay her at once till I arrange the remittance upon hearing form you, you may at once wire me to remit you. By the time this letter reaches you our relation with Lahoti [a business contact with whom Mayill is having trouble with] might have been cleared and I may have plenty of money with him to be remitted to me for my preliminary expenses. I am enclosing, however, a line or two to Lahoti to be presented to him or his friend should you find our relation with these people clear and friendly enough to present this draft of mine when quite sure that it will not be refused. Anyhow I want to help this lady first of all because she belongs to my race. She is a child of Julfa. Her late husband has been my teacher whom I am indebted for my schooling. Once she gets the will out she will be one of the biggest millioneers (sic) of the world. Many people will get enriched. She will make a rich contribution to our dear country and in the meantime she will make me a liberal remuneration for my co-operation. All you have to do is to see that her papers are absolutely right and she is recognised to be the proper heir. Once this is proved you must see what she is prepared to pay me for my co-operation. The money is a big one and I don’t think Mrs. Mariam will fail to accommodate me in a liberal manner. After closing the bargain with her you must get her [to] sign an official agreement for the amount she promises to pay on collection of the will. You are a smart boy and you must be very careful in your investigations. This is not a commercial risk I am going to do. Very few people will make risks like this and you must be careful that besides that I do not lose I fairly liberal remuneration is made to me. I leave the size to you. Once you ascertain that there is a will in the Madras Court in the name of Amirkhanian you must try to find out what is nature is. Is it true that everything has been made in the name of Arratoon Nicholas’s two sons who were drowned with their own steamer. Should this statement be correct then there is no doubt that the father of the deceased 2 boys must be recognised as heir. And in as much as Arratoon Nikolas died after his two sons the legacy will going to the latter’s heir. As I said in the above after going through the papers Mrs. Mariam will show you and you find them all in order and after you are convinced that the legacy is hers and she will inherit it during current year you may apply to Lahoti for Rs. 10.000 and pay her at once, should our relation with this Morvari will have been put on clear understanding and footing then, otherwise you must not refer to him for money. If you cannot raise the money and pay her at once, pending my remittance from here. I believe everything is more than clear to you……
My kind regards to your mother, Lucie and Haik. Your loving uncle
Mar---l [his signature is not clear]

Mrs. Mariam Bulbulian
Fairlawn Hotel
13a Sudder St
Calcutta “

Image No. 2,3,4 &5 show that T.A. Zachary a nephew of Arathoon Nicholas was trying to enlist the help of the US government to track down his rightful legacy to “millions of Pounds and property”.
Image No. 2
Image No. 3

It would seem that after his spell in jail Arathoon Nicholas turned his luck around, and if we are to believe the above story, became a wealthy man. But what became of him and his wealth and how and why did Amirkhanian think he had a fortune to leave in his will in the first place?

Unfortunately [at the moment] I have not been able to find anything about Amirkhanian, his presence in Penang (if indeed that is where he died) is eluding me. However I have the wills of both Tegran Nicholas and his father Arrathoon Nicholas.

Tegran made his will on the 16th June 1876 naming his two sisters Catherine and Regina as exectutrixes and beneficiaries of his estate inheriting the profits from the sale of his house in Bow Bazar street.

Arrathoon Nicholas made his will on the 27th January 1890 in which he devised and bequeathed all his property both real and personal to his beloved wife Varvar to enable her to look after their two daughters. Arrathoon subsequently died on the 29th January 1896 in Calcutta.

As far as I can tell, there never was a fortune; a holy grail pot of gold inherited by Amirkhanian from Arathoon Nicholas. For nearly 100 years “legitimate heirs” have been chasing the rainbow trail of Amirkhanian……does it exist? Who knows but Arathoon Nicholas does not appear to have left him anything.

Image No. 4

Image No. 5


  1. What a fascinating and intriguing story! This Arathoon Nicolas is my 5x great grandfather. Millions or not, this makes for a great addition to my own records. Would I be able to have scans/copies of the documents you obtained?

    Thank you for posting this!

  2. Dear Liz, thanks for this story about Nicholas and Amirkhanian. Anyway, I am "glad" to read that this Amirkhanian is not ever the same person from whom I descend, being Hovsep Hovhanes Amirkhanian who made his fortune already made in early 1800's ( Java Indonesia Sole Agency/Producer/Distributor/Sales 1820-1826 of Amphiun). And his earnings were not millions but billions instead :-) Regards/Hans aka FB friend Orchid van Dordrecht

  3. I'm looking at a Samuel Arathoon 1820 Bangalore. Can you tell me if these Arathoons are Indian originally or Europeans in IndiA.They all seem to be with the East India Company. This one managed to lose a fortune as well and was a merchant.His son stuck to his mother's name and the guy left £20.

    1. Hello, thank you for your comment. Your Samuel Arathoon was neither Indian nor European. He was of Armenian origin. The family had a long association with Madras and Persia, (present day Iran). He was a cousin to the Moorat's and Raphael's of Madras. All the families were very inter-twined. Some individuals became more successful than others.

  4. my grandad was called Patrick Askew Arathoon and came to the uk on a ship called the aristocrat .His family were wealthy

  5. my grandad was called Patrick Askew Arathoon and came to the uk on a ship called the aristocrat .His family were wealthy