The area near Elazığ has been settled for centuries. An ancient town and citadel called Kharput (Kharpert) which means "rocky fortress," was built by the first Armenian kings about three miles from modern Elazığ. However, there is very little written about this city. While Harput is still settled today, due to its high elevation and lack of water, it is slowly abandoned, with most residents moving to Elazığ. The two cities are in constant communication and Harput still has about 30,000 inhabitants.
Harput probably stands on or near the site of Carcathio-certa in Sophene, reached by Corbulo in A.D. 65. The early Muslim geographers knew it as Hisn Ziyad, but the Armenian name was Khartabirt or Kharbirt, whence Kharput and Harput.
William of Tyre wrote that Joscelin I, Count of Edessa (Jocelyn) of Courtenay, and King Baldwin II of Jerusalem were prisoners of the Amir Balak in Kharput's castle and that they were rescued by their Armenian allies. William of Tyre calls the place Quart Piert or Pierre.
Contemporary Elazığ was founded and became the provincial seat in 1834. The Mart Maryam Church (Syriac Orthodox) in Harput, Turkey --the first church in Harput-- was built in 179 A.D, and was attended by Christians who considered themselves Syriacs, distinct from the Armenians of Harput.
An Armenian Catholic diocese of Kharput was created in 1850.
The vilâyet of Mamûret'ül-Azîz was founded in 1878 comprising three districts of Diyarbakır province. It has much mineral wealth, a healthy climate and a fertile soil.
Harput was an important station of the American missionaries for many years. The missionaries built the Euphrates College, a theological seminary, and boys' and girls' schools. In November 1895, Kurds massacred, looted and burned the Armenian villages on the plain; and in the same month Kharput was attacked and the American schools were burned down. A large number of the Gregorian and Protestant Armenian clergy and people were massacred, and churches, monasteries and houses were looted. During the Armenian Genocide, the pupils at the Euphrates College were wiped out with most of them being taken to "death, exile or Muslim homes." In the pre-1970s Armenian-American community, more people were born in or traced their ancestry to Elazığ than any other area of Turkey. This Elazığ-America connection was possibly helped by the presence of the many American missionaries.