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William and Louisa Anderson
Part II - Jamaica Period, 1839-1848 - Chapter 3

The Proposed Mission to Africa—Mr. Anderson's Marriage to Miss Louisa Peterswakl—Prevailing Mortality in Jamaica —1841

The outstanding event of the year 1841 in Mr. Anderson's history is his marriage on August 12th to Miss Louisa Peterswakl. But in the same year another event took place, which was the formal initiation of a movement that was destined to sweep into its current not a few of those then labouring in Jamaica, and to bear them eastward to the original home of the negro in Western Africa.

"The meeting of the Jamaica Missionary Presbytery, in July 1841, at Mr. Jameson's place, Goshen, was," says Mr. Waddcll, [Waddell's Twenty-Nine Years in the West Indies and Central Africa, pp. 184, 206-7. See also BIyth's Reminiscences of Missionary Life, Goldie's Calabar and its Mission. p, 70 And Dickie's Story, p. 1.] "perhaps the most important of all its meetings." The question of a mission to Africa had engaged the attention of the Presbytery in 1839. At a meeting in 1840 it was resolved to come to the next meeting prepared to decide the grave question of a mission to Africa from the congregations in Jamaica. Sir T. F. Buxton's book, The Slave Trade and its Remedy, had been sent to Mr. Waddcll on publication, and opened up the whole subject. And so, when the Presbytery met, "the conviction was produced in all our minds," writes Mr. Waddell, "that the way was ready for our going forward. We felt bound to take some decided step; yet, seeing that the gravest consequences would result to ourselves and our congregations from our decision, we suspended business, and, under an inexpressible solemnity of mind, devoted the rest of the day to prayer for divine direction." ["An express messenger was sent off that evening to Kingston for a dozen copies of Buxton's work, which we learned had just arrived there for sale, that all our congregations might be fully instructed on the subject."—Waddell's Twenty-Nine Years in the West Indies and Central Africa, f.n. p. 206.]

"When the subject was resumed next morning, a deep feeling of awe was on the minds of all present, as each gave his opinion in favour of the new mission, and expressed his readiness to go forth on it, if called thereto by his brethren, and approved of by the Church at home. It was a renewed and unreserved self-consecration to the cause of our Lord and Saviour among the heathen; and some who were present on that solemn occasion, not members of the court, have said that they could never forget the impressive and affecting scene, nor could they restrain their tears of joy that God had inclined the hearts of His servants to offer themselves so willingly for the new and arduous service.

"The resolutions of the Presbytery on the subject expressed its conviction, that the time was favourable for renewed efforts on behalf of the evangelisation of Central Africa; that it had strong claims on the Church of God, and especially on the Christians of Great Britain; that the best agents for the purpose might be found in West Indian Churches, and among missionaries acclimated and experienced; that our congregations and ourselves felt the deepest interest in it; and that we offered ourselves to the mother Churches of our native land to undertake the service." [The resolutions arc given in full in M'Kerrow's History of the Foreign Missions of the Secession and United Presbyterian Church, pp. 368- 9, and in Goldie's Calabar and its Mission (taken from preceding work), pp. 70-72.]

"At the time this self-dedication was made," the eight brethren, Messrs. Blyth, Waddell, I\ Anderson of Bellevue, Niven, Scott, Simpson, Cowan, and Jameson, "had in view no particular part of the Guinea Coast. They only desired to put themselves at the disposal of the Lord, who seemed at that particular time to be asking, ' Whom shall we send, and who will go for us?' The Spirit of God moved them all to say, 'Here are we, choose Thy messenger. By Thy grace we arc all ready to be offered for Thy cause in wretched Ethiopia.' That vow was heard in heaven. Two of that band were sent," viz. Messrs. Waddell and Jameson, and the latter laid his bones in the dust of Africa.

Whether any of the three catechists, Samuel Edgerley (senior), Hugh Goldie, and William Anderson, who were also in time to be called to go to Africa, were present on this memorable occasion, I cannot say. William Anderson, as the nearest to Goshen, would likely be the first to hear of the resolutions come to by the Presbytery, and as Mr. Cowan was one of those who dedicated themselves to the new mission, would learn all about it from him. Doubtless Mr. Anderson would be much impressed, and the possibility of Mr. Cowan being called to go to Africa would of course give rise to reflections as to how that call, should it come, would affect his own work. Had his MS. Journal of this time been preserved, we might have had glimpses of his state of mind ; but in the few private and public letters and published extracts from his Journal I find no reference to the resolutions of Presbytery. The same is the case with regard to a published letter of Mr. Goldie's, dated September 1841, which gives an interesting account of his routine work.1 Each was absorbed in and devoted to his work in Jamaica.

A few extracts from Mr. Anderson's Journal, published in the Scottish Missionary Chronicle for Dec. 1841, form the only extant record of his life in the early part of this year:—

Jan. 1, 1841. — No first-footing, no rum or whisky drinking, no boisterous merriment, has marked the close or the commencement of the year. There is a calmness, a seriousness, a propriety, in the deportment of the people here, unknown in Scotland at this season of the year.

Feb. 21.—Sabbath morning. A most delightful morning. The sun is majestically climbing the blue mountains. Earth's first Sabbath, when Jehovah rested from His creating work and smiled with complacence upon our globe, could scarcely have been more lovely or more grand. What a silence! Not a leaf quivers. All is still, save a few of the feathered tribe. Their music is generally in this country neither loud nor sweet, but at present it is both. Every leaf and every blade of grass is heavy with silvery dew. Above, all is the blue serene of heaven—not a cloud, not a dark speck is to be seen. In the valleys beneath, the morning mists are still reposing. What a happy scene would this be, were Jamaica a land of Bibles, and of knowledge, and of religion; but here, amidst the fairest of nature's scenery, and on this blessed and hallowed morning, how heart-sinking is the reflection that the moral condition of thousands of her inhabitants is that of darkness, desolation, and death,—that ignorance, superstition, and vice hold from ten to twenty thousand of the inhabitants of this parish under their dark dominion! May the Sun of Righteousness soon arise and chase away the darkness of Jamaica's dreary, long-continued moral night!

April 9.—Good Friday. The people being all idle at any rate to-day, it was judged expedient to have public worship here and at Rose Hill. While at the latter place I was invited to dinner by one of the Carron Hall elders —an invitation with which, prompted in some degree by curiosity, I gladly complied. It is the first time I have dined in a negro's house. The table was pretty well supplied with yams, fish, pork, butter, and beverage made of hone}- and juice of lemons mixed with water. The wife waited table. She would on no account sit down with her husband and myself. I urged her several times to do so, but in vain. The husband joined her several times in begging teacher "just to excuse him," i.e. her; for the feminine personal pronoun is but little used among the negroes, he and him being applied to anyone, be it man, woman, boy, or girl.

On leaving, I assured them that I would not visit them again unless the mistress would promise to take her proper place at her own table. She said something which I understood to be a promise to the effect that she would do so when I shall call again.

In a letter of date Aug. 10th, 1841, [Scottish Missionary Chronicle, March 1842, p. 4, and Report of the British Missionary Society, 1842. p. 24.] Mr. Anderson mentions that "on Saturday, the 10th July, the foundation of a new church was laid at Carron Hall. The day proved exceedingly unfavourable; but at one time about 3000 persons were supposed to be present." On that occasion the collection amounted to about £83 sterling, "though the rain has dispersed a great part of the people before it was made." As a further proof of the interest which the people took in the work, Mr. Anderson records the following statistics, the compilation of which bear witness to his own interest in the work :—

I have been out taking the number and the names of those who have turned out to contribute a week's work to the making of a lime kiln, preparatory to building the new church. The numbers are as follows :—

Breaking stones 42
Carrying stones 121
On the kiln 32
Hewing and carrying wood 109
Cooks roasting yams, plantains, etc. 4
Elders overlooking 2
Total 310

It would do your heart good to see them. A fine, happy spirit prevails among them. They are all working cheerfully, gratuitously, and, with scarcely an exception, diligently. And these, forsooth, are the men and women who would not do a hand's turn except under the terror of the lash! When or where was there ever such a sight to be seen in Scotland in connection with the building of a church? Is it on record that from three hundred to four hundred people (some who were not at hand, and others who are still going to the scene of action, are not included in the above list) ever turned out there simultaneously, of their own accord, to labour for a week gratuitously at the erection of a place of worship? Our hearts are gladdened by the willingness of the people, and we would take it as a token of good from the Lord. But we would also be humble. "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name be glory. Thou alone hast put it into the hearts of Thy people to serve Thee willingly, as at this day. Praise the Lord—Hallelujah! Amen."

With reference to his approaching marriage, Mr. Anderson, on 1st May 1841, wrote to Miss Eliza R. Watson as follows:—

You tell me my aunt says something about my coming home for a wife. She, nor anyone else, had any reason to expect that; for I am sure I often protested, both pretty publicly and privately, that I would never return home on any such errand. I must confess, however, that I little expected to find one fat (at least so soon) in Jamaica.

In a letter of date 30th Sept. 1841, to Mr. and Mrs. Clohan, Mr. Anderson writes:—

My ever beloved Brother and Sister,—We—that is to say, my dear, dear Louisa and myself—were exceedingly gratified on the 20th inst. by the arrival of your long and interesting epistle of 15th July. We are glad to learn that yourselves and the little ones are all well. . . . You need not trouble yourself, nor put yourself to any expense, about a newspaper for me. I frequently (not very regularly) get the Edinburgh Evening Courant from, at least through, Mr. Tod. We have not generally a great deal of time to spare for the perusal of newspapers.

Monday, Oct. 4.—My Dear Nancy,— I was remembering you yesterday. I have no doubt you also remembered that it was your birthday—your twenty-eighth birthday. Dear me, but you and I are getting very old now. I hope we are becoming wiser and better as we journey on through life, drawing nearer and nearer the eternal world. . . .

I continue to enjoy pretty good health. I have still plenty to do. We have upwards of 130 children in attendance at school just now. These furnish plenty of work for us both. On Sabbath the 26th inst. I conducted divine service for the first time in the new chapel, Rose Hill. My congregation there is increasing. I am becoming much attached to them. Yesterday afternoon I held the first missionary prayer meeting. It was a solemn and deeply interesting season. The prayers were simple but fervent, and the addresses (by the negroes themselves) were very touching indeed. Join with me in prayer that they and I may through eternity bless the day w e ever met together. . . .

I know not what to think of the controversy about the extent of the Atonement. It is surely a war more about words than anything else. I should like much to have all the pamphlets published on both sides of the question. . . .

In the course of a long letter to the Rev. A. Elliot, dated 17th Oct. 1841, Mr. Anderson writes as follows:—

It was on the third Sabbath of July 1833 that I sat for the first time at the Lord's table. Your text that day in the tent was Ps. 11. 12. On the third Sabbath of July this year I addressed at Rose Hill from the same text. I told the people why I had taken it—it was with faltering voice I could do so. They seemed deeply interested. I trust that you have no objections to my frequent use of notes which I used to take of your sermons. I suppose you little thought, when mounting the pulpit at Ford, "Now, the discourse which I am to deliver to-day is not to be confined to my own congregation. In preaching here to-day I am preaching also to inhabitants of other climes thousands of miles distant." . . .

I have just remembered that to-morrow is Dalkeith Fair. I remember of leaving Ford for it one year in great glee with only twopence in my pocket. I would have been happy, happy if I had possessed a groat; sixpence would have made me the happiest boy in the fair ; had I been able to exhibit a macaroni, alias a shilling, verily I had hardly acknowledged the Duke as my superior. I feel a deep interest in some of the dealers in old books who used to frequent Dalkeith fairs and markets. I feel half inclined to send my kind regards to them. Many a pleasant feast have I stolen from them in turning over the pages of books and pamphlets which I had the will—and the will only— to purchase, reading as much as possible without seeming to read. Well, I wish there may be no accidents and no intemperance at the fair to-morrow, but a great deal of business transacted at the old book stands.

You have heard of the death of the Rev. Mr. Scott, [Rev. Wm. Scott, Hillside, on 14th August. See Minutes of Jamaica Presbytery regarding him and Dr. Aitken, and Mr. Kay in United Secession Magazine, July 1842.P. 380.] and of Dr. Aitken. I have now to inform you of the death of another of our fellow-labourers, Mr. Wm. Kay, teacher and catechist at Mount Horeb. He died, I think, after a week's illness, on the 2nd inst, and was buried on the 3rd. So Dr. Aitken has not been long without a companion to rest with him among the lonely mountains. It was in Mr. Kay's house that Dr. Aitken died. What adds to the distress in Mr. Kay's case is that his wife had a child about a fortnight previous to his death, and was in a very poor state of health. She was, at the date of our last information from that quarter, in a state of mental derangement, ignorant of her husband's death. She and seven children are left to deplore their heavy loss. Mr. Kay's life in Jamaica, so far as regards temporal circumstances, must have been one of privation and discomfort. A numerous family—located at an out-station—an insufficient salary— but, I doubt not, all is well with him now. My heart bleeds for his poor children. May the Father of the fatherless take them under His care! . . .

Death has been doing awful havoc among us: our ranks are enfeebled and shattered. Loud and solemn are the calls which are addressed to us. ... I may say that I am reminded of death every time I leave my house or enter it. There are six or seven graves within a few yards of it, the nearest being within two feet of the doorsteps. The tenant of one of these graves is, I am informed, a European of the name of Anderson. None has been buried here these ten or twelve years, and we are busy just now transforming the place of skulls into a flower garden.

I do not think that in any of my letters hitherto I have taken notice of the most prominent feature of Carron Hall scenery, namely, a beautiful cabbage tree, which faces the eastern window of my habitation, distant from the house betwixt thirty and forty yards. I took its height a few mornings ago by the shadow, and found it to be ninety-five feet. Its circumference two feet from the ground is five feet five and a half inches. It appears to be nearly the same thickness till within a few feet of the top. It is naked for about ninety feet. It has just eleven leaves upon it. You can form an idea of its tallness from the height of Ford Bridge. 1 think I have heard it said to be ninety (?] feet high.

Miss Watson sent me a parcel of bags, etc. I suppose she intended them for rewards. I sold them, however, for about sixteen shillings sterling. I wish this fact to be known, for it may show little girls how much they may help missions even in a pecuniary way. I gave the money to the school fund of one of our out-stations, Philipsburg (late Cedar Valley), where one of my scholars (M. G. Mitchell) has commenced operations as a teacher.

I am flattering myself that I have just two more home letters to write this year—one to Mr. Chisholm, and one to Dr. Brown; perhaps one to my worthy agent, Mr. Jas. Tod. I cannot sufficiently thank him for his kindness. Getting articles from Britain is attended with considerable trouble and expense to ourselves and trouble and anxiety to our home friends, but charges here are so exorbitant that we could hardly live otherwise. I may give you an example or two: Buxton's work On the Slave Trade sells at home for 5s.; its price here is 16s. I purchased a hat lately for £1, 9s.; I could have got it for from 12s. to 15s. at home. Sugar sells here at 1s. per lb., salt butter at 2s. per lb. Coffee and rum are quite cheap. The above is all sterling money. Currency (as distinguished from sterling) was abolished on 1st January 1841.

The Jamaica Divinity Hall, under Professor Jameson, opens, I believe, on the second Wednesday of December. Four students: Messrs. Aird, Elmslie, Buchanan, and Goldie. I intend to be down for a week or two. [It was probably on this occasion that Messrs. Anderson and Goldie met personally for the first time, and began their lifelong friendship.] We have two weeks' vacation at Christmas.

Mr. and Mrs. Cowan and family are all well at present, and, with Mrs. Anderson, unite with me in love and sympathy with you and yours. My love to my aunt. Tell her I am quite well and happy in my new life, happier than ever I expected to be in Jamaica. I find Mrs. A. an invaluable assistant in school, and in all respects a great comfort.— I am, Rev. and very Dear Sir, ever yours afftly.,

W. Anderson.

In connection with appeals by the Directors of the Scottish Missionary Society for missionaries and teachers, there was published in the Chronicle for July 1842 the following letter from Mr. Anderson, dated Carron Hall, Dec. 11th, 1841, and entitled Prevailing Mortality:—

I believe that a letter at this time from Jamaica would be considered somewhat deficient were it to pass unnoticed the prevailing mortality. . . . The negroes, at least those who live in the country, appear to be enjoying a comparative exemption from the visits of the King of Terrors. White people, and people of colour, arc falling in all directions. . . .

Within these few months five connected with the Presbyterian Missions have been called from their labours. . . . All connected with the Mission here are at present in the enjoyment of good health. But we know not what a day may bring forth. . . .

I remember of a gentleman saying to me, before I left Scotland, that "to go to Jamaica" and "to die" had long been in his mind synonymous terms. Our large obituary this year will, I doubt not, confirm and deepen this impression in many, and extend it to others. I do not know what may be the sentiments of others on this point, but from what I know of the circumstances attending the deaths of many, my impression is, that to attribute all the mortality of Europeans in Jamaica exclusively to the climate is unjustly and ignorantly to accuse the God of the climate. [The same remarks are applicable to Calabar. There is much ignorant accusation of the God of the climate. Conditions of life and work (which can be improved), rather than the climate itself, have been and still continue to be responsible for much of the sickness and invaliding .and death in Old Calabar. So long as any ordained agent, for example, has to do the work of two or three men, there are bound to be failures of health and breaks in the continuity of work. The Deputies who visited Calabar in 1893 proposed, lo meet the inevitable furloughs, and lo prevent, if possible, breaks in the continuity of the work, that there should be three men on the staff for two men actually required.] There are some very sickly seasons here, but there are sickly seasons in Scotland too. That disease is more rapid in its progress here is admitted, but it does not follow that the climate alone is the cause of this. Many causes exclusive of climate may and do operate here to superinduce and to aggravate disease. I shall mention three of the most prominent.

1. That there is a difference betwixt the climate of Scotland and that of Jamaica, and that exposure which might be attended and followed by no inconvenience in Scotland would probably be succeeded by disease or death in this country, is unquestionable. This to a newcomer, however, must be rather a matter of faith than of sense. If he arrives in any of your winter months (I speak from experience), he is delighted with the universal verdure, and the delight is heightened by the contrast which he cannot fail to make in his own mind betwixt the bare bleak hill which he has left behind and the luxuriant scenes before him. He feels the sun a little hotter, perhaps, than he used to feel it in July at home, but, having had his system purified by sea-sickness, he feels strong in body and elastic in spirit; and, conscious of strength, he rushes like the horse into the battle, meeting every idea of danger with the smile of contempt. If he is so happy as to meet with kind and faithful friends, who warn and entreat him against over-exertion and undue exposure of himself, he feels amused or annoyed. He steels himself against all remonstrance, and to demonstrate his superior prowess he takes a walk of six or eight miles; he becomes fatigued, sits down to rest, probably falls asleep, lies an hour or two beside a bush, awakes, walks home amid the evening dews; or he fasts, day after day, for nearly the whole twenty-four hours; or he braves a dash of rain, and allows his clothes to dry upon his back; or he exposes himself too much to the rays of the burning sun ; or he refuses the strong medicines which experience prescribes; or he does a hundred other things of this nature, which not one European constitution in twenty can stand, and which the natives in general are too wise to try. A week's hot fever succeeded by debility, or probably by death, is the consequence. This is no imaginary picture. Such I would call the victim (not of the climate but) of imprudence.

2. I might describe an individual of another class, with mind harassed by "fightings without and fears within," who, humanly speaking, might have lived to see many days amidst the tranquillity and society of home; but opposition, or unkindness, or loneliness, or discomfort, or disappointment, or oppressive care, preys upon his spirit and at length drives it from the body. Such may be designated the victim of circumstances}

3. There is another; but the title is so significant that I need only mention it—the victim of intemperance.

My firm conviction is, that if the climate has slain its thousands of Europeans, imprudence, circumstances, and intemperance have slain their tens of thousands.

While I have penned these observations from a feeling that it is a sacred duty, incumbent upon us who remain, to do what we can to remove erroneous impressions regarding the deadliness of the climate of this land, I am far, very far, from accusing all who have died here of doing anything which tended to shorten their days, and equally far from saying that their lives would have been prolonged had they remained at home. He who hath been made Head over all things to the Church hath the keys of the unseen world and of death, and we may rest assured that none of His servants have entered that world without His consent. They have gone to their rest, and arc now enjoying their reward. It is soothing to reflect that, though the servants die, the Master liveth, and is "alive for evermore." Our prayer to Him is, "Lord, supply the places of those whom Thou hast taken away." And our prayer and the prayer of hundreds to the Christians of Scotland is still, "Come over and help us." This has been our loud, our repeated, our reiterated cry. A great Scottish poet, in describing an engagement of the olden time, speaks of

"Each stepping" where his comrade stood
The instant that he fell."

["Hundreds of book-keepers have died from mere neglect. They had no company—no one that cared anything about their meals, or comforts, or to give them medicines when sick. Sunk in spirit and diseased in body, they died the victims of circumstances." For a description of the monotonous routine of a book-keeper's (or overseer's assistant) life, see the early chapters of Marly; or, The Life of a Planter in Jamaica, 2nd ed., Glasgow, 1828.]

Soldiers of Christ in Scotland! can ye do less? If for earthly riches or honours men willingly brave dangers and deaths, how much more ought you to be ready to sacrifice all for the honour of your Lord and the advancement of His cause! "Come over and help us!" Behold our shattered ranks! See the number of the slain! See only a small handful of your friends and brethren in the field where hundreds might be fully engaged. Hasten to our support. All of you can sympathise with us, all of you can pray for us; but many of you can do more—you can "come over and help us." If you wish another motive, lift up your eyes again, and behold thousands in this land stretching forth their hands for the bread of life, crying, "Give, give." See thousands more, wandering as sheep without a shepherd, no man caring for their souls. View this scene and "come over and help us." If you wish still another motive to assist you in self-devotement to the Saviour, go to Calvary. Who agonises on that centre cross? Contemplate Him a little. His countenance is more marred than that of any man; yet beneath that cloud of anguish and those blood-drops which trickle down His face ineffable benignity beams forth. But think especially of the feelings of that heart for you. You know not the intensity of that love with which it throbs for you. Look at Him for a little. Christian soldier, what are thy feelings now? What can they be, or what language can express them but this: "The love of Christ constraineth me thus to judge, that if He died for me, I ought to live to Him—to do whatever He pleases—to go to the farthest verge of the green earth if He wills"? . . .

This appeal is as applicable to the needs of Calabar to-day as to those of Jamaica in 1841.


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