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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 5

Signs of Progress

AFTER Mr. Waddell's return to Calabar in August 1849, Mr. Goldie took the opportunity of paying a visit to Scotland, for the purpose of taking Mrs. Goldie back to Calabar. In a letter to the children of the Jamaica Churches, dated Kilwinning, 4th Dec. 1849, he follows up a suggestion of the Rev. G. Blyth, that they might aid in erecting a church in Calabar, and says :—

In coming home at this time I wish to get a church for Duke Town. Some kind friends here gave Mr. Waddell, when he was in Scotland, a church for Creek Town, and I should like to get one for the other station too. For some time we could not get a regular meeting on Sabbath at Duke Town, but now we have a regular meeting; but it is in a place which is not very suitable. It is an old palaver-house, which King Eyamba had commenced to build before his death, but which he never finished; and not being our own, we cannot take it into our own hands and make it a proper place of meeting. It is but an open shed, without any seats to accommodate the people, and if we were to put seats into it they would soon disappear. Besides, it would be better if we had a house to meet in not in any way associated with the superstitions of the people.

Mr. and Mrs. Goldie left Liverpool in the Mission ship on 13th July 1850, and arrived safely at Duke Town on the 29th of August, and were heartily welcomed by Mr. and Mrs. Anderson. Mr. Goldie, writing on 25th September about the improved state of Duke Town, says:—

It rejoiced me to see Duke Town school well and regularly attended. The numbers, too, present in the Sabbath meetings, show a growing interest in the minds of the people. Besides the more public meetings in the palaver-house, Mr. Anderson has sometimes three, sometimes four other meetings in the yards of the chiefs. I think there will be 250 persons receiving divine instruction on the Lord's day . . . exclusive of the English service in the schoolhouse. This shows a great change for the better on the state of things, compared with what it was when we first attempted to get a meeting for religious instruction in the town.

Mr. Anderson, writing on September 25th, to acknowledge the receipt of mission-boxes and presents, says:—

We were favoured by the receipt of several boxes of books, clothing, etc., from several congregations and Sabbath schools, who thus kindly endeavoured to strengthen our hands and encourage our hearts, and who are entitled to our hearty thanks for the aid they have afforded us. We had a box from each of the following places: St. Margaret's, Dunfermline; St. Andrew's, Leith; Blackburn, Lancashire; Rose Street (Sabbath schools), Edinburgh ; and several without and indication of their origin. In several boxes we found presents for King Archibong, Mr. Young, and others. I ought to mention particularly two dressing-gowns for our king and premier from the ladies of St. Margaret's congregation (Rev. Mr. Law), Dunfermline. Archibong's is very beautiful and rich, and it would have interested and amused the fair and kind donors had they seen how well he received it. Archibong is a very simple-minded man—there is perhaps not much polish about him, but there is no pride, no affectation. For my own part, I liked to see the boyish glee which he manifested when he was fairly enrobed in the really beautiful and splendid vestment. Mr. Young and others of the gentlemen have been much gratified by the dashes which they have received.

For the last few months the aspect of affairs at this station has been much more promising than at any former period since my arrival here—perhaps I might say since the commencement of the Mission. Our public meeting in the palaver-house is in general well attended. The house itself is falling into decay, and the seats put up in it last year have either fallen to pieces or been stolen. Mr. Young does not interpret, so that I am left to my own resources for words to express to the auditors what I wish to say. I talk away as well as I can, sometimes in broken English and sometimes in my best Calabar [i.e. in Efik, the language of Calabar]. Mr. Goldie preached in Calabar two Sabbaths after his arrival. He knows the language much better than I do. The people were all astonished and delighted, and the general remark was, "He speaks all the same as Calabar man." For the two last Sabbaths Mr. Goldie has been to Old Town and Qua.

My chief work at present on Sabbath is catechising and conversation in the houses of the principal gentlemen. We have just, in fact, an itinerating Sabbath school. The body of my school children accompany me from house to house. Our first meeting is held in Henry Cobham's yard at 8 A.M. We have singing, reading, prayer, conversation, and catechising, all, as far as possible, in the native tongue. At 9 o'clock we have "church" in the palaver-house. From 10 to 12 we have generally three meetings in different yards, one in the king's, and others elsewhere. At these domestic meetings multitudes of women and girls and slaves hear the word of life who would not be permitted to hear it elsewhere. At 3 P.M. we have regular Sabbath school, and at 4 a short service in English. This work is somewhat onerous, but in this way several hundreds of the people of Duke Town hear each Sabbath the great doctrines of the gospel in a language which they can understand. To aid in these domestic services, I, some time ago, assisted by some of our young men, translated into Calabar, Gall's Catechism of Scripture Doctrine for Infants. This translation and Mr. Goldie's little Efik Catechism are my present text-books.

I was much cheered the other Sabbath at one of our meetings in Antika Cobham's. I was speaking of the friendship of Jesus—Haddison interpreting—and brought in as an illustration an anecdote of a man who had three friends. It is well known, so that it would be out of place to take up room with it here. It is given in the seventh of Todd's Lectures to Children. At the conclusion, one of Antika's wives, who had been paying marked attention to what was said, declared openly, in her own language, that from that time she chose Jesus for her friend. I am assured that you join me in praying that she may keep her wise resolution.

My young friends in Dalkeith were kind enough to send me a hundred copies of a translation of the Book of Jonah. I believe I could make a better translation now than I was able to do in February last. But I am glad to see that it is quite intelligible to those who read it or hear it read. I made two of the scholars read chapters i., iii., and iv. to one of the native gentlemen the other Sabbath. lie never had heard the story before. After the reading was done, I asked him a number of questions, and saw from his replies that he had clear and correct ideas respecting what had been read. And more than this, on some of his wives coming into the yard, he went over the story to them in Calabar.

Since the beginning of August our week-day school has been very well attended. For about a month past the attendance has been about 90 daily—96 has been a common number. This week we have upwards of 100 in attendance—130 on the list. A number who attend are grown-up young men, who will probably leave school in a few months to go to market. There is to all appearance a mental awakening among the youths of Duke Town. Oh that a spiritual awakening may ere long be produced among them ! As I look round on my large company of scholars, and see grown-up men toiling away at the alphabet, longing to be able to read, thirsting for knowledge, I sometimes say mentally, "Well, it is an interesting and affecting, yea, a glorious sight, to see those darkened minds welcoming the light, those enslaved souls struggling to be free!" One of my scholars is a brother of King Archibong, apparently thirty years of age. He is most humble, diligent, and anxious for instruction.

In a "circular" letter which he seems to have been in the habit of writing in turn to the Revs. Messrs. Sandy, Elliot, Cooper, and Joseph Brown, Dalkeith, and addressed on this occasion, under date September 25th, to the last-named, after detailing most of the facts contained in the preceding letter, Mr. Anderson goes on to refer to a step that had been taken in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, and writes as follows:—

The town Sabbath markets have been dismissed from the centres of the towns and banished to the suburbs. We have reason to hope that ere long they will be totally given up... This is to us a subject of deep gratitude, though it may appear a matter of little importance to friends at home.

In December the Sabbath market was formally abolished at Creek Town, and in course of time Duke Town and Old Town followed the example of Creek Town.

Mr. Anderson wrote, in a letter dated 16th January 1851:—

Things are moving on pretty much here as when I last wrote you—about the beginning of November. School is attended by about 60 children. Our Sabbath meetings are frequently well attended. Mr. Goldie preaches regularly in the native tongue. Mr. G. has, I understand, written you at some length, and must have communicated everything of importance connected with the station. We are now pretty frequently enveloped in the "smokes," but enjoy as good health as ever we had anywhere. It is now nearly two years since Mrs. A. and I arrived here, and we have never needed to leave our abode for a single day in search of health. We have only been twice above seven miles from Duke Town—once up the river about 25 miles, and once down about 15. We have no boat of any kind at Duke Town, and that is one reason why we keep so closely at home. I shall look over my notebook, and see if I can fill up a page from it. I have no time to polish.

"Friday, Nov. 15.—A meeting of the Society for the Abolition of Inhuman and Superstitious Customs, etc., in Old Calabar, was held this day. His Excellency Governor Beecroft, of Fernando Po, now H.B.M.'s Consul for this region, was present, expressed his approval of the objects contemplated by the Society, and enrolled himself a member.

"Wednesday, 20,—Accompanied by the school children, went this evening to hold a meeting at Egbo Tom's village. It was well attended ; and Mr. Goldie, in their own language, addressed those present on the things of God.

"Sabbath, 24.—Much to pain the heart to-day. Disgusted and distressed at the palaver-house meeting by two unseemly objects: first, a dead goat lying in the marketplace, placed there as juju, polluting the whole atmosphere around us with its noisome effluvia; second, a poor half-dead cock, hung up by one foot at the end of the palaver-house. It was in view of the whole meeting, and repeatedly struggled convulsively during our service. The poor fellow was suffering a lingering death. Mr. Goldie and I took the opportunity at that and at the subsequent services of the day, to show the utter inefficiency of such sacrifices as an offering to God, yea, His abhorrence of them, and pointed our poor deluded hearers to the One Great Sacrifice, and what is said in reference to it in Ileb. x. 7-18. We found Ps. 1. 7-15 a very suitable subject of discourse to, and conversation with, our sable neighbours.

"Thursday, 28.—Mr. Goldie reported meeting held today as follows:—'Attended a meeting of the Calabar Society, to consider a case of murder by the ordeal of the nut; two women, wives of an individual named Ekong Toby, having been destroyed by it on Sabbath last. Ekong has been blind of ophthalmia for more than a year past, and his affliction he attributed to the witchcraft of one of these women. It appeared that in beating one of them he had knocked out her eye; and she, irritated by the severe injury inflicted, had said that he would soon lose the sight of his eyes. This she might easily predict, as the disease had then commenced ; but the words gave a direction to his suspicions; and on Sabbath last the nut was administered to two of his wives in the presence of the chief men, and the result was that both died. The Society agreed to go in a body to the heads of the town and represent to them the folly and wickedness of this custom. On going down to the king, he promised to call the headmen in the evening, and it was agreed to meet with them then. In the evening the appointed meeting was held. They heard all that we had to say, some of them in no very good temper ; but refused to do anything to abolish the custom, their belief in witchcraft and faith in the ordeal being unshaken. King Archibong particularised the missionaries as giving them much annoyance by interfering with their customs.

"Thursday, December 19.—An alligator, or rather, I believe, a crocodile, carried off a woman (one of Antika Cobham's slaves) from the beach this evening. What with the monsters of the river and the devourers of the forest, and the ills inseparable from a state of bondage, the slave population of this land claim our deepest commiseration.

"Friday, 20.—Gave the children vacation for a fortnight. Few of them wished any 'Christmas holidays.'

"January 6, 1851.—Resumed school with about forty scholars. All hearty and cheerful, and diligent at their books. Most of them seem very anxious to get on."

Have employed myself during vacation chiefly in reading and studying the language of this country. On January 1st and 2nd visited all the gentlemen of the town, giving to each a small present—as a knife, or a nightcap, or a garment.

The old Duke (Ephraim) and I have not been on very cordial terms since the "big palaver" about killing people in February last; but a dressing-gown and a nightcap presented to him at the New Year brought him wonderfully round. Me declared all "palaver" with him and the missionaries to be finally "set"; and in token of his resumed friendship he dashed me a snuff-box well packed with native-made snuff. On Sabbath he resumed his attendance at church, which had been broken off for many months.

Viewing matters as they are in this town, compared with what they were only eighteen months ago, we have every reason, at the commencement of a new year, to "thank God and take courage." Storms and tempests await us still, but our Father guides the helm. May He soon work wonders of mercy among the inhabitants of Old Calabar!

The following letter, dated 20th Feb. 1851, describes the negotiations which took place between the slaves in the Qua plantations and the chiefs of Duke Town, for the treatment of the former as men. The combination was, says Mr. Waddell, the origin of the "blood society," which attained such strength as to rival and defy the Egbo association of the freemen. Mr. Anderson writes:-—

Since I last wrote you we have had a little stir in this quarter, occasioned by a dispute between the Duke Town gentlemen and the slaves who live at the plantations. The latter have become a body of considerable importance in the country, as the sequel will show. They resolved some time ago to adopt measures for their mutual protection against the capricious infliction of wrong by any of the freemen of the town. The most influential of them are slaves who have run from the town at different times, and especially on the death of their masters. They entered into a covenant by chopping blood—i.e. tasting each other's blood, which is considered among Africans as the strongest of bonds. The chief provision of their league seems to have been, that should any of their number be put to death, except for crime, the survivors should avenge it.

On Friday the 31st ult. a considerable number of the plantation people came into the town around. I could not make out the exact nature of their demands. The ship-captains were alarmed by the demonstration, met immediately, and sent off for a man-of-war vessel to come for the protection of British life and property. Of this proceeding we knew nothing at the mission-house till Sabbath evening, when we heard of it accidentally. On Wednesday the steamer Archer came up the river. She arrived in the evening, and next morning her commander, Captain Strange, visited us, and intimated that he had been instructed by his senior officer to call on us, and to offer us an asylum on board his ship if we considered ourselves at all in danger on shore. We thanked him for his offer, but declined acceptance of it; as we felt no alarm whatever. Whatever apprehension may have been felt by the gentlemen of the river on account of their lives and property, it was not shared in the slightest degree by any at the mission - house. On Friday the 7th inst. another war steamer came up the river, having on board Governor Beecroft of Fernando Po, how also Her Majesty's Consul for this part of the world. Several meetings were held at King Archibong's, at which were present the supercargoes of the ships in the river, the Duke Town gentlemen, and representatives from the plantations. Our presence not being specially required at the meetings, Mr. Goldie and I were not present at the settlement of the affair. An arrangement was come to last Saturday, when seven articles of agreement, or treaty, were signed by Duke Town gentlemen and about twenty of the plantation representatives.

Article 1st provides—That the ancient Egbo law of the country is to be respected and adhered to.

Article 2nd—That no more bodies of armed men are to come into Duke Town.

Article 3rd—That no slave who has a master alive shall chop blood with other slaves without his master's consent.

Article 4th—That should any slave belonging to any person in town run away to the plantation, he is to be given up when demanded.

Article 5th—That any combination among slaves for interfering with the correction of any domestic servant by his or her master is to be considered illegal.

Article 6th—That the law (made a year ago) for the abolition of human sacrifices be confirmed, and that the said law is not to be interpreted so as to interfere with the criminal law of the country.

Article 7th—That should any article of the present treaty, or the law for abolishing human sacrifices, be infringed, the injured party is to apply for redress to Her Majesty's Consul through any British resident on the spot.

It will be seen from the above sketch of the agreement come to, that the plantation slaves are treated as men, not as chattels, nor even as outlaws, but as men forming an important portion of the inhabitants of the country.

Mr. Goldie, after giving a full account of the whole proceedings, writes as follows regarding the importance of the above treaty:—

That the plantation people have asserted their independence is so far good; but they are themselves, many of them, extensive slave-holders, so that we cannot rejoice over the establishment of a free community. Still, it is a step in advance, and it is with truth the chiefs attribute these commotions to the measures forced on them by the whites. Thus it is that the measures taken by our Government for the suppression of the slave-trade are the first step towards the abolition of slavery in Africa itself; and the gospel in those spots, few and far between, where it has been introduced, by rebuking the horrid cruelties by which the accursed system was applied, has rendered it now much more difficult of maintenance. Oh, may a spiritual emancipation, as well as a temporal freedom, bless this wretched land!

Mr. Anderson wrote on 1st November, but the Huddersfield, which carried his letter, was never heard of. In a letter dated 15th May 1851, he says:—

During the rains which fell in the last week of September, our palaver-house, which had for some time given marked symptoms of decay, broke down altogether. On Sabbath, September 29th, we met in the town palaver-house. For the first time its precincts were on that day profaned by the feet of womankind. When Mr. Goldie and I, with the boys, entered it, the schoolgirls shrank back in alarm. They were afraid to enter, till King Archibong sent a messenger to assure them that they should not be killed for going into the sanctorum with us to pray to God. We met for a number of Sabbaths in that edifice; but we found that it did not answer well to look on it as our chapel. Women would not enter it if not compelled to do so ; and, besides, it was so frequently taken up even on Sabbaths by the celebration of Egbo ceremonies, that we never knew when we would have the use of it, or when it was preoccupied, till the hour of public worship arrived. Our meetings now are held in the yards of the different gentlemen. The)' will not all meet together. We have excellent meetings in Archibong's yard; but the old gentlemen of the town, such as Mr. Young and his party, will not attend any meeting there. They consider it beneath their dignity to go to the yard of any younger man for the trifling purpose of hearing the word of the living God.

A chapel of our own would be an immense acquisition to us. It would form, if placed on a neutral site, a place where all might assemble without any dereliction of dignity. I feel convinced that old operations here will be considerably crippled till we obtain a suitable place of worship. Creek Town has obtained a church, and our necessities are as great, if not greater, than those of Creek Town. Besides the native population, there are generally between 200 and 300 of our countrymen on board of the vessels in the river. Surely some, yea many, of these would attend the services of the sanctuary in this foreign land, had we a place of meeting worth the name. I have seen from time to time in the Record several small contributions "for a church at Duke Town." It would cheer our hearts, and, I doubt not, add to our usefulness, were these contributions to be multiplied a hundredfold.

For some time some of the more advanced scholars pressed mc to draw out an anti-idolatry pledge, in imitation of the teetotal, which they might sign. On Sabbath, October 13th, I drew out a pledge of the kind. It was signed by three individuals—two boys and one girl. The pledge bound its subscribers thenceforth to abandon the "making prayers" to any image whatever. I sent you the pledge with its signatures per the Huddersfield, but fear that vessel is lost. On Monday the 14th—can you credit it?— the whole town was in a ferment. A meeting of chiefs was held. The two boys were summoned before them— were condemned—ordered to erase their names immediately—and were fined a thousand coppers and a goat each. The girl, being with us in the house, was freed from annoyance, but she was a good deal frightened. In the evening and next morning I went to the different gentlemen in their houses, defended the boys to the best of my power, and tried to show them the sin, folly, and danger of fighting against God. My belief is that, up till that time, the authorities here had never realised the idea of any change in their religion—or rather, any departure from their superstitions ; that while they had, perhaps out of compliment to white men and to England, permitted and attended divine worship on the Lord's day, they have either imagined us to be wholly indifferent as to the reception of the truths we teach, or that all we could say would never produce any impression on the minds of the people. I have no doubt now that the persecution of the boys has been rather to the furtherance than the hindrance of our cause. Before that affair I was not aware that the young people of Calabar are compelled to pray or sacrifice daily to their household or country gods.

\Ve have had several severe tornadoes, accompanied as usual by heavy thunder. The severest we have ever seen occurred last Friday. It came on very suddenly, and carried all before it. The Jane we saw sweeping down the river before the tempest, dragging her anchor. One of the beautiful trees in our yard was much damaged, being deprived of three of its branches. A large, beautiful tree at the end of Adam Duke's palaver-house—it was an ornament to the town—was torn up by the roots. Notwithstanding its exposure, the mission-house weathered the blast. Within the last few weeks several of the ships have been struck and injured by the lightning. One Kruman was killed by it on board one of the vessels. Alligators, or perhaps, to speak more correctly, the crocodiles of the river, have been very daring of late. Scarcely a week passes in which some person is not seized on the beach by them. On Saturday last one of my schoolboys— and a most promising boy he was—was seized by one of the monsters, as he and several other boys were amusing themselves in the water, and was never seen again.

Mr. Anderson was compelled most reluctantly to come to this country in order to place himself in the hands of a dentist. His teeth gave way, and the consequence was that he was unable to speak so as to be understood by the people. In these circumstances, and while hesitating what to do, Captain Calvert, of the Victoria, kindly and generously offered to take him and Mrs. Anderson home to England and back again free of expense. Messrs. Waddell and Goldie approved of his going, and accordingly they left Duke Town on 15th May, and reached Liverpool near the middle of August. They were accompanied by the Calabar girl—who signed the anti-idolatry pledge—called Sarah Eshan or Anderson, twelve years of age, who was able to read the Bible very fluently; and by a fine little Calabar boy about two years old. This child they saved from destruction. His mother, a favourite slave of Henry Cobham, being very unwell, was sent to the mission-house to see if anything could be done for her recovery. There she died when the child was only a few months old ; and when the child was sent for they refused to give him up, as it was understood that the intention was to bury him along with the mother. At Calabar, when the mother dies while the child is upon the breast, both are put into the same grave; as there is none that will take the trouble of nursing the child. This little boy was thus rescued from death, and Mr. Anderson got from Henry Cobham a paper ensuring his freedom. These children were objects of great interest during the short time Mr. and Mrs. Anderson remained at home. They sailed again with Captain Calvert on 14th Oct., 1851, for Old Calabar.


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