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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 25

Abolition of Sabbath Market at Duke Town, 1873

The year in 1873 was rendered memorable by the abolition of the Sabbath market at Duke Town, as the result of influences long in operation there. Mr. Anderson wrote a glowing narrative, " dictated by his own joy and gratitude, over what had been achieved."

Old Calahar,
25th March 1873.

"Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Come and sec." I concluded my note to you of the 10th inst. with the expression of a hope that even I might live to see better days in Duke Town. I had no idea then that the "better days" were so near. On the 15th inst. I took my usual Saturday's walk through the town, to announce the approach of Sabbath. It was about 10 o'clock when I called at Adam Archibong's. I found him surrounded by the other headmen of the town. Adam at present exercises the regal power, and it is expected that he will soon assume the regal title, and be styled King Archibong III. I gave him and his councillors the usual salutation, made the usual announcement (of Sabbath), shook hands with Adam and two or three more, and took my departure.

On leaving the yard, one of the younger gentlemen came and asked me very softly, "Has the king told you?" "Told me what?" "That he is going to stop Sabbath market!" " Oh, he told me that some time ago, but he has said nothing about it just now." "But he has already given orders that Egbo is to be blown immediately—no market to-morrow or on any Sabbath coming!" I was surprised and delighted, I cannot tell how much. " But as he has not spoken to me on the matter, do you think it advisable that I go at once and thank him, or wait till I hear the proclamation?" "Better go now; it will please him well to hear what you have to say." I returned at once, but I did not return thanks in the usual way, as for a personal favour. I adopted a benedictory style, and, while acknowledging the intense gratification which I had felt on hearing such "good news," expressed my desire that the God of heaven would accept of the tribute now paid to His honour by the king and gentlemen of Duke Town, that He would lead them to comply with all the requirements of His holy Word, and bless them in all their interests. All of them seemed happy on account of the step they had taken; though, doubtless, some of them value the approbation of the white man as much as that of God.

In a short time the Egbo drums were heard—sound how often detestable! in this matter how delectable! —and first in the crowded market-place, then at other public places of the town, and afterwards on the Mission Hill, the royal proclamation was made: "Henceforth on God's day no market to be held in any part of Duke Town territory; no sale of strong drink, either native or imported, in doorways and verandahs; no work; no play; no devil-making; no firing of guns; no Egbo processions or palavers, etc. etc. Any person violating the provisions of this proclamation will be subjected to heavy Egbo penalties."

It will be noticed that the proclamation is strictly of a negative character, but it implies much that is positive. It implies rest from worldly toil; it implies time and opportunity for the great body of the population to attend the public services of the sanctuary, and such other means of improvement as we may be able to provide for them, such as district meetings, Sabbath schools, and Bible classes. It would be difficult, I think, to overestimate its value. I rejoice in it "as one that hath found great spoil." I consider the 15th of March 1873 as second in importance only to 15th February 1850, when human sacrifices were abolished by Egbo law.

On the following day, Sabbath 16th, we had a greater crowd than on the previous Sabbath. Both church and schoolroom were filled to overflowing, service being conducted in both places simultaneously. There must have been 600 present. On Sabbath last, the 23rd inst., the crowd was greater still. We think it well that so many of the people are busy at present in the plantation. From eight till nine we had services in both church and school —both places packed full. At 9.15 a fresh congregation filled the church, and service was resumed. On each of these two Sabbath afternoons we have had 500 at the services. All the audiences of both days were exceedingly attentive. Many, especially of the great ladies, have appeared deeply interested.

For years past Mrs. A. and I had given up all hope of ever seeing such days in Duke Town. There must have been an expectation of a change, however, and a good deal of quiet preparation for it, though we knew nothing of it. We infer this from the fact that most of the free women appear in church in decent apparel. Queen Archibong is the only one, however, who wears gloves.

Our Sabbath work is somewhat laborious, but the pleasure of seeing such numbers and such interest almost prevents any feeling of lassitude. I deeply feel the solemn responsibility which the conjuncture involves. Our earnest prayer is for wisdom and energy, to enable us to improve it. We tremble lest anything should occur to obstruct the flow of our present precious tide of opportunity. It is but proper to say that Mrs. A., Miss Patterson, and our Jamaica friend Mrs. Fuller, as also our three native teachers, do noble work in our crowded Sabbath schools, and in conducting the exercises at one or other of the simultaneous meetings. Mr Campbell has for several Sabbaths been engaged in the very important work of itinerating among the villages.

With thankful hearts, albeit in some respects "like them that dream," we look around us on Sabbath, and say, "What hath God wrought! " We pray that ere long we may see numbers earnestly inquiring the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward. In humble faith and hope, we sing—

'"The Lord of us hath mindful been,
And He will bless us still."

The Rev. Hugh Goldie, whose life had been all but despaired of in the end of 1872, accompanied by Mrs. Goldie, spent two months with the American missionaries at Gaboon, of whose work he wrote an interesting account in the Record (March 1873). The usual period of five years' sojourn in Calabar being about completed, and medical advice recommending a visit to Britain, he and Mrs. Goldie, accompanied by Miss Diboll, arrived in Liverpool on May 23. On July 6 a welcome reinforcement for the Calabar Mission set sail. Dr. Robb, Mrs. Sutherland, and Mrs. Timson, returning after furlough, were accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Robert M. Beedie, Mr. Thomas Campbell, and Mr. Alexander S. Morton, appointed respectively to Ikorofiong, Creek Town, and Duke Town, in the capacity of teachers or catechists, going out for the first time.

In a letter to John Chisholm, Esq., dated June 21, 1873, Mr. Anderson mentioned the death at Creek Town on June 5 of Miss E. Johnstone, who had laboured long and successfully in Calabar. Referring to church attendance, he wrote:—

Church continues to be very well attended, though, alas ! but few seem disposed to renounce heathenism and embrace Christianity in its wholeness.

Alluding to his sermons, he said :—

In looking over all my papers the other day, I wondered a little to see that I have so few discourses written out. I speak best (that is, most comfortably) from mere skeletons—and I have lots of them. However, the thought occurred to me some time ago that unless all my friends die before me, perhaps some of them may like a memento of me when I am away—so I picked out twenty of my sketches for the purpose of writing out as spoken.

Writing to Mr. Chisholm on Oct. 11, Mr. Anderson referred to the death of Mrs. Timson:—

On the 20th Sept. our amiable and gentle sister, Mrs. Timson, was taken from us. She came here eighteen years ago as Miss Barry. She was about three years a member of our household. She was tall and slender—too narrow-shouldered for this climate—but a most pious, modest, amiable girl. She became Mrs. Timson. She had four or five children — a twin-birth, however both still-born. After her husband's death she went home in very feeble health, and should never have returned to Africa. She arrived here on Saturday, Aug. 9, with Dr. Robb and others, and on that day six weeks she was taken away after a week's fever. No fatal termination was looked for till Friday night. On Sabbath morning her remains were committed to the tomb in the lone family cemetery at Ikoneto, and there she slumbers beside her husband and three of her children.

I trust that Mrs. Timson's death will not frighten anyone on account of our climate. I believe that she might have lived a few years had she remained at home; but Dr. Robertson, Mr. Goldie, and I warned the Mission Board that she was not a fit subject for Africa. A hundred others—with broad shoulders and expansive chest— might live here as well as at home, with occasional trips to any cold region.

In the notice of Mrs. Timson's death in the Record Dec. 1873 it is said:—

She had returned to this country about two years ago, and having, under medical advice, prolonged her stay beyond the usual period, she returned to her chosen work, without any medical interdict. . . . All who knew her intimately attest, in the most unhesitating terms, her devotedness to the work to which she had given her life. Indeed, when the idea was presented to her, of relinquishing the mission field for the sake of attending to the children who were thrown on her sole parental care by the death of her husband, she replied to the suggestion by a flood of tears, and said that she had given herself to Calabar, and had never recalled this surrender. The three children, aged seventeen, fifteen, and eleven, are now cast on the care of the Church; and the trust, we doubt not, will be practically realised.

In a tender funeral sermon, Mr. Anderson said of Mrs. Timson :—-

Her unassuming piety, her prayerfulness, and her attachment to her Bible, with her simplicity of character,— for she was an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile,—secured our highest estimation. I question if there was a better-thumbed Bible in Old Calabar than that belonging to Margery Barty. We have known her as maid, as wife and mother, and as widow, and can testify to the excellency and propriety of her demeanour in each relationship which she sustained. . . .

One wonders why she was permitted to return to Calabar only to die. Whatever may be thought or said of human arrangements, we may rest assured that He who holds the keys of Hades and of death doth all things wisely and well. Her corporeal vigour was never very great, even when she was at her best—I refer, of course, only to what she has been in this climate; and yet it is quite possible that she may have received from the Master a higher commendation than that which He shall bestow on some of us who possess far greater bodily strength. I have no doubt that He has said of her, "She hath done what she could." What could an angel expect more? Let us all endeavour to merit such a plaudit. . . .

In the letter to Mr. Chisholm, Mr. Anderson referred to the new teacher, Mr. Mortog, who was connected with Dalkeith:—

Mr. Morton is getting on exceedingly well. He is just the man we need for the station here. His heart is in his work—and that is the great thing. He likes the children, and they like him. He promises fair to master the language in a short time. He and I read together daily, taking Greek and Efik alternately. (The two languages are not quite the same!!)

The letter also contains reference to the progress of the work:-

Matters are moving on very comfortably at present. Church crowded twice each Sabbath. But friends must not forget that the work to be done is very great. The abolition of Sabbath market, etc., was well, but only indicated the fall of one or two outposts of the enemy. Polygamy and slavery are the Malakhoff and Redan which will demand many a fell struggle ere they fall.

I gave great offence to the authorities lately by not preventing some of those whom they claim as slaves from getting away to Fernando Po. I tell them that I cannot act as policeman or public informer for them—that all I can promise is that I shall take no active part in helping their slaves to run away from the country. This, however, hardly satisfies them. My path of duty in the matter seems quite plain.

The following "spontaneous testimony to the Christian influence of the Mission at Duke Town" from natives of Sierra Leone, Cape Coast, and elsewhere, resident in Old Calabar, addressed to Mr. Anderson, appeared in the Record, Jan. 1874:—

. . . God has blessed your labour in a degree the extent of which you are little aware. We in the town have seen, and testify, how in former days one could hardly know the Sabbath from any other day in the week ; for nearly at every turn of the streets you saw drums beating, songs singing, dancing going on, market-keeping, etc. But now how great is the change! A stop has been put to all these things, through your unwearied efforts in representing matters to the king and chiefs, and showing them how it is against God's law for all these things to be done on the Sabbath day. More also, there is now a surprising fondness in the whole town, among male and female, to attend divine service on Sunday; and as tte see them marching up the hill in single file, and sending their servants to hurry up others who were not ready in time, we cannot but wonder with open mouths, and say, "What hath God wrought!" and as we go to the service, we are also greatly surprised to see that the once-neglected church of Duke Town, and the unoccupied seats (together with the schoolroom), can hardly be sufficient to contain all that go to the worship of the Lord.

Permit us then, sir, to offer our hearty congratulations to you for the zeal and untiring exertions among these people, for whose well-being you have already spent twenty-four years of missionary labour towards the advancement of Christ's gospel and the glory of God's kingdom, and also for the success of the Mission of which you are a member. We also hope that these people who now go to church may not only be attendants, but by your preaching and teaching be soon converted to true followers of Christ. And may God grant you health and strength, not only to labour in Duke Town, but to be a blessing to all the inhabitants of Calabar!

In the Annual Report for 1873, Mr. Anderson, referring to day-school work, said :—

One thing has been a bone of contention between the native gentlemen and us for many years, viz., our persistency in teaching as well as learning the Efik tongue. They wish us to teach their children English, and English only. We have never felt it to be our duty to do so. This has led several of our headmen to employ some of the Accras as teachers or family tutors. Three of them we know to be thus employed. The competition will doubtless prove beneficial in the long-run. The training and teaching of our native teachers require a considerable amount of evening work from Mr. Morton and myself.

Referring to the out-stations, Mr. Anderson wrote :—

These are the Efut farms and the Edibe-Edibe villages, all lying within a radius of three or four miles from the Mission Hill, and the two Henshaw Towns, one of which is a suburb of Duke Town on the north-east, and the other a village a mile distant on the south-west. This latter merits a sentence or two. It has a population of, it is supposed, about 500, either in the town or belonging to it. It affects to have its own king, and its own laws and customs. Its headmen give us, in various ways, great encouragement in our work. Fully the half of our Sabbath congregation is from Henshaw Town.

Mr. Anderson wrote to Mr. Chisholm on November 13, 1873:—

... I think I have mentioned to you that Consul Charles Livingstone came on us unexpectedly last year as a boarder. He lived with us a very canny life from April 1872 up till the 18th ult., when he left us to go home to enter on his retiring pension. He was troubled with a bronchial complaint all the time he was with us, but otherwise his general health was good; and on the 18th ult. he left us in good health and spirits to go home with Captain Croft—one of the most vigorous men connected with the African coast—with whom I have crossed the ocean three times. He also was in capital health when here—quite proud of his splendid new steamer Ethiopia: this was her first voyage.

On the arrival of the Africa on Sabbath evening last, the community here was startled by the intelligence—"Consul Livingstone and Captain Croft both dead from yellow fever on this side Cape Coast." I am not quite sure of dates— I think Livingstone died on the 27th—was buried at sea. Croft twelve hours later, and was buried on shore at Idda or Whyda—could not make out which. . . . The dispensation will afflict Dr. Livingstone when he hears of it, if he hears of it on earth. [Dr. Livingstone died a few months before, May 1873. Regarding Charles . Livingstone, see Blaikie's Personal Life of David Livingstone (1880), pp. 88-9, and passim. ]

Matters moving on in pretty much the old way. All in the Mission well at present. Mr. Morton well, and doing well. Mr. Beedie has had a sharp attack of fever, but is getting round. My right shoulder is rheumatic. If so in our comfortably warm climate, what would it be in your cold climate? So I reason.

No, not intending to publish—but beginning to forget what is meant by some of my [shorthand] marks on my skeletons—so in order to have something to read (when unable to preach) without requiring to spell the words, I have copied out twenty-five of my most important discourses, [These perished in the fire in 1882.] which I can use at short notice—here or elsewhere.


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