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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 6


Return to Calabar—Death of King Archibong l.—1852

Mr. Anderson's return to Calabar was timely, for the death of the young King Archibong gave rise to great excitement, and murders were caused by the use of the poison bean. Messrs. Goldie and Anderson unitedly did their best to restore order and prevent the murders. Writing on Feb. 12th, Mr. Anderson says:—

After a very tedious voyage of nearly three months, we arrived here in safety on Friday, January 9th, 1852, the anniversary of my arrival in Jamaica twelve years before. Mrs. A. was very unwell during the first part of the voyage, but got quite well ere it terminated. The two Calabarese stood the voyage well. Poor little Andrew had so far forgot former scenes, that when, in the neighbourhood of Cape Palmas, our Krumen came on board, he was quite frightened by the sight of black men. On arrival here, we found all our brethren and sisters in the Mission well, with the exception of Mrs. Edgerley. She sank very low indeed, but is now recovering. We found the good work progressing. I found two new books in the Calabar tongue in circulation among the young—a small hymn-book by Mr. Goldie; and a translation of the ten chapters of Genesis which contain the history of Joseph, by Mr. Waddell. We found that death had been at work during our absence among our neighbours both in the river and in the town. We had to mourn the death of Captain Cookson of the Taplcy, a very excellent young man. He was mate in the ship in which we came hither in 1848-9; and, during the night-watches, he and I had then many pleasant and profitable conversations, lie had an excellent education, and what was better, he had the fear of God before his eyes. He was a warm friend to the Mission. We were sorry to find that another friend, a native trader, by name Ironbar, had gone the way of all the earth. He was a most useful man. He was by birth a slave, and as such was excluded from Egbo privileges, but, notwithstanding this, he was, next to King Archibong himself, the most influential man in Duke Town. Indeed, he was Archibong's right-hand man. He was, as far as a heathen can be, an lionest man. In the affair between the town gentlemen and the plantation people, a twelvemonth ago, it was chiefly owing to his mediation that matters were amicably arranged. I cannot help wishing that we had him among us now. On arriving here, we were very kindly received by King Archibong and all the gentlemen of the town. He seemed delighted to see the two children safely back. On two Sabbath mornings at our meetings in his yard for divine service, he took special notice of Andrew, and said to all around him, both in Calabar and English, "Suppose it no be them white people, that boy dead long time for true."

The following account by Mr. Anderson of the events that took place after the death of King Archibong includes two extracts from a letter of Mr. Goldic:—

Passing other matters, I shall come to the principal event which we have at present to record, namely, the death of King Archibong. He was very unwell a year ago, and I believe never fully recovered. When we arrived last month, he seemed pretty well, and in good spirits. On the evening of January 31st, when Mr. Goldie and I took our usual round to announce the approach of Sabbath, we found him very ill. He had had fever for three or four days. He said that he could not be at the meeting on the morrow, but that we must come down and hold it as usual. When we saw him the next morning (Sabbath), he was evidently worse. We then began to apprehend danger. His mother had arrived from the plantation, and was beside him. Her name is Obuma, but she is frequently styled by the white people Mrs. Archibong. She is wholly devoted to the superstitions of her country. Idiong, or the carcases of sacrificed animals, were to be seen in all quarters. The atmosphere was quite polluted with their pestilential effluvia. Here was a goat's head, there one of its legs, yonder another of them; while within two yards of his sickbed was a putrefying fowl tied (probably while it was alive) to a stick. Mr. Goldie on that morning, as at our subsequent visits, spoke to him of the Saviour, and prayed with him and for him in the Calabar tongue. On the Monday, when Mr. Goldie was speaking to him of the folly of idiong and urging him to commit himself to Christ, he called on one of the gentlemen, and, repeating what Mr. Goldie had just said about their own foolish confidences, he declared most seriously that they were "Ikemke," i.e. unfit to benefit, worthless. We called on the Tuesday, and found him sinking. About noon on Wednesday he died.

A work of slaughter forthwith commenced. His mother, Obuma, took four of the family connections—one man and three women—to Mr. Young, and charged them with having killed her son by means of ifbt, otherwise called freemason; in Jamaica it is called obeah; witchcraft is, I suppose, the nearest approach we can make to the meaning of the word in English. They were subjected to the ordeal of the poison bean, and all died. Mr. Goldie and I having got a hint about the ordeal, took the round of the town to see how matters were looking. Mr. Young-looked as innocent as an infant, and protested so strongly that no esére had been administered, that for my part I thought he was speaking the truth. We are certain now, however, that he was deceiving us. On the same night the king's mother caused several of the wives to take esére. The greater part of those who took the poison died under its influence. It is reported that Mrs. Archibong broke the Egbo law two years ago, by killing several slaves; but there are so many conflicting statements that we hardly know what to believe and what to disbelieve. If she has broken said law, I feel convinced that she has some powerful enemies among the Egbo gentlemen, who would rejoice to see her brought down, and that if they can convict her of the crime laid to her charge by common report, she will not escape Egbos vengeance.

On the day after Archibong's death, large bodies of armed men began to pour in from the plantations. They came with the avowed purpose of ascertaining who had killed Archibong. We have since learned that they came into the town on the invitation of the king's mother, who, it appears, offered them great rewards, provided they would procure the destruction of the Young family by denouncing its members as the murderers of Archibong by having frcciuasoncd him, and by demanding that their guilt or innocence be manifested by their submitting to the ordeal of the nut. On the Friday a large meeting was held in the marketplace. All the gentlemen of the town were present with their retainers—there must have been from 1000 to 1200 armed men from the plantations, and there were 200 or 300 spectators, chiefly women. There could not be fewer than 1500 on the ground, probably a good many more. It was one of the most sorrow-inspiring spectacles I have ever seen. The professed purpose of the assemblage was to ascertain who had killed the king. Mr. Goldie and I went down twice to see what was going on. We could do nothing more than speak a few words to the gentlemen, and protest against more killing. We could not arrest the progress of events, but we felt it our duty to watch, and to show that we were watching, the proceedings of the day. We stopped both times as long as the scorching sun would allow us. We saw four poor women eat the fatal nut. Three of them seemed very indifferent about the matter. While chewing the poison, they were laughing and talking to those around them. The fourth—she was quite young—seemed very thoughtful. It would have afforded us no pleasure to see the approach of death's agonies—our hearts had a sufficient load to bear without that addition. We withdrew from the scene. It was not long ere we were informed that two of the victims were dead. The other two rejected the poison.

Seeing on Saturday that Duke Town was in a state ot anarchy—the king dead—the premier fled—and no acknowledged head in the place, Mr. Goldie and I wrote to King Eyo requesting him to interpose, and if possible, prevent the further destruction of life. He wrote us, in reply, that Duke Town people had not informed him of what was going on, but that he would send his brother, John Eyo, to stop any more chopping nut, and to make the plantation people go away. On the following day, Sabbath, John Eyo came down with the Creek Town insignia of official Egbo authority; and "Egbo" himself came down from Old Town. But neither the ordinary mortal, nor the mysterious personage from the bush, could quell or control the tumult. Both returned to their homes in the afternoon.

On Monday, King Eyo himself came down, and to our great joy succeeded in restoring order. On the Saturday when we wrote to him, we wrote also to Mr. Waddell and to Mr. Edgerley, proposing that they should join us here on the Monday morning in a special meeting for prayer on behalf of poor distracted Duke Town. They reached this place at nearly the same time with King Eyo. After he had taken his chair in the marketplace, all four of us went down to pay our respects to him, and Mr. Goldie and I thanked him for his attention to our request. We intimated that if he needed us in any way, we were at his service. We then left him to transact his business, and we came up to hold our meeting. I believe we helped him better by our prayers on his behalf, and on behalf of the country, than we could have done otherwise. After meeting, Mr. Waddell and I went down to see what was going on, and we found that King Eyo had managed the business of restoring peace and order, at least for the time being, that all parties were about to chop doctor—take oath—that there was to be no more nut chopping, and that the plantation people were to go to their homes. King Eyo must have performed his part of the business with great skill and prudence. Had he not done so, his presence in Duke Town would have increased rather than hushed the storm. Duke Town is again without a head, and I suppose that for a season every man will just do what is right in his own eyes. I earnestly wish, and have some small expectation, that the occurrences mentioned above will lead to the total abolition of the ordeal of the poison nut. I have no doubt that many thousands of lives have been destroyed by it in this country. This is probably the first time that the headmen have themselves been required to make trial of it. If they be wise, it will be the last. The question has perhaps occurred to you, seeing that women are so much undervalued in Old Calabar, how has that old lady, Obuma, so much influence? There are some excellent remarks on the chief points involved in the question in Kitto's Daily Bible Illustrations, forty-fourth week, fifth day—article, "The Queen." Here, as in the lands of the Bible, the king's 7cives may be, and are, of little importance in the country, while his mother occupies a very high place. It is perhaps worthy of remark at present, that what we call murder by the poison nut is not considered to be such in this country. To administer it here is quite legal, so that no proceedings can be instituted against those who have at this time employed it. In so doing, they broke no Egbo law. I trust that an Egbo law will soon be passed prohibiting its use in all time coming.

We are again turned adrift as to our Sabbath-day meetings in Duke Town. We feel now, more than ever, the necessity of our having a place of meeting of our own, unconnected with any party or family in the country.

Various reports are in circulation respecting the numbers who have been destroyed by the esére. It is impossible to ascertain the truth on such a point. From what I have learned, I should suppose the number of victims to have been between twenty and twenty-five.

In a later letter, dated April 21st, Mr. Anderson stated that order had been restored, and that Duke Ephraim had been elected king.

Mr. Waddell had to leave Calabar on account of his health in August, and Mr. Goldie took his place at Creek-Town, while Mr. Anderson remained at Duke Town. In a letter dated Aug. 9th, 1852, Mr. Anderson gives an account of the state of matters at that station:—

Matters have been going on in pretty much the same way as when I last wrote you. Our Sabbath meetings have been rather falling off than improving. School has been attended pretty regularly by between forty and fifty children, many of whom are getting on as satisfactorily as can be expected.

I resume school to-day, after a fortnight's vacation. I have been very busy for some time revising for the press a translation of John's Gospel into Efik. Friends in Dalkeith kindly engaged to defray the expense of printing the translation, and Mr. Waddell takes it home to commit it to their care.

I think you have already received intimation of a deadly strife which has been going on for some time in the plantations. It originated shortly after King Archibong's death, in the first instance, I believe, about the division of the coppers paid by Archibong's mother to the plantation people for their services in coming into the town armed, and demanding that chop nut be administered to several parties whom she wished out of the way. A scuffle took place at the division of the coppers, and one man was killed in the affray. This party demanded satisfaction from the other party—i.e. that a person of equal standing be delivered to them to be put to death. This was refused. For some months lives were lost daily, sometimes on one side, sometimes on the other, and sometimes on both. I should have mentioned above that the slaves, that is, those who were the slaves of the late Henshaw Duke, headed by my very peaceable-looking friend, George Duke, Esq., and those who were the slaves of the late John Duke, headed by one Efiong, whose acquaintance I had the honour of making the other day, form two very powerful and mutually jealous parties on the plantations. These were the belligerent powers. The war, as it is called, did not interfere much with the affairs of the town, further than this, that it raised the price of provisions considerably. You will be glad to learn that peace has now been proclaimed. Mr. Goldie and I ofttimes urged the Duke Town gentlemen to interfere and stop the strife. They always expressed their anxiety to do so, and really made some attempts at mediation, but failed. By the end of last month, the warriors being quite wearied of their inglorious contention, agreed to a truce. I was glad one day at the end of July, to receive from the redoubtable chieftain of the Henshaw Duke division the following note, in reply, I suppose, to a letter I had written him a month before, entreating him to lay aside the gun, and resume the book and the pen. The note, as well as many I have had from him formerly, shows that he can wield the pen:—

Dear friend Mr. Anderson,— I let you know now 1 bring them palaver for town, and it will be settled. No more war live for plantations. I done. I want all man to hear what them slave been do we first.

George Duke, Esq.

July 28th, 1852.

It is but due to my friend G. D. to say that the father of one of his wives was one of the first slain by the other party, and as the lextalionis is in full vigour here, George was thus constrained to assume the war cap and the musket.

After a good deal of negotiation, all parties met in the marketplace here on Friday last, the Duke Town gentlemen as mediators ; the chiefs of the war parties and their respective armies mustering, I should suppose from the appearance of the host from our verandah, from three thousand to four thousand armed men. The meeting was held from 11 a.m. till after 5 P.M., at which hour all parties chopped doctor (took oath; that they would fight no more. On Saturday morning, Jemmy Henshaw brought Efiong, the chief of the John Duke party, to the mission-house. He was attended by a bodyguard of upwards of sixty armed men. We gave him some food, for which he seemed to have considerable relish, made him a small present, and I proposed to visit him in the plantation, and speak God's word to him and all his people. He said it was too far for me to go. 1 assured him that distance would not hinder me. He did not then appear to like the idea of my visiting him ; but I saw him in town in the evening, when he appeared quite glad at the prospect of a white man going to see him.

Mr. and Mrs. Goldie left us on Friday for Creek Town, so that we are again alone. Mr. Goldie and I have held seven meetings between us for some time, including the Sabbath school. I feel grieved at the thought of giving up any of the meetings; but, after conducting four in the town yesterday morning, I felt that I had not strength of either body or mind for a fifth, which should have been held at Henshaw Town. We have Sabbath school at 3 P.M. and English service at 4 P.M. 1 find that to hold six or seven meetings on Sabbath, and teach school on the other six days of the week, is too much for one individual. Neither the one class of duties nor the other can be satisfactorily performed. There ought to be some of the Academy students of Jamaica nearly ready for service here by this time. I earnestly wish we had one. Here is a splendid field for him.

Duke Town requires the full labours of both a missionary and a well - trained schoolmaster, as much as, perhaps more than, Creek Town. On the score of health I do not see that anyone need be afraid to come to our aid direct from Scotland. Haddison does pretty well in school when under the eye and backed by the influence of a superior. But the bigger boys will not be ruled by him, and his literary attainments are very limited. I state as my solemn, deep-grounded conviction, that additional aid is essential to the prosperity of this station.

Since Archibong's death, matters have not been in a good state in the town. One could scarcely have supposed that the death of one man, such as he, would have changed the whole aspect of affairs in Duke Town. His successor, King Duke, is little regarded by either blacks or whites. I believe Archibong's devil-making, or last funeral obsequies, will be observed during the ensuing period of full moon. I trust that affairs will become more settled then.


 


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