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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 8


Renewed Labours—Difficulties and Discouragements

Mr. Anderson's restoration to health was the signal for renewed effort to meet the difficulties and discouragements of the work. At the outset he was cheered by the arrival of the first mail steamer. Extracts from his Journal carry on the story of his work:—

Tuesday, February 1.—This was the day for the meeting of Committee at Old Town. As Mr. Thomson and I were on our way thither from Creek Town, we met Captain Baak going up the river, who thus agreeably saluted us: "You have half an hour to write for England,—the Forerunner is waiting."

"Any letters for us?" "Yes." On our turning the corner at the bend of the river right opposite Old Town, we saw the Forerunner lying at anchor. She is the first of the mail packets which has visited this river. Though anxious to get on board the steamer, yet, as the tide was against us, and our rowers none of the strongest, we judged it best to stop at Old Town, where Messrs. Goldie and Edgerley were awaiting us. A few minutes after arriving there, we were gladdened by the receipt of letters, Records, and newspapers, brought to us by the mail. We were thankful to learn that Mr. Waddell and his fellow-voyagers had reached home in safety, and that the voyage had so much improved his health. Came to Duke Town in the evening, much benefited in health by the change of air and scene.

Saturday, 12.— We had the first tornado for the season between two and four o'clock this morning. All nature seems refreshed with the rain. There were three deaths among the townspeople to-day. One of them was that of Mr. Young's chief wife. On visiting him to-night, I asked him if he knew what was meant by these words, "life and immortality brought to light by the gospel." He rather prides himself on his knowledge of English, but confessed that he did not know the meaning of these words. He listened very attentively while I endeavoured to explain them, and to point out the different aspects in which death presents itself to an idol worshipper and to a Christian worshipper, to a believer and to an unbeliever. For some weeks past Mr. Y. has read a good deal in the New Testament, and he has generally some passage marked, of which he asks the explanation. The last knotty subject he fell in with was Peter's denial of the Saviour. He could not understand that at all till it was explained to him.

Tuesday, 15.—Was engaged the greater part of the forenoon in interceding with the town gentlemen on behalf of three men from Fernando Po, who have been detained here as prisoners for about three weeks, because detected aiding a slave to make his escape to Fernando Po in a boat in which they were acting as seamen. The three men are all originally from Princes Island, but now resident in Fernando Po. The slave whom they endeavoured to take away belongs to Princes Island. He was, I believe, a fisherman, and one day, while either plying his vocation or purposing to visit Fernando Po, he was drifted to the neighbourhood of Tom Shotts' Point at the mouth of the Old Calabar River, and there seized by some of Tom Shotts' men, who sold him as a slave to one of the Duke Town gentlemen. This was about two months ago. About a month ago, a boat with yams came over from Fernando Po: one of the boatmen discovered in the new arrival from Princes Island an old acquaintance. All the three Princes men joined in the attempt to conceal their countryman in the boat and carry him over to a land of freedom. They were detected, and are detained here as prisoners till they be ransomed by a payment of 15,000 coppers, 5000 for each man. I urged the town gentlemen to remit the above-named fine or ransom, and to give the prisoners liberty to return to their own homes by the first opportunity. I stated that they had done nothing but what every man should do ; that I was sure that every white man in Old Calabar, or on board the ships, would do the same thing a thousand times over if he had opportunity; that I had no doubt but that, were any of themselves to go to a foreign country, and to find any of their friends there, unjustly made slaves, they would try to bring them home. I told them to reflect on what they were doing, and to consider what would be the result were anyone to write to the governor of Princes Island, or to the commander of any Portuguese ship of war, giving information that they were holding Portuguese subjects as slaves. They would not comply with my request, however. The Duke (Ephraim) got quite angry, and said, "It was your ship (he meant the Warree) begin that bad fashion to take we people to Fernando Po."

I stated that I was not here when the occurrence he referred to took place, and had nothing to do with it. He expressed his determination not to let the men go till the fine should be paid.

There is an agreement between the governor of Fernando Po and the authorities here, by which it is made an offence in anyone connected with Fernando Po to aid in carrying away any slave from Old Calabar; but feeling assured that Governor Beecroft is not the man who will allow the common feelings of humanity to be trampled upon in his name by Calabar men, or any other men, I have resolved to lay before his Excellency, per first conveyance to Fernando Po, the true state of the case, and to recommend the prisoners to his favourable consideration.

Friday, February 18.—Second tornado this morning. A very severe one, but so much the better for driving the smokes away. Cold this morning, sitting in room with doors and windows shut, thermometer down to 73. It is very seldom below 76. Its common range is from 80 to 90, though I have seen it at 70, and I have seen it at 98.

Sabbath, 20.—When in palaver-house this morning about to begin public worship, several of Bassey Ofiong's people came with a goat, and a fowl, and an egg, and a small quantity of rum, to the sacred stone which lies at the entrance of the palaver-house. Bassey had been suddenly attacked by illness during the night, and I suppose these were to propitiate the Idem which had caused the illness. The animals were devoted on the sacrificial stone by a long prayer to, I do not know whom or what, but were not killed there, owing, I believe, to our being in the palaver-house at the time. The egg was broken, and part of the rum poured out on the stone, the remainder being sent over the throat of the officiating functionary, who appeared to consider that the most satisfactory part of the ceremony. The goat and the fowl were to be carried off, perchance to be killed at once near the patient, but perchance to die a lingering death, the fowl hung up by one foot, the goat lashed to a stake.

0 for a place of worship of our own, where there would be no appearance of fellowship between the service of God and things sacrificed to devils!

Sabbath, 27.—Spoke to-day in palaver-house from 1 Cor. x. 19-22. The passage afforded ample opportunity, which I endeavoured to embrace, of showing the worthlessness of Idenis and Iboks, and all the other objects of superstitious regard which abound here—the worthlessness and wickedness of giving things in sacrifice to idols —the incompatibility of God's service with that of devils, demons, or Egbo—the folly and danger of fighting against God. A goodly number of gentlemen and others were present, and listened to what was said on these four points with great attention.

Tuesday, March 1.—At Creek Town at monthly meeting of Committee. On return home, learned that on the death of a freeman about three weeks ago, in one of the Efut villages not far from Henshaw Town, one man and two women had been murdered. The headman of another village was here to-day, and admitted the murders, but stated that the village in question belonged to Qua, and was not under Duke Town Egbo. This statement I find to be correct. The Qua people have a good many towns and villages scattered here and there between the strip of land belonging to Old Calabar on the margin of the Calabar River, and the Qua River four or five miles eastward. In all these towns and villages, though the people speak a totally different language, and have many customs differing from those of Calabar, they practise the barbarous custom of murdering slaves and women on the death of free persons, as was the custom here. I immediately reported the matter to the President and Secretary of the Society for the Abolition of Inhuman Customs, etc., and I suppose they will call a meeting soon, that we may have a palaver with the Qua gentlemen, or with Queen Qua, on the matter.

Wednesday, 2.—Market prevented, and the peace of the town disturbed, on account of a squabble between Henshaw Duke (from whom better things might have been expected) and his people on the one side, and Adam Archibong and his people on the other. There was a pitched battle, which was carried on in the public marketplace with sticks and staves. Several heads were broken, but no lives lost. A band of Henshaw's men from the plantation passed the mission-house in the afternoon to the scene of conflict. I counted between fifty and sixty, all armed with bludgeons. I understand that Egbo was sent out to stop the battle, but that the belligerents set him at defiance. They told him they would pay what fine he might inflict, but that they must have their fight out.

Thursday, 3.—Heard Egbo's voice in town early this morning, and about seven o'clock saw Creek Town Egbo coming down the river. A stop has been put to the war between the Henshaw and Archibong families, and both parties have been bound over to keep the peace. I hear that a fine was inflicted for yesterday's contumacy.

In a letter dated 4th July 1853, accompanying the following extracts from his Journal, Mr. Anderson wrote:—

You will observe from the extracts from my Journal that the Sabbath work for a long time has been anything but encouraging. Feeling that we must have a place of meeting of our own, 1 am just now bargaining with Mr. Hogan, the pilot here, to build us a native house, 50 feet long and 30 wide, on a very excellent site, granted us by Mr. Young, in the centre of the town. The bargain is not yet concluded ; but I suppose the edifice will cost from 2000 to 2400 coppers, or from £20 to £24. The gentlemen will not meet in each other's houses.

There are above forty children at present at school, and several of them are making very satisfactory progress. Five or six of the Bible class are nearly through the Shorter Catechism. A manly little fellow, a son of the late King Eyamba, is half through the Shorter Catechism with Proofs. Sarah, whom you have seen, is now learning Brown's Explication of the Shorter Catechism. Little Andrew, whom you also saw, is constantly at school. He is nearly through Lennie's First Reading Book. The Gospel by John, in Efik, seems to be highly valued by those who can read it. I believe that there are now about seventy copies in circulation among our Calabar readers.

"Sabbath, March 6.—Enjoyed a comfortable Communion season this afternoon. Three members of the Baptist Church at Clarence, who are here just now on business, commemorated along with us the death of Jesus. It was a time of refreshing to us all.

"Tuesday, 8.—A violent thunderstorm and tornado. The lightning killed one man on the beach. The wind nearly capsized one of the ships lying in the river. The tornado commenced in the twinkling of an eye, without a moment's warning.

"Friday, 25.—Oh, the deeds of blood which are perpetrated in this land! Jemmy George, an old scholar at the Mission school here, has a very good wife, as Calabar wives go, who was delivered of twins during the night. The infants have disappeared, and the poor mother, well known to us as a woman superior in intelligence and energy to hundreds of her neighbours, was compelled to walk several miles towards the plantations immediately after her deliver}'.

"Tuesday, April 12.—A young man of the Young family had been sick for a few days. This morning he charged his old mother with having if'dt, freemason, for him. The poor old woman was taken into Mr. Young's yard and compelled to eat the fatal nut. An hour after and she was dead. In a k\v hours afterwards her son followed her to the eternal world. I have had sharp words with Mr. Young about the business. I told him, among other things, that of all the people in Calabar, he and his family should have no more to do with the poison nut after what took place in February last year.

"Sabbath, March 1.—Egbo in palaver-house. Held a short meeting in the marketplace.

"Communion at Old Town in the afternoon. I preached. Mr. Edgerley dispensed the Lord's Supper, and Mr. Goldie concluded the service. Even in this desert land we are privileged to ' draw water with joy from the wells of salvation.'

"Wednesday, 11.—An Egbo runner flogged a schoolgirl to-day when coming through Cobham Town. Went down to Cobham Town at once to protest to Henny Cobham and others against flogging children on their way to school. Was referred to Mr. Young for redress by Henny. As I am not visiting Mr. Young at present, on account of the murder of the old woman in his yard, I wrote him a pretty sharp note on the subject. I enclose his reply, which I considered wonderfully satisfactory. It is as follows :—

Rev. W. Anderson. Sir,—I reed, your letter by the Bearer and am sorry about that. I will mak plenty palaver about it you Boy see what I tock (talk) with them, you no see Juch (such) thing done any more when I be here for this Town your Boy can tell you what I say to them.

"Thursday, 12.—Were favoured to-night with a visit from the Rev. Mr. Jones, of the Church Mission, Sierra Leone. He will sojourn with us till the arrival of the next mail steamer.

"Mr. Jones' chief object in coming here is to see our friend Mr. Thomson, whom Mr. Jones accompanied home a number of years ago, after his (Mr. T.'s) father's death.

"Sabbath, 15.—Mr. Jones accompanied us to town and spoke at all the meetings. He has been labouring at Sierra Leone for twenty-three years, so that he can tell much that is interesting about that locality. He preached for me in English in the afternoon. The schoolhouse was filled to overflowing. Mr. E. had printed and I had circulated a number of handbills, which brought out a good many hearers.

"Tuesday, 24.—Gladdened to-day by the arrival of a box from Dalkeith, containing upwards of 220 copies of the Gospel according to John in Efik. The mail steamer Hope arrived here in the afternoon, so we had to bid farewell to our excellent brother, Mr. Jones.

"Sabbath, 29.—Devil-making in three or four houses to-day. Egbo in palaver-house. Of course %oe were shut out. It is a miserable state of matters this. Some of Egbds attendants gave Mrs. Lee a good deal of abuse when on her way to church this afternoon. Mrs. Lee is a widow, who came from America some years ago, and now makes her living by washing for the shipping.

"Tuesday, 31.—Wrote to Mr. Young about Mrs. Lee's affair, claiming protection for her when on her way to or from my house at any time, and especially when on her way to or from worship on the Lord's day. Mr. Young's reply—a verbal one—was not satisfactory; so that I wrote a note to each ship-captain, invoking the influence of each in Mrs. Lee's behalf.

"Wednesday, June 1.—The captains took up Mrs. Lee's case with commendable zeal. She will not be troubled again while on her way to divine service, at least for a long time to come.

"Sabbath, 5.—One of the saddest Sabbaths I have ever spent. All Duke Town gentlemen busy with a palaver brought in to them from the plantations. No time to attend to the word of God. Seeing that Egbo has been so frequently in the palaver-house of late on the Lord's day, and that we have been excluded, and fearing lest evil impressions may be produced on the minds of some by our holding meetings in the palaver-house only on such Sabbaths as Egbo may be pleased to permit us, I have resolved to hold no meetings in the palaver-house again. Should no man receive me into his house, I shall proclaim the word of God in the public marketplace each Sabbath to the few who may accompany or gather around me.

"Saturday, 11.—Requested Mr. Haddison to walk round among the gentlemen to ascertain where they will be willing to meet to-morrow to hear God's word, but on the understanding that I cannot return to the palaver-house. Mr. H. reports that Mr. Young's house will be the best place for meeting to-morrow.

"Sabbath, 12.—An excellent meeting in Mr. Young's to-day. Very reviving after last Sabbath's depression. Mr. Y. wished me to preach in English, which, he says, "he likes best, and all (?) understand." I went on as usual with my Calabar discourse. It was on the Creation and Fall of Man.

"Tuesday, 21.—Have been very unwell and off work for a week. Have not been in school since last Tuesday, but was able to resume work there this afternoon.

"Wednesday, 22.—Commenced this evening a weekly prayer meeting in the mission-house, to which I specially invited the boys in the highest class in the school. Our hall was filled. After devotional exercises, conducted by Mr. Haddison and myself, and a short examination of the young people on the first three questions of the Shorter Catechism, I stated that if any of the young people wished to ask me more fully about the things taught us in the Bible and the way of salvation, I should like them to come into my room. Six of them followed me, and I had a long and interesting conversation with them on the great truths of the gospel. All the six declared that it was their strong desire to leave off all their bad country fashions, and 'follow God's fashion,' but that they dare not, else their lives would be sacrificed. I have been repeatedly implored by some of the young men to request Consul Beecroft to demand from Calabar gentlemen protection for all who are willing to become members of the Church. One of the boys prayed in English at the conclusion of our conversation, and to me it was a refreshing prayer.

"Thursday, 23.-—Heard this forenoon that there was to be a substitutionary execution in town to-day. Went down to town at once to lift up my voice against such an enormity. Learned from Mr. Young and others that there would be no killing to-day; but I have every reason to fear that ere long one or two slaves will be slaughtered because their master has broken Egbo law.

"Wednesday, 29.—A boy brought us a young leopard on Monday last, which led to a considerable stir in town yesterday. One of the young men in town had shot its mother, and brought the carcase, as in duty bound, to King Calabar. Expecting probably to be better paid by us than by his kingship, he sent the little living one—only a few days old, still blind—to us. When King Calabar heard that he had been deprived of a portion of his perquisites, he became quite outrageous. It must be observed that he is the high priest of Ndem Efik, the god of Calabar. One of the ship-captains told me that it was most ridiculous to see him swaggering up and down the town, arrayed in an old dressing-gown, and decorated with all his charms, declaring to all the people his determination to leave Duke Town, to live henceforth at Creek-Town, and to bring the curse of Ndem Efik on Duke Town, unless the little leopard were carried to him. The people were evidently alarmed, and were surrounding him trying to pacify him, and begging him not to leave the town. We were totally ignorant of the matter, till King Duke sent a deputation to me to beg me, as I valued the peace of the town, to send him the little animal that he might present it to King Calabar, and that he would get the pontiff to dash it to me. I complied with the request, and in a short time it was brought back to me as a dash from his mightiness. He did not forget to come this morning for a dash in return.

"Wednesday Evening.-—Held our second prayer-meeting. I had eight inquirers to-night. I think that the most of them are earnestly inquiring the way to Zion. At the close of our conversation one little fellow prayed in the Calabar tongue. During the meeting the hall was full. There were about twenty children from the town,

"Thursday, 30.—King Duke did us the honour of breakfasting with us to-day."

In a letter dated 28th July 1853, Mr. Anderson described the commotion caused by the total destruction by fire of the ship Pytho, which, he said, was probably the finest and most expensively fitted up palm-oil vessel which up to that date had crossed the bar of the Old Calabar River. He quotes the particulars from his Journal:—

Thursday, July 7.—We were awakened about one o'clock A.M. by the barking of our watchdog. Heard a noise of voices and feet, as of a number of people passing from Duke Town to Henshaw Town. About half-past one a man came running into our yard, and cried out, "Ikangk'ata ubom Davies," i.e. that "fire is eating ship of Davies." . . . Fire burst forth from both sides of the Pytho with dreadful fury. We then learned that the Duke Town people were fleeing to Henshaw Town and to the bush all around, to escape danger from the anticipated explosion of gunpowder, of which it was reported that there were above one hundred barrels on board. We afterwards learned that there was not half that quantity in the ship. As the ill-fated ship was lying only a mile or thereabouts from us, I fully expected that the mission-house would be either blown or shaken to pieces by the explosion. We at once roused all the young people, and ran out of the house with them. We found hundreds of people on their way to Henshaw Town, carrying goods of all kinds. Several of the fat ladies of the town were also waddling along, in a manner most piteous to behold. Their brass leglets were of no aid to them in their flight. We found both the white seamen and the Krumen who belonged to the burning vessel hurrying along, all apprehensive that our neighbourhood was not beyond the reach of danger. At my request, Mrs. A. took all the young people to Henshaw Town. As I had rather more fear of thieves than of injury from the powder, I remained in the yard beneath one of the trees. I was soon joined by a poor little girl about five or six years of age, who appears to belong to no one. She kept her station near our feet till da)r dawned. Mrs. A. soon returned from Henshaw Town, and brought the news that all had escaped from the vessel except the surgeon, who, it was reported by the seamen, had refused to leave the vessel, and of course had perished. As we were deploring his untimely end, who should walk into the yard but he himself, in company with the mate? Glad were we to see them safe and sound. They were the last men who had left the ship. By this time it was about half-past two o'clock. In the meantime the lurid flames were casting their dismal glare all around. Their aspect was sometimes indeed grand, but more frequently it was terrific. The matted house, which had been thrown over the ship on her arrival here, was soon consumed, and the flames flew rapidly up the masts and rigging. I went upstairs and opened all the doors and windows, with the view of lessening the effect of the concussion on the house when it should take place. I took down two chairs and a blanket for our comfort below the tree ; and there we sat till daylight appeared, between five and six o'clock, expecting every moment to see firebrands and fragments of wreck flying all around us, and our dwelling-place a desolation. . . . Daylight came, and still there were no indications of an explosion. The mizzenmast fell a little after four o'clock, the mainmast shortly after five, the foremast about six, and the bowsprit about seven. At our usual hour—seven o'clock— we met in the schoolroom for family worship. A number of stragglers joined us. Anew we committed ourselves to the Divine protection, as we had previously done below the tree. We felt comfort in the thought that we were in the keeping of the Shepherd of Israel. We had school at the usual time, though but few attended. . . . The fire raged on the devoted ship. About noon there was a small explosion, caused, it was supposed, by the ignition of a small barrel or two of powder which had been lying apart from the rest. This explosion sent a brand to the neighbouring cask-house, which was immediately afterwards in flames. This we considered as the prelude of a still greater shock, for which we looked with intense anxiety till about five P.M., when the stern of the ship seemed to fall asunder. We then felt assured that the water had got into the magazine, and that there would be no explosion. In a few minutes more, after having burned for seventeen hours, all the interior of the ship having been consumed, her sides began to fall in, and in a minute or two more all that remained of the beautiful Pytho sank beneath the gurgling waters beneath a dense volume of smoke. Several Calabar canoes were hovering near the ship at the time. It is reported that one of them went down or was overturned when the ship sank, and that two of its occupants perished. Their desire of plunder seemed stronger than their fear of death. After the long suspense of sixteen or seventeen hours, it was a great relief to those on board the other ships in the river, to the townspeople, and to ourselves, to feel that the danger was over. . . .


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