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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 9


The First Converts, 1853—Excursion up Qua River—First Marriage in Duke Town, 1854

The Mission had been at work for over seven years ere the first converts openly professed Christianity. Then the first-fruits appeared at all the three stations. At Creek Town,on the afternoon of the Lord's day, 16th Oct. 1853, Mr. Goldie publicly baptized in the king's yard a young man named Esien Esien Ukpabio, who became the first native teacher, and afterwards pastor, and is now the "father" of the Missionary Presbytery of Biafra, and one of the few links connecting heathen and Christian Calabar. He was what is called half-free—that is to say, a slave born in the country, who is entitled to some privileges which are not possessed by the slaves introduced from another country. The next convert was a freeman, the king's own son, known as "Young Eyo," who became Eyo III. He was baptized by Mr. Goldie on the 30th of October, and then along with Ukpabio sat clown at the Lord's table. Immediately after gathering in these first-fruits, Mr. Goldie had to leave Calabar for a time. He had been engaged in preparing a dictionary and a grammar of the native language, and had, by too close application, so injured his eyesight that his brethren and his medical advisers urged his departure as the only means under God of preventing the total loss of sight. Mr. Waddell was in Scotland at the time, so that Mr. Goldie could ill be spared ; and it was not known in Calabar that a new recruit, in the person of Mr. Alexander Sutherland, teacher, would soon join the staff.

Mr. Anderson's letter of 30th Nov. 1853 refers to the first converts at Creek Town, Duke Town, and Old Town, to the baptism of three of his house children, and to five candidates for baptism, and to the great need of help for the work of the Mission:—

You would be rejoiced to hear from Mr. Goldie of the baptism of two young men at Creek Town. You will now be glad to learn that two of our young women here have also been "added to the Church." They are both members of our household, and have been so for nearly four years and a half, during the whole of which period they have been under instruction. The elder of the two is called Mary Taylor Anderson. She is a native of Egbo Shary —was brought to market here for sale about the middle of 1849, and was redeemed in part by our friend Dr. Taylor and in part by ourselves. She appears to be eighteen or nineteen years of age. The youngest,called Sarah Anderson [sister of Ukpabio], you have seen. Being weak and sickly, she was committed to us by King Archibong's mother, not long after we came here in 1849. We claim her freedom on King Archibong's note of hand, given us before we took her to Britain in 1851. The claim was lately disputed by Mrs. Archibong (as she is called), but the assembled gentlemen of the town decided that it is valid. Mary was baptized on the last Sabbath of October. Sarah also was to have been baptized on that day, but, having gone to see her mother, and having been detained at Creek Town on that Sabbath, she was baptized on the first Sabbath of November, on which day we had the comfort of seeing both of them partaking, with hearts evidently impressed, along with us of the memorials of our Lord's broken body and shed blood. Considering the perils by which they are surrounded in this dark land, while we rejoice over them, we do so with trembling. Your prayers will, I am assured, ascend with ours to the Good Shepherd in behalf of these lambs of the flock. He can—I trust will-—keep them unspotted from the world, and preserve them to His heavenly kingdom and glory.

I may here mention that other two women have been this year admitted into the fellowship of the Church at this station. First, Mrs. Haddison, who was brought up among our Baptist brethren at Fernando Po and Cameroons. She was married to my assistant, Mr. J. Haddison, in the earlier part of the year. The second was Mrs. Lee, originally from Baltimore, U.S., where she long drank of the bitter cup of slavery. She has been for some years a widow, and makes her living chiefly, if not solely, by washing clothes for the shipping here. Eight of her little children occupy graves in America, Liberia, Fernando Po, and Old Calabar, and I daresay she has wept over each little slumberer's coffin (as Mrs. Stowe says) "just as naturally as if she had been a white woman." She was connected with the Methodists in Baltimore.

On the first Sabbath of November, I embraced the opportunity of Mr. Edgerley's being with us to have our three youngest adopted or redeemed children baptized. The eldest of these, whom we call Agnes Tod, seems about eight years old. Mrs. A. redeemed her two or three years ago, when a poor, diseased, miserable-looking creature. After a great deal of care and nursing by both Mrs. Goldie and Mrs. A., she is now thriving well. The second is Andrew Somerville. Me was with us in Britain in 1851. The third, whom we call Margaret Marshall (after a much-valued Jamaica friend), seems about twelve or fourteen months old. Her mother died in July, and as the poor infant seemed likely soon to die also,her owner, by name and style Egbo Tom, Esq., considerately dashed her to us on the 30th of the same month. Mrs. A. and I demurred about accepting the present, unless accompanied by a writ of manumission. This was readily granted, and we received the poor outcast, or rather orphan, as a trust from on high. She is thriving very well now, and will, we trust, continue to do so.

On Sabbath first, Mr. Edgerley purposes baptizing a young man [Joseph Edgerley or Edungikan], who has been long one of his domestics at Old Town. The first-fruits of each station will then have been brought in and presented to the Lord. O for a speedy and an abundant harvest-time!

I have had two very interesting conversations with Young Eyo since his baptism. He met with great opposition in taking the important step. He needed the spirit of a martyr, and he seems to possess it. Mr. Goldie has probably written you the very interesting particulars. The combat is now fairly begun in this battlefield between the powers of heaven and hell,—the opposing forces have met face to face,—the struggle may be fell, and furious, and protracted. Never has the Mission been in a more interesting state than at present—never has it more needed the prayers and sympathies of the Church at home.

Before this reaches you, you will have learned that Mr. Goldie has had to leave us for a season. We felt deeply grieved to part with him on the 31st ult. The absence of two brethren at once leaves Mr. Edgerley and myself too much to do, especially as we have access to two of the ships in the river. I have frequently to conduct five or six meetings on the Sabbath, and feel it very exhausting. Indeed, last Sabbath evening and all Monday I felt as I did last December, immediately before the attack of fever which nearly sent me to the grave. But still, I have not the heart to say "No," when invited to speak the words of eternal life in any yard in town or on any ship in the river.

December 1.—Thus far had I proceeded last evening, when the Forerunner made her appearance. I was forthwith put in possession of yours of October 23, announcing the very pleasing intelligence that help is at hand. I trust that we shall ere long be cheered by Mr. Sutherland's arrival. In the meantime we "thank God and take courage."

I forgot to state at the proper place that we have at this station just now five candidates for baptism—four young men and one girl.

The school has not been so well attended this year as it was last. There have been about 100 children at school in all, but the average attendance has not exceeded 45. I shall have more opportunity for hunting out scholars when Mr. S. arrives.

Mr. Thomson is looking feeble. He is much in need of a change of climate. According to arrangement, I supplied at Creek Town on Sabbath, Nov. 20. King Eyo is as bright as ever. Had three well attended meetings.

An excursion up the Qua River was a pleasant holiday at the beginning of a new year.

Monday, Jan. 9, 1854. — Accompanied by Mr. Edgerley, Mr. Thomson, and Dr. Eastwood (surgeon of one of the ships), went off this evening in the John Robson for an excursion up the Qua River. Anchored off Seven Fathom Point for the night.

Tuesday, 10.—Lifted anchor this morning and proceeded to the mouth of the Qua River, where we waited till the commencement of flood tide. We then proceeded up the river to Qua landing, where we landed and took a short walk, and off which we anchored for the night.

Wednesday, 11. — Got up on the flood to a beautiful anchorage, with a fine sandy beach, where we lay during the ebb. About noon weighed anchor and proceeded up the river. Saw only one small hut all the way. Between five and six P.M. we anchored off a beach called Esuk Obutong, where two or three canoes were lying. We ascertained that there is a road to Old Town from this beach. We took a walk into the country a mile or two, and reached a small plantation village. We learnt from the people there that Old Town is ten or twelve hours journey from their abode. The ground here is high compared with that of Calabar; there is much good timber; and the soil, which is clayey, seems rich and strong. We left a few mango seeds with the people at the village, which they promised to plant and look after. Returned to the boat for the night.

Thursday, 12.—Early in the morning went up the river till we could not stem the current. This was only a mile or so above Esuk Obutong. We learned from the people at the plantation that about a mile above the place we reached the river becomes so small and the channel so full of large stones, that even canoes cannot proceed farther. Had time permitted we would have hired a canoe and proceeded as far as possible, but we were anxious to be home by Friday evening, so we turned the boat's head and retraced our course. At a small creek about a mile below Esuk Obutong, we stopped a little and landed. We found two new cottages, the inhabitants of which are employed in clearing ground for a new plantation. The people, houses, and plantation (which is to be) belong to Obuma, the mother of the late King Archibong of Duke Town. We then proceeded down the river, and anchored for the night off the north end of Robson Island.

Friday, 13.—Started this morning with the first of the ebb tide, got down to the mouth of Qua River, where we lay till the tide turned, and got up to Duke Town about four P.M.

We must have been at the least sixty miles up the Qua River—that is, about twenty miles farther than any of us have been on any previous occasion. During the whole of our progress the only human habitations we could see from the river were a small village at Qua landing, about twenty-five or twenty-eight miles from its mouth, and a small hut about twenty-five miles above that. The whole region looks desolate — mangroves abundant—river very shallow in many places. We had morning and evening worship on board the boat, and at the hallowed hour of prayer I for one could not survey the dreary scene around without at the same time looking forward to a " good time coming," when the river shall become one of the byways of commerce, if not one of its highways—when its banks shall be studded with towns and villages, churches and schools—when old men leaning on their staves shall be seen surveying the ebb and flow of the waters—and when the ears of passers-by, such as we were, shall be greeted by the mirthful sound of children at play, or arrested by the cadence of the morning or evening song of praise.

Thursday, Feb. 2.—Her Majesty's steamer Antelope, with Consul Beecroft on board, came up the river yesterday. To-day King Eyo and King Duke received the last instalment of goods promised to Kings Eyamba and Eyo, when they signed the treaty for the abolition of the slave-trade in, or rather from, this river.

Friday, 3. — A large meeting in schoolroom to-day, called by Consul Beecroft, for the settlement of sundry palavers betwixt himself, on behalf of several British and Spanish subjects on the one part, and the Duke Town gentlemen on the other part. He lectured them well on their barbarous treatment of the three Fernando Po men whom they made prisoners last year, because they attempted to convey one of their own countrymen from his house of bondage. The Consul took a noble stand also on the side of humanity in regard to some of the prevailing habits here, and strongly and justly condemned the ordeal of the escre and the destruction of twin children. He also urged on them the importance of their giving attention to the instructions of the missionaries, men whom they sent for to instruct themselves and their children. This led him to condemn the practice, long since abandoned at Creek Town, but still kept up here, of having Kgbo runners out on the Sabbath, and thereby preventing all except a few of the free people from attending either meetings or Sabbath school. He also claimed liberty of conscience for all who wish to join the Church. I have no doubt that this visit of the Consul will be remembered, and prove productive of much good at this station.

On Feb. 8th, Willie Tom Robins, the superstitious old chief of Old Town, died. His death was concealed from the white people as long as possible, and in the meantime blood was profusely shed. Mr. Edgerley, unhappily, was laid down with fever at the time, and could do nothing to arrest the work of death; but Mrs. Edgerley and Mr. Thomson did what they could. The number killed could not be fully ascertained; but the chief's two eldest sons, five or six of his wives, and a considerable number of slaves, were poisoned, shot, or hanged. Mr. Anderson, in his Journal, refers to the Breach of the Egbo Laiu against Human Sacrifices that had taken place:—

Feb. 11. — Reported to the Duke Town authorities a breach of Egbo law committed at Old Town on occasion of the death of King Willie Tom. . . . Handed them the names of eighteen persons who have been slaughtered. Of these five perished by esére, the administration of which is no breach of Egbo law; but the remainder were otherwise butchered, in defiance of Egbo law. The Duke Town gentlemen seem resolved to take up the case with some vigour. But I have long suspected that Egbo law too much resembles cobivcbs—it entangles the weak, but the strong back through with impunity.

Friday, 17. — Needful of a day's recreation, went to Creek Town with Mrs. A. Attended King Eyo's dinner. Glad to see that he is anxious to deal with the Old Town murderers. A severe thunderstorm in the evening. On our return home, found that the electric fluid had shivered our flagstaff to pieces, and killed two of our goats. We felt grateful that all the people in the yard, young and old, were safe.

Wednesday, 22. — This evening had the pleasure of solemnising a marriage ceremony for the first time in this country.2 The happy couple are David King and Abasi Ekong. I may state why the bridegroom is so named. Some years ago, when he and other schoolboys were selecting English names for themselves, he pitched on "King David." I represented to him that this was scarcely a suitable appellation for him, but that I knew a great and good man in my country called David King, and that I thought this would be a better name for him than King David. As it was a matter of no importance to him in what order the words were placed, he adopted the suggestion. He is a grandson of the late King Eyamba; and as the grandfather used to designate himself "king of all black men," so has the grandson for some years written himself "David—king of all black boys." The bride is a daughter of Jemmy Henshaw's. They are the first free natives of the country who have been married after "white man's fashion." Mrs. A. had some difficulty in getting a dress capacious enough for the bride, and she is not nearly so corpulent as the most of her countrywomen; but, after being arrayed in a gown (for the first time in her life), and neatly turbaned, her appearance was very becoming. She seemed fully alive to the importance of the step she was taking. The ceremony was celebrated in the schoolroom in the presence of a goodly number of interested spectators. I look on this marriage as an event of great importance. Here is one of the most influential young men in the country bidding a public farewell to polygamy. He has had a plurality of wives, but now stands strongly pledged to keep by one only. I have reason to hope that others of our young men will ere long follow his example.

Thursday, 23.—The Golden Age'hove in sight between five and six o'clock this evening. Went down to meet her, and on reaching her was glad to find Captain Davies, Mrs. D., their fine little boy about eight months old, and Miss Miller [returning after furlough], all well.

Sabbath, 26.—Among the pleasant sights of this day deserves to be noticed the unexpected one of the newly-married pair at our English service in the evening. The bride was rather better dressed than on Wednesday evening, having got on a very neat straw bonnet. They walked arm in arm both to church and from it, which is quite a new thing among the Calabarese. This is the first time that we have ever seen a Calabar man treat his wife as an equal. At the close of the service, I was glad to see the ship-captains and surgeons, who had been worshipping with us, shake hands kindly and respectfully with the young couple.

Thursday, March 2.—Met at Creek Town to-day a very interesting class of five boys, all desirous of being baptized. In so far as I examined them, I was much pleased with the extent of their knowledge of Scripture history, doctrine, and precept. Their attainments reflect much credit on Mr. Thomson's diligence and perseverance. I believe that they have received most of their instruction from him. Only one is a native of Calabar ; the others have been imported from neighbouring countries. On inquiring at them as to their family connections, the touching reply of four was, being interpreted, "Our fathers and mothers are not; we are slaves." I trust that they are under the teaching of the Holy One, and that they all are, or shall be, of the number of those whom the truth makes free. They all wish immediate admission to the Church, but I have seen so much discomfort and mischief arise in churches elsewhere from precipitous admissions to Communion, that I do not feel at liberty to assume the responsibility of their immediate baptism, and especially after only one examination and one day's acquaintanceship. I have had cause to reject several applications for immediate baptism here, and in each case I have had cause of thankfulness that I rejected the application.

Tuesday, 7.—The Duke Town gentlemen being rather reluctant that we should have a place of worship in the immediate vicinity of their palaver-house, lest we and Egbo should come into collision, and having expressed their willingness that I should take possession of a very excellent site occupied by a decayed house belonging to the supercargoes in the river, provided they (the river .gentlemen) did not mean to repair their house and retain it as a place of rendezvous, I put myself in communication with the white gentlemen on the subject, and feel glad that all the four proprietors of the house now in the country, viz. Captains Calvert, Davies, Lewis, and Cuthbertson, very readily gave up their right and title to both site and remains of the old house in my favour, or rather, in favour of the Mission. It only remains now, I believe, that Duke Antaro get a dash for the use of the land, which is on his family property, and then Mr. Hogan will go on with his work. He is now ready to proceed.

Wednesday, 8.—By arrival of the mail packet we are all glad to learn that Mr. and Mrs. Goldie had got safely home on 20th Jan. Our prayer shall be for their speedy return. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few—oh, how few! May it speedily please the Lord of the harvest to send forth more labourers into this portion of the field!


 


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