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William and Louisa Anderson
Part III - Old Calabar Period, 1849-1889, & Closing Years, 1889-1895
Chapter 20


Refugee Widows—Duke Town at War with Okoyong

The gospel was doing much directly and indirectly for the elevation of the women in Calabar. It had been, and still was, the custom of the country that the widows of chiefs should remain in seclusion until their husband's Ikpo, devil-making, or funeral rites, were finished. Sometimes these were delayed for years. "During this time the widows were never allowed to appear in public, nor to wash, and often suffered not only from want of cleanliness, but from want of food." At length these women began to recognise their grievances, and in 1868, both at Duke Town and Creek Town, the revolt of the widows began, of which the details are chronicled by Mr. Anderson in his Journal. He also gives an amusing account of King Archibong's futile expeditions against Okoyong, a tribe inhabiting, in scattered villages, the country between the middle reaches of the Old Calabar River and the Ikorofiong farms on the Cross River.

Monday, Sept. 21, 1868.—Some six or seven years have elapsed since the death of Bassy Henshaw. His widows, fifteen or sixteen in number, have been kept as prisoners ever since. Three of them could stand it no longer, so they took "legbail" during the night, and came up to the mission-house for protection, which was at once accorded them. The path of duty in the matter seems abundantly plain. Probable results must not affect us.

Wednesday, 23.—Great preparations going on in town for war with the Okoyong people. The Calabarese, especially the Creek Town people, have a long list of grievances to lay at the door of the Okoyong people, which seem to them a just cause of war; but we have no means of ascertaining what charges the Okoyong people can bring against them.

Thursday, 24.—Received the following letter from our friend George Duke, from which it is satisfactory to learn that he has discarded all dealings with the war-doctors and their charms:—

Sept. 24, 1868.
Old Calabar, Duke Town.

Mr. Anderson,

Dear Friend,— I write to inform you that I shall be going to the war with Calabar for them country they war with. Ekodi-eto and all Calabar wish to go, so I write you to know something about my side, because I have not the war medicine, only God is my medicine. Maybe God will help me for the war, and say the same with Mrs. Anderson.- I am, yours truly,

George Duke.

Monday, 28.—Most of the men having left the town, or being about to leave it, it has been placed under the charge of the women. Several of the amazons, in their military attire as city guard—that is to say, with fathom worn as men wear theirs, with cudgel or Old matchet in hand, or old rusty musket on shoulder, and wearing men's hats or capes—came to see the runaway widows, and seemed quite delighted that they had escaped. They had not laid aside their womanly hearts with their female attire.

Tuesday, 29.—The Eyamba family and their retainers, and Henshaw Duke with his, all in full war uniform, came up in the evening to hold a meeting for special prayer ere they should embark in their canoes for the seat of war. All seemed solemnised. I read a few passages, gave a short exhortation, and prayed with them. Upwards of 100 musketeers were present.

Saturday, Oct. 3.—The war fleet returned to-day, making a great noise and a great show, as if something great had been accomplished. The result seems to be that Duke Town has lost about twenty men in various little engagements in the bush; and that they have brought with them, as trophies of their prowess, six or seven heads of Okoyong people who had been prisoners for weeks at Ikoneto, and who have been butchered in cold blood ! It is only due to Duke Town to say that the Archibong family alone are responsible for this atrocity. Our friend George Duke thus laconically announces his return:—

Oct. 3, 1868.

Mr. Anderson,

My dear Friend,—I to inform you that I come home from war. I bring my life, which God please me.

George Duke.

Thursday, 15.—"What is to be done with our criminals?" is a question that often obtrudes itself on the attention not merely of great statesmen—I wish it were confined to them. The question has often been proposed to me, but seldom (if ever) more forcibly than in a letter just received from big Adam Duke. He says :—

Duke Town, Old Caladar,
Oct. 15, 1868.

Rev. W. Anderson,

My dear Friend,—I have taken my little time to write this lines to complain this for you. There is one of my man have done very bad thing; he been go to Cameroons with his master, and he give him money for one puncheon of palm oil, and he chop half puncheon of that oil, and his master bring him to me when I already to go for Okoyong war. I have not time to see about that matter; I tell his master to keep him till I return, and his master send him to stop for plantation until I come. But when I come back he thief one other young new boy been come from Cameroons with his master, and go sell the young man for seven thousand black coppers, and spend that coppers in foolish way, and chop every bit of it. The same time he run away, and for that place he run to, he thief one goat, and some cloth from a case. I been send to seek, and they find him and bring to me last night. He live here for my yard. But now the man that he been thief his goat want me pay for the goat; them that have cloth want me to pay for his cloth; and then Cameroons young man I going to try if that man been buy him will give the man back to me, and get other coppers. I not talk to the man yet, if he will let me pay him to buy that young man back. I have to pay double, according to our fashion, all that I lost and the half puncheon oil for one bad slave, and the money that I been buy him, besides other debts he owes plenty. So I like you to send one man or boy, woman or girl, to ask him for all what I talk against him. If I tell lie against him, you can know one time; and if your man find all what I say be truth, you can tell me what to do for such slave. Perhaps I go punish him according to our fashion go, be hard. So you can tell me better to do. If he go out from my hand again, any things he do, thief or spoil, they ask me to pay; and if he go thief other small or big man or woman, they go ask me for every things he do. So I beg you send to ask him what I say against him, so you may find out what I say if he or I talk truth.

Big Adam Duke.

It frequently puzzles one to say what ought to be done with such a character.

Monday, Nov. 9.—How time flies ! Twenty-nine years to-day since I left Greenock for Jamaica. Went to town in the evening, on invitation from Thomas Eyamba to attend the funeral of his grandmother. Found an immense crowd present, but the greater number were so much under the influence of strong drink, that any religious service in their presence would have been casting pearls before swine. Went with a select company to the room where the corpse was lying, and engaged in devotional services there.

Saturday, 14.—Another widow up to the mission-house for protection. Not a slave-girl, but, as George Duke describes her, "the very biggest woman in all the town." She was a wife of Egbo Bassy, who died a number of years ago, is the sister of David King, "full free," and closely connected with all the big families of the country. Forgot to say that one of Bassy Henshaw's widows, now with us, is a daughter of the late King Eyamba.

Sabbath, 15.—Another of Egbo Bassy's widows came to us last evening. Our premises will soon be full, but the store is emptying in proportion as the premises are being filled. The path of duty seems quite plain in the matter.

Monday, 16.—A great lady—once King Archibong First's queen—came to us in the evening, to beg us to place David King's sister under her protection, as it would do the town big shame were that madam to be in hiding at a white man's house. Mrs. Anderson referred the matter to the refugee herself, and as she was quite secure, and was also inclined to accompany her queenship, she left us with thanks for the sanctuary offered her by us. This dealing with the matter augurs well for the poorer ladies who still cling to us.

Tuesday, 17.—Still they come! Jane Archibong, widow of Thomas Hogan, who died, I think, about ten years ago, and whose "devil" is not yet made, came and cast herself on us for protection.

Wednesday, 26.—Mail arrived to-day, bringing to our aid Mr. Robb and the Efik Old Testament, Dr. and Mrs. Robertson, and Mr. Lawson. We feel grateful to Him who has sent and brought them hither, and our prayer is that they, both the persons and the books, may be made abundant blessings to Old Calabar.

Saturday, Dec. 5.—Great preparations making for another expedition to Okoyong.

Monday, 7.—George Duke and his people came up to the schoolhouse in the evening, that they might be commended to the care of God during the ensuing campaign.

Wednesday, 9.—Had to conduct service thrice to-day on behalf of our warriors. We had first Thomas Eyamba and his company, then Andrew Cobham and his, then Henshaw Duke and his. The war is not popular at all. It is urged on by the king and one or two more. It betokens improvement that band after band, all accoutred out for combat, come to the sanctuary to implore God's blessing and protection. I told the bands in succession that I could not pray that they might kill plenty of their enemies, that I can only pray that the enemy might not be allowed to kill them. Some of them were so honest as to tell me that that was all they wanted; that they did not want to kill a single person; all they care about is that their own lives may be spared.

Saturday, 12.— Round town as usual afternoon. Women on guard everywhere; drumming and dancing in some places. The slave girl of one of our refugee widows had a few words with her mistress, and she forthwith went aside and ate some of the poison bean. Nobody suspected what she had done, and she concealed it till it was too late to do her any good. Thus she rushed before her time into the eternal world.

Sabbath, 13.—Excellent turn-out of women to-day in church, both forenoon and afternoon. Hundreds of them were in church for the first time. The decorum they maintained was admirable. It was a solemn thought. This is the first time that multitudes of these have ever heard a sermon, and this sermon may be the only one that they may ever hear.

Friday, 18.—Gave the children of the school their Christmas holidays. Distributed a good number of books as prizes. Mrs. Sutherland was ready with her usual donation of shirts and frocks, and Mrs. Anderson gave fifty of the most constant attenders a very good dinner. Capital bookmarks, with mottoes in Efik and in English, from Auchtcrmuchty Sabbath scholars, were bestowed on all who had books.

Sabbath, 20.—As the men are still at the war, we had again large congregations of women, both forenoon and afternoon. Their attentiveness and quietness of demeanour in church arc somewhat remarkable. Oh that the way were prepared for their regular attendance Sabbath after Sabbath!

Wednesday, 30.—Our Duke Town warriors returned this morning, after a campaign of three weeks' duration, from the seat of war, all jubilant, as if laden with the 4 spoils of victory. I believe it to be a fact that thousands have fallen before their victorious swords and cutlasses— I mean thousands of small bushes, with a sprinkling of big trees. In so far as I am able to learn, the expedition has been bloodless—except among fowls and goats. Most of the young men are utterly ashamed of the whole affair, and beg me to be silent when I begin to congratulate them on their prowess in war, and on their safe return from the scene of conflict. There were weeks of preparation of arms and ammunition ; weeks of sponging the European traders for the commissariat department; weeks of apprehension, on the part of many, that their skulls might, ere long, ornament the juju places in Okoyong; prayers for protection offered both to the Lord and to Baalim; the grand muster of army and navy; the sad farewell, etc. etc.—and all for what? For the clearance of a few acres of brushwood!! And yet the question will present itself: "Could the war have had a more satisfactory termination?" I feel it a matter of great thankfulness that the result is just as it is. From the manifest feeling of the young men, it is evident that there is no danger as yet of Archibong being worshipped as a hero. Mr. Robb gave us an able lecture in the evening on "The Genuineness of the Books of the New Testament." The lecture was highly appreciated by the gentlemen of the river.

Friday, Jan. 8, 1869.—Had twenty-one of our native members at a tea meeting in the evening. It is the first soiree we have held with them here. We made an exhibition of Scripture prints, which formed a fine theme for converse for a portion of the time. The provision for the body pleased wonderfully well, and that for the mind seemed also to be greatly enjoyed by our guests.

Saturday, 9.—One of the coldest mornings I have ever felt in Old Calabar. The thermometer stood at 68° at 7 A.M. I have heard of its being so low, but I do not remember of having seen it so.

Wednesday, 20.—Mr. Goldie gave us his contribution to our present course of lectures and readings this evening, by giving us an admirable lecture on "Castles in the Air." The theme was very suitable for the audience, and was well fitted to profit all who heard it. I learn that Creek Town people have not managed matters so well in regard to the Okoyong war as their Duke Town brothers did. They have not limited their operations to the killing of the bush. They have killed several of the enemy, and the enemy has killed at least one of them. While it is matter of regret that any lives have been sacrificed in the affair, it is matter of thankfulness that the loss on either side has been so small. I forgot to mention, under the proper date, that the reason assigned by Duke Town people for abandoning the field was that some of the Okoyong people had come to them with the symbols of submission, and begged them to "let palaver done," and that they had acceded to the request.

January 30.—Great rejoicing to-day among our refugee widows, and among their sisters in town too, on account of the arrival of the gunboat Speedwell, with Her Majesty's Acting Consul on board. They have looked forward to his arrival, in hopes that he would be both able and willing to do something in their favour.

Tuesday, Feb. 2.—Having received no intimation, such as I had reason to expect, from the Acting Consul in regard to any public meeting to be held for the settlement of palavers, I drew up and forwarded to him an official letter representing the great hardships to which the widows of the town have been, and are, subjected. Numbers of them have been kept as prisoners for five, six, seven, and even eight years—and that for no crime; prohibited from washing their bodies, changing their clothes, cutting or combing their hair, etc. etc.; that a number of them, who have no relatives of influence and property, are half starved; that some would have been wholly starved had they not been supported year after year by Mrs. A. and Mrs. Sutherland ; that we had seven of them at present in our yard, who had thrown themselves on us entirely for protection and support; and that I was anxious to know how I was to dispose of them.

Thursday, 4.—One of the seven widows left us to-day, under promise from King Archibong that she should be sent back to us in a few days. "Her husband's devil-making is just going on, and it is needful for her son's sake, that he may be able to claim his share of his father's property, that she should take a part in the concluding ceremonies of the ikpo, but she will be sent back to you unharmed in a few days." Of all this we believe scarcely a word; but as King A.'s messengers prevailed on the lady to consent to go, we did not feel that we had any right to prevent her. We told her and the messengers plainly that we could not stop her if she was willing to go, and that we could not eject her from our yard if she wished to stay. She went.

Friday, 5.—Speedwell's steam up; evidently about to take her departure; not a word of reply to my letter of the 2nd. At the latest moment, in the heat of the day, the Acting Consul paid us a most hurried visit to say goodbye, and to mention to me that he had spoken privately to King Archibong about the evils of devil-making, and that King Archibong had charged him to say to me that I might keep my mind easy about the widows, for in a few weeks at farthest all the devil-making will be over, and they will be all set at liberty. We shall see.

Saturday, 6.—Great lamentation to-day among all the widows. They are astonished as well as distressed that a messenger from Queen Victoria (herself a widow) should have come and gone without uttering a syllable in their behalf, though their case was brought before him. In their estimation, anything said privately to King A. amounts to nothing. What they expected, and what some of us in the Mission expected, was that a public declaration and protest should have been made against the barbarities and superstitions connected with the devil-making. Had this been done, the whole body of our intelligent young men would have been greatly strengthened to urge on the work of reform; and the widows, whatever might have been the immediate result of the protest, would not have been crying bitterly and wringing their hands, as many of them are doing to-day, under the impression that a representative of England has despised and ignored their appeal to him for help. We can only tell them to look to the supreme Power, and to pray Him to send them help from on high. Our trust is that He will send "enlargement and deliverance," and that ere long.

Friday, 12.—Twenty years to-day since our first arrival here. While there is much around us still that is distressing and depressing, yet have we reason for gratitude that the country is not altogether what it was when we first saw it. The seed sown has not been all lost. It is great matter of comfort to feel assured that there are with us in this land—that there are in other parts of the world—and that there are already gathered home—some who will be everlasting monuments of the power of the blessed gospel, as testified and as received in Old Calabar.

Thursday, 25.—Greatly honoured to-day, having no fewer than two D.D.'s with us. Our good friend Bishop Crowther came last evening in the Mandingo, and spent the day with us. He walked with me round town, and gave a number of our gents several good counsels, which it will be to their profit to remember and carry out. On our return from town we found Dr. Robb at the mission-house, on his first visit since receiving his degree. Long may he be spared to wear his honours!

Monday, March 1.—The widow who left us on February 4th, on the promise that she was to be returned to us in two or three days, has sent us word that she can't come back to us, as King A. has retained her as a secondary wife. Thus has he fulfilled his promise in that matter; and no doubt the other promise sent me through the Acting Consul, in regard to all the widows, will be equally well observed.

Saturday, 20.—Round town as usual in the afternoon, announcing the approaching Sabbath. I find an unusual number of church-goers, and also of others, to be under the influence of a prevailing distemper, so that there will be little necessity to-morrow for the hebdomadal sham sickness which has been so common of late.

Friday, 26.—Some eight or nine years ago I opened up a nearer and better way to Henshaw Town spring, whence we draw our drinking water, in order to lighten the toil of our water-carriers, as well as of those from Cobham Town and Duke Town. The new road was considered by nearly all the community as a great boon. But an old superstitious gentleman at Henshaw Town discovered that it was giving umbrage to the god of the spring and of the hillside—Nsungko Mungko by name—so that it had to be abandoned. Years have passed away, however, since that old gentleman went "to his place"—the old road was getting worse and worse—his godship Mungko seemed to be falling out of remembrance—I longed to have another turn at road-making; so, having taken counsel with all the rising young men connected with Henshaw Town, and finding them to be on the right side, 1 took several of our retainers, with matchets and hoes, to-day, and we reopened the near cut, to the great joy of the water-carriers.

Sabbath, April 25.—Glad of an accession to the Mission in the person of Mr. Ashworth. We trust that he will be long spared, and be made an abundant blessing to Old Calabar. Greatly rejoiced, too, to learn that Captain W., a member of the Church, and a large consignee by steamer which brought Mr. Ashworth, refused point-blank to receive a particle of cargo from the mail till the Sabbath should be over. And glad, too, to learn that when the captain of the mail received Captain W.'s message, he stated that he wished that all the supercargoes in the river would act in the same way.

Monday, 26.— Three of our widows have vanished. It is supposed that they had got themselves taken on board the steamer during the night, and that they are off to Fernando Po. We hear that one of the widows in town has been killed. Sundry threats have been used in regard to those who are with us, so that we cannot wonder that all who can get away from the country take their departure. No appearance yet of any fulfilment of the promise made three months ago in regard to all the widows.

Saturday, 15.—Found Cobham Town in great commotion this afternoon. James Bassy, eldest son of the late well-known Egbo Bassy, a rising trader, was on his way to market in his big canoe, which had been overloaded with goods and people. The sea-breeze was somewhat strong, and the water was a little angry not far from the junction of the Cross and Calabar Rivers. The canoe gave a lurch, at once filled, and sank. James and two or three more were "scarcely saved," but eleven of his people were drowned. James was brought home in a very exhausted state. Many were expressing great joy on account of his safety and that of a few more; but great numbers of the relatives and friends of the lost eleven were weeping and lamenting, "refusing to be comforted."

Sabbath, 16.—When in town to-day, called on James Bassy. Gave thanks, and prayed with him. He is in a very subdued mood, and solemnly promises to be henceforth a new man. Of one thing in particular he declares himself fully convinced, viz. that God only is the hearer of prayer. His people, when sinking, cried out to Ndem Efik to save them, but there was no response. I Ie cried out to the God of heaven. He heard, and saved. Oh that James would adhere to his resolve, and from this time forth be a true servant of the one Jehovah !

Tuesday, 25.— Held our English prayer meeting this evening, as the mail is expected to-morrow. Our good friend Captain White being about to leave us, we commended him to the special care of Providence. He has been a great help to us during his sojourn here, especially in the erection and painting of our new church.

Tuesday, June 8.—Received to-day a splendid pulpit Bible, and a Psalm and Hymn Book to match, as a dash from our kind friends the Sabbath scholars and Bible class of our highly esteemed friend and brother, Rev. Mr. Cairns, of Stitchel. I exhibited the volumes this evening at the Efik prayer meeting, when our young men were very emphatic in their expressions of admiration and gratification. The Bible is by far the finest volume that most of them had ever seen. It will match the new church better than the faded volume which we have used hitherto.

Sabbath, 13.—Another mail steamer arrived to-day. Glad that our friend Captain W. again stood firm, and declined removing an ounce of cargo before 12.30 A.M. —that is to say, till half an hour after midnight to-night.

Tuesday, 22.—One of our female candidates heavily chained to-day, for no other reason that we can discover, save that she wishes to abandon the evil practices of the country, and lead a quiet pious life. Glad that she is enabled to endure her trials so patiently. She has given us much satisfaction since she joined our catechumen class, and I trust she will remain steadfast to the end.

Thursday, 24.—As we are enjoying our midsummer holidays just now, Mrs. Sutherland and I went off to spend a few hours at Old Town. But we received an unexpected addition to our company; for the mail came in sight. Having landed Mrs. Sutherland at Old Town beach, I went on board the mail, and was greatly delighted to meet Dr. Robertson on board. He was so greatly changed for the better that I scarcely recognised him at first glance; sorry that he had to allow Mrs. R. to go northwards. If her voyage benefits her as much as her husband's has benefited him, it will be matter of thanks to us all. We spent a pleasant afternoon at Old Town.

Sabbath, 27.—A few Cuban exiles were in church with us this afternoon. It was the first time some of them had ever been in a Protestant place of worship. Their story is very touching. How grateful should we Britons be for civil and religious liberty!


 


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