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  --  FOR WITCHCRAFT--THE WOMEN OF AFRICA.   Table of Contents    Illustration

Smith, Amanda
An autobiograpy

- Illustration

General Sherman's House, Monrovia .

I suggested the propriety of having a stated meeting once a month, for the promotion of holiness, and for the benefit of those who were specially and definitely interested on the subject. And in order that the object of this meeting might be better understood, we thought it well to organize it into an association, to be called the "Clay-Ashland Holiness Association." It has the endorsement of the pastor of the church, Rev. James Cooper, and also has the benefit of his own personal experience of the blessing of entire sanctification.

It was decided that the pastor should appoint an assistant to Sister Martha Ricks, as she always had an assistant at her Friday afternoon prayer meeting; and then Sister Ricks might call anyone else to assist whom she might choose.

In order that we might help each other more, spiritually, we thought it advisable to suggest that we be very watchful, very prayerful, and devoted to God; and endeavor to lead a life of self-denial and fear of God, and, as much as lay within us, to live consistent lives, and by all means endeavor to avoid the appearance of evil; in praying for the blessing, be definite; in testimony after receiving, be definite and God will strengthen your heart, and strengthen your faith; stand together; and, with a firm faith in God, you may not fear; but trust ye in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. Amen.

I had prayed, and asked the Lord for guidance about going, and had been disappointed so often; then I had been down with a severe attack of fever, and was quite weak; but the opportunity came to go to Cape Mount, and I thought I would go. Mr. Sherman's boat was going up, and they told me I could go in it. As I opened my Bible, my eyes fell on these words, which I took as an assurance to start with: "I shall not die, but live, and declare the goodness of God."

After we had got started, about three o'clock in the afternoon, a storm came upon as about nine o'clock at night, and raged fearfully; it seemed every minute that the boat would be capsized; a strong head wind, and we were dreadfully sick; I was so sick I could hardly hold up my head.

But all the time, as the little boat dashed to and fro, and it seemed every moment as if it would go to pieces, the Lord kept my heart very calm by repeatedly bringing these words to my mind: "I shall not die, but live, and declare the goodness of God." And so it did come to pass. Hallelujah!


On the 3rd of June, 1889, I made another attempt to go to Cape Mount, just before leaving Liberia for America. This was my last opportunity, and as I had visited all the other towns in the republic, I felt I must see Cape Mount. As this was a very beautiful day, I went around to see if I could get some good sister to go with me. I asked several, but as it was not a very pleasant time of year to go, no one was able to go with me. I went to Mrs. Sherman and asked her if she could not suggest someone. She said she thought Amanda McCrumidy would go.

Amanda was a good friend of mine, and had a sister who lived in Cape Mount, and as she was in charge of Mrs. President Robert's house, in Monrovia, I thought probably she might be able to go; so I called and asked her, and at once she consented. She was not a very strong body, but very brave hearted; I could not have got anybody from Monrovia who was better suited for this trip, (for we had an open boat), than was Miss McCrumidy.

I went to Mr. Isaac Dixon, who was a large trader in Monrovia, and also had a business at Cape Mount, and asked him if he could send me up in one of his boats; of course I was to pay for it. He was very kind, and gave me a good boat and a crew of his best men. We were to start on Tuesday morning. Monday afternoon, about four o'clock, the clouds gathered black, and we were threatened with a dreadful storm. As I looked out and saw the clouds, my faith quivered just a little, but I looked up to the Lord, and in a moment all was calm. On Tuesday morning, June fourth, the Lord had confirmed the assurance in my heart that I was to go. At six A. M., the clouds were black and lowering, the thunder rolled, the winds blew, but my faith never wavered; that was my time to go. So about eight o'clock my friend, Amanda, came, and said: "Are you going?"

"Oh, yes, "I said. A few moments later Mrs. Dixon sent her little boy to say for me not to go: she was afraid we would have a great storm. But I said, "No, this is my time to go."

I found when I got down to the waterside that Mr. Dixon's heart had failed him; he was in hopes I would decide not to go. But they built a kind of booth over the boat to protect us a little from the sun and storm, and off we started for Cape Mount. We were out all day and all night and reached Cape Mount at seven o'clock next morning. We praised the Lord again and again.

Thursday, June 6th. Made several calls, and preached to a

full house at night, and the Lord gave me great liberty in speaking, and helped the people.

Friday, 7th. We arranged a hammock, and walked three miles to a new settlement to visit the emigrants; and of all the sad sights I ever saw, it was those poor people; how my heart ached for them; destitute, and sick, and ignorant; there was not a house among them, that I visited, that was anything like comfortable.

Saturday, 8th. I visited at Mrs. Briley's station, the Episcopal Mission. This lady was a white missionary, and has spent a number of years in Africa, and I suppose will be there the balance of her days. This used to be a very prosperous station; but from what I saw of it, it seemed to lack about everything, and need about everything.

Sunday, 9th. I preached twice, and addressed the Sabbath School.

Monday, 10th. Six A. M. We are off to our open boats again to Monrovia. Out all night. Oh, how good the Lord is. A storm overtakes us and threatens us heavily. As I looked up to my Father, God, and called on Him to help us, He answered me speedily, and in a little while the wind seemed to subside, and the clouds passed away.

Tuesday, 11th. Still in the boat, and sick: but the morning is lovely. Praise the Lord. We get to Monrovia about eleven o'clock.

I am often asked, "What is the religion of Africa?" Well, where I was they had no real form of religion. They were what we would call devil worshipers. They say God is good; He don't make any humbug for them; so there is no need of praying to Him. But they pray, and dance, and cook large dishes of rice and fish, and set it out of a night so that the Devil can have a good meal. They think if they feed him well, and keep on good terms with him, he will give them good crops and good luck, and keep away sickness. If smallpox, or any sickness of that kind comes to their town, they say it is because somebody has made the Devil mad.

While at Baraka with Bishop Taylor, I had my first experience of their laws and customs. Sister Betty Tubman, Aunt Julia Fletcher, and I, went, in company with the Bishop, to open a station at Baraka. It is a large, native town, and years ago the Methodist Church had a flourishing station right near this same town.


As Bishop Taylor had come to Africa to help my people by establishing missions and schools, I felt it was my duty to do all I could to help, and stand by the Bishop, and do what I could by looking after the little necessities.

I had a large canteen, as they call them in Africa; we would say lunch box here; so I would fill it with food, the best I could get; I would bake a large pone of bread, and get some tinned meats, and a ham, when I could. Five dollars was about the cheapest a ham could be got for at Cape Palmas, but even at that they didn't have to hang on the hands of the merchants; for when it comes to food, the Liberians are not stingy, and ham is not a rarity, though they don't have them every day; but generally manage when they want them specially. They can often get things of this kind, that are expensive, in trade, with coffee or palm oil. But, of course, I had nothing of this kind, and had always to pay cash for what I got at the stores.

Then I had a little kerosene stove that I took with me, and cocoa, and coffee, and a tin of condensed milk, and biscuits, or hardtack, for bread don't last very long; if you attempt to keep it, it will sour or mould; so we generally use it up while it is fresh, and fall back on hardtack.

The Lord was so good that I generally had a little cash by me. But often it was not a question of cash, and you couldn't get the things you needed; they were not to be had. But it was wonderful how I learned to manage and get on. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention; and Africa is certainly the place where it can be developed.

We used to get up in the morning early; I would boil some water and make the Bishop a cup of cocoa or coffee, and so give him an early breakfast.

The natives were always kind and hospitable; they would have their meal about nine or ten o'clock; but we would be very faint by that time, not being used to it; and, as the Bishop was a very early riser, I knew it was best for him to have something to eat before that time. And then I always took at least a cup of tea, or something before it was late in the day.

The natives would bring in, perhaps, a chicken. They didn't scald them and pick them as we do; they would kill them and swing them over a fire; and, of course, all the feathers they didn't get off, we would have to take off ourselves; then they would bring

great calabashes of rice, and pepper, for they use everything very hot with pepper; that was one of the things I never could get used to, the hot pepper. But the dear old Bishop would help himself to the rice and fowl, and goat, for they would often kill a goat in the morning and cook it for breakfast.

We would set a box in the middle of the floor, and I would spread a cloth over it, and they would set these calabashes on, and we would sit down. Sometimes they would bring in three or four calabashes; we would have to eat some out of each one; they wouldn't feel pleasant at all if we sent one back without eating out of it; so we generally had plenty, if we could only eat it; one often has to acquire the taste before he can really like it. I was in Africa a whole year before I really enjoyed or relished my food. Everything seems to taste different; but some get used to it very quickly, and others take some time. I always had plenty to eat in Africa. I never saw a day but what I had plenty, though it was not always what my appetite relished.

I thought when we got to Baraka that we would make a fire outside, and we would have a real picnic time. We would cook everything the way we wanted to cook it, just as they do at picnics; for Aunt Julia and Betty, were both good cooks, and on that line I was expecting just to show the Bishop how nicely we could treat him.

But, lo, when we got there we were not allowed to make a fire outside at all; whatever cooking was done, must be done in the native house we occupied. No fire was allowed outside, except a kind of kiln, where they burned their pottery--all sorts of vessels made of clay, which are put in the fire and burned.

It is wonderful how clever they are in those things; they make all their cooking utensils; we would call it earthen ware; some of them are very pretty; they are strong and well made, and of all sizes; jars that will hold one, two, three and five gallons of water; then there are smaller utensils.

We stayed in the king's best house; a large, native house; mud floor, but dry; no windows, no chimney; there was a space in the floor where we made the fire, and did the cooking, and the smoke would ascend and go all through the thatch. I don't know how I stood it, but I got on beautifully. When the wood was wet and would smoke a good deal, I would suffer with smoke in my eyes; but, somehow, I have an idea that smoke was healthy in Africa!


The custom was that every house in the town in the evening had a little fire outside in front of the door, and many times a piece of tobacco and a pipe would be laid by it; that was for any of their friends who were dead, or the Devil could come and light his pipe; (of course they suppose the Devil smokes); they thought it was a good thing, and would please him. This was why they would not allow us to build a fire outside. I thought it was nonsense; but they told me I had better not persist. So, when I sent word to the king, and he said, no, we could not make a fire outside, and when I took a walk myself all through the town, just about dusk, and saw, sure enough, by every hut a little bunch of wood that had been burned and was ready to light again, I just did as I was told, and did my cooking in my own native house.

While we were there the old king's head wife, who was the queen wife, was tried and condemned as a witch. That meant that she was to due by drinking sassy wood.

One of the other wives of the king accused the head wife of bewitching her child. The child was a girl about fourteen years old, and while in the casava farm digging casava she was bitten by what is called the casava snake, which is as poisonous as the cobra of India. When this child died they said it was because the head wife had bewitched her; and when any one is accused of being a witch she must die.

This poor woman ran away and was gone three months, to her people. And being the king's head wife it was what they called a great "shame palaver;" anything to happen to the king's wife--that was very bad indeed.

As the king's wife was of a very high family, they all came together, and it took them three months before they could settle it. But it was settle and she had decided to drink the sassy wood.

She had two sons, splendid young men; they were tall and graceful, just like their father, the king; they were very bright young men, and one of them could speak good English. So they told us on Friday that the mother was to drink sassy wood on Saturday again; she had to drink it twice. So we asked them to come and tell us when the time came, and they said they would.

The mother stopped at another little native town about a half mile away from this big town. So on Saturday morning about eight o'clock the young man came and told us. Aunt Julia had

gone out to look for some wood; so Betty and I went with the young man. Betty Tubman could understand the native language and talk it very well.

Just as we got to this little town we found the men and the woman going to the place of execution. The town was enclosed by a stick fence. The old woman walked through the gate into the open space just outside.

She was a woman not very tall, but very black, beautiful limbs, beautifully built, small feet, as a lady would have, and beautiful hands and arms; her head was shaved and something black rubbed over it; and she had a little grass hip cloth like a little skirt just around her loins.

As we passed through the gate I thought of the Lord Jesus, who had told us to go forth bearing his reproach. Outside the gate there was a kind of a grove, and an open space just beyond this grove. When they got to the place they stopped. There were four or five old men, and two young men.

The old men stood as witnesses. They set down a mortar. One had a calabash, and another carried the sassy wood, which is a liquid decoction. I don't know as any one has ever found what the composition of this sassy wood really is; but I am told it is a mixture of certain barks. There is a tree there which grows very tall, called the sassy wood tree; but there is something mixed with this which is very difficult to find out, and the natives do not tell what it is. They say that it is one of their medicines that they use to carry out their law for punishing witches; so you cannot find out what it is.

Though it was so warm, I felt myself get cold as I looked at the scene. My heart seemed to stop beating. Oh, how I prayed to God to save that woman. We couldn't do anything to help her; her husband couldn't help her; her sons couldn't help her; her people couldn't help her. No, she was accused of being a witch, and she must pay the penalty; and the penalty was to drink the sassy wood. If she throws it up she has gained the case.

Sometimes they do throw it up, and then they stand very high; they are raised to a higher state of dignity than ever they held before. So I prayed for the poor, dear woman, that God would make her throw it up.

I thought once I could not bear to see it; but then I held on. I remember how I clutched the limb of a tree near by when

she was about to take it; and I held on and prayed. Her son stood with us and looked at his mother drink the first dose; and then ran away. The two young men dipped this decoction out of the mortar into the calabash, and set it on the ground, and then she had to pick it up and drink it.

When they had filled the basin she stood and looked at it; and then picked up three pebbles, and said something like a little prayer; then she struck on the side of the basin. I could understand when she said "Niswa, Oh, Niswa," which was to say "Oh, God." I didn't know what else she said. But she struck one of the stones on the side of the dish, threw the other in it, and the other one she threw away. Then she drank the sassy wood. She had two gallons to drink.

I turned to Betty and said: "What does she say, Betty?" And she told me the part that I could not understand. The whole prayer was this: "Oh, Niswa, if I have made witch, and this child has died, when I drink this sassy wood I must not throw it up. But if I have not made witch so that this child has died, then I must throw up the sassy wood."

So that was what she said all the time she was drinking the sassy wood. After she had swallowed the first dose they dipped out another basinful. Oh, I trembled. I said, "Lord, do make her throw it up." And just as she was going to stoop down to lift up the second basinful, I saw her give her shoulders a little twitch, and open her mouth, and if you ever saw a water plug in the street throw out water--she threw up that sassy wood, in a perfect stream!

Well, I could have shouted. I said, "Thank God." But I didn't say it very loud, for those fellows looked vengeance, and I was afraid they would drive us away.

Then she drank the second basinful, and then the third, and threw it up, and she was victor. My! didn't I come home out of that place jumping? I cannot describe how I felt.

The next morning was Sunday morning; and about eight o'clock we heard such singing and playing and beating of drums, and we wondered what in the world was up. We looked out, and here came through the town all the women, and this same woman, the king's wife, with two escorts on either side, and beautifully dressed; she had a handsome country cloth, with all sorts of colors, like Joseph's coat, wrapped about her; she was bathed and

greased; she had rings in her ears, and bracelets on her wrists; her fingers were covered with rings, and rings on her toes and ankles. She looked beautiful!

They have some kind of grass they dye black, and it looks very much like hair; and she had on a head dress of this, beautifully curled, and she looked as beautiful as she could be. Then she had a great, big umbrella, red, and blue, and green and yellow striped. Oh, but she was a swell! And they took her through the town; they danced and sang; children, little boys and girls, and women.

The next day, on Monday, the men burned powder, as they called it. About five o'clock in the morning we heard a great gun firing. We didn't know but war had begun. But it was the men's day for their jollification over the victory the king's wife had gained.

I shall never forget how the poor old king came to me and wanted me to drink wine.

"No, king," I said to him, "you know I am a temperance woman. I no drink wine."

He seemed to be quite indignant. He said, "What is the matter? When my woman no die you can't drink wine a little bit with me when my heart is glad 'cause my woman no die?"

"Well," I said, "king, I am very glad, and I did pray, and believe God helped your woman so she no die. But myself I no drink wine."

Then as he went to turn away, almost with disgust, I said to him, "I tell you, king, I give you cup cocoa. I make it for you. So you drink cocoa with me."

"Yes," he said, then he smiled.

So I went to work and made a nice bowl of cocoa, and put sugar and condensed milk in it, and gave him a hardtack and some meat, which pleased him greatly. So we were friends.

The poor woman of Africa, like those of India, have a hard time. As a rule, they have all the hard work to do. They have to cut and carry all the wood, carry all the water on their heads, and plant all the rice. The men and boys cut and burn the bush, with the help of the women; but sowing the rice, and planting the casava, the women have to do.

You will often see a great, big man walking ahead, with nothing in his hand but a cutlass (as they always carry that or a

spear), and a woman, his wife, coming on behind, with a great big child on her back, and a load on her head.

No matter how tired she is, her lord would not think of bringing her a jar of water, to cook his supper with, or of beating the rice; no, she must do that. A great big boy would not bring water for his mother; he would say:

"Boy no tote water; that be woman's work."

If they live with missionaries, or Liberians, or anyone outside of their own native people, then they will do such things; but not for one another.

The moment a girl child is born, she belongs to somebody. The father, who has a son, makes it the highest aim of his life to see that his son has a wife; so he settles, and begins to pay a dowry for a girl for his son. Sometimes they are but a few months old, when you will see them with their betrothal jewels on.

If the fellow who buys the girl is well off, she will have about her little waist a thick roll of beads; sometimes five or six strings together; or she will have bracelets on her little wrists, sometimes of brass, sometimes only made of common iron by the native blacksmith; she will have the same on her ankles, with a little tinkle in it, like a bell, so it makes a noise when she walks.

As they grow up, they have their tastes, and their likes and dislikes. The marriageable age is from thirteen to fourteen, and sometimes younger. All these years the boy's father, or the man himself, is paying on the girl. That is why it is hard to get the girls. It is the girls that bring big money; so the more girls a father has, that much richer he is.

Girls who are bought with a bullock are high toned; that is about the highest grade. Then the next is brass kettles, and cloth and beads. The third is more ordinary; tobacco, cloth, powder, and a little gin is not objectionable. To all of these he can put as much more as he likes; but what I have named are the principal things used in buying a native girl for a wife.

Poor things, they are not consulted; they have no choice in the matter. If they don't like the man, they are obliged to go with him anyway, no matter how illy he may treat them; and sometimes they are cruelly treated. But their own father could not protect them. The laws in this are very strict. A man's wife is his wife, and no one dare interfere.

One morning at Sinoe, about six o'clock--I generally got up

  --  FOR WITCHCRAFT--THE WOMEN OF AFRICA.   Table of Contents    Illustration