|CHAPTER XXX. -- NATIVE BABIES--VISIT TO CREEKTOWN--NATIVE SUPERSTITIONS -- --PRODUCTS OF AFRICA--DISAPPOINTED EMIGRANTS.|
One day, while at Careysburg, I heard a poor, little, native baby crying most piteously, and I looked out to see what was the matter. It was just across the street from Brother Hagins'. The mother was sitting in front of the house.
She had given her baby its bath; they are very particular about bathing them and keeping them clean; of course they wear no clothes, not a stitch, and they bathe them every morning, and sometimes oftener, during the day; their skin is generally as clean as can be; really I never saw a dirty native baby.
The mother was sitting with this little thing, about six months old, I suppose, and a beautiful child in form, with features regular and well ordered, and she had a little iron pot, that held about a quart, full of soft boiled rice setting beside her, and a little tin cup that had been used for condensed milk, full of water; the rice was boiled very soft, and hot with pepper, with a little salt, and she was stuffing her baby; we say feed, but she was literally stuffing it; they generally stuff them till their little stomachs stand out.
She held the little being between her knees, and filled its mouth, and it scrambled and hollowed, and almost choked; but when it did choke a little she would shake it till it caught its breath, then put a little water in its mouth, and it would strangle and choke and kick till you would think it would go into spasms.
I went over and thought I would beg for it; I felt so sorry to see the little thing; to me it looked like brutal punishment. I went up to the mother, and said to her:
"Mammy, you do that baby too bad; don't do it."
She looked up at me at first with a kind of a frown; she didn't
"Mammy, it do him good: it make him fine." And she seemed to pity me to think I was so weak as to want to save a baby from growing fine!
I stood and looked at her; when she was done she had put nearly every bit of this rice into the baby's stomach. Then she greased it all over from head to foot with palm oil, and then laid it on a mat in the sun, and it kicked and cried till it got tired, and then stopped and quieted down, and went to playing with its toes and hands, as happy as a cat in the ashes!
"Well," I said, "it is wonderful."
They think that to let a baby cry and kick gives strength to its muscles and lungs, and helps it to grow. It kicks and exercises, and after all I don't know but there is pretty good logic in it, when you see how the little things develop, and grow strong and straight.
At another time, while I was at Tatakai, with Bishop Taylor, I heard a baby early in the morning and late at night, in the next native house to where I stayed.
It cried so pitifully one night that I was tempted to go and see what was the matter: but then I knew I could do nothing, for they would not understand me; so next morning I asked Aunt Julia, who was with me, and who was a Liberian, but could speak and understand the native language quite well, what was the matter with the baby; it was a little thing about a week old.
She said that the mother was giving it its bath; and then after bathing it would rub it with pepper; and that was why it cried so dreadfully. I asked her why they did it, and she said to keep it from taking cold. The weather was damp, and their houses have no floors, and that is a preventive from taking cold. And they often put pepper in their eyes, they say, to make them strong.
Whether this be true or not, there is one thing, you seldom see a native heathen with sore or weak eyes; you hardly ever see one blind; sometimes, it is true, but they are not nearly so general as you see them in civilized countries.
Now, so far as a preventive to taking cold is concerned, I am in for that; but, Lord, deliver me from that means!
At Old Calabar they used to sacrifice twins, but this is stopped, so that if they can get them to a missionary they save them. Dear,
It is considered a mark of very bad luck when the mother has twins, and the father and mother feel alike about it, and think it is quite right to let them perish.
At Duketown a pair of little twins were brought to the mission house to Miss McFunn, in a small basket covered with plantain leaves; they had been born about four hours, and had never been touched; one was dead, and the other living, and both lay in the basket together, the dead and the living. Miss McFunn took the living child and washed and dressed it, and rolled it in a nice blanket; they tried to feed it; but the poor little thing was so weak it could not nurse; so it lived about three hours and died, which was a great relief to the mother and father, who both sat down and mourned together that the Lord should send them such bad luck.
A Mr. Henderson, one of the chief merchants, who was most kind to all the missionaries, and who always kept very nice, large boats, and a full crew, took Miss McFunn, Mrs. Lisle, Mrs. Jaret and her husband, and myself, for a little trip, of a distance, I suppose, of twelve miles, to Creektown.
It was the first time that I had seen dear old Father and Mother Goldie, as they were called, the heroes of thirty-five or forty years. How glad I was to see them. God bless them.
Creektown is a very pretty settlement; a very nice, large church, school house, mission house, out-houses and other houses where the missionaries live, besides some very nice, large, native houses.
Miss McFunn and myself were invited to dine with Mr. and Mrs. Goldie. Mrs. Lisle was invited to dine with Miss Slicer, who is also a Scotch missionary, and has done a grand work. God bless her.
She has about twenty or thirty children to teach. She speaks the language as well as if she were a born native. It is perfectly wonderful. She might be called an expert. She gave me the history of a little baby which she had had only three months.
The father stole a dog and killed it and cooked it, and of course the wife helped eat it. It was found out rather soon; for
Miss Slicer is the kind of a missionary for Africa. May the Lord bless, and send scores of such. Amen. Amen.
One thing which is peculiar in the Sierra Leone people is that they seldom let go of their superstitions. They have the fetich in charms on their persons, or hidden in their houses. I was told there were but few houses but had some charm buried in their yard or under their doorstep.
One day I was admiring a handsome gold chain a gentleman had tastefully arranged on his person. A friend said to me, "Would you believe that that gentleman has four charm fetiches in gold? He has the strongest kind of belief in fetich."
So it is everywhere you go. I visited the hospital while at Bunth. There I saw an old man who was a Christian, and had been sexton in the Episcopal Church for twenty years, and a regular communicant. He was very intelligent, and interesting to talk to; spoke good English, and though he was feeble, he would get out of his cot and kneel down while I prayed with him. As I went to help him up after the prayer, I saw under his loose gown, or shirt, a string of cowries around his waist. Poor old man!
In this the Liberians are different. You see there but very little of this, though here and there are some relics. Then, as a rule, the Liberians all speak good American English, which is quite noteworthy.
I am often asked what are the products of the country? And what the people live on? And if the soil is good?
In Liberia the soil is generally rich; some places better than others; and they can raise about every kind of vegetable there that would grow in California or Florida. I have seen as fine cabbage, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, beans and sweet potatoes raised there as I ever saw raised anywhere.
Then there are various kinds of fruits. They are different from what we have here. There are no apples, or peaches, or berries like ours. The mango plum is most abundant, and is very nice in every way you can prepare it. When in Cape Palmas I dried some, just as we dry apples.
Some of the people thought I was wild; the idea of drying plums. But it was not very difficult; the sun is so hot that in two days they were as dry as bones. I found them most convenient when the rainy season came on; and some of the folks that laughed at the idea learned a good lesson.
As a rule they do not dry any of the fruits. Sometimes they will make preserves, but not often. They just use the things as they come round in season, and when the season is done they are done, until the Lord brings the season for them around again!
There is a nice fruit called petanga; something like a cherry; quite tart. These make a very nice jelly, something like currant jelly. I didn't see Irish potatoes grow, but I was told they had been grown there, but were generally small. For them they depend on the English steamers that bring them, generally from Madeira.
If they get fresh seed imported every year, their cabbage, and melons and other vegetables grow large, and to the same perfection they would here; but if they plant from the same seed, they will be a size smaller each year. They seem to degenerate. No one seems to be able to account for it. They have the same soil and attention, but they are smaller.
In bringing seed across the ocean, unless it is put in sealed tins, air tight, no matter what it is, the salt air affects it, and very often it does not come up at all; and if it does come up, it will die away.
The proper time of year for gardening is September. Everybody that makes a garden at all, or puts seed in the ground, must do it then, so that at Christmas and New Years they have the nicest kind of vegetables and melons.
Then there are cocoanuts, bananas, oranges, pineapples and such as that. No one plants them specially; they grow almost everywhere. I did, just before I left, get some cocoanut scions, or young plants, and set them out, some five or six in number, in Ma Payne's lot. I named them all. The last I heard they were growing nicely, and the one I named "Amanda Smith" was flourishing.
Cotton grows nicely, with but little care. They could grow acres of it; but I never saw a dozen plants or bushes anywhere. The most I did see at any one place was four nice, large bushes which grew in the yard at old Sister S.'s, at Sinoe. They use a good deal of this for quilts. Everybody has quilts. They don't put as much in them as they do in quilts' at home; they do not need to be as heavy; yet they don't raise a sufficient quantity of cotton to supply all the people who would use it.
All these things that I have spoken of are possibilities in Liberia that are yet to be developed on a larger scale. For why should they not manufacture goods there as they do in England and America? In the good time that is coming they will.
Then they raise a great many fowls. So do the natives. They have eggs for their own purposes. Then they have cattle and pigs and goats; and while these are essential, and a blessing to those who own them, to others they are a great annoyance and trouble.
For instance: one has a good garden made, and a strong stick fence as they could get around it. These native stick fences do not last longer than one season, as a rule. After the first year some one is most always sure to break them out for wood to burn, and as soon as they begin to break them it is only a matter of time when they will be all gone.
Then, as these pigs and goats and cows all run at large, just as you get your garden made, or just as the things are beginning to come to perfection, you go out some morning and a goat or cow or pig has been in, and your whole garden is gone.
If those who own them in different neighborhoods would arrange to keep them up, then the people who make the gardens would have enough for themselves, and could help their neighbors. But this is one of the drawbacks. Then, if you had no more seed to put in, which is very likely, you are out; often this is the case. In different parts of Liberia, in every county I was in, the people complained of the same trouble; consequently, many that might have fine gardens did not bother to make them.
I advised them to form companies, as they do in India; each man who had land, to give so much for grazing for two or three months at a time, then hire a man or boy to take the cattle and bring them back every day. I spoke of this everywhere I went, and they thought it a good thing; but who would start it, and who would get the most money out of it? But I am sure it would be
Mr. Johnson, with whom I stopped several weeks, in Bassa, told me he had lost eight or nine bullocks in a few years; and pigs and goats, as well. He was a merchant, and had what they call a farm, some two or three miles away from where he lived. But he let his cattle run at large, just as other people did: if he would make a fence, it would be destroyed in a little while, and his cattle would be shot, or chopped with a cutlass, and maimed so they would have to be killed.
One day while I was there, one of their cows (one Mrs. Johnson had raised from a little calf), came home with three large arrows that had been shot into her, still sticking in her. That is the way Mr. Johnson came to tell me about what I have just said.
At Sierra Leone, and down the coast, I think they are more advanced. They have large markets both at Sierra Leone, and at Lagos, so the steamers take on a supply. Then all along the coast after they leave Liberia, they are supplied with fowls, eggs, pigeons, bananas, pineapples, peppers, water cress, and all sorts of vegetables in abundance; large fowls, sixpence apiece.
Further down the coast the natives make very handsome cloth. They are very clever in making their dyes; it is wonderful how they do it. They have very strong dyes, with fast colors, green, blue, red, yellow, and various colors; it is marvelous how they blend them; and some of the native cloths are really beautiful. They bring them on the steamers and sell them for different prices, ten, twenty, twenty-five, twenty-six shillings, and some for more. I bought an elegant cloth at ten shillings; but one of the officers got one at twenty, and he said it was very cheap.
Chillicothe is the place where you generally get these handsome country cloths. I also got one or two very nice pieces at Monrovia; but nothing like those that you get down the coast. They weave their cloth in strips about four or five inches wide; then they sew it together to any length or breadth they want it.
The natives are great geniuses in this way; and it is wonderful to see the number of things they can make.
Then the Liberians have other products besides those which I have named. Their coffee is very fine, and of rich flavor. There are some large planters who raise and ship thousands of pounds. Among these are, Mr. Moses Ricks, and Senator Coleman, of Clay-Ashland;
In developing mission work among the natives, so far as my observation went, the Baptists were ahead. And their churches and mission work are all self-supporting, that is, they have no foreign help, as they used to have. Then at Arthington, June Moore and Saul Hill, were classed among the men of large means. Both of these were earnest Christian men, and Deacons in the Baptist Church.
Mr. Moore, in his outward appearance, was very plain, but a man of more than ordinary intelligence, and unquestioned veracity, and moral character; and a strong temperance man. His is a beautiful character. I wish I could have found it more general.
Mr. Moore was a very good preacher. He had charge of the Baptist Church at Arthington, and had the confidence of the people, Liberians and natives. Through his sympathy and co-operation we held a temperance meeting in the Baptist Church at Arthington, and organized a Gospel Temperance Band, and, I think, made him President. Of course, the majority there, were not far advanced on the line of woman preaching. It was all right at other churches, and they would go and hear, and get what benefit they could. But they were generally in favor of Paul's assertion: "Let your women keep silence in the churches."
The more liberal believe that the other statement of Paul should be considered as well, viz.: how a woman should be adorned when praying or prophesying.
The Lord blessed me very greatly, and I had my friends among them all. I was never asked in a Baptist Church to take a service, while I was there; only to address a Sabbath School.
I spent a very pleasant time at Mr. June Moore's home, and immensely enjoyed the conversation we had together. He was full of information on all points of interest in the republic, and country, both among the natives and Liberians.
After the family prayer was over in the evening, we sat and
The little school house was formerly a Methodist church, with a seating capacity of about fifty, when it was packed.
Poor Mr. Morris meant to do Liberia good; and no doubt he did help the people greatly, by introducing their coffee at the great Centennial Exposition. But the pretty little steamer, costing six hundred pounds, which he sent out from England, and the three large iron soap kettles, ended up pretty much like the hanging of the gin at Virginia: that was a sad failure.
I think that often these things are misleading to those who purpose emigrating. They hear of these things, and they sound well; they have gathered a little together, by dint of hard work, and much self-denial, they sacrifice it and go off to Liberia. When they find things so different from what has been represented, they become discouraged, and disappointed, and often disgusted. They have no means to get back to this country, and if they did, they could not recover what they have sacrificed, and so would have to make an entirely new start; so that many give up and die, or make up their minds to do the best they can, and that is often a grievously poor do.
I remember when that large emigration came to Cape Palmas, the citizens called a mass meeting in the Episcopal school room, to which these strangers were invited. Papers, and addresses of welcome, were read.
As it was but a short distance from where I lived, when I heard of it I said I would go. I was glad of it, and thought it would encourage and help the strangers. But I was told, a little while after, that no women were to go; it was only for men. Then
Just before the meeting someone called and asked me if I were going.
"Yes," I said.
"Oh, my husband says there are no women going, and he will not let me go."
"Well," I said, "you have a husband to obey; but I have not; so I am going."
"The seats will all be full," she said.
"All right, I will take my own chair."
So I did. They all knew I was a kind of privileged character anyhow, and generally carried out what I undertook.
I noticed, when I went in, they began to look at one another. Sure enough, I was the only woman there.
I went and took my seat in the middle of the aisle. I think they thought that I wanted to talk; but that was a mistake. There was talking enough done to have built a tower, if there had been anything in it. Mr. James Tuning was the speaker of the evening. He had a very lengthy paper about Jacob receiving his brethren. And of all the big talk that anyone ever listened to, they had it in that meeting.
I knew that more than half that was in the papers was only worth the paper it was on. I was quite sure it didn't mean more than that; but the strangers didn't know it. All the prominent men of the place were present--His Lordship, Bishop Ferguson, the Hon. J. Gibson, Mr. J. Thorne, Mr. Ashton and a number of others.
When they were all through expressing themselves, and heartily welcoming the emigrants to their country, this free country where they were not oppressed by white men; the country where they could be men; where they had the rights of the law and were independent, and all the other big things we can say, then they asked the emigrants to speak.
As it was getting late, there were but three of these emigrants who made speeches. The leader was a young man, a Mr. Massie, who had been the chief in getting up this emigration and leading them out. He was the Moses. He talked well, though his speech
Each one, in turn, expressed himself the same way. The home folks laughed and smiled and looked at me. I felt very sorry for this. It is the wrong spirit to be cherished and cultivated and perpetuated. I have never seen any good from it. Somehow or other, though I cannot explain it, it is not the spirit that has the sanction of God. It is wrong in those who have caused these grievances, but it does not help us any to forever keep looking at the wrongs, and never see any of the good, which has always gone along side by side with the wrong. The good has not always been the strongest or the most prominent, yet it has been there.
I could not help thinking, as I listened, that before these poor emigrants had been there half as long as I had been, if they needed sympathy or help, they would find it quicker right among those whom they had held up that night as being their worst enemies, than they would among those who got up there and said such big things.
And I was there to see that same man, within six months, come to such absolute need that he came to me to borrow two gallons of rice. His wife was sick, his baby had died, and he had terrible sores on his feet and legs from the effects of the chigoes; and he was in a pitiable and helpless condition. He had been to one of the white merchants the week before and borrowed some rice. He could not get it from any of his brethren and friends who had read such noble papers and given them such a hearty welcome.
He did not like to come to me, because I had not failed to tell them that when they got to where they were in great need they would find very likely these friends would fail them. So he stayed away as long as he could.
I was glad when he came to me that I was able to help him. I said to him, "I am sorry for you. I could have told you that, that same night you were talking; but then if I had told you then, you would not have believed it."
Poor fellow, the tears were in his eyes. He said, "Ah, Sister Smith, I have learned a lesson."
And so he had. But as the old saying is, "Bought wit is better than taught wit," when you do not buy it too dear. This poor man's purpose was, after he got settled in Liberia, to come back to America and bring out a large emigration. My! what wonderful things he was going to do. But that little experience cooked him pretty thoroughly; so that his ambitions were not so high.
Poor Massie! I wonder how he has got on. I am simply speaking of this as what I knew and saw when I was there. Everything may have changed since then, for all I know. There were possibilities, but not many probabilities.