|CHAPTER XXXI. -- LIBERIA--BUILDINGS--THE RAINY SEASON--SIERRA LEONE--ITS -- PEOPLE--SCHOOLS--WHITE MISSIONARIES--COMMON SENSE -- NEEDED--BROTHER JOHNSON'S EXPERIENCE--HOW WE GET ON IN AFRICA.|
Emigrants going to Liberia think they can rent a small house, or rooms, as they can in this country. People will come there, who have left a comfortable home behind, and think they will rent a small house for six months or a year, till they can get their own house built; but this they can seldom do. The reason of this, I think is, the climate is very hard on timber, and a house standing unoccupied for any length of time will soon be destroyed.
The bug-a-bug is a very large ant, which eats the wood to a perfect hull, and the most destructive insect in that regard in the country. If they get into a trunk or chest of clothes, and are not discovered in time, they will go through everything, books, papers, etc.; nothing stands before them. After you know this, a little watching may save you a great deal of trouble.
So that the most of the people in Liberia, or anywhere else in the republic, build, and live in their own houses. Houses that are built of stone or brick are the most durable; and the best houses there are thus built. But the frame houses have the hardest time.
Slate roofing, in one sense, would be better than shingles, especially for the rainy season, for the reason that the rain and sun do not affect it so much as they do the shingles.
During the rainy season there, it literally pours. I have often thought of Noah in the ark when I have seen the rain pour down without mercy for two or three days in succession, with just a little intervals of a slight break between. Then the sun would come out, sometimes for a half day, perhaps in the morning or
As a rule there is a good deal of sickness and fever among the natives during this season; but people having comfortable houses suffer but very little inconvenience.
When the rainy season is over, and the blazing, hot sun beats down, the shingles curl right up and split, so that almost every year it is necessary to go through some repairing. On the other hand, the slate roof gets so hot that it makes sleeping almost impossible, unless the roof is high, and well lined under the slate.
There are some large houses, for stores; these are occupied by white merchants, or traders, so that if there chance to be a good house of any size to rent, they generally have the preference, for they always have the money, and that is the first consideration in Africa as well as elsewhere.
Now, in this regard Sierra Leone is different. There are almost always good houses to rent there; they build houses for that purpose. And so if you want a house with a store underneath, or a large private house, or one not so large, it can be got at a reasonable price, as a rule, and on a good, wide street.
The Sierra Leone houses are very substantially built, but generally of stone or brick, with yards enclosed by a good, high wall, after the English style, and nicely furnished inside. I have seen some as finely finished houses in Sierra Leone and Lagos as I have seen in America or England.
The people of Sierra Leone are greatly mixed, as to tribes; so much so, that I think it would be difficult to tell to just what particular tribe they really belong.
They have no real, distinct language. They speak a lingo of broken English, which all seem to understand; and when two or three dozen of them are together, especially the women and girls in the market places, it would remind one unaccustomed to it of the chattering of a thousand swallows. My! but they can talk. But there are hundreds who speak good English.
There are many wealthy merchants, both in Sierra Leone and Lagos, who often send their sons and daughters to England, and
But the country is no better off for this education. Of course they don't come home to do missionary work among the people; they belong to the upper rank; and so those of the same rank are a society among themselves; and the second and third classes of their own people are never the better for their higher education, only as they may serve them, as servants, or otherwise.
If it is a lady she is either engaged, before she comes home, to be married to some rich gentleman, or very soon after she gets home you may hear that she has had an offer; sometimes there will be rival suitors for her hand, and you will wait with the greatest interest, for you are sure to hear of it, which of these has won the suit. As much of this depends on the weight of their pockets as anything else.
And then, when one of these weddings comes off, it will give you a little idea of what real black aristocracy is. It would compare favorably with the same kind of an event of Fifth Avenue, New York, or in Washington, D. C. Fine cards and wedding presents, and all the outfit for four or five bridesmaids, as well as bride and groom, and best man, etc., etc., all imported from England and France. These people are not ignorant in regard to the highest style, and the greatest etiquette.
As a rule, I think the Sierra Leone people are generally industrious; there are merchants, tailors, carpenters, etc., among them. They have large markets where you can go and get, two or three times a week, all sorts of produce, at a good price. Then they have regular beef markets, from which they supply Government House, and the large barracks of English soldiers.
They are great traders, men, women, boys and girls; the women often surpass the men. They will go up and down the rivers, and in the interior, buying palm oil, rubber, camwood, and boys and girls, if necessary. I was told they do this sometimes, but for the purpose of setting them free, as the English law
Formerly they had good schools in Freetown. This is one thing I admire in the English government; she generally looks well after the education of her colonists. Of course there is room for much improvement, even in Sierra Leone and Lagos.
All up and down the coast, wherever you go where the English flag waves, and there has been any civilization at all, you will find scores and hundreds who have a liberal education, and are fitted for most all professions and callings.
The Wesleyan Girls' High School, at Freetown, was once a beautiful building, with well furnished dormitories, and a staff of first-class teachers; but it has seen its best days, without a great change takes place. For several years it has been sadly declining in power and influence, being almost entirely under the control of one or two parties. I was told that when it was first founded, it was under the management of white people; the lady principal and teachers were all white, and they did a grand work. And then the boys' high school, which I also visited, and had the privilege, through the invitation of the principal, Mr. M., of addressing, was not what it once was, or should be. The Episcopal school, both for girls and boys, is good. The boys have a fine, large, commodious building, and a good staff of teachers.
Several of the Liberian families, who have not been able to send their sons and daughters as far as England to be educated, sent them to Freetown. I had the pleasure of going all through this building, on the day of the dedication of the new dormitory and recitations rooms, which had been added to the main building, accommodating, I think, probably two hundred in all. His lordship, the Bishop, was in the chair, and gave a most excellent address, as did also Mr. N., who, I think, at that time had charge of the theological department, and who was a noble, Christian gentleman. His sister was the lady principal of the girls' high school, which I also visited, and had the pleasure of speaking a few words to the young ladies. Everything was in good order.
I was greatly delighted with this school, especially the housekeeping department, where, in connection with their studies, each girl took her turn in the sweeping, dusting, making bread, biscuit, pie, or cake, and in washing dishes and attending the dining room. This, it seemed to me, was the most essential of all; it would certainly
Then, there are private schools. I visited a Mr. Leapol's school, which was a very nice school for boys. I suppose he accommodated about forty. Mr. L. was a very high type of a Christian gentleman; I think, a West Indian by birth. This school was of the higher grade. Teachers and helpers, I believe, were all colored.
There was a good government school, which, according to my American ideas, should have continued to exist. But when the new Bishop came, he, being a very conservative English gentleman, and invested with power, thought it best, as I was told, to disband the government school, and build a large parish school. So that many of the poor children, who were not able to pay, were shut out. This opened a good harvest for the Roman Catholics, which they lost no time in securing.
I am often asked if I think that missionary work in Africa prospers and develops better when under the entire control of colored people, or do I think it is better under the control of white people.
To answer this as best I can I will give my experience and observation at the several places I have been.
The schools at Old Calabar under the Scotch Presbyterian Missionary Society, and the schools and missions at Lagos, and the Episcopal, Baptist and Wesleyan Schools in the Republic of Liberia, and then in Sierra Leone the United Free Methodists, the Episcopals, the Lady Huntington Society, the U.B. Mission, and the English Baptist Mission, all were established, supported and superintended by white missionaries; but just in proportion as they have died, or on account of poor health have had to retire from the work, the schools and mission property have declined.
Many of them in the work have developed good native teachers and preachers, who are loyal, and faithful, and true; and the white missionary feels that he, or she, could not do without these native helpers. But when the whole work is left to them the interest seems to flag, and the natives themselves seem to lose their interest, which the teacher feels, but cannot help.
I do not attempt to make any explanation of this; I simply
Then, the white missionaries, as a rule, give better satisfaction, both to the natives and to the church or society which sends them out.
I suppose no church or society ever gave a salary to a colored man, no matter how efficient he was, as large as they give to a white man or woman, no matter how inefficient he or she may be in the start; and I think they are generally expected to do more work. This I think is a great mistake.
I believe that the death of the grandest black missionary I ever knew, Rev. Joseph Gomer, of the Shanghai Mission, was hastened through over-work and pressing need, and salary and means for work being cut down, and great anxiety because of the urgent demand for the work.
For pure Christian integrity, and untarnished moral character, and fatherly sympathy and love for the poor heathen, he had but few equals in Africa, if any.
"Then you think, Mrs. Smith, it is better that white missionaries should go to Africa."
Yes, if they are the right kind. If they are thoroughly converted and fully consecrated and wholly sanctified to God, so that all their prejudices are completely killed out, and their hearts are full of love and sympathy, and they have firmness of character, and good, broad, level-headed common sense, and are possessed of great patience, and strong, persistent, persevering faith, and then keep up the spirit of earnest prayer to Almighty God, day and night. I do not say that it is necessary to be under a dead strain all the time; not at all; but my own personal experience is that the more one prays and trusts in God, the better he can get on, especially in Africa.
Everything is so different from what you have it at home, that this is an absolute necessity; and the person that has not got the stick-to-itiveness on these lines, especially, whatever else he may have, will not make a good missionary in Africa, whether he be white or black.
I have known some white missionaries who have gone to
And I have known some who have done disreputable things, and it has had its effect on the motives and principles of the good missionaries, until they have had time enough patiently to live it down, and have proved to the Liberians and natives that there is a difference, even in white missionaries.
But thank God. He has sent some who have fully answered to what I have said before. There are one or two who come to my mind now, who, I believe, in every particular fill the bill. I refer to Miss Lizzie McNeil, who, it seems to me, is a born missionary, and to Miss Whitfield. There are numbers of others; but I speak of these because I know them personally, and know their work.
I remember the first party of Bishop Taylor's missionaries that came to Cape Palmas while I was there. The steamer got in on Saturday afternoon; six of the men came ashore Saturday evening; the others, with their families, remained till morning, and they all got ashore in time for church Sunday morning.
Dear Brother Harnard preached a grand sermon. He was the leader, or bishop, of the party. They were all so full of hope and cheer. How bright and happy they all seemed to be. Brother Harnard had two beautiful children, about two and four years of age, I suppose; and the people, natives and all, were so delighted with them. Some of them have never seen white children so young; and then they were so beautifully trained; and Brother and Sister Harnard were so good and kind to every one.
Brother Pratt, Bishop Taylor's agent in Cape Palmas, whatever he may be now, was certainly the best man that Bishop Taylor could have got anywhere to fill the position, at the time. Oh, how faithfully that man worked. How he sacrificed his home, and everything for the work. His poor wife was sick all the time; suffered--Oh! what a sufferer she was; but she was second in everything for the success and good of Bishop Taylor's work.
He took Brother Harnard and his wife and two children, and two of the other men, Brother Johnson and Brother Miller, to his house. Sister Harmon and I had arranged to take care of three
On Monday afternoon I invited Brother Johnson and Brother Miller to take tea with the other brethren. Of course, these were my own country people; they had left their home and went to work among my people in Africa. So we did our best for them.
I got Sister Harmon to make some nice, old-fashioned, Maryland biscuit (which she knew as well how to do as I did myself, and I used to be considered an expert, once upon a time), and we had nice fried chicken, and all else we could get, and that in abundance; that is the way we generally had it in Africa, when we were in for a big thing!
Of course, we could not go at that speed every day. But thank God, I never saw a day in Africa that I did not have plenty to eat. And when at Ma Payne's, in Monrovia, for days my meals would be sent to me in my room, when I was not able to go down, and as nicely served on a waiter as if I had been at a nice boarding house, or at my own home in America.
After tea was over we were all talking and having a pleasant time; the brethren seemed so to have enjoyed their tea, and we were all pleased.
Brother Johnson had been expressing in the most flattering terms his delight and appreciation of the splendid tea, and especially the biscuit. He said the lady who made them must have been a wonderfully nice lady, and if she was not married, she ought to be; for a lady that could make such biscuit ought to have a good husband. Well, we all laughed, and passed it off in a joking manner. I felt pretty safe, as I had not made the biscuit.
Sister Harmon was a nice looking woman, but was older than I, and had sons grown and married, and grandchildren; so she had no fear of anything, save the embarrassment of the question and answer, if it really came to that. So Brother Johnson said to me:
"Mrs. Smith, I would like to speak to you privately."
"Very well," I said; "we will excuse these brethren and you can see me just here."
So the three brethren arose and withdrew to the parlor. I had watched and listened to Brother Johnson, and had taken his measure pretty thoroughly while he was talking, and I felt in my mind that he was going to play the fool.
"Now, Brother Johnson," said I, "proceed. What is it you want to say?"
He straightened up and smiled, and acted a little embarrassed; then got red in the face and all down his neck, till his beautiful white necktie seemed as though it was about to get pink, too.
I thought, "Dearie me, what will he say?" For I looked him squarely in the eye, and with the look of the rock of Gibraltar, if Gibraltar ever looked. I said, "It cannot mean that he is going to propose to me; he has just come; has not been here three days." After clearing his throat, he said:
"Well, Sister Smith, or Mrs. Smith," (emphasizing the Mrs.).
"Yes," I said.
"Well, I have come to Africa, and expect to make it my future home. I have not come to go back. I expect to die here."
Then I spoke and said, "I don't think you need die here any sooner than you would in the United States. One need only use his common sense, and go a little slow while he is acclimating." Then I waited for the next shot.
"I thought," he continued, "I would ask you if you knew of any nice colored woman that you think would make me a good wife. I could have married before I left my country, or America," (he was a Swede); "but I chose to wait till I got here; and I thought it would be better for me to marry a woman of the country, who is already acclimated. If I were to marry a white woman, she would all the time be crying to go home to see her aunt or uncle, or her mother," with a pretty smile.
I groaned, being burdened, to give vent to my mingled feelings. But then I controlled myself; for, during the time he talked, I was reading him, and I said to myself: "There is nothing in this man; he is as full of self as he can be, and he is going to be a failure, if not a disgrace, to Bishop Taylor's mission here." For the work was just starting, and was new, and needed much careful guiding and management, with all the American and African prejudices against this new, self-supporting movement.
"Mr. Johnson, I know some very nice women here, who, I think would make good wives for somebody; but I would not recommend anyone that I know, to do what I would not do myself; and I, myself, would not marry you, or any other man, if you were gold; a rank stranger, just come from another country, and have not been here three days; no one knows anything about you; you
I saw that my version of things did not take very well with Brother Johnson. But I did not know until Wednesday what had gone before.
Mr. Pratt's wife's sister, a very nice girl, had gone to help in the house, as Mrs. Pratt was sick. She took a great fancy to Mrs. Harnard and the children, and had offered herself to Mrs. Harnard, to go with her, to take care of the children.
It appeared that when Mr. Johnson came ashore on Saturday, and saw this girl at Mrs. Pratt's, he was struck clear through at first sight, and had proposed; and she, poor thing, thought it was splendid. She judged from outside appearances; for Mr. Johnson was a very nice looking man, nicely dressed, patent leather boots, shirt, collar and necktie exquisitely beautiful, and she thought she had a fish of the first water. I suppose she had; but it was bony.
They were to be married on Thursday, and would have been, if Mr. Pratt had allowed it. When he found it out, he sent the girl home to her father, and managed to hold Brother Johnson in check for two weeks.
So that was the meaning of the private conversation that Mr. Johnson wanted with me Monday evening. But he did not come straight out and tell me. I was glad afterward that I did not know anything about it, and that I talked just as I did. And, notwithstanding all that, they tried to say that I was favorable to it.
They were married at the Methodist Church, by somebody, I don't remember now by whom; but I know Brother Harnard did not marry them. I never went near: because I was so busy with my sick missionaries, and I did not care anyhow, to see the beginning of the thing; I was more interested about how it was going to come out.
Well, it turned out just as I said. After a week or so he carried the poor thing up into the country to their station. She had nothing, and he had nothing, only his mission supplies; and they had used the best part of those for their marriage feast, no one
Mr. Johnson seemed to think if he only married a colored girl, he being a white man, it would be such a standing proof to the colored people that he really loved them, that they would take him right into their arms, and lavish upon them their wealth and gifts; especially as he had married into one of the most respectable families in Cape Palmas; the daughter of the Hon. Mr. H. Gibson. My! he thought he had it. And so he had.
Poor girl! I knew her well. She had been converted and sanctified in one of the meetings that I had held, and had grown in grace, and was developing so nicely, and was one of our good workers in the Band of Hope Temperance work.
When I knew that the decree was passed to marry Mr. Johnson, I confess I was disappointed in her; for I really gave her credit for having more sense. So I never opened my head to her on the subject.
Her joy and delight were of short duration. He got fever and was down sick. They came back to the Cape. I went to see him, and did what I could.
When he got better they went again up to their station. The natives received them gladly, and gave them a bullock. They had their mission house built to go into. But everything was so different from what it was in America. He got down with fever again, and again they returned to the Cape. I, with Brother Pratt, did everything I could for him till I left.
After some months of going back and forth, and getting down with fever, he came back to the Cape again, and took the first steamer for home, and left his wife there, to live or die. Poor thing! In less than a year she died.
And Brother Johnson--though everything was done for him that could be done, I saw him after this in Monrovia, going about from house to house, and the worst thing he could say of Bishop Taylor and his self-supporting mission was too good.
Of course, he and Mr. Hillman, and Mr. Astley, had all gone over to the Episcopal Church; and it seems that one of the surest marks of true fidelity to that church is to ignore and denounce everybody and everything in the church that has fitted them for this church to receive.
The last time I saw Brother Johnson, was in July, '91, at the
I have said it was not always a matter of having the cash, in order to get on in Africa, for there were times when you couldn't get things even with the cash.
"Then what would we do when we couldn't get the things we wanted at the stores?"
Well, we would just have to wait, and do the best we could, till a steamer came, or an American vessel; sometimes it would be a week, or two, or three, just as it happened.
"How did we get on?"
Well, that is a difficult question to answer--how we got on. But we did get on; we would just call up the old mother of invention, and she always had some plan to help us out; so there was no necessity of getting homesick or backsliding.
I never was homesick but about five minutes the whole eight years I was in Africa; and that was one day when I was reading an account in the "Christian Standard" of a wonderful holiness meeting held at old John Street, New York, and I was so hungry for such a spiritual feast; and as I read I found myself saying, "How I wish I were there."
When I thought of what I had said I sprang to my feet and cried out, "Now, Lord, help me, for I know I am right in the place where you want me, and it is all right." And in a moment the homesick feeling left me.
Then once, while I was at Miss Sharpe's, I was very nearly homesick. I was just going through my first attack of fever, and suffered for a drink of cool water. Being accustomed to having ice in this country, or going to a spring or pump and getting a cool drink, I felt I must have some ice. In India they make ice; so while there I could get ice water; but they don't make it in Africa. Sometimes we could get a piece off the steamer; but only a small piece, which could not last very long; and generally when one wanted it most, there would be no steamer in; so one must do without it.
And the water is always warm. The only time you get it cool is very early in the morning, or during the rainy season. In the morning it would be a little cool, but if you drink it so very early you will be very apt to have a chill; so you must be careful on that line.
I was pretty well scorched with fever, and as the days and nights went on, and nothing cool to drink, and no appetite to eat anything I could get to eat; I craved what I could not get.
Plenty could be got, but not what I wanted. I wanted a nice broiled mutton chop, basted with some nice hard butter, not that soft, oily stuff that was in the tins. I wanted a nice baker's roll, with hard butter off the ice, and a nice cup of tea, with some fresh cream, not condensed milk.
All the nice things that I ever did for sick people when I lived in a rich gentleman's family came into my mind. I knew exactly how to do it; I had done it for others. And when I would shut my eyes there would be all the things right before me. I could see them just as plain as could be. When I fell into a little doze of sleep they would haunt me. When I would wake, Oh! how hungry I would be for just that; I wanted nothing else.
It was not the question of money; I had a little, and would have got all these things, but they were not there to be got.
So one night I prayed nearly all night, and asked the Lord to take all desire out of me for everything I could not get, and help me to like and relish just what I could get. About four o'clock in the morning I fell asleep, and woke about six; and every bit of desire for mutton chop, and rolls, and hard butter, and fresh cream was gone, and I was as free from the desire as if I had never had it. I laughed, and cried, and praised the Lord for His loving mercy.
No one who has not had the experience can tell anything about what it means to be weak, and sick, and hungry, and where you cannot get a little of what your appetite craves. But our God is a wonderful deliverer. And then the grand old text that He gave me when I first started, "My God will supply all of your need,"--how true. Praise His name. Amen.