James Keith Trotter.

The Niger sources and the borders of the new Sierra Leone protectorate online

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THE LIBRARY

OF

THE UNIVERSITY
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES



EDWIN CHAPPLE

Printer S: Boc'<se!l



THE NIGER SOURCES



r



THE NIGER SOURCES

AND THE BORDERS OF

THE NEW SIERRA LEONE

PROTECTORATE



BY

LIEUT.-COL. J. K. TROTTER, R.A.



WITH FOUR PULL-PAGE ILLUSTRATIONS AND A MAP



METHUEN & CO.

36 ESSEX STREET, W.C.

LONDON

1898



51 &

CONTENTS



CHAPTER I

PAGE

FROM LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN i

CHAPTER II
THE JOURNEY TO THE NIGER SOURCES 19

CHAPTER III
THE WESTERN WATERSHED OF THE NIGER - - 60

CHAPTER IV
THROUGH SALIMA AND KAMUKE COUNTRY TO THE

KABA RIVER 95

CHAPTER V
FROM THE LITTLE TO THE GREAT SKARSIES - - 124

CHAPTER VI
RETURN TO THE COAST AND EMBARKATION FOR

ENGLAND - 146

CHAPTER VII
THE PEOPLE OF THE SIERRA LEONE PROTECTORATE 163

CHAPTER VIII
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INTERIOR, AND THE

INFLUENCE UPON IT OF THE HEALTH QUESTION 183

CHAPTER IX
THE GEOGRAPHY AND TOPOGRAPHY OF THE SIERRA

LEONE PROTECTORATE - - - 205

Al'I'KNDIX - 228



928016



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

PAGE

THE NIGER NEAR ITS SOURCE - - Frontispiece

KURANKO BOWMAN - 42

THE KING OF TAMISSO AND HIS SUITE - - 131

DANCE OF A BUNDI PRIEST ON OCCASION OF CEREMONY 182
MAP - - 238



NOTE

THE FOUR- ILLUSTRATIONS IN THIS BOOK ARE FROM PHOTOGRAPHS BV CAPTAIN

PASSAGA, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH DELiMirfNG COMMISSION.



CHAPTER I
FROM LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN

\ "^ H E expedition described in this work was
undertaken with the object of marking
out on the ground the boundary between
French Guinea and Sierra Leone, which had
been agreed upon between Great Britain and
France on January 2ist, 1895. The protocol
signed that day was the outcome of negotia-
tions which had lasted for many years, and
until the boundary question was settled, nothing
could be done towards developing the interior
of the country. Of the ground covered by
the agreement absolutely nothing was known
except at one or two points ; and it will be
remembered that in 1894 a British and French
force had come accidentally into collision at
Waima, owing partly to the unsettled state of



2 THE NIGER SOURCES

the country and partly to the general un-
certainty concerning the frontiers. The region
of the Niger sources was visited by Laing in
the early part of the century, and the actual
source by Zweifel and Moustier in 1879, but
in the works of these travellers few topo-
graphical details are given, nor is it possible
to locate the position with reference to any
known point in the interior. French officers
have also passed through the country at the
head of the Niger in recent years, but they
have left no public record of their journeys.
It was, therefore, necessary that the boundary
as agreed upon should be marked out and
sketched by a joint Commission, and I was
appointed to act for the British Government
in this matter, being assisted by Lieutenant
(local Captain) Tyler, R.E., who was at the
time stationed at Sierra Leone.

The journey to Freetown occupies from
thirteen to sixteen days. Probably not many
people realize that, with the exception of the
imperial ports of Gibraltar and Malta, the
Gambia and Sierra Leone are the nearest



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN 3

British possessions to the mother country. As
regards time, it is true, these settlements are
farther from our shores than British North
America, for hitherto English people have
discovered few good reasons for visiting West
Africa, and some very cogent ones for keep-
ing away from it. Liverpool alone has under-
taken the conquest of the land, and through
Liverpool all the trade between Great Britain
and this part of Africa passes. The passenger
traffic is so limited that the boats of the
African Steamship Company and the British
and African Line, which run in conjunction
with each other, are easily able to deal with
it. These boats rarely exceed 3000 tons
gross, and their highest speed under favour-
able circumstances is not more than 10 knots.
The direct boats call at Grand Canary, and
the intermediate ones at Madeira, Teneriffe,
and Dakar. It seems a special provision of
Providence that the Canary Group and Madeira,
probably the finest health resorts in the world,
lie so close to the deadly West African coast,
and are so easily accessible to invalids from



4 THE NIGER SOURCES

Gambia, Sierra Leone, the Gold Coast, Lagos,
and the Niger. These islands are well worth
a visit. Madeira is well known to health
seekers, but of late years its monopoly in the
North Atlantic has been seriously threatened
by the Canary Group. At Grand Canary the
Spanish authorities are constructing a break-
water, and in a few years' time they will be
able to offer to ocean steamers a secure
harbour. The fruit trade has been largely
developed through the enterprise of Messrs.
Elder, Dempster & Co., the agents of the
African Steamship Co., and a large number
of visitors from the United Kingdom, as well
as from the West Coast, spend the winter and
spring in the island, the climate of which is
drier than that of Madeira.

From Grand Canary to Sierra Leone the
West African steamers take about six days.
As one approaches the coast the air becomes
humid and heavy, and the change from the
drier climate of the north-east trades is a little
depressing. Passing up the broad estuary of
the Sierra Leone river, the boats hug the



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN 5

southern shore, and afford an excellent view
of the towns and country which make up the
little colony of Sierra Leone. Whatever may
be said against the country from other points
of view, the severest critic cannot find a word
to say against its beauty as viewed from the
deck of a steamer. Freetown, with its out-
lying villages, nestling amongst vegetation rich,
varied, and luxuriant, backed by the forest-
clad Lion mountains and faced by the distant
low, palm -fringed Bullom shore, makes a
charming picture, one difficult to reproduce,
but not easy to forget. The place does not
improve on closer acquaintance. The town
is poorly built, and not worthy of the position
a place of its importance should occupy. The
only respectable buildings are Government
House on Tower Hill, and just above it the
barracks of half a battalion of the West India
regiment, to which is attached a very good
swimming bath. The height of this position
is 300 feet above the sea. At a height of
800 feet are some new barracks on Mount
Auriol for the other half battalion, and still



6 THE NIGER SOURCES

higher up, 1500 feet above sea level, is a
sanatorium. Fruit, vegetables, and fish are
plentiful in the town, but of cows in a public
capacity nothing is known, and I could hear
of but one horse in the place. The milkman
to the colony is Switzerland, and the butterman
Denmark.

Whether it is due to want of enterprise that
horses and cows are not to be found about
Freetown, or whether it is the case, as I have
heard stated, that they cannot exist in the
place, I am not in a position to decide. It
cannot, however, be due to want of forage,
for both grain and herbage are abundant, and
if it is due to climate, the conditions peculiar
to Freetown must be limited to the actual
coast line, for cows are to be met with a very
few miles inland in country which, as regards
climate, belongs to the coast region.

In and about Freetown no roads exist in
the meaning of the word as understood in
Europe. The streets are broad, but they are
merely unlevel green expanses, with foot-tracks
running across them. Road ballasting, road



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN 7

drainage, and road levelling are expressions
unknown in a land where the wheel has not
yet been introduced in any form.

The shops of Freetown are less imposing
than those of European capitals, though they
follow the modern practice in that the small
tradesman is swamped by the big trading
company. They apparently do not seek to
entice the passer-by by a meretricious display
of their most captivating wares, and an adver-
tisement of their cheapest prices ; but the
would-be purchaser enters unsolicited a large
galvanized iron barn, where the obliging coun-
terman hands him anything he asks for, from
a pair of trousers to a tomahawk, whilst around
him crowds of natives, in every costume and
of every colour, are chattering, bargaining, and
laughing over their purchases. Singularly
enough the leading shop of Freetown is that
of a French Company (Compagnie Franpaise
de P Afrique Occidentale], which has trading
stations all along the West Coast, and which
is much patronized by British residents in
Sierra Leone. This establishment has been



8 THE NIGER SOURCES

carried on with success whilst many British
companies have failed to do sufficient paying
business, and have disappeared one after an-
other. There are, however, still one or two
British companies in the place which combine
trading with other business, and being backed
by men of large capital and influence, continue
to make their way.

The buildings in the town of Freetown are
one and all bad, not only from the artistic but
even more from the sanitary point of view,
and they are singularly destitute of anything
which can contribute to comfort or conven-
ience. The town is very badly lighted with
oil lamps, which at best do no more than
illuminate the lamp post which supports them,
and a stranger visiting the town on a dark
night may consider himself fortunate if he
does not explore the bottom of many pitfalls.
But the town is now a municipality, and it
may be hoped that in a few years' time it will
see many improvements inaugurated.

What specially strikes the casual visitor to
Freetown is the complete absence of any form



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN 9

of organized amusement or recreation amongst
the British residents, and of any common
meeting ground for the promotion of social
intercourse. This may be due to the ener-
vating effect of the climate, but one cannot
help speculating on the good which might be
done by anything which would promote activity
and raise the spirits. Lawn tennis is played
a little by a few of the more energetic, a little
shooting is attempted, and a little boating.
" At homes," etc., are given at Government
House, and occasionally the band of the West
India regiment plays, but beyond this I heard
of nothing in the way of recreation.

The climate of Sierra Leone has an evil
reputation, which is too deeply engraved on
the headstones of Kissi Cemetery to be open
to any qualification. Nevertheless I believe
it has seen its worst days, and if only the
assistance of modern science is called in, it
may yet become a moderately healthy place.
It possesses the enormous advantage of a pure
water supply, probably the only thoroughly
sound water on the West Coast. If this water



io THE NIGER SOURCES

was laid on to the whole of the town, if the
population, both European and native, could
be induced to use it with the least possible
adulteration, and if, finally, a comprehensive
scheme of drainage were carried out, a marked
improvement in health would certainly result.
The position of Freetown is one of so great
importance as to justify the adoption of every
modern means of promoting the health of both
Europeans and natives. As the only good
harbour in West Africa, the terminus of the
railway line to the interior now being con-
structed, and the only imperial coaling station
in the North Atlantic, it has a great future
before it. It is on the direct line to the Cape,
and is most conveniently situated as a coaling
station, being about eight days' steaming, at
13 knots, from Southampton, and very much
the same distance from Cape Town. Yet, in
spite of the advantages of its position, vessels
are sent two or three hundred miles out of
their course to coal at St. Vincent in the Cape
Verde Islands, anchoring in an exposed road-
stead, off a barren coast, where the coaling



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN n

arrangements are of the worst, and where no
fresh provisions are to be had. A little enter-
prise on the part of the Sierra Leone people
should make their harbour the port of call
for vessels bound both to South Africa and
to the Pacific, as well as for those homeward
bound from those parts.

The history of Sierra Leone is too well
known to need repetition here, but there are
probably many in England ignorant that the
small colony proper is inhabited by a popula-
tion whose only language is English, if indeed
a language can be called English, which, as
spoken by the lower classes, no dweller in our
islands could interpret. I speak only of the
Sierra Leonis, the inhabitants of Freetown and
the neighbouring villages, the descendants of
freed slaves. In addition to these there is a
large floating population of natives from the
interior, trading or seeking work, who speak
different languages and dialects. The Sierra
Leonis themselves, however, so far as I could
learn, have no knowledge of the interior or
sympathy with questions affecting a frontier



12 THE NIGER SOURCES

policy, and it appears to be unfortunate that the
Protectorate which has recently been estab-
lished over the native tribes of the interior
should bear the name of Sierra Leone, which
must ever be associated with a peculiar and
most interesting chapter in the history of
Africa.

Amongst the Sierra Leone people are many
highly educated gentlemen, employed as law-
yers, doctors, merchants, clergymen, govern-
ment officials, and in other capacities, a great
part of whom have been educated in England,
and are quite able to hold their own with any
Europeans. I have stated that the Sierra
Leone people are not interested in questions
of the interior, but one conspicuous exception
should be mentioned in the person of Mr.
Parkes, the Superintendent of Native Affairs, a
gentleman of the highest attainments, educated
at Oxford, who has a thorough knowledge of
all matters connected with the interior, and
who is in constant communication with the
Chiefs in the Protectorate. Mr. Parkes has
accompanied the Governor on his expeditions



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN 13

throughout the country, and his knowledge of
all frontier questions is second only to that of
His Excellency. Our expedition, as regards
transport and supply, was organized entirely by
him. The food for the Europeans had to be
carried with us, as nothing except rice, and occa-
sionally fowls and sheep, and possibly now and
again a bullock, could be obtained up country,
and arrangements had to be made for collecting
rice for the natives at various points. We had,
moreover, to carry tents, instruments, ammuni-
tion, and hammocks, so that a large number of
carriers was required, and depots had to be
formed at Falaba and at Sangbaia near Kuru-
bundo. A large force of carriers was engaged,
and the men were mustered in gangs of from
twenty to thirty, each under a head-man. We
had also from six to eight men to each
hammock, servants, two interpreters, and ten
Frontier Police, our entire force numbering, to
commence v.'ith in addition to the two Com-
missioners, Captain M'Kee of the Frontier
Police, and Dr. Paris, a colonial surgeon 4
sappers R.E., and 448 natives.



i 4 THE NIGER SOURCES

Some twelve days after our arrival at Sierra
Leone the French Commissioners landed at
Freetown, and about the same time the Gov-
ernor, Colonel Cardew, returned from England.
A meeting was speedily arranged to discuss the
method of procedure, and it was thereat agreed
that the two Commissioners should proceed at
once to the Niger sources, there to begin their
boundary demarcation. The boundary in
Samu from the Atlantic coast to the Mola
river, an affluent of the Great Skarsies, was to
be demarcated by the junior French Commis-
sioners, of whom there were three, the British
being represented by an officer to be selected
by the Governor.

The President of the French Commission,
Captain Passaga of the Marine Infantry, is an
officer of great reputation as a topographer,
and has served in the topographical section of
the French War Office, and on the survey of
Algeria. He also took part in the Dahome
campaign. The second officer, Captain Cay-
rade, of the Marine Artillery, was specially
selected for astronomical work. He had served



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN 15

in the French Sudan, and had been stationed
at Heremakono, close to the Anglo-French
frontier. The third officer, Captain Millot, had
seen much service in the Sudan, and had taken
part in several of the campaigns against the
Sofas. His knowledge of the country and the
natives specially fitted him foi the work of
delimiting the frontier.

On December i6th the joint Commission
embarked in the Governor's yacht, the "Count-
ess of Derby," the native followers being towed
astern in lighters. The French party consisted
of the two senior Commissioners, one European
under officer, ten Senegalese soldiers, ninety-
two carriers and servants, with four riding
mules. Having no hammocks, and having
arranged a service of supplies from their Sudan
stations, they were able to do with a much
smaller establishment than we required. The
third Commissioner, Captain Millot, with one
European under officer, proceeded from Kon-
akri, the capital of French Guinea, to the Niger
sources, and joined the Commission there some
days after we had reached Tembi Kunda, the



16 THE NIGER SOURCES

first projected arrangement for delimiting the
Samu frontier having fallen through. We
steamed up the Sierra Leone river to the Port
Lokko creek, and on the morning of the I7th
reached Moferri, the highest point navigable by
the steam yacht. Here we cast off the lighters,
transferred ourselves into the " Countess of
Derby's" boats, and, after rowing hard for some
hours, reached Port Lokko, a large native town
on a tidal creek, where we disembarked and
arranged our loads.

Port Lokko is a town situated in Timmeni
country, and is part of the colony of Sierra
Leone. It contains a police barrack, a mission
station, a store, and a grog shop, the only
one we met with in British territory till our
return to Freetown. We were lodged in
the best house available in the place, a some-
what pretentious building, containing several
rooms and one or two pieces of European
furniture.

We had now reached the limits of British
territory as represented by the colony of Sierra
Leone. The country beyond this was at the



LIVERPOOL TO FREETOWN 17

time we passed through it merely what is
known in diplomatic parlance as a British
'sphere of influence,' or, in other words, native
territory under native laws and jurisdiction,
which was recognized by the neighbouring
European powers as bound by treaty to Great
Britain. The Chiefs of this country, so far
as it had been explored, received occasional
messages from the Governor of Sierra Leone,
and exchanged greetings with him, and some
of them, whose people occupied country through
which trade routes passed, received small annual
subsidies for keeping the roads open.

The colony of Sierra Leone is limited to
the peninsula of Sierra Leone, to British
Kwaia, to Sherboro, and the country within
immediate reach of the coast line and the
navigable embouchures of the rivers. There
is, I believe, no very definite boundary on
the land side, but actual jurisdiction does
not extend farther inland than the immediate
neighbourhood of British posts and factories.

We had the usual palaver with the Chief of
Port Lokko, who is also Chief of a district



i8 THE NIGER SOURCES

of Timmeni country bearing the same name.
At night a tom-tom procession was organized
by the natives, who kept up a great uproar
till early morning, to which a good day's work
happily rendered us insensible.



CHAPTER II

THE JOURNEY TO THE NIGER SOURCES



/^VUR instructions were to march via Bum-
ban to Kruto, and from thence to find
a route to Kurubundo and onwards to Tembi
Kunda, the head of the Tembi river, which is
the longest affluent of the Niger. Having
reached this point we were to fix a line running
due westward from it to the watershed between
the Niger and the rivers running westwards,
and we were then to follow the watershed,
which forms the boundary, in a northerly
direction, till it cut the tenth parallel of north
latitude, where the first section of the boundary
delimitation was to end.

As regards the march up country, the first
stage was from Port Lokko to Bumban.
Throughout this section we followed a well-



20 THE NIGER SOURCES

known trade route, and it was therefore un-
necessary for us to survey it, but, in order
to check the position of our halting places,
we took daily observations for latitude, and
we used a perambulator to give the distances
accomplished on each march.

We left Port Lokko on December i8th,
and covering a distance, according to the
perambulator, of 77-^ miles, reached Bumban
on the 24th. The road, which resembles all
West African main lines of communication, is
a narrow winding track, not unlike a footpath
through a wood in England in summer time.
Swamps, creeks, and streams are frequently
crossed, and the country, without being so
densely covered with bush as the valleys
further inland, is yet so close and so flat that
nothing can be seen in any direction. The
winding path is invisible 20 or 30 yards ahead,
and though one has constantly the impression
that the next few yards will bring one to a
point from which a view can be obtained,
this point is never reached. We passed
through this country in as complete ignorance



THE JOURNEY 21

of what lay to our right and left as if we
had been blindfolded ; the very villages we
entered were not recognizable till the banana
leaves, the unmistakable indication of native
habitations, were almost within reach. It is
curious to notice the influence of their sur-
roundings on the peoples of the interior.
There the natives live in single file. If you
watch them as they pass over the open spaces
occupied by villages or cultivation, you will
never see them in any other formation, and
if you endeavour, as we did, to form them in
line to beat patches of ground for game, in
two or three minutes at most you will find
them serpentining across country one behind
another. The roads are originally made wind-
ing in order to avoid the numerous obstacles
which cannot be cleared away, but whether
from the crooked nature of the tracks or from
some other cause, no native appears to be
able to walk straight. A caravan passing
through the bush moves as if it were following
the trail of a serpent, and on the one or two
occasions when we crossed perfectly open



22 THE NIGER SOURCES

ground, the direction followed was precisely
the same ; instead of taking a bee line from
point to point, the long column executed a
series of windings and curves. There is,
perhaps, another explanation of the inability
of the natives to walk in a straight line, besides
the curved nature of the roads, though it is
connected with the same cause, and this is
that, as shoes are not worn, the feet are very
sensitive to anything likely to cut or bruise
them, and therefore the natives acquire a
habit of picking their way to avoid obstacles,
and of regularly deviating to right and left of
the general direction they are following.

During this march we crossed, near Madina,
the Mabole river, an affluent of the Little
Skarsies or Kaba. It is here a large river,
some 90 yards in width, and unfordable at
any season. We passed our loads across in
two dug-out canoes of poor construction and
very little buoyancy. During the operation
one of the canoes foundered and sank. It
was recovered, and the water was being baled
out with a large calabash, when I heard



THE JOURNEY 23

piercing screams from the branches of a tree
behind me. The Chief of Madina was watch-
ing the crossing from this elevated position,
and I learned from the interpreter that the
calabash used for baling was his property, and
that the effect of dipping it in what he termed
"crocodile water" would be that he would be
eaten by a crocodile. We endeavoured to con-
sole him by pointing out the satisfaction he
ought to feel when the contingency arose at
being eaten in such a good cause, but his
mind evidently dwelt mainly on the personal
discomfort of the process, and it was only
by taking the law into our own hands that
we could continue to use the royal vessel.

The only other river crossed during this
stage was the Belia, an affluent of the Ma-
bole, which we passed near Rotata, and which
in the dry season is fordable. This river
separates the Safroko Timmeni from the
Sanda Lokko country, the Mabole at Madina


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