Joseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) Reading.

A voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


A Voyage Along
The Western Coast


Newest Africa

A Description of Newest Africa, or the Africa of
To-day and the Immediate Future


For Fifteen Years Resident in Equatorial Africa. Author
of the Ogowe Band, etc., and late Acting Commer-
cial Agent of the United States


Reading & Company, Publishers

421 chestnut street

1 901

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1901, by


In the Office of the librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.

All rights reserved

Press of

Craven-Doan Co.,










TO the men and women of to-day Africa is a Great
Unknown Land through which explorers fight their
way and return with stories of the horrible and the marvel-
ous — stories too often told for no higher purpose than to
make a book sell, or a lecture interesting. I admit that
many of these stories are true, for I have myself been
through some of these experiences ; but it is only a small
portion of the truth concerning this great continent, just as
the horrors of Indian warfare at the present time are only
a small part of the truth concerning our own country.

Africa is a glorious land, rich in natural resources,
and has a grand destiny in store for her. The physical
beauty of the country, the adaptability of a large portion of
it to the Anglo-Saxon race, and the progress that the
Coast ports have made in civilization and refinement, will
be a revelation to many. Africa is the grandest continent
of the" earth ; it is destined to become the home of millions
of our own race, and more money will be made there
during the present century than anywhere else in the
world. The descriptions in the following pages of the
resources of that country are far below the truth — the
realization will greatly exceed anything I have predicted.
The engravings are mostly from photographs repro-
duced upon copper by the new process, and give a truthful
impression of the ordinary appearance of the places

As railroad building has already begun, it cannot be
many years before cities and towns will spring up all over
the land, and I confidently expect by the close of this
decade to hear of Cook selling excursion tickets to the
Soudan, the Congo and the great inland lakes. Why not ?

J. H. R.

Philadelphia, April ist, 1901.



Chapter I — Grand Canary and Senegambia,
" II — Sierra Leone,

" III— Liberia,

IV— Gold Coast, .
« V — Niger Delta and the Soudan,

VI— Old Calabar, .
" VII — Kamerun, Batanga, Eloby,

" VIII — St. Thomas : Angola, .

" IX — Valley of the Congo,

" X — Congo River to Gaboon,


. 26

• 48

• 75

• 95
. 118

• 139
. 161

. 180

• 197



Modern Residence. Newest Africa.

Chapter I

Captain Thompson.
Distant View of the Lower Ogowe.
Mr. Sinclair.

Mr. Sinclair's Residence. Gaboon.
Mr. Alexander.
A Qniet Nook in the Forest.
Residents of Gaboon. The anthor~standing on
the right.

Chapter II

Morning Roll-Call in front of Mr. Schiff's

Regent Street. Sierra Leone.
Freetown. Sierra Leone.
Elmina. Gold Coast.
Cape Coast Castle. Gold Coast.

Chapter III

Accra. Gold Coast.

Native Village, near Axim. Gold Coast.

Group of Natives. Old Africa.

Native Ladies. Newest Africa.

A Tropic Home. Newest Africa.

Palm Oil ready for shipment. Lagos.

Trading Hulk. Bonny River.

Canoe on the Bonny River. Old Africa.

Trying Palm Oil. Bonny, Niger River.

Chapter IV

Catholic Church. Fernando Po.
Riverside Trading Houses. Old Calabar.
Duke Town. Old Calabar.
Hope Factory. Old Calabar.
Creektown. Old Calabar River.
River Scene. Old Calabar.

Chapter V

Palm Oil Chop Dinner Party. Old Calabar.
Governor's Residence. Kamerun. Newest

Native House, Kamerun. German Possessions.
A Bit of the Kamerun Beach. High Tide.
Temporary Government Buildings. German

A bit of Kamerun Beach. Low Tide.

Chapter VI

Treasurer's Office. German Possessions.
Home of Foreign Settler. Benita River.
Avenue of Palms. Eloby. Corisco Bay.
River Scenery. Bantanga. German Africa.
Home of Foreign Immigrant. Newest Africa.
Road-Making. Newest Africa.
Ideal African Home. Newest Africa.

Chapter VII

Country Gentleman, Moondah River. Old

Gaboon Native. Newest Africa.
A Dancing Party. Old Africa.
A Riverside Mansion. Newest Africa.
Home of Native Trader. Gaboon. Newest

Steamer " Pioneer." Used by Dr. Livingston.

Chapter VIII

Government Buildings. Gaboon.

A Corner of the French Settlement. Gaboon.

"Okook" (Devil) A Secret Society. Old

African Children. Gaboon. Newest Africa.
A By-Path. Gaboon.

Chapter IX

Chapel at Gaboon. Built by the Author in

Banana Avenue. Gaboon.
Home of French Immigrant. Gaboon.
Gardener's Cottage. Gaboon. Newest Africa.

Chapter X

Native Troops. Gaboon. French Possessions.
Cottage of French Peasant. Gaboon.
Country Trading House. French Possessions.
Home of Coffee Planter. Near Gaboon.


Newest Africa.

Chapter I.


|^X|N a bright windy day in the early part of Septem-
IJjJj'J ber a small, two-masted steamer might have been
[f||iyify seen going down the Irish Channel, outward
bound for the West Coast of Africa. This
steamer of- 960 tons register was called the "Kisanga," and
was under the command of Captain Charles Thompson, a
brave and skillful navigator, who had been twenty-five
years running in the African trade, and knew all the ins
and outs of the Coast as well as he knew the way about his
native city of Liverpool, and perhaps even better. The
fresh breeze from the westward, which was stiffening to
half a gale, made the Channel rough and choppy and the
good steamer's decks were being well sprinkled with the
briny fluid, while occasionally a heavier wave would come
on board and set things afloat for a minute or two.

The "Kisanga" was almost a new ship, owned by
Messrs. Hatton & Cookson, of Liverpool, and formerly run
solely to carry their own cargo, but now in the service of
the Association. The Association is a great Trust into
which the interests of several rival firms are merged, and
was formed like other Trusts to stop competition and
enlarge profits. It now includes the principal private firms
trading on the West and Southwest coasts of Africa.


When the " Kisanga " ran only with owner's cargo
she sailed direct for the mouth of the Niger, calling only
at Grand Canary for coal, and on the Kru Coast for
" boys " as the native passengers who act as coolies in all
the West African ports are called. Now that she was in
the service of the Association she would call at a number
of trading-stations along the Coast to land dispatches, and
in some places cargo.

In the little smoking-room at the head of the saloon
stairs was a quartette of " old coasters " looking rather
seedy and miserable, and trying to pass the time with
cigars and cards. Leaving home for a prolonged stay in
such a country as Africa is not conducive to cheerfulness,
and with the home-scenes and partings from dear ones
fresh in the mind, it was not to be wondered at if they felt
gloomy and moody. Leaving them to their reflections, let
us take a glance at the present commerce of the West
African Coast.

There are two lines of English mail steamers sailing
from Liverpool — the African Steamship Company, of Lon-
don, and the British & African Steamship Company, of
Glasgow. These two companies were formerly rivals, but
now work in harmony, and between them they dispatch
one steamer a week to the West Coast, and one steamer
every three weeks to the South Coast. By the " West
Coast " is meant the coast from Cape Yerd to Old Calabar ;
while the country -from Kamerun to Benguela is known as
the "South Coast." At the present time the West Coast
furnishes ten times as much produce as the South Coast,
and all the South Coast vessels must fill up with cargo on
the West Coast before sailing for home. In addition to
the departures already enumerated these English com-
panies dispatch a steamer once a month from either Ham-
burg or Antwerp.


Of the Continental lines the most important is
Messrs. Woermann & Co.'s line which dispatches a large,
fine steamer from Hamburg even' two weeks, alternately
for the West and South Coasts. Next in importance is the
Portuguese Line with a swift express steamer on the 6th of
every month from Lisbon. These steamers earn* the
through mails and call only at Madeira, Princes, St.
Thomas, the Congo and the Portuguese settlements in
Angola. The French Line dispatch a steamer once a
month alternately from Bordeaux and Marsailles. The
Spanish Line sends a large steamer once in three months
from Barcelona. Besides these regular departures there are
frequently extra sailings, and some firms like Messrs. Hat-
ton & Cookson own their own steamers and sailing ships.
From this enumeration it may easily be seen that the West-
ern Coast of Africa has abundant transportation facilities.

It is true these lines are not all of them so profitable
as they should be, for there has been such competition that
freight rates on some classes of goods are too low, but the
companies are now coming to a better understanding, and
it is to be hoped fair rates will rule in the future so that a
reasonable profit may be earned. But if the freight rates
are in some instances too low, the passenger rates are too
high, especially when the very ordinary accommodations
are taken into account. The passage-rate is now thirty-
five pounds to the South Coast, and the local rates on the
Coast from one port to another is from one pound to three
pounds a day. Both table and service are far from being
excellent from a North American point of view. On some
of the ships there is a good deal of heavy drinking, which
makes it unpleasant for passengers who do not indulge in
such excesses. It is but fair to say that a great improvement
has been going on of late in this matter, and it is now
possible, by choosing your captain, to make the voyage with-
out any special annoyance from this objectionable practice.


The " Kisanga " has always been a favorite ship ; clean
and comfortable, rather faster than some of the older ves-
sels, and commanded by a thorough seaman as well as an
accomplished gentleman, she has seldom sailed with any
spare passenger-room. Her accommodations for saloon-
passengers are in the stern, which is an objection to those
who suffer from sea-sickness, but " old coasters " pride
themselves upon being sailors, and they think they are
further away from the noise and confusion of working
cargo than they would be amid-ship.

The four gentlemen in the smoking-room were Mr.
James Alexander, a Liverpool commission merchant ;
Messrs. Thomas Sinclair and Herman Schiff, African
traders who had risen to the rank of " general agent," and
Joseph King, Esq., for many years American consul upon
the African coast. There were several younger passengers
on board, but these four were old friends, and their long
sen-ice upon the Coast has caused them to be looked upon
as a sort of aristocracy, so that they formed a little circle
by themselves. Presently the door opened and in stepped
Captain Thompson, the salt water dripping from his oil-
skin coat. Just then the bell rang and all went downstairs
to dinner.

The outward voyage for the first six or eight days is
far from being a pleasant one ; it is too cold or too wet to
sit on deck. The vessel rolls and pitches, especially in the
Bay of Biscay, and the passengers are usually more or less
homesick, so that they have a pretty miserable time of it.
Day by day, however, the sun increases in power, the wind
loses its force, the sea quiets down, the air becomes more
balmy and the "social exiles" crawl from their hiding
places in their state-rooms and lie about in the sunshine to
drink in the genial warmth and thaw themselves into a
ofood humor.


Toward evening of the seventh day out some brown
rocks rising from the water " dead ahead " of them an-
nounced the fact that they were approaching the island of
Grand Canary. The port is on the northeast corner of the
island, and as they drew near, the " Kisanga " was " slowed
down," and at intervals her engines were stopped altogether
in order to take soundings. Some captains anchor outside
during the night, but Captain Thompson was not one of
that sort ; he knew he could take his ship in all right, and
he was a man that when he could do a thing, he did it ;
besides he had no desire to keep his fires up all night for
the sake of a couple of miles steaming in the morning,
at least not if he could help it. So the " Kisanga "
crept slowly into the harbor and shortly after eleven
o'clock she dropped her anchor just inside the new break-
water in a convenient spot for taking on coal in the

Until very recently Madeira was the great coaling
station for all the South Atlantic steamers whether bound
for the West Coast of Africa, the Cape, or the Brazils, but
now the West African boats mostly coal at Grand Canary,
the coaling company there being in some way connected
with the officers of the steamship companies. Besides, it
is the policy of the latter companies to build up the Canary
Island ports with the expectation of their becoming sani-
tariums, and thus increasing the freight and passenger

The African steamers expect to take coal enough with
them for the round trip, for while coal may be purchased
at two or three ports on the Coast, it is very expensive as
it must be brought out from England, handled twice and
stored securely from the heavy rains that would cause it to
deteriorate rapidly. The plan usually adopted is to steam
out from England at full speed, say from eleven to twelve
knots an hour ; fill up with coal at Grand Canary,


including- a large heap on the forward deck, for bad
weather and rough seas are now left behind, and then for
the remainder of the voyage the ship is run at about three-
quarters speed, say eight knots an hour, which experience
has shown to be most economical of fuel, until Grand
Canary is once more reached on the homeward run, when
enough coal is taken to last to Liverpool and the ship is
driven at full speed again. The coal used is the kind
known in America as bituminous, anthracite being almost
unknown in Great Britain.

All were astir at an early hour the next morning on
board the " Kisanga," and boats from shore were soon
clustered thickly about the gangway which had been
lowered until it almost touched the water. The port
officers were the first on board, and when they had exam-
ined the ship's papers and given the signal that all was
right a motley crowd swarmed up the ladder and over the
sides of the ship. The agent of the coal company, hand-
somely dressed, was there to see how much coal was
needed. The commercial house to whom the ship was
consigned had sent representatives to get a list of the stores
and fresh provisions needed and to offer hospitality to the
captain. Runners from hotels and houses of ill-fame were
seeking customers among the passengers ; women came for
the ship's and passengers' soiled linen ; fakirs brought a
great variety of wares, much of which was merely trash,
and boatmen were clamorous to take the strangers ashore
at a shilling a head. The clerks and younger fry among
the passengers were eager for adventure, and anxious to
inspect the wine and women of the island, and they were
soon on their way to the shore in charge of the guides
whom they had chosen ; but the old hands were not to be
so easily caught, for they wandered about the deck enjoy-
ing the beauty of the scene, and puffed away quietly on
their brierwood pipes. And a lovely sight it was indeed !


Across the bay was the old Spanish city of Las Palmas
still lying in the shadows of the early morning. Behind
the city the mountains rose to a height of three thousand
feet, their brown summits bathed in a glorious light of
crimson and gold by the beams of the rising sun. In some
places palms lined the beach, and in many parts of the
city their dark green fronds towered above the houses, con-
trasting prettily with the white-washed walls. Market
boats and steam launches were moving about over the
water, and in the port, which is on the opposite side of the
bay from the town, were several large vessels at anchor.

After breakfast the four friends accepted an invitation
from Captain Thompson to spend the day ashore with him,
and so, having donned light clothing, for it was warmer
ashore than on the " Kisanga," they all got into the ship's
gig and were soon alongside the heavy stone steps in the
lee of the breakwater that extends like a wide pier far out
into the bay. There was a good deal of stir and activity
here, for this is the business portion of the town ; produce
was being landed from small sailing vessels that had come
from other islands of the group ; men were shoveling coal
into sacks and lowering them into barges to be towed
alongside the waiting steamers ; cargo was being landed
from some steamers and shipped away by others ; coarse,
broad-shouldered women were carrying heavy burdens on
their heads, and carriages were in waiting to earn- pas-
sengers around the bay to Las Palmas.

The agent of the coal company saw the little party
coming and met them on the pier and after a few minutes'
conversation selected a two-seated carriage to take them to
town and gave the driver his instructions in Spanish so
that there might be no mistake. Mr. Schiff, with the
sagacity of a world-wide traveler, chose a seat by the
driver, and had by far the finest view. After leaving the
port the road skirts the bay for a couple of miles, giving a


delightful view of the harbor and shipping on the one side,
and the bare, brown rocky hills on the other. As they
drew near to Las Palmas they passed a large, new hotel,
which is being put np by British capitalists for the enter-
tainment of winter tourists. The building is a handsome
one, and the grounds are adorned with almost every variety
of palm and tropical plant, making it a delightful home in
which to spend a few months. During the dark and dreary
winter of the frozen North this far-aw r ay isle dwells in per-
petual sunshine, and the soft breeze gently rustles the
drooping fronds of the palms, while the delicate perfume of
flowers fills the air, and their rich colors charm the eye.

Las Palmas is built in a broad hollow between the
hills, with a small river, spanned by iron bridges, running
through it. The houses are mostly of stone, with thick,
heavy walls, which look rather dull and dreary from the
street. Most of the houses open upon an interior court,
which is planted with fruit trees and flowers, with, per-
chance, a fountain in the centre and vines clambering over
the walls. There are excellent shops in the town which
offer good assortments of dry goods, groceries, hardware,
wines and various other merchandise. A cable connects
the island with Cadiz, in Spain, and thence with the rest
of Europe ; the rate is sixty cents a word to any of the
principal European capitals. There is a small but pleasant
park in the centre of the town where the people promenade
in the cool of the day, and which gives the ladies an op-
portunity to show themselves, while it forms an excellent
meeting-place for friends. As the inhabitants are so shut
in to themselves on their little island, they must of
necessity take a deep interest in one another, and as a con-
sequence gossip and scandal are freely indulged in. The
retail trade, and all mechanical and agricultural labor is in
the hands of the Spanish natives, but the foreign trade is
conducted principally by the English.



Our friends alighted at the Hotel Royal, which is on
the main street of the town, and walking through the
office into the interior courtyard, took seats around a small
table and called for wine, coffee and cigars. Mr. King was
what the English call a "total abstainer," and so while he
sipped his coffee the other four discussed the wine. Fif-
teen years ago the passengers for a West Africa port must
drink when invited to, or fight ; now, however, one may
enjoy as large a liberty of individual action as any where
else in the world, always provided of course that he does
not thrust his ideas upon others. A moderate amount of
wine of fair quality is produced on the island, and some
little is exported. On the other hand considerable is im-
ported from Spain, and how much mixing and doctoring
this is subjected to outsiders are not informed. But little
brandy is drunk except by Englishmen.

Quite a number of tourists were lounging about the
courtyard in an absent-minded, lazy sort of way. They did
not seem to care for reading or conversation, lolling about
with their eyes half shut they appeared to be trying to put in
the time, apparently with fair success. They were mostly
men past the prime of life, who were either globe
trotters " doing " this place along with the rest, or else
men who had " made their pile " and had come out here to
spend some of it. It was noticeable that there were but
one or two ladies among them.

" What are these old game-cocks doing out here by
themselves do you suppose?" inquired Mr. Schiff in an

" Trying to get away from the folks at home, I
reckon," responded the Captain.

This class of men are in the habit of looking upon
African traders as an inferior sort of animal, and it is not to
be wondered at that our friends held them in ligdit esteem.


Energetic men of affairs would not long be comfort-
able in such an atmosphere, and so it was not long before
our friends were rattling through the city in a couple of
carriages drawn by three horses harnessed abreast to each,
bound for a ride over the mountains. The road, which
was macadamized, was in splendid order, and followed the
rocky stream through the valley and then up the mountain
slope. In the valley were many fields of bananas, with
date palms growing near the river-bank. Terraced gar-
dens were built against the hill-side, and these were planted
with pineapples, bananas, figs, oranges, lemons, grapes
and onions. The onion may be classed as a fruit in the
Canaries for the people eat them as we would apples.

Banana raising is profitable to the islanders, but un-
fortunately the amount of land suited to their culture is
small. The}- require a deep and fertile soil, and even then
artificial fertilization is desirable ; this of course is always
expensive, and doubly so in an out-of-the-way place like
the Canaries with little foreign commerce and no manu-
factures. The variety raised is one of the short stocky
kinds with bunches of medium-sized yellow fruit. The
flavor is excellent, being more spicy and having a greater
" bouquet " than those grown on the rich lands near the
equator. When shipped, a single bunch is put in a long
common splint basket, made expressly for this purpose,
and carefully packed with the dried leaves to prevent
bruising of the fruit ; a piece of coarse sacking is then tied
over the mouth of the basket, the stem protruding a few
inches through a hole in the centre. They are not stowed
in the hold of the steamer, but are stacked up in great
piles on the deck and seldom fail to carry well. These
bananas bring from one dollar and a quarter to one dollar
and a half a bunch in M arsailles ; of this sum twenty-
five cents goes to the steamer for freight, twenty-five cents
for basket, packing and commission, leaving from seventy-


five cents to one dollar a bunch to be divided between the
shipper and the grower.

The date palm is never grown in an orchard, and how
profitable it might be to make a regular business of raising
them, is not easy to say. They love to grow where they
can " keep their toes always moist " and seem to thrive
well on the borders of streams, or in courtyards and gar-
dens where the soil is irrigated. When once they come

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Hankinson) ReadingA voyage along the western coast, or, Newest Africa : a description of newest Africa, or the Africa of to-day and the immediate future → online text (page 1 of 17)