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

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awning to have a chat, and at the same time finish the
remainder of Mr. Stirley's cigars, which they had taken the
precaution to slip into their pockets. It may as well be
mentioned just here that on the Coast, especially among
friends, it is customary to steal pipes, tobacco, cigars, cork-
screws and many other small articles, " just to remember
him by, don't-cher-know," and our friends had simply
availed themselves of this privilege.

" What Mr. Stirley said about Spanish onions,"
remarked Mr. Alexander, " has set me to thinking. Would
it be possible for the Soudan to raise vegetabtes for
Europe? "

115



NIGER DELTA AND THE SOUDAN.

" I hardly think so," replied Mr. King, " although
there are a few that might be grown and shipped ; the
onions you spoke of is one, and the Irish potatoes, sweet
potatoes and yams could be sent well enough. There are
other places in Africa where almost every kind of vegetable
could be raised and sent without difficulty. Take Sierra
Leone and Senegambia ; what is to hinder tomatoes, egg-
plants, melons and cucumbers from being sent to London
as soon as those colonies shall have become of sufficient im-
portance to put on fast steamers? Such steamers as now
run to America could arrive in London six days after leav-
ing Sierra Leone, and that is not too long a voyage for all
the more substantial vegetables. Quantities of string beans
peas, beets and radishes are now brought from Bermuda to
New York, and it may be these could be taken, too ; but
about that I am not so sure. But there is another source
of supply. The French are now surveying for a railway
across the Sahara. This will pass through many fertile
tracts, where, by the aid of irrigation, the very best of vege-
tables could be grown, and would be ready for market in
January, February and March, when fresh vegetables are
in such demand in the North. These crops could be
shipped by rail to Algiers, thence by fast steamer to Mar-
sailles, and by rail to France, Germany and Austria. The
time would be the same as by steamer from Sierra Leone —
six days, but they would reach a different market, and
would always meet with a good demand. So, too, with all
kinds of fruits, if they can be sold at a moderate price, so
as to place them within the reach of every one, the demand
for them will be practically unlimited.'"

" It seems to me," said Mr. Alexander, " that our people
do not yet realize how near Africa is to them ; we think of
the tropics as very far away, because heretofore the tropics
have meant to us India, Burmah and Siam, while in reality



116



NIGER DELTA AND THE SOUDAN.

this wonderful African coast is very near to us, and has
been all the while."

" The City of Paris," added Captain Thompson, " can
steam to Liverpool from where we are to-night in eight
days. The freight rates from Africa are higher than they
are from New York, and a moderate subsidy from the
Government would enable ships of her class to run out
here."

The next morning the peak of Fernando Po appeared
on the horizon dead ahead, and gradually rose from the
water as the morning progressed until by noon it seemed to
fill the eastern sky. The Kisanga rounded the northern
end of the island, and at 2 p. m. anchored in the bay of
Clarence. The vegetation here is the richest and most
exuberant imaginable ; the whole island appeared as a mass
of greener}- and even the peak appeared wooded to the
summit. Clarence is but a small place, yet it appears to
good advantage from the anchorage, as it is built along the
bluff that encircles the harbor. This island once belonged
to Great Britian, and large quantities of coffee were exported,
but in an evil hour it was transferred to Spain, and the
coffee estates soon passed into neglect and decay. Nothing
flourished under Spanish rule, which seems to poison every
land it touches.

The entire island is densely wooded and there is much
good timber that might be a source of wealth, as ever}- foot
of it could be sold at the coast ports near by, but it will not
be cut, nor will any marked improvement take place as long
as the island belongs to Spain. It is a convenient place for
ships to call, and ought to furnish vegetables and other
supplies, especially as the best yams on the whole coast are
grown there, but nothing will be done unless England or
Germany gets hold of it, and then it may be made one of
ocean's gems.



117



Chapter VI



OLD CALABAR.



T



HE Kisanga left Clarence harbor at ten o'clock on
Wednesday evening, October the first, and steamed
" slow " all night across the Gulf of Guinea to
the mouth of the Old Calabar river, which was
reached at dawn. The Old Calabar brings down an
immense amount of silt which is deposited when the salt
water is reached, and this has built up wide mud-flats
extending far out to sea, so that the real bar of the river is
almost out of sight of solid land. The perpendicular rise
and fall of the tide here is but four feet, so that vessels of
moderate draft can go in and out at any time, but ships
drawing twenty feet must cross the bar at the top of high
water. The channel is well buoyed, and there is no great
difficulty in even a new captain finding his way.

Duketown is forty miles up from the mouth of the
river, built on high ground which is separated from the
mainland by a back creek. The anchorage is good, and
ocean steamers can come within two hundred yards of the
shore. It would be quite easy to build piers to the deep
waters so that vessels like the Kisanga could come right
alongside and discharge direct into warehouse, or into rail-
way carriages. The engraving of the foreign settlement,



nS



OLD CALABAR.

which is copied from a photograph taken from the end of
the pier at Hope Factory, gives a good idea of the physical
conditions of the river, and shows how easy it would be to
put in the necessary piling and fill in the enclosed space
from the adjoining hill — it is simply a question of the
requisite number of cubic yards of earth.

The Kisanga came to her anchorage at 10 A. m. and a
few minutes later handsome gigs were seen putting off from
each of the factories, bringing their owners on board to get
their mail and hear the news. Our friends were well known
to most of these gentlemen and they were soon in receipt of
many pressing invitations to come on shore. It was arranged
that they should spend the day with Mr. Albert Gilles,
representing the firm of Taylor, Laughlin & Co., sleep on
the Kisanga, and then spend the next day with Mr. James
Lyon at Hope Factory at the upper end of the foreign set-
tlement. These preliminaries being arranged, Mr. Gilles
took the four gentlemen in his handsome gig, leaving
Captain Thompson to come toward evening in time for
dinner. Mr. Gilles' factory is below where the Kisanga is
anchored as seen in the picture, and is a large and comfort-
able place.

It was a busy scene that greeted the eyes of our four
friends as they landed at the pier ; coopers were hammering
away upon great casks, making a deafening din ; Kru-boys
were drawing up smaller casks of oil from native canoes by
means of an iron crane ; others were heating the oil in
immense cauldrons and pouring it into new casks ; long
lines of boys were carrying up sacks and baskets of kernels
which were measured in " tubs " and then sewn up in new
sacks preparatory to shipment ; native traders were count-
ing over piles of cloth, kegs of powder, heads of tobacco,
cases of gin, iron pots, plates, dishes and other trade goods,
and their slaves were taking them to the beach and putting
them in the canoes ; everything was done in a business-like

n 9



OLD CALABAR.

way, and those who think business cannot be carried on as
promptly and efficiently in the tropics as in northern climes,
would do well to make a visit to Old Calabar.

The dwelling house stood near the river, separated
from the water by a broad graveled walk, shaded by beauti-
ful palms. As usual, the shop occupied the ground floor,
and the living rooms were above. From the veranda was
a fine view of the river, and of the swampy jungle on the
island opposite.

After breakfast Mr. Gilles asked his guests to excuse
him as he had so many things that claimed his attention,
and they saw but little of him until dinner time. About
three in the afternoon, when the sea breeze had come in
cool and refreshing, our friends concluded to climb the
hill and visit the Scotch Presbyterian Mission, and then
take a stroll through the native town. Duketown has
some ten or twelve thousand inhabitants and is a fair type
of the towns, not only of the sea-coast region, but also of
the Soudan.

The road to the Mission led up a steep face of the bluff
and was quite fatiguing climbing, but the view from the
top was wide and extensive, taking in most of the native
town on the north, with the river in front and the jungle
on the island opposite. On a clear day Mt. Albert of the
Cameroons range may be seen in the southeast, but usually
the air is too much filled with vapors. The grounds of the
Mission are tastefully laid out, and the houses looked cool
and comfortable. Our friends noticed here what may be
seen at most any of the ports along the Western Coast, that
the missionary establishments were not built in the midst
of the native populations, nor upon the main lines of travel,
but off to one side, as if the governing idea had been to get
anywhere they would not be annoyed by an}' one. If a
hunter were setting a trap for game he would put the trap
near the paths where the game traveled ; and those who



OLD CALABAR.

would catch men, if they desire to be successful, should do
the same thing. Here in Old Calabar the river is the only
highway, and a church upon its bank would be convenient
and always in sight ; but perched upon the top of a hill, and
in the yard of a private dwelling it may be very convenient
for the missionary, but not likely to draw much of a con-
gregation ; and such our friends learned was the case. Mrs.
Ross, a trading missionary, has done better. With the aid
of the traders and the wealthier natives, she has built a
large plain church in the midst of the native town, where a
congregation of six hundred worship every Sabbath. This
good woman, although very fleshy, was exceedingly active
and energetic and a fine example of what European ladies
may accomplish in this land. Many of the wealthier
natives of Duketown live in large plank houses with gal-
vanized iron roofs, that have been brought out from
England at an expense of from three thousand to fifteen
thousand dollars. These houses are nicely furnished, and
are in every way as comfortable as our own better class of
houses at home. Their owners live mostly after the native
fashion, but when white visitors call, they can set a good
table in the European way and with a goodly proportion of
foreign food.

Old Calabar is famous throughout the whole length
of the Coast for its palm-oil chop, which is here blacker,
richer and more peppery than anywhere else. This excel-
lent and healthy dish is everywhere a favorite with old
Coasters, but new-comers partake of it somewhat gingerly,
partly because of the peculiar flavor, and partly because it
burns their throats. It is made of the pulp and oil of the
fresh palm nut, stewed with various kinds of meats and
fish, and a liberal amount of small chile peppers. Monkey
meat and other game make the best chop, and the native
cooks put in various ingredients unknown to the white
man. At Batanga and some other points the flesh of the



OLD CALABAR.

python is esteemed above all other, and is said by those
who have eaten it to be very fat and nice. Whatever
difference of opinion there may be in reference to these
details, certain it is that a palm-oil chop is a royal dish fit
for a king — better food doubtless than most kings get to
eat. It is healthful, nutritions, and very agreeable to the
palate. A large and profitable business might be built np
by making the chop without the meat, putting it into pint
glass cans, and exporting it. There is not a country in the
world where it would not be largely used as soon as it was
introduced, and it would almost surely become as univer-
sally popular as tobacco. It should be made from perfectly
fresh nuts, and by putting it up without meat, it would
save for years, and keep in any climate. When wanted for
use it should be taken from the can, some water added, and
any kind of meat or fish desired stewed in it until tender,
when it would be ready to be served. It is to be hoped
that this desirable food may be soon found in all the
markets of the world.

A considerable portion of the Duketown population is
engaged in fishing. This is carried on mostly by a kind of
basket net, held in place by two poles stuck in the mud.
The fish go into the basket for the bait, and then cannot
get out again. Cast nets are also used. All the fish not
needed for the local market are dried and taken up country,
where they are esteemed a luxury. Vast quantities of dried
codfish and halibut from Norway are imported and find a
ready sale, but while they are popular, the}' are not so
highly esteemed as the Calabar fish. It is a singular fact
that large quantities of rice and biscuit are imported, as the
native population prefer to expend part of the profits of the
oil trade in this foreign food, rather than cultivate the
ground themselves. The principal native food throughout
this section is the yam, which grows to a large size and is
easily cultivated. There are a number of varieties, but



OLD CALABAR.

most of them have a dark brown skin, and are as white as
snow when cooked. The}' are less nourishing than the
plantain, and have a certain bitter twang not always
agreeable to the foreigner. Manioc is a favorite because
so easily grown, but it is rather a coarse food ; however, it
seems to suit the native digestion, and is about as nourish-
ing as the potato.

Our friends made quite an extended tour through the
native town, and when the}' returned to the factory at sun-
set, they were quite ready for dinner. They found a little
company assembled ; besides Captain Thompson there was
Mr. James Lyon, Mr. Burn, Mr. Hartley, Mr. Holmes and
Mr. Sleigh. Mr. Holmes possessed a great reputation for
skill in mixing cocktails, and he was deep in the mysteries
of compounding this drink when our friends came in ; Mr.
Schiff was quite enthusiastic at the prospect, and showed
his appreciation of Mr. Holmes' efforts by taking three, and
then declared himself ready for dinner.

The dining-room was so located that the sea breeze
could not sweep through, so a punka was suspended over
the table with a boy outside to pull the cord, and this
created a most refreshing breeze. In very few lands is there
as much good cheer, and as ready hospitality as there is in
Africa ; those who visit its shores may be assured of a
hearty welcome," and will ever after carry with them
delightful memories of its brilliant sunshine, exceeding
beauty, and the large-heartedness of its adopted sons.

After dinner the part}- adjourned to the veranda when
Mr. Gilles brought forth the best of cigars, and while they
smoked these, and sipped their coffee, they talked of trade
matters, and the affairs of the settlement.

Old Calabar has not yet been raised to the dignity of a
colony, but is simply a trade settlement under the protection
of England. It has recently become the residence of a
British consul, who rules in affairs relating to trade with

123



OLD CALABAR.

the assistance of a council composed of the leading traders.
The natives are allowed to manage their own affairs so long
as they in no way interfere with trade, nor the interests of
the English residents. For a mere trading settlement this
is the best arrangement that can be made ; the natives
understand it, and any difficulties that may arise are easily
and speedily settled.

The traders of Old Calabar have adoped the very
sensible idea of remaining near the sea, and allowing the
native people to bring the produce to them ; the consequence
is that their business is prosperous, for they have no expense
except those of the one factory, and they find they get as
much or more than if they established branch factories up
the river. The experience of the traders seems to be that
the natives of any given section, if left to themselves, will
only gather a certain amount of produce. Leave them to
themselves and they will gather this amount and bring it to
the trader ; go after them and offer inducements either in
price or otherwise, and they will gather LESS rather than
more ; therefore in those rivers, like the Ogowe, where
trade has been followed up, the aggregate of shipments has
declined, while in those rivers where trade has remained at
the sea-coast settlements the amount of produce shipped is
quite uniform. Consequently those traders who want the
old state of affairs to continue are opposed to any change ;
they do not approve of steamship lines, they are opposed to
cables, in fact they are opposed to progress in any direction,
for progress means change, and change is what they do not
want, for things are good enough for them as the}' are.
These men are true conservatives, and such are the Old
Calabar traders ; they have a good thing, and they know
it ; they are making money and they do not wish anything
to disturb the easy flow of affairs in the present channel,
for a change might benefit others more than themselves.
Unfortunately for these gentlemen the drift of the times is

124



OLD CALABAR.

against them. Material progress is the ruling spirit through-
out the earth, and Africa must come under its influence
also — indeed it is already affected by it. It is preposterous
to suppose that a vast continent shall continue to exist
simply to support a little trade in forest products. The
great family of mankind need it for far greater and nobler
purposes. The rapidly increasing population of the earth
must have it for homes, and where one man now makes a
living from it by trade, a thousand must soon get a living
from its rich soil, and the manufactures and other industries
that will spring up where there is a large population. Some
of the traders already see that this change is inevitable, and
while they regret it, they yet watch its advent with keen
interest so that the}- may adapt themselves to it, and reap
as many advantages as possible from being first on the
ground. Among these gentlemen is Mr. James Lyon, a
canny little Scotsman, who has made a journey to the head-
quarters of the Old Calabar river and taken some photo-
graphs, one or two of which will appear in this volume.

The little company had not yet finished its first cigar
before Mr. King declared it to be his opinion that a railway
from Old Calabar to Lake Tchad would not only open up
the most valuable portion of the Soudan, but could be made
to pay almost from the very beginning. " In the first
place," said he, "see how easy it would be to build such a
road. Here we have in this river a harbor alreadv formed ;
it will be a simple and easy matter to build terminal
facilities ; then the route up the river is an easy one and
presents no engineering difficulties. Why," exclaimed he,
growing enthusiastic, " the very continent was built to afford
an easy route for this railway, for look, the Kong mountains
end here in low foothills, and the Cameroons range begins
sixty miles south of here, and runs in an easterly direction
so as to keep out of the way ! Talk about your open doors,
what wider door do you want than this? Moreover, Lake.-

125



OLD CALABAR.

Tchad drains a large area of country ; put small steamers on
it and they will navigate its streams and bring freight to the
railway pier, where it can be brought down to this port and
loaded direct into the steamers. I never saw such a fine
chance for investment in my life."

" Who is going to produce all this freight you speak
of?" inquired Mr. Burn. "Long before the railway is
finished," replied Mr. King, " there will be large industrial
companies at work cultivating the soil, cutting the forests,
and mining the ores of this rich region ; their supplies will
make the up freight and the lumber, ores, rice, cotton,
sugar, tobacco and coffee will make the down freight, to say
nothing of oil, kernels, rubber and other forest produce.
Cattle, hogs, sheep and other meats will soon be sent down
in considerable quantities to supply the coast markets, and
if coal should be found it would of itself supply a large
tonnage."

" You speak of oil and kernels," interrupted Mr.
Hartley, " but you know quite well that our supplies come
from a narrow strip of country near the sea."

" That is true," replied Mr. King, " but the oil palm
flourishes on the low lands near the lake, and there is
nothing to hinder large plantations of it being set out in all
sections adapted to it. Then there is the sage-palm that
might be grown in any desired quantity ; moreover, it is
not necessary to bring all the freight from Lake Tchad, for
a large portion will come from local points along the line.
Such railways extend in all directions across India, and
they are found to pay well in Java ; why not here? "

" How long would such a line of railway be, do you
suppose ? " inquired Mr. Schiff.

"About six hundred miles," answered Mr. King,
" which in America we would call a comparative short line.
We have in our country single companies that control ten
times that length of track, and if we should build a new

126



OLD CALABAR.

road of no more than this length, it would be looked upon
as a matter of only local interest. There arc no serious
engineering difficulties to be encountered as Mr. Lyon can
tell you, for he has been over a part of the route."

" I see no physical reason," said Mr. Lyon, " why the
line would not be of easy construction ; there will be a little
rock-cutting among the hills, but the stone will be needed
for culverts and abutments for bridges, and a considerable
portion of the way is through forests where cross-ties will
be easily obtained. So far as I can see the road will be a
comparatively easy one to build, and while it will in a
measure break up the present course of our trade, yet it
must create a large demand for many kinds of goods, which
we, being in the trade, will be able to supply, and of course,
to our profit. For my own part, I say let the railway
come."

" Where will you get your labor ? " inquired Mr.
Holmes.

" The country will furnish a part of it," replied Mr.
King, " and the rest can be imported. Coolies can always
be had from Canton, and when their work on the railway
is done, they will almost certainly be willing to settle down
along the line of the road and become citizens of the new
state. The same is true of the Italians ; I have no doubt
many thousands of them could be gotten without difficulty,
and as they are accustomed to a warm country, they will
make good colonists. I think there will be no trouble
about the labor supply, for there are always plenty of
people ready to go to a new country for the sake of the
novelty of the thing."

" So you think," said Mr. Gilles, " that this line would
pay ? "

" I do most certainly think so," replied Mr. King, ll I
have studied the African problem carefully, and I pin my
faith strongly on this very line o£ railway. Now- look at

127



OLD CALABAR.

it. It is under English protection, the most liberal govern-
ment towards its colonies in the world. It has good and
inexpensive terminal advantages. It runs through one of
the richest countries in the world. There are no engineer-
ing difficulties, and it will not be difficult to get valuable
land grants, such as were given our Pacific lines. These
lands, by the way, will almost pay for the construction of
the road. Then it will open up to settlement a most
valuable section of the Soudan, and will tap the trade of
Central Africa. If you will examine a reliable map you
will find that the streams that drain the northern slope of
the Cameroons range, flow into Lake Tchad ; so too, the
streams that drain the country west of the Nyanza lakes
flow into Lake Tchad. Thus the Lake receives the tribu-
taries of a large and valuable section of country, and the
railway will be the means of communication with the sea."

" Do you think," inquired Mr. Alexander, " that this
section of country is fitted for white colonists?"

" I most surely do," replied Mr. King. " Why should
it not be ? America throughout its entire length is peopled
with our race. India is in the same latitude, and you know


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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 10 of 17)