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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several hundred miles, but it can never be a great highway
for reaching the interior, for vessels drawing more than ten
or twelve feet cannot enter."

" Besides," added Captain Thompson, " the climate
needs to be modified before this country is fitted for white



" I have been up the Senegal," said Mr. Schiff, " as
far as St. Joseph, in the Gallam country ; the banks of the
river are exceedingly beautiful ; in some places there are
large forest trees, in others thick jungle, and in other
places again open grassy plains ; I do not see why coffee,
cotton, sugar-cane and all kinds of tropical fruits might
not be grown in great abundance."

"Senegambia," added Mr. King, " is in the same lati-
tude as Central America, and in the hilly and mountainous
regions of Guatemala and the other States, white men find
no difficulty in living to a good old age, and why should
they not do so in the hilly regions of Senegambia?"

" There is no reason," responded Mr. Schiff, " especially
if the heat were somewhat modified, as our friend the Cap-
tain suggests, by flooding a portion of the Sahara. In that
case I do not know of any country in the world where I
would rather live, for it is a beautiful land and so much
nearer England, France or Germany than India is — the
only country with which it can be compared."

It was getting late and after the Captain had looked
at the compass to see if the ship was heading right, our
friends separated and each went to his state-room.

Senegambia extends from the southern borders of the
Great Desert to Cape Verga in 10 degrees north latitude,
and interiorward for some five or six hundred miles, and is
about as large as France. Excepting a few bold head-
lands the country is level for a distance of over two
hundred miles from the sea, when the hills begin and
finally lead up to the Kong Mountains which rise to a
height of five or six thousand feet. The French have a
large settlement on Goree Island at the mouth of the Sen-
egal, and the English have one on the Island of St. Mary
at the mouth of the Gambia, and another on McCarthy's
Island two hundred and fifty miles up that river.



No efforts have been made to colonize Senegambia,
but when the ocean shall be permitted to flow into the
Sahara, and railway communications opened through the
hill country, there is no good reason why coffee and sugar
plantations should not flourish, and the land support as
large a population as France, or even larger ; for the soil is
rich, and there is summer all the year.


Chapter II


f /"^ lX the afternoon of the fourteenth day after leaving
LJ^lJ Liverpool the color of the sea began to change.

ll^gffifj It was no longer, a deep, clear blue, but a dirty
yellow color and appeared to carry in suspension
much sediment ; leaves of the pandanus and sprouts of the
mangrove occasionallv floated bv, and after a while a low
dark streak of vegetation appeared on the eastern horizon
— the advanced picket-line of the great continent of Africa.
During the voyage hither the traveler feels that he is
still in Europe, the land of civilization and refinement ;
but when once the shores of the great Unknown Land
come into view, he feels that his connection with the land
of his fathers is completely severed, and that now he is in
a new world ; and to most souls there comes a sinking of
the spirit akin to that experienced at the death of a loved
one, as the mind realizes that old associations have passed
away and it is to enter upon a new existence amid novel
scenes and an entirely different environment. But as the
steamer creeps forward on its course and the shore-line
comes more distinctly into view, these feelings vanish as
the attention is drawn to the rich and exuberant vegeta-
tion, the tall and graceful palms, the water-loving man-



groves, the luxuriant bamboos, and the fishermen paddling
by in their light canoes.

Captain Thompson was on the bridge directing the
course of the vessel, and the four friends were sitting in a
group under the awning on the port side of the ship,
watching with eager interest the opening up of the shore-
line and the unfolding of the landscape. They puffed
away at their pipes in silence, apparently absorbed in their
own reflections as they beheld once again that tropic land
where they had spent so man}- of the best years of their
life, extending, as it were, its bright green arms to wel-
come them to its shores.

Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is beautifully
situated upon the lower slopes of a mountain three thou-
sand feet high, on the south bank of the Sierra Leone
River, and is surrounded on the east and south by a mag-
nificent amphitheatre of hills and mountains. The slopes
of this mountain are covered with tall, coarse grass, with
here and there a few trees, and for some distance up is
dotted with neat little villages, and the country residences of
foreign merchants. Along the water a heavy wall has been
built with a pier, where passengers and cargo may be landed.
In a sheltered cove to the right is a coaling-station, and on
the hillside above the town are the barracks for the troops.
The appearance of Freetown from the river is decidedly
pleasing ; many of the buildings are of stone, solidly and
substantially built, and the stranger will be surprised to
see a little city in a land he was taught to believe was
made up of gorillas, apes, and monkey-faced men. There
are hundreds of towns in our own land that are not so well
built as Sierra Leone, and some of our large cities do not
have as wide and as clean streets.

Toward sunset the "Kisanga" had reached the light-
house which stands on the Point on the south of the river,
and turning sharply to the left, and keeping close to the



southern shore, she steamed up the river to the achorage
in front of the town. The river widening near its mouth,
something like the Delaware, the northern shore is low,
flat and lined with mangroves, but the southern bank is
rocky and covered with a rich growth of tropical vegeta-
tion. Groves of oil-palms, their feathery arms like great
ostrich plumes, waving in the gentle breeze ; tall cotton-
woods, covered with a wealth of vines completely hiding
the trunks and converting them into great columns of
living green, with here and there patches of broad-leaved
bananas almost concealing from view clusters of little
brown houses that nestled cosily among them. Groups of
natives were seated by the water-side enjoying the evening
hour and watching the ship as it steamed by ; others were
walking along the paths leading to the different villages,
and as the vovagers grazed from the " Kisanga's " decks the
landscape seemed to be instinct with life and beauty.
Upon the water were small canoes in which men were
engaged in catching fish, while larger canoes were sailing
by, returning home after having disposed of their produce
in the town.

Freetown is nearly twenty miles up the river from the
light-house, and it was 7 p. M. when the " Kisanga "
dropped anchor in the harbor. Four steamers and three
sailing ships, besides some smaller craft were also at
anchor, as the water is too shallow near shore for them to
come with safety up to the pier which is only used as a

The " Kisanga " was soon surrounded by a little fleet
of boats and canoes as had been the case at Grand Canary,
but with the exception of the customs officials and the
agent, Captain Thompson would not allow any of the
people to come on board, nor would he permit the passen-
gers to go on shore ; the steamer was to remain in port all
the next day, and he thought one da}- would be ample time



for sight-seeing. This was a wise decision of the Captain's,
for by nine o'clock it clouded up and the big drops of rain
soon came pattering down in quite an energetic way.

The next morning when the decks were washed down
our friends did not take their usual bath, because there is a
superstition among " old coasters " that river water is not
health}-. The reason for this notion is much like that
given by the boers in South Africa for not washing them-
selves ; they say that a man who once attempted to bathe
was eaten by a crocodile, and so they think it best not to
go near the water. But if the}' did not bathe, they had
their coffee early and were off to the town to see the sights.

Captain Thompson could not go until later in the day,
for there was much to do on board the ship that required
his attention. The usual crowd who make their living
about the ships were early on hand and were looking care-
fully for customers. Among them was " Aunt Lucy," a
great fat negress dressed in many bright colors, who came
for the ship's washing ; she readily induced the younger
passengers to accompany her ashore and "see the little
girls," and the} 7 were soon on their way to the beach, a
jolly and giddy part}'.

It was Saturday morning, and as the four old coasters
reached the pier they found it was market day. Quite a
fleet of canoes had gathered during the night at a landing
on the beach near the market-house, and the crews were
now carrying the cargos of plantains and other farm pro-
duce up the bank to the market to be sold. Our friends
ascended the broad flight of stone steps and from the top
of the pier took a wide survey of the beautiful scene. It
was a glorious morning. The shower that had fallen
during the night had refreshed the vegetation, and as the
sun arose above the L,one Mountain its beams were reflected
from millions of tiny drops which still covered the grass
and leaves like liquid gems. The air was deliciously soft



and sweet, and the fragrance from the luxurious vegetation
was plainly perceptible. Before them was the harbor with
its shipping, with the broad Atlantic on the far-away west-
ern horizon ; to the right the river was lost amid the
bright green of the forest that stretches away to the hills
and mountains of the interior ; to the left, in the shady
cove, beneath a group of lovely palms was the coal-yard
where great heaps of " patent fuel " were covered with
thatch roofs to protect it from the rain ; in the immediate
fore-ground were the market canoes, and a motly crowd
was passing to and fro about them, each bent on some
particular errand.

After spending a few minutes in silent contemplation,
the gentlemen turned toward the town and went first to
inspect the market-house. The night shadows were only
just giving way before the beams of the rising sun, but
even at this early hour the streets were full of people eager
to buy and sell, for the African is an early riser and the
morning hour is cool and conducive to activity. The
crowd was greatest in the vicinity of the market, but
along several of the streets were rows of country people
with their marketing spread out on the ground near them,
and many itinerant merchants were passing up and down
crying out their wares. The market-house is a large stone
building with stalls conveniently arranged for the display
of the fruits, vegetables, fish and other provisions that are
here offered for sale.

As our friends elbowed their way through the crowd
they noticed great piles of yellow plantains, yellow and
red bananas, great yams, beautiful white cassava roots,
sweet potatoes, pumpkins, peppers, okra, green corn, and
peanuts; with heaps of oranges, limes, Avagada pears,
mangos and kola nuts; the fish stalls contained many forms
unknown in northern climes, most of them skin fishes and
not very highly esteemed by Europeans. Dried codfish were



in great demand, and indeed all kinds of salt and smoked
fish are greatly liked by the natives, but pickled fish they
do not care much for. Outside the market-house pigs,
sheep, goats and chickens are offered for sale, mostly by
commission merchants who had received them by the

Mr. Sinclair called attention to the fact that the sheep
were clothed with hair instead of wool.

" Yes " responded Mr. Schiff, this is a fast country;
here you sow your seed at night, by midnight it is ripe
and fit to cook; by morning it has gone to seed. The
same way with these sheep. You bring a flock of your
English sheep here, with a fine fleece of wool; in a few
months they are goats, and not wool enough on them to
plug your ears "

"How do you account for this, Schiff?" inquired Mr.
Sinclair. " All owing to the sun, sir; all owing to the sun;
none of your cold gray Scotch mists out here, I can tell
you " replied Mr. Schiff.

From the market our friends passed through the
business portion of the town; shops containing all the
ordinary varieties of dry-goods, notions, hardware, and
groceries lined both sides of the way. In some places
temporary stalls or booths had been erected where bread-
fruit, pawpaws, guavas and palmnuts were offered for sale;
women were constantly passing with trays of eatables on
their heads, the merits of which they were calling attention
to by loud cries, after the fashion of our own catfish
women. These heterogeneous compounds are made of rice
and palm-oil, groundnuts and bananas, cassava, and red-
pepper, and the composition of some of them, like our own
patent medicines, are quite unknown to the uninitiated.
The streets are filled with people, some in faultless
European dress, but the greater number in flowing robes
of gay colored stuffs of English manufacture. The crowds



were respectful to the strangers, and the English language
was largely spoken, along with various country dialects.

Sierra Leone is a well built modern town, and will
compare favorably with towns of like size in other tropical
countries. The streets are wide and clean, and the drain-
age excellent. Most of the public buildings are of stone,
as are many of the houses; other houses have the first story
of stone, with a frame story above it; while still another
class of houses are wholly of frame. Nearly all have small
yards in which trees, flowers and vines flourish. Many of
the houses have piazzas and are comfortably furnished with-
in with chairs, tables, sofas, pier-glasses, bed-steads, and
pictures upon the wall - multitudes of artizans at home do
not live so well, nor have such comfortable homes as the
better class of the Sierra Leone people. Nor are all traders
by any means, for men skilled in almost every handicraft
may be engaged to go to other parts of the coast on a three
year's engagement, and as a matter of fact nearly ever}' south-
bound steamer has such men among its deck passengers.
Sierra Leone, with its industrial schools, turns out more
skilled workmen than the colony can employ. Many of
the engravings in this volume are copied from photographs
taken by native Sierra Leone artists.

After walking around a while our friends called
upon Mr. Lewis the American consul, who invited them
to have a cup of coffee with him; learning that they would
remain over night he invited them to take dinner with
him at six o'clock and sent a messenger to the Kisanga
with the same invitation to Captain Thompson. Mr.
Alexander had conceived the idea of spending the day
upon the mountain, as he wished to ascertain how much
cooler it was there than at the water-side; so at his request
Mr. Lewis engaged hammocks and bearers for the party,
and after coffee and a little chat, they started upon their



On the way through the town they stopped at a
grocery store and purchased materials for a lunch, and to
these were added oranges and Avagada pears from a mar-
ket woman on the street. By the time the outskirts of the
town were reached, the path became pretty steep in places,
and the bearers were obliged to stop frequently to rest.
The ascent proved to be long and toilsome, but by noon
they reached one of the lower summits nearly two thou-
sand feet above the river. Here in the shade of some
bushes they rested and ate their lunch, while their men
withdrew a little distance and ate such country food as
they had brought with them, and then laid themselves
down and went to sleep.

Having rested themselves, and refreshed the inner
man our friends lighted their cigars and looked about them
in a philosophical frame of mind, at this height the wind
blew steadily from the north-east, showing they were still
in the trade wind region; the air was purer and clearer,
and the atmosphere had lost much of the steaminess that
was so noticeable by the water-side ; the vegetable growth,
while still abundant, was not so rank and luxuriant as it
was on the lower slopes ; on the whole it was plain they
were in a different climate. Yet the sun had as much
power here as it had in the town, but the air was more in-
vigorating, and in the shade it seemed cooler.

" Who could wish for a finer place to live ! " ex-
claimed Mr. Alexander.

Mr. Schiff suggested it would be somewhat lonesome,
but he allowed that might be an attraction to a confirmed

Mr. Alexander admitted the force of the criticism, and
then explained that he had in mind, not so much that par-
ticular spot, as the elevated land in general, and the hilly
up-country of the interior in particular. ,l Why," said he,

»" 33


" should not these hills support a considerable European
population as well as in India or the Brazils? "

" There is no good reason why they should not," re-
plied Mr. King, " these hillsides would make the finest
coffee and tea plantations, and the lowlands would be just
the place for sugar estates ; here is a large population to
supply the labor, and the white race possesses the means
to employ it."

" Yes," added Mr. Sinclair, "this whole land might be
made into a garden ; why in my home in the Orkney
Islands we must wait until August for a lettuce to head,
and here the richest vegetation flourishes throughout the
year. Look at the cassava and plantains that these people
live on, they are taken fresh from the ground every day
and there is not a foot of ground anywhere on which one
or the other will not grow. Then see the fruits ; in my
native town if a poor child gets a single orange or cocoa-
nut once a year it feels itself rich, while the poorest nigger
in all this land may have them in abundance all the season,
and not these alone, but mangos, guavas, limes, pawpaws,
pears and breadfruit ; I tell you the half of London does
not live any better than these fellows who carried us up
the hill."

"How would it do to bring the Irish out here?"
qtieried Mr. Schiff.

" The only objection," responded Mr. Sinclair, " is
that this country is too good for them ; they have been so
long- under the influence of rum and Catholicism that
man}- of them are more ignorant than the pagans. Even-
other country under the sun flourishes under British rule
except the Catholic counties of Ireland, and there must be
some special reason why they are always making such a
bad mouth."

" I think there are other parts of Africa," suggested
Mr. King, " where the Irish people would do better than



in Sierra Leone ; it seems to me that men of means and
ability to manage native laborers would do better here.
Such men could at once establish plantations, open up
lines of communication and put the country in a shape to
profitably absorb a large number of peasant families. If
the Irish people you speak of should be brought out now,
as there is no market for their labor, all they could do
would be to raise food enough to support themselves, and
perhaps coffee and cotton enough to buy their clothing."

" Well, what more can they have ? " inquired Mr.

" It seems to me," continued Mr. King, " that the
Irish people do better in a country where there are large
works upon which they may be employed ; they are not
very successful as tillers of the soil either in Ireland or
anywhere else ; you put colonies of Irish families in these
forests and they will soon be as wild as the negroes, but
open up the country first and then Irish families may come
out here and have their little homes, while some at least of
every family can be in the employ of richer white land-
owners, and the more conservative element will not only
help to hold them in check politically, but will be an in-
centive to them to rise above their lowly condition."

The conversation flowed on steadily until four o'clock,
when the declining sun, and their increasing appetites,
warned them that it was time to be getting to the Consul's
house lest they should keep him waiting dinner. The
ride down occupied but little over an hour, and like all
hammock riding was tiresome and disagreeable. A pecu-
liarly helpless feeling comes over one as he is being toted
along on his back in a hammock, with his feet often higher
than his head, and his eyes turned up in mute appeal to
the skies — a spectacle truly for angels and for men. It
may answer very well for a corpse, or a gentleman when
he is dead drunk, but so long as a man can hold up his



head he will have a feeling akin to shame when he lies
down in a hammock for a couple of black " boys " to tote
him around. Some of these days there will be good macad-
amized roads over these hills as there is now in India and
then one can ride about in a carriage in peace of mind, and
bodily comfort.

When they reached Consul Lewis' house they found
Captain Thompson had arrived but a few minutes before
them, and that they were in good time as dinner was not
yet ready. The market people had all gone home, and
the streets were quite deserted of the crowds they had seen
in the morning ; there were no drunk or disorderly persons
and the town was as quiet as a country village in England.

After dinner the gentlemen took their seats upon the
piazza of the second story of the house, and as they sipped
their wine and after-dinner coffee and smoked the Consul's
cigars, they discussed the commercial and industrial affairs
of the colony. Like many other important ports on the
Coast, country produce is not brought into Sierra Leone for
barter or exchange ; such was the case when the country
was new, but now only farm produce, or provisions, such
as fruits, vegetables and meats are brought for sale, while
" produce," in the sense in which it is used by the traders,
is collected only in the country' districts. This exportable
"produce," which is almost entirely the spontaneous pro-
ducts of the forest, is gathered by the " bush people " and
purchased from them by native traders who penetrate to
all the inland villages in search of it. These native traders
bring it to the " factories " — as the trading establishments
in charge of white men are called — where it is prepared for
export, and sent by small sailing vessels or coasting
steamers to the principal port of the district. A large
community of white men or other foreigners either on the
coast, or inland, always destroy the trade in forest products
for that neighborhood ; partly because the forest is cut



down to make room for farms, but principally because it
pays better to supply the local demand for provisions,
common labor, and other necessaries than it does to gather
the products of the forest and prepare them so that they
will be marketable with the trade. Take ebony, for in-
stance, there are no forests of ebony, but the trees grow
two or three together a half a mile or more apart. To cut
down one of these trees, clear away the great tangle of
vines, cut the trunk into sections, chop away several inches
of the white sap-wood which grows about the black heart,
and carry this heavy billet two or three, may be five or six
miles through the tangled jungle, is much harder work
than raising two or three bunches of bananas, or a couple
of diminutive chickens either of which will bring more
money. As for palm oil, the great staple of export ; all the
palm-nuts that grow within ten miles of such a population
as that at Sierra Leone, are wanted for food, and the palm-
oil for local consumption must come from beyond that

Sierra Leone, then, beyond the needs of its own people,
is simply a port of entry for a section of the coast and the
country that lies behind it. Goods are received in large
quantities by the great mercantile firms and stored away in
warehouses, from which they are shipped to the factories
along the coast and up the rivers by small sailing vessels
and river steamers. These coasting craft usually have a

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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 3 of 17)