Sarah Geraldina Stock.

The story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza mission online

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1,000 feet leads to a second plateau, on the edge of


which stands Mpwapwa itself, finely situated on the
heights, overlooking an extensive plain nearly covered
with forest, and abounding in wild animals. It is a
fine, healthy situation.

The missionaries were well received by the people
of Mpwapwa, and here w^as commenced the first Mission
station on the way to the lake, Mr. G. J. Clark being
left in charge of it, together with the mate of the High-
land Lassie, who had accompanied the party. The
remaining five proceeded towards the lake, Mr. O'Neill
and the Rev. C. T. Wilson going on first, while Lieu-
tenant Smith followed with Dr. John Smith and Mr.

The second stage of the journey was even more
trying than the first. The route led over the Marenga
Mkhali, a pori^ or waterless plain extending forty miles.
This crossed, the travellers found themselves in the
treeless plains of Ugogo. Here they had to pay heavy
hongo to the various petty chiefs, who delayed their
passage as much as possible, in order to get all they
could out of them. The first party passed over a
second and longer poii, the Mgunda Mkhali, and both
met at Nguru, in Usukuma, on the borders of Unya-
mwezi. Meanwhile their number had been reduced to
four, for Mr. Mackay, sorely against his will, had been
compelled by the doctor to return to the coast.

At Nguru, the porters, finding themselves in their
own country, considered their engagement at an end,
and quietly laid down their loads and walked off". Being
unable to obtain fresh ones close at hand. Lieutenant
Smith proceeded westward to Unyanyembe to procure
more. The district of Unyanyembe is an important
trading centre, and possessed at that time an Arab
governor under the Sultan of Zanzibar. Its principal
village or town is Kazeh, or Taboro. Here Lieutenant


Smith was delayed for some weeks, the natives being
utterly regardless of the flight of time. Meanwhile
Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Wilson had gone on with a small
caravan towards the lake, passing through Usukuma,
of which Mr. O'Neill gives a pleasing picture. ' The
whole distance travelled over/ he writes, 'is studded
with villages, nicely situated, and surrounded by green
hedgerows of euphorbia; altogether the country is a
fine, open one, with much cattle, and well cultivated,
every village having a considerable breadth of land
sown with Indian corn or millet, and everywhere water
is abundant. I should say it would by proper manage-
ment become a very rich country ; but the great
drawback is the absence of any king or ruler recognised
over the entire country. Kings there are in abundance,
for every village we passed had one, but there is no
central authority. . . . The people are a mild and indus-
trious race.'

On January 29, 1877, the travellers reached Kagei,
on the southern shore of the lake, at the entrance to Speke
Gulf. Lieutenant Smith and Dr. Smith did not arrive
till April I, owing to bad health and various troubles.
The former writes : —

* Our journey from Nguru to this place was a stormy
one. It seemed to me that all Satan's force was allied
against us. The men deserted by fifties ; lies, thefts,
false reports, all were used to delay us, and it took us
six weeks to accomplish that which can easily be done
in sixteen days. All our marketable cloth was stolen
either by our own pagaazi or on the highway, and stays
of two and sometimes three days at one village during
the rainy season, without sufficient protection for our
goods, caused us much loss. But He that is stronger
was with us, and enabled us to overcome all difficulties,
bringing us to this place on April I. You may


imagine with what joy and thankfulness I first beheld
the lake, its blue waters gleaming like a bit of sea in
the distance.'

Kagei was the first place on the shores of the lake
visited by Stanley, and there the missionaries found
the grave of one of his men, with the inscription :
* F. B. 1875. Stanley's Ex.' It was not long before
another grave hallowed the place whence the first
messengers of the Gospel of peace looked down upon
the waters that were to bear them to Uganda. Dr.
Smith, who had enjoyed remarkable health for the
greater part of the journey, suffered greatly from fever
on the last march from Nguru, and was carried the
whole of the way. On his arrival at the lake he began
to improve, but an attack of dysentery, which he had
not strength to resist, proved to be the messenger to
summon him to the immediate presence of the Master
whom he served. Calmly and peacefully he passed
away on May 1 1, leaving a great gap in the
missionary circle. A pile of stones was raised over
his grave, with a block of sandstone for a headstone,
on which an inscription was cut by Mr. O'Neill ; and
there that grave stands as a sentinel, watching until
the glory of the Lord shall cover the plains around,
and shine across the waters that stretch out in front of
it, a silent witness for Christ until He come.

The telegram from Aden which conveyed the news
home also brought tidings of progress in the work
for which that young life had been laid down. It
ran thus : * Dr. John Smith dead. Daisy Nyanza.
Mpwapwa road completed.' The little steam-launch
Daisy, which had been brought out from England in
sections, and put together for the voyage up the rivers
Wami and Kingani, had again been taken to pieces
for the journey up to the lake. The sections, however,


reached Kagei considerably injured and reduced in
number, looking, Mr. O'Neill writes, ' a perfect wreck.'
The first work was to rebuild her, when six inches
more gunwale were added, to increase her seaworthi-
ness, and a false keel, to improve her sailing qualities.
The telegram refers to her being finished and launched
on the Victoria Nyanza, for which she was originally
destined. A pier was also run out a short distance
into the lake, constructed with the large stones with
which the country abounds, for the convenience of
loading and landing goods. It was intended also to
build another boat, but there was no timber suitable
for the purpose. Lieutenant Smith resolved therefore
to visit Ukerewe, where he heard there was a dhow, or
Arab boat, which he might be able to purchase.

Ukerewe is a large island on the lake, which was
called after it ^ Sea of Ukerewe ' (as before mentioned).
It is twenty-five miles from Kagei. It had been visited
before Lieutenant Smith's arrival by Mr. Wilson, the
king, Lukongeh, having sent the missionaries a present
of sheep and goats, with an invitation to go and see
him. During the stormy voyage thither the canoe
men kept singing, and one of their songs ran thus:
* Many men are dead ; for them we are sorry, for they
never saw the white man. We have seen the white
man, and are glad.' Lieutenant Smith, in relating the
circumstances of his visit, gives the following conver-
sation with canoe men, as an instance of an African's
idea of time : —

^ When will you take me to Ukerewe ? '

* Whenever you like.'

* Then in two hours be ready.'

'No go to-day; to-day must go and sell bananas;
go to-morrow.'

Smith was well received by the king, and concluded


the purchase of the dhow with the Arab Songoro, to
whom she belonged, httle thinking that this man would
be the cause of his death and that of his companion,
Mr. O'Neill ! He wrote from Ukerewe : —

' Now as we are about taking possession in the name
of Christ of our respective kingdoms ' (it being intended
that one party should proceed to Karagwe, the other to
Uganda), 'pray for us. How much we need your
prayers we ourselves faintly know. Yet this we
know : He heareth you.'

In the meantime, Mr. Mackay, who had had to be
carried in a hammock the greater part of the way back
to Mpwapwa had arrived at the coast with restored
health. He was now busy constructing a rough road
for bullock waggons from Saadani, a few miles above
the mouth of the Wami, to Mpwapwa — no light task to
accomplish with only native labourers, utterly ignorant
of such work. He engaged forty men (besides donkey
men and other supernumeraries), and equipped them
with American hatchets, English axes. Snider sword
bayonets, picks, spades, and saws. He provided
himself besides with carpenters' tools, hammers, one
donkey-load of nails and another of cocoa-nut rope,
and last, but not least, a small grindstone. * This,' he
writes, * I have mounted on a wooden frame, and every
evening we return from work in time the edges of the
tools are applied to the face of this wonderful machine,
while the villagers crowd round, as anxiously gazing
on as little Toddie ever did when he "wanted to see
the wheels go wound." ' For a good part of the first
fifty miles there was dense jungle to cut through, and
here the branches of the trees were so thickly inter-
twined with the creepers, that to hew a tree by the
roots seldom meant bringing it down. Here the
Sniders did good work. Then there were nullahs or


deep watercourses to be passed. Over one Mr.
Mackay built a bridge of timber as hard as iron, a
great marvel in the eyes of the natives. But this
occupied seven days, and as there was not enough time
to be expended over the others, a sloping way was
made down the bank of the nullahy and in some cases
it was avoided by a long detour, Mr. Mackay thus
describes what the natives thought of it : —

* Passers-by open their mouth as well as their eyes
at the njia kiihwa (big road) of the white man ; and
when they return to talk together at evening in their
teiiibes (native dwellings), the story of the '' big road "
is told ; and, as is always the case in Africa, with
enormous exaggeration. With the chief men, how-
ever, the story does not always go well down ; and the
report is being widely spread that the English are
coming to take possession of the country, an alarm
which I hope will die a speedy and natural death.
The chief of the village near which I made the bridge
took a more practical view of the matter, and told me
one day, with all the command his dirty visage could
assume, that I must pay him a hundred dollars for
cutting down the trees in his territory. I told him that
it was he who should give me the hundred dollars, to
pay my men for making a bridge which he and his
people could not make, but which, as soon as I was
gone, he would call his own, and probably levy hongo
from those caravans which cared to pay him.'

The road was finished in one hundred days, and
during that time Mr. Mackay calculated that what with
going to and fro, inspecting and ordering, he walked
the whole distance, two hundred and fifty miles at least,
half-a-dozen times over, besides occasional help from a
donkey. But the ground won was not kept possession
of by after-comers, and in course of time thick vegeta-


tion again covered what had been cleared with so much

In some twelve years not merely the territory
between Mpwapwa and the coast, but the whole of the
ground traversed by the missionary band, has passed
into the possession not of the English, but of the
Germans, a possession, it is true, at present in great
part merely nominal and theoretical, but destined pro-
bably to become thoroughly real and effective in the

Soldier, go — but not to claim

Mouldering spoils of earth-born treasure j
Not to build a vaunting name ;

Not to dwell in tents of pleasure ;
Dream not that the way is smooth,

Hope not that the thorns are roses ;
Turn no wishful eye of youth
Where the sunny beam reposes ;
Thou hast sterner work to do,
Hosts to cut thy passage through ;
Close behind thee gulfs are burning —
Forward ! — there is no returning.'



^ Neither count I my life dear unto myself.' — Acts xx. 24.

THE original plan of the Mission included the
kingdom of Karagwe, situated on the western
shore of the Victoria Nyanza. Karagwe had been
visited both by Speke and by Stanley, and although
tributary to Uganda, appeared to be a kingdom of some
importance, while the mild and friendly character of
the king, Rumanika, as described by these travellers,
augured well for the establishment of a Mission there.
Lieutenant Smith had arranged to proceed thither with
Mr. Wilson, and then, leaving the latter in Karagwe,
to go on himself to Uganda. But two pressing mes-
sages from King Mtesa induced him to change his
plan. While on the island of Ukerewe a messenger
reached him bearing the following letter, written for
the king by a boy brought up in Bishop Steere's
Mission School in Zanzibar, whom Stanley had left
with the king, that he might teach him : —

*To MY DEAR Friend, —

* I have heard that you have reached Ukerewe,
so now I want you to come to me quickly. I give you
Magombwa to be your guide, and now you must come
to me quickly. — This letter from me, Mtesa, King of



Uganda, written by Dallington Scopion Mufta, April
10, 1877/

Mufta himself had added these lines : —

'To MY DEAR Sir, —

' I have heard that you are in Ukerewe, and
this king is very fond of you. He wants Englishmen
more than all. — This is from your servant, Dallington

The messenger who brought this letter was quickly
followed by another, bringing the following : —

' My second letter to my dear Friend Wite Men. I
send this my servant that you may come quickly, and
let not this my servant come without you. And send
my salaam to Lukongeh, King of Ukerewe, and Maduma
Mwanangwa of Kageye, and Songoro. — This from me,
Mtesa, King of Uganda.*

On receiving these letters Lieutenant Smith felt that
the visit to Uganda must not be deferred. Accordingly,
on June 25, he and Mr. Wilson started in the Daisy,
leaving Mr. O'Neill at Ukerewe to complete the building
of the dhow. Being favoured with a fresh breeze they
reached Murchison Bay next evening, and the following
day landed, en route for Mtesa's capital. But this
voyage, perhaps the most favourable, as far as wind
and weather were concerned, that any missionary has
made across the lake, had its own record of danger and
injury. Desiring to land the first day in order to cook
their midday meal, the voyagers coasted along the shore
of Ukara, a small island north of Ukerewe, and made
for a *■ snug little bay ' which they thought would suit
their purpose. They observed, as they drew nearer, a
crowd of natives on the shore, who greeted them with
a musical cry, which they mistook for a note of friendly
welcome. But for the sudden appearance of a rock


ahead they would have run right into the hands of their
enemies, but Lieutenant Smith, seeing it, immediately
put the boat about. This in all probability saved their
lives, for the natives immediately poured upon them
a shower of spears, arrows, and stones. Lieutenant
Smith was struck in the left eye by a stone, Mr. Wilson
received a poisoned arrow in his arm, and two of the
men were slightly wounded. The boat was immediately
put back, and they were soon out of the reach of
further injury. Smith, in great pain and blinded,
nevertheless sucked the wound in Mr. Wilson's arm,
and much of the poison having passed off in his clothes,
he sustained no serious harm ; but Smith's eye (the
good one, for the right was of little use to him) was
irreparably injured. In a private letter giving an
account of the event he writes :

* It was a merciful preservation, and I shall ever
thank God for putting that rock in our way. . . . Don't
blame the natives ; they gave us warning not to approach
by their war-cry, which I mistook for a note of welcome.
Doubtless they thought we were come to attack them.
... I often wondered, looking at it from a sailor's point
of view, why Christ was so often called the " Rock,"
seeing how fatal to mariners rocks generally are. It is
different now.'

From Ukara they struck right across the lake, and
next morning sighted land, which proved to be some
islands off the coast of Uganda. Proceeding up Mur-
chison Bay, with lovely views on either hand, shortly
after sunset they anchored off the coast. The following
day messengers arrived from Mtesa to bring them up to
the capital Rubaga. They arrived there on Saturday,
June 30, and rested the Sunday in the huts set apart
for them by the king. Their reception next day is
best told in the missionaries' own words.

s "^






















^ 2!




Mr. Wilson writes : —

* About 8 o'clock a.m. two of the chief officers came
to fetch us. They were neatly dressed in Turkish
costume, long white tunics, trousers, and stockings,
with red shoes and caps. A few soldiers, neatly dressed
in white tunics and trousers, and armed with flint-
looking guns, formed our escort, as we climbed the hill
on the top of which stands Mtesa's palace. This is a
long and lofty building of tiger-grass stems, and is
thatched with grass and is extremely neat. In front
of the palace are a number of courts, separated from
one another by high fences of tiger-grass, and sliding
doors between them of the same material. These doors
were opened as we approached, and closed behind us.
In each court two lines of soldiers, dressed in white,
were drawn up, between which we passed.

' Arrived at the palace itself, we entered the centra
hall, hat in hand, and found all the chief men of the
country sitting along each side on wooden stools. All
were dressed in Turkish costume, some in black tunics,
others in red, and others again in white ones. All rose
as we entered, and we were conducted to the upper end
of the hall, where the king sat on a chair of white
wood, with a carpet before him, the rest of the hall
being strewn with dry grass. He was dressed in a
black Turkish tunic, white trousers bound with red,
white stockings, and he wore red shoes, and had a red
cap on his head ; he also wore a richly mounted sword.
He came down from his throne and shook hands with
us, and motioned us to two seats which had been placed
for us. We then sat for some time looking at one
another till he called one of the messengers he had sent
to Ukerewe for us, and bade him narrate our adven-
tures, which the man did in an eloquent speech. Then
the letter from the Sultan of Zanzibar was read, and


next the Society's letters were presented, and the
EngHsh one translated into Swahili for the king by
Mufta, the boy whom Stanley left to instruct the king.'

Lieutenant Smith continues : '■ At the first pause the
king ordered a feii de joie to be fired, and a general
rejoicing for the letter ; but at the end, where it was
said that it was the rehgion of Jesus Christ which was
the foundation of England's greatness and happiness,
and w^ould be of his kingdom also, he half rose from
his seat, called his head musician, Tole, to him, and
ordered a more vigorous rejoicing to be made, and
desired the interpreter to tell us that this which we
heard and saw (for all the assembly were bowing their
heads and gently and noiselessly clapping their hands,
and saying Nyanzig five or six times) was for the
name of Jesus.'

The missionaries, however, quickly found out that
they had to do with a character changeable as the
wind. Lieutenant Smith goes on : —

* The following day we went twice. In the morning
it was a full court, as before, and from some cause he
seem.ed suspicious of us, and questioned us about
Gordon, and rather wanted to bully us into making
powder and shot, saying, " Now my heart is not good."
We said we came to do as the letter told him, not to
make powder and shot ; and if he wished it we would
not stay. He paused for some time, and then said,
" What have you come for— to teach my people to read
and write ? " We said, " Yes, and whatever useful arts
we and those coming may know." Then calling the
interpreter, he said, ^' Tell them now my heart is good ;
England is my friend." '

In the evening Mtesa sent for the missionaries again.
He told them he had wanted to say something in the
morning, but was afraid of the Arabs. He wanted to


know if they had brought ' The Book/ and was pleased
when they assured him they had, and that they hoped
soon to give it him in his own language. Little did
he guess what that ' Book ' was to accomplish — how it
was not only to prove the source of new life to numbers
of his subjects, but after his death was to revolutionise
his kingdom.

Without delay a piece of ground was assigned to the
missionaries, and labourers sent to build them a house.
The land, about two acres in extent, was on the slope
of a hill opposite the one on which the king's palace
stood, with a stream of water flowing below. The
house was built of the stems of tiger-grass, with a high
roof, thatched with grass, and supported by a number
of poles, the partitions and doors of the rooms being
made also of tiger-grass. A kind of service was com-
menced at the palace every Sunday, for which day
Mtesa professed a certain respect. The king also
began to learn the English alphabet, and expressed his
desire that his people should learn to read and write.
He also showed a remarkable readiness to receive
religious instruction. One day he asked why so many
white men were unbelievers in Christ. When told
that faith was the gift of God, and that no man could
call Jesus the Son of God except through the Holy
Spirit, he turned to his people and said, pointing
upward : ' All comes from above ; all comes from God.'

Lieutenant Smith remained for a month, and then
leaving Mr. Wilson to occupy the neat little hut built
for them by the king's order, went back to Ukerewe
in the Daisy. Here he found Mr. O'Neill still busy
with the completion of the dhow. Thence he proceeded
to Kagei, and then, sailing up Speke Gulf, he explored
the rivers Shimeyu and Ruwana. Returning, he
next surveyed Jordan's Nullah, to the west of Kagei.


Writing to the Committee of the Church Missionary
Society the report of all he had seen, dated November
2 J he concludes with the words : —

' Please give me full instructions as to the Society's
wishes concerning expenditure, etc. My former instruc-
tions are fulfilled, and I joyfully praise God that by His
might and by His strength they have been enabled to
be carried out with, I trust, the full approval of the
committee. Lord Shaftesbury's parting word, Zech.
iv. S — how true ! '

Little did he think" that the work appointed for him
by his great Captain was almost fulfilled, and his
time of rest close at hand. Returning to Ukerewe, he
found the dhow (which had been named Chimosi,
as embodying in its consonants the initials of the
Society, C.M.S.) ready to be launched. But to his
surprise the king, Lukongeh, appeared with an armed
force, and seizing mast, yard, rudder, and anchor, for-
bade the removal of the dhow, as it was his property.
It then transpired that the Arab Songoro had played
the king false, having informed the latter that the white
men were finishing the dhow for him, instead of saying
that they had bought it from him. Moreover, he had
never paid the king for the timber, and had also kept
for himself a present sent through him to Lukongeh by
the missionaries. The matter was at length adjusted
by Songoro's rendering to the king a heavy indemnity.
They parted in a friendly manner, the king paying a
special visit to Mr. O'Neill, to request him to remain
on the island, as all the people loved him, because
he said Watcha sugu (good-morning) to them. Mr.
O'Neill had so endeared himself to the islanders that
he was known among them by the name of Watcha
Oneeley (the good O'Neill).

On November 25 the Daisy and the Chimosi,


containing the Mission party, arrived off Kagei, whence
they had to fetch the stores left there. But here the
dhow, owing to the ground swell, drifted on to the
rocks, and was wrecked. Everything of consequence,
however, was rescued, save Lieutenant Smith's Bible.
*The lake,' he remarks, 'has never had so noble a
gift before.' On December 4 they started for Uganda
in the Daisy. Contrary winds, however, obliged them
to put back to Ukerewe ; and here they became once
more involved in the quarrel between Songoro and
the king. As far as could be gathered from the con-

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Online LibrarySarah Geraldina StockThe story of Uganda and the Victoria Nyanza mission → online text (page 3 of 13)