“Destructive Fire at Abbeokuta”

BIPOC Voices in the Victorian Periodical Press

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ABBEOKUTA is subject to frequent fires of a very destructive character. The materials of the houses, their light and combustible roofs, thatched with grass, help the fire to spread, and it extends itself with wonderful rapidity, bidding defiance to the efforts of the inhabitants. A fearful conflagration, attended not only by loss of property, but of life, occurred in March last, of which our native catechist, Mr. T. King, gives us the following description—

March 15, 1853—Of all the fires that have occurred in this town, that of to-day was the greatest. The rapidity that attended its progress, and the destruction of lives and property it occasioned, has no equal since the commencement of Abbeokuta, and may God in mercy never permit the like to happen any more! That more than two-thirds of the town was reduced to ashes, and that the number of houses consumed on this occasion was not less than a thousand, is not the opinion of certain individuals only, but is the general and concurrent assertion of everybody. And to affirm that not fewer than sixty persons perished in this calamity is no exaggeration whatever, besides many of whose recovery there is little hope. The fire having begun at Toko, near the rock Olumo, it consumed great part of that district and Ijemo, till it descended the range of Olumo, making a clean sweep of all Iporo, Ilawo Ijeun, Owu, Obba, Ika—in short, all the Gbagura, the densely-populated parts of the town. This fearful accident commenced about eleven A.M., and before three P.M. it had completed its horrible work. A very sharp and acute harmatan wind, which had been blowing about three days, greatly facilitated the progress of the fire. At its commencement, all our workmen and girls at Owu, and a great number of people that came out of their houses, stood viewing it in great anxiety of mind, hoping and praying it might not descend to the other side of the rocks, as all were fully convinced that, should that be the case, the calamity would be very appalling, and such at last it proved to be. Immediately when the fire was seen on the other side of the rocks, all of us instantly quitted the spot in confused dispersion, running homeward. The passage through the Kobiti, my only way home in this part of the town, became impassable, and I was obliged to turn my head to Mr. Crowther—s quarter, the wind bearing the flakes so rapidly that the fearful leaps the fire made were almost incredible. While it was burning by the late Sodeke—s house, on a sudden it was found at Owu hill, the central part of Igbagura.

After it was all over, Mr. Crowther and I went to see the converts, who were the sufferers, as well as to ascertain how far the ravages extended. With the exception of the iron furnace-house, all the houses on that hill by our new Station were burnt up. Had our church and dwelling-house been already roofed, they might have unavoidably undergone the same fate. After visiting Lara, the elder chief of Owu, and many others, we came to Basorun's house, to ascertain whether the furniture of the brass gun in his place had escaped the fire, as it is a public property for protection. Fortunately, we found the gun with all its materials quite safe. From thence we visited Ogubonna. His house, which I had not the least expectation of being in the number, shared the same fate, though he did not suffer the loss of property, from having good ceiling.

Besides those who perished in the attempt to save their property, there were many who were overtaken in their flight from the danger. The Apèna of Ido, a sick and infirm man, together with about four individuals who were trying to lead him away, perished. Others, who went to walk in the town, met with their unexpected and unhappy fate in some of the narrow lanes and roads, where the houses are too closely constructed. Some, having carried their children to the river side, and returning to the house to save some property, perished in that attempt; and the children, in going back to seek for their parents, were either suffocated by the smoke, or overtaken by flames. Those who perished in endeavouring to save their orisas or idols, as well as their animals, were the most of the number. Of all those who died in this calamity, the case of two little children was very affecting. The parents happened to be absent from home. The younger one sleeping in the house, and natural affection did not allow the other to run away without trying to awake her; but, alas! these poor children not permitted to see their parents any more in this world. Sad case indeed! What a cause for thankfulness to our gracious God, that not a life was lost among our converts!


Digital Publication Details

Title: “Destructive Fire at Abbeokuta”

Creator(s): Anonymous; T[homas] King

Publication date: (1853) 2022

Digital publishers: One More Voice, COVE

Critical encoding: Kenneth C. Crowell, Cassie Fletcher, Jocelyn Spoor, Adrian S. Wisnicki

One More Voice identifier: liv_026025

Cite (Chicago Author-Date): Anonymous, and T[homas] King. (1853) 2022. “Destructive Fire at Abbeokuta.” Edited by Kenneth C. Crowell, Cassie Fletcher, and Jocelyn Spoor. In “BIPOC Voices,” One More Voice, solidarity edition; Collaborative Organization for Virtual Education (COVE). https://onemorevoice.org/html/bipoc-voices/digital-editions-amd/liv_026025_HTML.html.

Rights: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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