Letter to Henry Venn; Letter to Samuel Ajayi Crowther
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Bonny Feb. 27th. 1867.
Revd and dear Sir,
According to promise, I have looked around
and now am able to report from personal observation as follows.
I have observed evident tokens of a silent, but mighty
struggle for mastery between demon worship and christianity,
this conflict between the two, may be compared to a chronic di-
sease, on the one part, which has been been left to remain indolent
for years, till an effective remedy, on the other part, is applied
to its cure. The chronic disease being disturbed in its indolent
state, the patient will more or less feel the painful action
of the physic which will as it may be expected make him
uneasy; the disease, being disturbed in its indolent state may
shift its position, as it is said, is experienced in the gout or
rheumatism, till by perservering applications of the medicine,
effectual cure is obtained.
A In my last year's report, I mentioned the delapidated state of
of the Juju Temple of skulls here, that the platform holding
the bones of devoured human victims of war had fallen down,
and the bones scattered, and no apparent care of their repairs
was manifested, which called out the general remarks from the
public, "new things were taking place, it was never so before".
So it was, Dagon appeared to have been falling down before the
ark of the Lord, but "they took Dagon and set him in his
place again." they have not only set Dagon in its place again,
but strengthened it, that it be not so soon brought again into
a humble position; efforts have been made by the votaries
of the gods, and it seems to bid defiance to Christianity, as if
they would say, our religion is the master of the soil, it can
plead its antiquity from ancient Kings its patrons, and
and old mysterious priests its worshippers and supporters;
now we have put the intruder, the new religion in the shade.
It would certainly have been very faithless and cowardly on their part
with out a struggle so at once to give way submissively to the
newly imported religion from a strange country. But to proceed.
The Juju house of skulls has been stringly rebuilt, and the
skulls are being replaced; the roof now rests upon iron stensions
or pillars instead of wood which soon decays, the roof is covered
with galvanized corrugated iron sheets and the body of the
temple is covered with plain sheets of the same materials, instead of bamboo:
now as to durability, it looks down with contempt on our
temporary schoolroom close by. The fallen platform, the
receptacle of the bones and limbs of human victims has been
newly erected and the scattered bones picked up and replaced
on it, and to shew that they were not beaten, an additional
platform was erected, on both which are to be seen
fresh bones of three human victims newly taken as prisoners
of war, killed and devoured: these victims were, a man,
a woman and her child, relatives of their opponents, caught
from the opposite side of the river. Having been thus caught
killed and eaten, their bones and skulls were added to the
trophies in the temple. Our native agents were eyewit-
nesses of these attrocities only a few months ago: the made
no disguise of the acts, they rather gloried in the deeds.
A priestess was seen bearing one of the gory skulls in
her hands to be prepared and deposited in its place; while
the body was being prepared as animal sacrifice among the
members. That our agents were not shocked but frighted at
the sight, may easily be concluded, but they could not inter-
fere for one may sooner disturb a lion at its prey.
Several times I passed by the Temple, and these fresh limbs
caught my eyes, my heart
as stirred to appeal to him to turn
the lion to a lamb and the vulture to a dove in the
words of the Psalmist. "Have respect unto the covenant,
for the dark places of the earth are full of the habita-
tions of cruelty." Surely God will hear our prayers.
But there is a division in the camp of Satan.
Having given a fair statement of the renewed efforts of
idolatry, to strengthen itself in the face of christianity, I now
proceed to give some accounts of the silent, but sure progress
of the mission.
English speaking is prevalent here, in the same way and
degree it is understood and spoken in all the trading ports
2 along this coast, we therefore take advantage of it in teaching the
children to read English school books, while we preach to the
native congregation through an interpreter, at the same time
we are preparing books in the native tongue.
Since the school and Sunday services have been removed
from the temporary schoolroom in Bonny Town to the new
mission premises near Andony village, things have been going
on more comfortably. The distance between this and Bonny
Town is about 15 minutes walk on the beach; the children
have been regular in their attendance both at school and
Sundays, though sometimes interrupted by the tide at high water.
I propose cutting a new straight road through the swamps to con-
-nect this and the town, clear out of the tide, to facilitate commu-
nication without the use of a canoe at high water, which is
approved of by the chiefs who also promise their cooperation.
The mission station has become a playground to the children
where they spend their most cheerfully before and after school
hours daily. To teach them habits of industry, small patches
of ground have been divided among them for gardening, on which
each one made his beds grew his vegetables, and when riped
and reaped, they took home to their parents as the produce
of their own growing. The girls improve in washing and ironing.
When I left here last May, the station was only just opened
for use, but many necessary supplies were needed to make
it complete, one of those necessaries was the want of a large
bell to announce the time of school to the clindren in Bonny Town,
but this want was supplied in a way I least expected.
There was lying on the ground in Bonny Town, a very large
bell 3½ feet in diameter, bearing this inscription –
"William Dobson, founder, Down Ham, Norfolk, England.
This Bell was cast for Opoboo Foobra, King of
Grand Bonny, in the year 1824."
Little did I think this Bell could be made use of again
even in Bonny Town where it had been lying on the ground
for years, and no one seemed to have any disposition to
trouble himself in putting up such an unweildy thing,
though I intimated something of its use in the town to late
King Pepple. But contrary to my expectations, during my
absence, at the suggestion of King George, probably from his
late father, Oko Jumbo very readily and willingly under-
took to put up the Bell at the mission station, at his
own expense, and so he did. He bought two stout masts
well coppered at the bottom to protect them from decay, on
which the Bell was put up; it has cost him already
£17. sterling, and as he is about putting over it a roof
of corrugated galvanized iron sheets it will not cost him
less than £24. spent for the benefit of the mission.
I was told by King George, that the fact of the Bell being
removed out of Bonny Town to the mission station without
any opposition from the priests, chiefs, and elders was a
sign that a great change is taking place here for the better,
because such relics of their former king are generally regarded
as Juju (sacred) not to be removed by anybody out of the
place; but in this case not a word was said against its
removal to the mission station and its use, by any person.
After Oko Jumbo had gone through the trouble and
expense of fixing the bell, in a few days, the cast iron
stem of the heavy clapper, being rusty from having lain so long
on the corroding sand, in the act of being struck, snapped asunder,
the hammer came down, and the bell was tongueless; but Oko
Jumbo determined to have it mended by the engineers of the
Royal Mail steamer, and so he did; he also took the forethought
of taking a shot, about seven pounder, with him to be boxed and
made a spare clapper of, should the old mended one be broken
again which was done: true enough, the old repired clapper was
again, but a few strokes snapped the corroded stem
3 again, so the spare one is now in use; though not so heavy as
the original, yet its serves our purposes well. These repairs
cost him £2.– Oko Jumbo is very persevering in his lessons,
X in reading and writing. I received the first note of his his own hand
writing this week by which he informed me, that he has sent
a fish for my breakfast. Three other chiefs are learning to read
after his example, one of whom is the wealthy influential
head of the opposite division and patron of the gods, through
whose means the Temple of skulls was so recently and sub-
The Native Teachers Messrs Webber and Carew are very per-
severing in their work, which can be seen by taking these chiefs
in lessons at their houses almost daily after school hours.
Pearson The public examination of the school children took place
yesterday the 26th, to which the attendance of the King, the
fathers and chiefs was invited, but owing to the sickness of some,
the absence of others from the town, and unavoidable circumstances,
three most influential leading chiefs could be present, namely
Adda Allison, Oko Jumbo, and Annie Pepple, also queen
Eleanor, and two Colony born Sierra Leone traders, and two French
officers from the Cutter "Joseph Leon." Two hours were fixed
upon to go through the examinations, so as not to wear out the
patience of the chiefs who are not in the habit of sitting silently
so long without some amusing talk of thier own.
I opened the proceedings, which I afterwards conducted, by singing
and prayer, and a short remark on the 13th & 14th verses of the
10th chapter of St Marks Gospel. 61 children were present.
The Programme was as follows.
First & Second Classes of about 28 children read Matt. 4th & 5th —
Scripture Catechism by Lloyd. I Section.
First & Second Classes repeat pieces committed to memory from
The Sunday School Un: Spelling Books Parts. 2nd & 3rd
All the children repeat six Hymns from Kembles Hymnbook.
111, 125, 222, 241, 508, 537.
From Divine & Moral Songs (Matt.) 4, 8, 11, 16, 15, 18.
Watt's First Catechism through. —
First & Second Classes Spelling words of two and three syllables.
Dictation on slates from Un. Sp. Book or Simpsons Primer.
A little Exercises on slates in Arithmetic, from Notation to Multiplication.
Shew Copy books — Girls shew needle works.
But I underrated the progress of the children by assigning
only two hours for the examination, which I thought was sufficient
as a mere introduction of the practice of yearly examination; the
consequence was the programme could not be got through, two
separate examinations ought to have been arranged. I
could not believe myself to have been at Bonny school, when
one child after another was called out to repeat his piece
alone, which all did so well as I never could have expected from them.
The recitals of the Scripture pieces from the Sunday School Union Spelling Book were very good. A correct idea of the reten- Print
tiveness of their memory may be formed, when it is known,
that it was remarked by those present, that four of these
children repeated their pieces through without hesitation
or a mistake; the pieces so repeated by each child were,
the Creation— The Fall of man. — by two children, each by
himself — Philip and Nathaniel. The other pieces were
Cain and Abel, — The Ark. — The Flood. — The Flood abated—
Noah leaves the Ark. — Abraham offers Isaac. — Joseph
sold by his brethren. — Joseph makes himself Known —
Joseph forgives his brethren. — Part II. The Birth of Jesus —
Christ the Good Shepherd. — Phillip & Nathaniel. — Jesus
among the Doctors. — The birth Jesus. — The built on a Rock. —
The Prodigail Son. — Taking the progress of the children in
general into consideration, when it is remembered that it is not
yet two years since a school was opened for them, they have done well
4 to their own credit and to the credit of their attentive and diligent
schoolmasters. The chiefs were highly pleased at the progress of
their children, one of these present was the patron and supporter
of the Temple of Skulls above alluded to, and may yet one day
be found among the prophets, in sincerity and truth.
Mr J. W. H. Lauch who attends our English Sunday morning
service was so pleased with the singing of the children, that he has
very kindly given his Harmonium for the use of the school to improve
as well to call out the latest talent of the children for singing, which
Dandeson plays while we remain here, and on which the school-
masters are practising.
But the influence of the school is not confined only to
those who are taught within the walls of the school chapel,
besides the three chiefs who are taking lessons from the school-
masters at their own houses, several persons have been met
with in the town who are reading the primer, taught at home
by some of the school children: some of these children have set
themselves up at their father's house and played the school-
masters among themselves and some inmates of their father's
house, who in this may have learnt the alphabet and are
now able to read some lessins in the primer. School books
were bought up so fast before I left here in May, & suspecting
some ill use of them, that I gave strict instructions to Mr Webber
not to sell the books away only for the sake of selling, but only to
those who would learn them; a much larger number of books,
however, were sold, more than were used by the children, now
it has come out that they were bought for the use of those who
were learning to read at home, then unknown to us till lately.
At Oko Jumbo's house, a hand bell is put up, and at Banigo's
house, a small table bell, is rung by the children, to collect
classes among themselves and some of their parents inmates
to their schools, one acting the schoolmaster, another assistant:–
some women and children who had never been at school
are learning to read in this way. As both Messrs Webber
and Carew are now married and settled, the education
of the females may now be better encouraged. As Mrs Webber
was taking a walk one afternooon towards the village close
by, she met a woman one of the wives of a chief making
efforts to read her primer when Mrs Webber took her seat
and assisted her in it. These are few incidents which have
come within our Knowledge wich are plain indications,
that as the mission is firmer established here, its influence
will be felt in the interior as they carry the art of book
reading they have acquired into their oil markets up the rivers.
There is still another indication that the scripture
leaven is secretly at work in the minds of some of this people.
I have been told by the most influential leading heads in
to hear one day not to be surprised if I hear
one day that those reptiles the puanas sacred to the gods
are cleared out of the town of Bonny; it is in contemplation,
but they want to be all unanimous in the act. I told my
informants not to say much about it at present with an
air of triumph, till the scheme be carried out, lest the
old priests and their adherents, who still prefer the Egyptian
bondage for its fish, cucumbers, melons, the leeks, the onions, and
the garlick, feel annoyed at the dawn of the decline of their long
standing system, put difficulties in the way of carrying out
their laudable plan of liberation from idolatrous bondage. CA3/04/226b
merely to save themselves from public disgrace. The
necessity of such caution will be seen by anyone who is
acquainted with the pride of human nature, which does not
often yield its hold, even when convinced of its erroneous course:
it will be seen to be more necessary here when it is known that
the powerful supporter of the opposite system who is gradually coming
round in our favour, if irritated by undue triumph,
may turn back and prove a formidable opponent to our progress.
We must go often to our Saviour's code of instructions to his
disciples, whom he sent to preach, for our guidance, "Be ye wise
as serpents, and harmless as doves." We must study human nature.
I must say something of innocent amusements here.
Last Christmas the 26th Decr 1866 King George gave the
children a treat on the mission premises, a goat being killed
on the occasion which was cooked with plenty of yams, and a
cask bamboo palm wine was added by the King.
The next day on the 27th Capt W Babington took his turn
and gave them a treat on salt beef and biscuits which are
always very much liked by the people here: the chiefs Banigo
and Oko Jumbo contributed to the supplies, after which
the children enjoyed themselves in running about the premises.
The Shew of the Magic Lantern Dissolving view took place
at the King's house on Tuesday the 12th instant, principally
for the Chiefs, many of whom were present with some of their
attendants. The system of paying admission tickets was at
once introduced. Tickets were sold to the chiefs at six manillas
each, about 7d value in silver. The second evening at three
manillas apiece, and the third evening to the poor people, one
manilla apiece – I attended the first evening to see how they
behaved, to advise and correct any thing when there was
occasion as this was the first public shew of this kind.
Oko Jumbo shewed off his knowledge of Scripture history
to his brother chiefs. No sooner these figures representing
birth of Christ, his presentation in the temple, the visit
of the wise men, and Solomon's decision of the disputed living
child were exhibited and explained, than Oko Jumbo at
once undertook to explain them to his brother chiefs, either
in the Bonny or Ibo language, as both languages are spoken
here, besides the broken English as it is spoken on the coast.
When the slide of the butcher with the head of the pig in a plate
was shewn, the head of the pig and of the butcher being alternately placed
in the plate, when this was explained the patron of the Temple of
Skulls said. This is a big proverb. That they were all highly
amused at the shew, I need not repeat. King George, and his
two brothers who were educated at the Grammar School
in Sierra Leone, actively assisted Danderson in working the
slides, both on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, the latter
evening at the temporary school room; the third evening he
was assisted by the schoolmasters. The collection at the shews
amounted to 300 manillas about 30/– sterling, with
which I am buying native split boards towards flooring
the school chapel. Now and then some women came
with their manillas in hand at noon, begging to be shewn
the dissolving view, but these amusements must be postponed
till our most important work is lessened, and another
leisure evening can be better spared.
The work of getting up a new station cannot be so
easily completed in this place as in others, especially when
one must fetch his own workmen from other places; the system
of day labourer is not practised here, every such labourer having
his master to serve; when I returned to Lagos last year, I had
to discharge the workmen, because they could not be managed
by the schoolmasters who had no knowledge of what was to be
done: though our dwelling house was then unfinished, yet
I am thankful, to say, we have a comfortable shelter in which
I now take my abode on shore with the Native Teachers,
where I can see after my works better and move more conveniently
among the people. Though unfinished as it is, yet it is comfort-
able enough, that I could take in a sick French sailor from
the little French surveying Cutter the "Joseph Leon," for a change on
shore: the situation of our premises being the best yet selected on
shore, for dryness and advantage of sea breeze, in seventeen days,
the sick sailor was well enough to return on board his ship to
resume duty. The French crew are allowed to employ their time
in gardening in the mission ground in the absence of Capt L. Girard
who has returned to France to bring out a steamer to ascend
the Niger this year. Having seen that this place will be taken
advantage of for a change
from the shipping, I have arranged to
leave the present house as it is for the use of our agents who
are all married, three couples, and to build a small house se-
-parate, for my own use, in which I could receive visitors more
conveniently; it is now in progress. I am improving upon
our mud-wall system by introducing bricks; 200 Bonny made
bricks, still in the Kiln, where they were burnt, were shewn to
the chiefs, as specimens of what can yet be produced at Bonny;
and that such works will be taught to their children beside book
learning, with which they were highly pleased.
Extracts from Mr J. R. Dewring's letter. Decr 4th 1866.
"As I gave my word to you about the journey to Idzŏ,
I have accomplished it. On the 5th Oct the Idzŏ King sent
messengers again, he gave them strict order not to return
home without me. I considered how I could best do it, having
much to do in hand, I considered it again it is the Lord's
doing. The people who were sent were turning round and
round about me for three days: so I made up my mind
to start for Idzŏ on Monday the 9th at one o'clock p.m.
pulled all night till we came to a small town about
3.a.m. went on shore and cooked our food; after meal took
a little rest; at 6.a.m. collected the people and my canoe men
read John 3rd C. and prayed: before I departed I gave them
rice and a little tobacco; took our journey, reached to Koloma
about 11.a.m. Manga the King welcomed me. The place
is a small village, containing only five streets. They rear
cows and goats. At night the King gathered all his household
for prayer. In the morning I asked him to gather his town for
morning prayer, 40 in number, but many did not attend. I
addressed them from Luke 11. v.1-13. This village is promising.
The King stated that he prayed daily that his children should
receive instruction. The Idzŏ King gave me a boy for
instruction, and another was brought here to me. The story
(news) of the Idzŏ boys shake the country. I have two more
men of Akassa who generally come for instruction. They
said, should Idzŏ speak English and they not? What have
they been doing? — On the 22nd of Oct. a war canoe was in sight,
the Akassa men whom I employed at work began to make their escape.
I stopped , the canoe came to us, I found the owner to be Mr Sambo
from Brass, with his war men. I received him gladly; he asked
if our morning prayer was over, I told him, No. he was very
glad to meet it; after its close, he gave me three pieces of cloth,
one paper of red caps 1 Doz. and two heads of Tobacco, contribution
to the mission. I received also from Mr White of Walker's Factory
three pieces of cloth to aid the mission. "
Boarders. 3 Akassa boys.
" 2 Idzŏ Do
" 1 Brass Do
Congregation 22 — (signed) J. R. Dewring. —
S. A. Crowther. — CA3/04/226c
Author(s) & contributor(s): Samuel Ajayi Crowther; J.R. Dewring
Date(s): 27 February 1867; 4 December 1866
Place(s) of creation: Mission House, Bonny; Nun Station
Form & transmission history: (Crowther) Manuscript letter in author’s hand with transcription of letter by another author. (Dewring) Handwritten copy by another author of original manuscript letter.
Object description: Blue twelve-page letter; main hand in black ink; editorial marks in many hands, red ink and pencil.
Repository: University of Birmingham. Cadbury Research Library (Birmingham, United Kingdom)
Shelfmark / Identifier: CMS/B/OMS/C A3 O4/226
Digital edition & date: One More Voice, 2021
Critical editing & encoding: Mary Borgo Ton, Adrian S. Wisnicki, Anne M. Martin
Rights: Critically-edited text copyright One More Voice. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International
Cite this digital edition (MLA): Crowther, Samuel Ajayi; J.R. Dewring. “Letter to Henry Venn; Letter to Samuel Ajayi Crowther” (27 February 1867; 4 December 1866). Mary Borgo Ton, Adrian S. Wisnicki, Anne M. Martin, eds. One More Voice, new dawn edition, 2021, https://onemorevoice.org/html/transcriptions/liv_020055_TEI.html.
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