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Niger Mission. CA3/O37. Rev. John Christopher Taylor (2) Onitsha. Letters and Journals. 1857-70

 

Journal Extracts of J. C. Taylor from July to October 1866.

 

     July 1st. Lords Day. Held the morning service at Umude Station and preached from Luke 6.22,23 to 200 souls, the inclemency of the weather prevented most of the people to attend, having no means as yet to shelter themselves from rain. I seized the inter[view?] in the afternoon to open air preaching and left the station service with Mr. Romaine. At 7 p.m. I again held the English service as usual in the Compound and gave a short address. Simon Jonas Mbanego brought his little babe who was very ill, and wished me to baptize her. I baptized her after service using the office of Private Baptism set forth by the Church. The altered state of the spiritual progress now in this station is gradually increasing to such a point which fills me with humility and joy. 
 

     July 3rd. Our monthly missionary Prayer meeting held this day. Few of the converts attended, as this is a busy time with them in farming. Nothing but brisk collection of oil trading with the women in preparation for the steamer. I can safely calculate without exaggeration that there are seven to eight hundred tons of oil now at Onitsha. The oil trading has fairly started here and it will serve as an impetus in time to come for the good of the country in general and will I hope give a healthy blow to slavery and its abominable rites. Towards the evening two men from Asaba came to Onitsha in quest of ?Ojumos? i.e. [........]

the dear son?s sake.

 

     July 6th Simon Jonas Mbanego’s babe died early this morning and we buried her in the compound, this is the first infant that was buried in a Christian manner instead of the pernicious customs in putting them into an earthen pot, or burnt, or thrown away to vultures and wild beasts of the field. What hath God wrought is our motto now in this vineyard!

 

     July 8th Held two services and preached in the morning from 1Sam.146 latter part. As it is with the Lord to save with many or by few? The Lord gave his unworthy servant the utterance to preach and most of us were affected with the truth of the text.

 

     July 10th. Welcome news. Christianity is riding in her triumphal chair. The two men from Assaba who were here on the 3rd inst. came to the Compound on their way homeward. I asked them to return my compliments to King Igweri and tell him that I deeply sympathize with him in the loss of one of his Chiefs. They told me that they were at Church on Sunday, and were fully satisfied with what they have heard and they cannot but bless God for what they have enjoyed. After a long pause, one of them gave the following statements. We are sorry to go away without a human being to bury the dead chief at Assaba? Don't you find one at Onitsha? No? Why so? ?Onitsha fear God too much and no man is willing to sell a man or woman to be slain for the dead.? He prolonged the sentence with much affectations and [] his breast broke forth with this expression ?Onitsha, Onitsha, Onitsha is changed formerly here we have access to any amount of victims, we could procure, now, none , none.? If these is any fact worthy of notice in the annals of a Mission like this where gross darkness covers the people - this is one, and ought to be written in letters of gold.

 

 ?His hands has writ the sacred word

With an immortal pen

Engraved as eternal brass

The mighty promise stands

Nor can the powers of darkeness rage

Those everlasting lines.?

     July 18th This morning the welcome news reached the Compound of the safe arrival of the Thos. Bazley with the Bishop. Being wet morning I could not venture outdoors. The Bishop dispatched one of the teachers for Gbebe Station to inform me that the vessel will start early next morning. I hastened down though weak, I met the Bishop by the way, and we returned to the Factory. Toward evening we walked up to the Mission House, and [he] passed the night with us. He requested me to accompany him to Lokoja. After much hesitation, I, at last, made up my mind to go with him.

 

     July 19th Left the Station in charge of Messr romaine and George, the former in charge of the congregation and my special duties, and the latter all matters relative to the Industrial Department. We steamed at 12 O?clock dropped anchor abreast Ibokein and past the night.

 

     July 20th Underweighted from Ibokein at sharp 5. a.m and arrived at Idda at 2 o’clock p.m. found the brethren in good health and spirits, went on shore with the Bishop for a short visit and took the Rev. Mr. Coomber with us. We passed the night on board.

 

     July 21st. Left Idda very early for Lokoja and arrived there at 2. p.m. All hands busy in landing packages belonging to the Station &c.

 

     July 22nd Lord’s Day. Service at 10.30. The Chapel was so tastefully arranged with seats, and a crimson velvet covering a table, with a crop of gold lace at its front by Mr Edwards’ agent of the W.A.C. Ltd. He exerted himself very satisfactorily in the eyes of the heathen and Mohammedans; taking the lead in the singing by playing his Harmonium. W.M. Fell Esq the Acting Consul was present and there was a perfect cessation from work in landing cargoes and the sanctity of the Sabbath was duly observed. The Bishop had made the following arrangements. I read the Prayers; the Rev. A. G. Coomber the first Lesson and the Rev. J.C. John the second Lesson in Hausa, and the Bishop preached from Luke 4.18.19 to an attentive congregation through an interpreter, Mr. Jacob Newland the Scripture Reader. If I were to stop thus far without saying anything more it would be unpardonable in me. Three years ago I visited Lokoja and my attention was peculiarly drawn to Mount Sterling it was then overgrown with high grass, there was no sign of life, nothing but dull looking uncultivated land lying in waste. Since we have taken it up, as a station, we have now an humble dwelling house and a Chapel. Mr. Fell has laid out good streets to his credit, all is life now, the native merchants and brokers going from street to street carrying articles of British manufacture

 

     July 26th This morning the "Thomas Bayzley left Lokoja for Onitsha and the Nun. The Bishop, the Rev. W. Coomber and myself with Mr. Paul the Catechist and Mr. Thomas and few hands to row the boat, we started about 8 a.m for Odokodo in order to see one Abaje whose conduct of late created great unpleasantness in the destruction of Gbegbe Station. Having the current on our favour we glided down which took us about half an hour to reach Odokodo.

            

     We first went in to salute the proper chief of the village whose name is Amajuko. As ambassadors of peace, the Bishop proceeded to open the friendly communication to him, in his usual way of soft tone by telling him the pitiable state in which the surrounding villages are exposed to hostilities, and the disturbed state in which his people are situated. He frankly told us, that he disapproved of the conduct of Abaje in fighting against his younger brother Akaiya whom the Atta or the King of Idda had made the regency of Gbebe. He told us to see him and use our influence to dissuade him from such incorrigible conduct. We promised him that we as strangers will do our best to convince him of his folly, and direct him to change his course for the temporal welfare of his country and countrymen in general. With this view we come over to see him. We left him and went over to Abaje’s where, we found him sat on a mat surrounded with his fetish things. He was very glad to see us, and acted very civilly to us. The Bishop told him our object in visiting him viz; peace - peace with his brother, and peace for the country in general. He related a long story of his brother’s action towards him. It would be a waste of time, to pen down the whole story, but suffice to say, it is nothing but the spirit of ambition which is prevalent in this as well as other parts of the world. The Bishop then put this convincing proof home to his conscience. What has he done? that all his things as well as the property of the Society should be plundered by everybody? ?No real answer in return, only the Bassas the people at the back of Gbebe had done it. We went to another Chief named Alamagi and spoke the same words. He spoke at such length and came to this determination not to return to Gbebe. Odokodo itself is one of the worst locality which no human being could inhabit, nothing but ragged rocks, granites of immense size, only fit for wild creatures and serve as reclusive dens for snakes as well as amphibious animals. We left at 1 and reached Lokoja at 5 p.m.

 

     July 27th We again left Lokoja for Gbebe to have an interview with Akaya; if haply we might induce him to make peace with his brother and restore the scattered inhabitants' opportunity of returning to their deserted houses which had been destroyed. Akaiya is of a more sedate appearance than his brother Abaje. He spoke most feelingly and deeply regretted that things had turned out so by his brother, he had no wish to destroy any place nor did he aspire the regency of Gbebe - the king had conferred this honour upon him, and he had undergone the process of boring his ears and accepted the nomination of the regency of Gbebe and he could not on any account give it up. Moreover, he had sent round to recall the dispersed inhabitants to return. The Bishop then brought in the sad state of things with the Society was called to suffer innocently. He threw the whole blame upon his opponents and mentioned the irreparable losses which himself had sustained [the following was crossed out -- and said the very tobe which he had on was a gift from some of his kind friends.] As regards the Mission House and premises he promised to rebuild them at his expense so soon as the country is at peace.

            

     Whilst we were trying to pacify our friend Akaiya, King Masaba’s messengers were seen in a canoe bringing tidings to Akaya. They appeared in state with music  &co. shouting along until they came to the landing place. We listened with deep attention [to] the purport of their message, all tending to the same purpose, and expressed a wish that both brothers should remove their forces from the upper and lower parts of the river where they had blockaded the roads and to open trade &c. We asked his permission to visit the ruins of the once famous Gbebe. The aspect of the whole village is lamentable in the highest degree, the busy streets, lanes, as well as the market place, the barber’s shop, the dye-pits and the broken down palace were overgrown with high grass of considerable height. The Church Missionary premises have been entirely destroyed by Abaje.  You will I am sure be grieved to hear that this once flourishing station is in ashes. The devastation is so great that it very well excite the sympathy to those who had witnessed its prosperity. The warriors have pillaged the town, and the Mission property, the Church bell, corrugated sheets, cotton press, gins, &c, set fire to the whole place. The result is that, the whole of the inhabitants are plunged into the utmost distress, dispersed abroad without a home to seek for shelter, and we have the mortification to see the fruits of many years of toil swept away at a stroke. During the commotion of this civil war, the Agents of the Society have been compelled to retreat to Lokoja for refuge, but our faithful Catechist Mr. Paul stood alone, to the very last. It is said that Africans cannot stand [] in the battlefield of the Lord. Here [] we have had proof in Doherty of the Yoruba Mission, & here is another proof and a living proof. Mr. Paul. What? everything robbed from him till at the last, he was obliged to take up the complaint of the Psalmist ?O God, the heathen are come into thine inheritance, thy holy temple have they defiled, they have laid Jerusalem on heaps?

 

     July 30th this day the Bishop held his first territorial Primary visitation and there was present a good gathering of all the Agents of the Society in this place. - the Revds A. G. Coomber, J.C. John, J. C. Taylor, and Mr. Chas. Paul the Catechist as well as the School teachers.

     After prayers the Bishop gave a suitable address adapted for the occasion. The friends of Africa will be gratified with the thought that the Church is given back to Africa her once lost privileges which for some centuries ago adorned the mother churches. May this humble beginning serve to stimulate us on to be actively engaged in our Master’s work. O for faith to confide on Him more and more, to be deeply humble in His sight, as well as to trust in Him for the future.

 

     July 31st The first regular Conference meeting took place. The Bishop took the chair after reading a portion of Scripture, engaged in prayer - when several points relative to our Mission were discussed.

 

     August 1st This day was spent in making preparation to start for Idda Station.

 

     August 2nd. Left Lokoja early at 7 a.m. in a boat for Idda with three hands to manage her, the current being on our favour we got to Idda about 9.p.m. Landed our things, and walked to the Mission Compound. Thankful to Almighty God for His mercies to us.

 

     August 4th. The Bishop and myself visited the famous town of Idda accompanied by the Revd. Mr. Coomber. The greater portion of the inhabitants had deserted the town and nothing but dilapidated and ruinous buildings with unthatched roofs bespeak disagreeableness and disunion. I regret it the more to find the altered position in which the town is situated. However we hope better days will soon dawn upon it, and perfect amity pervade the whole community at large. Our roving about brought us to my friend Agabidoko’s compound, where we found his brother Ajagba. He showed us no little civility placing heaps of kolanuts in a plate and palm wine in abundance &c He expressed a wish that we should take up Romashia on the bank of the Tshadda as a Missionary Station for His father was now the reigning sovereign of the town, he being an heir will accede to the throne at the demise and he wished us now to occupy it as we had Onitsha, Gbebe, Idda, &c. The Bishop and I stood looking speechlessly at each other in wonder, as it was only a few days ago that Mr. Fell the Acting Consul at Lokoja had expressed his wish that we should extend our missionary labours to Romashia in the place of Gbebe destroyed. We told him we shall consider the matter. He earnestly pressed the application on our consideration. thus God is paving the way for the introduction of His Gospel on the banks of the River Binue or Tshadda.

 

     August 6th As the King of Idda is desirous to see the Bishop we started this day for Amgba a distance of 52 miles into the interior. We left the town of Idda properly speaking at noon. Passing several neat croom [towns??] we at last got to Ogbagba whee we halted for the night. We have to travel eastward.

 

     August 9th Started early at 6. reached to river Ofu where we were carried on men’s shoulders who took precaution to pass through the fordable part in order that we might be safe without immersion. There was only one horse sent by the King to convey us to him in the war- camp and here we are to ride by turns. Having crossed the Ofu river we arrived at Ajiko a neat croom of 200 inhabitants, we could not halt for the night but passed on to Ojeri.

 

     August 8th Left Ojeri at sharp 5.am. which brought us to Okura hills, the pathway is so intricate with deep ravines and the awe-sight declivities render the route very tedious, but the favour which added to our comfort is no rain. We have to perambulate dense forests of lofty trees with their refreshingly cooling shades now and then. After two hours and an half, brought us to the Okura river. running very rapidly in a westerly direction. There we met with caravans going and returning from Amgba, some on horseback &c. We sat down by the brink of the river took breakfast and drunk out of the ‘brook by the way.’ We had to undergo the same process as Ofu river. An hour and fifty minutes brought us to Akpata hill, a beautiful tableland interspersed here and there with trees, the last resting place to Amgba. Here we rested a good while and let the horse loose to graze. We resumed our journey and one hour and thirty five minutes brought us to our journey’s end, which is Amgba. During our travelling, the Bishop had his new alpaca Coat torn piece by piece through thorns, and I had the mortification of having my only new pair of wellington shoes ripped apart. my trousers shared the same fate as the Bishop’s coat. We were so shabby and filthy[][] to appear before the King and his courtiers, but the Kings’ messenger Ajia who had escorted us told the bishop to mount the horse ‘Aliheli’ and pressed on us to open our umbrellas  [][] to appear in state before the king. We were obliged to consent to his proposal, and within a few minutes walk, came to the outer court of the Atta of Idda. There was no delay in the part of the King in receiving and welcoming us at his court. We thank God and took courage that He had so graciously favoured us with a hearty reception from a King whose presence in former years could not be attainable without tedious conditions of lucky and unlucky days. We have now traversed [ 2 pages missing - numbered 13-14]

*there were no fewer than between three to four hundred persons burst in view to see the Atta’s strangers

 

     August. 19th Lords Day. Sabbath duties at Idda. I can not but say a word or two of this important station, I hope in God's own good time we shall be privileged to have an itinerant African teacher to traverse these roads and form one town similar at the back of Idda as the Missionaries do in India, for the field is already white to harvest.

 

     August 20th Left Idda again for Lokoja on board the Bazley

 

     Sept. 16th Lord’s Day. the Bishop requested me to baptize two infants at Lokoja, one the infant son of Mr. C. Paul and the other a native.

 

     Sept. 20th Left Idda for Onitsha and arrive in the afternoon.

 

     Sept. 22nd. I had to pack all night and make final arrangements before I leave Onitsha. Baptized an infant of one of my converts, named Rebecca alias Zeribe whose praiseworthy conduct I had mentioned in my former journals.


 

Journal Extract of JH.c. Taylor from the Month of July - Oct 1867

 

     Sept. 1st Lord’s day    There was an overflowing congregation. the Bishop preached an affecting sermon suitable to the occasion. At half-past twelve we administered the Lord’s Supper to 66 persons. I baptized after the second lesson of the same day three children. May the Lord of the vineyard so bless and own His own cause in our midst for His Son’s sake.

 

     Sept 3rd Tuesday. We held our Missionary prayer meeting this day. I am glad that it afforded the Bishop an opportunity to be present with us for the first time at this meeting. He gave an appropriate address to the Agents. The Investigator returned from Lokoja and reported that she had lost two of her hands.

 

     Sept 5th I am thankful to be able to state that during my absence two of the converts have died from the raging epidemic - one a communicant and the other a candidate for baptism. Umoru the redeemed Hausa man of whom I have already mentioned in my former journals. I trust that his end was peace. It has been the plan of the converts to have private prayer meeting amongst themselves in their house to ask for God’s kind protection over them. Thus the Lord had helped them during this season of peculiar trial.

 

      Sept 7th  The Bishop left for Idda on board the Thomas Bazley

 

      Oct 3rd Rumour had reached us by the traders from Igara that some of our friends were captured by Aboko. As there were some truth in it, we have not sufficient grounds to suspect that it would be serious to ourselves and the Church.

 

     Oct. 8th The Bazley returned from the Confluence with Bishop Crowther, and the news which came afloat .....

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