The Chronicle, 1901-1905

From March 1905

We take a break from Puerto Rico content (there is a lot more to come, don’t worry) so as to bring you, my loyal reader(s), what will likely be the last segment of my transcriptions of the The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society for a while at least (please see previous segments here: 1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890, 1891-1895, 1896-1900). However don’t fret! This project is far from over. It is just that, as I alluded to at the end of the last installment, the availability of the Chronicle past 1905 becomes spotty thus making it difficult to put together full transcriptions.

What I would like to do as a next step is put together all 30 years I have transcribed so far (30 years ain’t too shabby, is it?) and extract from it useful information to guide follow-on research. I am specifically thinking at minimum an index, but I would like to compile a timeline of the Central Africa Mission and put together short biographies of all the missionaries, at least as far as their association with Central Africa and the LMS goes. Someday when I A) figure out how to apply for a research grant or something, B) apply for those grants, and C) win one, I would like to go out and find the years of the Chronicle that the internet doesn’t have yet and also of course get my butt over to London to look at all the LMS archives in the flesh. And then I dunno write a book or something? But to write a book I would also want to do a lot more research on the ground in Zambia, and we can already see this is more than a nights and weekends project. But a boy can dream.

But back to these five years, specifically (those are 1901-1905, just to recap). Since it is now tradition, I will say that this edition bucks the trend of downward word counts, coming in at about 54,000 words (the whole project is running to over 300,000, so the proofreading required for the compiled edition will take a hot minute). It also features a whopping 45 pictures, representing very nearly half of the total pictures from Central Africa the Chronicle published over the entire 30 years I have covered.

The Mission is well established at this point, even to the extent that by the end of 1905 Rev. R. Stewart Wright is talking about the work of “our early missionaries, some twenty years ago.” The Mission is, however, still expanding, setting up new bases in “Awemba Country” (Bemba in the modern parlance). Besides their drive to evangelize as much as possible, that effort was driven also by a fear of the Catholics claiming more area (there is a short article, tinged with fear, noting that the White Fathers have the rest of Lake Tanganyika surrounded by well-staffed stations, with some of their African converts being trained in medicine) as well as the not-so-hidden protagonist of this whole story, Mr. Robert Arthington, of Leeds, donating £10,000 for “the extension of mission work to the Awemba tribes” (Although Mr. Arthington died in 1900, he left a final donation to the London Missionary Society that was to only be used for new endeavors and not for the maintenance of the Society’s established endeavors, which due to some court stuff continued to cause the Society some headache throughout this period).

As illustrated by the group photo at the top, the Mission is also benefitting from being it seems less deadly to missionaries than it was in its early years. I am sure this is a byproduct of them figuring some stuff out (like in 1897 the fact that mosquitoes transmit malaria) as well as colonialism making it easier for these British people to travel around and communicate with central Africa. It was safe enough that they are regularly sending out women to the Mission, albeit it as the betrothed to missionaries already in the field (where they hop on down to the magistrate in Abercorn to get hitched) and not as missionaries in their own right. There was still danger of course, but at this point when a missionary in central Africa dies it is shocking instead of routine.

The biggest development I was pleased with at this point is that the Chronicle mentions Africans with increasing regularity. I know it’s a minor thing but hey in a literal sense at least it’s not nothing. I think a big chunk of this is that the missionaries are finally having some success in converting Africans to Christianity, once they had really settled down and had a generation of people grow up around them.

So that’s that, for now. As always, if you are finding this useful or want to swap info on the Central African Mission of the London Missionary Society, hit me up. I would be very excited to hear from you.

London Missionary Bibliography

The missionaries of the London Missionary Society were a prolific bunch of writers. This post is my effort to put into one place a bibliography of writings by LMS missionaries. Unfortunately I have not gathered the gumption to annotate it.

I have not meant this post to be a list of writings about the LMS, nor is it a list of the numerous other publications that concern my area of expertise (that area is specifically a very small region southeast of Lake Tanganyika), but some closely related writings have crept in. Hopefully I will update this post in the future, but this current list features heavily the easily googleable works of missionaries that have appeared so far in my transcriptions of The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society (1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890, 1891-1895, 1896-1900). It does not include articles from the Chronicle (you’ll have to reference my transcriptions yourself), and I am unfortunately sure that it also excludes many ephemera that these missionaries published back in their day. I have marked which ones are available to read online, which is a healthy number actually.

The most glaring gap in this post is the largest collected body of writings on the LMS, ie the London Missionary Society Archives at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). I live every day in hope that someone will provide an all expenses paid opportunity for me to hang out at the University of London for a few months scanning those archives so I can upload them to the internet. Anyways please enjoy.

Multiple contributors:

Arthur W. Dodgshun

Edward C. Hore

Annie B. Hore

Walter Hutley

Rev. Harry Johnson

Rev. David Picton Jones

Rev. Cecil H. Nutter

Made a number of bible translations into Bemba.

Rev. William Govan Robertson

Mabel Shaw

I was unfamiliar with Mabel Shaw as I haven’t read that far in the Chronicle yet, and found her while looking for T.F. Shaw. For her works please see this article.

Rev. Alfred J. Swann

Rev. James Baird (J.B.) Thomson

Jones on Hore

A poor scan of a picture of Rev. D.P. Jones and his wife Jessie Ann, née Harries, from his book. Originally captioned “Portrait of the author and his wife taken during the period of their mission activity.”

Reading this week:

  • Funafuti by Mrs. Edgeworth David
  • After Livingstone by the Reverend David Picton Jones

Loyal readers, to avoid the embarrassment of being late once again I need an easy entry. As you can see above, I have just finished reading After Livingstone, which is the sort of autobiography of Rev. D.P. Jones of the London Missionary Society. It is largely an anthropological-type look at the people that he lived with while a missionary with LMS, which was mostly the Mambwe and Lungu people. It was only published in 1968 by his daughter, and I think is a bit less known in the field of LMS studies. It was a pretty good read with some new tid-bits I hadn’t heard. He is a very straightforward writer but an interesting guy, and was most notably probably the first linguist (though untrained) in the LMS and published the first Mambwe-English dictionary. His book is worth a read for sure, but unfortunately I think you’ll have to buy a copy.

Anyways, in a chapter titled “Personalities,” he talks about some of the notable people he met and worked with in Central Africa not otherwise described in the book. One of those people is the popular-to-this-blog Captain Edward Hore. I hadn’t seen this description of Capt. Hore referenced elsewhere, and since Rev. Jones’ book isn’t available online as far as I can tell, please find below and enjoy the relevant excerpt. My favorite part is the one-man committee meeting; truly a man after my own heart:

“Among my fellow-laborers in the mission field one in particular stands out – Capt. Hore of the L.M.S., every inch a sailor. He could turn his hand to almost anything, but he was first and foremost a ship’s captain. His ambition was to settle at Ujiji and establish there the Marine Department, so that he could keep up communication with, and between, the various stations that would be opened up on the lake shore. Unfortunately for his plans, nearly all the missionaries of whom the party consisted at the start either died or went home to England, or returned to their old stations in South Africa. Capt. Hore and Mr. Hutley alone remained. And they were looked upon with suspicion by the Arabs and thwarted in every attempt to carry on missionary work. Eventually Capt. Hore went over to Uguha and established the Marine Department on the island of Kavala.

“He was a peculiar person in some respects and ‘gey ill’ to get on with. While he was very sincere, highly industrious, nobly conscientious, and capable of doing good work, he was withal officious and laid too great stress upon small things.

“When we were about to embark on the Morning Star he looked at our boots with a severe eye and expected us at once to change into slippers or canvas shoes. Much more was that the case when the little steamer replaced it. He then warned us, by letter beforehand, that we must bring with us a pair of light canvas shoes for use on the deck.

“His knowledge of Swahili was imperfect but nevertheless he expected the natives to understand what he said instantly, even though his expressions were atrociously ungrammatical.

“I remember he shook a man furiously one day because he did not understand what he meant by saying ‘Mekwenda mjini, eh?’ Literally it meant, ‘You have been to the village, eh?’ What he wished to say was, ‘Go to the village.’ And the poor fellow wondered what he had done amiss.

“He was very insistent that his orders should be obeyed literally and immediately. Because his servant failed to do so one day, he told him in a loud voice to go out and fetch a plateful of stones. When the man hesitated he shook him well. When at last he brought the stones the Captain apostrophized the act and ordered him to throw the stones away again. His motto evidently was, ‘Yours not to reason why: yours but to do and fly.’

“But with all his eccentricities and provoking ways he was a good man. And inside the Marine Department a good servant of the Society. He lived for that.

“One year it was arranged to hold the District Committee meetings at Kavala, and the date of holding them had to correspond with the arrival of reinforcements – the Revs. J. Harris and Bowen Rees. For weeks before the event Capt. Hore was busy making preparations. He built special huts for the various men and saw that each man should have a room of some kind for himself. Our surprise, therefore, may be imagined, when we arrived, and saw nailed over the door of one building a board with these words on: ‘Office of the Marine Department’; over another building a board bearing the name ‘Rev. J. Harris’; over a third building a board bearing the name ‘Rev. Bowen Rees’, and so on. As I was one of the senior missionaries I was to be the guest of Capt. Hore himself. We quarreled with him in almost every meeting. It was practically unavoidable, but nevertheless we retained our friendship.

“There is a unique entry in the Secretary’s book, which is read by every newcomer to this day. It happened that year that Capt. Hore was the Secretary of the District Committee and that he was the only member who was able to be present. One had gone home, one or two had died, and one (or more) was unable to come. But, nothing daunted, Capt. Hore met himself and carried on the business of committee in three different names. As he was the Secretary of the District Committee, he recorded the proceedings in the official minute-book thus: ‘Capt. Hore and the Secretary of the District Committee asked the Chief Officer of the Marine Department if he could furnish such-and-such information, and the Chief Officer of the Marine Department replied to Capt. Hore and to the Secretary of the District Committee that he would be pleased to draw up a report as soon as his duties would allow him, and would present it to the Secretary’, and other similar items.

“As another example of what might have been his eccentricity, but was not in this instance, I may mention the following incident.

“He and I were heavy smokers. In order to lessen expenses we decided to order a case of tobacco (gold leaf) from Bonded Stores. The smallest case was 80 lb., in which quantity it was sold for a shilling a pound. An order was sent by the Captain to the Mission House, and it included little else but the tobacco, for we had been able to buy provisions that year form the stock of those who had either left the country or died. When they read the order at Headquarters the various officials had a consultation together and decided at once that Capt. Hore must have lost his reason. They did not therefore send out the tobacco until they had confirmation of the order from another source.

“After years of life in Central Africa the Captain retired and tried to make a livelihood by lecturing on Central Africa and later by opening a Central Africa Exhibition. The latter contained specimens and models of innumerable things to be seen in the homes and gardens of the natives. Thereafter, having failed in both attempts to secure a permanent livelihood, he went to Tasmania and bought a fruit-farm, where he grew apples of various kinds. And there, a short time ago, he died.”

The Chronicle, 1896-1900

Reading this week:

  • Dhow Chasing in Zanzibar Waters by Captain G.L. Sulivan, R.N.
  • Across Africa by Commander V.L. Cameron, R.N., C.B., D.C.L.
  • Earthlings by Sayaka Murata

Look guys I know it is absolutely astounding that I have posted sections from The Chronicle two weeks in a row. I can barely believe it myself and for the sake of my reader(s) I hope you like this content and are not pining after descriptions of me wandering around art museums or something. I like it and that’s all that matters on my blog. Anyways. A couple of factors at play here. First is that the downward trend in the length of these updates continue their downward trend, this one clocking in at juuuust shy of 33,000 words. More importantly however is that I was procrastinating some things and doing this was my excuse to avoid doing the other things. Please see previous updates in my plan to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa Mission here: 1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890, 1891-1895.

I have mentioned several times now that the first reason I got interested in the London Missionary Society is because they launched the first steamship on Lake Tanganyika, the SS Good News. That era in LMS history has come and gone, however this era we are entering now is interesting because it much more closely overlaps my own experience in Zambia.

The Society by the end of this era is running three main Mission stations, having given up the Urambo Mission to Moravian missionaries in 1898 in order to consolidate their efforts at the southern end of Lake Tanganyika. There is a mission at Kambole, which I think was in the area now occupied by Nsumbu National Park, which I am sad that I never got to go to. Then there are missions at Niamkolo and Kawimbe. When I was a Peace Corps Volunteer I lived about smack dab in the middle of those two stations, making the LMS’s old stomping grounds my old stomping grounds. I’ve used pictures from this era of the Chronicle to talk about some of these things, such as Niamkolo church.

View from near the spot where the LMS Kawimbe mission was; I can’t imagine it looked way too different in 1899.

I also got interested in Kawimbe because that is where large chunks of the story of Mama Meli took place. In that article I just linked one of the things that my friend Katie and I looked at was a cemetery where many of the missionaries were buried. As part of this project I have finally been able to connect the names on some of these gravestones with the stories of the people behind them. One of the things I want to do if I am ever in Zambia again is to go back to that cemetery and do a better job photographing the memorials and documenting the people buried there. But when I do manage to identify one, such as John May Jr. or, below, Dr. Charles B. Mather, it feels like an exciting accomplishment:

But besides people dying, what’s going on with the Central African Mission? Both a lot and not so much. In 1897 they sent out seven new missionaries to Central Africa (with the Hemans returning), significantly boosting that Mission, since the numbers had dwindled to three people. This significant increase should have led to a lot more activity in the missions, and I think it will and does eventually, but for a long stretch during this interval things are pretty quiet as I think the new missionaries get up to speed and more settled. As I keep saying during these summaries the missions are getting more and more settled and integrated (they proudly talk about at one point that the Central African missions had finally become self-sustaining as far as local expenditure is concerned) and that continues to be the case here. Colonialism continues to take hold as well (“British Central Africa” is referred to regularly), and there is even now a telegraph line to Mbala/Abercorn. The Mission also at this point has a small but regular number of converts coming in, the payoff for their now 25 years in Central Africa. As I read about the Missionaries training carpenters and blacksmiths and converting people to Christianity, I think about the different churches I saw during my time in Zambia or the carpenters and metalworkers that I met, and I wonder which and how many of those people are the direct cultural descendants of the people that these missionaries trained.

As always, if you are finding this useful (or maybe just finding this at all) I would be absolutely delighted to know. My current thinking is that I will keep this project going through about 1915, which will put us into World War I and I think the London Missionary Society might no longer necessarily be the best place to find out about the culture and people in the area. But that is pure conjecture; I’ve never read that far in the Chronicle (though honestly issues become harder to find online at that point). But I guess we’ll see when I get there.

The Chronicle, 1891-1895

Reading this week:

  • The War That Doesn’t Say Its Name by Jason K. Stearns

Friends, I am stunned and astonished to say that I have completed yet another installment of my plan to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa Mission (here is: 1876-1880, 1881-1885, 1886-1890). I have been starting with their stats, so I will let you know that this is even shorter than the previous “teeny-tiny update” at only 36,700 or so words. It does however have something like double the number of pictures as the preceding 15 years of articles combined.

Previously I posited that the amount of coverage the Central African Mission was getting had nosedived because it had become Just Another Mission within the London Missionary Society’s repertoire, and that I think is still true. My numbers are a little artificial too, because sometimes I skipped articles when the mention of the Mission was literally only passing. Also, the format of the Chronicle also changed during this time period to be longer and fancier (and with more pictures), but also mentions of the Central African Mission can arise in a wider variety of spots (different “Secretarial Notes,” in regular columns like “Month to Month” and “Personal Notes,” and sometimes in space-filling asides at the bottom of otherwise unrelated columns) so I am worried I missed some things, despite scrolling through every page. Another reason I think coverage was diminished in this era is because 1895 was the centenary of the London Missionary Society, and they were focused on their older missions, such as the South Seas and South Africa.

One of the themes I see running throughout these five years is the London Missionary Society coming to grips with the impact of colonization on their sought-after flock. Colonization is firmly established at this time – in 1894 they even see A.J. Swann resign his post with the Society “in consequence of his having accepted an official position under the British Administrator in Central Africa.” In general too the Society is in favor of colonization, welcoming a “flood” of Europeans into Africa even as they bemoan this flood is too focused on seeking gold over the spiritual enlightenment of the people. However, in a surprisingly (to me) progressive note, the Foreign Secretary, Rev. Thompson, worries about an effort by Cecil Rhodes and the British South Africa Company to take what is now Botswana away from direct rule by the British Empire and put it under direct control of the company:

Now it transpires that Lord Knutsford, when Colonial Secretary, promised the Company that in due time the Bechwanaland Protectorate should be added to their dominions. Lord Ripon in turn confirmed this promise, and now Mr. Rhodes is agitating for the realization of the compact. The chiefs and people of Bechwanaland object to the change. They have no complaint to make against the Company, but they see that it is a company with the interests of its own shareholders to care for. They think that Imperial rule is likely to be more impartial and unbiased than even the best-intentioned financial corporation.

R. Wardlaw Thompson, October 1895

The Society is forced in this era to take a look at what they have wrought, and decide whether they approve of what they have done.

Just to mention a few other things that happened during this era. First, when describing a trip through Bembaland (here “Awemba”) in an article from January 1895, Rev. W. Thomas (not the Foreign Secretary) notes “How little credit the native gets, as a rule, in books of travel!” I’ve commented on the same thing to criticize my own writing, so good on him here. It is also during this time that a great era for the London Missionary Society came to and end: in a note on the “Proceedings of the Board” in May of 1894, they announce that “the sale of the Mission steamer, Good News, on Lake Tanganyika, Central Africa, to the African Lakes Company (Limited), was approved.” How short a useful life that boat lived despite all the effort and lives that went into putting it on the Lake. But by this time Kavala Island had been abandoned, with the focus of the Mission moving inland, and they had little use for it. Their needs seem to have been adequately met by the Morning Star, but it was wrecked in February of 1895 in a gale (though they think they can repair it). As I have mentioned, the whole reason I started researching this stuff was because I was interested in these boats.

Anyways! As I always say at the end of these posts, if you find this useful please leave a note at the bottom of the post. I would be very interested to see if anyone is as interested in this stuff as I am and are finding these transcriptions useful. Someday I want to compile them all into one big document (and it will be very big) with regularized spellings and a nice index and maybe biographical notes of the missionaries so it’s easy to see who was where, when. But there is a lot of typing to do between now and then.

P.S. – I don’t have a great place to put these, but check out these pictures by Rev. D.P. Jones of two dudes fishing at Niamkolo and a stockade fence with human skulls:

Annie B. Hore

On the left is Annie from the frontispiece of her book (published 1886), while on the right is a picture c. 1881 from Meyer Family memorabilia, published in an article by Dr. G. Rex Meyer.

Reading this week:

  • Tanganyika: Eleven Years in Central Africa by Edward Coode Hore
  • The Road to Tanganyika edited by James McCarthy
  • Brazza, A Life for Africa by Maria Petringa

One of the interesting parts lately of transcribing the Chronicle is going through the book reviews. It was here I discovered the existence of the book To Lake Tanganyika in a Bath Chair, written by one Annie B. Hore.

I had not given a whole lot of thought to Annie until this point, and that is really an unforgiveable and glaring oversight on my part. She was born on April 8th, 1853 as Annie Boyle Gribbon, the daughter of a prosperous merchant. Annie enters our narrative when she married Edward Coode Hore on March 29th, 1881, while he was on his first home leave after becoming a missionary on the London Missionary Society’s Central African Mission.

I have been trying to dig up information on Annie and besides what I get from the Chronicle, a lot of what I will present here is from a thorough biography of Captain Hore written by Dr. G. Rex Meyer and published in Church Heritage. Dr. Meyer is first cousin twice removed of Annie. It was of course very foolish of me to overlook Annie because she does of course pop up all the time in the Chronicle, albeit it only ever as “Mrs. Hore.”

She was a remarkable woman. This was of course 1881 in Victorian-era England, and if you were a vibrant, outgoing woman and dedicated Christian and wanted to see the world and spread the message of Jesus you were pretty much out of luck, unless you got yourself married to a missionary (I am ignoring the moral quandary of missionary work here). As she says in her writing, she married Edward not in spite of his missionary work but as an enthusiastic partner of it. And so, eleven months after they were married she gave birth to their son Jack (February 1882), and five months after that (July 1882) she found boarded along with her husband and infant son the steamer Quetta bound for Zanzibar.

The act of getting from England to Lake Tanganyika is the story that comprises her book, To Lake Tanganyika in a Bath Chair (a “bath chair” here is like a wheelchair). It was not easy! They started one overland caravan but had to turn back when Annie got sick. She returned to England and then the next time she tried to go to the Lake it was via Lake Malawi (then Nyasa). They had to turn back from that due to fighting along the route, and so they began once again on the overland route. The wheels of the bath chair were not very effective, so it was essentially converted to a palanquin, and it was on the shoulders of 16 porters (though only two at once) that she travelled to Lake Tanganyika, becoming the first European woman to do so. She also thus became the first woman to join the Central African mission and started their first school, a school for girls.

I very much recommend a read of Annie’s book. Unfortunately it is nearly impossible to find. Unlike her husband’s book it only received a single edition. However, thanks once again to the Yale Library, I was able to obtain a copy and spent two who days transcribing it for the benefit of the internet and the world. Please find it below. I think the book is very witty, and Edward claiming that they should just get a move on down the road is channeling the exact same energy my dad has whenever he is on a roadtrip. It is also a unique look into fairly early European travel into Africa from the perspective of someone who is not a militaristic white dude. (When the Chronicle reviewed her book in January 1887, they overall recommended it, but noted that the introduction and conclusion by “E.W.” “does not add much to the value of the book, and is disfigured by some glaring inaccuracies,” which is true, but also that “the portraits of Mrs. Hore and ‘Jack’ are not pleasing likenesses, which is whack and shows the value of certain kinds of people’s opinions.)

Annie’s route, included in her book.

Once in place on Kavala Island, Annie threw herself into missionary work and excelled at it. It was a little slow going as first, as she and Jack were recovering from illness, but she soon started a school for girls, which in turn inspired Edward to finally start a school for boys. From Edward himself: “I may say I have worked from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., for months past, and it is certainly as master of works that I have gained [Chief] Kavala’s admiration; but the center and strength of our powerful influence doubtless lay in the arrival and presence of my wife and child, and its resulting details in Mrs. Hore’s girls’ school.”

The Hores returned to England from Central Africa for the last time in October 1888. When I read the Chronicle I am astonished that the missionaries would take their children into Central Africa, given the high mortality rate of missionaries there. But for the Hores, although their son Jack survived the rigors of caravan travel and spent his childhood on Kavala Island, it was upon their return to England that he fell ill and died in London in April of 1889. According to deceasedonline.com, he is buried in Camden (search “Hore” and “1889”).

In August of 1890, however, Annie gave birth to a daughter, Joan, and in 1894 the Hores moved to Australia where Edward continued to work for the London Missionary Society for a time. Annie had relatives in Australia, and in his article Dr. Meyer notes that “[Edward] was dour, grey and humorless; a personality in sharp contrast to that of his wife Annie who, while a devout Christian, had a great sense of humor and an ebullient personality and who was loved and admired by all who knew her. When Edward and Annie Hore visited the Meyer [Annie’s cousins] family in Sydney, which they did frequently after 1890, Edward, with his difficult personality, was ‘tolerated’ for the sake of his wife, who was popular and always welcomed.” Dr. Meyer also notes that, in helping fundraise for the Society, Annie’s “contributions were extensive and greatly appreciated… Annie Hore conducted many meetings and gave informal talks, mainly to women’s groups.”

When Edward finally left the Society for good, they settled in Tasmania where they ran a small farm. This farm, again according to Dr. Meyer, was not successful for a long time, but eventually matured into a productive if modest estate and when they sold it provided sufficient funds for a final retirement. Annie and Edward were respected members of the community. After suffering a stroke, however, Edward died in 1912. Annie outlived him by four days short of ten years, with both buried in the Cornelian Bay Cemetery in Hobart, Tasmania. Her epitaph reads “Missionary.”

Notes on this transcription: I have made some effort to proofread this transcription. However, I have maintained several of the book’s typos while contributing some of my own, and which is which is an exercise for the reader. I have included the best scans I could of Annie’s portrait, Jack’s portrait, and the map of her route. The book includes a map of Lake Tanganyika which is the same map prepared by Captain Hore that can be found in a variety of places, including here. I have also tried to put the pdf together in a fairly pleasing way but there was only so far I was able to go.

Book Review: Steam and Quinine

Reading this week:

  • Gravel Heart by Abdulrazak Gurnah

We’re going to venture into all new territory for this blog and do a book review. The book in question is timely and relevant to our discussions here on this blog, which as my myriad loyal readers are aware has lately (though unlikely permanently) become more and more focused on the activities of the London Missionary Society in Central Africa. I promise I have other interests, which have also been documented on this blog, but it is winter and I am a working professional man now and Tim Harford tells me it is good to have serious hobbies so here we are.

One of the things I like about reading into the history of the London Missionary Society and especially the history of their steamer the Good News is that there is not a lot of competition in the space. There are a few other people I have found who have looked into all this which makes it interesting but it’s not like it takes all that much research to rocket to the top echelons of the field. However, the other edge of this sword is that it can make it difficult to access research items. One such item is the subject of today’s book review: Steam and Quinine on Africa’s Great Lakes: The story of the steamers white and gold on Africa’s inland waters by David Reynolds, with illustrations by Keith Watts Thomas.

Given the overall lack of interest in the topic, it is a little stunning that two books were published detailing the lake steamers of Africa in close order, namely The Lake Steamers of East Africa by L.G. Bill Dennis in 1996, and Steam and Quinine in 1997. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that either book got a second edition, and although there are copies of Steam and Quinine on sale for $60ish, I haven’t been able to find a copy of Lake Steamers except over in the Library of Congress. Fortunately for us, however, the Yale University Library is still willing to mail me books, which is how I got my grubby little hands on a copy of Steam and Quinine for us to peruse.

This book is clearly a work of passion for our friend David Reynolds. His biography on the back reveals he “was born to missionary parents near the shores of Lake Victoria in 1932” and completed his education in South Africa. This was his third book about African boats, the first being A Century of South African Steam Tugs (which apparently got three (!) editions) and Kenneth D. Shoesmith and Royal Mail, Royal Mail being a shipping line. This is clearly a man after my own heart, when it comes to steamships at any rate.

Although my specific interest in this book are the boats of Lake Tanganyika, and even more specifically as mentioned the Good News, he covers all the great lakes (Nyasa/Malawi, Tanganyika, Kivu, Albert, Victoria, and the honestly not-so-great Kioga) in a northward fashion. My expertise in this area is targeted, but I haven’t spotted any steamships (or some motor ships) that he missed, making this a very comprehensive review of steam navigation on the African Great Lakes. He does, however, devote more space attention to the boats that pique his personal interest, but honestly what is the point of being passionate about something if you’re not going to devote way too much space to it? *cough* this whole blog *cough*

But let’s circle back to my specific interest, the Good News. Honestly I gotta say this section does not come through shining. I think we’re both partisans here, but I am a much bigger fan (or devotee anyways) of Edward C. Hore than he is. Mr. Reynolds spends a good chunk of time maligning Captain Hore’s character, ending his biography with the note that Hore “died, impoverished and institutionalized, in Tasmania.” According to research published by Dr. G. Rex Meyer (kindly provided to me by the former editor of the unfortunately defunct Church Heritage journal), the only part of that sentence that is true is that he a) died b) in Tasmania, which for me throws much doubt onto his scholarship overall.

Although a feature of the book are paintings of several of the ships by Keith Watts Thomas, the book is also illustrated with sketches by David Reynolds. One of these sketches is of the Good News, included above. I have another nit-pick here. In his sketch, the ship is depicted with a sort of wheelhouse on top of the main cabin. Being as there are a limited number of pictures of the Good News and I have tried hard to see all of them, I think you, the reader, will agree with me that the sketch is derived from the below picture of the Good News in drydock. The ship that Mr. Reynolds has sketched does not match the layout of the real ship at all, which again puts me in fear for his scholarship, on my favorite boat anyways. The below picture isn’t perfect and shows a Good News under repair (for example, it is missing the booms and funnel), but I have also included below an engraving of the Good News under steam from Captain Hore’s book, Tanganyika: Eleven Years in Central Africa, which still doesn’t match the sketch.

Putative source of David Reynold’s sketch
Engraving of the Good News under steam.

I will try to avoid being entirely whiney here but noting that I did learn something intriguing about the eventual fate of the Toutou of Battle of Lake Tanganyika fame. This tidbit is hidden away in the section on the Graf von Goetzen / Liemba:

The Fifi, considered unserviceable, was towed out onto the lake and sunk in deep water on October 19, 1924. She went down with flags flying and all honours. The Toutou did not last long on the lake. She was transferred to Cape Town and could be seen in the Victoria docks with a brightly polished plate in her cockpit which read: ‘This launch served in the East African Campaign as an armed cruiser. Captured and sank three German gunboats with assistance of her sister launch, Mi Mi.’

This means now I gotta get my butt to Cape Town and see if she isn’t still there. Or better yet, anyone in Cape Town already?

Sketch of the Mimi by David Reynolds, along with the source image, below.

All in all if you want to get one book on the steamships that plied the African great lakes, honestly I’m not sure what book to recommend because there are astonishingly two and I haven’t read the other one. Though then again only one of them appears to actually be available. Though then again again the available one is like $60 and I’m not sure I can recommend it at that price. Then again again again they aren’t making more. I don’t know. It was at times a tedious and at times a very entertaining read, and as I said at the top a lot of passion went into it. I guess to conclude, please enjoy this final image I extracted from the book, the masthead of the African Lakes Corporation:

The Chronicle, 1886-1890

Reading this week:

  • The Last Gift by Abdulrazak Gurnah

In the unsustainably short interval of only five weeks, I am once again pleased to announce the third part of my ongoing project to transcribe every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa mission. The interval was so short because it has been a very slow period at work, but also because this is a teeny-tiny update, at a mere 38,000 words. I was wondering if this update would put the totals for this project above the 200,000 word mark, but it was not to be.

In this third semi-decade of the Central Africa Mission’s existence, it seems to be gaining a very different character. The reporting on the Mission in the Chronicle really took a nosedive. Part of the reason for that is fighting in the area cutting off the mails and therefore communication with the mission, so the Chronicle was forced to just give mild speculation based on rumors they had heard with no actual information. But I think a much bigger reason is that the Mission had simply become just another mission.

By this point they were fairly well established in Central Africa. They had four main stations – Urambo, their first permanent station; Kavala Island, where they had set up their marine department when it was clear they were unwelcome in Ujiji; Niamkolo (spelled Niumkorlo during these years) to get a presence at the south end of the lake; and Fwambo, a newly established mission “fifty miles inland on the route to Lake Nyassa” (I think this is now Kawimbe Mission, but I am not sure). The routes to these stations were well-established, the mail fairly regular (when there wasn’t fighting), and the Missionaries were spending their time building their infrastructure and their trust with the local communities. This is not the exciting part of missionary work. If there was exciting stuff, it wasn’t actually reported in the Chronicle – often the editor notes that urgent news had been reported in the daily papers, and in this magazine they were then just noting that all had turned out well (or not).

The Mission also starts to be swept up in world events. In 1876 they were some of the only Europeans in the area, but by 1890 colonization is starting to firmly take hold. Part of the reason for the fighting that cut off the mails is that the Germans were attempting to take hold of what would become German East Africa, and the native peoples were fighting back. Then in March of 1890 the Chronicle is reporting on a speech from the Duke of Fife where he discusses the recently founded British South Africa Company. And in December of 1890 they even note that Urambo is likely to be made a military station. The London Missionary Society in 1890 is no longer the vanguard of the European takeover in the Tanganyika region.

For our interests here in this blog there are a few other developments. This era is when James Hemans heads to the mission. On the other hand, our man Ed Hore has left the mission, with the latest news that he has gone on a tour of the Society’s missions around Australia. His wife, Annie Hore, was left in London to give birth to their daughter. Annie had been the first woman sent out to Central Africa by the Society and founded the Mission’s first school, the Kavala Island Girls’ School pictured above. While she was the first, in this era it is now becoming common for men to go out with their wives, a further signal that Central Africa was no longer the wild domain of only people like Livingstone and Stanley, as far as Europe was concerned.

Although the London Missionary Society might have felt that Central Africa was no longer so dangerous, with family life taking hold in the Mission comes the normal tragedies of everyday existence. In June 1889’s “Announcements” they report under Births: “Jones – November 16th, at Fwambo, Central Africa, the wife of the Rev. D.P. Jones, of a son.” Then, on the very next line under Deaths: “Jones – December 26th, at Fwambo, Central Africa, the infant son of the Rev. D.P. Jones, aged 6 weeks.”

As ever, if you find this work useful, please let me know. I’d be excited to collaborate.

The Chronicle, 1881-1885

I am pleased to announce the second part of what must be honestly the most anticipated project of the century, to wit me transcribing every article in The Chronicle of the London Missionary Society relating to their Central Africa mission. The first part of this project spanned the years 1876 to 1880 (more details on this project overall at that link), and the second part, linked above and embedded below, covers the next five years, 1881-1885.

This batch of transcriptions clocks in at a relatively modest 66,000 words, about 15,000 fewer words than the last time. Opening up the last time I posted a batch of transcriptions I am more than a little surprised that it was only back in April. This feels like a project I have been neglecting for ages, but there ya go, I’m slightly better than I thought. I have become more familiar with The Chronicle during the course of this project and so I am better at extracting the relevant bits. However, the magazine got a new editor in 1885, and so far I can’t really say I like what he’s done with it, but it’s a tad late to complain.

The single biggest revelation I’ve had so far about The Chronicle is that I realized that it is a fundraising document. Up until that revelation I had been thinking of The Chronicle as this handy record created specifically for my benefit. If that were the case, though, it’s honestly a bit of a weird read. They’re Victorians and I am under the impression that this was normal for them, but they go into a lot of gory detail about people’s illnesses. For example they print, at length, the sufferings of Dr. Southon after he is accidentally shot in the arm and slowly dies from infection.

It finally occurred to me that the audience of this magazine are all the churchgoers they are trying to convince to donate to the London Missionary Society. Every year in June the Society publishes their annual report, including a detailed look at their finances. In the transcription I try to translate these into modern-day dollars, and every year the Society needs to fundraise the equivalent of millions of dollars just to try to keep themselves afloat. I realized that the main purpose of The Chronicle was therefore probably to let people know how their donations were being spent, and present an image of a Society doing the best missionary work out of many competing missionary societies while letting people know that they still desperately needed more funds. Someday, when I sit down and actually analyze all that I’ve typed, I will have to keep that in mind.

When we left the missionaries in 1880, they had set up several missionary stations between Zanzibar and Ujiji and were starting to make forays towards the south of Lake Tanganyika. My interest in the London Missionary Society started because I was interested in the first steamship on Lake Tanganyika, the SS Good News. I’m going to grant myself an historic parallel by mentioning that what was the final spur to get LMS setting out into the region was a desire to put a steamship on the lake. So while the SS Good News is a throughline through the entire first decade of the Central Africa Mission, it is during 1881-1885, and really towards the latter part of that timeframe in which the story of the Good News really gets going; it is in August of 1885 that The Chronicle reports the ship was launched (though it still had a lot of fitting out to do).

This is not the Good News, but there are better versions of the same engraving they published in The Chronicle elsewhere on this blog.

Despite the mission’s nautical success, however, it is really not in a good place by the end of 1885. Central Africa was deadly for missionaries. In a lengthy November 1885 article, it’s noted that “since the commencement of the Mission in 1876, twenty-three persons have gone out to take part in the work, and of these no fewer than ten have been removed by death, and nine have retired from the service.” Although many of the nine that retired from the service but didn’t die did so out of general poor health, it is also in this same article that The Chronicle details a new development among the missionaries – people quitting out of fear. The Chronicle published excerpts of letters from recently deployed missionaries saying that they were headed home, not necessarily because they were sick, but because they finally noticed how many people were dying and wanted out before they too were struck down. With those two missionaries heading home, at the end of 1885:

The entire Mission staff is thus reduced to four. The Rev. T.F. Shaw is laboring alone at Urambo, and is the only missionary specially set apart for the work of preaching and teaching. The rest – Captain Hore, Mr. A.J. Swann, and Mr. A. Brooks – went out as laymen, the two former in charge of the boats on Lake Tanganyika, and Mr. Brooks as an artisan missionary.

My final note on this batch of transcriptions is that until this point, I had considered the colonization of this area as somewhere between an unfortunate side effect and an unrelated but parallel enterprise to the evangelization by the missionaries. But now a letter from Captain Hore states plainly that he envisioned European colonization as part and parcel of the enterprise all along: “As to the future of the Mission… if we look further off it is nothing but a tide of Europeans crowding into the continent from all sides, and plenty of the ‘fit’ surviving and evangelizing, colonizing, or amassing wealth, according to their several missions.” I think the missionaries deserve credit for their part in combatting the slave trade in the region, the dire effects of which are also detailed by Captain Hore in this era of The Chronicle. But we have to keep in mind that you don’t have to be intending bad outcomes for bad outcomes to happen, and when we consider the impact these missionaries had we must carefully weigh the bad outcomes along with the good.

If there are any researchers out there using this work, please let me know. I would be delighted to chat more about the history of this region and see what you’re digging up. I don’t know if anyone is using my last batch of transcriptions, but I think I have been cited in at least one college paper from the University of Zambia on World War I, at least. I would like to figure out something productive to do with all this research, but I know my biggest hurdle will be figuring out a way to center African voices into these African stories, and I am conscious I might not be the guy to do that. But between here and that, we have a few more decades to transcribe.

Hore’s Tanganyika Pictures

I quoted the book at length when I wrote about the building of the SS Good News, but I wanted to present some pictures from Edward C. Hore’s book Tanganyika: Eleven Years in Central Africa. I had meant to actually read the book in it’s entirety and then present my thoughts on it, but I didn’t manage to finish it in time and this post is already late so I’m just throwing these pictures up there so the world gets to see ’em. You can just download and read the whole thing online via Google Books (the previous link), but the picture scans aren’t very good. Turns out Yale Library has an original copy, now like 130 years old, and will just let you borrow it, so I did and then I also scanned in the pictures. I hope you like them!