1902 Encyclopedia > Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone

SIERRA LEONE, a British colony on the West Coast of Africa, the capital of which, Freetown, lies in 8° 39' N. lat. and 13° 14' W. long. It consists of Sierra Leone proper, part of the Quiah country to the east, Tasso Island, &c, in the Sierra Leone estuary, part of the Bullom country to the north, the Los Islands to the north of the Mellicoury (Mellacoree) river, the Banana Islands to the south of the main settlement, Sherbro (Sherboro) Island and part of the Sherbro country, the Turner peninsula, W. E. Tucker's territory, and generally all the seaboard south to the mouth of the Manoh (Manna) river, which is now recognized as the northern boundary of Liberia. The British territory and protectorate are estimated to have an area of about 3000 square miles; and, though it has not all been formally annexed, the whole coast region from the mouth of the Scarcies in 8° 55' N. lat. to that of the Manoh in 6° 55' may be considered as British, at least to the exclusion of any other European sovereignty.

Sierra Leone proper is a peninsula about 18 miles long from north-west to south-east by about 12 broad. It lies between the Sierra Leone estuary on the north and Yawry Bay on the south. Lengthwise it is traversed by a range of high hills attaining a height of 3000 feet in the Sugar Loaf and nearly as much in Mount Horton farther south. From the mainland the peninsula is physically separated by the Banco or Bunce river (properly estuary), which receives the Waterloo Creek and other small streams. Towards the east and south-east the peninsula sinks to the level of the great alluvial zone which extends along the larger portion of this district of the African coast. The hills seem to consist of some kind of igneous rock (popularly misnamed granite) and of beds of red sandstone, the disintegration of which has given a dark-coloured ferruginous soil of moderate fertility. The " lofty green trees" which clothed the "mountain" at the time of its discovery (Cadamosto) have for the most part been de-stroyed, though Sugar Loaf is still timbered to the top months. Among the productions of the peninsula are cola nuts, ginger (in large quantities), malagetta pepper, castor-oil, maize, cassava, ground nuts, and (in small quantities) cotton. Native coffee was discovered in Quiah in 1796, and the growing of Liberian coffee and cocoa has since 1880 been attempted with some success.

The rainfall of Sierra Leone, according to the Colonial Hospital observations at Freetown, is from 150 to 169 inches per annum. The three months of January, February, and March are practically rainless; the rains, commencing in April or May, reach their maximum in July, August, and September, and rapidly diminish in October, November, and December. It sometimes rains for thirty hours on end, but generally twelve hours of rain are followed by twenty-four, thirty, or more hours of clear and pleasant weather. At the barracks (150 feet higher than the hospital) there are about 40 inches more rain, and at Kissy, 3 miles distant, some 18 or 20 inches less. The annual temperature indoors is from 78° to 86°. The highest reading for 1880 was 95° and the lowest 69° '33. During the dry season, wdien the climate is very much like that of the West Indies, there occur terrible tornadoes and long periods of the harmattan,—a north-east wind, dry and desiccating, and carrying with it those clouds of fine dust which the sailors designate " smokes." The dangers of the climate have long been exaggerated. The low swampy regions are like those of other tropical countries, and Freetown, being badly placed and carelessly kept, is too often a hotbed of malaria and fever; but the higher districts are not the " wdiite man's grave."

According to the census of 1880, the population of the colony was. as follows:—peninsula of Sierra Leone with British Quiah, 53,862 ; Isles de Los, 1371 ; occupiers of factories on the Sierra Leone river paying rent to Government, 52 ; island of Tasso, 828; British Sherbro (including Bonthe, Mocolo, Mokate, Runteh, York Island, Yelbana, Victoria, Tasso, Bendu, and Jamaica), 4333,—total 60,446. But the census officials deem the actual population to. be much greater, that of British Sherbro, for example, being pretty certainly 8000 or 9000. Ethnographically Sierra Leone is almost "an epitome of Africa." The following are the more im-portant races that can be distinctly classified :—Mandingos, 1100 ; Timmanehs, 7443 ; Joloffs, 189 ; Baggas, 340; Mendis, 3088 ; Sherbros, 2882 ; Gallinas, 697 ; Limbas, 493 ; Susus (Soosoos), 1470 ; Fulahs, 225 ; Lokkos, 1454 ; Serrakulis, 129 ; Bulloms, 129 ; Krumen, 610. The direct descendants of the liberated slaves now number 35,430. The Akus or people of Yoruba and the Eboes from the eastern banks of the Niger are most easily distinguished. The white residents number only 163, almost entirely a floating population.

Most of the inhabitants depend upon trade, and are collected at the north end of the peninsula, in FREETOWN (q. v.) and the neigh-bouring villages. Freetown has a good supply of pure water, and great improvements in sanitation have recently been effected. Among the villages in the peninsula may be mentioned Kissy (founded in 1817), the seat of two hospitals for male and female incurables, Gloster (1816), Bathurst (1818), Leopold (1817),Charlotte (1818), Regent (1812), Leicester (1809).

According to the census returns of 1880, there were in Sierra Leone 18,660 Episcopalians, 17,098 Wesleyans and Methodists, 2717 of Lady Huntingdon's connexion, and 369 Roman Catholics. Since 1861-62 there has been an independent Episcopal Native Church ; but the Church Missionary Society, which in 1804 sent out the first missionaries to Sierra Leone and has spent about £500,000 on the colony, still maintains certain educative agencies. Fourah Bay college, built by the society on the site of General Turner's estate (1| miles east of Freetown) and opened in 1828 with six pupils, one of wdiom was Bishop Crowther, was affiliated in 1876 to Durham university, and has a high-class curriculum. Other institutions are the grammar-school (1846), the Wesleyan high school, and the Annie Walsh Memorial Female Institution.
The following figures show the average value of the principal exports in recent years :—

== TABLE ==

With the exception of the ginger, most of these products are brought down the rivers from the interior, and the development of trade has been grievously hampered by inter-tribal wars in non-British territory. A considerable falling off is observable in those articles which require cultivation or labour, or are bulky in transit. Cola nuts have steadily increased in quantity,—that part of the Limba country where they are principally grown being in comparative peace. The supply of india-rubber has decreased, partly through destruction of the trees, partly through war in the Yonnie country. Gum copal is brought from the northern rivers. The Mendi country sends a good deal of rice, which is also grown largely in Sherbro. The total value of all the exports was on an average for 1877-81 £382,620, and for 1882-83 £413,148. The corresponding figures for the imports were £424,447 and £429,273.

The most northerly territory belonging to the colony is the little group of the Los Islands (Islas de los Idolos), about 80 miles north-north-west of Freetown to the south of Sangareah Bay. Tamara or Futabar to the west and Factory Island to the east "enclose, like an atoll, an inner basin, in the centre of which lies the much smaller Crawford Island." The highest point is a knoll some 450 feet above sea-level in Tamara. All these islands are richly clothed with palm trees and flowering underwood. Factory Island is occupied by a French trading settlement. At one time the islands were a great seat of the slave-trade and about 1812-13 were garrisoned by British troops for the suppression of the traffic. The climate was then found to be exceedingly fatal.

The small island of Matakong, 25 miles south-east, is also British. On the mainland the watershed between the Great Searcies and the Mellicoury (Mellacoree) has been adopted as the boundary between the French and English protectorates or annexation-areas. The Great Searcies river (Rio dos Carceres) appears to take its rise in the highlands of the Futa-Jallon not far from the sources of the Senegal, but its upper course has not been completely explored. It is navigable for boats a long way inland, though the ascent from the sea is interrupted by rapids a short distance above Kambia, an important Mohammedan town. The Little Searcies has its headwaters to the north-east of Falaba, a town of the Sulima country, built in 1768 and visited by Laing (1822), Winwood Reade (1869), and Zweifel and Moustier (1879). The Rokelle or Mabile river, which falls into the Sierra Leone estuary, is formed by the drainage of the Koranko country. On a creek which reaches the estuary near the Rokelle mouth stands (at the head of navigation) the important township of Port Lokko, a mission station of the Church Missionary Society. The maritime country between the Searcies and Sierra Leone is called North Bullom (i. e., low land); the tribe of the same name has been expelled from much of its territory by the Susus (whose country is the unexplored tract to the south of 11° N. lat.) and the Timmanehs (Timnis). At the angle of Yawry Bay lies the mouth of the Ribbi or Kates river, and about 10 miles farther south is the common outflow of the Kamaranka and the Bompe. At the south side of the bay the small cluster of Plantain Islands corresponds to the Banana Islands on the north off Cape Shilling, which were ceded to the British in 1819 and are noted for their healthiness. Southward opens the broad estuary of the Sherbro (popularly river), which lies between the island of Sherbro, annexed in 1862, and the territory of the same name. The estuary receives the Bagru from the Manoh-Bagru country and the Jong river, whose headstream, the Bampanna, rises far inland in the same country as the Rokelle and has a breadth of 200 feet at Mayosso. From the sea the Jong is navigable for steamers to Matonghbah (or Matubah). It is connected by the Little Bum Creek with the Great Bum river, which passes through the Mendi country and descends into the alluvial seaboard by rapids at Motappan. The Bum loses itself in a curious network of lagoons and creeks separated from the ocean by the long low tract of Turner's peninsula. The upper Kittam joins it from the east, and by another creek communicates witli the Palma or Cassi Lake (20 miles long), which in its turn has a connexion with the Gallinas river (7° S. lat.). On the narrow strip of land between the ocean and the lake lies Lavanna, an important trading port, where a short line of railway has been laid down. Parallel with the Gallinas flows the Moah or Sulimah river (falls at Whidaro), at the mouth of which is the town of Sulimah; and about 10 miles farther east is the Manoh river. The countries inland be-tween the Manoh and the Sulimah are Gbemna or Massaquoi, Soro, M'perri, Barrie, Cowrah, &c.

History.—Sierra Leone (in the original Portuguese form Sierra Leona) was known to its native inhabitants as Romarong or the Mountain, and received the current designation from the Portuguese discoverer Piedro de Cintra (1462) on account of the lion-like roaring of the thunder on its hill-tops. An English fort was built on the Sierra Leone estuary towards the close of the 17th century, but was soon afterwards abandoned. In 1786 Dr Smeathman proposed his scheme for founding on the peninsula a colony of liberated African slaves ; and in 1787 Captain Thompson, having purchased the territory from Naimbana or King Tom of the Timmanehs, commenced the settlement with 400 Negroes and 60 [Europeans. Owing mainly to the utter shiftlessness of the settlers and partly to a hostile attack by a body of natives, this first attempt proved a com-plete failure. In 1791 Falconbridge collected the surviving fugitives and laid out a new settlement (Granville's Town); and the pro-moters of the enterprise—Granville Sharp, William Wilberforce, William Ludlam, Sir Richard Carr Glynn, &c, hitherto known as the St George's Bay Company—obtained a charter incorporat-ing them as the Sierra Leone Company (31 Geo. III. c. 55). In 1792 Clarkson introduced into the colony 1200 Negroes from the Bahamas and Nova Scotia. Afzelius the botanist and Nordenskjold the mineralogist were sent out to explore the capabilities of the country ; but the latter soon after died at Port Lokko (Port Logo). In 1794 the settlement, which had been again transferred to Freetown, was plundered by the French. An attempt to found a similar colony on Bulama (mouth of the Rio Grande) was a com-plete failure (Dalrymple and Beaver). In 1800 the company was allowed to make laws not repugnant to those of England, but in 1807 it was glad to transfer all its rights to the crown. Sydney Smith's jest that Sierra Leone had always two governors, one just arrived in the colony and the other just arrived in England, is but a slight exaggeration. There were eight changes between 1808 and 1824, and as many between 1865 and 1881. The names of Zachary Macaulay. Sir Charles Macarthy, Sir Stephen J. Hil], Sir Arthur Kennedy, Sir Samuel Rowe, and A. E. Havelock deserve to be mentioned. In 1825 General Turner concluded a treaty placing Turner's peninsula, &c., under British protection ; but effect was not given to it till 1881. In 1875 the mouths of the Kates, Kamaranka, Bompe, and Cockboro were annexed, and in 1883 the seaboard towards the Liberian frontier. British influence has been peacefully advancing inland under Sir Samuel Rowe. In 1866 Sierra Leone was made the seat of government of the new general government of the British settlements on the West Coast of Africa (comprising Sierra Leone, Gambia, the Gold Coast, and Lagos, each of which was to have a legislative council); but in 1874 the Gold Coast and Lagos were raised to a separate government, and the Gambia alone remains attached to Sierra Leone.

[Further Reading] Besides the older works of Falconbridge (1794), Winterbottom (1803), Walker (1847), Shrcwe (1847), Poole (1850), see the various works of Robert Clarke (Sketches of the Colony of Sierra Leone, 1863, &c.) and Dr Africanus B. Horton (West African Countries and Peoples, 1868, &c.); A. Menzies, "Exploratory Expedition to the Mende Country, " in Church Miss. Intel!., 1864 ; A. B. C. Sidthorpe, Hist, of Sierra Leone ; T. R. Griffith, " Sierra Leone, Past, Present, and Future," in Proc. Roy. Col. Inst., 1881-S2, vol. xiii. ; " Britische Annexionen an der Sierra-Leone-Küste," in Petermann's Mitt., 1883. (H. A. W.)

The above article was written by: H. A. Webster, editor of The Scottish Geographical Magazine.

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