261 : African students in Chatham, Kent, in Victorian times

Susan Ladipo made valuable additions to the story (page 020 of this website) of a Nigerian woman student in 1850s Chatham. She later supplied this study, largely from the papers of the Church Missionary Society in Oxford and Birmingham.

Christian missionaries to nineteenth century West Africa were cosmopolitan. Thomas Birch Freeman who was largely responsible for the spread of Wesleyan Methodism in the Gold Coast (Ghana) was the son of an African born in England in 1809. He died in Africa in 1890. Thomas Lewis Johnson (who spent twenty-eight years in slavery in Virginia) and his colleague Calvin Harris Richardson attended Spurgeon’s College in London and worked in Cameroon (see this website page 028). Joseph Jackson Fuller left Jamaica around 1841 and was a leading Baptist in Cameroon into the 1880s (see page 026). Earlier several Germans were active in Sierra Leone. Gustavus Nylander was in Africa from 1806 until his death in 1825. He married Anne Beverhout (sometimes Ann Beverout) whose father was of African descent born in St Croix in the West Indies: she was born in Nova Scotia, Canada around 1789 and moved to Sierra Leone. Another was James Frederick Schön.

After Nylander’s death his daughters Hannah (13) and Anne Elizabeth (9) were sent by the Church Missionary Society to the Clergy Daughter’s School in Cowan Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale in Lancashire, arriving on 26 October 1825. The school had opened in February 1824 and there were about 55 girls at the school at the time. Twenty girls had been withdrawn in the first nine months of 1825 because of an outbreak of typhus. At least five of them died, often from underlying consumption. Two of these mortalities were the elder sisters of Charlotte Bronte. Survivors Charlotte and Emily Bronte were removed from the school at the end of the summer term.

Hannah’s assessment on entry shows that she read and spelt tolerably well, she sewed neatly, wrote a little and was into simple arithmetic. The sampler made by Hannah and finished in Kissy in October 1823, made under the supervision of her aunt Fanny, is evidence that she possessed more than adequate sewing skills. Anne’s assessment reveals that she read and spelt pretty well and sewed neatly, although she did not write or have knowledge of formal arithmetic. Compared with the assessments for English girls of their age, Hannah and Anne were both well above average. After six years in England Hannah and Anne Nylander arrived back in Freetown in 1832 and were placed in the care of English missionaries. Writing from Bathurst in Sierra Leone in 1832 John Warburton with whom Anne Nylander was living, noted ‘the day school is now entirely composed of colony-born children. Fifty girls are making progress in needlework under the care of Mrs Warburton and the Misses Nylander’.

Soon after their return Hannah Nylander met Revd Edward Jones. He was born ca 1808 in Charleston, South Carolina to Jehu Jones a mulatto born in 1769 and owned by a tailor named Christopher Rogers, who trained him in that trade. By 1798 Jehis was able to purchase his freedom and support himself. In 1815 he purchased a property on Broad Street close to the main Episcopalian church for $13,000. He was assisted in this by his second wife, Abigail Deas. They turned the property into the Jones Hotel which catered to affluent whites. The hotel prospered and in 1822 Jehu was able to send his youngest son Edward to Amherst College in Massachusetts. While he was at Amherst changes in the law meant that free blacks were not allowed to return to the South. Edward was Amherst’s first black graduate. He entered the newly established African Mission School in Hartford, Connecticut in February 1828, then was ordained by the Episcopalian church as a priest in September 1830. He left America to serve as a missionary in Liberia but that did not work out and he arrived in Sierra Leone in October 1831, where he was recruited into the colonial service as a teacher and sent to work in the Banana Islands. Edward met Hannah in Freetown and they married in August 1833. Jones became the government superintendent in the Sierra Leone village of Kent. There were three perhaps four children before Hannah died in childbirth in October 1839.

Edward Jones joined the CMS and became the first black principal of Fourah Bay College from 1841 to 1858. In 1845 he married Meta Wilkins, sister of a fellow missionary. Their first child was born in October 1846 but Mete developed a form of paralysis and when she became pregnant again they left from England where in March 1848 Meta gave birth to William Henry in Pentonville, London. They returned to Freetown in August 1848, leaving Sarah Jones in London. At this time Jones wrote that Meta was much better and able to care for her two children, who were well. In June 1853 she gave birth to Martin Albert Diedrich in London, and after his baptism they all went to Freetown. They went to England and Jones wrote from Freetown ‘Mrs Jones and baby and my daughter have arrived safely’.

The daughter was Sarah (Hannah’s daughter born in 1836) and the baby was probably Martin. In September 1855 Jones wrote that his youngest son was dangerously ill, and stated ‘I have five children in the burial ground’. In October 1856 Meta gave birth to a daughter. In August 1858 Jones sailed to England where he left his sons William and Martin at school. In June 1859 Meta died after the birth of a daughter. In October 1860 Jones wrote ‘I have six children in the burial ground and their two mothers. I am left with two infants, one just three, the other four months old’. His two boys were still in England. The sixth child to die may have been Sarah Jones. Edward Jones asked permission to take his two little girls to Germany but he was refused.

In September 1862 Edward Jones married Elizabeth Schuff, a fellow missionary. In February 1864 Jones suffered from a cerebral haemorrhage. He went to England in 1865 and died in May at Chatham where he was staying with his brother-in-law James F. Schön, for back in May 1835 Anne Nylander had married Revd James Frederick Schön. The house in Chatham was the base for several Africans.

Born in Germany in 1803 Schön arrived in Freetown in 1833 having graduated from Basel Seminary and the Church Missionary Society’s training institute in Islington. He had strong academic abilities so the mission decided to send him to do linguistic work among the estimated 48,359 liberated Africans, who had been settled in villages around Freetown from 1819 to 1839. In May 1836, after the birth of their first child, whom they named Annie Catherine, Anne suffered a mental aberration and Schön sent the baby to stay with Hannah Jones in Freetown, who had also given birth to a daughter, Sarah, that year. In November 1837, Anne died in childbirth. A week later, James baptised his baby son, Frederick Nylander, as he died in his arms. His daughter, Annie Catherine Schön, was eventually sent to school in Islington together with her cousin Sarah Jones, Hannah’s daughter. These two little girls born the same year would have been as twin sisters to each other. Sarah Jones returned to Sierra Leone in November 1854, where she was to have joined the new Female Institution as a teaching assistant but died before October 1859.

James Schön married again in London in 1839, to Cordelia Jackson Irvine. They reached Sierra Leone on 16 January 1840 and Cordelia died in the April. Schön then married a widowed fellow missionary, Catherine White, in February 1841 before participating in the British Niger Expedition in July 1841. On this trip he made use of the Ibo and Hausa he had learned from liberated Africans in Sierra Leone. The other CMS representative on the Niger Expedition was Schön’s friend Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who became the first African Bishop of West Africa (see this website page 046). Thereafter Schön continued to study African languages and produced his first publication, in Hausa, in 1843.

In 1843 ill health forced him to return to England where he was appointed chaplain to the Melville Hospital for sailors in Chatham, Kent. They had a house and cottage built on Canterbury Road: it was named Palm Cottage and was quite substantial (it still exists) for the Schöns were to have nine children. He formally left the CMS in 1853, and became a British citizen in May 1854. Continuing to study West African languages, with a focus on Hausa, he was aided by a native speaker Dorugu Kwage Adamu who lived with the Schöns for many years. Schön’s Magana Hausa of 1885 is based on Dorogu’s autobiography.

Various African visitors stayed with the Schöns, some to learn a language, some to contribute to James’ own language studies. Schön died at his home, Palm Cottage, New Brompton, Kent, on 30 March 1889. The Schön archive was given to the CMS in 1948. Among the many Africans who stayed at his home in Kent was Sarah Forbes Bonetta (c.1843-1880) a ward of Queen Victoria, rescued from the King of Dahomey (see website page 020). She stayed with the Schon family from 1855 to 1861.

In August 1859, at St John’s Church Chatham, James Schön presided when James Pinson Labulo Davies (1828-1909) married Matilda Bonifacio Serrano of Lagos. The bride was given away by Mrs Schön and the bridesmaids were Sarah Forbes Bonetta and the Schön sisters Harriet, Emily and Sarah. The bride had lived under the care of Revd Schön before her marriage. Matilda died nine months later. Two years later, her friend Sarah Forbes Bonetta reluctantly married James P. L. Davies. All the Schön family were there as was Dorogu.

Much has been published about Sarah Forbes Bonetta Davies and her relationship with Queen Victoria and it is not surprising that their first daughter was named Victoria but to have Matilda as a second name is interesting. Victoria Matilda Davies (1863- 1920) attended school in England and married Dr Randle (1855-1928) in November 1890 in Lagos. He, like her father, had been born in Sierra Leone to recaptured parents.
The marriage did not last and Victoria moved back to live in England and then Sierra Leone.

Their second daughter Stella Forbes Davies (1873-1916) married Dr James Ojoye Coker in 1898. They met in Ghana (then called the Gold Coast), where he died. Stella returned to Lagos where she opened a school in 1905, in memory of her mother. After her father died in April 1906 Stella had a relationship with Herbert Macaulay, an influential politician who had studied engineering in England in the 1890s. His father T. B. Macaulay had been a tutor at the CMS grammar school in Freetown and was later sent to Abeokuta with Revd Samuel Ajayi Crowther — who had been liberated from a Portuguese slave ship and landed in Freetown in 1822. T. B. Macaulay married Crowther’s daughter Abigail and moved to Lagos. With the assistance of James P. L. Davies he opened the CMS grammar school in Lagos in 1859. They were the Lagos elite — the Saros, all descended from re-captured slaves.

Stella Forbes Davies Coker lived with Herbert Macaulay from 1909 to 1916. Macaulay did not follow the spiritual life of his parents and fathered several children out of wedlock among whom were daughters named Sarah Aina Macaulay, Victoria Helen Macaulay and Sarah Abigail Ebun Idowu Macaulay. It is likely that all these daughters were born to Stella Davies Coker. Sarah A. E. I. Macaulay married Julius Gordon Kwasi Adadevoh of Ghana in c. 1930 and had six children: Kwame; Dr Babatunde Kwaku (1933-1997) Vice-Chancellor of Lagos University; Stella Shade Ameyo; Charity Ronke; Kwadu and Awushi. Dr Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, the daughter of Dr. Babatunde Kwaku, famously died from Ebola in Lagos in August 2014 and honoured for her role in quarantining the Sierra Leonian runaway who brought it to Nigeria.