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Mary Slessor: Letters 1–10

Letter No. 1

6th January 1905

To her great delight Miss Slessor has just received a huge Christmas Pudding from Mr Partridge, and is promptly writing to give profuse thanks and appreciation. He is asked to let her know should he need anything that she might have, as she thinks of him as a neighbour. It appears he is to go to work among the Ibibio People, and Miss Slessor takes this opportunity of giving him some good advice and encouragement.

(The letter is written on paper headed “Okoyon, Old Calabar” with Okoyon deleted)

Itu
Old Calabar
6th Jany 1905

Dear Mr Partridge

I can’t help it! I *must* write a “Thank You” for such a lovely Huge Pudding! I’m only afraid I shant get a chance to send part of it to the dear Sister at Okoyon & the bairns. We had nothing at all to differentiate last Xmas from other days, except that 5 days seat among the flies & dirt at Ikoneto Beach, and this will be such a treat. It is simply lovely! Surely it is a Home Made one Eh? & what about the basin? Am I to keep that too? for such a basin is in itself a big thing here.

I had a good shake of fever the night you left me. I had scubbed all the morning, having the rain water, & that was the price! So I refused to let the Children boil the Pudding till yesterday morning, & we had it for breakfast, tea, & dinner, & again to breakfast this morning. A Plum Pudding is my weakness, & it was always on the table on my birthdays [when I had a home & birthdays] which is in the far past now. All I want to make it perfect, is someone to share it with, who *UNDERSTANDS*.

This is not leap year is it? & I’m over 50 years old!! & probably you have a wife, so theres no manner of shadow of my being immodest. Eh? Well, I can keep a pudding for a week at least in good condition, so I don’t despair of getting a bit down to Okoyon before that.

Many many thanks! & for your visits as well, & I trust you will use the freedom of saying, or sending at any time, if you are out of any thing, or are in need of any thing I can get. I wd do the same to you as my neighbour, & I keep most of my stores here, so tho’ you would not think it, I have almost anything for ordinary use beside me.

I do trust you will enjoy your work among the Ibibios. If you can discriminate between fear & stubbornness, you have won half the battle. Lord Roseberry said the other day in regard to the [*Baltic*?] Fleet incident, – “If we oftener tried to put ourselves into the place of those who oppose us”, etc.etc.etc. If you try to put yourself into these ignorant, besotted, cowardly Ibibios shoes, You will see how much more likely they are to *fear* you than to give themselves over at once. Have patience. They are deceitful as a race, but I have many true & intelligent friends among them every where, *&* *so* *shall* *you*! *Trust* *them*, *&* *have* *patience*. May the wisdom & tact needed be abundantly given you. With thanks, & perhaps I may look you up some day, I am Yours very sincerely M M Slessor

“I don’t know” said the Resident slowly. “We have sown a few lives like his up & down the Empire. They bring us a better harvest than Maxim bullets [Note 1], in the long run”, from a soldiers story I was reading last night. I’m sure your life & work will be like that, & I have *not* *a* *shadow* *of a fear*, but that you will be safe & successful.

MMS

Editorial Notes:

  1. Maxim-gun – the first fully automatic water-cooled machine gun, designed in 1884 by Hiram Maxim.
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter No. 2

17th January 1905

Miss Slessor explains the reasons for passing on a problem that has arisen in the case of people from Ibiaku Itam who in the past had been badly treated by the Calabar people and were now worried over a decision by the Administration to establish one Court to give justice to the people of both areas. Mary suggests a solution to this, and expresses a desire to assist in the consolidation of British Rule by going to live among the people while acknowledging that this is not feasible at the present time.

(Envelope is addressed to:)
– Partridge Esqr
Ikot Okpene
Ibibio

(No postmark – presumably delivered by hand)

Itu
Old Calabar
17th Jany ’05

Dear Mr Partridge

Here I am already meddling with your affairs. Twenty free men & chiefs came here on Sunday from Ibiaku Itam. I met them, with the Itu Chief yesterday, & gave a hearing, & sympathy, & etc, to their story, & as the result, I found that the nearest way to help them was to send them to you, & ask you to take them under your wing & give them any guidance & help you think best.

Their story is briefly this. From five years or so ago, Calabar & Creek Town Section, sent & asked them to make market with them. After long parleying, in which all the work & clearing & etc. was to be done by the Ibibios several of them agreed, & opened trade. Very many feared Calabar, & were not willing to go with their produce, but some did – notably the man Udo Nsook. Things went on with palavers [Note 1] manifold, till the Aro Expedition set out, when Calabar called them to meet with the White Man – Major Sampson I’m sure, for he left my house in Creek Town then, to go to them. – Palavers which went the length of killing happened. Calabar were the Judges & the Rulers in every thing. However, all these were passed by & finished, & they are forgotten & no mention is to be made of them any more. But another section of Ibibio (I think across the Creek from them) from Ibiaku [Nduan?], made friends with Calabar, & told tales about them to the White Man, & they would not let them tell the White Man their story, with the result that the White Man fired their town & killed a number of people, notably their Head Chief, & took his body, & buried it instead of giving it to them for burial rites, so that they have no strength any more now without their head, to cope with any enemy. But this is also past, & they made no palaver, nor do they wish to hold any resentment in their hearts toward any one for any thing past. What brought them here, is that the other day, when the White Man came back, they too said “let bygones be bygones,” but they proposed *that* *they* *& those Ibibios* *who made friends with Calabar*, *& told lies*, *or tales on them,* *so* *that* *at* *their* *word* *their* *chief* *got* *his* *death*, **are** **to** **be** **in** **one** **Court**, & that, **till** the White Man, whom they promised should come & *live* at Ikpa or in their district came, they were at the mercy of those their enemies, & their enemies’ friends – the Calabar.

So, in order to meet their case, *if* *it* *commend itself to you*, could you not meet with Mr Maxwell & in order & gain the confidence & obedience of those people, & to make them our allies instead of our enemies, try to put it thus. If you cannot have separate Courts –––– of course that cd. only be till the arrival of the White Man ––– *give* *the* *two* *sections* **strong** *Mbiam* [Note 2], “that if the one side, went with deceit, & told lies on the other, to the White Man, or to Calabar Judges, let Mbiam treat with them,” etc. etc. “If one side or the other knew, or sent, or in any way sought the hurt of the other, or revenge for past palavers,” etc. etc.“let Mbiam judge between them” etc.etc. And then warn Ete Eka, & Makara Obon, or any other Efik Judge, that no favour is to be shown to either side because of past doings. That would let them know that a surveillance will be kept on their dealings. What do you think? It is the Conciliation of the peoples in a right & just way, which is my *only* motive, as you know, & by a patient hearing you will *win* them. After you hear, be as just as you like, & as severe, only *shew* *them* *the* *reason* *patiently*, & you have got the shortest cut to your destination.

I have heard from Mr Maxwell surely enough & strongly enough, that, that very Ibiaku Itam is the place he should choose in Ibibio for my farming project. If I could help towards a consolidation of British rule by living & mixing among them, I should like to try, but I don’t see the way yet, & the boats go there from the Calabar side, not from this. Hence I may not get there till I have been at Aro Chuku. How I should like to go with these men to see you, & see your people & Country, but I darent, I don’t feel fit for the long walk, & I have an engagement up the Creek on Thursday first.

I trust you are fit & liking your work. All success be with you in your undertaking.

With kindest regards I am

Yours sincerely

Mary M. Slessor

These men say they never had palaver with the White Man. They gave up their guns & they will hail the White Man’s coming to them, so that they may have peace & safety & justice. It is the Calabar they fear.

MMS

I had no fewer than 4 white visitors yest. in the morning & one in the afternoon. Quite gay Eh?

MMS

Editorial Notes:

  1. palavers = this word seems to have a variety of meanings including talks, discussions, even Court Cases etc
  2. Mbiam was “the liquid substance which is tasted, & sometimes put on various parts of the body, in taking a solemn oath. It is supposed to cause dropsy, & so destroy any individual swearing falsely.” It can also mean “The oath so taken, & hence sometimes applied to any solemn oath”. from the “Dictionary of the Efik Language” by the Rev. Hugh Goldie.

a) “The liquid substance which is tasted, & sometimes put on various parts of the body, in taking a solemn oath. It is supposed to cause dropsy, & so destroy any individual swearing falsely.”

b) Mbiam can also mean “the oath so taken: and hence sometimes applied to any solemn oath, whether mbiam has been used or not.” from Charles Partridge’s copy of the Rev Hugh Goldie’s “Dictionary of the Efik language”.

Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth Riding, 1998

Letter No. 3

23rd April 1905

Miss Slessor is expecting a visit from Mr Partridge and asks him to avoid the times when she will be involved with church activities.

(Envelope is addressed to:)
C. Partridge Esq
Use
Enyion Creek
(no postmark; presumably delivered by hand)
(Note: across short side reads “Miss Slessor: 23rd Ap.1905”)
Itu
Cross River
23rd. April 1905

Dear Mr Partridge,

Had you only come just now, it would have been fine!! We are just from service & have a good bit of an interval, But from 3.30. to 5. o/c it is the service & Sunday School, & they are all on my hand, so I’m reluctantly obliged to say, will not another hour suit you? If I only were at home, I shd. at once say, Here is my chance, & put an extra bite in the pot, & lay an extra plate, & have the privilege of your company for the evening, but here are 3 infants, & a small crowd in my one shanty, & they are usually most musical in the evening, & we get dinner as best we can. Cant you come before the Service? Or would it be too late for your road after 5.o/c? Or are you to be here over tomorrow?

See if you can keep out those hours of service, & choose someone else.

Have you got my letter of belated thanks? If not, let me thank you now, & offer you my warmest congratulations. Trusting you are well, & with best regards

I am yours sincerely

M. M. Slessor

[on scrap of paper attached to letter by 3 stamp hinges]

Thanks very much.

The wind is on, & the boy must run.

MMS

Transcription By: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E Riding, 1998

Letter No. 4

4th May 1905

Mr Partridge has sent Miss Slessor a copy of his book “The Cross River Natives” and she writes to congratulate him on an excellent piece of work. She commends his modesty and industry, and goes on to praise his fairness in describing every thing and person in the Protectorate, while wishing he had included descriptions of the beauties etc of nature. In closing she expresses her pride as well as gratitude in the gift.

(Envelope addressed to:)
C. Partridge Esq
Ikot Okpene
Old Calabar
(Stamp torn off. However, Mr Partridge’s filing note reads “posted 4th May 1905” and also “8th May”)
Amasu
(Posted 4th May 19050

Dear Mr Partridge

What a fraud you are!! Here is you with a record like this of observation & research; & half the letters of the alphabet running after your name & you speaking as if you were the merest beginner, & the most common place of mortals in the protectorate!! Well, it is better to hear “Friend go up Higher” any day, than to begin to take the lowest room. I don’t know whether to praise most your modesty or your industry. Fancy having a piece of work like this over & above doing a D Cs [Note 1] work! – & in a new District too. You have been so thorough too. It is not slip shod work, & it is so fair, without being fulsome, to every thing & person in the Protectorate. The natives have seldom had an interpreter so absolutely truthful, & free from prejudice.

It is so seldom that one sees anything from this Coast that is not embroidered. Your narrative from beginning to end is faithful to the life, minus the imagination which even the D.Cs love to weave around their yarns, and tell on the spot. I wish you had let your self go a little though in regard to nature, in vegetation etc.. Colouring, and the mystery, or mysticism or whatever you wd. call it, of the forest. I am sure you have had times when the bush with its myriad voices has called you, & you have not felt her monotonous, and tiresome. The spell of it is very strong on me sometimes, then there are the sunrises & sunsets, the face of the river & etc! Waiting you to give them voice for some of us in the next volume, when it will not only be the Govt. official, but the artist working.

Here is a new baby!!!! “Up like a rocket and down like a stick!

Duke Town 12th April 1905

I had begun at Itu, then destroyed that & began again at Aro Chuku, here is the next installment in Calabar, to which I have come on account of Presbytery. I do not know what I had in mind to say here, but I see I have not yet thanked you for your very kind remembrance of me in sending me a copy of your book. I assure you I feel quite proud as well as grateful for this mark of your esteem, & I trust I shall be able to justify your good opinion of me thus so practically shewn. It is such a pleasure to meet a man who cares for more than the small talk & the inanities of conventional life out here, & specially to find one in sympathy with his surroundings, & I trust you will give me the pleasure of doing any thing I can do at any time to serve you. I seldom get any thing written without interruption, & at night when I cd. do it, there is no accomodation for any thing in our crowded domicile except to lie down & read in bed. However if I can get time to answer – or to *try* to answer your questions in a former letter, I shall do so. Meanwhile with many thanks & great appreciation I am, with all kind regards & congratulations

Yours most sincerely

Mary M. Slessor

Editorial Note:

  1. D.C. = District Commissioner
Transcription By: Leslie A Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E Riding, 1998

Letter No. 5

11th May 1905

Miss Slessor writes informing Mr. Partridge of a “palaver” or Court Case involving a witch doctor from Ibibio, a policeman, and a sick woman. A test by using a poison bean was involved. Miss Slessor had forbidden the policeman to take further action in the case unless he first obtained a warrant, from Mr Partridge, to arrest the witch doctor.

[Nrua?] Edik
Enyon Creek
11th May 1905

Dear Mr Partridge

I ran over for an hour this morning, & have picked up a palaver. A witch doctor from Ibibio, called Nmo, was consulted by a woman here named Iquo as to what was making her sick. The Dr Nmo said, “nothing is doing you, but one woman, a fair woman mbufo – among you is making you ill, she has put medicine in your food.“ I said, “What shd. she do that for? I never had a palaver with her.” He said “If you do not take care, she will kill you”. “So I came home & told my husband, who is husband to us both, & he began on her, & she began on me, & so I was so vexed, I was to eat the Poison Bean [Note 1] & *prove* that I did not ask about the woman. I put my rods [Note 2] down & asked him what ailed me, & if he cd. give me medicine, & he answered “me so”.

So the policeman came with the woman & the bean, & wished to do something, I forbad him saying he wd. have to get a warrant from you to take the witch doctor.

Mr Darby says he has the Bean, & the Woman is his neighbour.

[The following is appended in a different hand]

Dr Sir

The village of Use [Uada?] have not been coming in very well, but have sent John Brown in today.

Yours

C. Darby

Editorial Notes:

  1. Poison Bean – the Calabar Bean, used in a trial by ordeal when testing suspected witches
  2. Rods – brass rods were a medium for barter; local currency
Transcription By: Lesie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter No. 6

n.d. (June 1905?)

A note to Mr. Partridge acknowledging a note from him and telling him of the loss of an earlier note she sent him.

Just going off to service

Dear Mr Partridge

I am glad to have your note, & shall be here as far as I know, as it is the 2 days Court needs me. I’m sorry for you, for I don’t know how you can do all this tramping.

I gave your boy a note, but while drinking he has let the wind or the stream take it away. He wd. be having a bath too I daresay. So if another book turns up you will know the reason. There was nothing it the note.

With kindest regards

Yours very sincerely

M. M. Slessor

Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter No. 7

18th June 1905

Miss Slessor writes of the progress of her plans. As Itu is to be taken over by the Church and equipped as a Medical Station, she is now free to pursue her plans to move on. She reports on her researches to establish herself, if he approves, at Ikot Obon or Use.

(Envelope addressed to:)
C. Partridge Esqr.
District Commissioner
Ikot Okpene

Per favour Mr Smith

Itu
Cross River
18th June 1905

Dear Mr Partridge

It seems like years since I saw you. You came through the town one day, & I ran out to give my Comps. etc, but you had turned the other way down the hill, so I stood rather stupid before the Crowd which were eagerly & noisily discussing the great event. You were no doubt travel stained & tired enough & you have had more bother I hear, & will be tired –E–R still. Well, well! its all in the days work I suppose, & calmer days will soon come.

I have been to Ikot Obon. I have had decided news since I wrote to you, or saw you, that Itu is taken over by our Church, & is to have a proper house & equipment as a medical Station. So I am quite free to turn my thoughts & time to another sphere into which they may enter by & bye. Hence at your recommendation I went to see the new route to Ibibio. Thanks to you the road is in very good order for the wet season, & the Old Man at Ikot Obon gave us a very hearty, indeed, an affectionate welcome. I said very little to them, told them I had long promised to go to Ntit Obio to begin work, but on your advice, & anticipating the developments of Govt. & commerce, I thought your advice was most practical, & meant to take it. They were very pleased, & said they wd. like nothing better than to know Gods words & have “Book” & etc.etc. & they gave me a dash [Note 1]. I told them the Ground & the place altogether was good, & they shewed me their water supply, which is the usual African thing.

So I said, I could not say any thing more definite than that, or tell them any plans till I saw you, as it was at your earnest desire to have them brought out of ignorance & lawlessness that I had thought of them. But when you came, I shd. hear your advice & then wd. come & close with choice of a place.

As to the Ground. [There wasnt a soul at Use. They were either at the farm or the road making,] & before reaching that village there were few places except with deep gulleys on either side, which never presuppose health. The mists rising are most unhealthy, & they breed mosquitoes. But right in the middle of the road to Ikot Obon, 15 minutes from Use, & 15 minutes from Ikot Obon, there is a lovely hill part, which had a good surface of high land, & the slope does not decend to a great depth, then again nearer Use a little, & back from the road on the left going towards the beach, there is a farmed knoll, a fine looking site for a farm school.

These two places impressed themselves on my mind. However there may be many more, or they might not like us to choose. They might want to shew us some places, but of course, all this is subject to what you think, & to where you intend to concentrate the work of your Court. I shd. not like to go far from the Court house, for the children in the wet season, & tho’ I wish to be near enough to keep into close touch with the inhabitants – do not wish a womans School to be right on the highway, or on their fence line. I wd. also try to make this the first of a chain of stations going further in, so that there could by & bye, be rest houses like yours, where a native boy cd stay & carry on small elementary schools. I have promised those Ikot Obon people a small boy, whom they promised to take care of, who shall be a sort of *test* for me, of their appreciation of schools. But I said I shd. see you first, to all of which they willingly agreed. So I shall wait for your coming, or to hear from you where I can meet you in order to developments.

I had a letter from the H.C.s [Note 2] Office asking if I shd. take the Vice Presidentship, & I answered in the affirmative. He also said, “It is proposed to transfer the Court to Ikot Obon,” & the old man tells me the Court house which you spoke to him of at Itu is countermanded so I expect you mean to transfer earlier. Well, all labour here, can be got with greater ease during the wet season, so before it is *too* wet, & the ground soft, I shd begin my building at Ikot Obon, as the Dr will be out in the autumn I expect, to take over Itu. & Mrs Wright only promised to hold Okoyon till next March. & I shd. like to have something definite to shew before then. I trust you are well, & not overtired.

With kindest regards,

I am Yours Sincerely

Mary M. Slessor

Excuse this scrawl. Ive been surrounded by the children at lessons all the time.

MMS

Editorial Notes:

  1. Dash = a gift, tip or gratuity
  2. H.C. = High Commissioner
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter No. 8

26th June 1905

An explanatory note to Commissioner Partridge concerning two men she had thought lived under the jurisdiction of the Oyo Court, but in fact they lived in the Itu Court area.

(Addressed to) C Partridge Esq
Ikot Okpene

Dear Mr Partridge,

Chief Ekpo Adiaha says that both of these men belong to the Itu Court, therefore they belong to you, & so I ask you to read the enclosed [Note1] which I had written to the D.C. [Note 2] at Oyo, thinking they were residing in his district.

With all excuses for transgressing on your time, I am Yours most faithfully,

M. M. Slessor

Editorial Notes:

  1. “The enclosed note” see Letter No. 9
  2. D.C. = District Commissioner
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter No. 9

26th June 1905

A translation by Miss Slessor of a statement concerning a claim made for the return of marriage gifts after a man’s wife had died, written on behalf of the dead wife’s brother acting for his sick father. Addressed originally to the Consul at Oyo, but redirected to Charles Partridge.

(Address on envelope)
C Partridge Esq
Ikot Okpene
Ibibio
 
(Address on letter)
To The Consul at
Oyo
Ibibio.
Itu The Cross River
26th June 1905

My half sister was given by my father to Ndo Ekandem Esi Ifa to wife, say 10 years ago. She was perhaps over a year with him when she developed the “sleeping sickness”. Her husband not being able to get her cured, sent for us to take her home, & we took her & did all we could to get the sickness done, but could not. We took her to Oku, & when they failed, we took her to Ofot. When they failed, we cd. do no more, we took her home & she stayed there until she died of that sickness.

When she died her sister, with whom she died, sent to tell the husband to “Come & bury your wife, she is dead.” He neither came, nor did he send any thing to put in the grave, so her sister made the funeral.

Then when the white man began to come to our country, Ndo Ekandem began to ask me for his marriage dowry. We cried , Oh ! You come for the marriage portion of a dead woman ?? Did we kill her? or did we take her from you her husband? We never heard that a man came to get the gifts he gave his wife & her parents when she died. Had she died in your house, would you not have cried over her, & helped to bury her, even if she had no children for you? & you come for a dead woman’s Marriage Portion!! However as the dowry he gave was 7 goats, we gave the 7 goats, but told him that his gifts of chop [Note 1]or rum or other things ought not to be mentioned, they insulted our dead kinswoman.

Then he came back just now & said we must give him 3 goats more + 400 rods [Note 2], or 620 rods for his other gifts he gave for his wife. We never heard of giving such things for the dead, & we refused, so he took out a summons & the Police came with Ndo Ekandem & gave me the summons, & chained me & took me to the house of Ita Abasi the Interpreter at Oyo, who did not take my case to the Court, told me told me to go home & bring the 620 rods, or 400 rods & 3 goats, & I have got my palaver [Note 3] put into English at Itu, so that you the white man can hear it, & ask if ever any tribe gave the marriage gifts a husband gave to a dead wife. We never took her home. He sent her away, & we did all we knew for her but she never recovered nor did she ever get her intellectual faculties back, so that she cd go to anyone.

Will you hear and consider this our cry to you our Master, Nyun [Note 4] Oh I beg your pardon – and consider this our cry, for we do not hear what you say. I cannot hear your interpreter speak to you.

I am your humble servant

Ndo Ansa

The son of Ndo Ibok, who is a sick man and cannot therefore act for his late daughter.

A true translation.

M. M. Slessor

[The following is written in a different hand]
Ndaw – Ansa of Itamm – Ebokk or Itamm – Okritamm.

C.O.

1.7.5.

Editorial Notes:

  1. Chop = food
  2. rods = brass rods were a medium for barter; local currency
  3. palaver = this word seems to have a variety of meanings including consultation, discussion, Court Case
  4. Nyun. The Efik Dictionary indicates that this may be a name indicating “one who shifts his abode”
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998
Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998

Letter No. 10

26th June 1905

This letter consists of a petition (in English) written on behalf of the complainants concerning ownership of a piece of land. The argument appears to be between the towns of Itu and Use.

(No envelope. Address written on a back fold of the letter to:)
C. Partridge Esq
Ikot Okpene
Ibibio

Itu

26th June 1905

Dear Mr Partridge

Here is a palaver [Note 1] which I hate to write as a white man has already said what is, in his Court at least, the last word. Still as the Chief here reminds me, every body has a right of appeal, & their cry to me is, "Write to Ikot Okpene & ask for us advice. What he advises, we will hear **kop** [Note 2] understand & obey ---. So I shall do it in my own words, in order to let you get the whole story in a short way.

When Mr Russell spoke of building he asked for the owner of the land. Inua, the lad on the cliff, said he represented the owner. His father had owned the land. As he alone cd. not transact business, without consulting other members of the house, he went to one old man who is sick, & while he was away the White Man again asked the labourers, who owned the land? Use men said they owned it, so it was sent to Itu Court. Itu Court heard, & gave them, i.e. the representatives of Itu families who claimed the land against Use. The Mbian oath [Note 3], over & above the oath taken to speak the truth, the whole truth and etc. & they took the oath, & thought the palaver was done. Then came the new ADC [Note 4] from Aro Chuku, & - they say - without asking any old man or hearing the other side, he at once said the land belongs to Use.

Itu got angry over it, & old Ekpo came to me on Sat & asked if I wd. write his version of it in order to give to the White Man, so I wrote his words, which were to this effect. I Chief Ekpo - of Itu beg to tell you the begginnings of this matter. Long ago the people of Itu had a dispute which came to fighting. Three men - whose names were given - left Itu on this account & lived on this piece of land which they bought for 320 rods [Note 5] from the father of [Ekpo Enwe?] of Use. Those men lived there till the matter was softened & medicine & Ifot [Note 6] was all out of mind. When they went back to Itu, or stayed at their farms. Just as they pleased. These men are all dead, but Itu kept possssion of the ground & Itu opened that market, for oil, *not* *Use*. Inua as the son of his father, did not ask any one when he built his house whether he wd. do so, nor did Use, or any one ask him, so if the White Man asked any Chief what their tribes took as witness to ground having been bought or transferred, or set apart, they wd. say an Okono tree was planted, & he - Chief Ekpo - could shew them the Okono which was planted at the *latest* dividing of the ground." & etc.

Well I thought the Chief wd. go himself to the A.D.C. with the 'book', he made me write, but a big woman of his died the previous day, & he sent the 'book' by the man, Inua, who claims the ground.

When the D.C. [Note 7] got the book he said "Whom do you want to bring to palaver?" Inua said, "Ekpo who claims the land." & the D.C. said, "If you make any palaver more about this, I shall chain you up. I have settled the palaver."

This has set Itu by the ears, & they are all in arms that not a witness has been called to give the history of the ground, & that there can be no appeal. Ekpo Adiaha says. When Inua came from Calabar where he had been living, after his father's death, the Ibibios asked him "Why he built on their land." He said "It was his father's land." They said "It is Akibidis land." He said "I am Akibidi". They said "We don’t know you." & they called Ekpenyon Ayi & asked him. Ekpenyon, who is also a descendant of the 3 men who bought the land - answered that this was Okon son, so they said. "O, all our fathers are dead, we know not the old landmarks, let us anew divide the land, so that we may not have palaver, & they divided & put boundaries. The Okono now standing being planted by them.

Again. When Inua went to build on the present site, Why did Use not ask him why he built there? No one ever hinted that the land was not his, till this White Man came just now.

"2nd. "When I found them taking Palm Nuts from my land, I took them from them. Why did they not resent it? Why did they not call me to palaver? They never excused themselves on the ground that the ground was theirs, but gave up the nuts".

"3rd. Please ask any tribe if *a* *tenant* ever made his sacrifices when planting or building, on the on the land of another man? No one but the *owner* of land can make a sacrifice thus, but I have sacrificed for my planting and building, & all my business arrangements myself, & no one ever asked why?".

(In ground lent or hired, the tenant calls the owner & they jointly sacrifice to the spirit of the land, & divide any part of the carcase of the victim between them. Else the landlord acts for himself & his land. M.M.S)

Inua and Itu state that as you have been the Master they have looked to during late months in connection with the side of the Creek at their back yards, they beg to ask your advice about this. Further, "Use chopped Mbian to the House of Eyo Ma - now the house of Eyo Egott of Creek Town, so that complicates for Itu the question of ownership, as Creek Town can do what they like on that land, if Use owns it. M M Slessor.

I need not say that I do not know the particular history of this place, so cant tell you what is true without witnesses.

MMSlessor

Editorial Notes:

This letter was enclosed with Letter No. 11

  1. palaver = this word seems to have a variety of meanings including discussion, consultation, and Court Case
  2. kop. Presumably an Efik word - meaning unknown
  3. Mbian oath. An oath taken with the use of Mbiam, a "liquid substance which is tasted, & sometimes put on various parts of the body, in taking a solemn oath. It is supposed to cause dropsy, & so destroy any individual swearing falsely". from Charles Partridge's copy of the Rev. Hugh Goldie's "Dictionary of the Efik language".
  4. ADC/A.D.C. = aide-de-camp
  5. rods = brass rods were a medium for barter; local currency
  6. Ifot = witchcraft
  7. DC = Dictrict Commissioner
Transcription By: Leslie A. Mackenzie, 1998

Data Entered By: Ruth E. Riding, 1998