Peyton Adams Eubank
Missionary - Africa 1882 - 1892

Memories of a Missionary Tour of Duty in Africa: 1882 - 1892
by Laura Boardman Houchens Eubank
Wife of Rev. Peyton Adams Eubank
Missionaries To Nigeria 1882
Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, Richmond, VA.

But, to begin my story:

It was on June 29th, 1882 that my husband and I sailed out from the harbor of New York with our faces set toward the West Coast of Africa, our future home. Not to dwell on the adventure of it ~, all the world knows that fifty years ago, Africa was know as "The Dark Continent," and was not known and explored as it is today. But the need was there, and that determined our mission.

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We received passage on the "Bark Monrovia" - a small sailing vessel belonging to Yates and Porterfield of New York City. They had trading points at a few ports on the West Coast and had agents stationed there, and these small sailing vessels carried them their supplies, consisting chiefly, I think, of lumber and kerosene. I do not think they had a cargo of rum and gin as did so many vessels of that day, carrying there things and missionaries at the same time.

So far as I knew their sailing vessels were never used for passengers except missionaries. Needless to say, this was not for the greater comfort of the missionary, but it saved money for its Foreign Mission Board.

We sat on deck writing letters to be send back by our pilot boat on her return. After this we, naturally, we wanted to go to our state room to arrange our baggage. But not long did we remain. We at once encountered that hideous "shippy" odor with which these boats are infested and which never left us during our whole month's voyage. After that, we spent most of our time on deck; but even here, all was not pleasure. By noon, strangely enough we had little desire for our dinner and did not linger long at the table.

Most people who have taken a sea voyage understand that feeling which has to be experienced to be appreciated. My poor husband was a bad sailor and was sick much of the way across, but I faired better.

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Our passenger list consisted of ourselves and the wife of the captain. They were newly married and this was their wedding trip as it was also ours. This might have been a pleasant arrangement but unfortunately it developed that we had no community of interests whatever. So, for the most part, each couple went their separate ways -- if you can imagine "separate ways" in so small a space. Our group at the table consisted of these four and the first mate. Our food was all canned or dried. Our boat did not carry stockyards and an ice house as do the modern steamers. But the food was good enough and we did not complain. We knew that we were not launched on a life of luxury. Beside these five, there were, of course, enough men to make up the necessary crew...

One day, I tried to have a little visit with the man at the wheel and thought him rather "dumb" because he would not answer me a word. Later I learned that a man on duty was not allowed to talk. So, I was perhaps the dumb one after all.

I have often thought that a captain on a vessel is a good deal of a monarch in his little, realm, and that the men under him are much like "dumb, driven cattle." This may not be a fair estimate but that is the impression I received at any rate. I failed to see in the lives of these men any of that glorious romance that they dream of on going to sea.

Our voyage was absolutely uneventful. Just once we sighted a vessel and tried desperately to signal it but with no success. Our captain was quite a young man, This was probably his first voyage. We saw

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great schools of porpoises and dolphins - the former rather suggestive to me of droves of hogs. There were flying fish and flying birds which followed us a long way - sea gulls and Mother Carey's chickens. Outside of these little diversions, we saw only sea and sky for the whole month of July. We had a prosperous, though tedious voyage. There was neither storm nor calm and we proceeded smoothly until the end of July. It was on July 28th that we first caught sight of land - the Cape Verde Islands. We were to land at Sierra Leone. The first sight of land is always an exciting event to the traveler by sea. At first, a "cloud no bigger than a man's hand." In fact, for awhile you wonder if it is really land, or just a cloud.

But slowly the outline develops and you can no longer doubt. But still the approach is all too slow for your impatient mind. But slowly you approach, and after awhile, you begin to distinguish different objects as land, houses, animals, and -- at last, even human beings. But are they real? These objects clad only in their birthday dress with the simple addition of a breech cloth? . You may have been told it would be so but really you are not quite prepared for it. This is really too embarrassing. But your anchor drops, your boat is surrounded by the little native canoes and these same objects, all unconscious of any embarrassment,., clamber up the sides of the ship, swarm over it with hearty greetings for the white man and you discover that they are just people like yourself only a different color - your future, friends and neighbors! And you are in Africa! And this was Sierra Leone - not our destination but a station by the way. It was a colony belonging to the British Government. It had been colonized in the early days by people who had been rescued from Portuguese slave ships.

August 2000 - Notes - WRE Jr.

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