Settlements of the American Colonization Society, Liberia, mid-19th cent.

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This record was last updated on 09 Sep 2015

Image Reference

Drawings of Western Africa (University of Virginia Library, Special Collections, MSS 14357, no. 29).

Ink and watercolor. Three of the settlements of the American Colonization Society as approached from the sea, showing rectangular houses of the American colonists and the circular ones with conical thatched roofs of the indigenous Africans. From top to bottom: 1) Bassa, the settlement of Bassa Cove (established in 1832). A (two-story?) rectangular house in the center is labeled “Rambo’s.” Jacob Rambo, a Protestant Episcopal Church missionary, was head of the Bassa Cove mission during the 1850s. He arrived in Liberia from Pennsylvania in 1849 and initially spent some time at Cape Palmas. Mary Louise Rambo, his wife, died at Bassa Cove in 1855 (Maryland Colonization Journal, vol. 9 [1857], passim; Samuel D. Ferguson, An Historical Sketch of the African Mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. [New York, 1884], passim. 2) Sinou, probably the settlement of Greenville not far from the mouth of the Sinou (Sino/Sinoe) river. 3) Cape Palmas (Maryland in Liberia colony) showing the town of Harper with its various churches. Several denominations were represented at Harper in the 1830s and 1840s. On the right a flagpole with a flag (of the Maryland in Liberia colony?) adjacent to a lighthouse; the latter is probably the stone lighthouse constructed in 1834 or 1835 “not long after the settlement of the cape” (John Latrobe, Maryland in Liberia [Baltimore, 1885], p. 65). The round houses probably depict the quarter or section inhabited by the indigenous Grebo/Glebo people. “Dead Man’s Isle” is in the right hand corner. Before the arrival of American colonists, the Glebo buried their dead on “Dead Island,” near Cape Palmas (Traditional History and Folklore of the Glebo Tribe [Bureau of Folkways/Folklore, Liberia, 1965], p. 123). In 1840, about 300 American colonists lived at Cape Palmas whose settlement was, in the words of an American visitor, “situated on a small promontory or a high bluff” (George Brooks, A Salem Merchant at Cape Palmas, Liberia, in 1840 [Essex Institute Historical Collections, vol. 98 (1962), pp. 166, 169; also, Horatio Bridge, Journal of an African Cruiser [New York, 1845], p. 117; African Repository, June 1851, pp. 163-171; John L. Wilson, Western Africa [New York, 1865], p. 402). This is one of 22 works displayed on this website of West African coastal scenes -- out of a total of 32 -- held by University of Virginia Library. None of the works is dated or signed, and they seem to have been done by at least two different persons (perhaps associated with missionary activities in West Africa and/or the American Colonization Society). See also other image references “UVA” on this website.