A Most Unusual Missionary

A Most Unusual Missionary

A Most Unusual Missionary Charles Henry Stokes was far from being your traditional missionary. Irish, excitable, easily swayed, unreliable, passionate, he regarded the making of money as a most important aspect of life.  To this end he deviated from his missionary calling to become a gun runner. But he had his virtues. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he respected Africans and never ill-treated them. He was therefore able to become a most successful leader of caravans from the coast to the interior before roads and railways were built. He first appeared in East Africa in 1876 as a lay missionary, under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society. In this role he soon gained expertise as a leader of caravans to Uganda, and in 1885 he left the CMS. He became an independent trader and could be hired in Zanzibar as a caravan leader, sometimes with as many as 2,500 African porters. He always kept his word with the porters. Stokes’s business ventures prospered and he joined the German service in their territory as an Assistant Commissioner. His trading exploits included the trading of guns and powder for ivory. This was his downfall. The Belgians in the Congo were most unhappy that he was supplying Africans with guns and began to suspect, wrongly, that he was trying to foment rebellion against Belgian rule. One Captain Lothaire, in charge of a disturbed district in the Congo, determined to put a stop to the gun running. He decided that execution was to be an appropriate punishment. He captured Stokes, gave him a summary trial by court martial, and sentenced him to...
Martin and Osa Johnson: Early Years of the Pioneer Film Makers

Martin and Osa Johnson: Early Years of the Pioneer Film Makers

Issue 84 of Old Africa has a story about Martin and Osa Johnson and their first safaris to Kenya to film Africa’s wildlife. This blog gives some of the background on Martin and Osa’s life before coming to Africa. Movie poster from the film Trailing African Wild Animals Backstory When he was 12 years old Martin Johnson moved to Independence, Kansas with his family in 1896. His father, John, opened a combination jewelry store and book shop. In addition he acquired a franchise to sell Eastman-Kodak cameras and film. Little did he know this decision would affect the course of his son’s life. Martin fell in love with photography and John encouraged him, even building a darkroom for his son in the rear of the store. Bored with his routine life in school and helping in his father’s store as a teenager, Martin announced that he was going to travel and make money. In the summer of 1901 when Martin was 17 he took a camera and a tripod and a tent for a darkroom and set off in an old buckboard pulled by a pony named Socks. As an itinerant photographer, he roamed from town to town in southeastern Kansas. Late that summer he stopped at Chanute, a town with no photographer, and set up his studio. One customer who came for a ten-cent portrait was seven-year-old Osa Leighty. With her dime clutched in her hand, Osa dragged her three-year-old brother Vaughan to the photographer. Vaughan arrived with his sister, hot and tired, with tears staining his face. Osa had envisaged a prim and proper portrait of her...
Sharing Northrup McMillan’s Millions

Sharing Northrup McMillan’s Millions

Sharing Northrup’s Millions by Judy Aldrick   I always enjoy receiving feedback and discovering new information.  It makes writing about East African history all the more worthwhile for me. Imagine my surprise when several years after my book about Sir Northrup McMillan had been published(Judy Aldrick, Northrup: The Life of William Northrup McMillan, 2012, Old Africa Books) I received a mysterious message on my Linked In network.  A retired lawyer, Mike Cronan, wished me to get in contact as papers relating to Northrup had come into his possession, which he thought might interest me.  I sent him my contact details. A week or so later a parcel of papers arrived in Kent from the USA.  It was the details of a lawsuit brought in 1929 by a McMillan relative against the St Louis Trust Company and Lady Lucie McMillan, Northrup’s widow.  Mike Cronan had been researching the life of a prominent Missouri lawyer and politician called James Reed and had come across the information amongst his papers. Reed had represented Lady Lucie in the case brought against her. Cronan did not include the McMillan affair in his book about Reed, as after Reed had filed a preliminary motion, the case was dismissed. Alice Warfield, a cousin of Northrup, brought charges against Lucie McMillan, claiming that she had been defrauded of her inheritance.  William McMillan, Northrup’s father, had died in 1901 a very wealthy man and left his fortune to his wife and only son, however, with certain strings attached. He was a cautious man and did not want his wife and son to spend his hard earned money all at...
Benjamin Eastwood, a Pioneer Railway Official

Benjamin Eastwood, a Pioneer Railway Official

They were eccentrics and drunkards, adventurers and sober engineers – people who were recruited to run the brand new railway snaking from Mombasa to Lake Victoria before the start of the twentieth century. One such character was Benjamin Eastwood, born in Weymouth on 19 March 1863 and educated at Fleetwood. He arrived in East Africa in 1897, as a trained accountant. Two years later he had been promoted to the post of Chief Accountant of the Uganda Railway. He was variously described by his colleagues: ‘makes no pretence of being a gentleman’, ‘a good accountant but a bad mannered man’, ‘a quiet, unassuming man’. When thirteen personal complaints were made against him, he dealt with them with these remarks: ‘This I deny in toto,’ ‘This is most ridiculous,’ and ‘This is wholly untrue.’ One complaint he did concede – when accused of not providing merit bonuses he said, ‘I really cannot see how meritorious work can be expected of men, most of whom have been picked up locally and know nothing of accounts work.’ He was always tough, dismissing two clerks as ‘useless’ and another as ‘drunk and incompetent.’ Eastwood was one of eight officials named by the Railway Strike Committee as treating their subordinates with ‘extreme discourtesy and tyranny.’ But he was much in demand as an efficient organiser – he became a member of the Governor’s Council, the War Council, the Nairobi Municipal Council and the School Board; he was chairman of the Local Priority Committee, Secretary and Treasurer of Mombasa and Nairobi Clubs, honorary Treasurer and Steward of the East African Turf Club and Editor of...