Lich H. Moseley

'Regions of the Benue', Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 1899, pp. 630-637.

[Lich Moseley, a junior agent of the Royal Niger Company, made a number of journeys on behalf of the Company. His way of writing shows him to be a fairly rough diamond. He had a good eye for landscape. From the point of view of traders entering the highland Grassfields from the north, the area covering Wum and Esu, and the Funggom area generally, was known as Bafum and included Bum or Great Bafum. The journey referred to took place in 1898.]

From Takum Kentu lies south-east about 38 miles, and it is there that the really big ranges of hill are first met; they run south and south-west and will be found, I think, to extend to the Cameroon range. The furthest point visited south was Great Bafum [Bum] about 15 miles south of Kentu. From Great Bafum I proceeded north-west through Bafum Me [Mme], Bafum Katse [Esu], Mache [? Mashi], crossed the Kuni hills and descended into the valley of the river Katsena, which I had previously crossed whilst in the Great Bafum country.... It rises in the Nso hills and flows generally north-west into the Benue, roughly 200 miles from its source....

From Dumbo, 20 miles south [of Kentu] the Bafum country begins. It is inhabited by the largest and most powerful pagan tribe known in these parts. The country is divided into three distinct portions [this is a Hausa view, evidently], Great Bafum being the most easterly and largest, to the west of which is Bafum Me, meaning the palm-oil Bafum. North-west of the last-named is Bafum Katse [Esu], the farming Bafum, that and the manufacture of farming implements being the sole occupation of the people. Hoes, knives, matchets, etc., are made out of iron found in the hills around.

The whole of the Bafum tribe are wild pagans, the majority going naked.... At Great Bafum the kola nut is grown and buyers come from Takum, the kola market for all the Southern Benue States, to purchase. Bananas and plantains are a staple food throughout Bafum though maize and guinea-corn are grown in fair quantities.

In 1889, Zintgraff, the famous German explorer, crossed the Great Bafum country from north to south, avoiding the large settlements, but although seen by only a few natives, he is still well-remembered on account of an attempt made by the Com [Kom] tribe, whose lands bound Bafum to the south, to capture his caravan. [There is a different Kom story!]

The chief of Great Bafum, who resides with his household at a settlement high up in the centre of the Bafum hills, is a well-preserved man of about fifty years of age, and is the recognized chief of the whole of Bafum. At his request I visited him, remaining as his guest for three days, during which time myself and my followers were treated royally. This was perhaps on account of his reactions to a firework display which I gave on the night of our arrival. Had it not been for this I doubt whether we should ever have got through his country. [He means the whole of 'Bafum' here.] It would have been impossible to find passable roads for carriers and horses without the guides he gave us, besides having to overcome the opposition we should have met without his passport. Before leaving - to clinch our friendship - I managed to obtain a photograph of this chief.

It must be some years, however, before this country can be opened up owing to the immense difficulties presented. The river Katsena, which waters the whole country, is not navigable past the first small rapids which occur 100 miles below here, the river also being full of rocks. [There are, in fact, some rapids further up-river.] The country is essentially a mineral one, the hills consisting mostly of ironstone, quartz and granite, and would, I firmly believe, reward prospectors who cared to take the risks of a visit. Apart from minerals, ivory is by no means scarce, elephants being fairly numerous. To my knowledge, many small chiefs have quantities of ivory stored away.

[We found no recollection of Moseley's fireworks, which are of a piece with the childish devices used by Zintgraff and Ramsay to 'impress the natives', in Bum. But there may be distant and confused echoes of them in a strange story reported by N. C. Duncan, D.O., in the Bamenda Station Diary of 1920, from Mandabile - then at odds with Mashi in a land case - of a 'Sarjin Major' accompanied by blue-coated soldiers, who came from Takum (as Moseley did not), who was guided back to it by 'Ntam' and who 'threatened to burn down villages'. There may be a conflation of two episodes here. There is no good reason to identify 'Sarjin Major' with Moseley rather than with a Sergeant of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary, unnamed, who, according to this document, 'stole, without paying, all the ivory in the area', apparently not the only theft of this kind.

An extract copied from a letter (14.ix.26) from Moseley to the Company's chief administrator at Ibi, Hewby, is attached to J. H. H. Pollock's Assessment Report (1927). This makes it clear that Moseley withdrew his reports from the Company's archives, possibly in order to prepare his lecture to the R. G. S.: they were not among the Company's reports at Rhodes House Library, Oxford, when I tried to trace them. The journey to 'Bafum' is dated in this letter as from 26.iii.98 to 25.v.98. In it Moseley reiterates his admiration for the fine houses and 'furniture' he saw, in his view the best he had hitherto seen on his travels. Anybody using Pollock's report should beware of his dates and guesswork about early German explorers. Barth came nowhere near 'Bafum' as Pollock surmises, but Flegel reached Berabe, the site of a Fulani raiding camp.]

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Sally Chilver's Field Diary Phyllis Kaberry Fieldnotes Published Account

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