City of Freetown is 229 years old today

Ajoti Morgan: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 March 2021:

On this day 11 March 1792, 1,196 black Americans known in history as the Nova Scotian Settlers (Creoles), held a thanksgiving service under a large cotton tree growing at the centre of what became known as the city of Freetown.

This first Baptist service held in Africa, was conducted by David George a freed black Baptist preacher and Nathaniel Gilbert a white preacher.

Between 28 February and 9 March 1792, these Nova Scotian Settlers had arrived on 14 passenger vessels (one additional vessel for luggage) and cleared large swathes of bush and shrubs covering the landscape that is now Freetown. They hoisted the British Union Jack Flag – ”GOD SAVE OUR GRACIOUS KING”…Let Freetown rise.

On this day, 229 years ago, the city of Freetown was named and the second and only permanent Colony of Sierra Leone was officially established.

Among these ‘Nova Scotians’ or ‘Settlers’ who founded the city on that day was a 38-year-old black American originally from Sussex County, Delaware called Anthony Davis.

Davis would prosper in trade and befriend other African American arrivals and visitors, including Paul Cuffe. Davis’ son, George Davis I, travelled to America with Paul Cuffe.

Two generations later, Anthony Davis’ great grandson, George Robert Davis (1861-1920), became a wealthy undertaker, cabinet-maker and businessman who trained the well-known undertaker, William Rainy Lumpkin – aka Alimamy Bungie, Thomas Peters.

Three generations later the Davis family produced among its famous sons a well-known Sierra Leonean businessman, ambassador, and minister.

#NovaScotianSettlers #foundingmothersandfathers #lineage.

About the author

Ajoti Morgan is the Heritage Secretary of the Krio Descendants Union (KDU) – UK/Ireland.

Editor’s note

Today, Freetown is home to hundreds of thousands of people who identify themselves as Krio; and possibly millions more across the country who are descendants of freed slaves but do not describe themselves as Krio by birth.  The Krio language is now the most popular spoken language in Sierra Leone. Happy Birthday Freetown.

6 Comments

  1. KDU-UK Heritage Secretary Mr Ajoti Morgan should consider writing a book about this issue. Seton During

  2. In just 60 years of gaining independence from the British, how could things have gone so horribly wrong, with massive retrogression from where we were over hundred years ago. Sierra Leone was the head and centre for all British West African countries.. Sa. Leone became the first country in the whole of Sub Saharan Africa to have railway in 1898.
    – First to have electricity in 1927
    – First to have Broadcast Services
    – First to have airline in 1927
    – Freetown became the first city in West Africa where Planes landed in 1927, from England direct flight to Hastings, returned from Freetown via The Gambia to England
    – first to have airport
    – First and the only country to have Tropical Hospital in 1925
    – First to have school back in 1794 (not S.L. Grammar School)
    – First to have University in 1827
    – First to have Hospital for the Mentally ill in 1920
    – First country in West Africa where Motor Vehicles were introduced in 1912
    – First to have English Legal system with black judges and jurors.

    – Sierra Leone Supreme Court became the final court of Appeal for Ghana, Nigeria and The Gambia.
    – In 1843 the Whole of Gold Coast (Ghana), Nigeria and The Gambia were placed under the administration of Freetown.
    – In 1792 Sierra Leone became the first country in the world where women first casted vote before it even came to Britain in 1918 when women first voted.
    – In 1800’s seventeen Black Priests and a Bishop went to Ghana and Nigeria as missionaries to spread Christianity, Nigeria and Ghana had their first churches.
    – In 1893 Freetown Municipality (F.C.C) became the the first city in West Africa to have a Mayor (The Queens Advocate became Mayor of Freetown)
    – Freetown became the first city in W. Africa to have a Banking system – ‘Bank of British West Africa’.
    – First country to have post Office. Look at our post office today.

    Those that have been elected to govern Sierra Leone and run its administrative affairs since independence, have been a disgrace and a shame on our humanity and progress. Despite lacking what it takes to govern they keep putting themselves forward and voted in by their tribesmen. Sad indeed. Tribalism has and will continue to hold our development back.

  3. Happy birthday to our capital city Freetown. You have been a beacon of light for so many over the centuries and still continue to do so. So many criticise and want to deny your history even though they continue to run back to you at every opportunity. I hope soon that this day 11 March will be celebrated as a holiday in Sierra Leone. Well done to Ajoti Morgan for the article and his brilliant comment. Many things I did not know….about Granville Town and what King Tom was paid. As a descendant of Krios myself, I wonder why the Davis family was singled out for mention in the article. My maternal great grandmother was a Davis before marriage. Mr Morgan please continue to educate us about our history – slave trade, resttlement and thereafter.

  4. i dont beleive the Nova Scotias or Creoles discovered free town. Freetown is part of Sierra Leone and belongs to Sierra Leone. That is why they arrested BAI BUREH during the hut tax war. So please accept Freetown is Sierra Leone. Stop fooling the people. Christopher Colombus did not discover Jamaica. Creole is pidgin english and many African states speak pidgin English.

    • I am Ajoti Morgan, a descendant of the freed slaves from Nova Scotia and Free Black Poor from Britain who settled in Granville Town – now Freetown in 1787. Greetings to you Mr. Abdulai Mansaray, I would like to say thank you for your interesting version of the history of the founding of Freetown, and may I also say thank you very much to Mr. Adewale John for his swift response to Mr. Mansaray’s running commentary on the subject in question. Before I get into the history of Granville Town – now Freetown, I would like to correct Mr. Mansaray on the history of the founding of Freetown.

      (1) On your version of the history of Freetown, you asserted that “lieutenant John Clarkson, who had travelled with the settlers and involved in the purchase of the land, told his men to clear the land from Fourah Bay until they reach a large cotton tree”. Mr. Mansaray, your version of history is wrong, baseless, unfounded and a blatant ‘misrepresentation of facts’. Lieutenant John Clarkson (Governor) was not involved in the purchase of the purported land (Freetown). The people who were involved, were Captain Thomas Thompson, Captain Taylor, King Tom and two witnesses (1) Bullom Queen Yamacouba and a Temne Pa Bongee.

      (2) You stated, “So how could you have discovered something that was already there?” Mr. Mansaray, the founding of Freetown has nothing to do with “discovery”. There’s nothing in the history of Freetown that suggested or says Creoles/Krios discovered Freetown. Please, don’t try to rewrite history. As the gentleman – Mr. Adewale John stated, you’re simply trying to rewrite history.

      (3) Another gentleman by the name of Ibrahim Bah also commented and compared Freetown to Jamaica – “Christopher Columbus did not discover Jamaica and I don’t believe the Nova Scotians discover Freetown either”. Sorry, Ibrahim Bah, you cannot equate the two. Jamaica was captured from the Spanish by the British in 1655 and the history of Christopher Columbus differs to that of Governor Clarkson’s Freetown – “The British captured Jamaica whereas, Freetown was acquired through “land purchase” and “Treaties”.

      Abdulai Mansaray and Ibrahim Bah, it’s not the question of who owns Freetown. Freetown is the capital city of Sierra Leone. However, there was a legally binding contract between the British and the Temne Kings for the purchase of land – the land was first purchased from King Tom on 15th May 1787, which was later rejected by King Naimbana, who said that King Tom had no authority to sell the land, and that he – Naimbana was the only one with the authority to sell land. And on 22nd August 1788, the land was bought again from King Naimbana.

      The early settlers were there before the Nova Scotians arrived in 1792. Captain Thomas Thompson made an offer for the purchase of land which was accepted by the Temne King Tom. OFFER, ACCEPTANCE, CONSIDERATION and INTENTION to create legal relationship between the parties.

      Ibrahim Bah, this is my history, let me interpret it. Please read on: On May 15th 1787 the settlers from Britain put ashore at what is now Freetown, on the northern side of the peninsula in the mouth of the Sierra Leone river. Thomas Thompson, who had been ordered to purchase land, announced his intention to buy land from the King – a territory of 400 sq miles, stretching from the harbour and the hill south, east and inland 20 miles; the land that would be the Province of Freedom. King Tom raised no objections.

      The WRITTEN CONTRACT states: “I, King Tom, chief of Sierra Leone on the Grain Coast of Africa, by and with the consent of the other Kings, chiefs and potentates subscribing hereto…. do grant, and forever quit claim to a certain district of land for the settling of the said Free community of their heirs and successors forever…” The contract was signed, sealed and delivered.

      Captain Thompson declared a “Treaty” – 8 muskets, 3 dozen ‘hangers and scabbards’, 24 lace hats, 4 cotton towels, 34 lbs of tobacco, 117 bunches of beads, 10 yrds scarlet cloth, 25 iron bars and 120 gallons of rum, altogether amounting to £59 and some shillings, were duly handed over to the chiefs. This land therefore became the sole property of the British Crown for the settlement of freed blacks from Britain. There was no Freetown in those days, and the land was uninhabited, only wild animals and birds roamed in the densely forested land that was almost impossible to penetrate a pole through.

  5. Congratulations to the Mayor Mrs Sawyer, the people, and the city of Freetown, on its 229 year anniversary. The name Freetown is a symbol of hope for many of our former African compatriots that were captured, sold,robbed of their dignity, and humanity. And taken away from the shores of Africa to the so called sugar plantations of the New world of America. Apart from Nigeria, Brazil boast of having one of the largest black population in the Americas. Indeed some of tbe descendants of the salves in some parts of Brazil still speak their local Yoruba African language. And there is a particular group of people in Cuba that have found tbey share the same culture and dialect in a village in Moyamba district. It is even rumored light skin fulanis introduced cattle ranching in the state of Georgia, and Texas in the deep South of the United States of America.

    But given credit to tbe contribution African Americans made in building the new Republic is barely talked about in African American history. We owed this history and is forced upon us, so is only right we talk about it from our own perspective. That barbaric trade in humans robbed Africa of more than 12millon people, packed in the bowels of ship in the most degrading treatment man is capable to inflict on their fellow man. As we paused and think about those fellow Africans living today in the Americas, Carribean, and Europe and indeed across the Sahara slave trade, we should never forget those tbat perished as they made that doom journey across the Atlantic ocean, and the Sahara desert into the middle East.

    One could only imagine tbe fear of the unknown as this human cargo is shackled in chains, beaten and some times thrown over board, so the slave traders can claim insurance over their loss of their human goods. We really need our history to be told by us. Sierra Leone has a rich history that is not told enough, so the present generation will understand why our country is what is it today. After all your past will always inform you about the future. Land reform, corruption, tribalism, regionalism, the very make up of our country’s population has its roots over thousands of years in the making. Whislt we celebrate the past, we must also work together to shape a better future for generations that comes after us. We will be judge by other generations that are yet to come.

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