Sherbro Mission

Sherbro Mission

First United Brethren in Christ foreign mission

The first missionaries to Africa, sent there by the United Brethren in Christ, were Revs. W. J. Shuey, D. C. Kumler, and [Daniel Kumler Flickinger], who landed in Freetown, Sierra Leone, February 26th, 1855.

After remaining there a few days, they sailed down the coast about one hundred and twenty miles to Good Hope, on Sherbro Island—the name of a mission-station in charge of the American Missionary Association. This, by mutual agreement, became their temporary home, and they at once commenced prospecting the country along the Little Boom, Big Boom, Jong, and Bargroo rivers, to find a suitable place at which to open a mission.

Mo Kelli, on the Jong River, begin a large town, and near to a number of other towns having a large population, was thought to be a good point at one time; but it being difficult to reach, owing to the falls in the river, eleven miles below, over which canoes and boats could not pass, this project was abandoned by the missionary remining in the field [Flickinger], after the other two returned to America.

He next attempted to obtain a place in or near the town of Shengay, where the principal station of Sherbro Mission now is, and frequently visited Mr. Caulker, the head-man of that place, for this purpose. Receiving but little encouragement that permission would be given to commence a mission there, two trips were made up the Big Boom River, a distance of one hundred miles, to seek a location upon its banks. The last time, a selection was made; and the chiefs and head-men interested agreed to meet the missionary, to arrange terms upon which the site selected should become mission property. After waiting several days, he was compelled to abandon this project also, because the parties who alone could give the right to open the mission failed to meet as they had promised. This was late in December, and but a few days before the missionary was prostrated by his second severe attack of African fever, from which he never recovered sufficiently to do much until after he returned to America the following May.

Just before leaving Africa he purchased, by the advice of the Executive Committee of the church missionary board, a mission-residence in Freetown, for the purpose of affording a comfortable place for our missionaries when there, which necessarily is more or less frequent, as that is the place at which laborers land in going to the mission, where they embark when they return, and where they receive and mail letters, do more or less trading, and frequently go for medical treatment. This would have been of great service could we have retained it; but owing to straitened circumstances, it had to be sold a few years afterward, to enable the Board to meet the current expenses of the mission.

For over six months there were no missionaries on the ground. In January, 1857, Rev. J. K. Billheimer, Dr. William B. Witt, and [Flickinger] landed in Freetown, the two former as permanent laborers and the latter for the special object of inducing, if possible, Mr. Caulker to consent to the establishment of a mission in or near the town of Shengay. Several years before, Mr. Caulker has been driven out of his town and country by his enemies in war; and he knew he could return only at the peril of his life. He finally granted permission to commence a mission near his town, more for the reason that this would give him security there than from any other consideration; and in this he realized his expectations, for soon after the mission was opened he returned to Shengay, and there was permitted to end his days in peace.

By Daniel Klumler Flickinger.

From Daniel Kumler Flickinger, Ethiopia, or Twenty-Six Years of Missionary Life in Western Africa. (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1882), 132-134. Reprinted in Sarah D. Brooks Blair, The Evangelical United Brethren Church: A Historical Sampler. (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 2000), 47-49.