2006-08-25 / Travel

Slave Trade Expedition to Africa

Part 18: Archaeologist in Sanya Paulia

The third village in which Dr. Ken Kelly conducted an archaeological survey was Sanya Paulia, a small community on the Rio Pongo which began life in 1795 as a British outpost against the advancing French traders.

The British-owned Sierra Leone Company established a trading factory at a little inlet on the river and named it Freeport. Their prices and the presence of Anglican missionaries and the British Navy upset the other traders on the Rio Pongo and provoked a boycott. Only when the company agreed not to interfere with the slave trade was trading resumed.

Black colonists relocated from Nova Scotia arrived in Freeport in 1800 to work in the factory. Bad conditions and abolitionist propaganda by the missionaries provoked a rebellion by the black workers.

The factory was never profitable, so in 1802 the Sierra Leone Company pulled out. This marked the end of British influence in the Rio Pongo, opening the area up to later French colonization.

Paul Faber, an American ship captain, established a factory at Freeport in 1809, the same year the Lightbourns set up in Bangalan, a few miles upriver. Capt. Faber and Capt. Lightbourn became friends as did their wives, Niara Bely and Mary Faber.

Andrew Hoose and Dr. Ken Kelly receive gifts of cola nuts from the chief of Sanya Paulia.Andrew Hoose and Dr. Ken Kelly receive gifts of cola nuts from the chief of Sanya Paulia. Faber, Lightbourn, and the other Rio Pongo traders joined with the local chiefs to protest, as best they could, attempts by the British Navy to destroy the slave trade. Faber and Lightbourn joined the American cause in the War of 1812, and their wives maintained the trading factories.

After the war, the Fabers and the Lightbourns disguised their slaving by growing coffee. When the British Navy came to call, they showed off their hardworking slaves in the coffee fields. Once the British guns left, the slaves were put up for sale again.

Paul Faber and Styles Lightbourn died in the 1830s and were ably succeeded by their wives who became queens (chiefs). Mary Faber's son, William, succeeded her as chief and turned to peanuts as a cover for slave trading. Eventually, the missionaries moved into Freeport and it became known as Sanya Paulia, named either for St. Paul or Paul Faber.

A girl at the port of 
Sanya PauliaA girl at the port of Sanya Paulia After French colonization in the late 1860s, Sanya Paulia evolved into a simple village off the beaten path. A great grandson of Paul and Mary Faber became head of the African Affairs Division of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC, (1963-1967).

We met the chief of Sanya Paulia, explained our mission, and were led on a tour of the village. Archaeologist Kelly walked the port and the area of Faber's factory and residence where he found fragments of French tiles and wine bottles.

Along the overgrown coastline, we discovered the ruins of an old fort and several cannons, apparently the site from which the Fabers defended themselves against the British Navy. At our urging, we were taken on a long trek to the remains of the Anglican church, a three-room stone structure overtaken by the forest. About ten yards from the church was a graveyard with four graves. The elders assured us they were the graves of Paul Faber and three pastors of the church.

Our guide Moussa takes a break on the ruins of the Anglican church in Sanya Paulia.Our guide Moussa takes a break on the ruins of the Anglican church in Sanya Paulia. Dr. Kelly is convinced that Sanya Paulia has a rich history of the slave trade in West Africa. Because it was virtually abandoned in the late 19th century, the evidence of the life of the slave traders lies just below the surface waiting for an archaeological investigation.

(Next week:

Isle de Los, paradise lost)

Dr. Ken Kelly shows pieces of glass bottles and jars and also a piece of French roofing tile found in Sanya Paulia. 
Dr. Ken Kelly shows pieces of glass bottles and jars and also a piece of French roofing tile found in Sanya Paulia. The grave of Capt. Paul Faber in Sanya Paulia and a cannon found at the old fort at Sanya PauliaThe grave of Capt. Paul Faber in Sanya Paulia and a cannon found at the old fort at Sanya Paulia

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