The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: October 26, 1926



Loring Whitman




Tues Oct 26th This morning, after an early breakfast Dr. Strong and Shattuck left with much confusion for Bashman’s town where they worked today. Hal and I in the meantime stayed over to get our luggage when it came in and to trans ship it directly to the next step. But as nothing happened all morning we sat on our doorstep and wrote in a desultory manner. Most of the time, however, was spent on idle conversation about our lives in the past, the present and the future; our ambitions and sour fears; our sweethearts (so many) and our foes (so few). Really, it was a charming morning. We sent for banana’s but search how they would none were forth coming and we had to content ourselves with a bit of sugar cane.

            But about 200 our vigil was over and the men started to arrive in small groups of 2 or 3 men each. Most of them left their loads at the waters edge having travelled far and fast and being tired. Then where they neared the town and heard the ominous wailing they quickened their pace, broke into a run – and with fresh lungs  disappeared into the home of the deceased. It was possible to count the incoming men without seeing them. Later they would report to us. About this time I got a message from Strong asking me to take a photo of a gangosa patient in a  nearby half town. So packing up my cameras I departed leaving Hal alone to his tasks. However, when I got there the natives solemnly informed me that she had left – after Strong had been there- how long? Oh 4 or 5 days trip. I returned to Towya but met Hal on the way – all the loads had arrived and he was bringing the last ones over with him. Everything OK.

            At Bashman’s town we found the Dr. Strong and Shattuck entrenched in a house with no walls while we were to occupy it neighbor (with one wall torn out for ventilation. Of course there was much confusion and bustle not aided by Chief Bashmans presence. But finally all the men were paid off and things quieted down. Hal and I then set to work – chlorinated the water, got out chop and repacked the food supplies which had been delayed in the bush. Then a bath – clean clothes and supper. After that the interpreter to the chief came over – talked about the weaknesses, perfidity and untrustiness of Liberians in general the Chief in particular – and then idlley asked if we had any tobacco. Of course he would help us. As this was not the first time this has happened we were not disturbed. Then the Chief came over and told us that his men had shot a bush hog at our request. As they hadn’t had time to bring it in we must wait over the next day. No dice. He thinks that we ought to stay at least a week in respect to his high rank.

            But one last thing before I close the book on Towya. The Chief there had a most charming little tumor under below his arm pit upon which Strong immediately set his heart. He looked at it, wiggled it and audibly sighed. First came – “of course you will let us remove it.” This was flatly refused. Next day we offered free lessons in microscopic work – we cajoled, we threatened we vowed he would die – and still he coyly refused to part with that most cherished lump. And this morning a final attempt was made to get the cherished treasure – But all art has failed – and the grey haired little man stilling boasting a whole, if nobby, skin. 






Loring Whitman, “The Harvard African Expedition, Book 2: October 26, 1926,” A Liberian Journey: History, Memory, and the Making of a Nation, accessed November 20, 2017,