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Chadwick, Walter
1874 to 1917


Walter Chadwick was sent from Uganda in July of 1912, to initiate and help establish Church Missionary Society (CMS) work in the interior of Luyialand in western Kenya, with Butere mission station as his operational centre. Earlier, there had been a focus on the Luyia when a mission station was opened at Vihiga, in Maragoli, in February of 1905. In January of 1906, however, the CMS opened a new mission station at Maseno, on the Luyia-Luo border, and instead sold the Vihiga station to the Quakers, the Friends Africa Industrial Mission (FAIM). As a result of the fresh endeavors Chadwick spearheaded from Butere, the Anglican Church in Kenya now (in 2011) has five dioceses: Butere, Mumias, Nambale, Bungoma, and Katakwa (among the Teso). Additionally, they have a sixth one in Maseno North, that began thanks to the work at both Maseno and Butere. [1]

His role in the establishment and early development covered the years 1912 to 1917. It is astounding to note what he accomplished in this short period, especially when one realizes that wider responsibilities as the overall head of CMS work in the entire region kept him from being on the ground all the time. On a personal level, the key to these achievements resides in his personality, his character, his devotion to his work, and his interpersonal approach, among other things.

"By all accounts, Archdeacon Chadwick was a remarkable character. He is remembered by the people of Butere to this day [1955] with great affection." [2] This is because he had a winsome and congenial personality which endeared him to those among whom he worked. Those who knew him at Butere recount how he did all within his power to fit in with their pattern of life. While carrying on in this manner, he applied to the full, "his tremendous vitality, his fund of good humor, and the breadth and liberality of his outlook!" [3]

Birth, Family Setting, and Education

Walter Chadwick was born in Armagh, Ireland, in 1874, son of the Rt. Rev. George Alexander Chadwick, bishop of Derry and Raphoe, and his wife. He had an older sister, Miss Jane Elizabeth Chadwick, who preceded him to Uganda as a missionary with the Church Missionary Society (CMS). After he was moved to western Kenya to head new work there in 1912, she was also relocated there in 1916 and worked under him.

He studied at Trinity College, Dublin where he received a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in 1898. He was ordained a deacon that same year, and the following year he was ordained a priest by the bishop of London. It was while serving as curate of St. Matthew's, Fulham, in England, that he was admitted on May 15, 1900, as a missionary with the CMS. In line with this new direction in Christian ministry, he went for training at the Church Missionary College, Islington.

Missionary Service in Uganda

After his training and commissioning for missionary service, he departed to Uganda as a missionary on June 9, 1901. Although subjected to repeated attacks of ill-health, he showed his true mettle when he courageously persevered in his service in such regions of Uganda as Bugisu, Budaka, Singo, and Mityana. When Rev. John Jamieson Willis went to Kenya to open the first CMS mission station in western Kenya at Vihiga, in Maragoli, in February of 1905, Chadwick was posted to Entebbe, Uganda, to replace Willis as chaplain of the CMS enterprise there.

Posting to Butere

Chadwick was working at Entebbe when he was formally appointed in July of 1912 to go to western Kenya to open CMS work in the Luyia hinterland. He was given the responsibility of opening a CMS mission station at Butere which was to be the center of the envisaged endeavors. He was also made the head of all CMS work in western Kenya, replacing the Rt. Rev. J. J. Willis, who had vacated the position in early 1912. [4]

In the early part of 1912, Chadwick had been sent from Uganda to western Kenya to survey the northern parts of the region in order to find out the possibilities of opening CMS work there. His assignment entailed traveling throughout the whole territory of Abaluyia in order to determine whether the prospects for commencing CMS work there were favorable, to locate an appropriate site for the mission station, and to determine the language best suited to begin the efforts there. Even as he went about his work, he understood that a location in the Mumias area would be the best. When he found a location, his task was to find a means of securing a site "there at once for a Mission Station." [5]

It was just after the Easter of 1912 that Chadwick embarked on a three month fact-finding tour of the general region around Mumias. He "then spent ten days on the choice of the exact spot in the ridge of hills" [6] which he had determined was the best possible choice. One of the problems that confronted him clearly even in the final stages of his endeavors was that of the multiplicity of dialects in the Luyia language, including his target territory. Each of the major Luyia sub-tribes had its own peculiar dialect although they were mutually intelligible.

Chadwick settled on a site among the Marama sub-tribe, justifying his conclusion in the following terms: "I finally decided on Marama, a district which is not central geographically, but is most convenient for the only dialect which is at all likely to spread, as far as one can judge after such a short an acquaintance." [7] A major additional factor which tilted the scale in favor of the Marama section was that Chief Mulama, the half-brother of Paramount Chief Mumia, whose jurisdiction included Marama, campaigned for this locality.

Chadwick conveyed his findings to Uganda. Then, following his recommendation that a site at Mulama's should be acquired without delay, "It was decided to take the necessary steps at once to secure this site." [8] With such a positive and encouraging report, under normal circumstances, Chadwick would have been sent back to commence work at Butere immediately. However, the main deterrent in taking this step was the recurrent issue of the lack of adequate missionary personnel. Although his report was received with enthusiasm, this was the stark reality for the CMS authorities in Uganda. What saved the day for western Kenya was that it had an ally in the Rt. Rev. J. J. Willis, the former archdeacon who had become bishop of Uganda since January of 1912. While lamenting the paucity of missionary personnel, Willis insisted on the importance and urgency of opening work in the interior of Abaluyia.

Willis found support from the Missionary Conference which met in June of 1912, "to consider future lines of aggressive Missionary policy." [9] There were four priority areas being targeted for extension work. Beyond Bukedi, Gulu, and Kigezi, Willis singled out Mumias as "probably one of all others which we can least afford to neglect, even for a few years." [10] This is how Chadwick, who was at that time at Entebbe, was posted to Butere in July of 1912.

Butere Beginnings

When Chadwick was formally appointed to western Kenya in July of 1912, the resident missionary at Kisumu, Rev. Frederick Henry Wright, was already home on furlough. Chadwick was therefore asked to shoulder the responsibilities at Kisumu while Wright was away in addition to pioneering work in the Mumias area. In accordance with these plans, Chadwick was to be temporarily located at Kisumu in the initial stage. In this way, while doing chaplaincy and pastoral work in the place, he would "make that his base and endeavour to open work at Mumia's [Butere] and extend it to the North West of that place." (11) While living and doing some work in Kisumu, he was to "learn the new language with a view of permanently residing in Mumia's [Butere] when more men can be obtained." [12]

From his Kisumu base, Chadwick maintained constant contact with the people of Butere as he went about laying the foundation for his future labors. All this was in accordance with his posting orders that while in Kisumu he should "try to visit the people at Marama [for Butere] as often as possible, so as to commence building operations and language study at once, and be able to really commence work there immediately on Mr. Wright's return." [13]

From the time he arrived, Chadwick served in multifaceted capacities. Apart from heading the entire CMS work in the region, he "combined the duties of chaplain and district missionary in Kisumu with those of the opening up of missionary work in Mumia's [Butere area] where there is a population of some 400,000 people." [14] On May 21, 1913, Wright arrived back in Kisumu. Chadwick was then free to move to Butere though his stay there was short-lived since he left for his own furlough in August of 1913. In anticipation of Chadwick's departure, Rev. Alfred Joe Leech was transferred from Nabumali, in Bugisu, in mid-1913, so as to deputize for Chadwick during his absence. When he returned in 1914, however, Chadwick did not immediately proceed to Butere. Instead, he was sent to Maseno to relieve the missionary-in-charge there, Rev. Albert Edward Pleydell, who was returning home on furlough. However, since Chadwick's primary sphere of designation was in the Butere area, he had to travel to that place from time to time to help steer the work there.

With the multifaceted roles he filled in Kisumu (1912-1913) and Maseno (1914-1915), there was a limit as to how much he could accomplish in Butere. Apart from acquiring the initial piece of land for the mission, he gave attention to such tasks as the construction of the needed buildings, language study and translation work, assembling a nucleus of Christian adherents in the mission station, carrying out itineration and Christian outreach in the outlying areas, and laying the foundation for the education of boys at Butere.

Land Acquisition and Construction of Buildings

Having stayed at Butere during his tour of western Kenya earlier in the year, the issue of the initial land for the mission station was settled easily and quickly in the early days of his activities there. Chadwick constructed a number of buildings early on. First, while living in a tent during his pioneer days at Butere, "he built a reed-hut to house his books and a few articles of furniture." [15] Secondly, next to this structure, he built "another small hut" [16] for the young men who worked for him. There was a small cleared courtyard in the center in front of the reed hut. A small mango tree was planted there, marking the site where the missionary tent used for meetings had once stood. There the first Holy Communion service had been celebrated, with the first four Christians gathered there as communicants. These were, without a doubt, Chadwick himself, and his three Baganda evangelist helpers whom he had brought along with him. Next to the empty space, the largest building in the mission station was constructed. It was, "A crude mud and wattle building without windows, but with a considerable space all round between the thatch and the low mud walls, [and] was used as schoolroom on weekdays and church on Sundays." [17]

Language and Translation Work

In the midst of his many roles, Chadwick did not have much time to spend on language work and translation. Nonetheless, he made an effort to learn the Luyia language and to attempt the first translations in Luhanga, the preferred Luyia dialect for the CMS sphere of operation. [18] As early as 1912, Chadwick confessed that the few people who knew how to read at Butere were urgently requesting reading materials in their own language. At that time, despite his efforts at the language, even to the extent of translating some parts of the Bible as well as a few church collects, Chadwick's vocabulary, "gathered through Luganda and Swahili" [19] was simply too meager for any extensive work. Against great odds, he continued to learn and made some beginnings in this sphere, maintaining the momentum even during his furlough in 1913-1914. While he was at home, he wrote of how he had "just sent off the last of the sheets of St. Matthew in Hanga yesterday, so it was over six months instead of weeks!" [20]

Nucleus for Church and School

Chadwick had long-term plans of establishing a solid school for boys at Butere. What helped him in this direction in his earliest attempts was the fact that he was naturally friendly, approachable, and had an easy-going manner in dealing with people. The result is that, "Memories of fun and laughter are part of the heritage he left with his pupils during the few years Butere was privileged to have him." [21] He mingled freely with the initial nucleus of CMS adherents, meeting them at their level and identifying with them fully before moving them in his direction. Those who were the pioneers were amazed that they could play amusing games with one who was their clergyman and schoolmaster. Recalling those times later, Rev. Isaya Musiga and Rev. Baranaba Weche related how, "He would blacken his face with soot [to look like them] and then tie strands of creepers (amalande, for decoration) round his body, wearing them as they did, and then join in their dances." [22] When the games were over, he would give them sweets from a large bottle in which he stored them.

There was virtually no demarcation between the early adherents to Christianity in the mission station and those involved in learning activities in school, except for the very elderly. Church and schooling went hand in hand. From this point of view, beyond fun and games, Chadwick had an ingenious and novel way of recruiting boys and men for school, and indirectly for church. For example, he would offer them manual work in the garden in the mission station. He would then note their identity carefully, writing their names in a book. They would work till nine in the morning. He would then gather them in the church, and there, he would teach them reading and writing, together with some Christian message. While all this was going on, there would be a huge pot of potatoes cooking on the fire. When the class of "thirty or forty or even sixty" [23] assembled in this manner was released at midday, they would receive a meal of potatoes before they left. With a forward-looking perspective, he went on to teach the most promising of these boys in the evenings also. In taking these steps, he was envisaging a time in the future when he would run a school on a formal basis. As was aptly captured in this connection, "His great plan as far as boys' education was concerned to establish a Vocational School where boys could be taught a trade as well as to read their Bibles." [24]

Assistance from Baganda Catechist-Evangelists

Given the competing tasks that fell to Chadwick at the Butere station while being located forty miles away in Kisumu, it would have been hard for him to succeed in his primary assignment at Butere without outside help. Until Rev. Alfred Joe Leech joined Butere in mid-1913, Chadwick was the lone CMS missionary in the Butere region. The truth of the matter is that apart from his own resourcefulness, he was able to pioneer the work in the area because he had with him a team of Baganda catechist-evangelists. A few months after his arrival in the region, he could report how he had already sent to Butere "two Baganda teachers, one of whom is learning the language very quickly and one a pupil teacher." [25] The exact identity of these particular teachers referred to here is not known. All the same, it is clear that from its inception, Anglican Church work at Butere benefited from the labors of several Baganda teachers, among them Saulo Tefe, Yohana Diba, and Zakariah Nakakongo, who had come with Chadwick. Later on, others came as well: prominent among these were Yese Weraga and Hamu Muganga.

Elevated to Office of Archdeacon

After opening up CMS work in the Luyia hinterland, Chadwick went home to Ireland on furlough in 1913. In the course of his absence, Rev. A. J. Leech took charge of the work. At this stage, the main responsibility in the area consisted in "building up the congregations and little churches that had sprung up for miles around Butere in the villages." [26] At the end of his own furlough in 1914, Chadwick was posted to Maseno, to take charge there by standing in for Rev. A. E. Pleydell, who was going away on leave. In March of 1915, Pleydell returned to Maseno, releasing Chadwick to go to Butere.

At long last, Chadwick now settled at Butere in 1915 for a more or less uninterrupted spell for the first time since his transfer from Uganda to western Kenya in July of 1912. For all the time that he was in western Kenya, Chadwick was the head of all CMS endeavors there. His leadership was recognized in 1915 when he was appointed to the position of archdeacon of western Kenya. This office had previously been held by John Jamieson Willis. As before, this meant that although Chadwick had the primary responsibility of overseeing CMS work in the area covered by Butere mission station, he also had the wider responsibility for the entire region of western Kenya.

Acutely aware of the grave need of additional manpower to help ensure effectiveness in the area under his charge, "He managed to persuade a young Muganda friend, Yese Weraga, to come and be evangelist to the people in the Samia Hills." [27] As it turned out, Weraga was a precious find. He ended up being the primary missionary for the northwestern section of the area under the jurisdiction of Butere. He accomplished more than most European missionaries and was the first African clergyman in western Kenya.

When Chadwick moved to Butere in 1915, the missionary personnel was greatly strengthened, with two resident missionaries there. Though Leech was due for furlough in August of that year, he was scheduled to return in March of 1916. Indeed he returned then, and two months later, on May 3, 1916, he married a fellow missionary from Uganda, Miss I. S. MacNamara, at the Boughton-Knight Memorial Church, in Kisumu, with Rev. Wright officiating. The growing number of resident missionaries increased further in April of 1916, when Miss Jane Elizabeth Chadwick, an older sister of Walter Chadwick, was transferred to Butere from Uganda. To her belongs the credit of steering the beginnings, establishment, and early development of the education of girls at Butere. For Chadwick, after moving from Maseno, he was to stay at Butere until he went into the war on chaplaincy duties in early 1917.

Service and Death in the War

The First World War disrupted the work of the CMS in East Africa immensely. Among other areas of interruption, the conscription of missionaries and indigenous people alike meant that progress in the work slowed down considerably and some undertakings ceased almost entirely. Like all other peoples in the British territories, the people of western Kenya participated in these events. In line with the practice of general conscription, which had been in operation in western Kenya from the earliest days of the East African campaign, the situation was such that thousands of young men from the region "were month by month drafted to the war, a few recruits in the army, but most of them as carriers." [28] By the beginning of 1917, it seems as if there were about 4,000 men from western Kenya at the war front. Then in April of the same year there was an intensive and widespread draft in which many young men were called up.

In what was the period of greatest involvement, the year 1917 saw at least seven missionaries from the Uganda Mission "engaged at the Front, either as chaplains or in other capacities." [29] This was the scenario which affected Chadwick and with him the welfare of CMS work in western Kenya and in Butere. In what proved to be one of the most devastating blows to CMS work in the region, Chadwick was called out to chaplaincy services in the war, just when he was about to embark on new initiatives in his own ministry in western Kenya. Information reached him at the beginning of 1917 that he was required to go to Dar-es-salaam to serve as chaplain to troops there, including 4,000 people from western Kenya who were involved in the war in that part of East Africa.

When Chadwick was asked to go, at first the Society's Missionary Committee in Uganda was at a loss as to how to respond to this request because they disagreed with it. One of their main misgivings on the matter related to Chadwick's poor medical history. All the same, their initial reaction showed a certain ambivalence: "In response to a telegram from the Senior C. C. E. Chaplain to the Forces, it was decided that the Ven. Archd. Chadwick should go to Dar-es-salaam as Chaplain, if needed." [30] With that tentative agreement, once the doctor had passed him as healthy enough to go, Bishop Willis released him for the proposed assignment. Accordingly, he departed for the war front, leaving in mid-February of 1917, and was already there when, on discussing in detail the propriety of his release for the engagement, the Missionary Committee actually disapproved of the fact. Since it was already an accomplished reality, however, they condoned it reluctantly and later even approved of the extension of his stay there.

During his early years in Uganda, Chadwick had served in a number of localities between 1901 and 1905. During this period, he had been plagued with bouts of ill-health, but had summoned his spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical endowments to surmount this challenge and forge ahead with his work. The reluctance of the Missionary Committee on the chaplaincy assignment in the war took into account this history of ill-health. When he arrived on the war front, he was given the responsibility of serving as acting chaplain to the Forces. In his work there, he displayed his "Irish enthusiasm" [31] in the various tasks which he undertook. All seemed to be going well when he contracted Blackwater fever, which eventually led to his death at Kilwa, in Tanzania, on October 2, 1917. He died at the early age of forty-three when he was not only in the prime of life, but also when his work in western Kenya and in Butere was flourishing at an unprecedented pace.


Walter Chadwick worked in western Kenya in the short period between 1912 and 1917, establishing the Anglican Church in the Luyia hinterland, with Butere mission station as the center of those endeavors. He had an uphill task in discharging his main responsibilities in his early years, as he resided in distant Kisumu and spent much of his time and energy in the overall leadership of CMS work in the entire region. It is to his credit that despite starting on this disadvantageous note, he succeeded in establishing the work in the Butere sphere on a firm footing before his death.

Many factors contributed to his success in these assigned tasks. First, he had an attractive and vibrant disposition which opened doors for him among the people in his sphere of work. Secondly, he had the wisdom and the courage to recruit Baganda catechist-evangelists to partner with him in the work to which he had been assigned. Thirdly, smooth transition and succession was provided by the missionary colleagues he left behind: his sister, Miss Jane Elizabeth Chadwick, and his right-hand man and eventual successor at Butere, Rev. A. J. Leech. Indeed, it was Leech who carried Chadwick's torch forward, while stamping his own distinctive identity on the work in the Butere area. Leech served there for twenty-three years, the longest of any one single individual in this pioneer period. As appropriately observed of him,
Of an entirely different stamp was the clergyman who carried on in his stead. Canon A. J. Leech was a disciplinarian, stern and exacting. Long afterwards his pupils were to be glad that they had been trained in habits of thoroughness though at the time this training was severe. [32]
God's providential scheme of continuity was vested in Leech, who, with a very different temperament from Chadwick, brought with him much needed solidness and stability in the mission's work.

Watson Omulokoli

End Notes:

1. There are two major sources on which this work relies heavily, often word for word. The first one is Watson Omulokoli's, The Historical Development of the Anglican Church Among Abaluyia, 1905-1955, an unpublished Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) thesis, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, Scotland, 1981. The second is, Elizabeth Richards', Fifty Years in Nyanza [western Kenya], 1906-1956: The History of the CMS and the Anglican Church in Nyanza Province, Kenya, Maseno, Kenya, Nyanza Jubilee Committee, 1956. Furthermore, I owe much gratitude to Mrs. Fran Etemesi, of the African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research (AICMAR), in Kenya; and Rev. Canon Micah Amukobole of the All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi, Kenya, for the data provided and moral support given towards this write-up.
2. Elizabeth Richards, Fifty Years in Nyanza, 30.
3. Ibid.
4. Watson Omulokoli, The Historical Development of the Anglican Church Among Abaluyia, 163. Note also that, In July of 1911, Archdeacon Willis had left western Kenya to go to Britain on furlough, with the intention of returning there after about one year. Earlier, in May of 1911, the bishop of Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Alfred R. Tucker, had also left for his furlough in Britain. Then, while there, he resigned from the office of the bishop of the Diocese of Uganda, on October 24, 1911, after more than twenty-two years in that position. This new turn of events affected Willis drastically, and with him, the fortunes of CMS work in western Kenya. Willis was appointed as Tucker's replacement. Accordingly, on January 25, 1912, while he was still in Britain, he was consecrated the new bishop of the Diocese of Uganda, in Westminster Abbey, London. These were the circumstances under which Chadwick was saddled with the additional responsibilities of leading the entire work in western Kenya, while opening a mission station at Butere for work in the interior of Luyialand.
5. Missionary Committee Minutes, March 25, 1912. Church Missionary Society Archives (CMSA) G3. A7/09.
6. Chadwick's Annual Letter, Entebbe, November 8, 1912. CMSA G3. A7/09.
7. Ibid.
8. Missionary Committee Minutes, May 6, 1912. CMSA G3. A7/09.
9. Fisher, "Development and Expansion in Uganda", CMSA G3. A7/09.
10. John Jamieson Willis, "The Policy of the Uganda Mission", July 4, 1912, 31. CMSA G3. A7/09.
11. Missionary Committee Minutes, July 4, 1912. CMSA G3. A7/09.
12. Walker to Manley, Namirembe, July 6, 1912. CMSA G3. A7/09.
13. Chadwick's Annual Letter, November 8, 1912. CMSA G3. A7/09.
14. Baskerville to Manley, Mengo, April 7, 1913. CMSA G3. A7/0 10.
15. Richards, Fifty Years in Nyanza, 28.
16. Ibid., 29.
17. Ibid.
18. In accordance with agreed upon comity arrangements, the various Protestant missions worked with designated Luyia sub-tribes, hence different Luyia dialects. The dialect dominating the Butere-based CMS Mission was Luhanga.
19. Chadwick's Annual Letter, November 8, 1912. CMSA G3. A7/09.
20. Chadwick to Manley, Londondery, April 18, 1914. CMSA G3. A7/0 10.
21. Richards, Fifty Years in Nyanza, 30.
22. Ibid.
23. Ibid.
24. Ibid.
25. Chadwick's Annual Letter, November 8, 1912. CMSA G3. A7/09.
26. Richards, Fifty Years in Nyanza, 29.
27. Ibid.
28. Elizabeth Chadwick, "Early Years in the Mission", Chapter 10. CMSA.
29. C.M.S. Report: 1917-1918, 36.
30. Missionary Committee Minutes. March 29, 1917. CMSA G3. A7/09.
31. Richards, Fifty Years in Nyanza, 30.
32. Ibid.

This article, which was received in 2011, was written and researched by Rev. Prof. Rev. Prof. Watson Omulokoli, Professor of Church History, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Kenyatta University, Kenya; Adjunct Professor, Akrofi-Christaller Institute, Accra, Ghana; and Chancellor, Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya., and a recipient of the Project Luke Scholarship for 2010-2011.