Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Hinderer, David

Anglican Communion (Church Missionary Society)


Pioneer missionary to “Yoruba Proper” in the nineteenth century, David Hinderer hailed from Weisbuch, near Schondorf, in Württemberg, Germany. Born in 1819, he attended the Basel Seminary in Switzerland after which he came to Church Missionary College in Islington, London, in 1846. On December 19, 1847, he was ordained a deacon and the following year, on October 29, he was consecrated into the priesthood by the bishop of London.

In 1849, Hinderer was appointed by the home committee of the CMS in London for Christian witness among the Islamized Hausa speaking people in the West African interior, beyond Yoruba speaking peoples. He arrived in Badagry on March 25, 1849, armed with portions of the New Testament translation into Hausa. [1] He was to stay in Badagry to acquire proficiency in the language, preparatory to his mission among them; but the plan did not work out. The few Hausa people he met in Badagry were the slaves of the exiled Oba Akintoye who could not move without his permission. Hence their being captives constrained their availability. He was informed that Abeokuta held no better prospect either, as the situation of the Hausa-speaking people there was the same as those in Badagry. [2]

In spite of the poor prospect, Hinderer moved to Abeokuta where he could be better involved with his colleagues in their ongoing work among the Egba people. He shared in their preaching engagements and eventually settled down to begin the work at Oshielle. But Abeokuta was an unsettled town. With less than two decades as a human settlement, their archenemy, King Ghezo of Dahomey, set his eyes on destroying the town. This enmity came to a head in the attack he launched against Abeokuta with his women soldiers, the Amazons, in March 1851. In view of the precarious situation of the town, Henry Townsend conceived the idea of expanding the work to safeguard the young mission. In fact, he considered the appointment of a missionary for the Hausa country as “a misapplication of labor” at that early stage of the work in Yorubaland. [3]

Based on the information Townsend had gathered from Mr. Thomas Jefferson Bowen of the American Southern Baptist mission, Ibadan and Ijaye qualified as towns to be occupied as a move towards “a chain of mission stations” within “the reach of mutual dependence & assistance.” [4] The two Yoruba towns received their resident missionaries in 1853, David Hinderer stationed at Ibadan and Adolphus Mann at Ijaye. [5] The mitigating influence of mission that had been at work in Abeokuta for seven years, was now extended to the other two centers of belligerence in the wars that were destroying the country.

Ibadan Mission

With its modern foundation laid by warriors, Ibadan emerged as a republican state governed by titled chiefs. [6] But the town became both the torment of the country and its bulwark against external aggression. For Ibadan had hardly emerged as a state when its war boys began to raid their neighbors, far and near, to establish their economic and political hegemony over them. Along with its gradual rise as an important center of trade, the wars brought material prosperity to the town as slaves were often brought home as the reward of military expeditions. [7] The city became the largest of the new towns of post-imperial Yoruba country and eventually courted the vehement anger of its neighbors who often groaned under the rapacity of its war boys.

Ibadan was establishing itself as a new territorial power when Hinderer first came there in 1851 to explore the possibility of starting a mission. He was well received by the B&atildelẹ, that is the mayor, and four other influential chiefs of the town. [8] Having declared his mission, the first rebuttal came from Osi Bãlẹ (that is left flank chief) who, being a staunch Muslim, opposed the missionary’s intention. [9] He vehemently resisted the plan in the verbal attack, ‘“Awon obaiye je ni iwonyi.” (These are the world spoilers), “There is no country they enter but misfortune will follow for that place”’ [10] A dissenting response, and no less forceful, was offered by the Ọtun (right flank chief): “But white men are at Lagos, Badagry, and Abeokuta; why should we be the last to receive them, and whatever be the consequence to others let the same be to us also.” The impasse was resolved through the counsel of the Balogun who advised that Ifa, the national god of divination, be consulted, and on the basis of its counsel the chiefs could decide the fortune, or otherwise, of the missionary and his message in Ibadan. The outcome of this consultation favored the presence of Rev. Hinderer in the city, and he was soon accorded a warm reception and properly accommodated to carry out his work unhindered. [11] He returned in 1853 to begin the work with his wife, Anna, whom he married in England on October 14, 1852.

The visit of 1851 and his subsequent experience as a resident missionary impressed on Hinderer the nature of the environment in which he would be functioning. Mid-nineteenth century Ibadan was an immensely large settlement under a “military aristocracy” that looked down on the working class. [12] His experience with Muslim preachers in his early days at Abeokuta also taught him what opposition he could expect in his work in the Yoruba country. [13] At the same time it helped him to set realistic expectations about penetrating the interior countries and to focus on his new-found place of service. For he reasoned that if the Muslim preachers who were “comparatively few & under heathen government” proved so influential with them to the disadvantage of mission as he had witnessed at Abeokuta and Ibadan, not much might be presently hoped for in the Hausa country where they held the scepter of authority.

From the perspective of the anti-slavery stance of mission the ground was also fertile for Hinderer’s perceived opponents. One of the influential chiefs, the Seriki, misconstrued his visit to be an exploration for trade and was nauseated that he had not come to facilitate Ibadan’s only export to the outside world: slaves. In fact the Seriki was alarmed to hear that “English people” were stopping the flow of the only “commodity” Ibadan warlords considered as capable of fetching them money to maintain their prestige, local products of agriculture and industry being too cheap to serve the purpose. [14] This potential source of opposition, which he must have envisaged his “Mahomedan” opponents could also exploit, gave the missionary reason for a discreet move in his plan to do mission in Ibadan.

The mutual jealousies among the various towns of the Yoruba country also called for discretion on the part of the missionary. On the one hand he was conscious of the Parent Committee’s hunger for information about the prospects of a chain of mission stations into “Central Africa.” And the critique in Europe that missionaries were doing nothing for geography kept ringing in his mind. These two pressures, if they may be so regarded, must also be contained by the discretion of the missionary, as further movement into the interior when he had not fully gained the confidence of the powers in the land might be misinterpreted. In his being careful not to be misunderstood, Hinderer momentarily shared the predicament of nineteenth century Yorubaland: fear. The commoners feared being kidnapped in the field and sold into slavery; the powerful warlords feared falling into bad times and consigned to poverty; and now the missionary feared being misunderstood and taken for a spy! [15]

The strategic lifeline to Hinderer as he negotiated the landmines that could burst his chance of doing mission in a sensitive environment like Ibadan came from his friendship with the Agbakin. [16] This elderly and very influential chief had met two Sierra Leone returnees resident in the town, one of them an Egba who acquainted him with the nature of Christian mission. [17] The former war-chief had abandoned the life of rapine and had over the years been making the case, albeit unsuccessfully, for a more orderly and peaceful life for Ibadan. [18] And although he practiced Ifa divination, which he deployed to ascertain the missionary’s safety before his return journey to Abeokuta, the Agbakin became Hinderer’s closest friend among the chiefs, defending his intended mission against the misrepresentation of his Muslim detractors. [19]

Agbakin discerned the missionary’s agenda as resonating with his own vision of peace for the city. It was a subject most appealing to him in his interaction with the white man. [20] On the other hand, the missionary too did not have to wait long to appreciate the immense value of this “elderly gentleman” for his mission. Eighteen months after his reconnaissance visit of 1851, Hinderer returned to Ibadan with his English wife, Anna, to settle down for his mission; they had married in England on October 14, 1852. But by the time they arrived in Ibadan, the Agbakin, who confessed that in seeing Hinderer he had been spared to see the hope of Ibadan being restored to peace, was dead. [21]

When the missionary couple started the work, success was slow in attending it. The problem had to do with Christianity’s claim to uniqueness. A religious tradition that left no space for other traditions–as Islam had been domesticated–had no logical place in the religious sensibility of the people. Moreover, its ethical claim to peace could not serve the agenda of the restless war boys. In this vein, one of them tersely made a side comment during Hinderer’s maiden visit to the Bale, “Ha, yes, he is one of those white men, who made Abbeokuta people women this time, that they can no more go to war.” [22] Obviously, the success of the mission at Abeokuta provided Ibadan war boys the reason not to embrace a faith that would restrain their ambition.

With the gradual accrual of converts to the young mission came persecution. The years 1855 and 1856 were particularly difficult for the missionaries and their few converts. Although the persecutions were sporadic and did not assume a city-wide scope, they were intense. Two young women who could not endure the harassments of their mother fled to Abeokuta and the development created difficulty for Hinderer. [23] Their mother accused him to the Balogun who now reneged on his promise to ensure his safety in Ibadan. He rebuffed the missionary’s entreaties and explanations about the girls’ decision to leave home. When he would not prove reasonable Hinderer approached the Bãlẹ where he had a chance encounter with him. The occasion gave him the opportunity to meet the Balogun at his level. After the Balogun had finished harassing and snubbing Hinderer, the missionary braced himself in the face of this opposition, and for once, responded forcefully in these terms:

…I will speak to you, & if you don’t wish to hear there are others to hear, but vindicate I will myself today in your presence & before your & Bale’s attendants! Then I told him the whole truth from beginning to end, & in such terms that every body was amazed, assuring him also that the truth & nothing but the truth he shall hear from me always, & that on this ground I did not fear with all his soldiers & Bales together, so it was no use his attempting to frighten me. [24]

The Bãlẹ who, as a civil chief, feared the Balogun, an influential war chief, later commended Hinderer’s courage for speaking as “a real freeborn” and not as a slave. [25] It was a new birth in which the missionary realized that Ibadan’s obsession for violence and tough-talking would not be assuaged merely by moralistic pleas; they must be addressed in their own language of toughness. And he indicated as much while addressing the misgivings his response to the war chief might create in the minds of his superiors in London. “I can assure you,” he wrote, “this is the only way to get on at all when one comes to close dealing with these Ibadan warriors.” [26]

From 1856, when the consequences of conversion had dawned on the people and himself, Hinderer began to look outward. The situation in Ibadan and the mutual jealousies between the Yoruba warlords of the era were instrumental to this. After Ibadan brokered peace between Alafin Atiba and Ãrẹ Kurunmi in 1855, people visiting Ibadan repeatedly informed Hinderer that the Alafin was “very much hurt” that white people took residence in many towns in his country, but they seemed to avoid him and his town. Since the conditions of peace now placed territories to the north of the country, hitherto under Kurunmi, under the Alafin, and the mission was planning expansion in that direction, it became necessary to first address the feelings of the Oyo monarch before venturing to occupy any town tributary to him. To this end Hinderer visited Oyo in January 1856 to arrange matters with Atiba, promising to write England to send a European teacher to reside at his capital. [27]

In anticipating the arrival of his desired guest, Atiba gave the mission “an extensive piece of ground within the town wall, very eligible…for a station, he gave…moreover a convenient native compound not far from the palace for the white man to occupy until he has built a house of his own.” [28] In returning to Ibadan, Hinderer left in Oyo a CMS Christian visitor who was then with him at Ibadan, Hardesty, to manage the repair of the compound, the king having also given materials and men to effect it. He was also to commence teaching until a permanent arrangement could be made for the place. [29] Shortly after, he placed Daniel Olubi there until he could find a substantive person to assign there. [30] Olubi spent ten weeks in Oyo and was withdrawn after starting the work which George Williams, a Christian visitor continued. With the occupation of Oyo the expansion of the work in the Yoruba country had begun, and more hands must be employed to carry the mission forward. Hinderer left Ibadan in 1856 in the hope that such hands would be available in Sierra Leone on his way back in 1857.

Recruiting Agents from Sierra Leone

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone had emerged in the 1843 homeward migration of Egba converts as the seedbed of indigenous mission agency for the CMS in West Africa. Drawing from this reality, David Hinderer visited the colony on his way back from England in November 1857 to recruit more hands for the missionary occupation of the Yoruba hinterland. He arrived in Freetown not knowing what to make of the colony, but he was certainly disappointed with Christianity at the seat of government. “Freetown Christianity is certainly not what it ought to be,” he wrote. “I am afraid not what it is generally believed to be,” he continued. [31] But he had been told that “things are much better in the villages.” With the obvious counsel of his senior Basel colleague, Ulrich Graf, Hinderer recruited two agents from Hastings. [32] Henry Johnson and William Allen, a younger colony-born, Yoruba schoolmaster in the village came with him to Ibadan in January 1858. [33]

Hinderer purposed to station his two agents, Henry Johnson and William Allen, in the towns or villages in the interior; but he decided to give them some training before he placed them out to preach among the natives. [34] It meant that they and their families would settle outside Ibadan. In the end, his plan to settle the new agents outside Ibadan did not materialize. Within five months of returning to Ibadan Mrs. Hinderer’s health broke down dangerously, giving Mr. Hinderer the concern that it might be necessary for her to return home while he continued his missionary work in Ibadan. [35] While this concern was being addressed and the entire household was on the edge as to what could result from Mrs. Hinderer’s ill health, James Barber, Hinderer’s highly valued catechist, died suddenly in the streets of Ibadan on June 21. [36] Soon after, the Sierra Leone returnee Scripture reader Puddicombe, who had lost all respect within Ibadan mission circle through his quarrelsome attitude, had to be transferred out. Hinderer recommended him for Ikorodu, his wife also being unwilling to live in the interior but Lagos. [37]

More than this, however, Puddicombe himself considered Hinderer too austere for the kind of life he would have loved to live. The missionary had in 1854 firmly declined his proposal to “redeem” a slave girl kidnapped and brought to Ibadan by the war boys from one of their recent expeditions. Hinderer refused the proposal on the grounds that “it was not only against English law but would also injure our character as missionaries & make us to appear as encouraging war and manstealing [sic].” His assistant then called him a “hard taskmaster” for refusing him the opportunity to secure a helper for his wife. His eventual exit from Ibadan mission in 1858 was the culmination of many of such disagreeable tantrums on his part. With an infirm wife at hand and the exit of two helpers in quick succession, the duo of Henry Johnson and William Allen had to be retained in Ibadan. Happily Hinderer found comfort in the new spirit of cordiality they brought into the mission as he wrote with delight,

For the two men…I am very thankful…they go on very nicely together with my young school master Daniel Olubi, & we enjoy peace in the station, they work with me, & have no separate interest from that of the mission. Johnson is excellent in character, Allen more clever, but not so industrious, he is colony born. [39]

Hinderer was pleased with his new agents from Sierra Leone; hence, in August 1858, he set out with Henry Johnson on a five-week mission exploratory tour of twenty seven towns and villages tributary to Ibadan. These included, among others, Iwo, Ede, Oshogbo, Ikirun, Iragbeji, Ire, Ipetu, Ilesa, Ife, Modakeke, and Apomu. [40] The cheerful prospects he saw on this trip led him back to Sierra Leone in December where he recruited four additional hands early in 1859. These he assigned to begin the work in Oshogbo, Ilesa. Ife and Modakeke.

The Challenge of Islam

In the year the Bãlẹ of Ibadan died, 1858, the Muslim community in Ibadan threatened to sack the fledgling mission. From 1851 when Hinderer made his exploratory visit, they had unsuccessfully sought to exclude Christianity from Ibadan. When, in 1858, the news of the massacre in Jeddah reached Ibadan “through messengers from Mecca,” it renewed their resolve to see white men and their followers dispatched from the country. A group of Muslims threatened one of the newly recruited Scripture readers from Sierra Leone in the streets of Ibadan saying that “his days were numbered.” They claimed that “they had just heard that God had given a command to them according to which they shall have to cut off the heads of all the white men in this country, then theirs, i.e. our African teachers, & then all the peoples who follow us…” Although the threat came to nothing, it entrenched Hinderer in his belief that it was providential that “heathen rulers” were in power in the Yoruba country and not Islamic powers as in Ilorin. [41]

The protection Hinderer’s mission enjoyed from the chiefs against the ever-present threat of Islam, either from Yoruba Muslims in the country or as its adherents in Ilorin threatened to overrun the country, became a motivation for his vehemence against the bad portrayal of Ibadan in the missionary press at home. Apparently, the news of the devastations being wreaked in the country by Ibadan war boys were being reported to London from Abeokuta. In response Hinderer explained away the rapacity of the war boys as the activities of “all kinds of Yoruba, Egba, Ife, Ilesa, & what not people, under petty captain [sic] from Ibadan.” In contrast, he argued,

Ibadan as a war encampment is in fact nothing more or less than the old standing Yoruba army which from the commencement of the Fulah wars from Ilorin kept that town in check, & unless the Balogun or head-warchief of Ibadan goes with his Yoruba standard, it cannot be said, Ibadan is out for war. [42]

Much more, Hinderer argued that Ibadan should be seen in a better light, for “As long as Ilorin stands as a Mahomedan power in this country it is by no means to be wished that Ibadan’s war power should be diminished, or the Yoruba country would be over run with Mahomedanism, & Christian missions be at an end.” [43] This utility value of Ibadan as a standing bulwark against the expansion of Islam in the country endeared the people to Hinderer. When this combined with the support and goodwill he was receiving from the “heathen” chiefs, the unrestrained access they gave him to the towns and villages under them, and the fact that the converts that gradually but consistently accrued to the mission came largely from Yoruba religions, his commitment to favorable reports about Ibadan was complete. And this was in spite of the sporadic but intense persecutions his converts were experiencing on domestic fronts, which also placed him and his wife occasionally in awkward position with the chiefs.

In this vein, one cannot but note the contrast between David Hinderer and Adolphus Mann in Ijaye. Under Kurunmi, Mann experienced nothing but frustration in making converts; with years he grew bitter with his missionary environment so much that, at a point, he judged the work “unwisely commenced” and that it “ought to be given up.” [44] Kurunmi was in Ijaye the prophet, the priest and the king, having everything under his uncompromising control. Ibadan was a different case. For all its war mongering and depredation by its war boys, the town had no equal of Kurunmi’s totalitarianism, hence Hinderer’s challenge was different from Mann’s. [45]

Hinderer really had his own difficulty in Ibadan too. The Balogun could be inconsistent, in one moment giving him land to build a church in his own quarter of the town and in another promising Hinderer’s “heathen” opponents that he would ensure the missionary’s exit from Ibadan. [46] Although this may actually not be more than the double tongue tactic for which the Yoruba is known, such conduct could ruffle the missionary’s comfort. [47] Nevertheless, Hinderer appears to have given his heart to the country and the equanimity with which he and his wife bore the privation that came to them during the Ijaye war authenticated his altruism towards the people. Even Kurunmi, for all his notoriety was simply to Hinderer the “illustrious” head of Ijaye! This resolute attitude towards Ibadan, in particular, and the Yoruba country in general was contagious and became the ethos of his missionary household, even if some of the Egba agents there did not share his sentiments as the Ijaye war revealed.

The Ijaye War

Ibadan mission was on the rise and things looked up when the political situation of the country flared up again in January 1860. At the roots of this crisis was the constitutional amendment Atiba introduced before his death. He succeeded in persuading his council, except Kurunmi of Ijaye, to abrogate the law that required the crown prince to commit suicide at the death of his father. At Atiba’s death in 1859, his son Adelu was crowned as the new Alafin; but Kurunmi refused to acknowledge the new king. He was ignored until he began to make good his disagreement by disturbing caravans going to Oyo via Ijaye. The war that ensued brought the country pain and hardship and created a breach between Ibadan mission and its mother-station, Abeokuta.

At the outbreak of hostility, the missionary party in Ibadan had the apprehension that the consequences of the war for the country and their own welfare could be grave. With Ibadan determined on a permanent solution to Ãrẹ’s long-standing intransigence and the old warlord of Ijaye equally bent on war, claiming that his office required that he died in one, the country was at a point of no return. [48] Kidnapping on the roads that led to both towns began in earnest, making exit dangerous. The Egba joined the fray ostensibly to defend Ijaye but actually to make some gains from the quarrel between the two towns. [49] Ilorin also made pretensions to be on the side of the Ãrẹ. [50] The missionaries at Ibadan were shut in as the road to Abeokuta was closed to traffic and the safety of the one that led through Remo to Lagos could not be ascertained. Hinderer wrote,

Things look altogether dark & angry in the Yoruba country, & it may be we are on the eve of another general Yoruba war, but our trust is in the Lord of hosts…We do not think that any of us will be in personal danger from these wars, but it is distressing to contemplate the sin & sorrow the misery and degradation it may plunge those again, who only now tried to emerge from it, yet even if the worst come, I have no doubt it will at last work for the good of Christ’s cause, I have often thought & said the Yorubas will yet want afflictions, before they can receive the humble gospel now offered to them. [51]

The war could have ended with the death of the chief of Ijaye in 1862, but the complications that came with the involvement of the Egba ensured it dragged on in the Ijebu country and prolonged the sufferings of Ibadan mission. Worse for the CMS mission were their opposing sentiments of the two missionaries, Hinderer and Townsend. Hinderer does not see anything that concerned Egba in the quarrel between the two towns. Townsend believed that if Ibadan eventually succeeded against Ijaye, as it was likely to be in view of their overwhelming force, they would turn against Abeokuta, and “our destruction would be ensured.” [52]

At home, Hinderer made strenuous efforts to rein in the anti-Ibadan sentiments of some of the Egba agents working with him. He reported that “there is a bad anti Yoruba party spirit among them, which I am sorry to say, makes them very apathetic in their work, & to keep them from doing actual damage to the cause of the mission here was all I could do for several months past.” [53] Their indiscretion nearly scandalized the mission but Hinderer successfully curtailed it. [54]

As the war situation made street preaching inauspicious and his health began to fail, thereby confining him indoors, Hinderer employed his energy in translating into Yoruba language Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, being assisted by Mr. Henry Johnson. [55] He did not only lack “counsel with other experienced missionary brethren” in managing the dangerous anti-Yoruba sentiment festering under his roof. As the drums of war gave way to actual battles, Lagos and Abeokuta became distant countries. There was no communication. As the war continued, the situation deteriorated.

The lack of communication between Ibadan and Abeokuta missions was not just incidental to the state of the country; it was an outcome of disaffection between the leading missionaries in both places. Hinderer was angry at his colleagues in Abeokuta for not restraining their converts from joining the Egba army that was meddling in a war that did not concern them. [56] Townsend himself wondered why Hinderer did not communicate with them in Abeokuta when at the early stage of the war persons passed there from the interior through Ibadan. [57] He explained their non-interference in the action of the converts:

We don’t think we have any right to interfere in their [i.e. the Egba converts’] going as they owe a duty to the law of their country as we do to ours. We have done the same, that is remained passive, in every war undertaken by the government, & when our converts go we exhort them to act as Xtians in it; we have not thought it right to command them not to go. [58]

Like an underdog defending a cause he believed in against an influential colleague, Hinderer vehemently challenged Townsend’s report of the war in his newly founded newspaper, Iwe Irohin. [59] He took the battle to the Wesleyans for their supposed misrepresentation of the fact in their missionary notices published in London. Making his case through Mr. Venn, he particularly found some of the information contained in the publication objectionable, asserting that “Too many untruths, & mischievous representations are circulated about the Yorubas,” the most disturbing for him being the letter of Mr. Bickersteth, their missionary at Abeokuta, which he considered “too bad to be passed over.” [60]

The Hinderers’ fight was not without a cause. Abeokuta had long been projected and was still being projected to the English world as the center through which civilization was radiating into Africa. To destroy Abeokuta was to destroy civilization and put out the flame of the gospel. Ibadan, on the other hand, was still largely unknown; its status in relation to Abeokuta’s popularity overseas was a disadvantage. Worse still, the news of its war-mongering spirit and the desolation its warriors were wreaking in the interior had filtered out. It was therefore much easier for outsiders to see the Ijaye debacle as Ibadan being at it again.

On the other hand, Townsend, the Egbas’ ultimate public relations officer, did not need much flattering to report the war; and indeed he was more occupied with the volatile relation of Abeokuta with the new colonial government that was crystallizing in Lagos at this time. But Hinderer had a lot of convincing to do. Biobaku later summarized the dynamic at play: “Events in Yorubaland had placed missionaries under the protection of chiefs who were at strife with one another and they tended to support their particular protectors.” [61]

The insecurity of the country and the delicate nature of the times vividly came home to Ibadan mission in the first year of the war. About October 1860 the missionary at Ijaye sent his schoolmaster, Mr. Cole, to Iseyin with relief for Mr. Elba, his sick Scripture reader stationed there. While he was there Ibadan warriors who had made a base at Iseyin to fend off Ijaye’s food supply arrested Cole while hunting birds in the forest; he had hardly been there for a week. Being an Egba with strong Egba facial marks, he was taken for a spy camouflaged in white man’s dress. He was taken to Oyo to be sold when Andrew Wilhelm, the schoolmaster at Oyo, identified him and pleaded unsuccessfully for his release as he was a native teacher who had nothing to do with the war. It took Hinderer’s circuitous travel to Oyo from Ibadan and a keen interposition with the king to effect his release. [62]

The financial situation of Hinderer’s mission was a major problem during the war. With no help forthcoming from the chiefs, who could not help as they did not know how long the war would last, Hinderer risked a journey to Lagos through an enemy territory, Ijebuland, in quest of assistance. The journey, undertaken in the company of two of his school boys, was one risk too many. Ibadan’s enemies at Ijebu Ode, the king in particular, hearing of his venturesome thoroughfare sent his messengers to waylay him on his return. He was providentially spared, but he lost much of what he got. [63] His official request for a raise in the pay of his agents was also trivialized by the local finance committee in the politics of the war.

Ijaye eventually fell to Ibadan’s onslaught in March 1862, and it was believed in Ibadan that matters had been finally concluded with the war. But the aftermath was still to bring the mission excruciating experiences. The capture of the agents at Ijaye and Awaye by Ibadan warriors and the need to redeem them further put pressure on their indigent condition. The missionary laid the blame on his colleagues at Abeokuta:

[T]hese latter troubles we might have been…spared, had the missionaries in Abeokuta treated us in a Christian spirit: but all we informed them of…& advise[d] concerning Mr. Mann &c. &c was either treated with contempt or made mischief of by some party or other. Altogether the part they acted during the Ijaye war, & now it seems also in this Jebu war–whatever their outward profession may be;–is a disgrace to the name of a missionary, & must prove a curse to the mission. [64]

When it became clear that the war between Ibadan and the peoples of Ijebu and Egba had moved into a new phase, the end of which could not be ascertained, the CMS mission in Lagos, at the initiative of Mr. Lamb, organized a relief and reconciliation party to Ibadan and Abeokuta. The relief materials of “cowries and substantial provisions” for Ibadan mission reached Abeokuta, but the missionaries and their agents there claimed “no carriers could be got for any load.” It did not go down well with Hinderer that the provisions and the cowries ended up at Abeokuta; in fact, he considered the failure to transmit them to Ibadan malicious. [65]

A Mission in Remission

Contrary to the bright prospects that Hinderer saw during his tour of the country in 1858, which encouraged him to recruit more agents from Sierra Leone, [66] the mission could not make the desired progress while the war lasted. The agents he placed at Ife, Modakeke, Ilesa, and Oshogbo made no impact. The one assigned to Ife died mysteriously “after a hot quarrel with Ife chiefs” and his Modakeke counterpart “proved utterly unworthy.” Neither did the other two pull their weight. Hinderer considered the continued employment of the remaining three agents a waste of resources that should be stopped as soon as the war ended. [67]

In Ibadan, the ongoing effort to establish the two stations at Oke Ogunpa and Oke Aremo were not without their challenges. Aremo showed bright prospects from the beginning as it resulted from the initiative of the converts from that part of the town in 1860. Ogunpa was a particularly hard soil for the gospel to take roots. Between 1853 and 1861, three agents of the mission–Messrs Kefer, Barber and Jeffreries–attempted to establish a church there. None of them succeeded before their untimely deaths. William S. Allen who was recruited from Sierra Leone in 1857 was assigned there in 1860, but he was making no impact. The health of the missionary couple too was deteriorating. In the midst of their travails, Mr. Henry Johnson, who was recruited along with Allen and proved industrious and worthy of his calling, died in February 1865.

However, two significant developments kept the mission going and gave value to the passing years. The first was that although street preaching was inauspicious, as young men were being forced to go to war, converts were steady, and some joined the church, both at Kudeti and Aremo. A few baptismal services even held during these war years. The second development was Hinderer’s successful completion of his Yoruba translation of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. But the health of both Mr. and Mrs. Hinderer continued to deteriorate through the years. They had no access to medical help as they had been shut in like everyone in the country. Relief finally came to them in April 1865 through the unexpected initiative of Governor Glover in Lagos. Only Mrs. Hinderer could be evacuated immediately and Mr. Hinderer waited for several more weeks to make arrangements for someone to run the mission in his absence.

The Closing Years

Hinderer and his wife returned to Ibadan after eighteen months recuperating their health in Europe. It appears the war situation had relaxed and the roads were coming into use again, hence the rousing welcome they received in December 1866.

The agents, under the leadership of Olubi, had acquitted themselves while their missionaries were away. Activities in the churches had not only been sustained; Hinderer was satisfied with the spiritual fervor he found among the principal members and more people had joined the church from among the unconverted. But Ogunpa remained problematic; the church at Oyo too had almost fizzled out and Hinderer still had no one to assign there. The building was even falling apart as people gradually pilfered materials from it, taking away, one after the other, the hinges and the doors as they did earlier to the Baptist chapel there. [68]

There were other signs of renewal and prospect in the mission. Hinderer returned to Ibadan with published copies of his translation of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which he read with the boys in the mission. His wife also busied herself reading it with the girls at home and the women on Sunday afternoons. [69] It thrilled them beyond measure. Moreover, two of the children who had been in the home of the Hinderers, Samuel Johnson and Hethersett Laniyonu, finished their studies at Abeokuta Training Institution in 1865 and were now engaged with the mission. Things were this looking up when tragedy struck at Abeokuta in 1867 as a result of the disagreement between the Egba people and the colonial regime in Lagos.

Riots broke out in the town and the mob directed its anger against the churches, being the only European institution within their reach. They plundered and destroyed them and prohibited the missionaries from venturing beyond Lagos. The development suited their Ijebu counterparts who had over the decades lamented the presence of Europeans in the country. They readily upheld the proscription. The rampaging elements at Abeokuta sent some of their loots to the chiefs in Ibadan indicating to them to do the same to the mission in their midst. The mischief, in fact, gave Hinderer and his team their ultimate moment of triumph as Ibadan authorities acquitted them, saying:

We have let you do your work, and we have done ours, but you little know how closely we have watched you, and your ways please us. We have not only looked at your mouths but at your hands, and we have no complaint to lay against you. Just go on with your work with a quiet mind, you are our friends, and we are yours. [70]

No doubt politics were involved here since both peoples, the Egba and the Oyo (that is Ibadan people), had in their deteriorating relationships over the decades taken conflicting positions on political events in the country. Yet the outcome of the mischief could only have gratified the missionary couple and their agents.

The year 1868 was indeed one of mixed blessings for the missionary couple. Their last visit to England rejuvenated their health, and they seemed to be in full force again. But soon ill health began to undermine their activities and the same privation they experienced before they returned to England played out before them as Ibadan was shut in again for entertaining their presence in the country. In 1867, Hinderer thought of closing down the Ogunpa station, because it had not justified the effort put into growing it. But the chief in charge of the place pleaded that he allow it to be. Hinderer decided to give the station a lifeline by sending Olubi there. On March 9, 1868, he withdrew Mr. W. S. Allen who had been working there for eight years and brought him back to Kudeti. Olubi immediately took responsibility for the place and moved his family there. [71] Of this move, Hinderer wrote, “We could not have parted with a right hand, as Mr. Olubi & his wife naturally had become to us, but for the thought that perhaps by this change dead Oke Ogunpa may revive.” [72] In eighteen months Olubi worked the station to life, and dead Oke Ogunpa did revive.

The converts too were upbeat in their Christian witness. Although times were hard, their witness quietly but steadily penetrated family compounds. [73] The unconverted were taking more interest in the message and were asking questions as never before. Adeyemi of Katunga, an old prince of the defunct Oyo metropolis, embraced the faith after many years of belligerent argument against it and was baptized on Advent Sunday, November 30, 1868. In addition to the maturing indigenous hands they had been training for the work, Hinderer’s earliest recruits–Olubi and his wife and their compatriots, Okuseinde and his wife–were also maturing in service and continued to prove consistent. But in the midst of these signs of hope, Hethersett Laniyonu proved morally unfit for the Christian vocation and was dismissed. Moreover, ill health continued to plague the lives of the couple. In fact, it became clear in 1868 that Mrs. Hinderer’s health had become materially damaged, and it would not be possible for her and her husband to remain in the country much longer.

Hints on their situation again reached Governor Glover in Lagos, who, possibly with the solicitation of the missionaries now restricted to Lagos, planned their exit. As in 1865, he sent a secret expedition that cut its way through the forest to fetch them to the coast, arriving unexpectedly in Ibadan on New Year’s eve. And still because they were unprepared for the arrival of the mission, only Mrs. Hinderer, who was in a bad state of health, returned with them to Lagos on January 5, 1869. Mr. Hinderer’s exit followed seven months later after making provision for the leadership of the mission, particularly recommending Olubi for ordination. [74]

Bearing Fruits in Old Age

Hinderer retired to England with his wife and took up the parish of Martham, Norfolk. They were settling into the work when his wife died on June 6, 1870. He continued his work in the parish, but in 1874 he returned to the mission field. Since his health could not sustain him through the war torn country, he remained on the coast and founded the church at Lekki and Ode Ondo in 1875. After placing the agent at Ondo, he visited his old mission in Ibadan where he was impressed with the progress he saw at Kudeti under Olubi and at Ogunpa under Okuseinde. In his words, he was particularly affected by the “good moral tone, & unity & brotherly love” that marked their congregations. [75] Ogunpa was a miracle of awakening. In the few months prior to Hinderer’s arrival, the congregation witnessed “a spiritual stir with…much persecution” which transformed the station from “a hard place…which formerly under Mr. Allen had almost to be given up” until Olubi was temporarily assigned there.

But it was the same story of failure again under Allen at Aremo. The church, which had over the years shown brighter prospects, had been mismanaged. The church building was decrepit and factions had emerged in the congregation as a result of Allen’s indiscretion. His underlying problem was distraction into the cotton business which now engaged his attention. The business led him away from the guiding principles Hinderer had established for the mission. [76] In consequence of his neglect, but particularly for his business interest and slave-holding, Allen was forced to resign from the mission in May 1875. With the scarcity of personnel, Hinderer had to devise a plan for the station: “We have now to repair & partly build anew the station, when I hope Samuel Johnson the only available man here, who will have to take the station, will do a better work; indeed I have no doubt he will prove faithful & industrious…” [77]

When he finally retired in 1877, Hinderer continued to engage in translation works. He edited his earlier Yoruba translation of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and produced Collections of Yoruba Hymns on Texts of the Scriptures, translation of the book of Prophet Isaiah and “other works.” [78] He lived most of his retirement life in Germany and Switzerland until his death in 1890 in Bournemouth, England.

The Missionary and African Agency

In spite of the evident capability of his agents in Ibadan, to which he testified, Hinderer remained ambivalent about the capacity of his African colleagues to lead the mission. In the ruthless racial antagonism led by Mr. Henry Townsend at Abeokuta against the proposal in London to ordain Samuel Crowther as bishop of the emerging Yoruba church early in the 1860s, Hinderer sided with his European colleagues. Five years after London had gone ahead to ordain Crowther for another sphere of mission service outside their racially guided jurisdiction, Hinderer maintained the same position in 1869, tacitly criticizing the supposed romantic view of Africans by home-based mission administrators. He wrote that “I can only say with others, it is not right, it is not safe [Hinderer’s emphases] to have a native officiating among us as bishop while Europeans have to be in the field…[B]ut the truth is every missionary is uneasy about this state of things, & some perhaps even unsettled which is very unwholesome to our work especially in a country like this.” [79]

The word “safe” and the phrase “in a country like this” are key to understanding the fear of the missionaries. From the late 1850s, nationalist sentiments had been brewing among the returnees from Sierra Leone. [80] The housebreaking saga of 1867 at Abeokuta finally brought it home to them as more hotheads returned to Abeokuta from Sierra Leone, fanning Egba opposition against the colonial regime in Lagos and anything European. This was a complete negation of the impression Mr. Townsend had being painting to the missionary press at home and for which he had been facilitating Anglo-Egba relationship since 1843. In the reckoning of the missionaries in the field, to assign an indigenous priest as the bishop of such a diocese rife with anti-European sentiments would be to create an atmosphere of insecurity for them. After all, they did not subscribe to the theoretical ideals of a self-propagating, self-governing, and self-supporting church the way Mr. Venn conceived it. Hinderer shared in this fear.

When he visited Ibadan in 1875 and saw how his successors had sustained the work and the influence they had with the authorities, Hinderer came to a conclusion contrary to the argument marshaled in the 1860s by Townsend. The missionary from Exeter had argued then that the respect they had in the country was due to the supervisory authority they exercised over their African agents, and to reverse the situation by ordaining an indigenous agent as their bishop would harm the work. Hinderer now saw the fallacy of the argument and observed that when the chiefs came over to greet him, it was Olubi and his colleagues they actually came to compliment as his host. That is to say that indigenous leaders of the mission were respected by the chiefs who appreciated them as their own people. He concluded his accolades for the agents in Ibadan with the words, “I should say God will soon speed the extension as well as the establishing of His work in these parts, especially if it were under the good old native bishop who belongs to this part of the country, & who would soon be recognized as a patriarch among the people.” [81] Was he carried away by the great achievements of his agents?

Hinderer reverted to his old position, another eleven years after, arguing for the appointment of a young European missionary to supervise the work in Ibadan. According to him, the missionary Mr. Jonathan Wood noticed “a want of go,” that is vitality, during his visit to the mission in 1886. [82] Wood, who himself was on his way to Kiriji to settle the war between Ibadan and the Ekiti confederate army when he visited the town, and Hinderer, who was far away in Europe, did not consider the plight of the agents who had been functioning in an environment of privation for nearly ten years because of the stalemated war that had distressed the entire country. Although he was by no means ungracious in making the case for a European superintendent, Hinderer should have understood the situation better, having lived through such experience in the country. After all, the seeming “want of go” in the mission was the effect of the war situation over which the agents had no control, and for which they were staking their lives and reputation to redeem. Hinderer’s apparent inconsistency in this matter may only have underscored his human limitations.

The Legacy of David Hinderer

One way to assess the impact of Hinderer on mid-nineteenth century Yoruba country is to evaluate his achievement in the light of the expectation of the people among whom he worked as a pioneer missionary. In view of Samuel Johnson’s war-filled account of the country in this period, a major pitfall in understanding the people is to conclude that they are warlike. But although Johnson’s account is dominated by the stories of the warrior class, they were numerically insignificant when compared with the multitude who desired to make a living in an orderly and peaceful society. This subdued yearning for a peaceful and prosperous society, in contrast to the prevailing culture of rapine, seems to be the raison d’être for Hinderer’s permission to establish his mission. This is not so much documented in detail by Johnson when he reported that Ifa divination arbitrated in the confrontation between Bãlẹ’s chiefs, Ọtun and Osi, over the proposal of Hinderer to his council. But the confession of Agbakin in his association with the missionary reveals enough.

Agbakin also had Ifa divination skill and regularly deployed this indigenous knowledge system for guidance. Although it is not clear what role he played in discerning the desirability or otherwise of Hinderer’s mission, he was able to confirm with his art what he had heard from returnees from Sierra Leone that Christianity preaches peace and order, the only aspiration he had remaining in his life. But whether he was involved or not in the official process of ascertaining the desirability or otherwise of the presence of the missionary in Ibadan, Agbakin’s discernment and consequent Nunc Dimittis, having seen the missionary as the initiation of peace process in the country, furnished the basic standard by which Hinderer’s impact on the country may be assessed. Did Hinderer’s Ibadan mission help the people in attaining a peaceful society?

Hinderer’s social and religious ethos was at variance with those prevailing in Ibadan. Some opposed it, and some were cynical about it. Still some were indifferent to his message. Conversions were not as forthcoming as he would have desired; and he was ill most of the time, often incapacitated to the point of being unable to carry out his regular street preaching. He had many moments of regret because of his ill health. It was in 1855 in the midst of this regret that he got his first insight into the people’s perception of the benefit of having him in their midst; it came sooner than he could imagine.

He was lamenting his health and difficulty in getting the attention of the people when “a most respectable trader & some of his friends” told him,

You speak…as if you thought you had been in Ibadan all for nothing these two years, but had you been here before & seen what was [happening], you would judge differently. When you visited Ibadan first you would hear everyday of persons having been stolen in the town, now you hardly hear of such a thing. When you first came Abeokuta road was not safe, Ijebu road was not safe, even Ijaye you could only go in a caravan, now a little child might walk all these roads by himself. Therefore talk on, but take patience, our fashion is deeply rooted, but let us see yours for some time longer, & ours will wear away. [83]

True to this prediction, after several years of missionary activities in Ibadan, the people and their chiefs had seen enough to give “Oyinbo” [84] and his religion a benefit of the doubt in their town. Hinderer and his successors, by their activities, acquitted themselves as friends of the people. Aware that Ibadan was in the midst of enemies it had made for itself from the surrounding areas, Hinderer and his team shared the common people’s aspiration for peace and order in the country. They particularly encouraged and worked towards the realization of their desire to have direct access to Lagos and to do business with the colonial government there. [85] In 1871, the governor responded to this desire by sending a trade mission to Ibadan. [86] When the roads through Ijebu and Abeokuta were shut against the people, the governor created an alternative route, the following year, through the Ondo country via the lagoon east of Lagos. [87] All these were facilitated by the mission and their significance was not lost on the people.

When Ibadan eventually got its fingers burnt in the sixteen year war of 1877 to 1893, which the people could neither win nor withdraw from without a wholesale destruction of their army, it was the agents Hinderer had trained in the town who came to the rescue of the people by facilitating the peace process that ushered in a new lease of life for the country. This public relation exercised by Ibadan mission agents with Lagos colonial authorities, placed the town in favor with them during the colonial era over against Abeokuta and even Lagos whose inhabitants were always in conflict with the foreign power. Ifa’s implicit prediction that the trail of Hinderer would be beautiful in the country came to fulfillment. [88]

In his own set goal of evangelizing the country beyond the Egba people, Hinderer was no less successful. His strategy of investing in the children who had not yet been corrupted by the prevailing life of depredation paid off in the emergence of indigenous leadership in the closing decades of the nineteenth century under the leadership of his home-trained servants and, later, agents Daniel Olubi and James Okuseinde. These men not only sustained the work after the exit of Hinderer in 1869, they strengthened it. The weak churches at Oyo, Ilesha, and Ogbomosho and those in Ibadan that were struggling to find their feet received new life under the agencies of Daniel Olubi, James Okuseinde, Samuel Johnson, Francis Lowestoft Akielle, and Robert Scott Oyebode. These were the men who ushered the churches in the country into the twentieth century.

The stuff of which these men were made is another unique achievement of Hinderer in the Yoruba country. Hinderer brought his pietistic influence to bear on his work in Ibadan and to shape the missionary vocation of those who came under his influence. At the same time he instilled in them love for their nation, demonstrating that conversion is not necessarily opposed to patriotism. Although not all of them turned out right, many of those who did affirmed the integrity of the faith among their unconverted compatriots.

Hinderer graciously entrenched discipline among his team members and this also paid off when he could no longer remain on the scene. The most sensitive of the guiding principles he upheld in Ibadan mission was the issue of domestic slavery. While the agents at Abeokuta inherited, bought and, possibly, sold persons, Hinderer frowned at such indulgence. His successors sustained this discipline in a society that had no culture of paid employment while the need for workers was acute. It was essentially to Hinderer’s credit that at the conference on domestic slavery, called in Lagos on March 16-23, 1880, Ibadan agents came clean where their Egba colleagues from Abeokuta threw tantrums and created tension. This comes into a sharper focus when it is borne in mind that they attended the conference at a time Ibadan mission was under no supervision of foreign missionaries.

The intellectual achievement of Samuel Johnson in writing The History of the Yorubas-From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate, may also be attributed to Hinderer’s patriotic inspiration. There are two evidences for this, both of which derive from the pen of the two men.

The earliest expression of the idea of documenting the Yoruba wars, a subject which dominated Johnson’s work, came from the journal of the pioneer missionary to Ibadan, the people Hinderer and Johnson often referred to as “Yoruba Proper.” [89] In December 1854, while traveling to the Ijebu country with his friend, Dr. Edward Irving, Hinderer thought that out the sentiment that “from the little tales which one gathers I believe a book full of touching interest might be written on the late Yoruba and Egba wars…” [90] Johnson was to fulfill that wish in the closing decade of the nineteenth century although the book, for several reasons, did not come out of the press until 1921. If his dedication of the work to “the revered memory” of Hinderer is something to go by, this self-confessed former pupil of the missionary from Weisbuch received his early promptings from him while residing with his family in the early years of his arrival from Sierra Leone.

The cultural significance of Johnson’s achievement comes to light in the confession of Mr. R. N. Cust of the CMS parent committee in London when he wrote in 1899 that, “It speaks volumes in favor of the degree of culture to which Negro missionaries have obtained, when they can compose in so complete and orderly manner such a gigantic work. I look at it with admiration–no native convert of India [Cust’s emphasis] could produce such work… [91] In post-independent Nigeria, Johnson’s work of history has been a great service to the Yoruba nation whose past was almost lost in the rapid change occasioned by the nineteenth century wars and the eventual colonization of the people. Hinderer’s influence in this cannot be discounted.

When all these feats are put together-the eventual redemption of the country from its proclivity for war, the quality of the agents his mission bred, and the intellectual attainment that emerged from among his pupils–it comes as no surprise that the CMS mission testifies of his field as “one of the most exemplary Christian communities in all the CMS Missions.” [92] Yet it is still an irony that a mission nurtured in such a violent milieu as Ibadan and planted by a missionary who for most of his time there was in ill health will thus come out on top. It is a marvel of history.

Kehinde Olabimtan


  1. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, letter dated May 7, 1849, Church Missionary Society (CMS) Archives, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, UK, C/A2/O49/2; D. Hinderer, journal entry, March 28, 1849, CMS C/A2/O49/94.

  2. Some of the Hausa slaves in Yoruba land had left their country for several years and had lost proficiency in the language. The Hausa children born among Yoruba are also not taught to speak the language; they grew up speaking Yoruba. A. Mann, letter dated April 26, 1856, C.M.S. C/A2/O66/7A; D. Hinderer to H. Venn, May 7, 1849, C.M.S. C/A2/O/49/2; D. Hinderer, journal entry, March 28, 1849, CMS C/A2/O49/94.

  3. H. Townsend to missionaries, July 3, 1851, CMS C/A2/M2(1848-1854)/279-283.

  4. H. Townsend to missionaries, July 3, 1851, CMS C/A2/M2(1848-1854)/279-283.

  5. Hinderer arrived in Ibadan as a familiar face, having been there on exploratory visit in 1851. Mann arrived at his place of service for the first time. D. Hinderer, journal for the quarter ending March 25, 1853, CMS C/A2/O/49/105; A. Mann, Journal of the Mission Station Ijaye from February 17 to March 30, 1853, CMS C/A2/O66.

  6. D. Hinderer, Journal Entry, June 7, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/103.

  7. Johnson, 245, 321; Smith, Kingdoms of the Yoruba, 127.

  8. The four chiefs were the Balogun (the commander of the army), Ọtun (the Bãlẹ’s right flank chief), Osi (the Bãlẹ’s left chief) and the elderly chief, Lanoso, in whose house the missionary was lodged. Johnson, The History of the Yorubas, 316.

  9. It is significant that this early interaction between Christianity and African society at Ibadan was not exclusive to the two religions but also included Islam. The significance lies in the response of the Osi Bãlẹ which was fanned by prejudice against “white men,” and which portended an incipient tension between the Christian faith and Islam in Yorubaland. The rivalry has since not abated and, indeed, appears to be the albatross bedeviling the contemporary Nigerian State. Yet, equally significant in post-independent Nigeria also is the recognition of this tension by the Nigerian academic community which, early after political independence from Britain, incorporated into the program of the Department of Religious Studies of the University of Ibadan the study of the three faiths in interaction. The official journal of the department Orita is dedicated to the expected dialogue of the three faiths in interaction.

  10. Jefferson Bowen reported that because most of the western Yoruba towns were destroyed shortly after the Lander brothers passed through the country in the early nineteenth century, it became an article of faith among the people that ruins always trailed the visits of white men wherever they went. On the other hand, their presence in Yoruba towns during warfare always brought the people the encouragement that their presence meant victory and survival. Hence, their exits from theaters of war were always taken as bad omens, as it happened in Ijaye where the exit of the white missionaries hastened the fall of the embattled town and the people’s mass exodus. T.J. Bowen, Adventures and Missionary Labours in Several Countries in the Interior of Africa from 1849 to 1856, 2nd ed. (London: Frank Cass, 1968), 130, 144-146; W. O. Ajayi, “Christian Involvement in the Ijaiye War,” in The History of Christianity in West Africa, edited by Ogbu. U. Kalu, 200-214 (Essex: Longman, 1980), 209.

  11. Johnson, The History of the Yorubas, 316.

  12. D. Hinderer, journal entry, October 3, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/104.

  13. His attempt in 1849 to work among some Owu and Gbagura settlers in the western part of Abeokuta was frustrated by “Pagan priesthood, together with our sworn enemies, the Mahomedans” who scared away the people and mocked his effort. This brazen opposition forced him to eventually explore Oshielle. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, July 16, 1850, C.M.S. C/A2/O49/3; July 16, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/5; D. Hinderer, journal for the quarter ending September 25, 1850, CMS C/A2/O49/100.

  14. D. Hinderer, journal entry, June 2, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/103; journal entry, October 4, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/104.

  15. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, July 16, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/5.

  16. An official title of one of the seven counselors of the Alafin, the Oyo Mesi, in the defunct empire. Literally meaning “courageous elder,” Morton-Williams described the office as the “next in rank to the Bashorun” and its holder served as the custodian of the temple of Oranyan, the legendary founder of the Alafin’s dynasty.” He added that Oranyan had to be consulted before military expeditions were sent out to divine on the success or otherwise of the intending mission. “The Yoruba Kingdom of Oyo,” in West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Daryll Forde and P.M. Kabbery (London: OUP, 1967), 55, 56.

  17. D. Hinderer , journal entries, June 5 and 7, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/103.

  18. D. Hinderer, journal entry, July 22, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/104.

  19. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, July 16, 1851; journal entries, May 23, June 3, June 5, and June 8, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/103; journal entry for September 1, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/104.

  20. D. Hinderer, journal entry, July 22, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/104.

  21. D. Hinderer, journal entry for July 22, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/104.

  22. D. Hinderer, journal entry, June 2, 1851, CMS C/A2/O49/103.

  23. R. H. Hone, Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country, 131-136. Rev. Hinderer’s journal indicated that they fled to Lagos. D. Hinderer, journal extracts for the quarter ending June 25, 1856, CMS C/A2/O49/114.

  24. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, May 25, 1856, CMS C/A2/O49/28.

  25. D. Hinderer, journal entry, May 23, 1856, CMS C/A2/O49/114.

  26. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, May 25, 1856, CMS C/A2/O49/28.

  27. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, February 27, 1856, CMS C/A2/O49/26.

  28. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, February 27, 1856, CMS C/A2/O49/26.

  29. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, February 27, 1856, CMS C/A2/O49/26.

  30. Anna Hinderer, Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country, p. 149.

  31. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, November 19, 1857, CMS C/A2/O49/30.

  32. In his assessment of the type of agency needed to evangelize the Yoruba country, Graf argued that, “The whole system of Schools and Superior Educational establishments is of very trifling importance in the Yoruba Mission for the present. The simple agency of Scripture readers, only versed but well versed in the Bible plan of Salvation, with its collateral truth, is abundantly sufficient for the conversion of the nation…These three agencies [Scripture readers/Christian visitors, the Bible, and open air preaching] abundantly supplied and judiciously worked by the missionaries are equal, under God, to work a total transformation of the Yoruba nation at no very distant period.” J. Graf, Report of visit to Yoruba Mission in 1854, CMS C/A1/O105/63.

  33. D. Hinderer to H. Straith, April 23, 1861, CMS C/A2/O49/50.

  34. D. Hinderer to secretaries, February 25, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/32.

  35. D. Hinderer to secretaries, May 31, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/33.

  36. D. Hinderer to secretaries, June 29, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/35.

  37. D. Hinderer to secretaries, September 24, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/36.

  38. Mr. Puddicombe alleged on the occasion that Mr. Hinderer was not “allowing him what others in the mission were allowed to do. The question, who was allowed to do so? was never answered & I thought best to drop the matter as the means to get the little storm pass quickly.” D. Hinderer, Journal Entry, July 24, 1854, CMS C/A2/O49/109.

  39. D. Hinderer to secretaries, September 24, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/36.

  40. D. Hinderer, journal entries, August 1 to September 4, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/115.

  41. D. Hinderer to secretaries, September 24, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/36.

  42. D. Hinderer to secretaries, September 24, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/36.

  43. D. Hinderer to secretaries, September 24, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/36.

  44. A. Mann to W. Knight, June 18, 1860, CMS C/A2/O66/12.

  45. In fact, Ibadan was too restive for a fascist like Kurunmi to emerge as the case of the deposed Maye of Ife clearly demonstrated; the town would rather dissolve itself in untold anarchy than allow such a person to dominate it.

  46. D. Hinderer to secretaries, September 24, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/36.

  47. Ọyọ ayọ‘mọ‘lẹ, meaning “Slippery Ọyọ” is an alliterative pun the people use to describe themselves as cunning in dealing with the gullible.

  48. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, March 19, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/40.

  49. Biobaku explained the war along the thought of one of the American missionaries stationed at Ijaye before the war. According to him, Ogunmola’s plan was to neutralize the other powers in the land, beginning with Ijaye. Thereafter he would go after Abeokuta in alliance with Dahomey and, with the deposed King Kosoko, drive the British from the coast to revive the slave trade. This explanation is too grand and conjectural. G. F. Bühler, resident at Abeokuta during the war, reported that the objective of the Egba in the Ijaye war was “to drive away Ibadans from Ibadan,” their ancestral homeland. In this vein, the Alake, at a meeting with the missionaries in Abeokuta in 1861, expressed his disappointment with the British government for not helping them towards this end. This reason seems plausible as the Egba, like any other people would do, would want to reclaim their lost territories, and such occasion of disaffection between the brothers who had usurped their inheritance would seem most auspicious. S. O. Biobaku, The Egba and Their Neighbours 1842-1872 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1957), 64; G. F. Bühler to H. Venn, September 6, 1861, CMS C/A2/O24/15.

  50. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, March 19, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/40.

  51. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, March 19, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/40.

  52. H. Townsend to. H. Venn, May 4, 1860, CMS C/A2/O85/76.

  53. D. Hinderer to the secretaries, October 18, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/44.

  54. Hinderer wrote that, “There has been actual danger of some of our people being caught & punished for communications to the coastward treacherous to the cause of Ibadan, but we discovered it in time to avert it. It is indeed no easy task at this time to steer our little missionary barque clear of the rocks, & never did I feel so much the need of counsel with other experienced missionary brethren, as at this time.” Had the information reached town that members of the mission were sending out messages to the enemies outside Ibadan, it would have spelled the end of the mission. For the chiefs would have ordered its pillage and turned it into a dunghill, Ibadan fashion..D. Hinderer to the secretaries, October 18, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/44.

  55. D. Hinderer to the secretaries, October 18, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/44.

  56. D. Hinderer to secretaries, June 21, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/43.

  57. H. Townsend to H. Venn, May 4, 1860, CMS C/A2/O85/76.

  58. H. Townsend to secretaries, July 5, 1860, CMS C/A2/O85/77.

  59. H. Townsend to H. Venn, October 4, 1860, CMS C/A2/O85/79.

  60. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, March 4, 1861, CMS C/A2/O49/48.

  61. S. Biobaku, The Egba and Their Neighbours, 70.

  62. D. Hinderer to the secretaries, October 18, 1860, CMS C/A2/O49/44.

  63. The first consignments of provisions sent through the caravan going from Lagos to Ibadan were lost when the Ijebu people attacked the caravan, killed its members, and looted their goods. They had expected Hinderer to be in the train. The money he gave to the Ijebu trader to change for cowries deliverable to him in Ibadan was also not delivered. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, August 2, 1861, CMS C/A2/O49/55.

  64. As late as 1866, the opposing sentiments between the two missionaries continued to complicate the work. Townsend came to the conclusion that it was better to withdraw the Egba agents he placed in Yoruba fields, especially at Awaye, Oyo and Isehin, so that those places could be staffed from Ibadan mission. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, March 10, 1863, CMS C/A2/O49/61; H. Townsend to H. Venn, April 3, 1866, CMS C/CA2/O85/139..

  65. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, March 10, 1863, CMS C/A2/O49/61.

  66. The tour took him to seventy seven towns and villages tributary to Ibadan. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, September 24, 1858, CMS C/A2/O49/36.

  67. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, March 30, 1865, CMS C/A2/O49/66.

  68. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, December 29, 1866, CMS C/A2/O49/67.

  69. R. H. Hone, Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country, 292.

  70. Hone, 304.

  71. D. Olubi, journal entry, March 10, 1868, CMS C/A2/O75/21.

  72. D. Hinderer, Half yearly report ending June 25, 1868, CMS C/A2/O49/120

  73. R. H. Hone, Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country, 312.

  74. D. Hinderer, Half yearly report ending June 25, 1869, CMS C/A2/O49/121,

  75. The two men were home trained for the ministry under Mr. Hinderer. Both of them started with him at Abeokuta, Olubi as his servant and Okuseinde, first taking care of his horse and, then, serving as his cook. D. Hinderer to H. Wright, July 15, 1875, CMS C/A2/O49/80.

  76. He procured a slave boy to assist him in his cotton business, who on finding the work uninteresting planned to escape. Allen sold him away before he made good his plan. Allen’s inconsistencies in service appear, again, like the uncanny fate that seemed to dog many Sierra Leone colony-born young men and agents of the mission. D. Hinderer to H. Wright, July 15, 1875, CMS C/A2/O49/80.

  77. D. Hinderer to H. Wright, July 15, 1875, CMS C/A2/O49/80.

  78. S. v. Hinderer, David. Register of Missionaries, 73.

  79. D. Hinderer to H. Venn, December 29, 1866, CMS C/A2/O49/67.

  80. In 1859, Bishop Bowen observed in Lagos and Abeokuta during his Episcopal visit to the Yoruba Mission “a class of young men who have already commenced & will do it more vigorously in future, an opposition to European agents.” At the time he urged the missionaries to “be very careful” and “prudent.” G. Bühler to H. Venn, July 2, 1859, CMS C/A2/O24/19.

  81. D. Hinderer to H. Wright, July 15, 1875, CMS C/A2/O49/80.

  82. D. Hinderer to R. Lang, November 22, 1986, CMS G3A2/O(1886)/173.

  83. D. Hinderer, journal entry, April 18, 1855, C/A2/O49/111.

  84. Although the term was used to describe Europeans, and it derived from the color of their skin, it was also used to describe their Yoruba agents.

  85. D. Hinderer to secretaries, March 24, 1862, CMS C/A2/O49/58.

  86. D. Olubi, W. Allen, et. al. to Finance Committee, September 13, 1871, CMS C/A2/O75/9.

  87. J. Wood to R. Lang, August 19, 1885, G3/A2/O(1885)/153.

  88. Hinderer vehemently opposed the criticism of Governor Glover, which emanated from Abeokuta in the late 1860s and seemed to be gaining popularity with the parent committee of the CMS at home. D. Hinderer to the secretaries, December 30, 1867, CMS C/A2/O49/68; D. Hinderer to the secretaries, April 24, 1868, CMS C/A2/O49/69.

  89. Johnson, The History of the Yorubas, iii.

  90. D. Hinderer, journal entry, December 15, 1854, CMS C/A2/O/49/110.

  91. R. Cust to the secretaries, January 3, 1899, CMS G3/A2/O(1899)/3.

  92. S.v. Hinderer, David, Register of Missionaries, 73.



Archives of the Church Missionary Society (CMS), University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.

Bowen, Thomas Jefferson. Adventures and Missionary Labours in Several Countries in the Interior of Africa from 1849 to 1856, 2nd ed. London: Frank Cass, 1968.

Hone, R. H. Seventeen Years in the Yoruba Country–Memorials of Anna Hinderer. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1872.

Johnson, Samuel. The History of the Yorubas–From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the British Protectorate. Lagos: CMS, 1921.


Ajayi, W. O. “Christian Involvement in the Ijaiye War.” In The History of Christianity in West Africa, edited by Ogbu. U. Kalu, 200-214. Essex: Longman, 1980.

Biobaku, S. O. The Egba and Their Neighbours 1842-1872. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1957.

Carlyle, J. E. South Africa and Its Mission Fields. London: James Nisbet, 1878.

Church Missionary Society, Register of Missionaries.

Du Plessis, J. A History of Christian Missions in South Africa. London: Longmans, Green and Company, 1911.

Morton-Williams, P. “The Yoruba Kingdom of Oyo.” In West African Kingdoms in the Nineteenth Century, edited by Daryll Forde and P.M. Kabbery, 36-69. London: OUP, 1967.

Smith, R. S. Kingdoms of the Yoruba. 3rd ed. London: James Currey, 1988.

Warren, Max. Unfolding Purpose–An Interpretation of the Living Tradition Which Is C.M.S. N.p.: CMS, 1950.


[1] Taken from The Church Mission Society and World Christianity, 1799-1999, eds. Kevin Ward and Brian Stanley. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing/Richmond (UK): Curzon Press,

  1. Used with permission from the Church Mission Society Archives (

This article, which was received in 2011, was written and researched by Dr. Kehinde Olabimtan, Coordinator of educational ministries, Good News Baptist Church and Adjunct Teacher, Akrofi-Christaller Institute, Ghana, and a recipient of the Project Luke Scholarship for 2010-2011.