Peter Philip Hazeley (March 2, 1862-November 18, 1942) was a Wesleyan Methodist missionary who headed the mission station at Tonko Limba for many years. Known as the “Apostle to the Limba,” he wrote a Wesleyan catechism in Limba, and did much to promote teaching in that language.
A Krio (Creole), he was born and attended school in Freetown. He attended the Ebenezer Wesleyan Day School, and, later, from 1875-78, the Wesleyan Boys’ School. He was a student at the Theological Institution from April to December 1884, and also attended lectures at Fourah Bay College.
He became a local preacher in 1881, holding the position until 1884, when he was appointed catechist to the Methodist station in Tonko Limba, where, with intermissions, he was to spend the better part of his career. In 1889 he went to Richmond College at Cape Coast, in what is now Ghana, for a year. Upon his return in 1890, he was again appointed to the Limba mission. He was ordained in February 1895, together with his life-long colleague at the Limba mission, Philip Johnson (q. v.).
During the first decade of its existence, the Tonko Limba mission underwent a series of crises. In 1890 it lost its leader, James Booth, a pioneer English missionary who repudiated his calling and turned trader, after which Hazeley took control. But continuing conflict between the Limba and their Soso neighbors hampered him in his duties, and he was obliged to retire to Freetown in 1891. He then served on the Wesleyan mission circuit there until peace was restored in Tonko Limba late in 1892.
The imposition of the British Protectorate in 1896 put an end to the protracted fighting between the Soso and the Limba, and the mission, resuming operations under Hazeley, entered a period of prosperity. He ran both a day and a night school, aware that many children spent the day working on the farms. But his efforts were made more difficult by the violent activities of the Human Leopard Society (Kopwno-ei-Nepo), which were rife until they were suppressed in 1898. Under cover of darkness members of this association, disguised as leopards, would attack political enemies or unsuspecting passers-by, killing them and removing parts of their bodies for the concoction of powerful medicine.
During his long stay in Tonko, Hazeley seems to have become arrogant and high-handed, particularly with regard to possible successors. Treating the mission as his particular preserve, he discouraged the efforts of one of the earliest Limba converts, James Lahai Booth, who would have served as a better spokesman for indigenous interests. But Hazeley became increasingly intolerant of any attempt to scrutinize his conduct to affairs. Although he emerged triumphant in the tussle with his subordinates, he was censured by fellow clergymen at annual Synod meetings in Freetown. As reports of conflicts in his circuit reached the capital, he was asked to relinquish control of the mission. At first he refused, but finally he gave in and moved to Freetown in 1907, allegedly removing the mission records.
He remained active however, working in the York, Bonthe, Waterloo, Hastings, and Freetown (Zion) mission circuits after his departure from Tonko Limba.
He had become an authority on the Limba language, having some years earlier produced a Wesleyan catechism in the vernacular. He had also served on the Limba section of the Board of Examiners for Vernacular Studies, established in 1902 following the decision by the Sierra Leone Methodist Mission that ordination of new ministers would depend on their knowledge of a native language.
As late as the 1930s, he was still teaching at the Wesleyan City Mission School in Freetown–an educational establishment founded in the 19th century when energetic attempts were made to convert the large numbers of people moving from the interior to the city. Though enfeebled by age, Hazeley gave Limba lessons to children attending the school. He was also secretary of the Limba Literature Committee, which issued two booklets in Limba for the school pupils. He died in Freetown on November 18, 1942.
E. Amadu Turay
Christopher Fyfe, A History of Sierra Leone, London, 1962; P.P. Hazeley, Gnatagpa Gna Ka Tontinginua In Gna Ka Nia Gna Ka Bia Bi Dorma Na Welen Mesodising (“The Papers that Ask Questions and Give Answers About the Activities of People called the Wesleyan Methodists”), on, 1903, Limba Mission Jubilee Sermon, n.d., (1930; C. Marke,* Origin of Wesleyan Methodism in Sierra Leone*, London, 1913.
This article was reprinted from The Encyclopaedia Africana Dictionary of African Biography (In 20 Volumes). Volume Two: Sierra Leone-Zaire, Ed. L. H. Ofosu-Appiah. New York: Reference Publications Inc., 1979. All rights reserved.