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Archaeological discoveries indicate that humans have inhabited Cameroon for at least 50,000 years, and there is evidence of the existence of important kingdoms and states in more recent time.

Portuguese travelers established contact with the area in the 15th century when Fernao do Po viewed the Cameroon coast. Po was followed by traders involved in the slave trade; the north-western Bantu societies prospered from the trade in slaves from the interior. In the early 1800s, the slave trade declined, and attention turned to rubber and palm oil among others.

West Africa. Colonies. Cameroon. 1904

West Africa Colonies. 1904.Although Christian missionaries came from Great Britain beginning in 1845, the modern history of Cameroon began in 1884, when the territory came under German rule after the explorer Gustav Nachtigal negotiated protectorate treaties with the local chiefs. 1845, the United Kingdom recognized the German protectorate, called Kamerun, which included areas that were later to become British Cameroons and French Cameroun.

West Africa. An official telegram to Lisbon from the Governor of Angola, dated St. Paul de Loanda, the 15th ult., says:

"The natives in the north solicit our dominion. We have consented, there being no obstacle that I know of. The latest date from the Congo is the 8th ult. (here follow some words which are undecipherable). Two gunboats and an English corvette are in the Congo River. There is no French vessel on the spot. An insignificant protest was made by a Dutch house against the necessity of European dominion before the termination of the Conference."

Other accounts deny the hoisting of the Portuguese flag, which they say was prevented by the energetic attitude of the commander of the English gunboat.

Pirmez, delegate of the King of the Belgians, had on Wednesday a long conversation with M. Ferry, and on the following day they signed a treaty between France and the International African Association for the delimitation of their respective territories on the Congo. By the treaty France further recognises the International Association in the same terms as the other Powers have done. M. Ferry has promised to continue to use his good offices with the Portuguese, Government for the purpose of facilitating an agreement between the Association and Portugal. On Thursday the Russian agreement (similar to the Austrian agreement) recognising the Association was signed at Brussels. Telegraphing via Madeira, on Sunday, the correspondent of theWestern Morning News on the Cameroon River states that the Germans have formally annexed as a German colony the whole of the Cameroon range down to the confine territory at Ambas Bay, so that the British settlements and the district over which Germany now claims are contiguous.

The General Secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society writes to the daily papers, enclosing copies of letters from two of the missionaries on that river, giving an account of the recent The Rev. S. Silvey, missionary at Bell Town writes:--

Many of the chiefs are annoyed and vexed with King Bell for signing the treaty with the Germans. The feeling against King Bell grew so strong that he and all his people were obliged to leave Bell Town. About 14th December King Bell's people caught a Hickory Town man and put him to death. This so angered the Hickory Town people that on 16th of December they came and burned down King Bell's house and town. It had been deserted some weeks previously. On the 19th December two German men-of-war arrived at the mouth of the river. On the 20th, about 10 a.m., I saw two small steamers, the Fan and the Dualla, towing up about a dozen boats filled with German soldiers. Without the slightest warning or notice they steamed straight to Hickory Town, firing upon and destroying two small fishing canoes on the way. The Hickory people saw the Germans coming up the river. The men took their guns and ran into the bush behind the town. The women and the children belonging to the Mission-house took refuge in our Mission-house. As soon as I saw what was going on, I went immediately in the Mission boat up to Hickory, and stayed there all day. Soon after the German soldiers landed, King Bell's people arrived and seized the goods, furniture, and everything valuable, and even carried off the goats and fowls; then set fire to the whole of the town. When I arrived at Hickory Town I told the Mission people to bring everything they could carry into the Mission-house and sit down quietly. I then shut the doors, and with the aid of a German soldier (granted me by the commander) I managed to keep the Bell Town people outside the Mission-house. I am glad to say we managed to save the property and lives of about fifty of our Mission people.

When they began to burn the houses round the Mission buildings I went to the German commander and King Bell, and pointed out that if these houses were fired nothing could save the Mission property. They both promised me most deliberately that the houses should not be fired, but in a few minutes they had them set on fire. Mr. Fuller's beautiful little chapel soon took fire, then the school-house, then the kitchen and outbuildings of the Mission. The only thing that saved to some extent the Mission house was its iron roof. It did take fire in two places, but we managed to put it out. There is now nothing but the bare brick walls of the chapel and school standing, and no house but the Mission-house for miles on either side.

Togo, Cameroon, Africa, Mabia. Meyers, 1895.Cameroon. Meyers. 1895.

Africa. 1895. Meyers.

After the German soldiers left I got the loan of a large surf-boat, and brought about fifty Hickory Mission people, women and children, with their goods, to Bethel station. We lodged them in the Mission-house and schoolroom that night. December 21st, being Sunday, we held a prayer meeting instead of our usual morning service, and held Sunday school as usual. About one o'clock the Germans surrounded the Bethel Mission buildings with about 200 soldiers. They roughly searched the whole of the Mission premises, and threatened us with loaded pistols and rifles at our heads. They only found one man, although we had nearly 100 women and children in the houses. This man, "Robert," a member of the Hickory Church, was not one of the men brought from Hickory. He came to Acqua Town on business long before the fight commenced on Saturday. The Germans took him prisoner, but I do not think anything can possibly be proved against him. In the afternoon they sent us a proclamation, which said that if we aided directly or indirectly the rebellious natives they would consider us enemies, and banish us immediately from Cameroons. Not only is Mortonville Mission station destroyed, but there is not a single house standing for miles on that side of the river."

Mr. Lewis gives a similar account of the burning of Joss Town, from which the Germans were at first beaten back, and had to obtain reinforcements. After an hour and half's fighting Joss Town was stormed, and burnt to the ground. Before the attack the Joss Town chief, River, went to the German factory of Messrs. Wormann and Co., about half a mile distant from their own town, and on the beach, and there seized the subagent, Mr. Pontanies, threatening that if any of the Joss Town people were killed they would immediately retaliate by taking his life.

In the encounter one of the Joss Town chiefs named Calabar Joss was killed, and immediately on his death the natives brought out Wormann's sub-agent, and at once carried out their threat, cutting off his head, putting it on a pole, and carrying it through the town. They then made for the bush, and the Germans, after setting fire to the town, retired for the day. In the evening the German authorities searched all the shipping in the river, ostensibly for the purpose of capturing the two chiefs, Lock Preese and Green Joss, but these chiefs were not to be found, and up to the 25th of December they had not been captured. In searching the hulks of the English merchants, the German officers were accompanied by the clerks and agents of the German trading firms established in the Cameroons. It is stated that the cession of territory to the German authorities was made by King Bell, the chief of Bell Town, who not only ceded his own territory but Joss Town and Hickory, both these towns being under another headman named Joss Chief, who was absent from the river at the time of the transaction. On his return he discovered that King Bell had not only ceded territory which did not belong to him, but that he retained for himself the whole of the large sum of money which he received from the German authorities for the purchase of his sovereign rights. The chief of Joss Town therefore resolved not to recognise the transaction. The committee of the Baptist Missionary Society have respectfully requested Lord Granville to take immediate steps for the protection of their missionaries and other British subjects resident at Cameroons, and to obtain from the German Government full compensation to the society for the destruction of Mission premises and property valued at from 1,500 to 2,000 sterling.

November 6, 1886, West London Standard, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom


By the British and African Steam Navigation Company's royal mail steamer Cameroon, which has just arrived in the Mersey from the South-West Coast of Africa, comes the news that the Custom House at Fernan Varz,. a place recently occupied by the French authorities, has been seized. This building has only been erected a short time, but has caused serious discontent among the natives. The building was left in charge of an official, and just before the Cameroon arrived it was attacked by-a body of natives and seized. The officer in charge fell into their hands, and was carried into the bush, where, being tied to a tree, he was stripped and flogged with cowhide whips. Three Englishmen trading at the place did all they could to prevent the outrage; but they were powerless on account of the number of the natives. The latter did not harm the traders or their factories, but prevented them going to the assistance of the French official, who was almost beaten to death. Information of the affair was sent to the Governor at Gaboon, and when the Cameroon left, a man-of-war and a relief party were being despatched to Fernan Varz.

During their occupation from 1884 to 1914, the Germans advanced into the interior, cultivated large plantations, laid roads, and began constructing a railroad and the port of Douala. When World War I broke out, the territory was invaded by French and British forces. After the war, one-fifth of the former German Kamerun, which was contiguous with eastern Nigeria, was assigned to the United Kingdom, and the remaining four-fifths was assigned to France under League of Nations mandates.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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