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Congo Free State - Stations - 1885

The International Association, from the first, acquired the land for stations, &c., by means of binding treaties with the native chiefs, in which they made large payments outright, and settled an annuity of some 10 (pounds) sterling on each of the principal chiefs.

Vivi, Isanghila, Lukungo, Manyana South, and Leopoldville, the station below Stanley Pool, were established by Stanley in 1880. The station of Matade, on the south bank, just below Vivi, was not completed until after October, 1885.

Vivi, on the north bank 115 miles from the sea, the headquarters of the State, was well situated on a high bluff, which commanded the Congo both above and below the station. In 1885 there were four large, and several small frame houses, the former being used as quarters for the agents, the latter for store-houses. The quarters were well furnished and most comfortable.

The last mile of the approach to Vivi, by water, is dangerous. The whirlpools and strong undercurrent, caused by the Yellala Falls, just above, made it hazardous for any but light draft, strong-powered steamers to attempt the passage.

Isanghila is 52 miles above Vivi, and was the last station of the State on the north bank of the Congo, until Bangala, on the Upper River.

Matade, on the south bank, 2 miles below Vivi, was to be the receiving depot for all stores intended for station above Vivi. The caravans of natives, from Lukungo, come down to Matade, and transport goods for the up-country stations as far as Lukungo.

Lukungo Station was about eight days’ march from Matade, and is the central depot of the Lower River. It was situated in the most fertile section of the cataract region. Near the Mission Station, at Lunkgo, was a large, never-failing spring that supplied the best water on the Congo.

The Valley of the Lukungo is a lovely spot, and strongly contrasted with the forbidding aspect of the rest of this region. A good supply of vegetables could be raised here with time and labor; but the stations on the Lower River are continually occupied with caravans, and, with the limited number of men at their disposal, they had no leisure for vegetable farming. At the headquarters stations, gardeners are allowed, but not at intermediate stations.

At Lukungo a new set of carriers transport the goods and stores to Leopoldville. The goods were checked at Lukungo only, and loss can be readily traced, and robbery quickly punished, whereas before it was impossible to trace the many losses.

Manyanga South was situated on the south bank of the river, five hours’ march above Lukungo. This station received all goods sent from Vivi, via Isanghila. The river was navigable for small steamers and whaleboats a distance of some 90 miles above Isanghila, and heavy goods were usually dispatched by this route.

Leopoldville, the next in size and importance to Vivi, was about eight days’ march from Manyanga, and situated on a small arm or bay off Stanley Pool, about a mile above the first cataract of the Livingstone Falls. The steamers on the Upper River rendezvous at Leopoldville, and it was the receiving depot for men and supplies for that section. The approaches to Leopoldville by water were very dangerous, outlying reefs were near the entrance of the bay, and the strong current that tended down to the cataract made it extremely dangerous for any but powerful light-draft steamers to attempt the passage in and out.

The State was some time in conciliating the natives around Stanley Pool, especially N’Galliamo, one of the most powerful chiefs, but finally he was brought around, and later was one of the strongest friends it had among the natives.

Kinchassa Station was situated on Stanley Pool, about midway between the head and the first cataract of Livingston Falls. This was one of the best sites on the river. It was healthy and the soil was fertile, raising Irish potatoes, onions, radishes, cucumbers, and lettuce.

It was at Kinchassa that the French, under M. De Brazza, attempted to hoist the French flag, in May, 1884. They were driven off by the natives under N’Schulu, the native chief of Kinchassa, Mr. Swinburne, chief of the station, leaving the matter entirely in the hands of the natives.

Kwamouth Station, established by Stanley in 1883, was about three days above Stanley Pool, and situated on the left bank of the mouth of the Kassai River. This station was destined to be one of the most important on the river, as it was the outlet for all the trade of the valley of the Kassai.

Bolobo, five days above Kwamouth, was established by Captain Hansens (Belgian) in 1882. This station was the commencement of what was called the Byanzi country. It was beautifully situated on a hill well back from the river, and was the healthiest spot on the Congo. The river at this point was from 10 to 12 miles wide, and the greater part of the day a most delightful breeze would blow throught the station. The soil is fertile, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, radishes, lettuce, yams, plantains, and bananas being raised in abundance. The natives were unreliable; the station had been fired twice by them, once in July and again in December, 1883. In September, 1885, the garrison consisted of but fourteen fighting men, armed with Snider rifles and one small Krupp. The natives were traders, rich, warlike, and would not work.

Equatorville Station, four days above Bolobo, was on the south bank of the river. It was established by Stanley in June, 1883. The soil is fertile, but the gardens did not seem to flourish. The natives, both men and women, were willing to work, and were employed by the State and missionaries. The supply of native food was variable.

Bangala, about 500 miles from Leopoldville, was on the north bank of the river. The station was first established by Stanley in January, 1884, Lieutenant Coquilhat being chief. The natives under King Mateweke proved treacherous; so, as his force was small, Stanley temporarily abandoned the station on January 9, and removed his people down to the Equator. Lieutenant Coquilhat returned with Captain Hansens in May, 1884, and brought with him a garrison of fifty men. They made a binding treaty with Mateweke and permanently established the station.

The Bangles, or Mangles, were a fierce, warlike race and some of the chiefs will have nothing to do with the station. Still, the moral effect of the presence of the white men with a well-armed force was sufficient to keep them quiet. The soil was good, and sugarcane plantations abound, while the other native food was abundant. The station was within 100 yards of the king’s village, but the State was gradually acquiring the ground and the villages are moving. There were two Krupp rifles of small caliber here.

Between Bangala and Stanley Falls there were no stations. In 1884, treaties were made and land bought at Upoto and at Bask, the mouth of the Arroowimi River. At Upoto the land had never been made use of. At Bask Captain Hansens, in 1884; on his return from Stanley Falls, established a post of three Hoassas, but he was no sooner out of sight than two of the Hoassas were killed and eaten by the cannibals. The third man made his escape to the woods, but was finally recaptured and brought back. He was afterwards rescued by the Arabs when they attacked and burned Bask, and by them returned to the State authorities.

The district was the most hostile between Banana and Stanley falls; white men were seldom seen, as the steamers never made more than two trips yearly, and frequently but one. Until one or more well-garrisoned stations were established in this long hostile stretch, the journey from Bangala to Stanley Falls would always be attended by trouble and fighting.

Stanley Falls Station, situated on Bookie Island, about one-half mile below the seventh cataract, was established by Stanley in December, 1883, and garrisoned with thirty men. Mr. Benni, a Scotchman, volunteered as chief. The station was a prominent and important one on account of the proximity of the Arab slavers. It was not, however, well situated; fortifications on Bookie Island cannot prevent the Arabs from descending the river, and the approaches by water were very dangerous. The Henry Reed, although drawing but 17 inches, struck the rocks twice within a few hundred yards of the landing. The soil is very rich, and rice, potatoes, onions, lettuce, radishes, manioc, peanuts, sugarcane, corn, and tobacco are easily raised.

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Page last modified: 27-05-2015 19:33:10 ZULU