2.28 Heart of Africa Mission

September 2, 2012

On giving his diary to my grandfather, Hayes Perkins instructed that it not be published until everyone mentioned therein had died.  Perkins’ candor concerning the misdeeds of powerful men, as recorded in this segment, undoubtedly informed that instruction.

February 21, 1914 – December 24, 1914

Buxton closed discussion of the tax medals with what seemed a repugnant bit of evangelical sophistry to Hayes:  “to do the lesser evil to gain the greater good.”

Hayes’ first mentions alcohol abuse at The Heart of Africa Mission on April 30, 1914, two months after his arrival there.  On that date Buxton informed Hayes that “I was unfit to leave a station alone with, so Studd could not go home at this time.  The reason is, I combat their liquor activities constantly, for if there be any sense of decency it should at least exclude drunkenness.”  Mombidi, who is Mangbettu chief of this region, demanded liquor from Hayes claiming he had already received liquor from Studd.  Even if Hayes suspected the veracity of Mombidi’s word, he knew from firsthand experience that Studd and Buxton, at the very least, tolerated drunkenness among the natives:  “Both these men sneered at me the first day I saw them for remarking at the sodden condition of the entire Mangbettu people.”  Hayes had arrived in the midst of the month-long orgy of dancing, singing, and drinking a sort of beer made from murru (a kind of millet) that ripens in the regional dry season.

In his history of the Heart of Africa Mission, Christ in Congo Forests,Norman Grubb, who married C. T. Studd’s daughter Pauline and came with her to the mission in 1919, writes that the station outside  Niangara was only intended as a staging ground for establishing missions deeper into the Ituri forest.  

Pauline (Studd) Grubb

Norman P. Grubb

Apparently the work of obtaining concessions in areas not already proselytized by Catholic priests pressed heavily enough on Studd and Buxton to overcome their fears of leaving the Niangara station alone in the hands of Hayes Perkins.  When the pair left on June 21, 1914, Mombidi immediately came round to Hayes demanding whiskey.  “He said he could see by the way they treated me I was of lower rank….  As he [Mombidi] was a chief and of equal rank with Studd and Buxton, then I was his inferior and must bring him gifts when they were absent.”   Hayes’ first responded incredulously, “It seemed so ridiculous I laughed, thinking he was jesting.”  But an hour later, Mombidi sent “six husky henchmen” with a demand for corn from Hayes’ garden.  He chased them off; they loosed a bull in his garden; the Azande gardeners chased the (bloody) bull back to Mombidi’s village; and Hayes “took the herdsman in hand, he being rather cheeky.”

By June 28, in an attempt to recover face with his tribesmen, Mombidi had forbidden any Mangbettu to bring any sort of food to the lone musungu (here meaning white man) at the mission.  For his part, Hayes ponders:  “I wonder if these two charlatans have been sweetening this old cannibal with booze to get a concession?  He [Mombidi] says so, as do his subjects.  When all Negroes agree on one thing, it is usually so.  I am inclined to believe it, but it is too unchristian for one to accept.”

Hayes writes that Studd and Buxton returned on August 1, 1914, “full of self praise of their achievements… in obtaining further concessions.”  They had taken the best native workers with them and now, “My men, whom they had with them on the trip, are cheeky and out of hand.  They too demand whiskey saying these two men who pose as missionaries freely gave them drink during the trip.”  These same men challenged Hayes later in the month as he tried to reassert control.  He quotes their reasoning: “You say that munsungu (whiskey) is bad for us.  These two men who are over you tell us it is good, and when we were at Wamba and Nala they gave us of it to drink freely.  We ourselves like it.  Whom shall we believe?”  This exchange prompted another of the assemblages by Studd at which the men were told to disregard anything Hayes said to them.

On October 6, 1914 Studd and Buxton left again in a great canoe with Bakango boatmen to take them to Bambili 160 miles down river.  To this point, Hayes could, with difficulty, dismiss the allegations of Mombidi and the other workmen as unfounded talk.  However on October 30 he writes of finding direct evidence “of this man’s utter perfidy and double dealing.”  In the absence of “the two apostles,” Hayes was entrusted with keys to every lock at the mission.  Ever since arriving he’d been short of tools and forbidden by Studd from opening several boxes prominently marked “Tools”.  So, in Studd’s absence, Hayes opened one of them – “not through inquisitiveness but to find perhaps a hammer or saw to aid in my work.  The first contained French cognac, the second Old Scoth Whiskey.  Now I see how Mombidi got his booze, how the boys acting as porters insisted liquor was given them.  There are seven of these cases, and at least two empty ones long ago noted.”

Hayes wrote a letter “resigning my commission,” counted his remaining 67 francs, and prepared to quit the mission rain or no.

His scant funding and the rains prevented Hayes from leaving for another two months.  In that time Buxton returned to Niangara traveling with the Reverend William Haas an American Baptist missionary with the Africa Inland Mission.  In a moment alone together, Haas asked Hayes why “I was discontented with this place and my companions.”  Hayes opened a case of scotch and poured a glass for Haas to smell – without drinking of course.  Haas then confessed that while traveling with Buxton at three meetings in the south “Buxton handed out liquor openly, saying there was nothing in the Bible against it, and that polygamy was not condemned in the Scriptures.”  Haas said he, “differed with them, and that is that.”  Haas’ inaction in the face of evident wrongdoing infuriated Hayes:  “Evidently Haas, like Buxton is willing to do the lesser evil that the greater good may come, so will compromise with these two advocates of a new faith which encompasses all the sins dear to the heart of man in this world and promises a haven of bliss on the other side of life in the skies.  They easily outdo Mohamed, who did at least adjure booze.”

Even after the 1914 contingent of new missionaries arrived on December 21, Hayes remained the sole voice raised against alcohol as a missionary technique practiced by Studd and Buxton at the Heart of Africa Mission.   Hayes denounced their practices to Richardson, one of the new arrivals and “the only real man among them.”  Richardson loudly confronted Buxton and applauded Hayes’ rejection of the 40 pounds Buxton offered “to carry me to the coast, which is of course hush money.”  Nevertheless, Grubb in Christ in Congo Forests records that Richardson and his wife stayed on at the mission until 1920.

So, the day before Christmas 1914, Hayes gathered up a group of porters and walked out of the Heart of Africa Mission a lone dissenter in both word and action.

Out Into The World

January 30, 2011

View The Path on Google Maps Clicking any of the numbered titles below will take you to the same place.

Requested photo places (see Photo Requests):

– Hico, Texas

Here and There diary Synopsis:

1.1  Coquille River Where Lampa Creek Meets the Main Stream.

February 10, 1878

Hayes Perkins  (1878 –1964) traveled the world for more than forty years, working to pay his way, rarely staying more than a few months in any one place, and all the while keeping a diary titled Here and There that ran to nearly two thousand pages.  The full diary has never been published.

Though my grandfather John Donaldson was one generation and twenty-one years younger than Hayes, the two were close cousins.  Just before his death, Hayes called John Donaldson south from Bandon, Oregon to Pacific Grove, California to give him two copies of the diaries, one for John and one for John’s sister Mary Donaldson.  A copy of the diaries came to me from Ruth Engelbart, John Donaldson’s daughter.

Ever since High School in the 1970’s I’ve wanted to trace “Uncle” Hayes’ wanderings on a globe.  Forty years later the technology now makes that task relatively easy.  Clicking a place mark will give a date and synopsis of his diary entry for that place.

1.2  Perkins Ancestry


Dated entries begin when Hayes is nineteen, but he supplied a general introduction to his earliest years.

Hayes’ ancestors came to Virginia and North Carolina with the earliest Europeans fleeing religious persecution.  The family of his French-Irish mother Malinda Frances Hayes suffered particularly harsh treatment from the Catholic Church.  With conscious irony but not exaggeration, Hayes describes his Scotch-English father, William Morrison Perkins, as “of the Spanish Inquisition type” – only Methodist.  William Morrison never spared the rod to raise proper Christian children.

Hayes was born where Lampa creek meets the Coquille River in Oregon on February 10, 1878, the third of nine children and the only boy to survive to maturity.  Timber and rich agricultural lands were Oregon’s primary wealth, but gold was discovered there too.  One summer “two men washed up $80,000 at Whiskey Run by shoveling sand over rough boards.”  Large native populations still lived in these Northwestern forests, but smallpox, tuberculosis, forced displacement, and liquor had already devastated their communities.

Rude schools sprung up where populations permitted.  No teacher had more than the equivalent of a High School education and the term was four summer months yearly.  Neither William nor Malinda Perkins had more than grade school education but both had taught school and stayed informed, even purchasing “encyclopedias of general knowledge” from traveling sellers and also books of the African adventurers, “Stanley, Livingstone, Baker, Speke, and others.”  These books and hair-raising stories told by travelers staying at their home on a well traveled trail by the Coquille river, turned Hayes wild to get to Africa and “assist in the game.”

1.3  Frontier Boyhood


This was a wild, unsettled moment in Oregon with no real time for childhood.  By the time a boy was ten, the family depended on him as a breadwinner.  Hayes managed the yearly four-month school sessions, however, marks for deportment published in the Coquille newspaper reveal the quality of his scholarship: 56 out of a possible 100.  Clearly some Improvement had to be made.  So he and some of the boys with worse marks broke into the schoolhouse and changed all the records.  He says they escaped beatings at home but after the stern instructor finished, “some of us ate our meals standing for a week.”

Hayes also recalls that when he was four-years-old he saw a team of oxen abused with an iron goad and calk boots.  His revulsion at this savage mistreatment instilled an affinity for animals that never left him.

1.4  Back to the South


When Hayes was 12, his father “determined to return to his native South.”  Hayes thrilled at the long journey east, saw his first railway, rode a steam ship, visited a real city, and marveled at the barren country of Arizona and New Mexico so different from the “unbroken forest” he had known all his life.

1.5  A Joyous Trip East


William Perkins sought a more Godly place to raise his family in a religious environment with scriptural training.  Hayes remarks, “Of this I knew nothing, but the spirit of adventure that actuated me in every waking moment encouraged me to go.”  Every mile of the trip was a joy for him.

1.6  Alabama:  A Backward Country


Before eventually settling in Texas, William Perkins tours the family through the deep South where they stay the summer with the parents of Hayes’ mother,  Malinda Perkins.  (Hayes does not name his grandparents but thanks to the research of Jean Putman, they are known to be Henry T. Hayes and Mariah Whitten of Lauderdale County, Alabama.)  Hayes “cared little for the swamps of the Mississippi or the worn out hills and red lands of Alabama.” He marvels at barefoot adults and “Negroes who had been slaves.”  To him, this was a backward country.  So father’s decision to move the family to Texas and settle “amid ideal conditions,” pleased Hayes, at least initially.


1.7  Rural Texas


At Hico Texas in 1890, deep resentments remained from the Civil War.  As a boy newly arrived from a “Northern state”, Hayes fought frequent scraps.  He says it wasn’t so bad until two or three boys ganged up on him at once.

After the crops were gathered in August, “camp meetings” provided the only entertainment in this deeply religious countryside.  One could choose Methodists or Presbyterians who “sprinkled their converts,” or Baptists and Christians, “Who immersed the novitiates.”  Hayes’ father William Perkins was a sprinkler:  “a Methodist of the strictest sort.”

Even as the boys continued fighting the battle of North and South, one here and one there converted to the faith of his parents until Hayes alone remained without salvation.  He says the floggings from his father for this refusal to convert troubled him less than the vivid preaching of the “terrors of Hell Fire” promised to sinners like him.  But, despite intense pressure from the entire community, Hayes “turned from the whole proceeding with something like disgust.”

1.8  Two Hard Years in Hico


The father and son battle over religion escalated to such frequent beatings, that, at age thirteen, Hayes essentially took to living on the streets, sleeping in boxcars and barns in the warm months.  In the winter, as temperatures dip to zero, he buries himself in a neighbor’s slightly fermenting cotton seed bin to catch a little warmth.  Writing this diary entry as a grown man near the end of his life, Hayes says these days decided his life-long bachelorhood.  “I am wholly thankful … that there is no child coming up to blame me for bringing him into this world.”

Despite all the hardship, Hayes kept up with school until the age of fourteen.  When not in school, he got a job picking cotton.  However, at payday, his father William stopped round the farm and collected Hayes’ $18 salary.   “…dad’s dictum was that I was his property and what I had was his.”

His next job paid a dollar a day, working ten hours a day in a brickyard.  When William arrived at payday to collect Hayes’ money, Jack Woods, the brickyard owner with a saloon on the side, sent William packing and gave Hayes his hard earned wages.  Hayes gave the money to his sister and formed a lifelong tenderness for saloon men.

Hayes takes to running with Bill Evans, another waif of the streets driven from the house by his cruel stepfather.  With Bill’s 22 rifle, they can eat birds and squirrels or sometimes a fish from the creek.  But then they escalate to stealing:  apples from the grocer, butter, cheese, bread, a nest of eggs at a farm, chickens, and even cartridges for the 22 rifle.  “At least we were free from church, and we stuck to school as much as was possible.”

1.9  Cast Out Into the World

December 31, 1892

On New Year’s Eve, with freezing rain howling across the Texas plains, Hayes sneaks home to mother and sisters who slip him sandwiches where he’s hidden behind the woodstove.  A “loaded whip” like William Perkins used has a bit of lead wrapped into its tip.  William enters from tending the horses, spies Hayes,  “Aha my young man! I have you now,” and lays into him with the whip.  Raw and bleeding, Hayes escapes the flogging only because his father turns the whip on Hayes’ mother Matilda who tries to intercede.

Hayes spent his only money, ten cents, for bologna and bread while listening to the New Year’s bells ringing through the blizzard.  (The older Hayes, filling in these early years of the diary, says he hates to hear New Year’s bells to this day.)  He shivered around town all night rescued in the grey dawn by a “bright, well dressed mulatto” woman looking for a boy to clean up after the New Year’s dance at the town’s leading hotel.

His diligent work cleaning up led to a job paid $8 a month for twelve to fifteen hours a day working all sorts of jobs around the hotel.  When this soured after ten months, he caught on with a very kindly woman at another hotel.  Unfortunately, the kind proprietor believed William Perkins who begged for the return of his only son for proper education.  On the fourth day “home” (Hayes’ quotations) William informed Matilda that Hayes was “due a beating.”  Hayes bid his mother and sisters farewell and biting back tears of rage left the family never to return.

December 1893

Hayes began is life on the road at fifteen-years of age.  A young friend advised him:  “If I was you, I would pay my way as far as I could and then trust God for the rest.”  He wanted to reach San Francisco but all he could afford was half-fare to Sacramento.