West Africa Page 6 | Presbyterian Historical Society

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Journeys of Faith: Artifacts from the Mission Field

Mission work of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in West Africa commenced in 1833 and throughout the nineteenth century expanded to several different areas. These included Liberia (1833), Corisco (1850), Spanish Guinea (1865), Gabon (1871), and Cameroon (1889). Through evangelism, the establishment of churches, and the provision of educational and medical work, growth in the West Africa missions was steady.

Map of West Africa Missions, 1898. [Image ID: 4747] View image record on Pearl.

As a newly ordained minister just out of seminary, Charles Boppell (1871-1960) and his wife Sarah McCorkle Boppell (1868-1898) sailed to Gabon, Africa, in the summer of 1898 to serve as missionaries with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. Board of Foreign Missions.

Portrait of Charles Boppell. [Image ID: 4746] View image record on Pearl.

The artifacts collected by Charles Boppell are attributed to the Fang tribe. The Fang are known as fine warriors and hunters and are especially revered for their iron work. The two iron spear heads below are examples of the metal work of the Fang tribe made of iron ore mined in Gabon. 

Large Iron Spear Head.

Small Iron Spear Head.

In addition to artifacts of iron work, the Boppell Collection includes objects of everyday life such as baskets and a gourd spoon as well as objects used in celebrations and rituals. Pictured below are bells used by Fang women when dancing. They are shells with pebbles inside strung together on twine. The bells would be tied around the arms or ankles of the women while dancing and would make a sound like rushing water or heavy rain in a forest.


A pamphlet by Rev. A.W. Halsey describes the dancing of the Fang and their use of bells.

"A Day With the Fang" by Rev. A.W. Halsey.