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Rev. Alfred Saker
Early British Baptist Missionary to Africa
The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881
      Rev. Alfred Saker for more than thirty-seven years a missionary of the English Baptist Missionary Society in Western Africa, will in after-ages be remembered with Livingstone and Moffat and Mackenzie among the founders of African Christian civilization. When the mission to Western Africa was commenced, Mr. and Mrs. Saker, then members of the Morice Square Baptist church, Devonport, offered themselves for the work. It was the purpose of the missionary executive to use a small steamer in connection with mission work, and Mr. Saker went out in the position of assistant missionary, combining with that the duties of engineer. This plan, however, was not carried out, but Mr. Saker's trained capacity found ample scope in the circumstances of the mission. Shortly after his arrival at Fernando Po, the headquarters of the Baptist missionaries, he visited the tribes on the mainland at the mouth of the Cameroons River. Here he built a house suitable for the work, with his own hands, and gradually acquired acquaintance with the language of the people. Within two years of the commencement of his labors he had reduced their language to writing and prepared a lesson-book for the school which he had formed. With the printing-press and material sent to him by the church at Devonport he printed schoolbooks for the use of his scholars and portions of the New Testament. In 1849 the church at Cameroons was formed, and a Christian civilization began to spread itself there through Mr. Saker's efforts. He induced the people to labor with something like regularity in agriculture, introducing various plants, such as bread-fruit, mangoes, oranges, and other fruits and vegetables for daily sustenance. These productions, moreover, enabled them to obtain manufactured articles from the ships frequenting the river, and in the course of a few years a civilized community was established. He taught his converts the industrial arts, and soon found himself surrounded by artisans of all sorts, carpenters, smiths, bricklayers, etc. The more forward scholars soon became helpful in the printing-office work, and aided in the translation and printing of the Scriptures in the Dualla tongue, which was his life-long task. In 1851 the mission was reduced by death to such a degree that not a single fellow-laborer remained of those who went out with him, except one or two colored brethren. All his European colleagues were gone, and he was left alone. Hitherto he had been in a subordinate position, but now from necessity he was obliged to take the lead. In 1853 the Spanish government, instigated by the Jesuit missionaries, insisted on the departure of the Baptists from Fernando Po, and suppressed all Protestant worship. The converts resolved to accompany their teachers, and the whole Baptist community removed under Mr. Saker's guidance to Amboises Bay, on the mainland. He purchased a tract of land on the coast from the Bimbia chief, and mapped out the new colony of Victoria. Under his energetic superintendence and untiring personal labor the ground was soon covered with houses and gardens for the exiles. Mr. Saker's influence upon the native chiefs and their people was most successfully exercised in suppressing many of their cruel and sanguinary customs. Indeed, if he had chosen, he might have made himself their king in the later years of his residence among them. Although he lived so long in a climate deadly to Europeans, he suffered greatly from fever and debility. Few who saw him when occasionally visiting England. to recruit his strength, can forget the look of extreme emaciation which always characterized him. But his soul was full always of indomitable vigor, and it was not until 1878 that he finally gave up the work and returned to England. As opportunity offered, he visited the churches in the interest of missions until March, 1880, when he entered into rest, aged sixty-five years. His devoted wife yet survives him.

[From William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; reprint 1988, pp. 1022-1023. Scanned by Jim Duvall.]

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