Archives de John HOLT

      Alors que les Missionnaires Négociants  anglais étaient déjà installés dans la baie  de Biafra, ce sont les Allemands qui s emparèrent  finalement du Cameroun. quelques Archives peuvent nous aider pour l' analyse des évènements qui se déroulèrent dans ce territoire qui devint le Kamerun.



         John Holt was born in 1841, in the Lincolnshire village of Garthorpe. At the age of 15, having previously worked in a coastal schooner belonging to his grandfather Thomas Holt, he began a five year apprenticeship with William Laird, a Liverpool coal dealer, member of the famous shipbuilding family and brother of West African explorer MacGregor Laird.

In June 1862, just days short of completing his five year apprenticeship, John Holt accepted the offer of a post as secretary to James Lynslager, British Consul on the Spanish island of Fernando Po, off the West African coast. The offer was for three years, to act as clerk, storekeeper and overseer for Lynslager's merchant interests. It would include an annual salary of £2,000, board, lodging, passage and medical attendance. After the death of James Lynslager in 1864, John Holt continued to work for his widow until 1867 when, at the age of 25, he purchased the business from her. During that year he was joined by his brothers, Jonathan and Thomas Holt, and they expanded the business from Fernando Po to the mainland of West Africa.

During his twelve years on the African coast from 1862 to 1874, John Holt played a notable part in the pioneering and development of British trade in West Africa, helping develop trade in important new products, including cocoa, cotton lint and groundnuts, alongside the traditional trade in palm oil and rubber. In 1884 the business was made into a partnership of the three brothers, and in 1897 it became a limited company, John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd.

Along with these commercial interests, in later years he became a champion of African welfare, developing friendships with notable humanitarians of the day, such as E.D. Morel, Mary Kingsley and the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

By the time of John Holt's death in 1915, the company had developed into a flourishing private concern, with branches in all the main centres of the West African trade.

During both World Wars, ships of the John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd. fleet were requisitioned by the British Government for the movement of munitions and stores and the evacuation of troops. In June 1940 the SS John Holt was involved in the rescue of 1,100 survivors from the Cunarder Lancastria which was sunk by German



                                                                                                    Cameroons Dec 25th 1884


Messrs John Holt & Co Liverpool


Your esteemed for ours of Nov 7th duly to hand on 20th but on a/c of their being on pilot to be had the Capt would not bring the "Benquela" up the river.

Two German Man of War "Bismarck" & "Adeler" arrived off Cameroons on the 18th. Messrs Jantzen & Thormahlens small steamer "Fan" had left for Calabar on the 14th with Capt Voss (who I believe intends establishing there for his firm) and Dr Büchuer the German representative here. Messrs Noermanns small Steamer "Dualla" was also at the bar in attendance on the Men of War. Much to every English mans surprise on the Morning of the 20th we saw both the "Fan" and "Dualla" towing up some 17 Boats & steamer launches filled with naval officer & men to the amount of 250 to 300. they passed the shipping between 9 & 10 AM in the midst of our trading time and at once opened fire on Hickory Town people chopped up Canoes landed their men & burnt the town without giving a moments notice either to Europeans or Natives, directly the men landed on Hickory Point & set fire to an house. the Joss Town people (who were also at war with King Bell) rushed to Messrs Noermanns Beach at Bell Town & seized their Sub. agent Mr Pontanies and carried him away into the town declaring that the first native in Joss town that was shot, they would retaliate & shoot Pontanies, after looting Hickory Town & shooting 3 or 4 men and 5 or 6 Women, the German's sent one Steam launch of men I suppose to try & obtain "Pontanies" but immediately the Germans came within range the Joss town people fired into the launch & Kept it up till such times as the launch had to retreat with a good deal of damage. and I believe several men Killed, They then left Hickory Town & came down with the whole of their boats & men while the launches was firing into the town they landed their men & tried to charge up Bells Hill and eventually did but not without losing several men, the native loss I believe was very small, one of the Joss Town Chiefs was Killed [viz.] Calabar Joss & immediately he died the brought out Noermanns Agent and Killed him also & I believe buried him with their chief. Joss Town people retreated to the bush and after setting fire to the town the Germans retired for the day. In firing Joss Town with Explosive bullets, they completely riddled Hamiltons dwelling House and very slightly wounded Mr Holder who is now in charge.

They also have fired 25 explosive shots into my large Iron Store one of which passed right through a barrel of Strong rum Anderton was on the beach paying book's & how he got to the ship through the Cross fire without being hurt is a great wonder. on Saturday Evening every ship was Searched for L K. Presso & Green [?] Joss the two Hickory Town Chiefs but without success & have not up to the present been found on Sunday 21st they brought up the "Adeler" and on Monday 22nd shelled Hickory town which is now a perfect wreck. as also is Bell & Joss towns. I believe they have Threatened Dido & [A]cqua town to bombard them also if they do not find the people they want.

The British Consul is expected here today 25th and I suppose then we shall have our instructions about damage done to British property.

This Steamer arrived at 6PM on 24th and leaves at 10am 25th will not stay to receive produce.

Produce on Hand 17 Casks Palm Oil about 91/2 Tons Palm Kernels.

I have drawn @ 10 d/s 2 Bills in favour of Mr E.C. Bennett for £4 & Emma May Good for £5 which I would & thank you to honor & place to debit Cameroons Establishment Enclosed please find D/e receipts for Kernels Ex. "Carl Noermann" also Indent & etc.

I am Gentlemen

Yours Obediently

W A J Harris


Carte du Kamerun en 1888


                                                                                                                         Cameroons Dec 25th 1884

        On Dec 20th when the German Steam launches were towing up the river Locke Presso was on board my ship trading (he is one of my principle Traders). and after the launches began firing on Hickory town & chopping up their canoes I would not allow him to leave, but kept him on board, as being without arms & only in a small canoe & 4 paddles he could not possibly get to beach without a good deal of danger (little thinking that without any notice whatever the Germans would demand to search the British Ships. about 5.P.M I went in my Gig to Hickory Point, and stayed at Ashinalls vessel till about 8PM. it appears they came searched the ship as much as possible twice before I arrived and when I came on board at 8.30P.M I found 6 men in charge of the vessel directly afterwards a Lieutenant & one of Voss's Clerks arrived & demanded the Keys of the ship to search the vessel, this I refused to do without and written order from his Commander, the officer left to get one & returned again & recalled all the men that had been left to guard the ship. of course directly they left LK Presso left in a small Canoe & within an half hour the Officer again returned & Said he had orders to force all doors, I told him rather than do that as I know what his orders were, I would deliver up my Keys and I done so. he searched the ship all over & then left. Twenty Four 24 hours after burning the town & endangering European life the Enclosed Proclamation was issued. I have heard nothing from the Germans, also I feel quite certain in my own mind that if I had delivered up Lock Presso I should never have left Cameroons alive. as the Germans want to Kill him I believe & I should also have lost all my trust. I am sending a copy of this letter to Mr Watts and as I want to leave here in May it would I think be advisable to have my relief here in April, I intend to have all my trust over looked & seen to but I fear the Germans aim is to try and drive us out as the towns they punished contained fully half my traders and I know other English men are placed in the same way while the German's have no traders there. Merrs Noermann's Agent the natives blame for all their trouble and the native Threats against him and other white men is far from pleasant. I am on good terms with all the natives myself, but I think it possible that the German's will trouble me if the can get the chance as they are very jealous of our doing what little trade we have.

I am Sir

Yours Obediently

WAJ Harris

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