Liberia

Condolences on assassination of President McKinley.

Correspondence from and to Owen L.W. Smith, Consul General to Liberia, concerning the assassination of President William McKinley.

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Papers Related to the Foreign Relations of the United States with the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 3, 1901 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902).

Smith transmits intelligence.

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Guthrie (Ok.) Daily Leader, 21 July 1899.

Among his duties as counsel to Liberia, Rev. Owen L.W. Smith was responsible for keeping the United States Secretary of State’s office informed about the well-being of American emigrants to Liberia. In 1899, an Oklahoma newspaper printed this transcription of Smith’s missive concerning the illness and deaths among the families of Anderson White, Joseph Brown, William House and Mann Hart, who had left Kingfisher County, Oklahoma, as members of the “Hawes emigration.”

God bless Wilson and her worthy people.

One hundred nineteen years ago today, the Wilson Times ran a letter sent from Monrovia, Liberia, by Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, U.S. consul to that West African country. Largely a sycophantic roll call of Wilson’s elected officials, halfway through Smith suddenly jabs. Praising a hospital director, he commented that all had “the appearance that better things are coming, notwithstanding the ‘Jim Crow Car’ law, the election franchise act, and the constitutional amendment. But I believe you will let me vote.” He then drops a few lines describing Liberia’s system of suffrage. It’s not universal, but. Touché.

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Wilson Times, 9 June 1899.

A wreck on the first day at sea.

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The Colonies and India (London, England), 9 April 1898.

Rev. Owen L.W. Smith, his wife Adora Oden Smith, and their daughter Flossie took passage on the African Steamship Company steamer Dahomey, which sailed from Liverpool to his assignment as ambassador in Monrovia, Liberia, on 6 April 1898. Hours after leaving port, the ship struck rocks near Holyhead, Anglesey, Wales. Passengers and crew were safely evacuated, but the ship remained stranded for 14 days before it could be floated off and returned to Liverpool. The incident was investigated, and a magistrate held: “The Court having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the stranding of and material damage to the said vessel were due to the improper navigation of the master, Mr. James G. Cawthorne, whose certificate, No. 34,575, the Court suspends for a period of six months from the date hereof.”

Rev. Owen L.W. Smith.

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The State Department was among the first agencies to appoint blacks to positions of prominence and one of the few to continue to do so beyond Reconstruction through World War I. African Americans were part of the diplomatic service on the ministerial level in Liberia and Haiti (where Frederick Douglass served, 1889-1891) and on the consular level in other countries. Four North Carolinians served as minister resident and consul general in Monrovia, Liberia. Owen Lun West Smith was the last in that line.

Owen L. W. Smith was born into slavery in Sampson County in 1851. He followed the Confederate Army as a personal servant but by war’s end had joined Federal forces and was part of Sherman’s army at Bentonville and the Grand Parade in Washington, D.C. He taught school briefly and studied at the University of South Carolina 1874-1876. In 1880 he was converted at a camp meeting and the next year began to preach. Active in the A.M.E. Zion Church, he served or built churches across eastern North Carolina and served as presiding elder, secretary of the Sunday School convention, private secretary to Bishop John Small, conference delegate, and corresponding editor of the Star of Zion.

In 1885 Smith took up a pastorate at St. John’s A.M.E. Zion in Wilson. In 1897, he sought the diplomatic post to Liberia and received endorsements from the state governor, attorney general, congressmen, and others. President William McKinley selected him from a field of forty-three applicants. During his first of four years in Liberia, Smith received an honorary doctorate from Livingstone College. When his posting ended, he returned to Wilson. He died there in 1926 and is buried in the Masonic cemetery.

Adapted from the website of North Carolina Historical Highway Marker Program.

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For more information about Reverend Dr. Smith’s life, see E. Renee Ingram, “Rev. Owen Lun West Smith: From Minister to Minister Resident and General Consul,” Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society Journal, volume 20, number 1 (2001).

A.M.E. missionary.

From Richard R. Wright Jr.’s Centennial Encyclopedia of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Containing principally the Biographies of the Men and Women, both Ministers and Laymen, 
whose Labors during a Hundred Years, helped make the A.M.E. Church What It Is; 
also Short Historical Sketches of Annual Conferences, Educational Institutions,
General Departments, Missionary Societies of the A.M.E. 
Church, and General Information about 
African Methodism and the Christian Church in General 
Being a Literary Contribution to the Celebration of the One Hundredth Anniversary of the 
Formation of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Denomination by 
Richard Allen and others, at Philadelphia, Penna., in 1816 (1916) —

Clark, Thomas Garriett, son of Harry and Flora Clark, was born in Wilson county, near the town of Wilson, N. C., July 10, 1876, on the homestead place. There were nine children. Here he grew up on the farm and attended the country and also public school. He entered Lincoln University, Pa., at twenty-two years of age, was converted May 22, 1899, and connected with the Presbyterian Church; entered the Divinity School, Howard University, Fall of 1902, graduating from the Classical Department May, 1905.

He joined the A. M. E. Church in 1906, and was licensed in February, at Bethel A. M. E. Church, Sixth and Lombard Streets, Philadelphia, where he labored till the year 1908, when he received his commission to the African field under Bishop William H. Heard, D.D., December 5. He was ordained Deacon at the Philadelphia Annual Conference, June 14, 1908, at Carlisle, Pa., by Bishop Gaines, and was also transferred to the Liberian Annual Conference, West Coast Africa, June 15.

He sailed for Africa with Bishop Heard and other missionaries December 5. He preached his first sermon in Africa January 1, 1909, Rom. 12:1. Met first Annual Conference January 27. He was ordained Elder January 31 and appointed to the Eliza Turner Memorial Church, Monrovia. He was reappointed January 26, 1910, and made Principal of the Mission School. The students enrolled numbered one hundred and thirty.

He raised and contributed October 10 the first one hundred dollars to the “Building Fund” for re-building the church at this charge. He was appointed to the Bethel A. M. E. Church, Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa, March 20, 1911, and established a mission station among the Kroo Tribe at Kroo Town, November 26. He baptized seventy-six persons while in Africa.

He was appointed General Missionary at the Annual Conference held at Monrovia, March 15, 1912, and returned to the United States with a native boy, “Uleh,” from the mission station, for the purpose of educating him to return and teach among his tribe. He arrived in America April 10 and was married to Miss Sarah B. Wainwright April 21.

July 1, 1912, he was appointed to Victor’s Chapel A. M. E. Church at Mont Clair, N. J. He pastored St. John’s A. M. E. Church, Catskill, N. Y., May 26, 1913, to May 31, 1914. Rev. Clark has written a work entitled “Liberia, the African Republic,” setting forth the colonization and steady development and appalling conditions. He shows how non-recognition by foreign power forces decided action on the part of the colonist and retards the formation of a Government modeled after that of the United States.

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In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, farmer Henry Clark, 39, wife, Florah, 38, and children John, 16, Mary J., 14, Ella, 12, Henrietta, 9, Henry, 8, Augustin, 5, Thomas, 3, and Margaret, 10 months.