Wednesday, October 30, 2013

September 4, 1927 - Aru

In which Coralee describes their new home in Aru, and they welcome the long-awaited Indian motorcycle. 

Aru, Congo Belge

September 4, 1927

Dear Home Folks,

[Personal portion redacted.]

Yesterday was a big day with us. We moved into our new house. Our whole household i.e. boys and ourselves, worked hard and the place is pretty well in order today. I wish you could come and see our “swell” little place. I feel just like we had purchased a fine little bungalow at home and had set up housekeeping for the first time. 

We are alone for a change i.e.  no guests, so it makes it seem more like a home for just we two.

You should see my swell chambray curtains.  I sent to Montgomery Wards for it at 10¢ a yard. I got a medium blue and also the stripe to match. Then I sewed a band of the bias stripe material on the curtain about two and a half inches from the edge. They look very fresh and “grand”.

We have new cretonne (1) or the living room. I sent to England for it. It is a blue with pink roses. Cretonnes are very reasonable in England. For instance this was reversible and 48 inches wide and cost about 60 cents.

Well it’s great to be out here and we love it very much. From the veranda where I am writing I can see miles around. Some lovely hills and large stretches of grassland dotted with native villages here and there. Each village with its cattle “carral (2)” (is that the way it is spelled?).

They make these carrals by putting strong branches of trees in the ground standing upright like a post. They usually take a certain kind of branch that will take root and grow. This is necessary because of the white ants (3) that destroy wood so quickly.  They are usually built on a hillside, for drainage. The entrance is well closed at night because of leopards and lions. Sometimes the man will have a house in the enclosure or just near so he can be near to frighten away wild animals when they come.

This tribe (4) are strictly cattle people. So we are able to get fresh milk each day and make our own butter. It is a big help to us.

Not long ago, we had a real treat, a nice big pork roast. A man in the government poste had a pig and the boy didn't put it in its house at night and a hyena came and gave it some terrible gashes, so that it had to be killed. So they allowed us to buy some of the meat that was alright.

Quite often they butcher a cow in the Poste and we are able to buy some. It is always a real treat to us, who have no butcher shop around the corner.

I am very busy getting lawn planted. Here we don’t have seed for lawn. There is a short green grass that spreads very quickly, so we just transplant little rows or dots of it and soon, if kept well weeded we have a nice green lawn. It doesn't grow tall so we never need a lawn mower – better come out here and you won’t have that duty!

Ralph is terribly busy these days. He has charge of the station as Mr. Kemptner (5) the station superintendent is away for a few days’ rest.

Ah yes, much excitement the other day. A huge four ton truck came up the road to the station (they sound like an airplane with their cutouts open). It stopped at our house and the boy brought me a bill of lading for the Indian motorcycle that was sent us so long ago (2 years 8 months!). There it was right in that truck! Ralph was tickled skinny.  He’s like a child with a new toy. 

The machine is in fairly good condition considering its long and tedious journey. He hasn't been able to get it to “agami” (6) that is cry. The natives always say a machine is crying when it is running. However he has high hopes. Maybe it will need some new parts right away but we hope to get it going and then we will try to sell either it or the Harley. One I guess to help pay for the other.

However the Indian hasn't cost us much. Just the transport and customs. I think the whole thing comes to about a hundred dollars. So I guess we will be able to weather that somehow.

At the end of the week we expect to go to Aba for a week’s general conference. It is a conference of all the Congo AIM workers. We also hope to have several workers from the Kenya field as guests. We will go in the Harley (7) and will be gone about ten days if all goes well. [Personal portions redacted.]

With heaps of love,


  1. Cretonne is a printed cloth, usually with small flowers.  Often used to line cupboards, drawers, or make seat covers. There is an example here, which looks like it might be similar to what Coralee describes.
  2. I believe she means “kraal”, an enclosure for domestic animals usually made of thorny brush, although her description in the next paragraph is a bit different than the normal preparation. The Wikipedia entry is here.  
  3. Termites.
  4. The Alur, a tribe which was divided when the borders for Uganda and Congo were delineated. There is a fascinating book about the Alur written in 1956, AlurSociety by Aidan Southall.  In some positive news for such a war-torn corner of the world, the divided tribe has reconciled after more than 200 years of discord. 
  5. Wesley and Flora Kemptner. Later reassigned to Aba. The Kemptners also served as dorm parents at Rethy while Esther and Edith were there. 
  6. Bangala.
  7. The Harley probably had a sidecar. They certainly had one for the Indian, which they received long before they got the motorcycle.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

March 5, 1925 - Excerpt from the H.A.M. Monthly Bulletin, May 1925

In which the Ralph thanks the Heart of Africa supporters for sending out a motorcycle (1)


Ibambi, March 5, 1925

Dear friends:

Your “lovely bit of news” received here last mail, and lovely it was indeed.  I happened to be away at the time it arrived, and Coralee was impatient for my return. I hadn't had a fair chance at the inevitable tea before your letter was produced and read and rejoiced over.

Yes, we surely are delighted over the prospect of a motorcycle, and almost as much surprised as delighted, for the idea of such a thing had only occurred to us as a sort of vague dream far in the future. It was characteristic of you, too, to stop with nothing less than the best. I am very glad you chose an Indian (2), for the roads out here demand a sturdy machine such as that.

At present there are regular motor roads between Poko(3), Bambili  (4), Niangara, and Wamba, and another will probably be completed before very long between Wamba and Botongwe. Most of the roads between here and Wamba are suitable for motorcycle, and the Wamba-Niangara road I understand passes within a few hours walking distance of Deti (5) and Nala. So you see what an asset a motorcycle will soon be. My warmest thanks to you all.


  1. This motorcycle took more than two and a half years to get to Ralph and Coralee. By that time, they were at another mission station, and working for another mission board! 
  2. Unfortunately I do not know which model Indian was sent, nor do we have a photograph of it.  Quite possibly it was a Chief or a Scout.  See here for photographs.
  3. Google calculates the distance between Ibambi and Poko today as 206 kilometers, and estimates travel time at 2 hours 48 minutes.  Given what I have heard about roads in the DRC at present, I would guess that is a wildly optimistic estimate.  
  4. Bambili lies at the confluence of the Uele and an unnamed tributary. 
  5. Deti doesn't appear on the map now.  Nala, on the other hand, is now near what appears to be a regular road. The distance between Nala and Wamba is calculated at 134 kilometers. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

September 28, 1926 - Blukwa

In which Ralph & Coralee describe their travels around the AIM mission field. 


September 28, 1926

Dear Home-Folks,

A few days ago after spending about a week’s vacation at Kacengu (1) we returned to Rethi (2) to find among other things a nice long letter and a big fat package from you. And now while we say our heartiest “Danke shönn (3)” we wish you could know something of the thrill of hearing from home like this. 

Everything you sent was most timely and much appreciated; but you asked especially about the candy.  It was certainly great to see a real box of “BusyBee”(4). However our suspicions were aroused before we could undo the box and more or less confirmed after! The contents were pretty well united into one sweet mass, because of the pasteboard box, but not beyond rescue. Far from it!  We carefully separated the sheep from the goats, the latter being reminiscent of Anheuser-Busch. The sheep brought smiles of contentment to a number of faces.  But the others performed their mission well too, providing joy for the “tumbus” (5) of a number of the house boys. The house-boys, by the way, are always very “nosy” when packages from home are opened up. This is largely due to curiosity concerning things from the white man’s country, but is mixed, we fear, with more or less selfish motives at times.

I mentioned above about having been to Kacengu on vacation. Coralee especially had been very busy with the new babies and surgical cases among the missionaries in our house ever since coming to Rethi, and so we were urged by the powers that be as well as by others to take advantage of the present lull to get away from the station for a while. We were mighty glad to do so and decided first to go to Kacengu to visit the Kiesslings.  The trip itself from Rethi to Kacengu (6) is through very beautiful hill country, but we were disappointed in not being able to go together, as I was called to Kacengu a few days ahead of time to see someone who had gotten sick. Coralee at the time was entertaining some newlyweds and so could not go along at once but came a few days later. Kacengu, as I believe I wrote before, is very beautifully situated on a high hill above Lake Albert, and the surrounding country is beautiful with its hills and valleys dotted here and there by native villages. One day we all went for a little hike to the top of a nearby hill, higher than Kacengu, which afforded an even better view of the lake including its outlet into the Nile. Just as we were well up on our way a thick fog came from over the lake shutting out our view completely. However we kept climbing anyway and reached the top. For a long time there was nothing to see but fog but just before we were ready to return the fog disappeared and we got a fine view of the country all around. We took a few pictures which we hope may give you a little idea of the country when they are finished.

We stayed at Kacengu a little over a week and then went to Ara, another of our stations, visiting also the “Sanitary Agent” and his sleeping sickness cases. This place is only about four miles from the lake and we could see the breakers and white caps very plainly. Our trip from Ara to Rethi (7) is one we will not forget very soon, chiefly because of the hills we had to climb. At one place the path leads directly to the very summit of a high steep hill, rising at an angle of 45 degrees and in one stretch the path seems to be nearly 60 degrees.  In climbing this hill I had a rope around my waist which was pulled by two natives ahead of – or rather above – me. Coralee was carried up in a carrying chair part of the way, but also walked up much of the way, which was too steep for the men to carry. After climbing a hundred feet or so I would lie down and rest for a long while, then climb a bit and rest etc. The natives had a good many laughs over me because of my much resting and puffing, as they have wonderful endurance themselves. It took us around four hours to reach the top, and then we had another three hours or so over more level ground to get home.

After a few days at home, getting our clothes washed and looking after the medical cases that were waiting, we again started off, this time on Mr. Camp’s motorcycle and sidecar which he was kind enough to loan us.  

We are now on our first stop of this trip, Blukwa, where we are visiting the Whitermores. Soon we expect to go on further to see some other stations to the south and to visit Irumu, the capital of this province. Before we finish we will have seen all but one of the Mission stations in what we call here the “South Country” i.e. the southern half of the AIM (8) Congo field.

We have heard rumors to the effect that Dr. Trout was scheduled to return to the field, leaving New York on Sept. 6. If so, that means that we will at last be moving on to what we expect will be our permanent station. Where that will be we do not know as yet. It will be decided when the Field Council meets. We also learned recently that our motorcycle has at last left Kinshasa and is well on the way to Aba. The sidecar has already arrived at Aba. The charges for duty and transport have been surprisingly low thus far. Of course it remains to be seen whether or not the motorcycle will be in running order, but we have fair hopes anyway.

So much for now, more another day.

With lots of love,
Coralee and Ralph

  1. Now spelled Kasengu. 
  2. Interesting that Rethi is spelled with an “i” here. Later on, when I went to school there, it was called Rethy.
  3. German for “Thank You”. Ralph grew up in a German-speaking home. 
  4. A candy company in St. Louis.
  5. Tummies.
  6. About 33 kilometers.
  7. According to Google maps, the trip is about 250 kilometers, and takes 5 hours by car.  It appears that they did the trip with porters, and the walking estimate on the map is 50 hours!
  8. You will note that the Kleinschmidts are now with the Africa Inland Mission.  The change came earlier in 1926.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Early photos of the Kleinschmidts

Kleinschmidts at home in Ibambi, circa 1925
I believe this is the only photo we have of Ralph and Coralee at home in Ibambi.  The walls are made of tall reeds and perhaps wicker for the furniture.  The floor is earth, the cupboards made from packing cases.  Very simple shelter.  Love Coralee's formal shoes, not so practical.  Ralph looks to have puttees on his legs.

Ralph and Coralee Kleinschmidt, circa 1926 (while at Aba at the AIM conference). 
The missionaries, in pith helmets.  They look so young.  Esther remembers the big boulder behind them. The Kleinschmidts returned to Aru after the AIM conference.  They were assigned to Aba in 1928 before Edith was born.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 12, 1925 - Niangara

In which Ralph and Coralee share some stories of the field, and discuss the difficulties of dealing with doctrinal, personal and political differences within the mission. 


October 12, 1925

Dear Home-folks,
Today we had a good stack of letters come to us, and among them letters from you, besides about a dozen birthday cards for Coralee, so you see this was a red letter day for us. Getting a bunch of letters from home like that is like going on a good spree – it’s great while it lasts, but oh, the morning after, when your conscience and your wife urges you to make up for it by writing back. I’m in that stage now, so I hope you will give me your sympathy. [Personal portion redacted.]

First of all I must send a vote of thanks to those concerned for the packages that have arrived recently. These include wool shirts and socks, shoes and khaki trousers for myself, and shoes, stockings, khaki outfit for Coralee, besides various toilet articles, and CANDY for both of us. Everything was splendid, and arrived in perfect condition. The shoes were large as you feared, but by adding a generous wad of cotton to the end of my toes, and adopting a modified Charlie Chaplin gait, I find them very comfortable. They came none too soon too, for the only other things I had with me were some white canvas shoes and your old army boots, so you can be sure the shoes were most welcome. The heavy shirts too are just great and have been put to good use already on trek. No comments are necessary about the candy – we’ll leave that to your imagination.

Chief Manziga
Since returning from Aba to Niangara(1) I have had some very good times out on trek with Whitermore. We visited the territory of the three big Azande chiefs of the Niangara district north of the Uele River(2) and were well received nearly everywhere, although at one place we received our first experience of open opposition by Roman Catholics. But no matter, we have good reason to believe that some souls were saved, and so came away happy. Incidentally, we had some experiences with bikes at which we can laugh – now! On the first day out we fixed 11 punctures in one and 6 in another of Whitermore's tires and 4 or 5 in mine. These were chiefly due to thorns and long sharp grass seeds, for we were riding through tall grass country. A few days later, as we were nearing our destination for that day, the village of a great chief, Manziga (3); I had a blowout which entirely ruined my back tire. We had been travelling along a circular route and were nearing Niangara, so that at this time we were about twenty miles from home. I thought I would have to walk home, but this chief is the possessor of the only horse in many miles around - about the second one I have seen in Congo– and he offered to let me ride him home. This steed was a young stallion that shied at every little thing including my glasses, and so it was with some misgivings that I climbed aboard and set sail for home. A boy ran ahead to take the horse back and all went well until we arrived at a river about three miles from home, when the boy explained that the water was too high for the horse to get across (some ship!). I knew I could never coax the beast into a canoe, and so I had to walk – secretly glad of the rest it would afford me. [Personal portion redacted.]

Next time you have to go to the dentist don’t kick if your machine (automobile)  is not working and you have to wait for a street car. Recently it became necessary for me to see a dentist in order to avoid losing one of my front teeth. The dentist is about 90 miles away at Poko. As there is a motor road between Niangara and Poko we are not allowed to travel with porters, and the round trip by motor truck costs about $45.00, the trucks go only about once a week and you have to sleep somewhere on the road to wait for another truck to transfer to in order to get to Poko. So the only thing left to do was to go by bicycle without porters. Fortunately the road was fairly good so that I could make it in two days each way, and got back to Niangara within a week after starting. The dentist said that if I had waited another week the tooth would very likely have been lost. So you see we are lucky to be able to get to a dentist at all. Curiously, when I was on the way there and still a few hours out I met a runner with a letter for me from the dentist. There was a native on the station who had had an acute abdominal condition for about six days, another with a badly infected hand, and a number of others who needed attention, and so they wanted me to come to Poko for these cases as soon as possible. They figured that Coralee would come with me and by motor, and I suppose they thought that since we were Americans a little thing like $90 for the trip wouldn't faze us a bit. Anyway, they were mighty much surprised to see me pop in the day after their runner had left to call me for it takes a fast runner four days to get to Niangara, and of course they didn't know that I had come for my teeth. The man with the abdominal trouble had died a few hours before my arrival, but the other patients still needed attention and so did my teeth, so the trip was well worthwhile, and I was mighty glad there was a dentist within reach.

[Personal portion redacted.] You know that ever since we have been on the field (not that we started it) there has been some sort of trouble or other, both on the field and among the home committees as well. During our stay in Ibambi we had ample opportunity to learn lots of things about this work, its methods or rather lack of method, and its director, that you don’t read about in the magazine. When the trouble with Lowder [4]was on, we were new out and did not understand the whole situation and were shown things chiefly from Mr.Studd’s viewpoint. Now, while we do not agree in the least with the method of Lowder’s attack and believe he did some very unwise if not unkind things at that time, yet we have learned that he had some very good reasons for some of the criticisms he made of the work. We admire Mr. Studd for the great work he has done and the sacrifices he has made, but we have seen another side of him which makes it very difficult to work with him to say the least. He boasts that the Holy Spirit alone is the Guide and Leader of this work, and speaks often of humility, yet I know of no one more domineering and self-willed than he. If anyone dares disagree with him he is a marked man and sooner or later feels that he is not wanted. If he is bested in an argument a favorite method is to resort to sneering sarcasm. And so I could go on at length, but I know it is an easy matter to talk of someone else’s faults, while there are plenty of our own that need to be eradicated; yet I am not doing this for the pleasure of the gossip, but because you need to see the other side of the picture if you are to understand what I am trying to get at.

We used to argue a little about a certain question of doctrine (5)  in Ibambi, but soon realized the truth of the fact that there is little profit in arguing doctrinal points (except for the study it stimulates) and so rested content with making known our conviction and letting it go at that. Incidentally, Mr. Studd once wrote a letter to the American Council in which he made a sort of masked reference to this point, and so I and some others wrote them explaining our stand on the question, (and our view was directly opposite to Mr. Studd’s) and we all received the reply that if we had not believed as we did, the American Council would never have sent us out to the field. But the real point is that once one openly disagrees with Mr. Studd on this question the person who disagrees soon feels that he is unwelcome, senses a lack of real cordiality in his relations with Mr. Studd and certain of his disciples, and before long finds himself in a back seat, so to speak, as regards his position on the field. This has been true not of ourselves only but in the case of at least six other Americans as well.

That is one point. Another is this. The conviction has been growing on us gradually that the Field Director is not over-keen about having a real honest-to-goodness medical work on the field. At least he has lent little or no assistance in establishing that sort of thing. He is glad enough to have a doctor on the field who will run all over the show to see sick missionaries, and then be content to limit his station work to a simple superficial type of work because of lack of proper equipment – housing particularly. There seems to be a sort of deadly fear out here of having anything good, for fear it will not look enough like sacrifice, or perhaps that it will seem too much like we are settling down permanently in one place, or some such idea. Now I’m not speaking about our own house or food or clothing, but when it comes to caring for sick folks it seems to me that the best you can get is none too good. But to suggest a brick building here, for instance, comes near to rank heresy. About six weeks ago we wrote to Mr. Studd that we would return from Aba to Niangara on a certain date and that we would await word from him as to when to return to our proper work. We have now been back in Niangara – the only station in the mission where a doctor is NOT needed since there is a government doctor here – we have been back here for over a month and have never had a word as to when to leave. This in itself, it seems to us, is one indication of how much our services are wanted. I forgot to mention that as soon as we reached the field we were promised a better building for the medical work, but whenever the subject was brought up later there was always some evasion. The present building when only a year old was so dirty and leaky that it was hardly fit for natives to sleep in much less to operate in; and so all operations or special treatments had to be done in our own house. I believe that the work of a nurse and doctor out here is not exclusively medical to be sure, but I also believe that the better and more efficiently the medical part is done the greater will be the opportunity to reach the native who would not otherwise come in to hear the Gospel. Even the news that a motorcycle was on the way met with very little enthusiasm, to put it mildly.

Another little source of irritation is the spirit of petty jealousy toward Americans on the part of some of our English friends. Many of them seem to have the idea that if one is American he is almost sure to have lots of money. This is a small thing it’s true, but it is just one of the things that help to make the American feel that he is not welcome. It seems too bad that mere difference in nationality should be so keenly felt in a place like this, but we can’t get away from the fact of it. I remember that before we left home some of you expressed the fear that we might run into something like this; since then we have learned that you were right. [Personal portion redacted.] Thus far there have been no difficulties whatever with the American Council, even though Miss Brandon (6) and, I believe, one other are English. We have experienced nothing but genuine love and loyalty toward us on their part and cannot speak too highly of the splendid way in which they have stood by us and helped us in every way. But we are afraid that even they do not have a correct conception of the real conditions out here. If they did, I believe there would be many resignations.

Well, we could go on raving like this all evening, but what’s the use? Just let us say this, we are not the only ones who feel like this. The Pontiers are going home after three years of service, and they are going to resign as soon as they reach home and get a chance to explain matters to the Council. One of the new candidates in America, who had already had her farewell meeting, has already resigned, and the other has been delayed from sailing because of the illness of a relative, and is expected by friends out here to resign too. The Whitermores and the Kiesslings are also “fed up”, and are speaking of resigning, although they have taken no definite steps as yet. The Kirks, who are home on furlough, told the council that they too would not return to the field unless radical changes were made out here first. They were assured that better times were coming and so have tentatively withheld their resignation. Hipp, according to latest reports, still contemplates returning to the field after his furlough, in spite of the treatment he received here. And now as for us – what would you say? At present we can only say this, that we too feel very much inclined to resign from the mission, although we don’t feel that the right moment to take this action has arrived just yet. We may wait here another month and then if Mr. Studd doesn’t send us word as to where to go we will probably return to Ibambi on our own responsibility and then resign. However our minds are not fully made up; we just want to prepare you for what may happen. Then comes the question as to what we would do next in case we did resign. Two possibilities present themselves. One is to go home and begin life all over again; the other is to apply for admission to another mission out here. The latter course seems to both of us as the right one, and if we did this there is practically only one mission that we could consider, the Africa Inland Mission. (The South Africa General Mission, and Sudan Interior Mission are British, and most of the denominational missions are squabbling over the question of modernism and fundamentalism and seem unstable at the present time.) This (AIM) appeals to us particularly because we happen to have seen something of its work and people during six weeks stay at Aba, because of their need of medical workers and their attitude toward medical work, and because they are at least chiefly American and have the good sense to keep American and English separated on their own stations. Furthermore, we saw that a real soul-saving work was going on at Aba. On the other hand, we are not blind to the fact that they also have had serious internal troubles in the past, and so may yet have in the future, and we also recognize the fact that we would not necessarily be stationed at Aba should we be accepted, and that all stations might not be like Aba to work on. Yet we know that the spirit and methods of the A.I.M. are far nearer to our ideals than those of the H.A.M. But all these things are as yet only vague speculations of the future and so need not be enlarged on now.

{Personal portion redacted.] And now for a little bit of more interesting news. While at Poko I heard a faint rumor that my motorcycle is now at Buta, a little over 200 miles from here. On the strength of this, I have written to Buta asking that it be forwarded immediately to Niangara, and so it’s possible that I will have it within a few weeks. Incidentally, while at the Poste I inquired as to the price of gasoline and learned that it was about $1.75 per gallon! Lubricating oil 50¢ a lb. So you see, with a combined family income of $34.00 a month, and sugar at 30¢ per lb., inferior canned butter $1.00 per lb., poor flour at 50 lbs. for $10.00, and sweetened condensed milk 45¢ per can equivalent to one quart when diluted, there will be very little “joy-riding” around the country on the Indian! No wonder travel in a motor truck costs 25¢ per mile. Of course we don’t live on these things exclusively, but they are more necessary at Niangara than elsewhere because things like chickens, eggs, and other native products are very hard to get here.

Please note change in directions for sending packages.  It is now cheaper as well as quicker to send them via the Nile rather than the Congo river route, so please address future packages as follows: Niangara, Cairo, Rejaf and Aba, c/o Metaxis & Macris. Letters should be Niangara, via Cairo, Rejaf and Aba, but of course not “c/o Metaxis & Macris”. Thus they will reach us quickly no matter what part of the H.A.M. territory we may (be) in, and also in case we should go to the A.I.M. The reason that it is now cheaper is because transportation along the Nile route has been very greatly increased recently, and now parcel post service comes all the way through to Aba, and is expected to soon come through to Niangara. This will eliminate all handling charges of agents and the only charges on our end will be for duty, which is usually small compared to handling charges. When we say that it is cheaper to send this way now we mean cheaper at this end, i.e. for us. It is best to still include on packages “c/o Metaxis & Macris” because parcel post is not yet actually established as far as Niangara but only as far as Aba, and so for the time being M&M would have to handle parcels from Aba to Niangara. On the other hand, there is no harm in doing so, for in case Parcel Post does come through to Niangara, the order “c/o M&M” will be automatically ignored and parcels sent through by the postal service exclusively.

Now to answer a suggestion of yours in your last letter. Your scheme for getting questions answered is a grand one and shows real business genius, and we will be very glad to contribute our part, of course leaving out the “two-bits” feature. Meanwhile I have already answered one question which might be on the minds of some, showing that gasoline – or petrol, or essence, according to whether you are speaking American, English, or French – is after all to be classed among the precious minerals.

Another question that might still be a cause of anxiety to some concerns our fierce struggles with wild and ferocious beasts. During the past eighteen months I have personally seen four crocodiles, the noses of three hippopotami, one antelope, snakes, monkeys, and parrots. They all fled in mortal terror at sight of my face! The following are typical of our experience and acquaintance with leopards, buffalo, and elephants. A few weeks ago while on trek, we slept at a village to which a headman had moved because his own village had been destroyed by elephants. Travelling the next day, we neared this old village and ran across very fresh elephant tracks in the path. Soon we came upon a woman working in a field who said that three elephants had passed by during the night and were now down at the stream just a little beyond. We wanted to go down to have a peep at them but the black men with us turned pale at mention of it, and so as our path happened to turn at a right angle just there, we followed our path rather than our noses or inclinations. At another village a few days later, the chief informed us that he had killed an elephant eight days previously. This time we “followed our noses” and found the elephant, several huge baskets-full of him all nicely cut up into four-inch cubes of the consistency of a balloon tire. At the next village when about ready to go to bed, we heard two shots and rushed out to see the excitement, only to learn that two of the chief’s “soldiers” had shot at a leopard that was prowling around the chief’s house. At midnight I was awakened by a most peculiar throaty noise just outside our rest-house. As I stirred slightly, I heard the thud of heavy paws scampering away, and lighting a lantern went out to investigate and found the tracks of what was probably the leopard which had made its appearance earlier. A few days ago Whitermore heard that there were hippos a few hours up the river, so he went up in a canoe with some natives to investigate.  He saw no hippos, but shot a crocodile, and then went on the trail of some water buck. Next morning he succeeded in shooting a large buck, as big as a mule, and so today we are going to enjoy some roast venison, thanks to Coralee and the steam cooker. All the boys and workmen are elated over their share of real animal to eat, and we are expecting that soon our supply of cathartics will be seriously invaded. The animal’s intestines were given to some women near the scene of the hunt, and they were overjoyed, for had they not received the near best part, next to the heart?

Well, now a part of my job has been completed, and you will notice that we have said nothing of our work, for at present we have no work. Hope we will have better news to report before very long.

With love,
Coralee and Ralph

  1. Approximately 200 miles.
  2. Uele River (a very large river)
  3. The reason for the lack of horses is disease, and expense related to keeping the horse healthy.    
  4. We cannot identify this missionary.
  5. My mother’s note on this letter: “C.T. Studd did not believe in the eternal security of the believer; Kleinschmidts and the others felt strongly that the Scriptures taught that a person’s salvation was eternal and depending on the integrity of God the Father not the frail strength of a man’s faith. EKM” This paragraph deals with the doctrinal difference. The paragraph following it deals with a procedural disagreement. 
  6. Another unidentified missionary. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

March 5, 1925 - What the Christmas Gifts Meant in the Heart of Africa

Excerpt from The Heart of Africa bulletin, May 1925


Ibambi, March 5, 1925

Dear Friends:

Your parcels to us have arrived including the medicines, towels, pins, thread, cotton, prunes, beans, and all the other delightful things. We were both simply overjoyed, and we did not miss the love and devotion, sacrifice and hard work that these things signify to us. The things in themselves are indeed lovely and welcome, but far more than this we appreciate the love that prompted the sending of these things. Words are indeed inadequate.

Now I’ll tell you what has happened to some of them. The medicine comes first. We do so appreciate it. Well, many cases of “Yaws” had come but it was always the same, we had no medicine for those patients. Just about two days before the medicine arrived, a mother brought a small child in her arms with this awful disease. The whole body of the child was covered with huge ulcerated sores. We felt so sorry for this wee child but had to turn it away. Then the medicine came, so we sent the boy who helps us in the medicine clinic to hunt for this child, and he found her, and so she received an injection. Yesterday her father brought her and in a few more days she will be well again. Many others have received it too.

The medicine is so precious and works so much like magic that Ralph has made the usual dose for one person for two or sometimes even three if they are children. One other case too – A man came with the sores all over his body. He was a man who had been a helper at one of the out stations for a time, but never really came out for the Lord, as far as could be determined. He received the medicine and said if he were healed he was going to return to the out station and help in God’s work. The other day one of the missionaries at this out-station was in Ibambi, and we asked him if he knew of this man and he said yes, he is helping with the work and seems most keen and earnest. Praise God. We are indeed thankful and many others of these people here are most grateful for the gifts. Pray that we may have right judgment in the use of these medicines for the glory of God.

It was lovely that some one thought of pins and little things so necessary. One of our “Bachelor boys” didn't have a pin and we gladly shared with him. He was so pleased. You see many of us, both black and white have received good from the lovely remembrances of all our friends and we all send special thanks.


Friday, October 11, 2013

August 7, 1924 - Ibambi


August 7, 1924

Dear Brother –

[Personal portion redacted.]

Thanks for the clipping about the young doc in Angola. He seems to wear about the same boots as I – just out of school in America and knowing very little about the things that cause pains in African kiddies’ tummies. What he said about looking in the book, then in the microscope and then in the book again was quite amusing as that’s just about the game I've been playing too. We have had a few similar cases here.

A few days ago I got a hurry call from a Government official who happened to be in a village some five and a half hours away. All he said in the note was that he was very sick in the abdomen. Not knowing what to expect I gathered together a few things and hurried off as soon as my porters arrived (for the road was too rough for a bicycle) while Coralee packed up my camp equipment and a big box of medical supplies to follow me. I arrived at 7 or 8 in the evening to learn that the man had had an attack of renal colic in the morning and was not feeling much better, so that all I needed out of my box of drugs was two tiny pills. He appreciated these however as he got a good night’s rest. Next morning he was up and about again. I was glad of the opportunity because this man, who himself holds a fairly high office, happens to be a former classmate and a very good friend of the Commissar General at Stanleyville, and he said he would write to him in regard to supplying us with drugs. Promises don’t always materialize in Congo, but here’s hoping anyhow. Incidentally we just received a box from the Gov’t doctor at Niangara containing some badly needed drugs, so our hopes for some from Stanleyville are rising a little.  These trips take so long that the patient is either well or dead by the time I arrive.

[Personal portion redacted.]

I wish you could help us enjoy some of our garden products.  Coralee, the ex-Ozark Hick (1) is a sure enough farmer, and no joke. She has been planting all kinds of things ever since we arrived and we have been having a lot of them on the table already.  Corn, beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes, cabbage, peanuts, strawberries etc., such is our Congo garden. Besides garden things we have more fruit than we can eat; many of them were strange to us at first but all are very good. Bananas, pineapples, pai-pais (2), “coeur-de-beauf (3)”, mangoes and “Congo apples” which are not apples at all – are our daily food. They cost us nothing as they grow on the concession. The food that costs the most is home stuff like flour, sugar, salt, milk, butter. Coralee’s ingenuity as a housewife has done hero’s service here too, for she makes wonderful bread and pancakes out of flour which consists mostly of manioc flour (native), mixed with wheat flour, and delicious jam from native lemons and native sugar. Sugar-making by the way is another of her many jobs. The cane grows on the concession; those hospital patients who are well enough make the sugar and for their services receive enough money to pay for most of their food, and this month and last the profits from sugar sold to missionaries has paid all hospital expenses (except drugs and dressings).

An amusing incident occurred the other night which illustrates typically the childish nature of these natives. One of the white man’s jobs here is to act as judge in the many quarrels of the natives. On this night while I was sitting up writing the boy who takes care of the hospital came over to tell me that the men in the hospital had been making a great noise quarreling so that nobody was able to sleep, and asked me to come and settle it. Going over, I found the men still quarreling as they sat in a circle around the fire, and then one man told me his story. While he was digging in our garden one of our houseboys had thrown a chicken head at him. He picked it up but said it would not be good for him to eat it because it would make his sores bad again, and so he threw it over to another fellow who kept it. Later this first chap demanded payment (1/4 cent) for the chicken head and when it was refused because he had thrown the head away he became angry and hence the quarrel. When I explained that he deserved no pay because he didn't want the head and had given to the other man without first asking pay, they all agreed and immediately the quarrel stopped, everybody happy. It seems they are always satisfied with the white man’s decision, no matter which way it goes. The usual difficulty is to decide which is the greater liar, and it’s practically always safe to assume that both are lying for all they are worth. Just two nights before I had had a great time sitting around the fire with these fellows talking over the Gospel with them, and to hear them talk and pray you’d think they were all sprouting wings.

Well it’s after 7 PM and therefore near bedtime, so goodbye for the time being.

Coralee and Ralph
(“Bwana and Mama Luka”)

P.S. Ralph has asked me to read this letter and I’m here to testify what he has said about certain things I do.  Especially the food, gardens and etc. for I've not had any seeds yet but what folks out here have given me and they are mostly native seeds. If you will sometimes slip in your letter a pkg of seed, our Xmas present will be furnished. Anything – lettuce, radish or anything that grows. Much love to you all. [Personal portion redacted.] Love again – Coralee

P.P.S. Didn't use the typewriter because I have a sore finger – the typewriter (4) is still working fine. R.

  1. Coralee was born and raised in Thayer, Missouri. 
  2. Papaya.
  3. Possibly a soursop, Annona muricata
  4. The typewriter referred to was an Underwood (very likely the Underwood model 5, in production from 1900 into the early 1930’s) that was donated by Ralph’s brother for their use on the mission field.  My mother remembers that it was huge, so heavy that it constituted the entire load for one porter.   

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 15, 1924 - Excerpt from the Heart of Africa Monthly Bulletin

Ibambi, Belgian Congo
October 15, 1924

Dear Friends,
Having been at Ibambi just six months now we feel as if we are beginning to get settled and to get acquainted with the lay of the land. Already we have learned that Bwana’s (Mr. C.T. Studd) calling this place the “Devil’s Den” is no mere empty figure of speech. The old scoundrel is plainly in evidence all around us always and at times I fear within us too. But it’s splendid to be here, for are we not here to do the human part in helping to rescue these people from his power?  And that means that there’s plenty to do. It is absolutely impossible to adequately describe to one at a distance the real condition of these people’s hearts even as we see them. What then must they actually be?

The medical work thus far is proving very interesting as well as puzzling. At present all the available space in the hospital and in another building with separate small rooms is filled. Quite a number of these patients are chronic “hangers on”, and some of them are rather trying from a medical point of view, yet praise the Lord, the longer they stay THE MORE CHANCE WE HAVE TO TEACH THEM THE GOOD NEWS.

Each morning after prayers at Mr. Studd’s house, we have the dispensary. This is preceded by song, prayer and a little Gospel message, and in order to receive treatment the patients must be present at this meeting, unless of course, they are very ill. The majority who thus hear the Gospel are people who would otherwise not come in for church services, and who might only rarely be reached in their villages.

Five or six young fellows after having got well in the hospital asked that they be not sent home, but that they be allowed to stay here so as to be able to learn to read. Outside of school hours they do enough work to pay for their food. One of these is Mapuna, whom I believe I mentioned before. He came in from the leper camp to have his arm amputated. As he did not really have leprosy he remained here, and since the operation he has shown marked improvement physically, but better than that his face has a happy glow that testifies to something far greater than mere physical blessing.  Do continue to pray for him and others like him that this change may not be merely on the surface but that it may indeed spring from a genuine salvation that brings newness of life.

The afternoons are generally reserved for special things such as little operations and visiting the sick who remain in their own houses, etc. The missionaries at the Ibambi out-station shave been sending in quite a few. Sometimes they seem to have exaggerated ideas of our ability. For instance one day one of them sent in three patients, the first had elephantiasis, the second was deaf and the third blind.  Yesterday another blind man was sent in, hopelessly beyond help.  Just as I write a woman came in from Adzangwe’s (1) where the Kiesslings are with Miss Roupell (2). The woman has a large tumor on the back which is badly ulcerated. She is very anxious to have it removed and her husband seems even more keen, for “isn't she unable to carry loads on her back as long as the tumor is there?”

A man from Imbai's (3) came in to have a small tumor removed from his head. A few days after he had returned to his village he came back here with four others with various ailments. One old man was carried in sitting on a pole that was suspended on another pole which two men carried on their shoulders. This fellow had nine large abscesses scattered all over his body. When Coralee put him under anesthetic to have all these opened, his wife thought the man had died, and she seemed quite pleased when he saw him resurrected. Another case which the natives thought had been brought back to life was a woman in the hospital who came so close to death that while her heart was still beating she was unconscious and was just taking an occasional gasp of air a few times a minute. There seemed to be some obstruction to breathing and when this was removed she very quickly recovered. 

The Whitermores (4) are getting ready to leave for Niangara, where they will be stationed with the Pontiers. The baby is doing very nicely and Mrs. Whitermore is quite well too.  The Kiesslings (5) are very happy at Adzangwe’s, where they are having good times with the natives. Miss Williams is on the Ibambi station again and is working among the women. She too seems quite well. Hipp is at Bomili with Mr. Tatt. We are still well too and enjoying the work.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Since being in Ybambi (6) we have visited the two Leper camps….(illegible) Mission Doctor says that a great many of those segregated there do not have leprosy at all but a disease known as Yaws which can be cured with an injection or two of Neosalvarsan.  The Doctor has used all that he has and has had wonderful success with it, the scabs dropping off and the ulcers clearing up in ten days or two weeks. The difficulty is that it is almost impossible to get it here and he could use so much. I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw some patients who had received the Neosalvarsan. They were perfectly well as far as one could see. Before they were very repulsive looking sights.

The Leper Camps consist of two villages built in the midst of the forest. When a man is suspected of having leprosy he is beaten and beaten by his fellow villagers until he goes to one of the camps. There is no medical care at the camps – they are merely designed as a means of isolation but our Mission Doctor goes to them as often as he can and has cured several of what was thought to be leprosy but was in fact Yaws.

When a man goes to one of these camps he takes his children and wives. The result is that they are placed in a very good position to contract Leprosy. It is pitiful to see little children running around without leprosy amongst those who have it. We visit these places once a week or more and give them the cure of the leprosy of their souls, which after all, is more dangerous than that of their bodies since the bodily leprosy only carries with it this life but the leprosy of their souls has an eternal consideration. Pray for these people.


  1. I cannot identify this mission station. There is a reference in Norman Grubb’s book about C.T. Studd, “C.T.Studd, Cricketer and Pioneer” but the location is only identified as being 200-300 miles away from Ibambi. 
  2. This missionary is mentioned in Norman Grubb’s book, ibid.
  3. I cannot identify this mission station at this time. 
  4. Fred and Mildred Whitermore were part of the Heart of Africa group that set out with the Kleinschmidts in December 1923.
  5. Mr. and Mrs. Kiessling were part of the same group.   
  6. Ibambi.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

March 14, 1924 - Stanleyville

March 14, 1924

Dear Folks,
Just a few lines before we leave here for the bush. We arrived here on the 11th, everyone well and all baggage in good condition. But before long a man came along with a letter saying that Mr. Jenkinson would be here in a few days to meet us so we just went to a hotel and sat tight. Next morning I sent a runner to Yakusa[1], about 8 miles downriver, to arrange a visit with Dr. Chesterman[2]. The same afternoon Mr. Jenkinson [3]arrived with 130 porters, and said that Mr. Tatt would be along in a few days with 70 more.

Later in the afternoon I was told a motor boat was about to leave for Yakusa and so I grabbed my hat and coat and went down just as I was. Had a most pleasant visit with Dr. Chesterman and the other missionaries, staying overnight. Saw quite a number of interesting cases in the hospital and how the dispensary was run. Saw some cases of sleeping sickness, some of yaws and some lepers. There are many lepers here and the government has given Dr. C. an island in the river for a leper camp. Made arrangements for getting some tuparsamide [4]from Dr. C. in case I needed it, but as far as we can find out now there is very little sleeping sickness in our field.

In the afternoon Dr. Chesterman took me back to Stanleyville in a native canoe. We had a fine ride in the moonlight and I nearly went to sleep in spite of the terribly loud singing of the paddlers, 18 of them.

While I was at Yakusa Mr. Jenkinson had sent most of the porters on ahead with nearly all the boxes. We had found three new bicycles in our outfit, which we had thought before were old ones belonging to some men on the field, but now we are not sure but what they are own. At any rate we uncrated them and assembled them for use on the trip. We will have to take turns using them as there are five men including the two who have come to meet us.

This afternoon Coralee and I, with Dr. Chesterman, had dinner with the government doctor of the local district here. I was glad to meet him as it will undoubtedly be useful to know him in the future.  He treated us very kindly as he has other H.A.M. people before. I was to have met the doctor who is the medical administrator of a very large area with headquarters here, but he was not in the city. We may, however, still meet him on the road.

Tomorrow morning we shall start for Ibambi, our party being divided into two because it is too difficult to get food enough on the road for 200 porters at once. Coralee and I, and Mr. and Mrs. Kiessling will leave tomorrow with Mr. Jenkinson and the rest will leave four or five days later with Mr. Tatt. Our route is as follows:  Stanleyville to Banalia, 7 days walk; Banalia to Panga, 8 or 9 days by canoes on the Aruwimi River; then 8 days more by canoe to another stream, and finally 3 more days walk to Ibambi. Each day’s trip however means only from 3 to 6 or 7 hours travelling, averaging probably 4 ½ hours. Mr. J. bought chairs called “mandalas” for the women. These are made chiefly of bamboo poles about 20 feet long. Four men at a time carry one chair and 4 more are kept in reserve to relieve them, so that 32 men are required to carry the 4 women. 

Our trekking outfit is fairly elaborate, and consists of folding cots, chairs, tables and a stand – which is so arranged that it will hold either a canvas wash bowl or a canvas bath tub – besides bedding and mosquito nets. I will wear khaki shorts and puttees with knees sticking out, woolen socks and woolen army shirt.  

I turned over all funds to Mr. Jenkinson and was mighty glad to get rid of it. Most of it had to be changed into small coins; the porters are paid along the road. We have in nickel coins 2000 francs, each about the size of a half dollar, and 6000 ten-centime pieces or “makutas[5]”, each about as big as a quarter. It will require an extra porter just to carry the money.  A special steel box had to bought to carry the money in. The rest of the money is in paper.

Drugs are extremely scarce up here. I told the government doctor that I was able to get only 5 quarts of alcohol at Kinshasa and he told me I was very fortunate, that he had absolutely none and had stopped operating on that account.

It is definitely decided that Coralee and I will be stationed at Ibambi. Mr. J. told us our house is practically completed, and should be ready for occupancy when we reach there. Ibambi is the most centrally located station on our field and is where Mr. Studd [6]is.  We don’t know as yet where the rest will be stationed, though all will go to Ibambi first. The language at Ibambi is Kingwana, very different from the Bangala, which is used in the Welle[7]. Mr. J. will give us daily lessons in Kingwana on the way. If I could speak fluently in Bangala, Kingwana, and French now, I would be fairly well fixed for this neck of the woods. 

Well, bye-bye – we will probably have mail from you before you get this, and oh boy! How we are looking forward to it!

Coralee and Ralph

[1] Yakusu. 
[2] Dr. Clement Clapton Chesterman (later Sir Clement) 1894-1983, author of the Tropical Dispensary Handbook, a classic and invaluable aid to identifying and treating tropical disease. The first edition was published in 1928. He was a member of the Baptist Missionary Society.  Tropical Dispensary Handbook abstract 
[3] H.A.M. missionary, early on the field. I have not been able to further identify him.  
[4] Probably tryparasamide, a drug used in the treatment of trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness).  This is described as a “new arsenic compound” in Time June 11, 1923. Medicine: Tryparasamide note in TIME magazine
[5] Makutas were still a unit of currency in Congo/Zaire when the Meyers family left in 1973. 
[6] C.T. Studd. 
[7] Uele

Monday, October 7, 2013

December 1923 - Excerpt from the Heart of Africa Mission leaflet

“Our Party leaving December 8th, D.V." (1)

Why we are going to Africa:

Ralph E. Kleinschmidt, M.D. 1923
Living under the influence of Christian parents and family, I learned to know Jesus Christ as my Savior in early childhood.  The conviction that I was to serve Him in Africa came during high school days and gradually developed during the succeeding years of participation in Sunday School and Epworth League (2) work. Later it became clear to me that I could render service most effectively as a medical missionary, for as such I would be able to bring the story of Salvation through Christ to many individually, who would otherwise remain untouched. Medical training was received at Washington University and supplemented by service in the St. Louis City Hospital and Barnard Skin and Cancer Hospital. At Brooks Bible Institute, St. Louis, Mo., most valuable though limited Bible training was received, and here I first learned about the Heart of Africa Mission. May I take this opportunity to praise Him Who with marvelous grace has made the way clear step by step. 
R.E. Kleinschmidt

I am very thankful that I may say I am a Christian, saved only by the
Coralee Sargeant Kleinschmidt, 1923
Blood of Jesus and kept daily by His Grace and Mercy. It is needless to say after I became saved I wished to work for the Lord. I took some Bible study (Brooks Bible Institute) and since I am a graduate nurse (St. Louis City Hospital Training School for Nurses) I hope to serve our Lord.  I feel I should go to a field, where other workers who have home ties cannot go, since my father, mother and only sister have passed beyond. I know a wonderful peace since the Savior has entered my life. I am a member of Washington and Compton Presbyterian Church, St. Louis, Mo. So with the help of our Lord and Savior, and the continued prayers and kindness of God’s people, we hope to humbly and reverently serve our Lord in caring for the sick while endeavoring to lead them to Jesus. 
Coralee Sargeant

(Miss Sargeant became the “better half” of Dr. Kleinschmidt on September 19th. Congratulations. – Ed)

  1. Deus vult – God willing.
  2. A youth ministry of the Methodist Church. It has been in existence since 1899. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

March 6, 1924 - Bumba, on the river Congo

Bumba, C.B. 
March 6, 1924

Dear Folks:

Perhaps a few words about our river trip is now in order. It began on February 17th and we are still going. We should have reached Stanleyville (1) two days ago, but owing to various delays we are still five or six days away.

First as to the boat. Ours is mainly a freight boat but has accommodations for ten passengers. The boat is long and narrow, very different from our Mississippi steamers. There are two paddle wheels, both in the rear, and there are also two rudders. The freight, of which there is about 700 tons, is carried in the hold and on the first deck. The cabins are on the second deck, and are so arranged that each pair communicates by a door in the middle and each cabin has a door and window on the outside, so that there is plenty of air and plenty of room. Each couple has two cabins, each containing a bed, a bench, a wash basin, and a mirror.

The food, or “chop” as it is called here, is fairly good and fairly plentiful. We have meat galore, often at three meals a day, and very often two kinds at one meal, sometimes three kinds. The meat is always fresh, for it consists usually of goat or pig or chicken – mostly goat – which is bought along the way and killed as needed.

The crew is made up entirely of natives, except for the captain and first engineer. The pilots are natives, under the direction of the engineer (my first Congo native patient), stokers, and wood carriers, cooks and table stewards. Many of the crew have their families along with them. Each man is paid 1.60 francs (about 5 cents) a day. On each side of the boat a large steel barge is (or was) attached, and on one of these the native women have their fire to cook the food. Whenever the boat stops, as for wood or for the night, the natives rush off to buy chop, trading tobacco in exchange for it. This food is usually massive, a large hard white tuber, which is mashed in a mortar and eaten in several ways. Often they get fish, which they put in the fire until it is charred black, then allow it to dry on top of the boilers or in the sun for several days until it is sufficiently decayed and smells like a burned down livery stable, when it is considered ready for eating. 

Sometimes they are fortunate enough to get some sugar cane. A man will sit on deck with six or eight stalks of cane in front of him, each six or eight feet long, picks up one and with an immense wood shopping knife chop off the “bark” for about six inches, then chop off a few inches of this (remaining) part and put it in his mouth, suck on it until the juice is out, spit the remainder out on the deck in front of him, take another piece, and repeat the process until he is either full enough to burst or is out of cane. Then he may starve a day or two until he is able to get more food.

As was hinted before, wood is used as fuel. All along, at various points there are “wood-posts” where wood is collected and sold to the boat. The boat usually stops once a day for wood and such a stop takes an hour or more, according to the amount of wood available, and it is scarce along the upper part of the river. There is plenty of wood growing but there is a scarcity of labor. Sometimes the boats run out of wood and then the crew has to go ashore and chop some. The boat burns in one hour as much wood as two men can cut in two days. So far we have not run out of wood, but have been very close to it. The boat lands every night soon after sundown, as it is too dangerous to travel at night because of the many sandbars which are continuously changing. Thus we have plenty of opportunity to go ashore for a walk and a tour of inquiry among the natives.

Most of our fun has been in going ashore and looking around in the native villages. At times we are able to buy bananas or pai-pairs (2). Once I bought a bunch of over a hundred bananas for about ten cents and that was more than was asked for them, but I didn't have small enough change.  It is also very interesting to try to speak to the natives, for those along the river speak much the same language as those on part of our field.  Then again it is interesting to see what can be seen of their diseases. Nearly everywhere can be seen signs of disease of one kind or another – some with ulcers, some blind, many with skin diseases. Saw a number of typical cases of yaws, and one of elephantiasis. One chap sitting on the river bank looked for all the world like smallpox, and in the village I saw a number of fresh vaccination reactions, showing that there had probably been a recent epidemic. Ulcers are often covered with a piece of leaf tied on with grass, which makes a very good substitute for cloth bandage. Most of the native women especially have all kinds of fantastic designs cut into their faces, chests, and backs (in childhood), large areas being covered with scars. Sometimes red or black material is rubbed into these cuts when fresh, making a true tattoo. Often these decorations, while heathenish enough, are really very pretty.  A curious looking result sometimes occurs, however, when these scars become more or less large tumor-like growths (keloids).  Another thing which is said to be common here is an excess of fingers or toes. I have seen only two cases so far, both on our boat – one with a rudimentary extra finger on one hand, and another with a well developed sixth finger on each hand. Practically all the children have enormously large tummies, supposed to be due to the large amounts of coarse foods eaten and their enlarged malarial spleens.

The clothing of the river natives is for the most part a curious, ugly mixture of cast off white men’s clothes or gaudy printed calico – the louder the better. One man may wear a khaki shirt – more holes than shirt – and a loin cloth. Another wears a long heavy woolen pair of drawers and a tattered vest. Another, an old black derby and little else. Some have sweaters with the loudest conceivable stripes. One chap wore a long rain coat. Many of the men, however, wear nothing but a small loin cloth. Many of the women have large single pieces of printed goods wrapped around beginning either under the arms or at the waist. Many wear simply short grass skirts, which are really pretty. The youngsters wear a grin and a piece of string or beads around the waist.  Haven’t been able to discover yet what the string is for. At one place we saw many with heavy iron or bras rings around arms, legs, and necks. Some women wore solid iron rings around their necks, at least an inch thick and welded on, never to come off. One very old woman had swell earrings – a large safety pin hung from each ear, with a little twig of wood stuck in each pin.

The river itself is a marvelous thing.  Below the place we started from we saw beautiful yet vicious looking rapids, and in its lower course the river passes between beautiful mountains covered with forests. Farther up the land is perfectly flat and covered with forests so dense that one can see only about ten feet into it from the river. The trees are all different from those we are used to at home; groups of palms of various kinds are scattered here and there and then there are huge trees with flat, buttress-like projections growing out at the trunks and a cotton-like material, holding seeds, hanging from the branches. The river is immensely wide in many places, often twelve or fifteen miles, and as much as thirty. We never see the entire width, however, as everywhere there are islands covered with jungle and tall grass. We have passed many hundreds of such islands so far. Often we can see four or five different channels of the river at the same time between the islands. The islands are never inhabited by people as far as we can tell. We have not seen so very much animal life as yet. Now and then we see an alligator and we have seen at least the heads of a few hippos. One or two monkeys have been spied in the trees. Birds are plentiful, however. Some are very tiny – between hummingbirds and canaries.  Some birds about the size of sparrows are most gorgeously colored, with bright orange and yellow backs and black wings.  These birds build nests in palm trees in such large numbers that the trees are eventually destroyed. Many trees are lost in this way. Fifty or sixty round nests can be seen hanging in one tree with the birds hovering beneath them, as their openings are on the bottom. Have also seen a few eagles and many large buzzard-like birds. On the sand bars are often seen large cranes or stork-like birds and some beautiful white aigrettes (spelling?).  The storks are black. Someone suggested that’s why the babies here are black. The captain shot on of the storks once. Then there are some large awkward looking birds with long legs and very long naked thin necks and long beaks. They are fishers and dive completely under water and swim with only their heads above the surface.

Of the smaller animals, I mean insects, there are plenty.  (“Small animal” – “Nuame (3) muke” is the native way of naming any animal, nearly, under a rat in size.) There are of course mosquitoes galore and of many varieties I have been very much surprised that there are so few of the kind that carry malaria visible. I have not actually been sure of seeing more than two out of all the thousands of mosquitoes.  I don’t know why this is, as there is plenty of malaria along the river. Butterflies of all sizes and degrees of beauty abound; saw some with a wing-spread of six or seven inches.

There are tsetse flies along most of the river, but we have seen surprisingly few, only a few dozen perhaps.  They got their first nibble at me today, but I don’t believe they got my blood.  The chances of sleeping sickness are very small – about one in one thousand bites. These flies are between two and three times the size of house flies and are easily recognized because the wings are folded one over the other, giving the fly a long narrow appearance. They bite chiefly around noon time or during the lightest part of the day, and so it is often necessary for us to wear our mosquito boots all afternoon and evening. A real bite is said to be very painful for a time and to cause some swelling.

I never realized before that there were so many different kinds of ants. Those on the boat are chiefly small ones, but I have seen some on land nearly an inch long and some are said to be much larger. The large ant hills are wonderful monuments to industry and patience. We have seen large numbers of them, many of them ten to fifteen feet high and then to twenty feet at the base. Other curious ant homes are built on the side of tree trunks, extending up for twenty to forty feet.

Yesterday some of us took a walk along some narrow paths through a forest.  The denseness of the forest is surprising; some places are nearly dark in spite of the midday tropical sun. Everything is tangled together with thick twisted creepers and long grass. Large creepers, some six inches in diameter, hang from the trees, at times extending 60 or 80 feet up. There were fungi and other parasites on the leaves and bark everywhere, and we saw hundreds of orchid plants hanging on the trees. None were in bloom, however. Butterflies abounded. After walking some distance we suddenly came to a clearing in the midst of the forest, and soon found it to be a native cemetery. One grave, apparently recent, had a crude wooden cross at the head; on another was a dishpan with some holes in it, and a broken pate and broken bottle, symbolic evidently of the dead.

I have probably mentioned before a Mr. Edwards of the D.C.C.M. (4) whom we met on the Thysville. He also traveled up the Congo with us as far as his station, Bolenge. This station is exactly on the equator, and is a very highly developed one.  We spent nearly a whole day here and were shown all over. They have a good saw mill, a brick works and a fine new hospital, besides many other things. They also teach the native boys wood working, and the furniture they turn out world do credit to most cabinet makers at home.  The hospital was just recently completed and was designed by the doctor on the station, Dr. Barger, an American. He showed us around the whole place and then had Coralee and I at his house for dinner. There was a smallpox epidemic on the station at the time and so we got to see quite a few good cases in all their glory.  Also got some valuable hints on treatment and methods.  This man is secretary of the “Society of Medical Missionaries of Tropical Africa” and edits a little paper called the “Medical Missionary Exchange” to which I subscribed. This paper keeps the men here in touch with each other and contains some very good articles on local medical problems. There is to be a convention of this Society in the Fall to be held at Kinshasa. I was urged to attend, but as the trip would mean six or seven weeks of travel each way it is, of course, out of the question for me. There are less than thirty medical missionaries in the entire Belgian Congo, and five or six of these are on furlough at a time, so the competition is not excessive. Government doctors are scattered about here and there, but they are paid small salaries and consequently are not of the highest grade it is said; many of them are said to be Portuguese.

A little farther up from Bolenge we stopped one evening and were met two young men missionaries who had come aboard to inquire if there were any missionaries on the boat. It developed that they were the only missionaries at the time on their station, which normally had between 12 and 15. Four had died during the last few months and the rest were home on furlough. These men seemed very lonesome, and they invited us up to their house for the evening. They had a small organ which had not been played for many months and so we had a regular song service. A group of native boys who had crowded around the door also sang some hymns for us in their own language.

At one place a little below Upoto the boat stopped for the night a little early and so we all went ashore to look around the village, which was about three fourths in ruins due to a recent fire. We asked the natives a few questions as usual, and before long there was quite a crowd around us, and we soon found that some of them were Christians. They we had a great time talking to each other about God and Christ and heaven, etc., one of us talking to one group, another to another group. They then told us they had learned of Christ at Upoto and soon one fellow got out a native song book and another a Bible, and you should have seen the service we had out there on the beach. We also sang some natives songs that we had with us, one native read from the third chapter of John, another prayed and so it went on until we had to go aboard for supper. The joy on those fellows’ faces was a great sight, you can be sure, and it was great to hear them sing. Only one had a book and the rest joined in with him. Their language was only partly like ours and so we couldn't understand a good deal they said, but they understood all we were able to say. They told us the name of the missionary who had taught them, and said there was no one to teach them in their present place. This little incident was a great inspiration to all of us and made us feel all the more like increasing efforts in language study, etc.

Another little thing happened just this afternoon that showed how hungry many of the natives are for the Word. The boat was stopping at Alberta, near Bumba, and a native boy, an employee of one of the big companies here, came aboard. He happened to see Miss Dakin (5) reading her Bible, and so he came over and asked in excellent English if we had any English Bibles that we could sell him! We had no spare English Bibles, but we gave him a number of single copies of the Gospels in English and French, and a lot of other literature. He chased ashore and divided these with two of his friends, and then they stood on shore with their noses in these things looking happier than if they had just had the first news from home for months, and looking up only to wave us good-bye as we left.  They said there were no religious services in the town except what they had among themselves. We asked for their names so that we might have some Bibles sent them. They work for a big firm with English speaking employees and they want to pass around the literature. I’m passing on the name of one of them in case anyone at home would like to take the opportunity of sending them a few cheap Bibles, and perhaps write to them. I know a real service could be done in this way, and that it would make for happiness on both ends. The name is J.S. King, c/o H.C.B. Alberta, Congo Belge via Matadi & Kinshasa.  The name no doubt is an adopted one; he didn't give his native name. “HCB” is “Huilleries Congo Belge” a great palm oil firm here.

Yesterday I had a little lesson in anatomy.  There was a goat hanging up in the kitchen cut open and with some of the internal organs still present.  This looked like a good chance, and so pointing to the liver I would ask for its name and so for the various parts, in this was learning new words that are not in our book. Just for fun I asked them what some organs were for, and of course they were more or less stumped. Natives always seem to enjoy this sort of thing. Sometimes they want to be taught English and it’s hardly fair to teach that and not French in this territory. I also learned that these fellows in the kitchen had been taught in missions and one of them knows Mr. Studd (6).

I must close now in order to mail this before we leave here (Bumba). We expect to reach Stanleyville in four or five days.  All of us are very well and in good spirits, but glad to be getting off the river soon for some new kind of traveling – on foot, and in canoes for another three weeks or so. In a day or so the two remaining passengers will land and we will have the whole boat to ourselves.

Coralee is busy washing clothes and so is unable to add anything at present. [Personal portion redacted.]

Our love to all.
Coralee and Ralph

P.S. I’m thru washing now thank goodness. This is a great life and we’re having lots of fun. I had a hard time getting Ralph started at this letter, but I thought I was going to have to beg him to stop or we wouldn't have any paper left. Anyway he’s as good as gold and we’re very happy. Much love to all.


  1. Now known as Kisangani.
  2. Probably papayas.
  3. nyama
  4. Disciples of Christ Congo Mission. This American Protestant mission group was in Congo from 1897 to 1932.  Missionaries for the DCCM were appointed and trained by the United Christian Missionary Society.
  5. Miss Augusta Dakin, (known as “Gus”) H.A.M. missionary, stationed at Ibambi then changed missions to Africa Inland Mission when the Kleinschmidts did.  Possibly Canadian. 
  6. Mr. Charles Thomas Studd. Founder of the Heart of Africa Mission, also a well-known British cricketer.