May 3–two days, 94 years apart, both set amidst national upheaval in Sierra Leone. A day of tragedy for missionaries, and a day of rescue.
On May 3, 1898, five missionaries with the “liberal” United Brethren church were massacred in Sierra Leone. Two more were soon murdered elsewhere. Just like that, seven of the eight missionaries supported by the Women’s Missionary Association were dead. Killed in the Hut Tax War, which was sparked by grievances against the British government.
Although our denominations had split nine years earlier, the ties ran deep, and our goal was the same–to evangelize the people of Sierra Leone.
None of our own missionaries perished. Mary Mullen, who had arrived six months before, served by herself at Momaligi. She found herself at the hands of five young men brandishing blood-stained clubs and swords, which they had used to massacre people in another village. As she sat in her house awaiting her fate, a boat carrying five well-armed policemen pulled up to the wharf. She ran to the boat, and they quickly pushed off. Before long, Mullen was on a ship to England.
UB missionaries Daniel and Elizabeth Wilberforce, along with their four children, fled into the bush as a war party approached Gbangbaia. They hid for several days as warriors passed closely by. The mission buildings at both Momaligi and Gbangbaia were destroyed.
The five Americans at Rotufunk fled into the bush, but were caught. As the rebels surrounded them, Rev. Isaac Cain, standing next to his wife, reportedly held a revolver in his hand. He threw it aside and stated, “I will not have any man’s blood on my hands.”