click to supersize
This last is called 'the king’s island'
A Dutch account of Liberia
in the Seventeenth Century:
Chevalier des Marchais

Description of the area

“Cape Mesurado is a detached mountain, steep and high towards the sea, but less so on the land side. The summit forms a level plain, the soil of which is better than what is generally found in such situations. On the east is an extensive bay, bordered by a good and uniform soil, which is bounded by hills of a moderate elevation, covered with trees. On the west is another great bay, which received the River Mesurado.1

“The cape points to the south-east. Its latitude is 6o32’ N. and its longitude 5o37’ from the meridian of Tenerife. On the east a long spit of land separates the sea from a basin (flaque d’eau) formed by the River Mesurado and a smaller one which joins it. They navigate this last in their canoes, six or seven leagues at low water, and double the distance at high water. The water is always salt, or at least brackish; and it is full of filth. The course of the River Mesurado is north-west for seventeen or eighteen leagues, afterwards north-east; but its length is unknown.” One of the people assured the Chevalier des Marchais that he had gone up this river in his canoe for three moons, when he came to a great river, whence it proceeded, which ran from east to west, on which there were rich and powerful nations, who drove a great trade in gold, ivory, and slaves (?the Makona River). “The Mesurado rungs through fine countries, but is so rapid that those who have laboured three months in ascending it may return in eighteen days. The Negroes call the rich country where their river originates Alam, that is, the country of gold.”

“In the lagoon just mentioned are two islands, a small one at the mouth of the little river2, and a large at that of the great river. This last is called 'the king’s island', though he never resides there. But some of his slaves raise cattle and poultry on it for his use. [The king gave this island to the Chevalier, and very much pressed him to settle on it.] It is never overflowed, even by the great annual inundations, which, as in the Niger, take place in July, August, and September. This island is two leagues long and three-quarters of a league broad. Its soil is excellent, as appears from the size and height of the trees, which also evince its depth. The winds, which blow without intermission, render it very temperate. The only inconvenience it labours under is the want of fresh water, which must be brought from springs on the continent. But these are at no great distance, and are very abundant.”

“The tide flows twenty leagues [a great exaggeration] up the Mesurado, at the equinoxes, and eight or nine during the rest of the year. In July, August, and September the water is brackish only three leagues up, owing to the rapidity of the stream in these months; four or five leagues up the water is perfectly sweet.”

The People


Other explorers

A Dutch account of Liberia in the seventeenth century






[1] Des Marchis means by this the St. Paul’s.













[2] This “little” river is now called the Mesurado River or lagoon. It is a tidal creek. The ‘large Island” would be Bushrod Island, and the “small,” Providence Island.” – H.H.J.





© fpm van der kraaij