The Kitchen
Palaver hut
Hut ('bedchamber')
Houses at Cape Mesurado ± 1750
(click to supersize pictures)
A Dutch account of Liberia
in the Seventeenth Century:
Chevalier des Marchais

Living conditions

“Their houses are very neat. Their kitchens are somewhat elevated above the ground, and of a square or oblong figure; three sides are walled up, and the fourth side is left open, being that from which the wind does not commonly blow. They place their posts in a row, and cement them together with a kind of fat, red clay, which, without any mixture of lime, makes a strong and durable mortar. Their bedchamers are raised three feet above the ground. This would seem to indicate that the country is marshy or sometimes inundated. But this is by no means the case. The soil is dry, and they take care to build their houses beyond the reach of the greatest floods. But experience has taught them that this elevation contributes to health, by securing them from the damps caused by the copious dews.”

“The women work in the fields, and kindly assist one another. They bring up their children with great care, and have no other object but to please their husbands.”

“The extent of King Peter’s dominions towards the north and north-east is not well known; but from the number of his soldiers, there is reason to believe it considerable. The eastern boundary is the River Junco, about twenty leagues from Cape Mesurado, and the western is a little river, about half way from Cape Mount.”

“The whole country is extremely fertile. The natives have gold among them, but whether found in this country or brought thither in the course of trade is not precisely known. The country produces fine redwood, and a quantity of other beautiful and valuable woods. Sugar-canes, indigo, and cotton grow without cultivation. The tobacco would be excellent if the Negroes were skilful in curing it. Elephants, and consequently ivory, are more numerous than the natives wish; for those cumbrous animals very much injure their cornfields, nothwithstanding the hedges and ditches with which they so care fence them. The frequent attacks of lions and tigers1 hinder not their cattle from multiplying rapidly; and their trees are laden with fruit, in spite of the mischief done to them by the monkey tribes. In a word, it is a rich and plentiful country, and well situated for commerce, which might be carried on here to any extent by a nation beloved like the French; for no nation must think of establishing themselves here by force.2

Bushrod Island


Other explorers

A Dutch account of Liberia in the seventeenth century





















[1] Leopards of course are meant.

[2] The foregoing abstract is mainly taken from C. B. Wadstrom’s translation in 1792. Père Labal published Des Marchais’ and other French explorers’ works on West Africa about 1744.




© fpm van der kraaij