|Administrative History||Samuel 'Adjai' Crowther first African Anglican bishop, missionary and linguist was born in 1812 in Osogun, south west Nigeria to a Yoruba family. In 1821, he was captured into slavery when his village was attacked by Eyo warriors. After months of being bartered between different African slave masters, he was rescued from a Portuguese slave ship by a British naval vessel and taken to Sierra Leone. He went on to study at two CMS institutions, firstly Fourah Bay College and subsequently at the Church Missionary College, Islington, London. |
Crowther developed a life-long commitment to sharing the Gospel in Africa and the study of African languages and progressed rapidly from student to teacher to mission leader working in Nigeria and Sierra Leone after first going out to Sierra Leone as a CMS school teacher and catechist in 1843. He was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1843. In July 1857 he established the first Niger mission staffed entirely by African personnel, a double first for the CMS. In 1864 he was awarded a Doctor in Divinity by Oxford University and consecrated in Canterbury Cathedral as Bishop for countries in West Africa beyond the British Dominions. With a gift for languages and diplomacy he acted as interpreter on British Government expeditions to the Niger in 1841, 1854 and 1857. His travels inspired further linguistic study and the publication of primers in Igbo and Nupe and a Nupe grammar and vocabulary. His Yoruba grammar and vocabulary, and translation of the Bible into Yoruba, helped to establish a standard written form of Yoruba still in use today. Crowther lived most of his life in West Africa, but his achievements also earned him recognition in Britain including audiences with Queen Victoria and the Prime Minister and, in 1880, a gold watch from the Royal Geographical Society in recognition of his travels and research into the Niger.
Crowther married Susan Asanor Thompson (1815-1900). They had six children: Susan (1833-1897), Julia (1835-1888), Abigail (b 1844), Dandeson (family records: b 1839; CMS records: b 1844), Josiah (b 1841) and Hettie (1843-1906). The three eldest daughters married clergymen: Susan married Rev George Crawley-Nicol (1830-1907); Julia married Rev Charles Thompson (1835-1891) and Abigail married Rev T. B. Macaulay. Hettie married William Lawson (1844-1902). Bishop and Susan Crowther's eldest son, Dandeson Coates Crowther, also attended the Church Missionary College, Islington and served as a CMS missionary in the Niger Mission after being ordained priest by his father in 1871.
Crowther died at Lagos 31 December 1891.
Sources: the records; J Page, Bishop Crowther: his life and work. London: Church Missionary House, 1892; J Flint, Crowther, Samuel Ajayi (c. 1807-1891), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, OUP, 2004; CMS Register of missionaries (clerical, lay and female) and native clergy, 1804-1904; CMS '150 years of the Gospel in Nigeria'. CMS news and views. Online. Available: http://www.CMS-uk.org. 26 July 2009.