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David Livingstone, 1813-1873, Missionary, Explorer

Written by: Unknown    Posted on: 03/13/2003

Category: Biographies

Source: CCN

David Livingstone 1813-1873 Missionary and explorer. David Livingstone was born near Glasgow, Scotland. He studied medicine and theology at the University of Glasgow. He tried to go to China as a mission- ary in 1838, but when the Opium War in China closed the doors, he went to Africa.         He pushed 200 miles north of his assigned station and founded another mission station, Mebosta. Livingstone contin- ued on the mission field and advanced 1400 miles into the in- terior in spite of the hardships he encountered. He was at- tacked and maimed by a lion; his home was destroyed during the Boer War; and his wife died on the field.         Eleven years later, Livingstone was found by his bed, kneeling, and dead. Natives buried his heart in Africa, as he had requested, but his body was returned to Westminster Abbey in London.

David Livingstone BORN: March 19, 1813 Blantyre, Scotland DIED: May 1, 1873 Chitambo, Northern Rhodesia LIFE SPAN: 60 years, 1 month, 12 days

SELDOM ARE GOD'S GREAT GIANTS HONORED by the world--but Liv- ingstone joins the class of men who rank as the greatest explorers the world has ever produced. Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindbergh, Edmund Hillary, and Neil Armstrong all have thrilled the world with their ex- ploits. Add the name of Livingstone who opened up Africa to civilization and Christianity. No wonder the natives gave him the longest funeral procession in history, after burying his heart under a tree near the place where he died.         Livingstone traveled 29,000 miles in Africa, added to the known portion of the globe about one million square miles, discovered many famous lakes, the Zambesi and other rivers, was the first white man to see Victoria Falls, and probably the first individual to traverse the entire length of Lake Tanganyika. Had his health not failed he would surely have succeeded in also discovering the source of the Nile. He never lost sight of one of his great objects--bringing Christ to Africa--although healing and exploring were often the ve- hicles he used.         Born the second son of poor and pious parents, Neil and Agnes (Hunter) Livingstone, he had three brothers and one sister. The seven were crowded into a two-room house. The fa- ther, while delivering tea to his customers, would also dis- tribute religious books. At age ten young David was put into the cotton-weaving mills factory as a piecer to aid in the earnings of the family. He purchased Rudiments of Latin, which he used to help himself study that language at evening school. His hours at the factory were long, from 6 a.m. till 6 or 8 p.m. He attended evening school from 8 to 10 p.m., then studied until midnight or later. Often he placed a book on a portion of the spinning jenny so he could catch a few sentences in passing.         By age 17 he was advanced to cotton-spinner and the pay was such that he could put himself through medical school in Glasgow, entering in 1830. By the time he was 22 he had studied Greek, theology and medicine in college courses at Anderson's College and Glasgow University. During this time he was soundly converted at age 20 (1833) while reading the book Dick's Philosophy of the Future State.         He continued his studies in London, where he received a medical degree with honors in 1840. During these years of study several things happened. First he applied to the London Missionary Society in 1838 and was provisionally accepted. Then, in 1839, God sent Robert Moffat into his life. Home on furlough, Moffat gave stirring messages that aroused Chris- tian people to the missionary possibilities in Africa. One statement burned in Livingstone's soul and haunted him as he tossed on his bed. Moffat had said:

I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages, where no missionary has ever been.

        Livingstone decided it was God's will for him to go to Africa. Finally he received his appointment--Kuruman in southern Africa--which Moffat had built and managed.         In 1841 he landed at Algoa Bay. Here two qualities of his life manifested themselves immediately--characteristics which were to demonstrate future greatness. One, the ability to cope with the difficulties of travel, whether by ox-wagon, horse or on foot. And, second, a quick understanding and sym- pathy for the native Africans.         Kuruman was 700 miles due north of Cape Town, so af- ter a ten-week journey from Cape Town he arrived at Kuruman July 31, 1841.         A few months after his arrival he made a journey with another, covering over 700 miles, winning the confidence of the natives wherever he went by his medical activity. A sec- ond trip, alone, was made into the interior February to June, 1842. Returning, he stayed until February, 1843, teaching, preaching, caring for the sick, and building a chapel at an outstation. Then it was off to the interior again in search of a suitable location for another mission site.        On this trip he discovered the beautiful valley of Mabotsa in the land of the Bakatia tribe. Upon his return in June 1843 when he finally found a letter authorizing his formation of a settlement in the regions beyond, he went back to Mabotsa in August to open a mission station there. Crowds of sick, suf- fering folk begged the great white doctor to heal them. At night around the fire he would listen to their stories, then he would tell them about Jesus. The only problem with the area was that it was infested with lions. Livingstone decided to rid the valley of them, for he heard that if one in a troop is killed, the rest leave the area. He took with him Mebalwe, a native teacher--and here happened one of the most famous incidents of his entire life. Livingstone shot a lion. Then, as he began to reload his gun, the wounded lion sprang up on him and shook him as a cat does a rat. His left arm was crushed to the bone. Mebalwe grabbed his gun and, seeing the motion of the upraised gun, the lion left Livingstone and sprang upon Mebalwe, biting him through the thigh. Another man coming on with a spear was bitten as well before the lion toppled over dead as a result of the bullet wound. Living- stone's arm was stiff and useless from then on and, when he raised it, intense pain shot through his body. The left arm had loss of power the rest of his life.         He returned to Kuruman to have his arm treated and to recuperate. Mary Moffat, Robert's daughter, was now looking prettier every day. The two began to be drawn to one another, and so they made some plans. As soon as his arm healed, he would hasten back to Mabotsa to build a comfortable little stone house. Returning, he was married in March, 1844, with Robert Moffat performing the ceremony. Then came the 200-mile ox-wagon honeymoon. They remained at Mabotsa until 1845. A fellow missionary named Edwards, who had joined them, made life miserable for them, so they moved 40 miles away to Chonuane to work among the Bakwains. Misfortune struck them the second time. The lack of rain brought the threat of fam- ine and a scarcity of water. One evening he announced he was leaving and the next morning everyone was packed and ready to follow David Livingstone.         They found a suitable locality at Kologeng and set- tled down for five years to what would be his last home on earth. By the time they left there he had four children, three of whom were boys. However, things became very parched for lack of rain. Rumors came about a huge waterfall. Living- stone was challenged to find it, believing the banks of a large lake would make an ideal location for a mission state.         Not only did mysterious Lake Ngami challenge him, but there was a powerful chief of the Makololo tribe named Sebutuane, still farther north, under whom he hoped to estab- lish a mission station beyond the range of both the Boers and the militant tribe of the Matabele. On August 1, 1849, the Livingstone party came to the northeast end of Lake Ngami and were the first white people to see the lake. The presence of tsetse flies and the obstruction of a local chief prevented them from going the additional 200 miles north to meet Sebituane and so they retraced their steps with reluctance. They found the mission station destroyed by the Boers. In the spring of 1850 they were to start out again. As before Liv- ingstone took his wife and children with him, fearful that they might be molested by the Boers. But, rather than the Boers, the disease malaria struck the party at Lake Ngami, and they had to turn back. Back at Kologeng a baby girl was born to the Livingstones, but she soon took fever and died. They then retreated to Kuruman, where he remained with his family for rest until the spring of 1851. In April of that year they set out again, determined not to return to Kologeng but to a hill region where health conditions surely must be better. He, his family, and a fellow explorer named Oswell found Chief Sebituane on the Chobe River, which they had dis- covered by taking a new route.         Now came one of life's crucial decisions--the family. Where health was safe, hostile tribes lived. Where friendly people lived, health conditions were bad. He decided to send his wife and children back to England until he could find a suitable location for them. So back to Cape Town they all went, and for the first time in eleven years Livingstone saw civilization. He was 39 and it was a sorrowful parting. He fully intended to join them in two years. The family left for England on April 23, 1852.         Frustrated in not being able to find a healthful site for a mission station, he gave attention to a second objec- tive--to find a way going to the sea. Going to Linyant on the River Tshobe, which was the capital of the Makololo terri- tory, he set out upon the trail of many waters, declaring, "I will open a path into the interior or perish." It was in No- vember, 1853, that he started his famous journey through un- known country to the west coast of Africa with 27 Makololo men loaned to him by a friend, Chief Sekeletu. It was a hor- rible journey, with sickness, hunger, swamps, hostile tribes--six months of hardships--but on May 31, 1854, some 1,500 miles of jungle had been conquered as they arrived at Luanda. Broken in health, Livingstone was invited by ship captains to take passage back to England. However, he had brought men to a place where they could not return by them- selves. He was not going to leave them! He would guide them back to their homes. Africa had never known such loyalty.         He then took his party on an even longer and more perilous journey back to Sesheke. Contending with wet weather, they could find no dry place to sleep en route. He was nearly blinded as a result of being hit in the eye by a branch in the thick forest, and nearly deaf because of rheumatic fever. Then there were the perils of crocodiles, hippopotami, javelins of hostile savages. His return was con- sidered a miracle. Two months of rest followed. The boat he considered going back to England in sank--and with it all his maps, journals and letters.         He now determined to find a route to the east coast of the continent. Sekeletu gladly furnished him with the means of following down the Zambezi River, giving him some 120 tribesmen. He started east in November of 1855. Only 50 miles en route, he discovered a magnificent waterfall that he named Victoria Falls. His food consisted of bird seed, manioc roots and meal. His bed was a pile of grass.         He arrived at Quilimane on the coast in May, 1856, and was given hospitality by the Portuguese before finding a ship to take him back to England. He left his Makololo tribesmen in good hands at Tete. Before he left, he received a letter from the London Missionary Society, stating they did not like his efforts of diverting from settled missions to exploration. It was a shock to him, since he felt himself just as sincere a missionary as ever. But he accepted a sev- erance of relations after 16 years of service. However, the London Royal Geographical Society was not quite so naive, as they awarded him their gold medal, their highest honor, when he returned home. Why? Because Livingstone had done something no one else had ever done--he had crossed the entire African Continent from west to east. Arriving home for the first time in 16 years, he found himself famous. His father's death while Livingstone was en route home cast a pall on the cele- brations. He was forced into a limelight which he disliked. He was asked to give lectures, which was a burden, for he had never been a good public speaker. Neither did he care to write, but he did put together his Missionary Travels at the urging of many.         The universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Glasgow all gave him honorary degrees.         Now came the second segment of his life of explora- tion, from 1858 to 1865, which took him into the Zambezi River area under the auspices of the British government. He was appointed the Consul for the East Coast of Africa, and he was given a command that included his having anything he wan- ted or needed.         He was now on governmental salary, had better equip- ment and ample funds. His wife and youngest son returned with him, his own health was much improved, and it looked like a bright future, as he accepted the challenge of exploring the eastern and central portions of the continent. But many disappointments were ahead.         In March 1858 at age 46 he set out for Africa. Soon after arriving at Cape Town the trials began. His wife's health was poor, preventing her from going further with him. She took the child and went to her parents, the Moffats, at Kuruman. Then a second serious problem arose. Livingstone could command and organize Africans, but managing white col- leagues and a large expedition was a total disaster. His greatest mistake was in taking his younger brother, whose temperament was totally unsuited to expedition work. Six years of disharmony and frustration were to follow, with a man named John Kirk being the only capable associate of this group.         Third problem: He found out that there were myriad obstacles to the navigation of the Zambezi. Fourth reversal: His modern equipped boat, the Ma Roberts, was more of a hin- drance than a help. She was so slow that a native canoe could easily outdistance her. She burned so much fuel that half of the time was given just to cut wood for her. On September 8, 1858, he did reach Tete and his beloved Makololo tribesmen. Much exploration followed, including the finding of Lake Nyasa on September 18, 1859, plus the discovery of the Shire River and the Kongone entrance to the Zambezi, which was Lake Shirwa. On November 4, 1859, he received a letter informing him that he had a little daughter born at Kuruman on November 16, 1858--a year before. Much of 1860 was spent with his old friends, the Makololo. At the beginning of 1861 a new boat, the Pioneer, came to replace its antiquated predecessor. On the boat were missionaries under the direction of Bishop Charles Mackenzie, to minister to those who lived on Lake Nyasa. He explored the Rovuma River and helped establish the mission station on the Shire River in Nyasaland. This had been one of his dreams--an interior mission station--but the dream was soon shattered. Bishop Mackenzie died on January 31, 1862. Several of his helpers also died.         That month, Livingstone's wife rejoined him after a separation of four years. In the intervening time she had taken the youngest son and baby girl back to Scotland, and then returned to rejoin her husband. But her failing health prevented the reunion to last for long. She died on April 27, 1862--just three months after she was reunited with her hus- band. She was buried under a great baobab tree at Shupange on the lower Zambezi. Livingstone was 49 years old and consid- ered this a terrible loss. Out of 18 years of marriage, the two were together less than half the time.         He put together a boat called the Lady Nyasa, and sought to launch her in June, 1862, on the lake for further exploration purposes. But weather conditions prevented the launch.         Slave trading continued to plague him. Human skele- tons showed up everywhere. Finally, the Portuguese king prom- ised to cooperate with Livingstone, but the officers in Af- rica ignored such royal suggestions. Livingstone's work actu- ally helped rather than hindered them, for wherever he ex- plored in Portugese East Africa, the officers would come in and tell the natives they were Livingstone's children. Thus, through lying and trickery, they would obtain even more slaves--in Livingstone's own name.         Then came a dispatch from the British government re- calling the expedition, saying it was more costly than the government had anticipated. But the truth was that the Portuguese government had written to the British Foreign Of- fice that Livingstone's work was offensive to them, and the Portuguese asked for his removal.         This latest blow in 1863 failed to stagger him. He decided to sell the boat, but not to the Portuguese because it would be used in slave trade. Rather, he decided to go to Bombay, India, and sell it there. With a small crew, only 14 tons of coal, scant provisions including little water, and having never navigated a boat on the ocean, he left Africa April 30, 1864, and arrived in Bombay on June 16. He was re- ceived warmly but could not sell the boat, so he sailed to London, arriving July 10. This was his second and last trip home. He spent his time with his children, associating with William Gladstone and other notables, giving speeches against the slave trade and writing another book, The Zambezi and Its Tributaries. While home, his mother died. Another tragedy in his life--Livingstone's son Robert, who at this time was fighting in the American Civil War to free the slaves, was killed and buried at Gettysburg.         Now the third phase of his explorations began to shape up. The Royal Geographical Society planned and spon- sored his last expedition, which was from 1866 to 1873. His influential friend, Sir Roderick Murchison, had encouraged him to go back to find out more about the slave trading and also to discover the sources of the Zambezi, Congo, and Nile Rivers. He returned to Africa by way of Paris, France, where he put his daughter Agnes in school, and then Bombay, where he finally sold the boat at a loss of $18,500. The money he got was invested in an Indian bank, which shortly went broke--and all his funds were lost. He sailed from Bombay on January 3, 1866, and arrived in Zanzibar on January 26. This time he was once more going to be the only white man, having some 60 carriers consisting of Indians, plus Chuma and Susi from Africa and animal transport. They landed at the mouth of the Rovuma River in April, 1866, intending to pass around Lake Nyasa far from the influence of the Portuguese. However, in five months, he lost by desertion or treachery all but eleven of his men and all the animals. For four years he was befriended and cared for by people he despised--slave traders. During this time he discovered the southern end of Lake Tanganyika (1867) and Lakes Moero and Bangweolo (1868). In 1869 he reached Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika, the headquar- ters of the trade in ivory and slaves. By this time Living- stone was desperately ill, only to find his supplies and mail sent from the coast plundered and gone. He spent the next two years striving to explore the upper Congo. He struggled back to Ujiji a broken and disappointed man beginning on July 20, 1871. On this trip a spear was thrown at him, missing his head but grazing the back of his neck. Also, a huge tree crashed across their path, missing Livingstone by a yard. Ar- riving on October 22 with three attendants, he thought surely mail and medicine would be waiting for him--but it was not. The medicine had been sold and the letters destroyed or sold by Arab traders.         On October 26, 1871, four days after his arrival, when his spirits were at their lowest ebb, with awful sores on his feet, dysentery, loss of blood, fever, and being half- starved--he heard Susi, one of his faithful followers, come running at top speed, gasping, "An Englishman--"         J.G. Bennet of the New York Herald had called for a famous English reporter, Henry Stanley, to search for and find Livingstone at all cost, or verify his death, which by this time had been rumored. Shortly, when Stanley saw Living- stone approaching, he pushed through the crowd of natives to see him with the now-famous and legendary, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" A supply of food and mail was like a tonic to the tired explorer. Stanley lived with the missionary during the winter and did everything to nurse him and encourage him to return to England. Failing to convince him to return to Eng- land, in March, 1872, the two men--now good friends--parted. Livingstone accompanied Stanley to Unyamuembe. He was to wait until men and supplies, which Stanley going to Zanzibar prom- ised to send him, would arrive. Waiting was difficult, but finally the promised men and supplies did arrive.         Stanley summed up his relationship with Dr. David Livingstone with these words: "I was converted by him, al- though he had not tried to do it."         In August the new party started toward Lakes Tanganyika and Bangweolo. Jacob Wainright became a valuable and trusted aid, along with old-time stalwarts, Susi and Chumah. Trials were reduced to such things as ants and floods. When Livingstone grew too weak to travel, Susi car- ried him on his shoulders. He found himself entangled in the swampy region of Lake Bangweolo in the middle of the rainy season. Because of an accident to his sextant, for a while he was lost. His dysentery attacks were almost continuous, but he kept going across the great swamps, reaching the southern side of Lake Tanganyika, mapping to within a day of his death. Soon he could not walk at all. He was carried on a litter and reached Chitambo, a village in Itala where a hut was built for him. His last written words by letter were:

All I can say in my solitude is, may Heaven's rich blessing come down on every one--American, English, Turk--who will help heal this open sore of the world.

        At 4 a.m. on May 1, 1873, his friends heard an un- usual noise, lit a candle and found him dead on his knees in the hut. They removed his heart and buried it reverently at the foot of a mulva tree, with Wainright reading the service. A wood monument was erected. They embalmed his body by fill- ing it with salt, leaving it in the sun to dry for 14 days, then wrapping it in cloth, before enclosing the body in the bark of a Myonga tree, over which they sewed heavy sail cloth. This package was tied to a long pole so that two men could carry it. Along with his papers they started toward Zanzibar on a 1,000-mile trip that was to take nine months. They arrived in February of 1874 and gave the body to the of- ficers of the British Consul.         When the body arrived in England on April 15, there was some doubt about the identity of the remains. However, upon examination of the mangled left arm, the doubt disap- peared. On April 18, 1874, London came to stop as he was bur- ied in Westminster Abbey with the kings and the great. At his funeral were his children, Susi, Henry Stanley--and the aged Robert Moffat, who started it all.

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