WE YONE CULTURE KONNER

187

By James Tamba-Martha

The History of the Rogers Family in Sierra Leone

After the abolition of the Slave Trade in West Africa, three cousins, who were also traders, sailed from Liverpool, Britain to Sierra Leone to do trade. The head of the expedition was Mr. James Rogers who was the eldest of the cousins. The others were Messrs. Caulker, Cleveland and Tucker. The first point they arrived was Shenge and there, Mr. Caulker decided to settle to effect his business.

The other three continued their journey along the Coast and arrived in York Island in Bonthe.  Mr. Cleveland settled there as his own trading point. The two continued on until they came to Bohoi, now called Gbapp. Mr. Tucker decided to settle there and Mr. Rogers continued on along the sea coast until he saw the mouth of a river and decided to follow it until he got to a town called Sulima, along the Moa River. He too was looking for a place to settle to do business. Business at that time was done on a “batter” system. After Sulima he saw a small settlement called Jurin. He settled there for some time but then decided to go further down until he reached another town called Lattu, also close to the Moa River. All the while, he continued to conduct business on his boat and sleeping there as well since the boat had all the amenities.

The King heard of this “White Business Man” called James Rogers and his boat and sent his subjects to find him, the boat and ask him what his Mission was. Upon their arrival, James was very hospitable and polite to them explaining to them that the purpose of his trip was to trade. When they left, James gave them presents for the King. This gesture impressed the King.

The presents were in the form of Rum, Mats, Bowls, Dishes, etc. These gifts impressed the King and his subjects so much that the King gave clearance for James Rogers to conduct his business along the

On one of the occasions the Subjects visited James to buy from his wares, he saw a beautiful young girl among them. So James spoke to the girl’s relatives and asked for permission to marry her. The girl’s name was Taifua. So the relatives conferred with the King who accepted the proposal of marriage of one of his subjects on the condition that she, Taifua, follow the customary tradition of being initiated into the “Bondo society” before marriage.

James accepted this and all the conditions presented to him and the girl was initiated to fulfill the traditional customs. The marriage arrangements were all finalized on the boat and Taifua entered into a conjugal relationship with her husband in the boat which became their home.  Taifua lost her virginity on that boat and soon thereafter became pregnant.

All this while James Rogers was still looking for a place to settle himself and his new wife along the Moa River. As luck would have it he was traveling along the Moa when he saw a tributary called the Kafue River so he followed it until he arrived at an island. He decided that this was an ideal place to settle, so he asked the people who were with him to help him clear

All this while James Rogers was still looking for a place to settle himself and his new wife along the Moa River. As luck would have it he was traveling along the Moa when he saw a tributary called the Kafue River so he followed it until he arrived at an island. He decided that this was an ideal place to settle, so he asked the people who were with him to help him clear the brush and forestation so they could build their huts and settle there.

The people told James that although the area he had decided to settle was fine, but that the area had a bad “underworld spirit” otherwise called a “Jinn” that would have to be driven out of the area and prayer rituals offered before they could settle there. So they decided to call an “Alpha” man from Sawura, Pa Mustapha Swaray, to perform the ceremony. But then the people realized that they had no place for the “white man” to sit down so the people cut a limb with three-jointed branches  called the  “kpakaa” which was a sort of chair for a stranger, back then for James to use.

This chair became popularly known as “Kpakaa settlers” chair in jest to the tripod stool James used for a chair. Thence on, the name became a family name in that region and that is the origin of the last name – Kpaka. Pa Mustapha Swaray performed his ritual to cleanse the site and went on to perform a sacrifice in addition as well. For the sacrifice, a lot of things were assembled. Pa Mustapha recited portions of the Quran as people responsively said “Amina” (Amen). This “Amina” response fascinated James so much that he fell in love with the word without even knowing what it meant so upon completion of the rituals, James was asked to name the new town to which he responded, Amina which later became Minna.  Up to this point all his transactions had been conducted on the boat until his settling in Minna. Therefore, Minna is considered the original seat of the Rogers clan.

After a few months, James and his (three) cousins returned to Liverpool, leaving his pregnant wife in Minna with her family. On their return, Madam Taifua had delivered a baby boy. James was so happy that he decided on a traditional naming ceremony and called the child Charles Rogers. Charles was the first son born to James Rogers in Sierra Leone. James continued his business until Charles became old enough then he sent Charles to be educated in Liverpool. After completing his education, Charles returned to Minna and took over his Dad’s business.

Charles was married to four women from different areas in the Kpaka chiefdom – Sabba, Parvu, Nyango and Njasende. The first child born to Charles was called Peter Rogers. After Peter grew up to be a matured young man, Charles returned to Liverpool and left Peter to take over the business. Peter decided to marry from the Susu tribe but the Susu custom was that if a man wants to marry their daughter, he had to become a Muslim. So Peter immediately converted to Islam, started learning the Quran and changed his name to AlmamySenesie Rogers.

Queen Yatta conceived and gave birth to a son called Momoh Gotto Rogers. Momoh was also educated in English and Arabic in Sierra Leone. Almamy also had other children including Saffa Mawah Rogers, Momoh Pegblo Rogers (who was the father of the late P.C. Tejan Rogers), LuseniWah – meaning Senior (who settled at Nhanyahun), Luseniwo, meaning small Luceni (who settled at Mayepema) and many AlmamySenesie was very influential both in Gallinas Perri and with King Sharka, and the Krim Chief. The Chief asked AlmamySenesie to start paying tax for the land he had bought but, AlmamySenesie refused. A petition even went to the Queen of England through the Governor. The Governor sent the Provincial Commissioner but while this was going on King Shaka passed away. Momoh Foh was the Paramount Chief and Momoh Gotto was Speaker to his uncle Momoh Foh in Gallinas Perri. The Provincial Commissioner and his entourage met at Gendema – the late King Shaka’s village to look into the matter of taxes. They asked the Kpaka people to give one representative from their side to serve as their spokesman and Pa Mustapha Kpaka of Njalla to represent the Commissioner’s side and Momoh Gotto as one of the Assessor Chief. After three (3) days of deliberation, the explanation by Pa Mustapha did not satisfy the Kpaka people so on the 4th day, the Krim people raised an objection that since Momoh Gotto was a Kpaka, he cannot be an Assessor and be nonpartisan. He was asked to step down from the high table so he decided to join his Kpaka people.  He made the move by raising his hand to swear that he will from that point on side with his Kpaka people and state their case. The Krim Chief as well as the Committee accepted his voluntary step down.

However, the newly assigned Assessor Chief and Commissioner took only two (2) days to review the report and come back with a response. Before giving their summation, they commended Momoh Gotto for his brilliant performance in putting forth the Kpaka case. The Provincial Commissioner shook Gotto’s hand and called him a “Squire” meaning a “level-headed man”. In conclusion, the Kpakas were given back the right to their land and then the Kpaka Chiefdom was formally established.

The Provincial Commissioner then asked the Kpakas’ to appoint a leader for their chiefdom and upon careful consultation and consideration they agreed to elect Momoh Gotto “Squire” Rogers who had made a formidable case on their behalf to be their first leader of the new Kpaka Chiefdom. Momoh then consulted with his mother, and uncle who was now Paramount Chief of Gallinas Perri. His mother Queen Yatta however advised him not to accept the role because the Kpaka land area being offered was too small in comparison to Gallinas Perri Chiefdom.  Then one of the Caulker’s, a cousin to the Rogers/Kpaka clan was offered the chieftaincy but he too declined that he preferred to remain the business man he was. Also, VandyGbessay was asked but he too declined that he had no money – he was a poor man.

But all of Vandy’s brothers agreed to raise the money for him and got him some land in Largo village. Finally, he was appointed the first Paramount Chief of this new chiefdom. He was deposed after four (4) years though on the allegations of practicing cannibalism.

Paramount Chief Johnny Mannah was elected after Vandy was deposed but was removed after six (6) years and imprisoned. While being investigated, Momoh Pelegblou Rogers was elected. Unfortunately, Momoh Pelegblou Rogers was also deposed for bad administration and Paramount Chief (P.C.) Johnny Mannah resumed the chieftaincy and continued until he died in 1946. P.C Momoh Tibo Rogers was then elected in 1947 and ruled until his death in 1963. He was the 5th Paramount Chief elected. The 6th Paramount Chief was Momoh Tejan Rogers who ruled until he passed away in 2002. The present Paramount Chief, John Salia Rogers was elected in 2006.