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Map of the River Cestos or Sestos
J. Bellin ± 1720




A Dutch account of the Pepper Coast
in the Seventeenth Century:
John Snoek / Bosman

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, according to the letter of John Snoek1, who visited the Grain Coast in the yacht Johanna Jaba, ivory was becoming less abundant in Liberia as a trade product. Snoek describes the natives round about Cape Mount as wearing the voluminous Mandingo garments, but adds that the women are nearly and sometimes quite naked. In the country where the town of Monrovia is now situated he writes that the natives live in large houses containing two or three apartments, in one of which buildings as many as fifty or sixty men, women, and children were sleeping promiscuously. For the most part the people all along the coast were very hospitable and friendly to Europeans. The chiefs were already beginning to bear European names, and the slave trade had commenced, owing to the excessive warfare between the people of the coast and those of the interior, each party, when victorious, being ready to sell their prisoners of war to foreign traders. A chief amongst the Kruboys at Sanguin called himself James. “He spoke a confused sort of language, a mixed jargon of English and Portuguese. He seemed a great lover of the female sex, which was the whole subject with which he entertained us.”
1 In Bosman’s Description of the Coast of Guinea








Snoek describes the River Cestos2 as being the port of an agreeable and friendly country. His sailing ship anchored first before a village called Corra, three miles west of the river mouth. The sea off this part of the coast was more than usually phosphorescent. The people along the banks of a little stream near the sea were much occupied in boiling water to produce salt. The water over the very rocky bar of the Cestos River appears to have had a depth of at least six feet, but even this amount of water would seem to have been too little for the sailing ships of earlier days. These, therefore, must have anchored off the coast outside the river, into which they sent their merchandise in boats. The principal village at the mouth of the River Cestos contained about sixty houses, ‘very neatly built, and so high that some of them appear three miles out at sea.” They differ from those of Cape Mesurado, “only that there are here more Stories”(i.e. that the houses were built with three or four platforms or stories). The now familiar West Coast ‘dash” (meaning a tip, a pourboire, a present) makes its appearance in Snoeks’s writings under the form of ‘dasje.” Apparently in trading with the Negroes of the Liberian coast at this time it was necessary to commence operations by giving a dash or present. (Dasje, diminutive of Das in Dutch means a little strip of cloth.) fvdk

The Cavalla River in these times seems to have been the boundary between the fiercely cannibal tribes of what is now the Ivory Coast and the more sophisticated Krumen, on the hither side of Cape Palmas. All the people to the east of the Cavalla River at this period had their front teeth sharpened to a point, and were very wild.

Chevalier des Marchais

A Dutch account of Liberia in the seventeenth century


2 Under the mistaken term of Sestre; but the geographical definition in his contribution to Bosman’s work shows it to have been the Cestos.










fvdk 'Das' or 'Dasje' is the Dutch word for necktie or scarf.



© fpm van der kraaij