Author: Smith, Rev. Gerard.
Title: Manuscript Signed (with initials), â€œStory of Kitty Mulgrave, the Negress Teacherâ€
Place Published: Osmastin Parish, Ashborne [England]
Date Published: [c.1855]
8pp. (numbered 3 to 10). With original mailing envelope, sent to Hamilton Gray, Bolsover Castle, Chesterfield.
Though lacking Smith’s cover letter, the manuscript itself is apparently complete, the 1200-word account of a once-enslaved Black woman, written by a white clergyman who knew her in Jamaica before her return to Africa as a missionary. The story of Catherine Zimmerman-Mulgrave (1826-91) has recently been of special interest to historians because, following her providential rescue from slavery, her education in Jamaica, and a failed “arranged” marriage to the Black Liberian missionary with whom she sailed back to Africa, she remarried, while in Ghana - to a white missionary, an inter-racial union that was virtually unheard of in the mid-19th century. Born in the Congo or Angola in the 1820s, she was kidnapped as a child by slave traders. En route to Cuba, the slave ship foundered in a storm; she was one of a few survivors, rescued by British sailors, then cared for and given an education by the wife of Lord Mulgrave, the Governor of Jamaica who presided over the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies. Taking the surname of her patroness, as a teenager, Catherine volunteered to be “repatriated” to Africa to help form a Black Christian community on the Gold Coast. It was then, in 1843, that Rev. Smith met and heard Catherine’s own account of her early life. He was undoubtedly aware of the pressures brought to bear on “Kitty” to convince her that she was “most suited” to be the “partner” of another Black missionary before their return to Africa, an “arrangement”, writes Smith ambiguously, “not carried out without some difficulty.” That marriage was to end when the husband, says Smith, “fell into grievous sin” and was expelled from the missionary community. Catherine then remarried, her second husband, Johannes Zimmerman (1825-1876), being a German scholar of African culture and language, who married her over the strong objections of fellow white missionaries, knowing that he could never bring his wife or their children to Europe. The writer of this account, Rev. Smith, was a stalwart of the British and Foreign Bible Society (and a passionate amateur Botanist) who arrived in Ashborne, east of Liverpool, in 1854, which helps confirm the estimated date of the manuscript. Also at that time, the recipient, Rev. John Hamilton Gray, was Vicar of Bolsover, 40 miles from Ashbourne. Why Gray wanted Smith’s recollections of Mulgrave is unknown; both he and his wife published a number of books and monographs, but neither he nor Smith – who wrote a book on ferns – had any clear links to the anti-slavery movement of that era. Some details in Smith’s manuscript are clearly faulty – such as the surname he erroneously ascribed to Mrs. Zimmerman’s white husband; others are based on hearsay and ten year-old memories. But Smith’s recollection of his conversations with Catherine in the 1840s are still a valuable – and previously unknown – supplement to equally questionable missionary records and an account by Catherine’s disgraced ex-husband. Full transcript of the text available on request.