Dr. Sawyer was in West Africa from December 1926 to mid-June 1927, serving as director of the West African Yellow Fever Commission
while Dr. Henry Beeuwkes was on leave. In this letter, he discussed possible changes to his return date, and described a day
trip down the Isheri River.
Item is handwritten.
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4 (271,072 Bytes)
1927-05-05 (May 5, 1927)
Sawyer, Wilbur A.
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Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
From Hookworm to Yellow Fever: Rockefeller Foundation, 1919-1927
Your birthday is almost here! Many happy returns of the day! I wish I could be home to help celebrate.
The last mail brought two good letters from you. The date Colonel Russell fixed for my return has been altered, for Dr. Beeuwkes
wrote that he would arrive May 26 and Dr. R. wanted me to stay here over one boat after Dr. B. arrives. So I have cancelled
two sets of reservations--for May 20 and June 3 and am trying to get one on the French line for June 21st. Dr. Russell wants
me to go to Paris and get letters there and then decide whether I need to go to Bulgaria and Turkey! This is the first I
have heard of Turkey.
Dr. Beeuwkes was very sorry not to have seen you before he left. He must have had a very busy time in New York. Conferences,
influenza, and a multitude of purchases! Yesterday four truckloads of cases came up from the American freight ship, and this
is only the beginning. He is bringing with him Dr. Adrian Stokes, who was in the previous Y.F. Commission of the I.H.B.
Dr. Stokes is a bacteriologist of London University. A little later
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Dr. Ramsey of Johns Hopkins (formerly of Mich. State Board of Health) and Dr. Hudson of Harvard will arrive,--the latter with
a wife. Then, too, a Dr. Scarwell who has been in the Board's yellow fever work in Brazil is coming. In a week or two
the staff in Africa will be at its lowest ebb. In Nigeria, of the scientific staff, there will be only I and a technician.
In Gold Coast there will be a field man (Dr. Mahaffy) and Dr. Bauer, bacteriologist.
There is yellow fever in three areas in Gold Coast, and there seems to be another epidemic starting in one of them. That
is why I sent Dr. Bauer over there. I cannot leave myself as someone has to cover Nigeria as best he can. All is quiet here
now and I am putting in considerable time in the laboratory, which I have all to myself.
Last Sunday I celebrated May Day by going down the Isheri River in a dugout canoe with Mr. Bachelder and two native boatmen
with poles. A larger party had been planned, but two dropped out before we started and the man who had planned the expedition
flatly refused to go in a dugout
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canoe after seeing it. Mr. Batchelder and I concluded that the canoe was both safe and comfortable and so we started. The
day was clear and a fresh breeze was blowing on the water. The tsetse flies were in evidence but we were not bitten once.
For an hour or so we went down the wide and shallow river with high forest on both banks. We started at two o clock. Then
we entered a narrow passage and wound our way through the jungle until we reached cane country and finally salt-water bounded
by long walls of mangroves. We passed a large fishing village and took movies, from the canoe, of the hordes of women and
children who came running to see us go by. Finally we reached the open lagoon. The boatmen decided there was too much wind
and they waited half an hour or so for it to die down. Then we crossed a bay and skirted a high shore. It was dark by now.
The stars were bright and the lights of Lagos could be seen in the distance. At last we landed on a beach three miles from
Yaba and plunged into the black jungle. We had a native to lead us who was familiar with the crooked trail. Occasionally
we plunged through so black a tunnel of foliage that even Mr. Batchelder's
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white shirt and helmet disappeared completely from view and we followed by sound. At last we arrived hungry and thirsty and
sleepy,--just as one always does after a successful picnic.
I am enclosing some pictures of the compound, which I wish you could keep for the album. They are badly printed, but will
give you an idea of the extent of the plant. New buildings are going up in the extreme background, but they do not show.
We are all staying very well, and I think the group is reasonably comfortable and happy.
I hope Billy continues to enjoy his velocipede and to develop his appetite. Love to you all!