History of Cape Mount

A Brief History of Grand Cape Mount County

Grand Cape Mount County, originally a district of Montserrado County, was

elevated to the status of county in 1924. The county received its name from the

Portuguese navigator Pedro de Sintra who reached the Cape and promontory

along the West African Coast in 1461, and named it Carbo de Monte (Cape

Mount). The area was known as the Grain Coast because of the local cultivation

of melegueta pepper, the “grain of paradise”,which was as valuable as gold and

the principal item of trade at the time. Cape Mount is considered the earliest

known and recorded landmark of the Liberian Coast. It has a promontory which

rises 1068 feet above sea level, the highest natural landmark on the Liberian

Coast. The peak of the promontory is visible from the Ducor Place Hotel in

Monrovia on a clear and sunny day. At the base of the mountain, on the opposite

side from the Atlantic Ocean, is Lake Piso, which is about ten miles long and five

miles at its widest breadth. It is the largest lake in the country and flows into the

Atlantic Ocean by a narrow outlet known as the bar. Lake Piso was used as a

seaplane base by the United State during World War II.

Robertsport

Along the shores of Lake Piso and not far from the promontory is Robertsport, a

beach city that is surrounded by tropical green hills. The city was founded April

17, 1855, by President Roberts, in whose honor it was named, when he and

seventeen volunteers from Montserrado County journeyed to Cape Mount on the

Liberian Schooner Lark. It is the county seat of government and was named

Wakolor by the Vai inhabitants.

The combination of the promontory, with its dense green foliage sloping

downward to the Atlantic Ocean, rocky intrusions along the coast to the west,

Lake Piso to the east, and several small islands creates topography of breath

-taking beauty.

Sir Harry Johnston, the multi-talented British explorer, botanist and colonial

administrator, who sailed along the West African Coast many times, described in

his book “Liberia the Narrow Cape”, bulging hills and mountains, intrusion of

rocks, the most fascinating and noteworthy features on the coast of Liberia. He

is said to have observed that he found it difficult to understand why such a

splendid site on a mountainous peninsular with a large lagoon to the east and a

half-formed seaport to the west did not tempt the nucleus of the American

Settlers of 1822, to choose it for their future capital instead of the less attractive

Cape Mesurado. He christened the area the Gibraltar of Liberia.

Inhabitants

The principal inhabitants of the area are the Vais and the descendants of settlers

that came from North America, the Caribbean and the African Diaspora. There

are also communities of other ethnic groups, including, Bassa, Gola, Fanti, Kru

and Mende, and others located in Robertsport and other parts of the county. The

majority of the people live in the rural areas in Garwula, Gola Koneh, Pokpa,

Tewor and Tombe districts. The interior of the county has large tracts of prime

land for future cities and agricultural and industrial activities.

Cultural Heritage

The history, customary laws, folkways, and legends, of the Vais, and the

descendents of black American settlers who have lived in the county since it was

established, along with those of other ethnic groups in Liberia, were preserved in

the Tubman Center for African Culture in Robertsport. Also included in the

collections were specimens of Vai Writing and a phonetic chart of the characters

of the Vai language and script invented by Mr. Dwalu Bukele.

Scholars from various parts of the country and abroad visited the Center until it

was looted during the civil war. Efforts are said to be underway to rehabilitate the

Center and retrieve some of the valuable items that were removed. A team of

Liberian and American scholars is currently working with Dr. John V. Singler,

Professor of Linguistics at New York University and a former teacher and

Librarian at the Episcopal High School in Robertsport, to prepare a desktop

arrangement of the Vai language, hoping that a computer keyboard for the

language will be developed within a year.

Center of Learning

For many decades the county was a major center of learning in the country.

Students came to Grand Cape Mount from various parts of Liberia and

neighboring Sierra Leone to attend school. The House of Bethany for girls and

Saint Johns for boys, boarding institutions of the Episcopal High School in

Robertsport, provided quality education, and Saint Timothy’s Hospital served as

a good medical center for the area. Father E. Boling Robertson, a great

educator, disciplinarian and missionary was principal of the institution. He and

his wife, Mother Roberson, who survived him and lives at St. Johns,

Robertsport, together with Ms. Marywood Mckenzie, former principal of the

House of Bethany, and other missionaries contributed greatly to the academic

and spiritual growth of the county.

Reverend Urias B. Freeman, Principal of the Robertsport High School, another

great teacher and disciplinarian who was subsequently elected to the Liberian

Senate, and his staff of excellent teachers also operated one of the finest high

schools in the area. There were also very important preparatory schools at

Bendu and Baloma, in the interior of the county. Additionally, buildings were

constructed for a technical college at Singe, Gawular District. There are plans for

the reconstruction of most of the institutions mentioned above.

The traditional view of the area as an important center of learning, seems to have

provided and important inspiration and impetus for the many prominent leaders,

public servants, scholars and professionals who had their origins in the county.

Cape Mountainians in the United States

In recent years, the National Association of Cape Mountainians in the Americas,

an organization in the United States comprising highly motivated and qualified

citizens from Grand Cape Mount, with representatives from Robertsport and

most of the districts of the county, has been making important contributions to

reconstruction efforts in Grand Cape Mount. And many members have indicated

their intent to return home to contribute to the reconstruction and development of

the county and the Liberian nation.

Potential for Tourism and Investment

Today, there is a steady increase in the number of Liberian and foreign visitors

who find their way to the banks of Lake Piso and the pristine beaches and good

surfing conditions at Robertsport. They seem to be alerting the nation to the

significant tourism potential of the area. Paving the approximately 44-kilometer

road from Medina to Robertsport would be a giant step for tourism. Also, the

discovery of iron deposits at the Bea Mountain, part of the Western Cluster

initiative, and gold mining activities in the interior of the county, are likely to

provide new and important attractions for investment in the area.

Grand Cape Mount County is slowly recovering from the destruction and

devastation of the civil war and conflict years. The Department of Public Works

and the Engineering Battalion of the United Nations Mission in Liberia have

begun a project for the rehabilitation of the Medina-Robersport Road. The

government, leaders, youth and friends of the county, are working for the

reconstruction and advancement of both Grand Cape Mount County and the

Liberian State. There is also evidence that they are planning a warm welcome

and Grand Cape Mount hospitality for the President.

National Association of Cape Mountainians in the Americas