About Jamestown Palace

Culled from “The Ga of Ghana: History and Culture of a West African People, 2001” by David K. Henderson-Quartey, 2001


Jamestown - Temple HouseThe town of Alata grew as an adjunct to James Fort hence the English called it James Town after King James II of England. It is called Alata by the Ga as the people who first settled in the vicinity of the Fort were employees and slaves of the English trading company who were reputed to have been brought from the Allada area of the Bight of Benin and formerly referred to as the Slave Coast. The beginning of the town could be dated from 1672, the year in which the fort was built. European writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have referred to the area as “Soko village”. The Fort was built on a large rocky head which projects into the sea.

By 1692 the town had become enlarged with the influx of people from the other parts of Accra due to Akwamu attacks and destruction of the Ga coastal towns. William Smith, a surveyor of the Royal African Company, was here in 1727 and described the town as a parkland but the most pleasant he had seen in the Guinea. By this time the town had extended to include salt ponds by the Kole lagoon owned by the Fort with a thriving salt trade. The growth and prosperity of the town was linked with the trading prospects of the English company. At first the Chief Factor of the Fort was responsible to the Governor of the Cape Coast Castle and was less concerned with the local affairs of the town except exercising control over the company’s slaves and their local employees. The Ga towns in the Dutch areas were hostile towards the growing population and often referred to them as gboi (strangers) because they were largely Alatas, Fantes and Agona people. They were also privileged mulatto descendants of the English traders and soldiers. Some of these descendants can be traced today as the Bruce, Crabbe, Bannerman, Mould, Hansen, Thompson, Cleland and Hutton families. Outside the jurisdiction of the Fort the affairs of the town were chaotic, especially as the Dutch encouraged Portuguese slave traders in Alata.

In 1706 James Phipps the Factor at James Fort made his first attempt to revive the fortunes of the fort and the town. He advised Dalby Thomas, the Governor at Cape Coast to allow his traders to sell goods as cheaply as the other European traders in order to attract local traders and suggested, “a good force might keep the blacks in order.” In the following six years the English trade seemed to be declining on the coast and this was reflected in the affairs of James Town. The fort lacked adequate maintenance and garrison. Fewer ships called at the port and it seemed that it was used as a calling post between Cape Coast and Fort William at Whiddah where slaves were easily available.

In January 1711, Phipps was promoted to the executive committee of the Governor’s council at Cape Coast and this gave him the chance to pursue his policy of strengthening the trading position of the English company and the Forts on the coast. During this year he canvassed the British Parliament to reach settlement with the Company traders and to support the trading activities of the African traders for in his opinion the English were losing ground to the Dutch. He also petitioned the Queen to persuade Parliament to settle with the Royal African Company for the grant of a Charter for trade. By July 1711 there was a Queen’s Order in Council “to give several Directions in relation to the securing of Settlements on the coast of Africa and preserving the African trade.” War ships were made available to guard the coasts of Africa. The result of these vigorous efforts on the part of Phipps brightened the future of the English trading establishment and brought prosperity and dignity to Alata (James Town).

Between 1730 and 1754 Alata was transformed into a model town compared to the Dutch towns and the English could be seen as more and more involved in matters of law and order in the town. The show of English power and majesty was constantly echoed by gun salutes from the fort. When any important personage, whether European or representative from Akwamu, Akim and Asante, visited James Fort a number of gun salutes were fired according to their importance. The Governors of the Dutch and Danish establishments received twenty one gun salutes. Gun salutes reverberated throughout the region on various occasions. Often on the death of important local officials such as Robert Cruickshank, chief agent of James Fort, twenty one gun salutes were fired. There is evidence to suggest that these thundering guns were kept up to show off English firing power and to intimidate the people in the region.

James Fort records in 1754 give evidence of the involvement of the local people in the running of the town. Apart from the European personnel on twenty seven, including sixteen soldiers, there were thirty local employees as soldiers, carpenters, smiths, masons, bricklayers and labourers. These were in the direct employment of the English establishment for the defence and maintenance of the fort and were also used to provide public facilities. They were paid six pence per day. In the list of “Black men’s Pay”, “Abadee” (company caboceer), “Annagee” (Anege Akwei of Sempe) and “Cudjoe” (company linguist) were paid twenty shillings per month. The post of company caboceer was equivalent to a chief broker and was looked upon as the local representative or envoy of the English company. The caboceer was responsible to the Factor or Governor of the Fort for the general affairs in Alata under English protection. It cannot be ascertained how long Abadee had been in charge of the town but in 1753 Ebenezer Young then in charge of the fort promoted Kojo (Cudjoe) at the age of 43 years to the post of company caboceer and linguist with a salary of two pounds sterling per month.

The name of Wetse (head of house) Kojo in Ga history is synonymous with the town of Alata. He was probably locally born of part Alata parentage, his real name was Ojo apparently of Yoruba derivation but corrupted to the Ga name of Kojo. However, the Alata stool family’s own accounts maintain that Wetse Kojo was an Adangme from Prampram; hence the title Wetse (Adangme for head of house). He was mentioned in Dutch company records as “English slave Cudjoe.” As the English company’s caboceer and linguist he was maintained by the company in the style of a local ruler; he acted as an ambassador of the company in its dealings with the rulers of other states, towns and wealthy merchants. He settled all local disputes probably with an appeal to the Governor of the fort. Wetse Kojo had his own retinue of armed men and drummers. He was also a trader of considerable wealth. Though not a mantse at first he became a powerful political figure in Accra. Kojo kept diplomatic distance from Ga politics throughout Okaija’s fights in Dutch Accra, as Okaija considered him a “stranger” who should not be admitted to the council of Ga affairs. With the approval of his English masters, Kojo joined in the customary celebrations of the Ga in Alata, Sempe and Akanmaiajen. “Dashees” or gratuitous payments, probably through Kojo, were made to the town elders, drummers, canoemen including “caboceers from Dutch Accra”. Four gallons of brandy, guns, assorted goods, gunpowder, were given towards the Homowo festivities annually. Even the company’s labourers and slaves were given “dashees” for the celebration.

During the mid-eighteenth century Accra was polarized between Dutch and English rivalry which influenced Ga politics. Okaija dominated in the Dutch zone and was much feared but his influence with the Dutch was waning besides he was in the twilight of his life. On the other hand, Kojo of Alata gained respect and fame not only on his own merits but also with the ascendancy of English power in the coastal trade. Influential people throughout Accra began to accept him as a Ga. Further, in the administration of the fort, he was treated as a European official and ranked third after the Governor on the European Pay list. From 1767 he was being paid five pounds sterling per month which was a fortune at the time.

With the death of Okaija, Wetse Kojo, who had married into the aristocratic family of Lante Janwe (Asere), became recognized as one of the powerful figures in Accra. During the 1770s slave raids in the Volta region were intense and the coastal towns between Whiddah and Allada became slave ports for the Dutch, Danish and English traders. Unruly groups of bandits raided the area for slaves and robbed legitimate traders of their merchandise. Consequently it became impossible for trade traffic as the people feared the roaming bandits. The trade route to Akim was completely closed. The Ga rulers and the influential traders called upon Kojo to undertake a military expedition to stop the banditry on the trade routes leading into the country. Kojo who remained indifferent to Ga affairs took up the challenge which seemed very much in the interest of the English. Incidentally, at this time, the English fort at Whiddah was under attack from the Danish allies from Allada.

According to Reindorf when the news of the expedition reached Anlo country, the bands of slave raiders stopped their peccable activities. The Anlo asked for peace but the Mlafis who resisted were crushed and the Krobo were warned. Before returning to Accra, Kojo went to Akwapim and called a conference for peaceful trade. He was received back in Accra as a hero. From now on Wetse Kojo and his Alata people were considered as part of the Ga military confederation. The Day Book of James Fort, July-August 1774 recorded, “Chiefs from the Hill country (Akwapim) and Accra etc” paid their respect at the fort to solemnise the peace negotiation of Kojo. Being an intelligent man and fully aware of his position he arranged to be “instructed in the Twi style of managing a state, and had a stool also made and consecrated to him by Chief Oto Brafo of Kinka (Dutch Accra). Wetse Kojo was installed as the first Alatamantse. The extraordinary events in the life of this man, from a lowly status to the heights of “caboceer and linguist” of the English Trading Company, a warrior and mantse illustrate the life of this truly great man. On 31st December, 1775 it was recorded. “Cudjoe, Caboceer and Linguist died this day.” He was aged seventy one years.

Kofi Akrashi was installed Alatamantse with the support of the Ga hierarchy instead of Saki who was the son of Wetse Kojo by his Obutu wife. The Gamantsemei for political reasons wanted to retain power through a Ga lineage and Kofi Akrashi was considered suitable being a stepson of Kojo by his Ga wife from Asere. According to tradition Kofi Akrashi with his chosen courtiers were escorted to Alata town on the orders of the Gamantse and settled at Adadentam. It is significant that the Akwanshontse (military captain) of Alata is elected from this quarter; presumably to give military support Kofi Akrashi against possible opposition from the followers of Saki. Kofi Akrashi was recognised by the English establishment as the “Caboceer of the town” in 1776 and at a ceremony in 1778 he pledged the “total loyalty of James Town to the Fort.”

According to James Fort records, “Accra boy Saki” also known as William Sackey, son of Wetse Kojo, succeeded as linguist and chief broker at the Fort. As the Alatamantse, Kofi Akrashi received a salary of eighty shillings monthly. He reigned for approximately twenty years (1776-1796) and on his death the Fort paid its last respects to Kofi Akrashi by “firing minute guns at Coffie’s Interment”.