AYV News May 25, 2023
Freetown’s most iconic landmark, the Cotton Tree has fallen following the heavy storm last night. The Cotton Tree gained importance in 1792 when a group of formerly enslaved African Americans, who had gained their freedom by fighting for the British during the American War of Independence, settled the site of modern Freetown.
The Cotton Tree is a Ceiba pentandra, also known commonly as a Kapok tree, was a historic symbol of Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone.
These former Black Loyalist soldiers, also known as Black Nova Scotians (because they came from Nova Scotia after leaving the United States), resettled in Sierra Leone and founded Freetown on March 11, 1792.
The descendants of the Nova Scotian settlers form part of the Sierra Leone Creole ethnicity today.
People first landed on the shoreline and walked up to a giant tree just above the bay, where they held a thanksgiving service, gathering around the tree in a large group and praying and singing hymns to thank God for their deliverance to a free land.
The tree’s exact age is unknown, but it is known to have existed in 1787.
It is the oldest cotton tree in Freetown. It stands near the Supreme Court building and the National Museum. The Nova Scotian settlers prayed under this tree upon landing, to start their new lives as free people. They regarded it as the symbol of their liberty and freedom.
Before these newly freed Africans arrived, Sierra Leone had already been inhabited. These newly arrived Africans gave the capital the name it bears today, Freetown.
Sierra Leoneans still pray and make offerings to their ancestors for peace and prosperity beneath the Cotton Tree.
This majestic tree stands in the centre of the oldest part in Freetown and is the most visible landmark in the city.
The Cotton Tree is synonymous with Freetown and has inspired many works of art. It is also the home of bats and vultures and Cotton Trees in general are associated with myths and mysticisms in Sierra Leone.
In the dry season and harmattan it sheds its leaves but in the rains the tree can be admired in all its splendour. Its magnetic pull makes it an attractive sight for visiting tourists.
The first group of settlers from Britain, made up of mostly former slaves, arrived in 1787 and established themselves on the peninsula.
According to tradition, they landed on the shoreline and walked up to a giant tree just above the bay and held a thanksgiving service there, gathering around the tree in a large group and praying and singing hymns to thank God for their deliverance to a free land.
Sierra Leonians believe that this very tree was where the Nova Scotian settlers prayed more than two hundred years ago.
Before last night, the Cotton Tree was seen as historical symbol of not only Freetown, but Sierra Leone as a whole.