Name ID 397
a teacher at the International School of Tanganyika in Dar es Salaam since 1977, has long been fascinated by Africa's wildlife and wildplaces. Lancashire born Mercer, who first visited East Africa as a sailor in Britain's Royal Navy, spends his leisure time travelling with his Karachi born wife Anjum through Africa and the Indian subcontinent.
Extract Author: Graham Mercer
Page Number: 2004 09 13
Firstly, congratulations on the website - it's extremely interesting and useful!
I've been interested for years in the Siedentopf brothers who farmed in Ngorongoro Crater but there are still gaps in my knowledge - do you know:
a) when the stone-built farmhouses were erected, as Fourie in 1908 talks of the brothers being "still in tents"?
B) how Friedrich Willem actually died?
C) how Adolf died? One source (quoted on your website) says he was killed by a Maasai spear but this is untrue, as he didn't die until 1932 when it is thought he may have committed suicide in Alabama, USA.
D) I believe Friedrich Willem never married - any confirmation of this?
Many thanks, and thanks for the website - it's really good -
Graham Mercer, DSM
Thanks for you kind comments.
Are you "THE" Graham Mercer of various books, including the Beauty of the Ngorongoro?
I suspect that I would have turned to your texts to try to answer your questions, but obviously that's not the place to go.
And no answers (yet) to your questions. I've just spent a while looking to see if I can find anything. Like you, the Siedentopf's have captured my imagination, and I have already put on the web site most of the relevant quotes.
I missed one from Fosbrooke (page 176). I suspect you have his book, but if not I'll scan it in for you. He describes Adolph as the dominant character, with FW in a more subordinate role. He says Adolph entered the Crater about 1899 as a squatter.
On p28 Fosbrook says that there is a short book in German recording the life of Siedentopf - maybe this is a source that needs tracking down (and translating).
If you are in Tanzania, perhaps you have been able to see Fosbrookes paper's, which I understand to be kept at the University in Dar es Salaam. Maybe there will be more details there about this book.
Your correction c) to the claim that Adolf was killed by a Maasai spear is interesting, because it is the second correction I've received to "facts" found in Brian Herne's book.
So other than this, nothing really by way of answers to your questions, but I'll keep looking. If there are any specific places where you think it may be worth looking, do let me know. There's quite likely to be something somewhere in Tanganyika Notes and Records, but unfortunately I only have two editions, and rely on trips to Rhodes House, Oxford to find more. Mary Leakey may well have recorded somewhere whatever she knew, as part of documenting the digs she carried out in the crater.
Finally, one of the Siedentopfs is buried in Mbulu. We visited it in Dec 1996, and I think I have some video which I took at the time. I'll see if I can dig it out, and see if I managed to record any more detail about which one it was, and when he died. I wish I had been more diligent at the time.
Lovely to get your prompt response!
Yes, I am the "Graham Mercer of various books", for better or for worse! But my interest in the Siedentopfs is personal as well as "professional" - in fact I'm interested in "East Africana" generally, if we can call it that, and especially its colonial history.
I do have Henry Fosbrooke's book - it's a treasure trove of info as you know, though there are some blank spots as always. Henry actually came to find me here in Dar some years ago and we became friends, though unfortunately he died two or three years later. He wanted me to write a history of Ngorongoro and each time he came to Dar (he was fighting a court case on behalf of his beloved Maasai and would come down - at the age of about 85 - on the bus or train!) he would bring material with him and share it with me. In fact I have a copy of the Livermore diaries which he gave me, which covers the 1923 Livermore safari to the Crater etc, with some interesting material from Fourie's journals also, and from John Hunter's book, which I think I have in England. Fourie was a fascinating man in his own right, as was John Hunter.
I've found a German website (posted by a descendent of the Seidentopfs, it seems) which appears to confirm that Adolf Seidentopf died in 1932 in Alabama, perhaps by committing suicide by poisoning himself. On the same website he talks of Friedrich W S dying as a result of an accident, but I don't speak German and the translation is poor. I've sent a cutting from the text to a German friend and am hoping to find out more.
I'm actually writing a brief history of Ngorongoro right now as part of a proposed new Ngorongoro guide, though as I say my interest goes much deeper than this and I've always been fascinated by the Siedentopfs (I once camped on Friedrich Willem's old lawn, just outside the cottage by the Lerai, with the anti-poaching squad).
I often consult your website since discovering it a few months ago - most of what is on there I know about as I tend to read quite a lot of books etc about East Africa, and I have quite a few copies of Tanzania Notes and Records, which are excellent. But there is always something on your site which is new to me, and in any case the site represents a wonderful, see-at-a-glance reference source - it's great! I shall certainly include your name in the acknowledgments sector of the Ngorongoro guide (if it ever sees the light of day!) and you website in the bibliography) - don't get too excited...
Many thanks, and all the best with the website!