Geography

The connections to South Africa

The Jameson Raid and the Boer War

It is not an exaggeration to say that the core of the Parker expedition was formed in South Africa during the Second Boer War.

Cyril Foley

Cyril Foley was well known within cricket but it was through another ill-fated adventure that he became famous. In 1895, Foley took part in the Jameson Raid in which a heavily armed group of 600 British-led men invaded the Transvaal. The raid’s backers wanted the province to become part of the British Empire and hoped to support a revolt in the Transvaal against the Dutch-speaking Boer government. Foley was invited to join the Raid by Dr Leander Jameson. The operation turned out to be a disaster. The planned uprising in Johannesburg never took place as the ‘Boers were already becoming suspicious that something was afoot’. As a result of his involvement, Foley gained the nickname of the Raider. He later served in the Royal Scots during the resulting war.

Montagu Parker

After leaving Eton College Montagu Parker joined the army. He quickly transferred to join the elite Grenadier Guards. A few months later, in March 1900, Parker sailed with a contingent of the Grenadier and Scots Guards to South Africa and the Second Boer War. He was twenty-one years of age and one of the youngest officers in the Grenadier Guards. Before they sailed, Queen Victoria inspected the regiment at Buckingham Palace, with the officers being presented individually to the Queen. They headed to a war in which the British Army had suffered a series of humiliating reverses at the hands of the Boers. Cyril Foley, Clarence and Gordon Wilson, who later joined the Parker expedition, also served in the Second Boer War. These connections were further bonds that helped bring these men together for the expedition to Jerusalem.

Montagu Parker was wounded at the battle of  Thaba ‘Nchu. Thaba ‘Nchu means Black Mountain in the Tswana language. The battlefield was mountainous terrain, roasting during the day and freezing at night.

The Wilson brothers

At the start of the Second Boer War, Clarence’s eldest brother Gordon was already out in South Africa. In January 1900 the three other Wilson brothers, Clarence, Wilfred and Herbert, all volunteered for active service. Clarence served in the Westmoreland and Cumberland Regiment of the Imperial Yeomanry. They were a volunteer mounted force raised to fight in the Boer War. Clarence was wounded twice in early 1900, the second time so severely that he was invalided back from South Africa. In February 1901 his brother Wilfred was mortally wounded in an attack on Boer positions at Hartebeestfontein in the Transvaal.

It was not just the brothers who went to South Africa. One of Clarence’s sisters went and his sister-in-law, Lady Sarah, was already there. When it became apparent war was coming, Gordon Wilson was appointed as aide-de-camp to Colonel Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell was in Mafeking. Lady Sarah initially remained in the town with her husband.

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The connections to France

Archaeologists and bankers

There were two main connections of the expedition to France. Neither were members of the expedition and one vigorously opposed the expedition. The other saw it as an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge.

Father Louis-Hugues Vincent

Father or Pere Vincent was a Dominican monk who had joined the order as a young man. Vincent came to the Ecole Biblique et Archaeologique in Jerusalem in 1891 and dedicated the rest of his long life to archaeological study in the Holy Land. He was a widely respected scholar and expert. In an obituary, the monk was described as combining ‘genius, industry, charm and humility, enthusiasm and balance’ in his work as a scholar and teacher.

The work of the strange amateurs of the Parker expedition quickly alarmed the established archaeologists in the Holy Land. They complained to the governor in Jerusalem and sent urgent enquiries to Constantinople and to their organisations back in Europe. Parker realised that the level of opposition could cause problems and started to allow visits from a few of the established archaeologists. Six weeks after the excavations began, Parker escorted Pere Louis-Hugues Vincent through the tunnels.

His visit and those of a number of other archaeologists visits did not entirely stop the pressure to have a proper recording of the work. Jacob Spafford was one of those pressing Parker on this. Eventually, the pressure paid off, and Spafford gained a promise that the expedition would allow Father Vincent to record their work and any findings.

Parker did not inform Vincent of the expedition’s real objective, and Vincent was suspicious of Parker. However, the arrangement worked for this mismatched couple. Vincent realised he had an opportunity he could not miss to understand and record the ancient water systems of the city. So he accepted Parker’s invitation. Vincent was allowed to document the excavations but he could not interfere in or direct them. Parker imposed one other condition: Vincent was not allowed to say or write anything publicly about the expedition without approval. Vincent respected this condition scrupulously. When Vincent could do so in 1911, after so many had criticised the expedition, he remained warm and complimentary and, publicly at least, refused to condemn them.

One of the most long-lasting legacies of the expedition was the work of Father Vincent. Parker had agreed to his involvement because of rumours circulating about the expedition and growing opposition because of its secrecy. Vincent brought his unrivalled knowledge of Jerusalem, gained over many decades, to his work. Professor Kathleen Kenyon said Father Vincent’s work in remapping the tunnels and shafts helped salvage a very unsatisfactory enterprise. She said Vincent was small, charming and elegant, but anyone who ‘disagreed with him came in for a terrific pounding, though always couched in the most polite terms.’ The plans he produced of the tunnels formed the basis of all archaeological work in these places for the next century.

Baron Edmond James de Rothschild

Baron de Rothschild was a member of the French branch of the famous banking family. He was an early supporter of Jewish immigration to Palestine. The First Aliyah is best known for the establishment of agricultural projects, often financed by Baron de Rothschild. He had invested up to 10 million francs of his own money by 1890, which was four times the size of any other backer.

The Parker expedition presented a problem for members of the Jewish community. Most though that it was a crazy idea and extremely unlikely that they would find the Ark. Still, there was a dilemma for the Jewish community. They may have thought the search was crazy, but what if the expedition found the Ark? Such an outcome was unthinkable. Baron de Rothschild said he did not care about excavations but did care who possessed the Ark. So, some members of the Jewish community obstructed the expedition.

The Baron purchased the land between the expedition’s plot and the Pool of Siloam. His agent, Albert Antebi, had brokered many of the Baron’s purchases for Jewish settlements in Palestine. He was experienced in buying sites with as little fuss and publicity as possible. Antebi carried out the land purchases quickly and without the issues which the Parker expedition had experienced. Antebi also paid labourers to report back to him on what was happening in the tunnels. Having purchased the site next to the expedition, Baron de Rothschild applied for permission to excavate. His deep connections in Constantinople meant he had no problems obtaining a firman to excavate next to the competing expedition. This expedition later took place under the supervision of Raymond Weill.

Baron de Rothschild told Israel’s future first President, Chaim Weizmann, that his

‘purpose was to uncover the Ark of the Covenant, which he believed to be buried there. I asked him, very seriously, what he hoped to achieve with the Ark. He answered: “Les fouilles, je m’en fiche: c’est la possession” — “excavations be damned, it’s possession that counts.”‘

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The connections to Sweden

Ice cream makers, naval captains and investors

Two of the expedition members were Swedish and there were many Swedish investors in the venture including the Swedish ambassador to the United Kingdom Count Anton Magnus Herman Wrangel af Sauss.

Johan Millen

It was Johan Millen who went to England to raise the funds for the expedition. Millen was a Swedish businessman who had tried his hand at different ventures including setting up Sweden’s first ice cream company. He had worked in Denmark and Belgium and had contacts in England. Millen moved to England during the expedition. However, he returned to Sweden a few years later. In December 1915, he gave a lecture about the excavations and the Ark at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The talk was not well received. He also wrote an account of the expedition which he published.

Axel Werner Hoppenrath

Axel Werner Hoppenrath was a Swedish captain who worked in the Belgian Congo for decades. His service in the Congo was only broken by his time on the expedition. He was a critical member of the Parker expedition. He negotiated the purchase of land and signed a contract with the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem.

The official biography of service in the Congo records that Hoppenrath worked hard and with ‘a rare competence’. His passengers also appreciated Hoppenrath’s qualities as a steamer captain. In 1894, when he was the ‘Stanley’ steamer’s captain, he carried a party of Catholic missionaries and nuns. One of these was Constant Pierre-Joseph De Deken. He was a Belgian missionary, anthropologist and explorer who later wrote an account of his time in the Congo. De Deken thanked the Swede for his tact and good manners, which lessened their long voyage’s monotony. He wrote that even if you travelled slowly with Hoppenrath, you could be sure of arriving.

The most famous depiction of the madness of the Belgian Congo is arguably in Joseph Conrad’s work Heart of Darkness. Hoppenrath played a part in inspiring its most famous scene:

“I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen—and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids,—a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.”

The official Belgian Biography of Colonial Service paid tribute to Hoppenrath:

‘During a fine colonial career of more than 30 years in the Congo, Hoppenrath rendered remarkable services to the Colony.”

On his retirement, he returned to Sweden and died in Stockholm in June 1932.

Henning Melander

Henning Melander was a Swedish writer who published books and articles over many years about the Ark of the Covenant. He believed that the Ark was hidden in Jerusalem. In 1881, he had visited Jerusalem and researched the locations where he believed the Ark was hidden. He returned home and pursued a career as a surveyor in the Swedish army. He also wrote about his theories. Twenty years before Juvelius went to London, Melander had published a book entitled The Ark of the Covenant of Israel and its Rediscovery. He was also a friend of Theodor Herzl the founder of the Zionist movement and discussed with him organising an expedition to dig in Jerusalem for the Ark.

Melander later published The Hidden Temple Treasures of Jerusalem. He believed that the prophet Jeremiah, together with the High Priest Hilkiah, had hidden the Ark during King Josiah’s reign. He claimed they had buried it in a place called Hakeldama or Akeldama, in the valley of Hinnom, also known as Gehenna. Juvelius read the book and wrote to Melander saying that he agreed with his theories. He asked to cooperate with Melander. They exchanged information and Melander’s work was influential in where the Parker expedition ended up digging. He sent maps and photos of Warren’s Shaft and the Siloam Tunnel to Juvelius. At the end of the correspondence and before he talked to Johan Millen and Axel Werner Hoppenrath Juvelius wrote:

“I now believe that I have empirically proven the correctness of Henning Melander’s extremely ingenious deduction that the entrance (the one from the valley side) to Jerusalem’s temple archive is in Hakeldama! Also that the temple archive stands still untouched in its hiding place!”

However, Juvelius decided to exclude Melander from the project and this produced a great deal of bitterness later on. Melander accused Juvelius of stealing his ideas and worse.

The Ambassador

In February 1914 after Clarence Wilson had gone mad and the expedition’s main source of funds has been closed down a delegation of Jerusalem creditors, including the mayor of Silwan, came to London. They were chasing money they were owed. Parker refused to meet them. Millen resolved the issue by selling some of his shares and giving the proceeds to the creditors. He sold £250 of shares, the equivalent of £30,000 today. Millen somehow persuaded the Swedish Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Count Herman Wrangel, to invest in the dying venture.

The Swedish Investors

Other than Johan Millen and Count Herman Wrangel there were eight other investors in the expedition who were listed as being Swedish residents. They were:

Oscar Bjorkman living in Wimmersby
Ada Uggla living in Stockholm
Victoria Wallen living in Stockholm
Edward Leffler living in Gothenburg
Gustaf Leffler living in Gothenburg
Anna Nilsson living in Arvika
Elin Allen living in Stockholm
Edith Sophie Carlsson living in Stockholm

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The connections to Belgium

Imperial Madness & Soap

Two of the expedition members had close links to Belgium although neither of them were Belgian.

Johan Millen

It was Johan Millen who went to England to raise the funds for the expedition. At the time he worked in a soap manufacturer in Antwerp.

Axel Werner Hoppenrath

Axel Werner Hoppenrath was a Swedish captain who worked in the Belgian Congo for decades. His service in the Congo was only broken by his time on the expedition. He was a critical member of the Parker expedition. He negotiated the purchase of land and signed a contract with the Ottoman governor of Jerusalem.

The official biography of service in the Congo records that Hoppenrath worked hard and with ‘a rare competence’. His passengers also appreciated Hoppenrath’s qualities as a steamer captain. In 1894, when he was the ‘Stanley’ steamer’s captain, he carried a party of Catholic missionaries and nuns. One of these was Constant Pierre-Joseph De Deken. He was a Belgian missionary, anthropologist and explorer who later wrote an account of his time in the Congo. De Deken thanked the Swede for his tact and good manners, which lessened their long voyage’s monotony. He wrote that even if you travelled slowly with Hoppenrath, you could be sure of arriving.

The most famous depiction of the madness of the Belgian Congo is arguably in Joseph Conrad’s work Heart of Darkness. Hoppenrath played a part in inspiring its most famous scene:

“I had expected to see a knob of wood there, you know. I returned deliberately to the first I had seen—and there it was, black, dried, sunken, with closed eyelids,—a head that seemed to sleep at the top of that pole, and, with the shrunken dry lips showing a narrow white line of the teeth, was smiling too, smiling continuously at some endless and jocose dream of that eternal slumber.”

Hoppenrath was married to a Belgian woman named Jeanne-Marie Charlier. He married her on his return to Europe shortly before the expedition. She later joined him for part of the expedition to Jerusalem.

Investors

In addition to Hoppenrath and Millen’s connections to Belgium there was also one Belgian shareholder in J. M. P. F. W. Ltd.

FCW Stachow a Civil Engineer of 146 rue des Palais, Brussels was a shareholder.

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Funding for expedition came from a fortune made in Australia

In August 1909 the Parker expedition started digging in Jerusalem for the Ark of the Covenant. Most of the funding came from the family of Sir Samuel Wilson. He made a fortune in Australia and did much to fund Melbourne University. There is a magnificent hall named in his honour at the university.

Sydney Morning Herald 6th May 1911

Headline in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 6th May 1911

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