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Sewall '97, First to Develop Kenya, Recounts Years as Big Game Hunter


Posterity will have no written record of the amazing exploits of William Sewall '97 because, as the 60-year-old adventurer explained yesterday, "If you told the story people would think you're a damned liar!" Only the animal heads in the Harvard Club of New York will remain as mute testimony of the hair breadth escapes of the big game hunter.

Sewall and John W. Norton '98 went to Africa in 1905 for three months of hunting, but Sewall, captivated by the dark continent, which he described as the "most fantastic, Alice-in-Wonderland country," remained there for 35 years while his companion returned to a normal existence in Boston.

In the undeveloped highlands of Kenya on the equator, Sewall bought up 45,000 acres and tried to experiment in farming. He has since been most successful in growing wheat and is responsible for the development of that part of Africa as a food source for the British Empire.

Hidden Lions' Nests

He often encountered lions' nests hidden in tall grass while plowing the wild virgin land, and the angry beasts sent natives and oxen running in all directions. Lions showed the utmost cunning in discovering and outwitting his tricks to prevent them from preying on the domestic animals.

His most hair raising experience took place in the Belgian Congo when he was poaching elephants. Since elephant tusks weigh 400 to 500 pounds and ivory is worth $2.50 to $5.00 a pound, many hunters took advantage of the weak administration in the Congo to shoot elephants illegally. Elephant hunting can be very dangerous because although the huge beasts are clumsy and have poor eyesight, they have a keen smell and become infuriated at the presence of man.

Starting at 4 o'clock in the morning, Sewall followed the tracks of a huge elephant, knowing the size of the animal because its height is exactly twice the circumference of its footprint. In the middle of the afternoon he caught sight of his prey in ten foot elephant grass and drew a bead with his .256 rifle. The first shot hit between the elephant's oar and eye and as the animal crumpled to the ground, another tusker charged from the grass. A charging elephant is an impossible shot because of the thick skull covering the front of its head, so all Sewall could do was to hit it in the mouth, merely giving the beast a head-ache.

"For some unknown reason I ran toward him," Sewall related, "but I tripped in the grass and fell down. The elephant almost stepped on me as he charged over me. He then saw two of my native trackers whom he killed."

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