Jacob Wilson Sey was born on 10 March 1832 in a fishing village, Biriwa, close to Cape Coast which was the colonial capital of the Gold Coast until 1877. He died on 22 May 1902. Mr. Sey was a colonial era Fante artisan, farmer, philanthropist, nationalist and the first recorded indigenous multi-millionaire on the Gold Coast, now Ghana.
He had a humble background and was a neglected child. His father, Paapa Saah worked as a carpenter while his mother, Maame Abadua, was a farmer. As a child, Wilson-Sey, noted for his sense of humour, was nicknamed “Kwaa Bonyi”.
It is said that, Kwaa Bonyi lost his grip and fell to the ground unconscious. He heard a voice commanding him to wake up and show love and kindness to the needy. On regaining consciousness, his eyes fell on a glittering object.
Out of curiosity, he cautiously approached it, took it up and examined it. To his amazement, it proved to be a gold nugget. He also saw in the near-by bush what seemed to be a number of pots filled with pure gold.
He sealed off the place and over a period of time, managed to smuggle the pots of gold secretly to his house. This treasure trove was supposed to be worth about two hundred billion pounds today. From that time onward, his life changed dramatically.
He played a major role in the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society (ARPS), founded to oppose the 1896 Crown Lands Bill and the 1897 Lands Bill that threatened the traditional land tenure system and stipulated that all unused lands be controlled by the British colonial government.
On behalf of chiefs and people of the country, he led a delegation of the Society, consisting of Thomas Freeman together with Cape Coast merchants Edward Jones and George Hughes, to petition Queen Victoria to abrogate the Bill.
He funded the efforts to bring back native chiefs in exile, Elmina’s Kobena Gyan and the Asantehene, Prempeh I from distant lands such as The Seychelles. Sey also built a model of a palm wine pot at the city centre, a homage to his early beginnings and the connection to the acquisition of wealth.
The Oguaa Traditional Council of Cape Coast renovated the “Gothic House”, a colonial building that belonged to Jacob Wilson Sey, into a multi-purpose modern palace. Jacob Wilson Sey died in his seventieth year in his home at Cape Coast, on 22 May 1902. His remains were buried next to his wife’s grave at the cemetery near the Cape Coast Town Hall.
- “National Commission on Culture”. ghanaculture.gov.gh. Archived from the original on 28 May 2018. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
- “Jacob Wilson Sey: The First Gold Coast Millionaire, Nationalist and First Financier Of Ghana’s Independence and the President Of Aborigine’s Right Protection Society (ARPS)”. Jacob Wilson Sey. Archived from the original on 25 April 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
“Jacob Wilson Sey: Gold Coast Millionaire – Ghana Radio Ghana Tourist Coach Radio”. ghanatcradio.com. Archived from the original on 29 May 2015.