Evangelism, commerce and the abolition of the slave trade came together in the Niger expedition of 1841. The aims of this were to explore the interior, to make treaties with the local peoples, to evangelise, and to establish a model farm at Lokoja (Crowder,1966: 141). Present on the voyage was Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the most eminent of the Saro repatriates from Sierra Leone. Captured after the destruction of his home village near Iseyin in 1821, he arrived in Sierra Leone the following year, and was one of the first students at the newly established Fourah Bay College (Kopytoff, 1965: 35).
The Methodists started mission work at Badagry in 1842, and were soon joined by Townsend, Gollmer and Crowther, all of the CMS (Ajayi, 1965: 31- 4). Townsend and Crowther started work in Abeokuta in 1846. With the growing number of Saro repatriates in Abeokuta, conditions appeared especially favourable for the missions. Initially, their influence was strong, especially after they had helped ward off an attack by Dahomey in 1850.