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"The Apostle of the Indians of Guiana"
A Memoir of the Life and Labours of the Rev. W.H. Brett, B.D.
For Forty Years a Missionary in British Guiana

By the Rev. F.P.L. Josa
Rector of Holy Trinity, Essequibo

London: Wells, Gardner, Darton and Co., 1887.

Chapter IX.

Mr. Brett ordered Home on Sick Leave--Mr. F. Landroy--Return of Mr. Brett as Rector of Holy Trinity, and Missionary--Mr. M'Clintock.

IT will be remembered, as stated above, that in 1847, in consequence of the privations which Mr. Brett had to undergo, as well as from the effects of the miasma arising from the marshy land on which he had lived for upwards of seven years, his health gave way, and he had to remove to the coast, but that he continued to serve the Mission till 1849, when, as he wrote to a friend, "I had to give up and return home, utterly broken down." He was ordered home for absolute rest, the missions being left in charge of catechists. Cabacaburi was confided to the charge of Mr. F. Landroy; but, as the Colonial Legislature, which had hitherto helped in paying the salaries of curates and catechists, had stopped all salaries, Mr. Landroy did not enter on his duties till late in the year 185o. The Mission during all this time was vacant and unvisited, and "Waramuri" in particular was practically abandoned, a Mr. Currie, as has already been stated, having become ill shortly after he was sent there. In June 1851 Mr. Brett returned to the colony, as he himself wrote to a friend, "with strength. a little recruited." The Bishop placed him as "officiating minister of the parish of St. Swithin, on the west bank of the Demerara River." After this he was on the point of moving to the east bank of the same river as officiating minister of the parish of St. Matthew, when it was other wise willed by the providence of God. The Rev. Charles Haskins, Rector of Holy Trinity, Essequibo, had resigned his living, and no better or more suitable man could be found than the Rev. W. H. Brett to superintend the parish in which his dearly cherished missions were situated. As we have already shown, there is a canal cut through Plantation "Anna Regina," within a mile and a half of Holy Trinity Rectory, by which means it is possible to reach Cabacaburi Mission in about seven hours' paddling.

Although the Mission was fully established, no catechist could ever take the place and do the work of Mr. Brett. Unfortunately no missionary was available, and therefore Mr. Brett could only give to the missions the time which he could spare from his other duties on the coast. His visits were very regularly once a quarter, and lasted for about ten days. But notwithstanding all these drawbacks the blessing of God rested on the missions. The testimony that follows is very remarkable, coming as it does from the Postholder or Protector of the Indians, &c. Mr. W. C. H. M'Clintock. This gentleman had at first not much sympathy with the work of evangelisation; but a letter which was addressed to Lieutenant-Governor Walker by him shows that a change had taken place in his sentiments. This letter was sent in 1853.

"SIR,--I have the honour to state for His Excellency's information that I committed to Capoey Jail this day five Indian men of the Warousi nation, all of whom were connected more or less with the murder of a woman of the same nation, at a place called 'Houhannah,' in Komwatta Creek, in Upper Moruca, one hundred miles from my present residence, between the hours of eleven and twelve forenoon, of Monday the 12th ultimo. The means used to deprive the poor unprotected female of life were cruel in the extreme. To discharge these Indians without some punishment (confinement) might be attended with consequences serious to themselves as well as to others; at the same time I cannot but remark, that however beneficial prison discipline may prove to the more accomplished and hardened villain, there is nothing so likely to create a change for the better, in the minds of the untutored Indian, and so effectually to keep him from harm's way, if I may so express it, as religious instruction; and being thoroughly convinced of the ultimate success which the adoption of such course would ensure, I must respectfully suggest the re-establishment of Waramuri Mission; and if a fit and proper person be appointed to it, and he becomes acquainted with the Indians entrusted to his care, murders and every description of crime will vanish like a shadow from amongst them.

"The Arawak Indians, who attend the Cabacaburi Mission, Pomeroon, afford the strongest evidence of the correctness of the opinion just offered; for example, when I first arrived in this district, many years before any missionary was appointed to it, a more disorderly people than the present Arawaks could not be found in any part of the province; murders and violent cases of assaults were of frequent occurrence. But now the case is reversed--no outrage of any description ever happens; they attend Divine Service, their children are educated, they them selves dress neatly, are lawfully married, and as a body there are no people, in point of general good conduct, to surpass them. This change, which has caused peace and contentment to prevail, was brought about solely through the missionary labour; and why not, may I inquire, extend similar benefits to the more benighted children of the woods."--I am, &c. &c.,


This letter led to the re-establishment of the Waramuri Mission in 1854, after it had been vacant for four years. During Mr. Brett's visit in 1853 we find that he actually collected from the Indians $ao for the newly founded Church S.ociety which was established for Home Mis sionary work. At this time Mr. Brett wrote that the Mission was in a most "flourishing state;" and of the catechist, Mr. Landroy, he writes--" He has completely gained the confidence of the Indians--a result which it ordinarily takes years fully to attain."

In the old Rectory of Trinity parish, where this Memoir is being written, we came across an old Diary in the hand writing of Mr. Brett, from which we make the following extracts. One item of painful interest is taken from a report supplied by the catechist Landroy, for the quarter ending 3 September 1856:--"I have nothing favourable to report. The Indians have been visited at their dwellings and Mission with hunger, sickness, measles, and a peculiar and malignant dysentery.

"The Arawaks have suffered much from the latter, one family (including five communicants), consisting of eleven, men, women, and children, died at the residence of the Postholder, Mr. M'Clintock. I regred to add Mrs. M'Clintock has fallen a victim to her noble efforts to save the sufferers.

"Two men came to the Mission with dysentery, but through the blessing of the Lord they are now recovered.

"The Caribs are also suffering. Some of them have gone into the dense forest to escape the disease, and have cut down large trees to stop others from coming among them.

"The Acawoios are enjoying good health at present. They attend Divine Service and school their children, and have built another house. A few of the Caribs who are near the Mission attend Divine Service, and several adults of this tribe were baptized and married by the Rev. W. H. Brett on his visit, September 2d.

"The severe visitation of sickness, following so quickly on the scarcity of food caused by the drought, has been a most serious drawback, as far as regards our members; though, doubtless, Almighty God will overrule it for good to many souls.

"The death of the poor lady whose labour of mercy I have mentioned is peculiarly distressing to us, though we have in such a case the best of hope through Him who said, 'Blessed are the merciful.'

"Average attendance at church, 92; ditto, Sunday- school, 54; Day School, boys 38, girls 32; total, 70; average, 26."

The year 1857 is thus headed in the Diary:--"Cholera at the Mission at Cabacaburi February and March 1857."

The first case was that of a boy who was seized with cholera in a corial on the river, and was left by other Indians at the Mission landing-place in the night, he having been a scholar there. The poor boy, finding himself unable to ascend the hill, got into a corial and paddled himself to his settlement, but was seen drifting past Makasina, the Postholder's residence, early next morning. Mr. M'Clintock sent two Caribs with him to the Mission, but they left him at the landing-place again, and fled in terror of the disease. There he remained in an exhausted state for hours, until he was surrounded by the rising tide. Mrs. Landroy, at length having discovered his position, in the impulse of her feeling, hurried to the spot and brought him to land, and did her best to save him. But her care was too late. He died at 8 P.M. the same day. The next day, Sunday, after Divine Service, the cholera attacked the congregation. The poor boy had been carried to a house by a young canoeist named Daniel, and the wife of Daniel was seized with the fatal sickness, and died in a few hours. Two other young persons next died in the same house. The panic spread, and the Indians immediately fled from the Mission; but there were about five-and-twenty who remained to attend the sick.

In the same year we read in the Guiana Diocesan Church Society's Report as follows, and this will give an idea of the work that was possible to be done by Mr. Brett during one of his quarterly visits:--

"January 19th. Left the coast and arrived at the Hill Mission. Found the frame of the chancel erected, but no effort had as yet been made to take down the building at the mouth of the Arapiaco and remove it to the hill. As many Indians were assembled I addressed them, and pointed out the advantage of making a united effort to accomplish the removal the next day. To enable them to do this I postponed the celebration of Divine Service till I should return from Waramurj.

"Tuesday the 20th. The Indians, led by our faithful old Cornelius, turned out in great force, and accompanied the carpenter to the old chapel. They worked very hard all day bringing the materials, a distance of a mile, in their small corials to the foot of the hill. Here the women and school-children met them, and carried up all the lighter portions. As the day advanced the scene became more animated, from the number of people engaged and the corials--many of which had hoisted handkerchiefs for flags--covering the river, each fresh arrival being saluted with joyful acclamations. So heartily did they work that the whole chapel, which, with its tower, chancel, and porch, stood intact at 8 AM., was taken down and carried to the hill ere sunset, leaving a few rotten timbers only, with a few shingles, to be removed the next day.

"In the evening I issued rations of salt fish for the support of the men, who were exhausted by fatigue, but neither that nor any remuneration had been asked for or expected by them. The Day School was examined by me; 22 children present; many reading well.

"Waramuri Mission, Friday the 23d.

"Married two couples after early morning prayers. Very unwell all day with cold and low fever.

"Saturday the 2 Indians present at morning service, 70; in the evening, 79. Inspected the Day School; present, 46, including five adults. The register shows on the books 45 boys, 34 girls, besides several adults. Average for last quarter, The school is in good order, and Mr. Campbell evidently takes great pains.

"Sunday, 2 Early Sabbath-school, 76 attended. Full morning service; present, 140. Administered the Holy Communion to 8, including Arawâks and the Carib captain, Peter, and his wife. Evening service, about ioo present.

"Wednesday the 29th. The Hill. Found that the Indians had not been idle during my absence, but while the car penters were flooring and boarding the sides of the chancel they had put on a troolie roof as a protection against sun and rain. The roof of course, was only intended for that special occasion, and would give place to one of shingles; but the good feeling and willing mind displayed in their act were such as to call forth my admiration and thanks. The congregation this day was 184; communicants, 48; baptisms, 14. I never saw the Mission in a better state, notwithstanding the recent mortality among our converts and the illness of poor Mr. Landroy. Miss Reid is labouring very diligently in the school, and every effort is being made by the family to keep two missions up, the result being as above stated. I cannot conclude this report with out especial notice of the conduct of Cornelius, the Arawâk captain. Every person praised his disinterested efforts to set forward the building. The carpenters assured me that if any of the timber furnished by the Indians was found to be unsuitable Cornelius immediately and quietly set about cutting fresh and proper materials in addition to his own quota, lest there should be any dispute or delay in the work. I am sorry to say I have left him at present in much grief, having told the people that my funds will not allow me to get other than a troolie roof at present for the remaining portion or nave of the building. This Cornelius considers a disgrace to a building erected for the worship of God. He sat in the chapel, holding a long and anxious consultation with his tribe by moonlight, on the last evening of my visit, and sent to ask if I could manage to pay for the lathes and putting them on, if they furnished the shingles. I could not promise this, as the grant from the Guiana Diocesan Church Society will not go any further than I have already engaged; but I should not wonder if the old man, in his zeal, should cut the shingles himself, and then make another appeal. From my knowledge of his character, I feel assured that he will make every exertion to complete this work suitably, for his heart, like David's, is set upon building a fit house for tile worship of God."

Mr. Brett had the pleasure of seeing the chapel completed by Easter, owing to the great zeal of Cornelius, and a special grant of $80 made by the Governor of the colony.

The work continued to progress, and in 1861 Mr. Brett was able to report that he had baptized 577 Indians at Cabacaburi, and about 100 at the parish church of the Holy Trinity, i.e., more than one-half of the population living along that river and neighbouring creeks.

We find nothing worthy chronicling until we reach 1864. The gospel news appears by this time to have reached the wild tribes of the far interior, and in that year there was a great migration thence to the Pomeroon and Moruca Missions. In August 1864 Mr. Brett writes:--"The great point of interest in these missions at present is the extraordinary ingathering of the Acawoios. Until a comparatively recent period there were none of this tribe living near our stations. Then a few families of that tribe came from a long distance to Cabacaburi, and asked to be taught. They were received with distrust and fear, on account of the evil reputation borne by the tribe as 'kenaima,' or night murderers and poisoners, for which there has been in some instances but too good foundation."

The Acawoios were much to be desired, because their tongue stands in the same relation as French in Europe, and they are what may be termed the peddlers and news- carriers of the whole of the interior. As it will presently be seen, they have actually proved the greatest disseminators of the truth of the gospel. The Waraus were still a source of trouble, they maintaining their ancient character of being "supreme in misery."

Aricunas and Maiongkongs began about this time to visit the missions. In November i86 Mr. Brett writes:--"These wild-looking people manifested the greatest desire to learn, and through the medium of our Acawoios, who can easily communicate with them, we trust that some permanent good may have been imparted;" and as the sequel will show, the good was permanent. We find that at the Bishop's visitation in the same year he actually saw at the two missions about 1600 souls.

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