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From Cape Horn to Panama
A Narrative of Missionary Enterprise among the Neglected Races
of South America, by the South American Missionary Society

By Robert Young

[London] South American Missionary Society, 1905.

Chapter IV. Further Disasters

"It is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for evil-doing."--I PET. iii. 17.

A DARKER cloud than that which hung over the mission when its seven heroic pioneers fell one after another by death from starvation and disease cannot well be imagined. What next? Shall the inhospitable field be abandoned? Certainly, was the response of worldly wisdom. It undoubtedly required the exercise of no ordinary faith to come to any other conclusion. Happily, the men who guided the movement possessed such a faith. They were animated by the same spirit that characterized Allen Gardiner in such a marked degree. He never faltered in his belief that the mission would eventually prove successful. Even when the outlook was darkest, when body and mind were in the lowest condition of exhaustion, he is engaged in drawing up an "Outline of a plan for conducting the future operations of the mission to Tierra del Fuego"--an outline written partly in Pioneer Cavern and partly in the dormitory of his boat, and concluded only four days before he, the last of the seven, passed away. The following remarks occur in the said outline:--

That so vast and so promising a field for missionary enterprise, with the exception of British and Dutch Guiana, still remains unoccupied by any Protestant Missionary Society, is a fact as much to be deplored as it is surprising. It is difficult to account for so lamentable an omission on the part of those who have sent heralds of the Gospel to almost every other portion of the earth.

Fresh energy was infused into the dispirited supporters of the mission by the publication far and wide of the Rev. George Pakenham Despard's determination, "WITH GOD'S HELP THE MISSION SHALL BE MAINTAINED." The note thus sounded was warmly taken up by the committee, who had been encouraged also by the sympathetic letter transmitted by Captain Morshead. He had written to the Secretary:--

I trust neither yourself nor the Society will be discouraged from following up to the utmost the cause in which you have embarked; and ultimate success is as certain as the present degraded state of the savages is evident.

The committee were further assured that the experience of past failures would stand them in good stead for the future. As regards Tierra del Fuégo, in particular, they had learned

That an imperfectly-built and ill-rigged boat of seven tons burden, with only five or six efficient hands in her, cannot hold out against the violent gusts of wind and the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean: but a vessel of from one hundred to one hundred and fifty tons, with a proper complement of men, may1 endure the storms, and find excellent anchorage in Blomefield Harbour and at Banner Cove. Further,

Though natives will not be repelled from thieving by the appearance of half a dozen men, yet they will stand in awe of a superior number. From their frail canoes they may manage to board a small craft whose gunwale is not much higher from the water than that of their canoes; but they will not be well able to obtrude themselves on the occupants of a vessel having bulwarks and perhaps boarding netting above them.

These and other considerations of a similar nature weighed with the committee. And not less strongly, to say the least, did the following, as put by Mr. Despard:--

The white man has found his way to Patagonia--has discovered the wanderers, has taught them his vices, has given them his passions, and has brought a strange death for an inmate of their huts. The white Christian must now do his part, and 'tis not too soon to reach that land--teach its dwindling inhabitants his faith, and give them God's Bible for healing, and with it the knowledge of the Father and of His Son Jesus Christ, which is eternal life.

As the result of the Society's efforts consequent on the resolution to prosecute the mission, a schooner named the Allen Gardiner was launched at Dartmouth in 1854, and on October 24, sailed from Bristol with a suitable staff, among whom were Mr. Garland Phillips, as catechist, and Mr. Ellis, as surgeon, it being arranged that a clerical superintendent should speedily follow.

Agreeably to the plan sketched out by Captain Gardiner, and to the advice tendered by Admirals Fitzroy and Sulivan, Keppel Island, near West Falkland, was selected for the mission station, and, by permission of the local government, the missionaries were duly settled there on February, 5, 1855. The island is some twenty-two miles in circumference. The foundation of the first permanent house was laid on May 28, 1855, at Cranmer; it was named "Sulivan House." It was part of the plan to bring thither some Fuégian lads to teach them English, to learn their language, and to train them for future usefulness, very much as had been done some years previously by the apostolic Bishop Selwyn, who from time to time succeeded in inducing a number of youths belonging to various islands in Melanesia to accompany him with a similar object in view to Auckland. It was further arranged that no station should be formed in Tierra del Fuego until these preliminary objects were accomplished.

The mission party made a voyage in the autumn of 1855 to Tierra del Fuego, and had the mournful satisfaction of standing on the spot where the remains of Captain Gardiner were discovered. Those of the other martyrs having been found and recognised, were reverently interred. After a suitable service, conducted by Mr. Phillips, a tablet, with the following inscription, was securely nailed to the nearest tree, and over the grave:--

(then follow the seven names)

Who, after much fatigue and privation from want of food, departed this life between June 28 and September 6, 1851.
Their remains are buried close by, etc.

It was a pleasing surprise to the missionaries, a day or two afterwards, to discover that James or Jemmy Button, as he was called, whom Captain Fitzroy had brought to England in 1830, was living with his family on his native island, and that he had not lost his acquaintance with the English language. Jemmy was well made, good featured, and powerfully built; active in his habits, and possessing unusual energy. On his first appearance his face was painted black, which in turn was exchanged for white streaks, and then for tastefully executed and orderly arranged ornamental white dots--his favourite wife, as she was supposed to be, being painted in similar fashion. He was quite disposed to be friendly, and might even on this occasion have been willing to accompany the missionaries to Keppel, but the Captain did not take kindly to the idea of inviting any of the natives to go thither, and accordingly the vessel returned to the Falklands without them.

The Mission was reinforced in the following year by the arrival of the Rev. George P. Despard, as superintendent, along with his family and two adopted boys; the Rev. John Furniss Ogle, vicar of Flam-borough, and a munificent supporter of the society; Mr. Allen W. Gardiner, the only son of the founder, and demy of Magdalen College, Oxford; Mr. Charles Turpin, as Missionary catechist, and Mr. W. Bartlett, as manager of the Mission farm at Keppel.

Leaving his family at Stanley, Mr. Despard spent the first eighteen months in a succession of voyages. The most urgent that claimed his attention was to Monte Video to engage a new captain and crew. Having arranged for these, he returned and spent Christmas at Keppel. Then followed a voyage to Patagonia, and thence to Tierra del Fuego--a long-cherished wish. Young Gardiner, who accompanied him, wrote as follows on April 16 from Spaniard Harbour:--

About 5 p.m. we ran into this harbour. We put off in the boat, the first mate and I taking two of the oars. The captain (Fell) steered straight for the mouth of the cave. The waves break into it at high water, and the surf on the rock in a gale of wind must be truly awful. We landed a few yards off on the beach. With a lighted candle we walked on and on until we ascended into a gloomy chamber. There is the fireplace where poor Maidment's bones were found; beyond is a gloomy cavern, while in front is the breakwater, which the waves have broken in upon. I left the cavern to search for the painted words, Psalm lxii. 5-8. Yes, they were there still, just outside the entrance, quite distinct and legible. . . .

April 19, Sunday.--Asked the captain for the gig, and landed alone to take a last look at Pioneer Cavern and my father's grave. On the headstone is painted "Captain Gardiner"; on a smaller one at the foot "H.M.S. Dido."

Banner Cove.--We got under way from Spaniard Harbour at seven o'clock on Monday morning, and anchored here at one on Wednesday morning, having accomplished thirty-two miles in forty-two hours. I went below, extremely thankful for such a snug (berth at Banner Cove. After dinner the captain and I pushed off in the gig, and rowed to the rock at the entrance, on which is painted quite legibly, "Gone, to Spaniard Harbour." The other distressing words are now hardly traceable. The scenery of Banner Cove is beautiful. Every one on board is charmed with it.

After visiting Blomefield and Lennox Harbours, where friendly intercourse was held with the natives, they returned on May 16, to the Falklands.

Previous to settling down to steady missionary work, it was necessary that Mr. Despard should undertake other two voyages--one to Rio Janeiro for building materials, etc., another to Monte Video for a fresh crew, the former crew having engaged for only one year. When these had been overtaken, he settled his family in Keppel in January, 1858. About the same time Mr. Gardiner and Mr. Turpin proceeded to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The voyage to the latter, notwithstanding the usual unpropitious weather, proved both interesting and fruitful. The following extracts are from Gardiner's diary:--

About 2 p.m. we were abreast of Button Island, and ran for the cove at Woollya, where Captain Fitzroy landed Matthews. There were two canoes in the cove. One of the natives sang out as we came in, "Hillo, hoy, hoy." I asked him for Jemmy Button, and he pointed to the island.

June 11.--. . . About 9 a.m. four canoes were seen rounding the north point of Button Island, and coming across the Sound. As soon as they were within hailing distance I sang out "Jemmy Button," when a man stood up in the foremost canoe and answered. "Yes, sir." In a few minutes the identical man came up the ladder and shook hands with me; he said his girl, as he called his daughter, had been paddling half the night to find him, as he was "long, long way." She looked quite exhausted, but appeared pleased with the presents I gave her as a reward for her exertions. Jemmy came down to the cabin and partook of some coffee and bread and butter. He remembered Captain Fitzroy perfectly, seemed much pleased at Mr. Bynoe's remembrance, and the useful carpenter's tools he had sent him. I went ashore with Jemmy and helped him to cut some poles to repair his wigwam. There were two other natives cutting at the same place, and I was surprised at their dexterity with the very rude tools they had. It was a picturesque scene, eleven canoes at the edge of the beach, and the natives cutting wood, some repairing their wigwams with green branches, and others lighting their fires.

Jemmy gave his own people a very good character. He gave me an account of a tragedy that happened, he says, not long since. A ship, with English, fell among the natives of another tribe, and were all killed. This was probably a shipwrecked crew in a. boat, and, perhaps, may help to explain why shipwrecked sailors are so often picked up on the Falklands, and sometimes on Staten Island, but never from the islands of Tierra del Fuégo.

For a week or so the mission vessel remained in the neighbourhood of Button Island, the missionaries holding daily intercourse with Jemmy Button and other Fuégians. The return to Keppel Island with the Button family is thus told by Mrs. Despard:--

June 28.--Rejoice with me, for the Lord has seen fit to answer the daily prayers addressed to Him, the Sovereign Disposer of all hearts, that He would be pleased to put it into the mind of some of those poor benighted Fuégians to trust themselves to our hands and come over to us here. This important event in our missionary life has just taken place. On Thursday last, soon after breakfast, the delightful cry resounded through the house, "The Allen Gardiner is coming in." I ran quickly to the house door, from which we command a fine sea view, and there truly, was the stout little craft, which has so bravely stood many a severe and stormy gale, rapidly scudding before the wind. Soon after, Captain Bunt and Mr. Turpin came to Sulivan House with the joyful news that James Button with his wife and three children were on board. Then arose a shout of joy and praise among us. It is wonderful how well James Button remembers his English. He seems quite at home with us all, and came up with his eldest child, a boy of eight or nine. I asked him his name. He answered, "Threeboys," for what reason we cannot yet find out. This boy is apparently very quick, and has picked up many English words. . . .

Mr. Allen Gardiner returned to England to report progress and otherwise further the interests of the mission, while Mr. Despard remained at the station until November, when, agreeably to promise, he took the Fuégian family back to their own country. How that family had conducted themselves in their new surroundings at Keppel is thus told by Mrs. Despard:--

My husband left on the i6th (November), accompanied by Messrs. Phillips and Turpin and the Button family, for Tierra del Fuego. I cannot tell you how we miss our late guests now they are gone. During their stay here they behaved extremely well, never doing anything to offend or annoy us. As to Jemmy, his politeness was extreme, and I ever found him grateful. For any little trifle I gave him he would go and pick me a most beautiful bouquet of wild flowers or spear me some fish. He was always clean. He quickly recovered his English, and understood us better than we understood him. He knows that there is a God who created all things. He also knows about our blessed Saviour. I said, "Jemmy, will you come back to us?" He would not promise, but replied, "Perhaps, by-and-by; me no tell now." . . .

This last voyage resulted in Mr. Despard's bringing back with him in January, 1859, three men and their wives, two lads, aged respectively twelve and fifteen, and a female child, aged two years. After ten months' residence at Keppel, they too returned to their homes ere they left, the training enjoyed had borne good fruit. The two lads, Lucca and Okokko, in particular, had made satisfactory progress, as shown in their polite manners, in giving thanks at meals, praying at their bedside, and in the use of the pen and the saw. The men, too, were much improved, behaving in an orderly manner, attending daily worship with praiseworthy regularity, and generally twice on Sunday, being also decent in their habits and tidy in their dress.

Mr. Phillips, who had the direction of the expedition, sailed with his charges on October 6, 1859, for Woollya, Navarin Island, which was reached on November 1. For several days much friendly intercourse was held with the natives, and anything of an untoward nature never seemed to occur to any of the mission party. During a portion of the time spent on shore they were engaged felling timber and adding to the house which had been commenced in the previous year. It was situated within a few yards of the water's edge, and was intended as the foundation of a mission station on Fuégian soil. The natives readily took part in the building operations, and in consequence of the friendliness thus shown, the mission party, thrown off their guard, were imprudent enough to go ashore in a body on the Sunday for public worship, only Alfred Coles, the cook, being left in charge of the vessel. The risk was the greater that during the week about seventy canoes had arrived from neighbouring islands. It was the presence of these savage crews, numbering about three hundred, prompted by a spirit of covetousness, that led to a sudden attack, just after the service had commenced in the unfinished house, which resulted in the massacre of the entire number.

They attempted to get back to the boat, but in vain. Captain Fell and his brother (Mr. John A. Fell, chief officer) stood back to back, and were miserably beaten to death with clubs by the infuriated savages. Mr. Phillips reached the water's edge, but at the moment he had his hand on the boat he was struck on the head by a stone, and fell stunned into the water; but the natives dragged him out, and killed him on the spot.

In one short hour from the time they had left the ship in health and strength, to join together in prayer with the Church militant on earth, they were called to join the eternal song of praise with the Church triumphant in heaven.

The survivor, alarmed by what he had witnessed from the deck, escaped in a boat to the shore, and although pursued by a canoe, succeeded in reaching the woods, and for twelve days eluded observation. During the night he lay under shelter of some sticks and grass, and during the day he moved about from place to place, either in the woods or along the beach, frequently taking refuge in trees, living upon berries, raw mussels, and limpets. At length, wet, cold, and hungry, he fell in with some natives, by whom he was stripped and plundered. He sailed about with them in their canoe in the direction of Woollya, which was reached after ten days. There they met with Jemmy Button, of whose uniform kindness Coles spoke in grateful terms.

The crews of the canoes that gathered in such force three weeks previous had by this time taken their departure, and all who could now be seen were the members of the Button family and a few other natives.

Meantime, Mr. Despard had become so anxious about the safety of his friends that he could not rest until he had despatched Captain Smyley in the schooner Nancy to Woollya. He thus reports the result:--

Mr. Phillips, Captain Fell, the four seamen, and two mates of the schooner, have been massacred by the natives in Woollya. Let me pause, and weep, and pray, now that I have written these terrible words. Pray ye to the Lord not to lay this sin to their charge. Weep not for the dead; weep for the living. Weep not for the dead in Christ; weep for the mourning widows; weep for the mothers deprived of their sons--their support. God has tried us in the furnace of affliction.

The mission schooner had been plundered of everything that could be carried away, but not burnt or otherwise destroyed. The boats, too, were recovered through the intervention of Jemmy and Tom Button. And Captain Smyley had the satisfaction, after a hard week's work, amid ice, and snow, and storm, of conveying schooner and boats to the Falklands, where they were once more refitted and made serviceable, as before.

It may be added here that Okokko was so earnest in his entreaties to be allowed to go back to Keppel that the Captain acceded to his request, he, with his wife Camilenna, being for some time the only Fuégians at the station. Their conduct and progress are said to have been most commendable.

It is difficult to say to what extent Jemmy Button and members of the Button family, or other natives just returned from Keppel, were responsible for or took part in the massacre. One would fain believe that it did not originate with them, and that when the attack was made, which there is every reason to believe was sudden and unpremeditated, they were powerless to arrest its progress. The Rev. Charles Bull, the Colonial Chaplain at Stanley, who, along with the Colonial Secretary, was present officially at Jemmy Button's deposition, gave it as his impression that Jemmy himself did not take any part in the awful tragedy, though there was no dovibt he had joined in the plunder. His kindness to Alfred Coles is certainly strongly in Ins favour. Okokko, too, had been seen by Coles running up and down the beach in great distress, but evidently utterly helpless to save the unfortunate victims: while the three women (who had just returned from Keppel), as mentioned by Okokko, cried bitterly on witnessing the massacre. On the other hand, on the arrival of the schooner at Woollya, much discontent was excited among the natives in consequence of their bundles having been searched by the Captain, and two of them were very angry on being detected in the possession of articles which did not belong to them. Jemmy himself, who had come aboard a day or two afterwards, was highly displeased at not getting many things so soon as he expected; and it was another member of the Button family (Billy)--one of the two whose bundles had been searched--who threw the stone which hit and stunned Phillips as he was making for the boat.

A former mate of the Allen Gardiner, on hearing of the sad calamity just narrated, wrote thus to the Secretary of the Society:--

God, for some wise purpose, permitted me to leave the Allen Gardiner at the close of the voyage. Yet I almost envy those who have been found worthy to bear a martyr's cross, and to wear a martyr's crown. Having witnessed in the walk of Captain Fell and Mr. Phillips the fruit of the Spirit, I have a confident hope that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will place the crown upon their heads.

The reader will doubtless sympathize with these remarks. Like the great Apostle of the Gentiles, these missionaries to Tierra del Fuego counted not their lives clear unto them, so that they might finish their course with joy. The record of Mr. Phillips' brief but joyful service and tragic death was soon afterwards published in a little volume. So also was the biography of Dr. Richards Williams, by the Rev. Dr. James Hamilton, of London--a volume, it is said, which was the means of bringing not a few sceptics to Christ.

Mr. Despard, with his family, returned to England early in 1862. The mission farm and property were left under the care of Mr. William Bartlett, while the natives were placed under the charge of Mr. Thomas Bridges, one of the young men who had been adopted and brought up by Mr. Despard, and who was proving himself a most capable agent.

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