The arrival of Mr. Hill, (sometimes called "Lord Hill") attempts to govern the Pitcairners—pretended to act under the authority of the English Government—styles himself President—officiates as religious teacher—secret consultations—enacts laws—addresses a letter to Mr. Buffett—visit of the Tuscan—visit to Tahiti and Gambier's Island, &c.—Hill removed.
In the early part of 1833 arrived the Bark "Maria" on a pearling voyage, bringing as passenger, a Mr. Joshua Hill. He was about 60 years of age, and very tall.
When some of the natives went on board, he enquired if a man of war had visited us lately; they answered in the negative.
He came on shore and took supper with me. After supper he went to the schoolhouse, and Mr. Nobbs gave him a room for his use while he remained with us.
He informed us that he was sent by the British Government to adjust the internal affairs of the Island; that his stay would be short; as in a few weeks H.M.'s ship Dublin would come expressly for the purpose of taking him away. He said he was intimately acquainted with the Captain whom he called Lord George Townshend. We at first believed his account, and each family agreed to board him daily, in rotation.
In looking over the Navy-List, I found that Lord James, and not George Townshend, commanded the Dublin, and I supposed he could not be so well acquainted as he had said.
From this and other circumstances, we doubted the truth of his mission. He soon began to visit some of the families, and said to some of the women that he was going to be a little king among them.
For a few days he appeared to be friendly to me, and I did some carpentering for him and he in return said he would do some good turn for me. One day when my wife carried him his food, he told her that I did not send it to him. She said I did; he would not allow it was so, she told him what belonged to her, did to me also, he made reply "No I know your husband does not like to feed me." When she returned and informed me, I told her it was best not to have anything more to do with him, as he seemed disposed to make disturbance. He then commenced hostilities. He wished Mr. Nobbs to alter his plan of school keeping and be guided by him, and because he would not he expelled him from his house and took possession of it. George Adams soon became his professed friend. Mr. Hill would get Adams to his house for the purpose of making known to him (H.) occurrences that had taken place on the Island promising him he would not reveal them.
A rupture soon broke out between them and he became an enemy to Adams. He next chose Edward Quintal as his confidant.
About this time an American Ship arrived and sent on shore some books. One was entitled, I believe, "The confutation of the writings of Tom. Paine." On my way home I was met by a woman who asked me if I had a book called Tom Pepper. I told her no, she replied that Mr. Hill was very angry because he said such a book was on shore, Mr. Hill sent for Evans and asked him if he had Tom. Paine, he told him "no, I have never seen such a book." Mr. Hill, became very angry and gave Evans the appellation of the "Big Fool with the woolen Cap" and told people "that all books coming on shore must undergo his inspection and such as he condemned must be burnt by the common hangman." Who that personage was I know not, unless it was himself.
It may appear strange how such a person could gain such an ascendancy over the people. It was through fear partly, and hopes of gain. He said to them, if they did not obey him he would write to government and a ship of war would be sent to chastise them. If on the other hand they would obey him, whatever they wanted he would write for and it would be sent them.
By those means he gained over three or four, one of whom was E. Quintal, who had long been a leading character. Mr. Hill appointed him and two other as elders and himself as President. After a while he chose other three whom he called Councillors. He held forth to them the benefits they would enjoy, and the estimation in which they would be held by officers of men-of-war. He also selected three youth whom he called "Cadets" or young men of high standing.
Several said (to use their own expression) "Mr. Hill is acting very singularly" but they could not tell what to do, and Arthur Quintal remarked, should his son act as Mr. Hill was acting he should certainly correct him. Sabbath evenings were the principal times of meeting; after prayer (Mr. H. now officiated) he would read a lecture on Astronomy or Popery and such subjects, and would boast of having by his sagacity expelled the Catholic Missionaries from Oahu, saying "no man at the Islands but himself could do it." He had resided some months at the Sandwich Islands, and I was informed afterwards by one of the missionaries, that he applied to the governor of Maui for a tract of land, but it was not given him. Most of the people of Pitcairn's were opposed to his proceedings, but no one dared to express his opinion in public; no visits were allowed, and if Mr. H. heard of any it was called an illegal meeting and was strictly forbidden by pains and penalties. He demanded all the fire arms to be given up to him, one of which he kept loaded near him on the Sabbath, when he wished a court of enquiry, he usually commenced on the Sabbath after prayers, sometimes he would hold his secret court, till a late hour endeavouring to persuade the elders to enact laws which they could not in conscience agree to and I have known the elders to go into a secret session and remain nearly all night because they could not come to any conclusion.
I will relate an instance; one Sabbath as he was dismissing the congregation, he remarked that it was his will, that all the men on the morrow should go and cut plank for Edward Quintal. Soon after leaving meeting, Charles Christian, the oldest native then living on the Island, a very inoffensive and quiet man, said to Mathew Quintal, "we may as well go and get our axes for there is not much difference between talking about cutting it on Sunday, and doing it." These words were soon carried to Mr. Hill which occasioned the above mentioned nightly consultation. Mr. Hill proposed that they should be flogged, two of the eldest agreed to it but the others would not, and they were finally sentenced to work on the public road. Some of the natives have since said if he had put his first proposal into execution it would have been attended with serious consequences to himself.
Hill framed a law and obtained a number of signatures to the effect, that none of the children of natives should marry with the children of the Europeans, that our children should not hold lands, but be sent off the Island and their lands given to whom he pleased and we and our families received letters to be ready to leave forthwith. When his food was taken him at supper time they used sign and countersign, which were, "yam" "potato." His doors and windows being secured from within and having all the fire arms in his possession he would seldom come out of the house, pretending he feared he would be killed. When the North West winds blew birds, called "Men of war Hawk" used to come on to the Island, mot of the natives are fond of them for food, and at such times the young men go out to shoot them. on one such occasion as we were at work in the field, and many of the Hawk, flying about I said to Ed. Quintal, "If Mr. Hill would let me have my gun I might shoot some hawk." On the following day I received a letter; the following is an extract from it,
"In the first place you have not transmitted to me
the memoranda you promised in regard to your family
matters to enable me to give you in writing the
advice you wished in relation thereto.
You may fancy yourselves extremely knowing, but with the Blessed Lord's help I am aware of those meetings place, &c. If therefore you are fully determined to bring entire ruin upon yourselves, you will now have only yourselves to blame. If the wild fowl have really become so tame as nearly to pick your eyes out, you have only to shoot them, or if you prefer, put salt on their tails, and thus take them without useless waste of Gunpowder. Secondly, what mean you by thus presuming the other day to insult Mr. and Mrs. Ed: Quintal by insinuating that their politeness towards me &c., was or were (as doubtless is the case) perfectly, disinterested or words to this effect. Now I have only to advise you once for all to mind how you thus presume to address any party or parties whom as you ought to know as well as themselves are furthering the welfare and general interests of the Island. Hence in their truly christian like conduct such as becomes all professing christianity, let us not have any more of such unbecoming liberty even not in a private individual, and much less with the Magistracy of the commonwealth.
Joshua Hill, Teacher, &c.
N. B.—You are hereby strictly and positively forbidden to hold any intercourse or keep any communication whatever with George Nobbs whilst thus upon the Island.
Signed by the Elders and JOSHUA HILL."
At this time Mr. Nobbs lay sick of a dissentery, his wife having a family of young children, and none of her relatives were allowed to visit them. One of the elders (Arthur Quintal) remarked to Mr. Hill, he knew it was not proper to act in that manner for that could not be loving your neighbor. Mr. Hill asked him if he knew who was his neighbor, he replied, "every one" and referred to the Parable of the good Samaritan; Mr. H. became very angry and said no I am your neighbor, your teacher, he is not your neighbor.
Sometime after this the whale ship Tuscan of London Capt. Stavers arrived, with Missionaries bound to Tahiti. The Master, Surgeon, and two of the missionaries came on shore, but did not remain long, they were disgusted with the conduct of Mr. H. and seeing the situation in which we Europeans were placed the Capt. humanely offered a passage to us and our families; we accepted the offer for ourselves, but declined removing our families at this time.
After our remaining some time at Tahiti a Capt. Ebril who brought Mr. Hill to Pitcairn's being bound to Gambier's Island offered to remove our families, we accepted the offer intending to settle on Lord Hood's Island, but after examining it we found it was not fit for cultivation. It is a Lagoon Island about 30 miles in circumference, and not more than one-fourth mile wide. We then went to Gambier's where Nobbs and Evans, myself and family with George Adams my wives mother's sister went to Tahiti, Mr. Hill supposing that we would settle on Lord Hood's Island, and no doubt thinking we should there starve to death, the Sabbath after our departure took for his sermon, one founded on the text "Numbers, 16th Chap. 28 and 29th verses "Hereby ye shall know that the Lord hath sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own mind. If these men die the common death of all men, or if they be visited after the visitation of all men then the Lord hath not sent me."
After remaining some months at Tahiti Adams, with my wife and family embarked on board a Brig to return to Pitcairn's. On their arrival there Mr. Hill endeavored to prevent their landing, but a majority of the people would not harken to his advice.
Arthur Quintal's son came on board the Brig, and related to us what had passed since we left. (By the way I should have said I was the mate of the Brig) among these accounts he related a difficulty between Arthur Quintal and Mr. Hill. One day Quintal called on Hill, and after some conversation Mr. Hill became very angry, (as was always the case if a person differed from him) and asked Q. if he meant to insult him, Q. replied "No" and I do not wish you to insult me. He became highly excited, with rage, and drawing a sword he presented it to the breast of Q. saying "confess your faults, or you are a dead man." Q. replied "I do not know what I have to confess."
Hill then pricked him with the point of the sword still urging him to confess. Quintal was only dressed with a pair of trowsers, no shirt, and he said, it made his blood run cold to feel the prick of the sword. Fixing his eye steadfastly on Hill, he grasped the sword blade, and pushed H. down on to the floor. Hill said to him, "If he would let him get up he would treat on christain principles." Quintal then allowed him to rise, and Hill being up tried to get hold of a sword cane, but Q. prevented him. Some young men hearing the noise entered the house and secured Hill. He requested to be allowed to live in the school house until he could leave the island, which was granted him.
But to go back a little,—after landing my family on the Island I still continued as mate of the Brig, and we sailed for Gambier's where I found Mr. Nobbs and family.
Having written to Commodore now Admiral Mason, then commanding on the South American Station, we received letters from him. He wrote us he was not aware that the British government had delegated any power to Mr. H. and that he (Com. M.) had written to Mr. Hill, in the strongest terms, and hoped that hereafter we should live together in brotherly love and charity as became the disciple of a crucified Redeemer saying also he should send a man of war to Pitcairn's the first opportunity. Mr. Nobbs also received a letter from the people of Pitcairn's to return, and be their teacher. After remaining some time at Gambier's we returned, taking Mr. Nobbs and family and Evans. Mr. Hill endeavored to persuade the people that the letters we had received were forgery, but without effect. Mr. Nobbs soon commenced school keeping. Some time after this, H.M. Ship "Actaeon" Lord Ed. Russel arrived, a meeting was held and Mr. Nobbs was chosen as teacher and Mr. Hill was to leave the Island, which he finally did in H.M. Ship Imogene, Capt. Bruce for Valparaiso, and as we afterwards heard to England. Who Hill was, or what he formerly was we could not learn. He came from New Bedford in a Whale Ship to Payta from thence to the Sandwich Island. From there he went to Tahiti, and lived with Rev. Geo. Pritchard, who became tired of his company, and he at last succeeded in getting to Pitcairn's as before stated. He said of himself that he had been Capt. of one of the East India company's ships and would be very angry if not addressed as "Capt Hill." He said, he was acquainted with most of the nobility of England and had been a great traveller, &c. &c.
Had he conducted himself as a gentleman and a christian, he would have been respected by all on the Island but the manner in which he acted caused great trouble, ad dissention, and it was a great blessing to us when he was removed.