The last letter received from the Rev. G. H. Nobbs, dated Norfolk Island, October 20th, 1859, gives the following account:—
"On the 27th of December last, a ship named Seabird, belonging to McNamara and Co., of Sydney, left this place; my son Edwin taking a passage in her at the request of Sir William Denison. By this ship I forwarded to your address a basket of Fiji manufacture, containing various ornaments and mats of heathen origin, and which I thought would serve as subjects for lectures; there were also two photograph engravings, suitable for the Norfolk Island portion of your book; letters to Admiral Moresby, Sir Thomas Acland, Mrs. Heywood, and other valued friends; and, lastly, several original papers, to wit, a sermon preached before the Governor-General, some verses, entitled, 'The Coral Isles,'* with a string of notes appended, and a variety of other pieces.
∗ For these clever and spirited verses, see Coral Isles
"On the 2d of last December, two families, those of Mayhew Young and Moses Young, left this place for Pitcairn's, in a schooner of eighty tons, called the Mary Anne. Of these persons, sixteen in number, the parents were the only persons over the age of fifteen years. We have heard nothing of them since their departure, and you can easily imagine how great our anxiety is concerning them. During the four or five months subsequent to their departure, nothing of note transpired beyond the arrival of H.M.S. Cordelia, bringing despatches from the Governor-General, and a letter from yourself, informing me that you had forwarded a box containing the articles I mentioned. The next letter I received was by Mr. Rossiter, on the 23d of June, dated January 1st, 1859, and with it a package of excellent books from your benevolent Society. Your new year's letter was most acceptable. The next letters which came to hand arrived through the kindness of Bishop Selwyn; and with them the long-announced and anxiously-expected box, in good order, and everything correct; the clothing, &c. all excellent, and well-fitting. The letters were dated July and October, 1858, and had been sent with the box on board H.M.S. Elk, to be brought hither; but on her arrival at Auckland she was ordered elsewhere, and the things she had on board were transferred to the Southern Cross. For the books furnished by your Society, and contained in this box, I beg leave to offer my grateful, my unqualified thanks. The Catechisms are the helps I have long needed; that is to say, a sufficient quantity of them to form classes; and now that I have so much more time to attend to this particular branch of school instruction, I think you may well expect me to say, 'I am grateful.' The Bishop remained with us on this occasion three days, and held a confirmation of three persons, there being no more of sufficient age. His Lordship then made sail for the Isles of darkness in this vicinity; and we are expecting his return in a week or two, on his way to Auckland. He is as kind as ever, and we are the recipients of many, very many favours at his hands. There is no one here but loves his lordship truly.
"Our people succeeded in taking a hundred and twenty barrels of oil last year, one hundred of which were sent to Sydney, and realized £240. This money has just been remitted to us, but will not more than cover the expenses of the fitting out of last season, and the cost of new boats, lines, casks, &c. for an establishment on a larger scale this year. We have now four boats well equipped, which require twenty-four men to work them. The whaling season is now almost over; but not more than thirty barrels of oil have yet been secured, owing to the scarcity and shyness of the whales; but this is nothing strange in the whaling lottery: another year may be altogether as plentiful. Two weeks since they killed three large cow whales, but they sank immediately (a common case); one was afterwards recovered, but the sharks had so preyed upon it that not more than fifteen barrels of oil were obtained. In the melee at that time we had one boat smashed, but the boat's crew would not run from the whale. With a hole in the fore part of the boat big enough for a man to go through, they all removed to the after part, and in spite of the kicking and fighting of the whale, held on till the other boats came to their assistance, which was scarcely done when the broken boat, being full of water, rolled over, bottom up. In that boat I had three sons and two sons-in-law. On their return, I remonstrated with them for their rashness, but they seemed to think there was no great danger.
"The season has been very favourable for our crops, and we have plenty of Indian corn and sweet potatoes, with fish, milk, and butter. Irish potatoes will not thrive; would they do so, whale ships would supply us with almost everything we need. Flour we must also import. There has been very little sickness among the community; the most are becoming contented, and consequently comfortable.
"Mr. Rossiter is, I think, just such a man as was needed industrious in school, and out, and very unassuming.
"Her Majesty's ship Niger was here a short time since, bringing a large quantity of articles, purchased by Sir William Denison, for opening a store under the direction of Mr. Rossiter. The only expensive thing is flour, which at the present time is dear at Sydney. Sir William Denison has taken the control of the sheep into his own hands. The wool is to be sent to Sydney, and the proceeds therefrom will be placed in bank for the benefit of the community; but can only be drawn with the consent of the Governor, whose signature must be affixed to the drafts.
"As respects other matters we are going on very well. There have been fifty births since our arrival; and it would appear that baptisms and churchings will be of weekly occurrence ere long. But Norfolk Island contains 8,607 acres, which will give a fifty acre lot to 172 families (there are now forty); so that there is plenty of room for increase; though I am not at all anxious there should be any influx of strangers beyond those we have at present, save a parson and a doctor, when I am invalided or buried, as it may be providentially ordered by Him who doeth all things well. There have been no marriages this year, and but two deaths—infants of a few days old. In short, since our arrival, now more than three years, the deaths which have occurred are those of a young woman, aged fifteen, from consumption; a child of five years, from concussion of the brain, the result of an accident; and four infants: total, six. Asthma and rheumatism are the principal complaints, and they are less severe than at Pitcairn's. The last year and the present have been very productive, from the frequency of showers during the summer months; but I perceive from a meteorological journal, kept here formerly, these are exceptional occurrences, and that long-continued droughts between October and February are frequently fatal to the corn and sweet potato crops. But Moses' injunction and promise are equally in force now, as in ancient days, 'Ye shall serve the Lord your God, and He shall bless thy bread and thy water.'
"The number of persons belonging to the community is 221: 112 males, and 109 females. This is exclusive of the sixteen returned to Pitcairn's, and the families recently arrived, now numbering ten persons. Communicants, ninety-seven. Children in the public school, sixty-three, all of whom attend the Sunday-school, which is composed of eight classes. The teachers are Thomas Rossiter, Jemima Young, Jane Nobbs, Francis Nobbs, Johnstone Nobbs, Edwin Nobbs, Macey Quintal, and myself. I take the younger ones, and as soon as they are organized, appoint a permanent teacher for them, and then collect another class from the literally 'little ones.' Not being able to attend every Sunday as I have frequently patients to visit after the public services are concluded, my absence is not so much felt by a young class as it would be by those more advanced: besides, I am frequently a visitor to all the classes."