THE two chief causes of trouble and mischief being now removed, there was prospect of enjoying more tranquillity and peace than had ever been known before. Of the fifteen males who landed on the island, only two now remained. These two, Adams and Young, having the whole responsibility of the young and increasing colony devolving upon them, arose to the exigency of the case. Young was naturally of a thoughtful and serious cast of mind, and the scenes which he and Adams had witnessed, and in which they had participated, had the effect of deepening the serious impressions that had been made upon them both, and they resolved to train, as best they could, their own children and those of their unfortunate companions, in the paths of virtue and right. Young's superior education better fitted him for the grave undertaking; but he did not long survive his repentance. He had long been afflicted with the asthma, and died of that complaint in the year 1800, about a year after Quintall's death.
John Adams was now sole survivor. With a deep and abiding repentance for his former course of life, he strove to amend the misdoings of years by instilling into the minds of the young and rising generation around him right principles. Alone and unaided in the gigantic task, he suffered not his courage to fail in the endeavor, and his earnestness of purpose, directed in a right channel, could not fail to win some measure of success. The number of children that had been born to the mutineers was twenty-three. Fletcher Christian left three children; John Mills, two; William McCoy, three; Matthew Quintall, five; Edward Young, six; and John Adams, four. John Williams, a Frenchman, Isaac Martin, an American, and William Brown, an Englishman, left no children.
John Adams used to relate that it was through the influence of a dream that he was first led seriously to consider the condition of the helpless and ignorant youths who were so suddenly and unexpectedly left on his hands, and to arouse himself to the heavy responsibility that rested on him, as the only instructor that could be had for them, totally unfit for the task though he might be. It was a late beginning, but he engaged in the work with all his heart. A Bible and prayer book saved from the Bounty were the only means at his command in teaching the young people to read. But, with the blessing of God upon his humble efforts, John Adams had the satisfaction of seeing the children of such disreputable parentage growing up around him, quiet, peaceable, industrious, and happy, and with an increasing love of virtue and strict morality. A beautiful feature of the whole was the love that united them as one family under the fatherly control of John Adams. Such was the condition of life on Pitcairn Island when, in 1808, Captain Mayhew Folger, of the American ship Topaz, accidentally discovered that the island was inhabited. Following is part of a letter received by the writer Aug 4, 1882 from Mr. Robert Folger (a son of the captain above named), who kindly gave permission to make use of it. The letter was dated Massillon, Stark County, Ohio, August 4, 1882. After giving his reasons for writing, the letter proceeds as follows:—
"My brother, sister, and myself are the only surviving children of Captain Mayhew Folger, of the ship Topaz, of Boston, the discoverer, in February, 1808, of the colony on Pitcairn's Island. I do not like to refer to the survivor of the Bounty crew on the island as a mutineer, for I cannot help feeling that the cruelty of Bligh to his men was such as to justify almost anything on the part of the people on board. . . . I may now say that I have been for nearly twenty-five years gathering facts in regard to Pitcairn's Island.
"I have Bligh's own account of the mutiny, 'Delano's Voyages,' my father's logbook, with his entry therein in his own handwriting, dated, as I now remember, February 8, 1808—Lady Belcher's book, 'The Mutineers of the Bounty'—and numerous letters and newspaper publications.
"If you would like a copy of my father's journal entry, I shall have great pleasure in transcribing it, and sending it to you. I may as well say in advance that he, as a shipmaster, shared in the general feeling of the world, and shipmasters especially, against the 'arch-mutineer,' Christian.
"The history of your island will long, I may say always, be a wonder. During the sixty years that I remember it, it has been a wonder, and it will continue to be, as wonders do not decrease in interest. Three quarters of a century have gone into the great ocean of time since Captain Mayhew Folger discovered the colony, and the interest in the history of the island is unabated. The island cannot be mentioned without exciting a wonder even in the mind of the unlearned, to the history of the colonists, their present status, and, indeed, all that concerns them.
"In connection with the truth concerning the colonists, there has been a great deal of error and nonsense published. Blackwood's Magazine is not free from being a participant in setting afloat most senseless statements, which were about twenty-four years since repeated in this country. There are very few living who can enter into the spirit of Pitcairn's history, and, what is to me most singular and unaccountable, a large number of would-be historians are engaged in uttering most senseless pretensions to correct the history of the island, from the arrival of the Bounty until the arrival of the Topaz—a period of twenty years when nothing was known, nor could be known of the island, nor was known until the arrival of the Topaz in February, 1808.
"You, undoubtedly, have had access to the account of the mutiny by Captain Bligh, also to 'Delano's Voyages,' published in 1817, in which are two letters from Captain Folger, one to Captain Delano, and one to the Lords of the Admiralty, R. N., and which was received by them through Rear Admiral Hotham, who, in 1813, was, I think, in command of the English blockading squadron on our coast in the War of 1812. . . . It was through Rear Admiral Hotham that my father sent the Azimuth compass, and within five years last past I have noticed in some publication (I cannot state what one) that Her Majesty's navy had obtained the Bounty's chronometer, which was taken from my father at Valparaiso when his vessel was confiscated by the Spanish governor of Chile when he reached the South American Coast, after having visited Pitcairn's Island.
"As your grandfather, Mr. Buffett, mentions 'Delano's Voyages,' I suppose you too have read that, in many respects, curious book. In the main, the portion which refers to my father is correct. Captain Delano visited my father at Kendal in 1817. . . . In reading Mr. Delano's book you will find a letter to the Lords of the Admiralty dated at Kendal. . . . If I were to write a history of the island, I could give a chronological statement that would be in order and critically correct, as I think I have in my library every date from the discovery of the island in 1767, by Captain Cartaret, of H. B. M. ship Swallow, to the present time. . . .
"Since writing the foregoing, I concluded to copy all the entries from my father's logbook in which the island is mentioned. . . .
"Ship Topaz of Boston, Mayhew Folger master, on a sealing voyage to the South Pacific Ocean, 1808.
"Saturday, 6th February.—First part light airs at east, steering west by south, half south by compass. At ½ past on P. M. saw land bearing southwest by west half west. Steered for the land with a light breeze at east, the said land being Pitcairn's Island, discovered in 1767 by Captain Cartaret in his Britannic Majesty's sloop Swallow. A M. the isle bore south two leagues distant. Lay off and on till daylight. At 6 A. M. put off with two boats to explore and look for seals.
"On approaching the shore saw a smoke on the land, at which I was very much surprised, it being represented by Captain Cartaret as destitute of inhabitants.
"On approaching still nearer the land, I discovered a boat paddling towards me with three men in her. On approaching her, they hailed me in the English language, asking who was the captain of the ship, and offered me a number of cocoanuts, which they had brought off as a present, and requested I would land, there being, as they said, a white man on shore.
"I went on shore and found there an Englishman by the name of Alexander Smith, the only person remaining out of nine that escaped on board the ship Bounty, Captain Bligh, under the command of that arch-mutineer, Christian. Smith informed me that, after putting Captain Bligh in the longboat and sending her adrift, Commander Christian proceeded to Otaheite. There all the mutineers chose to stop except Christian himself, Smith, and seven others. They all took wives at Otaheite, and six men as servants, and proceeded to Pitcairn's Island, where they landed all their goods and chattels, ran the ship Bounty on shore, and broke her up, which took place, as near he could recollect, in 1790. Soon after, one of their party ran mad and drowned himself; another died with a fever, and after they had remained about four years on the island, their men servants rose upon them and killed six of them, leaving only Smith alive, and he desperately wounded, with a pistol ball in the neck. However, he and the widows of the deceased arose and put all the servants to death, which left him the only surviving man on the island, with eight or nine women and several small children. He immediately went to work tilling the ground, so that it produces plenty for them all, and he lives very comfortably as commander-in-chief of Pitcairn's Island."*
∗ There is a little difference between Captain Folger's statement and the real facts of those early days, as handed down through succeeding generations, from those (especially Susanna, the girl of fifteen from Tahiti) who were eye witnesses of the dreadful scenes that took place, when bloodshed followed treachery in their dealings between master and servant,
"All the children of the deceased mutineers speak tolerable English; some of them are grown to the size of men and women; and, to do them justice, I think them a very humane and hospitable people; and whatever may have been the errors or crimes of Smith, the mutineer, in times back, he is at present a worthy man, and may be useful to navigators who traverse this immense ocean.
"Such is the history of Christian and his associates. Be it remembered that this island is scantily supplied with fresh water, so that it is impossible for a ship to get a supply. I place it in latitude 25° 2′ south, and 130° west longitude, from my last lunar observation.
"Sunday, 7 February.—Light airs from the east ward and very hot. The ship laying off and on, I stayed on shore with the friendly Smith and his truly good people until 4 P. M., then left them and went on board and made sail, steering southeast and southeast by east, bound for Massafuero, having received from the people on shore some hogs, cocoanuts, and plantains. At noon the isle bore northwest by north by compass 34′ dist. Latitude observation 25° 31′ south, etc."
After Captain Folger's accidental discovery of the little colony on Pitcairn Island, nothing more was known or heard of them for a period of nearly six years. In the year 1814 H. M. ships Briton and Tagus, commanded respectively by Captains Staines and Pipon, out on a cruise and returning to Valparaiso from the Marquesas, passed near the island. So strange was the sight of a ship that when these two were first descried approaching the island, the young woman who first saw them ran to make it known to the rest by saying that "two paafata (wooden flooring erected on four posts, on which the feed for their goats was kept) were floating in toward the shore, with their posts turned wrong end up." But the experienced eye of John Adams soon discerned what the visitors were.
As for the people on board, they were not a little surprised to see from their vessels the land laid out in regular plantations. The houses, too, that could be seen were different in make from those of the other islands they had lately visited. In a short time a canoe was seen paddling off towards the ships. To the astonishment of those on board, the visitors from the shore, on coming near enough to speak to those on the Briton, called out in plain English, "Won't you heave us a rope now?" A rope was thrown them, and they were warmly welcomed on board.
The mystery was explained when, on being questioned, they said that they were Thursday October Christian, son of Fletcher Christian, the mutineer, and George Young, son of the midshipman Edward Young. The former was named after the day and month of his birth. He was described as a "tall and handsome young man about twenty-four years of age, his scanty clothing consisting of a waistcloth, while he wore a broad-brimmed straw hat adorned with black cock's feathers." His companion, George Young, was said to be a "fine, noble-looking youth, 17 or i8 years of age." On being invited below, and having food set before them, they further astonished their kind entertainers by reverently asking a blessing before partaking of their food. In reply to a question they said that the good custom had been taught them by John Adams. Every kindness was shown to the two young men, and when they were taken to see a cow that was on board the ship, they created some amusement by asking whether the animal was "a huge goat or a horned sow."
Captain Sir Thomas Staines went on shore, and was agreeably surprised to find the youthful colony living harmoniously together under the patriarchal rule of John Adams. Great fears were entertained by the humble islanders lest their only instructor and teacher should be removed from them, more especially as he had fully decided to give himself up should he be required to do so. But the Tahitian women pleaded strongly that he might be allowed to remain, and, clinging to John Adams, weeping while they pleaded, the humane captain, himself deeply touched at the scene, resolved not to disturb them. At the same time he advised Adams not to go down to the landing place, where the boat was, himself making the excuse that the path to the beach was sufficiently rough and stony for the old man not to venture. The advice was followed, Adams accompanying the kind-hearted captain only part of the way. Thanking him for the thoughtful consideration shown to himself and people, he bade Captain Staines farewell, and returned to the little village.