THE even, uneventful round of life in the little community passed steadily along, with "scarcely a ripple to stir its monotonous surface." Cultivating the ground and keeping it in order, building houses for the more newly married couples, canoe building and fishing, and occasionally going out with their guns to shoot goats, wild fowl, and birds, supplied constant occupation for the men. A favorite mode of taking fish was with the spear, usually made by fastening five pieces of iron, bent to the required shape, and having barbed points, onto a pole about twenty feet long, and in the use of which the men were very expert. The women were always to be seen assisting their husbands, fathers, and brothers in their outdoor occupations, and sometimes accompanied them when they went out in their canoes to fish. Cooking and other housework, and taking care of the children, gave them daily employment. But their principal work, during the colder months of the year, was the making of native cloth.
This native cloth, or tappa, is made from the bark of the aute plant (pronounced outy), i. e., the paper mulberry, and has very much the nature and consistency of paper. The work is exceedingly laborious and wearisome, and when the yield of the plants is large, it sometimes occupies months in doing. Yet it was necessary to be done, as that material supplied nearly all the bedding used then.
When anyone not accustomed to sleeping beneath such noise-creating bedclothes tries it for the time, the constant loud rustle that it makes generally succeeds in driving all sleep away. Captain Beechy spoke of sleeping in cloth that "seemed fresh from the, loom," as that was all that his entertainers could give him. Frequent washing and exposure to the sun will eventually deprive the material of its stiffness and noisiness, and in cold weather it affords a warm covering, as it excludes all air. It is colored a bright reddish brown, and rendered tougher by being dyed in the sap obtained from the doodooee (candlenut tree). This dye is made by steeping the bark of the doodooee in water.
In the early days this stiff, uncomfortable cloth was worn by all, with, perhaps, the exception of John Adams himself. By the women, pieces about a yard in width and two yards in length were fastened around the waist by simply crossing the two upper ends and turning them in to secure them. Another yard of the same material was thrown across the shoulders, as a covering to the body, and this constituted almost wholly their everyday garment. For Sunday wear each woman and girl owned a frock of most primitive make, being gathered in around the neck, and falling loosely from the shoulders, reaching a little below the knee. Underneath was a petticoat worn as described above, which completed the whole attire. The men and boys wore the waistcloth, almost exclusively, on week days. Sundays they donned their breeches, which did not reach to the knee, thus displaying the muscular growth of their limbs.
The frequent outdoor employments of both men and women resulted in a great muscular development of their physical frame, and rendered them strong and capable of enduring a vast amount of manual labor. Yet this did not deprive the female portion of the community of their feminine instincts, and all their womanly ways remained. Their children were brought up early to help in all the little homely duties that pertained to the house, as well as to aid their parents in field work; nor were they allowed to absent themselves from the school, where they were taught reading, writing, and arithmetic by John Buffett.
In 1828 George Hun Nobbs, accompanied by an American named Bunker, arrived at Pitcairn Island from Valparaiso. He had reached the last-mentioned place after having passed through several adventures, and while there heard for the first time the story of the Bounty, and how Pitcairn Island was settled by the descendants of the mutineers. The story so fascinated him that he determined, if it could be done, to reach the island and take up his residence with the inhabitants. Accordingly, obtaining possession of a launch, he, with Bunker, left Valparaiso, and in due time they reached their destination safely. Both these additions to their number received a cordial welcome from the inhabitants.
Nobbs did not long delay seeking to woo and win a wife; and, with some difficulty, at length succeeded in obtaining the hand of Sarah Christian, a grand-daughter of Fletcher Christian. Bunker was not so fortunate, for Peggy Christian would not listen to his suit, and whether through unrequited love or a fit of temporary insanity is not known, but he attempted self-destruction by throwing himself headlong off a cliff. By some means the fall was broken, and his suicidal intentions were frustrated. He died, however shortly after.
The launch on which the voyage of the two men was made was run ashore, broken up, and used in building Nobbs' house. In giving an account of himself, Nobbs said that he was the "unacknowledged son of a marquis." Being, by a superior education, better fitted than was John Buffett to fill the place of teacher among the youth of the island, Nobbs had not been long among them before he took charge of the school, taking the work almost entirely out of Buffett's hands. Buffett was inclined to resent this act of Nobbs as a gross injustice, but the people in general favored the change, chiefly because of a grave fault which Buffett had committed. Yet some of the parents remained faithful in their allegiance to the teacher that had first come among them, and did not withdraw their children from his care, for, in spite of his fault, he endeavored to the best of his ability to perform his duty faithfully to them, while he sought to atone for the wrong he had done by a lifelong repentance.
The duty of officiating as pastor was also assumed by Nobbs. John Adams had by this time left the management of everything that concerned the progress and improvement of the people, in the hands of the two younger men. On the twenty-ninth day of March, 1829, the year following the arrival of Nobbs, the last of the Englishmen that came in the Bounty passed quietly and peacefully away, at the age of sixty-five years, deeply and sincerely mourned by the family over whom he had been so strangely placed. He survived the last of his companions twenty-nine years. A plain white stone marks his resting place, the inscription "In Hope" being placed beneath the simple record of his name, age, and death. The headstone made in Devonport, England.
A year subsequent to the death of John Adams
the Seringapatam, man-of-war, Captain Waldegrave,
visited the island,
bringing gifts of clothing
and other useful presents to the islanders.
Previous to that time the people,
on account of their rapidly increasing numbers,
had been considering whether the island,
with its limited resources,
would be adequate to their support and maintenance,
not the least cause of anxiety being the scarcity of water.
This condition of affairs was reported to the proper authorities,
and an arrangement having been effected
between the British Government
and the authorities at Tahiti
Feb 28, 1831
Mar 7, 1831 for a grant of land for the use of the Pitcairners in Tahiti, the Comet, sloop, Captain Sandilands, arrived at Pitcairn Island on the twenty-eighth day of February, 1831, as convoy to the Lucy Ann, which, on the seventh day of March, sailed for Tahiti, with the whole Pitcairn Island colony, and their small stock of movable goods, on board.
At the end of fourteen days the emigrants landed, having received a cordial welcome. But the experiment did not succeed. They had not been long in Tahiti when a malignant fever broke out amongst them and rapidly reduced their numbers. Fourteen of the people died in quick succession, and, notwithstanding the liberal provision made for their support by the kind-hearted people of Tahiti, the Pitcairners were anxiously desirous to return to their home. Then, too, the manners of the people among whom they now lived were so different from the pure, simp1e lives they led amongst themselves, and the open and undisguised immorality of some of the people around them rendered them very unhappy. In less than three weeks after their arrival at Tahiti an opportunity of returning presented itself, and Buffett and his family availed themselves of it. Four more of the young men accompanied them. The vessel that carried them called at Hood's Island on the way, and one of the four young men died. After the safe arrival home of the others, and before the rest of the community came, another of their number passed away
Meanwhile, preparations were making at Tahiti for the return of the rest of the people. The schooner Charles Doggett was chartered to convey them to their home. A quantity of the Bounty's copper had been carried to Tahiti, and this was given by the people to purchase the schooner, as it was all they were able to do; but liberal aid was given by generous friends in Tahiti, who raised a subscription to supply the deficiency. The return voyage occupied twenty-two days, the whole stay at Tahiti not extending over five months.
A pleasing incident is here recorded, illustrating the old Bible truth, "Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days." During the sojourn of the Pitcairners at Tahiti, in the time of their deep sorrow and grief; when one and another of their number sickened and died, the second mate of an American whaleship, whose name was Coffin, learned of the dire distress that they suffered. Pitying their forlorn condition as strangers in a strange land, and obeying the impulse of a kind heart, he generously spent five dollars in procuring such food for those who were sick as he thought they would relish. Nor were the needs of the others forgotten. This act of disinterested Christian kindness was warmly remembered by all the people, and when, after nineteen years, the kind-hearted man came to Pitcairn as master of a ship, the people made him a present of ten barrels of yams, the cost of which was twenty dollars. This substantial proof of the recollection of his goodness toward them affected the captain to tears, and it was with difficulty that he could be prevailed upon to accept the gift, pleading that his former kindness might be allowed to pass unrewarded. But the people earnestly insisted upon his accepting what they considered but a small return for the unforgotten deed of kindness shown them in their extremity.