IN the meanwhile two families had returned to their old home. The superior advantages enjoyed in their new home, the greater household conveniences, the larger educational privileges, the easier access to and communication with the outside world, all failed to weigh as much with them as the wish to see once more the place that they loved as home. The families consisted of Moses Young, his wife and five young children, and Mayhew Young, who had married the widow of Matthew McCoy, their infant daughter, and six other children by the woman's first husband. These made up the first return party, sixteen souls in all, four males and twelve females. Three daughters of the former Mrs. McCoy remained on Norfolk Island, the two elder ones with their husbands, and the youngest to be married. Had the children been consulted in the matter, every one old enough to think would have chosen to remain, but the only alternative was to obey and follow their parents.
A much larger party had at first decided to return,
and had already conveyed their goods on board the vessel
that was to bear them away,
but the tears and persuasions of the friends
from whom they were about to part
were more than they were able to resist,
so they did not leave, as they had at first intended.
The parting was sad.
One last gathering in the church
where they had worshiped for two years,
one last mingling of their voices together in the parting song,
which was falteringly sung,
while sobs choked the utterance
and tears dimmed the sight,
and then the final prayer was uttered in tremulous tones
and with tender earnestness
by the lips of their faithful pastor, Mr. Nobbs,
commending the departing company to God's care.
Thus was the first separation effected
between the people
that for sixty years had been dwelling together like one family,
sharing each other's joys and sorrows—the first separation,
Dec 2, 1858
Jan 17, 1859 that held out no hope of ever meeting again. The schooner Mary Ann, which took them away, left on the second day of December, 1858, and reached her destination on the seventeenth day of the following month, January, 1859, making a passage of forty-six days.
The few men that first landed from the schooner had been but a short time on shore when they saw a boat, well manned, approaching the landing place at Bounty Bay. The boat's crew, as they soon discovered, belonged to a French vessel the Josephine.
Closely following the first boat came another, but, meeting with some accident at the landing place, the boats soon returned to their ship, and she sailed away, much to the relief and satisfaction of the two families who had come to stay, and who were not a little dismayed at the thought of the stranger being so near to them.
The two families and their belongings were soon safely landed. An inspection of the deserted village showed unmistakable proofs that the island had been inhabited by someone for a short time, at least, subsequent to the removal of the former inhabitants. A keg of salt, some old crockery gathered from the deserted houses, and sundry other household articles had been brought together, evidently for the use of someone in need. Some of the houses had been destroyed by fire, while others had been broken down. These were all so many evidences that the island had been lately occupied. The matter, however, was soon cleared up. A slate was picked up in the schoolroom whereon was written with some iron instrument the names of some men who had found an asylum on the island, after having lost their ship on Oeno, a low-lying coral island, surrounded by reefs, some eighty miles northwest of Pitcairn Island.
Further particulars were afterwards obtained, first, from an American sailor who was left on the island by the captain of the whale ship Hiawatha, and later from a copy of the Friend, sent to the island by the people's faithful friend, the Rev. Samuel C. Damon, of Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands. In the Friend was the account of the loss of the Wildwave on Oeno Island. The ship was under command of Captain J. N. Knowles, who, in the early part of 1858, was on a voyage from San Francisco to one of the Eastern States, and who, having lost his ship, came with such of the crew as were willing to Pitcairn Island, where they stayed until a boat had been constructed of such materials as the island afforded, to convey them to Tahiti, whence a passage home could be found. About twenty-three years afterwards one of the lads who had returned with the first party, now grown into a middle-aged man, was in San Francisco. While there he called at the office of Captain Knowles, and heard from that gentleman's own lips the following interesting account of their enforced detention on Pitcairn Island:—
The Wildwave was outward bound from San Francisco, when she became a wreck on the reefs of Oeno Island. Besides the captain, officers, and crew, there were ten passengers, numbering in all about thirty-seven persons, all of whom landed safely on the island. The remains of a brother of Captain Knowles, which were being carried home for interment, were also taken on shore and buried. The headstone that accompanied the body was also set to mark the last resting place of the dead. When everything that could contribute to their comfort had been landed, the ship-wrecked men proceeded at once to make the best of the circumstances. Abundant food supplies had been brought ashore from the ship, and if that should fail before help could come, the large numbers of birds, as well as of fish, were sufficient to keep them from starvation.
But the captain felt that some immediate action must be taken, and so, as speedily as possible, a boat was made ready and provisioned, and himself, Mr. Bartlett, the first mate, the carpenter, and four seamen bade good-by to the thirty men left on Oeno, and came on to Pitcairn Island, to obtain if possible help for themselves and their companions. The captain, by a wise forethought, had, before leaving, taken the second mate and others to mark the spot where three or four birds were sitting on their eggs. These birds were then secured and taken along with the party in the boat, to be their news carriers in the event of their reaching their destined place in safety. This they did. They landed on the west side of the island, and the boat was drawn up only a few yards from the water's edge, as it was the captain's intention to return as soon as possible to Oeno. This plan, however, was frustrated by an unlooked-for calamity.
The captain's and mate's first care after dragging the boat to the place where it was to be left, was to take out from it all their nautical instruments, and then, taking the birds in their hands, they started on their way up the high hill leading to the village. Strips of leather had been prepared on which to send the message of their safe arrival to their companions on Oeno. These missives having been securely fastened to the birds, they were let go, and the party stood somewhat anxiously watching them take their flight. At first the unusual encumbrance seemed likely to impede their progress, and the watchers saw them "turn round and round as if stunned a little," but they soon regained their wonted manner, and the men had the satisfaction of seeing the birds take their way in the direct line whence they had come. In time the men on Oeno had the pleasure of learning of the safety of the little band who had gone to Pitcairn, but the hope of soon seeing them again was not realized, and many months of weary watching passed ere further word reached them.
Meanwhile, the seven men, after seeing to the safe flight of the birds, proceeded on their way. Arriving at the top of the hill, they looked down on the little village of thatched cottages nestling among orange trees. These trees, even at that distance, were seen to be loaded with golden fruit. The sight was a very pleasant one to the shipwrecked men, but no rising smoke gave evidence that the place was inhabited. A few minutes' quick walking brought them down to the silent houses, where not a human being was seen. For a day or two they remained in the deserted village, intending soon to return to their companions on Oeno; but the mate, having occasion to go over to the west side, found to his dismay that the boat, which had been left too near the water, had been not only reached by the heavy surf that had arisen in their absence, but was broken beyond repair.
This unlooked-for disaster was the cause of grave anxiety, and all that could be done was to go to work and construct another boat. This was a very difficult matter, as materials and tools were scant and poor. To obtain nails some of the houses were broken down, and others were burned. Trees were cut down, and as the men had no saws, the ax was made to do duty for both saw and ax, thus occasioning great loss of time and material. But in spite of the many draw backs, the work went steadily and bravely on.
At length the boat was finished. The sail of the broken boat, and such odds and ends as could be found in the houses, made up the rigging of the little craft, which was named the John Adams. The trappings of the old pulpit in the church supplied the red, and a bit of blue calico taken from off an old bedstead served for the ground, on which were arranged the white stars of the American flag; and so, with the stars and stripes to float from the mast of their small vessel, it was launched, after months of weary, anxious work and waiting, rendered doubly anxious by the knowledge that the loved ones at home were pining in suspense and uncertainty regarding their fate.
Two of the men, afraid of venturing in the boat they had helped to build, stayed behind until help from a more reliable source could come to them. Owing to adverse winds, Captain Knowles did not return to Oeno, as he had at first intended, but steered for Tahiti instead, making a brief call at the island of Nukahiva on the way. At Tahiti they found the U. S. sloop of war Vandalia. The story of the shipwreck and subsequent facts was soon told, and the Vandalia went at once to the rescue. Mr. Bartlett, the mate of the Wildwave, also went with the rescuing party, who in due time reached Oeno, where they found all the thirty men alive and well. These having been received on board, the Vandalia went to Pitcairn Island, where the other two men of the crew were, both of whom were enjoying excellent health, but glad to leave the place that was so lonely and isolated.
After Captain Knowles had reached Tahiti, he did not delay to take the first opportunity to go home, as he was extremely anxious about his wife, an anxiety which was only too well founded, for the poor lady had died of hopeless grief and suspense concerning the fate of her husband.