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19th Century American Whaling

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Pitcairn's Island

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The Boston Recorder
April 30, 1829.


      [Our readers are aware, that this island of the Pacific is one of peculiar interest to the religious world. In 1789, a mutiny arose on board the British armed ship Bounty, Capt. Bligh, which had been collecting plants and trees on Tahiti. The mutineers deserted the Captain and 18 others in an open boat, took on board some of the natives at Tahiti, and sailed for Pitcairn's island. They were diminished by their contentions, till, in 1801, only one man remained named John Adams. This man appears to have become truly penitent, and has taken great pains to educate the infant population in virtuous habits and in the knowledge of God. This people remained unknown to the world nearly 18 years, when they were discovered by Capt. Folger, of Boston; since that period they have been several times visited. The following notice of them from the Rochester Observer is given by Mr. Loomis, one of the Editors of that paper, and formerly printer at the Sandwich Islands.]

      The number of inhabitants now amounts to about 60. Adams and 5 Tihitian women are all that remain of the Bounty.* They dwell in a village, situated on a gentle declivity, on the north side of the island. Probably there is no community in the world where more real happiness is enjoyed. They are strictly religious, – have prayers three times in a day, and it is said care little for any but religious books. Almost all the knowledge they possess seems to have been gathered from the Bible. One of them said to an American Captain, "I suppose there are plenty of Jews in America." On being told there were some, he said, "if they had not been so naughty they would not be dispersed so over the world." We have seen it stated that a young man, a native of Nantucket, being asked by one of those young men to give an account of his religious experience, and having nothing to say, was so struck with the circumstance of being questioned by one whom he considered a heathen, and with the conviction of being more of a heathen himself, that he was led to a serious consideration of religious truth, and in consequence became a pious and good man. Two other instances have recently occurred in which officers of vessels becoming hopefully pious, attributed it to what they witnessed at Pitcairn's Island, that they were induced to examine the subject of religion.

      Only one of the little colony has as yet left the island. A wretch of the name of Bligh, commanding a vessel from Valparaiso, touched at Pitcairn's Island about the beginning of 1827, and brought away a female. He stopped at the island of Tahiti, where one of the editors of this paper, saw and conversed with the woman. She appeared to be about 23 years of age, and spoke the English language fluently. She was large and robust, and her features resembled those of the Welsh people. When asked respecting her leaving the island, she said she was going to England. The captain who was an Englishman, had doubtless promised to take her to that country, but it is needless to add, he had no such intention. It is not known whether he brought her away with her consent or not, but in either case, his conduct. merits the severest reprobation. Previous to this, it is believed there had been no act of unchastity among any of the colony.

      We have heard many anecdotes of the inhabitants of this island, from Captains of vessels who have touched there. They are represented as being remarkably athletic. Nothing has occurred to disturb their peace, and the utmost order is observed all being governed by Adams, who is looked up to as a kind of patriarch, and to whose word they pay the utmost deference. It is possible they may, after his death, have dissentions among them, though it is believed their differences of opinion will not be productive of any serious evil. The seeds of republicanism are already visible among them, as the following anecdote related to us by a gentleman of veracity, who spent several days at the Island, will show. Adams told the young people that as he was old and must soon go the way of all the earth, it was desirable that some one should he fixed upon as a leader, when he was gone, and he had accordingly selected his only son George, for this office. This was not at all relished by the young people. They replied, "No, father; we will obey you as long as you live, but when you are dead we are all alike. George is no greater than the rest of us."

      * Two foreigners have lately joined the colony with the intention of spending their lives there. One of them whose name is Bassett appears to be usefully employed as a teacher. Adams is very desirous that some clergyman might visit him for the purpose of baptizing the young people; and in 1825 sent a pressing letter to the Rev. Mr. Bingham, of the Sandwich Island Mission, urging in the most importunate language, that he or some of his associates would make them a visit: a request with which it was impossible to comply, they being separated 3000 miles, and the opportunities for passing from one to the other, occurring but seldom.


      One of the coauthors noted in the paragraph about the Pitcairn's Island woman who was in Tahiti in 1827 was the Sandwich Islands missionary Dr. Abraham Blatchley. Blatchley was on board the whaling ship Connecticut of New London, Captain Chester, when it stopped at Tahiti and Pitcairn's Island in early 1827.

      The other coauthor was Elisha Loomis – the Rochester Observer editor noted in the introduction. Loomis, the missionary/printer of the Sandwich Island mission, and Blatchley, the doctor, left the Sandwich Islands at approximately the same time, but on different vessels.

      The woman that left Pitcairn's Island was Jane Quintal. She left on the ship Lovely Ann, Captain Blythe (not Bligh), of London. She eventually settled on the island of Rurutu as the wife of a chief.


This transcription is made from the following newspaper:

"Pitcairn's Island", The Boston Recorder (Boston, Massachusetts), April 30, 1829, page 69.