vi. Jan-March 1839
including the months of January February & March 1839
by James Gunther Missionary at Wellington Valley
[1 January 1839]
January 1st. We had a greater number of Native Blacks at Prayers this morning than for some time, and a good many about the premises; but, as I suspected, some were come, only for the sake of drawing others away; for even all the Young men left, for a short time, as they said. Cochrane added he could not help; he was obliged to go. Probably some consultation appeared to take place. I spent the day in studying the Native language & reading.
[2 January 1839]
The 2d. Some of the Young men made good their word & came back today; but we could not prevail on them, either to do some work, or to read.
[3 January 1839]
The 3d. Devoted as much time as I could afford ie. as much as I could spare from domestic engagements to the Study of Aboriginal dialect yesterday as well as to day.
[4 January 1839]
The 4th. In endeavouring to elicit a number of words from one of the Native youths, I was led to make various enquiries about their fictitious deities. All I could learn of Baiamai, the principal god is, that he lives in the East, subsists on bread, he has birds feet resembling those of an emu, he has two wives. Natives who live far off, towards the East, sometimes saw* him. He lives for ever. Darrawirgal, another deity, lives in the West, subsists on fish, he sent the small pox by which so many Natives were snatched away a few years since. A tree in the form of a rainbow is growing out of one of his thighs.
[5 January 1839]
The 5th. Great appearances of rain today, but vanished away; the heavens seem to be shut up against us. Our situation must ere long become very distressing. It is remarkable that Wellington district suffers most, especially, from its centre the Valley ie. the Mission to the extent of 15 & 20 miles, in every direction. We cannot forbear asking: What does the Lord mean? What are his intentions in reference to this Mission? May all concerned, understand & learn the intended lesson!
[6 January 1839]
The 6th. Divine Service was better attended this morning than for some time. Mr Watson preached from I John.2:17. In the afternoon I taught some of the Young men.
[7 January 1839]
The 7th. Had the Young men for a long time reading to me. The Surveyor began to day to measure part of the Mission’s land, intended for a township. Thus Government appear to proceed in spite of all the claims [?] the Mission[?], and our representations.
Jan: 7th (continued).
Received again a Subpoena, to appear at the Supreme Court of Sydney, next term, in the same case as before. It is singular they should summon me again, though I told them, last time, that Mr Watson knew more of the language than that I did.
[8 January 1839]
January 8th. I had an unusual number of Native youths to read to me to day. First three who only knew their letters and then six who mostly read tolerably well. Also pursued my studies of the Native language.
[10 January 1839]
January 10th. My time at present is much occupied by the study of the Native language; the Young men also read to me for a considerable time this morning. After Evening Prayers I enjoyed much the sight of several Young men, sitting around the table & singing hymns, with much apparent interest. But immediately after I was grieved by Cochrane, by making a very wild & boisterous noise, & causing others to do the same, in consequence of my not allowing them to smoke their pipes in the Prayer room. A few hours afterwards Cochrane endeavoured to atone for it. At 11 o’clock at night I had occasion to go with a bucket to the well for water. I had to pass the Young men’s camp when Cochrane saw me he jumped up & took my bucket filling & carrying it home with water. In giving it to Mrs G. he observed: “I don’t like to see Mr Gunther fetching water.
[11 January 1839]
January 11th. Was engaged in the same way as yesterday. From what we see & hear it appears that the Surveyor is to measure off the Mission’s land about 1000 acres, and that, where the best soil is & most water. Even this circumstance, if there was no other objection for the Mission to a Township, would be sufficient to cause its cessation as normal.
[12 January 1839]
January 12. Having caught a bad cold I felt very poorly this morning, but thank God by some medicine I took I soon found relief.
[13 January 1839]
January 13 Had a tolerably good congregation this morning, whom I addressed from Isaiah. XLIV:3.4.5. In the afternoon I taught a number of Young men. We had a storm this afternoon for several hours resembling a hurricane: the air was quite darkened with clouds of dust. But, though it produced, at last, the appearance of rain, we were again disappointed.
In the evening I had a long talk with Fred respecting various superstitious notions entertained by the Aborigines. He appeared to be better versed in them than most. That these superstitions are more deeply rooted in them, than is generally believed, I am more and more convinced. I was informed of another [?] deity, called Gundyar[?], who is supposed to live up in heaven. His principal office is to give commands as it regards the death of a person. It is also supposed that he had a hand in the creation of the world, though creative power is principally ascribed to Baiamai.
I was told of a demon that frequently takes possession of Natives & makes them ill. Their physicians (Nguyargir)[?] are able to drive out these bad spirits. It is remarkable that they have so far more to say of bad spirits than of a good being; and their notions of a deity, are more calculated to fill them with dread than any thing else! No consolation is afforded by them, no comfortable hope, no, that is the prerogative of the religion of the Bible alone.
[14 January 1839]
Jan: 14 Had a long talk with an old Native woman, from whom I was able to gather a number of words. She, indeed, could not give me the meaning of them as she knows so little English; but I wrote down every word that she uttered, which was strange to me, and afterwards found out their meaning by referring them to those who know more of English. She also gave me a long tale about Baiamai, & ascribed decidedly creative power to him, & enumerating to me various things he had made, such as the water, the ground, & various animals & plants.
[19 January 1839]
Jan: 19th I spent the whole of this week in the study of the Native language, daily adding something to my store of words. It becomes difficult to obtain them, when you move beyond the extent of their knowledge of the English.
[20 January 1839]
Jan: 20 Mr Watson gave us an extemporaneous sermon this morning from Job. XXXI:14. Mr Porter Mrs G. & myself were engaged in instructing a little party of Natives each in the afternoon. The appearance of the sky this evening was, as if it had set in for some continued rain, and it began very nicely; but scarcely was the dust laid, when all cleared up again.
[21 January 1839]
Jan: 21. It struck me more forcibly to day than ever; how evidently the Lord is withholding rain from us. As to appearance, I could not entertain any doubt that we should have plenty of rain; But when thick clouds were laying just over our heads, and expected every minute they would pour forth their refreshing showers upon us; the clouds at once were divided asunder & went off without rain. All the evening one thunderstorm after another passed off in the same way, only late in the night we had a few minutes shower, and, though it only laid the dust, we were thankful for the refreshment. The Young men were reading a long time this morning Mrs G principally heard them.
[22 January 1839]
Jan: 22. Clouds & thunderstorms again disappointed us as yesterday, &, when I adverted to the melancholy fact, in the hearing of some of the Natives, Cochrane observed: “I believe God angry with this place. Too much wicked here.”
[23 January 1839]
Jan: 23: Pursued, as for some time my study of the Native language, and prepared for my second journey to Sydney.
[24 January 1839]
January 24th. It was this morning early that I left for Sydney. I rode on horseback, through the lovely bush by myself as far as Bathurst. My horse being in such a poor condition for want of food, in consequence of the drought, I could not take him any further and was obliged, against my will, to travel by the Mail from B. I reached Sydney in safety the 31st of January, and had to appear the following day the following day at the Court. But it was a few days after , that the Aboriginal Prisoner was, for the first time arraigned, to try[?] what could be done for him. He feigned himself, altogether stupid & pretended not to understand a word I said. I was then [?] to see him again in the Gaol, as I was able to converse with him there before. I did so, & succeeded to make* myself understood, and to understand the Prisoner, to a great extent. I could learn every particular in reference to the murder, which he does [?] to be guilty of, as well as the reasons why he did it. But I could not make him understand the nature of a trial, our laws etc etc as the Court desired me to do, seemingly on account of his stupidity and rude[?] state of mind. No doubt* * he appears to be capable of some cunning tricks, may have been put up to it during his long stay at the Gaol, by some European prisoners. He second time he was arraigned, I was, at least, able to communicate to him the substance of the Indictment. But when I wanted him to comprehend* the off* & * of the Jury etc etc he was again either unable or unwilling to understand me. The Principal witness also being absent the was case was suspended & the Prisoner remanded. When my Court business was over I was again detained, by having to wait for about a week, till I could get a place in the Mail; On my way home I was detained a few days by being unwell. Consequently it became as late as the 1st of March till I reach Wellington Valley. I felt truly thankful for* the Almighty’s care and protection, especially, through* the track which, at present is infested by various bushrangers. - During my absence I had every Sunday opportunity to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. - The drought was becoming oppressive all along the road to Sydney & in the Lower country. But, with the exception of Bathurst & its immediate neighbourhood, nothing could resemble the parched state of Wellington, as I found it on my return. I [?] has a single head of cattle could live.
[2 March 1839]
March 2d Felt still unwell in consequence of the cold I got on the road, & very tired , from the fatiques of the journey.
[3 March 1839]
March 3d We had a good congregation today, both of White & Black. Mr Watson preached from Rev.III:20. In the afternoon several of the Young men were reading to me with which I * question* & * in religious subjects. They also were singing * me for* * *
[4 March 1839]
March 4th. I just found time to day to give some of the Native youths a reading lesson. My time is too much taken up, & I fear always will be, so long as we have to depend on services of the Blacks. When a missionary has a family, and has no body else to depend upon, he is placed in a truly miserable situation, and, not to speak of his personal discomforts he is unable to discharge his grand & principal duties to any satisfaction, either for himself or others. The best of our Natives are unsteady, thoughtless, fickle minded, lazy, filthy, deceitful, & thievish in the extreme, and cause if they are at times of some service, almost as much work again & trouble & annoyance as their services are worth. Before their hearts are changed, you can place no dependence on any of them whatever; for without a new principle, they will not lay aside their natural habits.
[5 March 1839]
March 5. Several of the Young men were reading to me this morning for a considerable time. We went through the 3d & 4th Chapters of Genesis. I endeavoured to make them understand, & to inculcate on their minds, the meaning & import of that expression: “In the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat thy bread”, as they require a lesson on that point often & daily. They afterwards read the Church Catechism to me.
[9 March 1839]
March 9. For these last few days our Native youths have been very unstable & idle. They have been reading very little, and were with difficulty induced, to fetch us a little wood & water. I have not felt well at all these last few days, indeed, since. I have come back from my journey, I did not enjoy the health I usually am permitted to enjoy. Spent my time chiefly in reading & writing.
[10 March 1839]
March 10. Divine Service attended tolerably well, by Europeans & Natives. I preached from that grand, & beautiful, text of St. Paul’s (Gal*. 6/7*:14.) “But God forbid that I should glory etc etc” In the afternoon, I prevailed on some of the youths to read to me. I was much delighted this evening with Cochrane. I visited them in their hut, after Evening prayers, when he began to repeat to me several verses of the Gospel for the day, which I had just expounded at Prayers, & he seemed to know fully the whole of the history (it was Christ’s feeding 5000 men with 5 loaves etc etc John 6). He & Bungary asked some questions about Jesus Christ, they both have good memories, & excellent habits; they have made fast progress in reading; but the former takes most interest in religious truths. They & others with them were in a very great humour for singing, and made me sing several hymns with them, out of the College Hymn Book.
[11 March 1839]
March 11. Had again some of the Young men to read to me.
[12 March 1839]
The 12th. Mrs Gunther taught some of the Young men to read, whilst I was otherwise employed.
[13 March 1839]
The 13th. I could only get one of the Young men today to read to me, viz. Ingel* (sick of lame), Jemmy, as he is called. He is the youth that came to the Mission about 9 months since for medical & surgical attention, having three toes of his right foot cut off. The wound * healed [ILLEGIBLE] had about 5 months ago began to learn reading & * without much success.
[14 March 1839]
The 14th of March. The number of my pupils increased today to six; but only three of them were in good earnest. We read for about two hours & concluded with singing several hymns.
[15 March 1839]
March 15. Had only one of the young men to read to me this morning; some were running about idle, others went out to cut reeds on the River to serve as feed for our poor horses, the only thing we can get for them, to keep them alive, in this severe[?] drought. It becomes truly distressing and we have cause to be prepared for a great calamity. Not only have we reason to fear that all the cattle in this neighbourhood must die, & so our only support we derive* from the spot be exhausted, but it will, become almost impossible to get any supplies up from Sydney, as no feed can be obtained on the road for cattle. Even at the most enormous expense, it is already very difficult to get any thing up this way. May the Lord show us again the light of his compassion[?]! After Evening Prayers; I visited our Young men outside at their fires, and had a long conversation with them, which turned out rather interesting. The occasion was, what is commonly called, the shooting of a star, a phenomena so very frequent in this country. Our Aborigines always take it as a presage of the death of some of their number. From this they got into various tales about their fictitious deities & superstitious traditions scarce as the latter are. One thing struck me particularly. They speak of a very great flood, which a long time since covered the whole of this country, even hills & mountains. Many people were drowned, but a number were saved on an island, standing in a flat. They had houses there & the water kept aloof from them. Various other ridiculous tales are connected with it, such as, one man swimming about in the water for several months & kept alive, at last, it appears, he got into some cave & went under the ground for several miles, then coming out at a certain opening; not many miles off from here, which, they said, they would show me. Some of the oldest Natives pretend to have been alive at the time & witnessed the scene. But whatever ridiculous & false tales may accompany this story, it, evidentally, is a Tradition referring to the Deluge as recorded in the Bible. Cochrane, indeed, observed; “I believe it is is the same as we read of Noah.” They were very lately reading to me the history of the Deluge. We were thus led into the Bible, and I endeavoured to convince them of its truth, that we can only depend on what that books tells us. They replied, at last: “Why not God give Blackfellows Bible long ago?” Why not missionaries come long before this? Now, they thought, it is almost too late, meaning as many of the country men were no more. I said that Christ told them to whom he gave the Gospel to “go into all the world & preach the Gospel.” But so many people would not believe, & continued wicked, those few good ones have to do much work among their own people, to teach them & to preach, so it must last a long time, still the Gospel is all over the world. To make them comprehend my meaning, mere folly, & to bring the subject home to their hearts, I continued: “Now just look at yourselves, you have had missionaries long time; but you do not believe, nor grow better. If you had become good men, by this time, and could go further on, to other Natives, and, you, too could be missionaries & go all over the bush & preach. That would be the way to get on, then [ILLEGIBLE] of Jesus Christ. They fully saw the force of my arguments, and [ILLEGIBLE].*
used[?] to say in reply, only giving me a significant smile, as if intimating you have settled us. We may bring home the truth to their understanding, and oft it has been brought home so far. But only the Holy Spirit can convince their hearts and effect a change.
[17 March 1839]
Mr W. preached once more from the same text, Rev. 3: 20. We began to day to have a second Service, in the afternoon, when I officiated & giving an extemporaneous address from Heb[?]. IX: 11 etc etc. We had both times not a great congregation.
[18 March 1839]
March 18. Gave the Young men today a long reading lesson.
[19 March 1839]
March 19. It was with some difficulty we got our young men to fetch water from the River, which we want for washing, for which the well water will not do. It is, indeed, quite a providential blessing, we have lately succeeded in digging a well near the House; if we had to fetch, as before, all the water from the River, which is some distance off, we should have the greatest trouble and often be obliged to go ourselves. No cattle are fit to [?] from want of food. I could not prevail on the youths to read today.
[20 March 1839]
March 20. Mrs G. taught the Native youths to read this morning; I endeavoured to write something, for our Annual Report.
[21 March 1839]
March 21. After spending considerable time in endeavouring to get the Young men to read, I was, after all, disappointed; they ran off to fetch water for one of the Constables. They will rather work for any body else, but the missionaries: and we are thus - it is a very frequent case - interrupted in our instructions. Towards evening they came back & some of them read with great eagerness to Mrs G.
[22 March 1839]
March 22. Had five Native pupils today for upwards of an hour.
[24 March 1839]
March 24. My congregation was only middling, I preached from Mark.14:36.
In the afternoon Mr W. gave an address, principally, intended for his heathen hearers, interspersed with words & phrases of the Native language, from Zachariah.I:15. “And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease.”
[25 March 1839]
March 25. Our Natives were very unsettled to day, & not inclined to read. I endeavoured once more to write something for our Annual Report for the Colonial Government. But I find it a difficult task, as we can report so very little of an encouraging nature, and our prospects are much darker, than what they were, when we wrote the Report for the previous year.
[26 March 1839]
March. 26. I understood this morning why our Young men were so unsettled yesterday; they contemplated an excursion into the bush. All of them went off this morning. Besides the Children at Mr Watson’s, our Girl, & her Mother, an old feeble Woman, we have not a single Black about the premises.
[28 March 1839]
March 28. Spent these few days in a little reading & writing & domestic engagements. Today we had a Committee Meeting at Mr Watson’s, to make out the Annual Report.
[29 March 1839]
March 29. We celebrated Good Friday by Divine Service this morning, but had a very small congregation. No body was present, but the members & dependents of the Mission. It is truly distressing, how little our European neighbours care about religion. Even our present calamity seems to make no impression on them. But I ought to mention that our neighbourhood is almost deserted by [ILLEGIBLE] in consequence of the severity of the drought. I preached from Hebrews [ILLEGIBLE], but had only Mr Parker, Mrs Watson, & about [ILLEGIBLE] left before the Service was [ILLEGIBLE]
[30 March 1839]
March 30. We spent a few hours more in finishing our Annual Report. It is a very poor thing. Could only begin towards evening to begin my preparations for Sunday, and was obliged to be very late. We were surprised & rejoiced this evening at a little Native boy called Billy, coming to our House & expressing his wish to stay with us. He had been with some Europeans, who it seems, ill treated him, in consequence of which he ran away, and seeks refuge with us. We of course gladly received him.
[31 March 1839]
March 31. Mr Watson being still unwell I had to officiate both times today. Endeavouring to point out the joyful subject of Christ’s Resurrection, I took for my text John XX 20. In the afternoon I gave an extemporaneous discourse from Col,[?] III, 1-4 when I felt much enlargement of mind. The congregation was both times rather small. I missed much our Young Native men and indeed have done so all the week. Towards dusk, however; we were glad to see many* of them making their reappearance. - For several days, it has made an effort to rain & especially this evening. But the clouds seem unable, or forbidden, to accomplish their design. We should be fatalists, if we did not discern the Divine displeasure exhibited towards this country & its inhabitants, We are ready to say with the Psalmist[?]: “Has God forgotten to be gracious? Will he be favourable no more?” Oh that we all, as people & individually may penitently pray with the same sacred Writer: “Oh Lord deal not with us after our sins, neither reward us after our iniquities!”
As a general remark I would add in [?] to the drought just adverted[?] to so, that if it continues a little longer, our condition will become alarming, nay, we may be compelled, after a few months to desert the place altogether; for a famine, at least, in this quarter, to which it becomes almost impossible to carry sufficiency of supplies from Sydney, must be to invite the consequences, so far as we can calculate. In our missionary efforts we are already much thwarted by the scarcity of food. We can hardly feed the Native Children & the Young men; if others occasionally visit us, we cannot hold out any inducement to them to stay, without being fed they cannot stay. Nor can we house & see them in the bush. We have not a horse fit to use, to go to any distance & carry the necessary supplies with us. Our labours are therefore entirely confined to those few Children & young people who are more intimately attached to the Mission.
In reference to the Police Establishment I can only add that our apprehensions will be too soon, and, indeed, are already, realised. Not to enlarge upon the subject of example, which with such rude ignorant savages is of so much importance; I would chiefly mention that the presence of a number of persons so connected with the Mission, and, the frequent scenes of curiosity (as on Court days etc etc) which deprive us not only of many an opportunity for instructing the Natives, since our Young men so often are tempted to run away; but also desirable as to keep appropriate control over them. They will, for instance, work for the Constable, etc etc when they will not for us, under the impression, so commonly confirmed by Europeans, that we must feed them without work done by them, and, they think, the Missionaries are come here for our sake etc etc they will still care for us, though we may offend them sometimes. To describe all the various ill consequences arising from this state of things, would fill volumes & can only be fully understood by those who are exercised thereby. It is very true, as some will tell us, that the Lord is able to promote his cause, & to bring about the conversion of these poor savages amidst all these obstacles. But this is not the question, I am treating now, I am fully aware, that the Lord will commit [?] shall be saved. The question for me to consider is, can I make [ILLEGIBLE] circumstances to benefit these savage heathens? [ILLEGIBLE]
[note: Rev. J. Gunther’s Journal, Oct/38 to Mar/39.