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The Bells in Bothwell, Van Diemen’s Land, 1840-41

Sarah Bell, née Danby (1803–85), was born in London, England. After migrating to New South Wales, she married George Bell at Bullhill, near Liverpool, New South Wales, in 1834. The couple had three children—Sarah Jane (1836), Walter Stephen (1837) and Anne Danby (1839)—before relocating in Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land, in 1839 in order to operate a school. Anne Danby Bell died in Launceston in January 1840, but the couple had their youngest child, George Renison Bell, at Bothwell later that year, where George Bell had become postmaster and schoolteacher. However, the position proved unsatisfactory, prompting George to look for a job at a convict probation station.

Book 9: Sarah Bell’s Life History

22 May 1840–27 October 1841

My dear George immediately had an interview with T Wilkinson, who was pleased with the prospect of being soon released, & informed GB that it would be necessary for him to be over at the Post Office by 6 oclock the next morning that he might show him how to sort & arrange the letters &c. As our luggage would not be likely to arrive until the following day, if then, there was no alternative but for us to remain at the Inn. Early in the morning of the 22 my dear George arose, to run over to the

p.369 School house, (the post Office & School house being one) & on looking out of the window expressed much pleasure at seeing the ground all covered with snow for myself I thought it rather a mournful night; such cold weather was anything agreeable to me. On his return to breakfast, he was quite delighted with his moonlight peregrination on the snow, in the early morn; saying that he had not enjoyed such a walk since he left his ‘Father land’. As to his children, they were both astonished & delighted especially when they were allowed to handle as well as look at the snow.

After breakfast my husband again joined TW in the post Office, & they were occupied until dinner time. The news of our arrival having spread, rapidly, many were the enquiries, as to what sort of a School master, &, mistress, we should prove, &, the young folks were very

p.368 [sic: there are two] desirous of getting a look at my husband.

As our goods had not arrived by 4 PM we made arrangements for remaining where we were until after First day, this being 7th day (Saturday so called). I cannot at this time recollect, whether they arrived, on the 7th day evening, or 2nd day morning, but am inclined to think the former.

First day the 23rd. Being fine my dear GB took the children & myself to look at the pretty cottage which was to be our future residence. It was situated in a delightful garden tastefully laid out. The border of all the beds were of sweet vernal grass, casting forth a sweet perfume in the spring & summer. I felt much pleased with the quiet & sweet appearance of the place & that how endeavoring [sic] I was of such a home. On the 24th our luggage having reached its destination, we took possession of our new abode, & commenced unpacking & arranging what little furniture we had; such as beds & bedding. My dear George took a table & a few other necessaries of T Wilkinson, such as he intended

(I find that I have made a mistake in numbering the pages, & have left out 323 & 359. Therefore I have used the two last numbers over again as a corrective.)

p.369 leaving behind him for which he was to pay £5.  When my husband was about paying the Van driver who had managed to bring the things up all night, he had the assurance to demand an extra sum which GB positively refused to give him: saying that he ought rather deduct on account of the extra expences [sic] he had been the cause of putting us to. So after some altercation, the £12 was paid in the presence of witnesses according to the original agreement, & the receipt signed. This ended that miserable affair And with grateful hearts we that night ‘Stretched our tired limbs, & laid our heads, Upon our own delightful beds.

25th. It will be supposed that the Post Office business as commenced by the new master immediately, but not so the School; we were kindly permitted to have a fortnight to get things in order. I could not help feeling uneasy,

p.370 about Margaret, lest something might happen, to prevent here coming up, also after the experience we had of that mode of travelling, it did not appear prudent for a lone female to travel in that way. My dear George & I talked the matter over, & then decided that it would be better for her to proceed to Oatlands by the coach, & as our friends the School master & his wife had offered to do anything in their power to assist us, we doubted not, but that she would be welcome to stay there, until some opportunity occurred of proceeding to Bothwell. I wrote to her accordingly. To my great sorrow I received a letter from her in reply, saying, that her friends in Launceston had persuaded her to remain with them, & carry on the straw bonnet business which she understood. Suspecting this was not the whole truth, I wrote to her again, & then she confessed, that a certain individual, old enough to be her grand father,

p.371 (for she was but 18) had succeeded in gaining her consent to marry him. I was aware of their courtship, & fondly hoped that her removing with us to Bothwell, would have been the means of breaking it off. Poor girl! I felt more for her than myself: for she was in orphan, & had only been about a year in the colony, & excepting those persons with whom she was staying in Launceston, she had not a single friend in this part of the world. But she lived bitterly to repent it. 3 times did she run away from the man, who was her husband; & who ought to have been as a Father unto her. Twice she came to me in Hobart Town, bringing a little daughter with her once, for she had several children very quickly.

But to return to myself, when the time came for opening the School, I had no assistant. Five [?] there were the post Office messengers, who were not on duty, broke wood & did a little gardening.

p.372 All I could do was, to go in to the school I the afternoon, & attend to the girls needle work. Had there been only boys, & no Post Office connected with the school, my dear George felt he could have managed very well; but as it was, he was much harassed with post duties. Some of the mails used to come in, in the night, others about 4 oclock in the morning. Then there was the sorting the letters, &, making up of the mails for other places, twice a week, early in the morning, & twice a week, in the afternoon, interrupting the duties of the school. Beside all the other matters requiring attention, such as the growing & receiving of letters, to numberless individuals. He also remarks in various places the abuse he sometimes had to put up with, because would not open the bag after the letters were all in, & the bag

p.373 sealed, for individuals who were too late, or for others who had made mistakes; all of which had he done so would have been entirely contrary to post office regulations. Then to make the matter worse, there were many who expected letters to be both received, & delivered on First days, which my dear George uniformly refused to do, thereby getting an ill name by the surrounding settlers. These various things all put together, where [sic] considered to be the exciting cause of many epileptic fits. Sometimes the school had to be shut up for two or 3 days altogether. And then I would get a young man, who was police clerk, to do the duties of the post office.

His epileptic attacks, appeared to be quite as frequent as before, seldom passing week without. Once he fell down among the chis [?], sadly wounded himself he would occasionally be seized in the midst of teaching, to the great alarm of the children.

p.374 I used to have a woman to come to wash & clean once a week, but it was not until the 1st of Tenth mo 1840 that my GB notices ‘That Sarah has at last engaged a young person as an assistant’. I was again expecting an addition to our family; & was very thankful of a little help. The young woman was clever & industrious but unfortunately not fond of children; this afterwards proved a serious drawback. Nothing particularly worthy of remark occurred ‘till the 21st of 11/mo when GB remarks that ‘My dear Sarah has been very ill all night & that Dr H was fetched at 1 o’clock AM then the nurse, & that at day break, he sent a note to our dear friend Jane Anderson at Thorpe, begging for her mother to come over, who arrived about 6 accompanied by her daughter Jane, adding that ‘at 7.20 Jane Anderson came running into the post office to tell me that ‘my dear wife was safely delivered of a plump boy, at

p.375 which I felt grateful to the Father of …[?]… as I did not expect it to be so soon over. By 8 I believe I had the first sight of the chubby face of my infant son, whom the Most High has sent unto me, found my dear Sarah very low, but calm & thankful, &, our spirits united at a Throne of Grace, that our heavenly Parent, would enable us to bring him up in His fear.’

‘Immediately after breakfast, Jane Anderson’s mother returned home, accompanied by Gerrard, who carried my dear Sarah Jane’s clothes, & brought back the fine oatmeal. In the afternoon Jane A returned, taking out little SJ with her.’

It appears that the nurse who had been engaged, chose to go away without saying anything to me as far as Jerusalem, so that when she was required she was not to be had. This was exceedingly trying & threw every thing into confusion. The young person whom I engaged chiefly as an assistant in the School knew nothing about infants, & had a great dislike to them [sic]. A person whose name was Colbeck Mother of two of the scholars

p.376 staid with me one night. On the 22nd my kind friend Jane Anderson came & remained that day, & towards evening another person whose name was Lewis came & offered her services, who also had two children that attended. In this way I was mercifully cared for & had reason to be thankful that I was not worse off trying as it was to be thus put about, but He who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb condescended to look with a pitying eye upon my low estate [sic], & brought me safely thro all, & made me once more the happy mother of a sweet & healthy babe, & had my assistant been fond of children as far as I was concerned we might have done very well in the school. But such not being the case she left me at the commencement of the school after the christmas [sic] holidays. I was again sadly harassed as I could not do my duty in school & out of school; & my duty as a mother: I did not neglect, whatever went undone.

p.377 Time rolled on: & complaints were made from different quarters. Finding that we could not give satisfaction, after doing to the best of our ability under the circumstances in which we were placed; my dear George thought it best to resign. On the 3rd of 1st mo 1841 I find we were favoured with a visit from GW Walker & Joseph Benson Mather. It afforded much pleasure to meet with those dear friends especially GWW whom we had not seen for early 4 years. John Sherwin the brother of our old friend Isaac Sherwin took tea with us that afternoon. He tho not professing with Friends, is a dear brother in the Lord & assisted us during our sojourn in Bothwell, with much spiritual help &, consolation. In the evening we all had a solemn sitting together, & after some time JBM & then GWW arose &, expressed what was on their minds. It was a time of deep searching of the heart, & altogether an affecting season. About 9 John Sherwin took his leave. We had hoped to have the company of our other two

p.378 friends for a few days, but they said they had engaged beds at the Inn where they had put up their horses, & that the next day they had visits to perform, but they would be happy to spend as much time with us as they could.

On the 4th my dear husband remarks as follows. ‘The two friends [sic] came 8.30. GW Walker read, & JBM knelt down in prayer & after further sitting GW spoke a little. They then went to call on some persons as before stated: returned about one & dined with us, after which they went out; returning again to tea; & I can truly say that we passed a most agreeable & edifying evening with our two friends. They strongly advise our endeavoring [sic] to remain thro the winter.’

Having taken my final farewell of our kind friends I saw no more of them, but my dear George went to the Inn the next morning, they promised to keep a look out, for some more suitable situation for him in

p.379 Hobart Town, & then bidding them adieu, they started for Skelton Castle the residence of Capt Dixon. We managed to continue the school till the end of the year; when T Wilkinson the former master returned, being dissatisfied with the situation he held in Hobart Town.

My dear George hired a cottage for 3 mos in Bothwell, where he intended to carry on the post Office, hoping & expecting that during that period something would turn up for us in Hobart [sic]. The dear children & I had an invitation to spend a few weeks at Sherwood accordingly we went, but I was taken so very ill, that I was obliged to return to my husband at Bothwell: & was confined for two mos to my bed, with a return of the same complaint, that obliged me to preserve a recumbent position so long, when in Launceston. Still we were favoured to find friends wherever we went, & Mary Ann Wigmore

p.380 the wife of Parson Wigmore (as he used to be called) was particularly kind & affectionate, rendering much assistance to my husband, & helpless children, as well as performing numerous acts of kindness &, tenderness, to myself. May God bless her, wherever she may be, for her goodness to us; & grant that she may never know the want of a friend. It appears that we had entertained the idea, that if the Friends in Hobart Town who had children old enough, would send two or 3 to board with us, it would have encouraged us to try & remain in Bothwell, but there were only two Friends who had, &, they did not like to part with them.

On the 25th of 9 mo my dear husband received an affectionate letter from Francis Cotton of Great Swan Port, wherein he stated having written to Capt Forster, recommending GB to the situation of Superintendent or Assistant Superint of a Probation

p.381 party &c. This very much pleased us, & my dear George determined to start to Hobart Town, without further delay. Having given Richard Wigmore instruction how to manage the Post Office business, &, commanding his dear wife & children to the care of their heavenly Father, he started off the same afternoon.

On the afternoon of the next day he reached Hobart Town, without anything remarkable, having walked the whole way. In the forenoon of the 27th he was introduced to Capt Forster, who said, that Francis Cotton had written to him, & that he had every wish to further FC’s views, but there was an objection in the way, which he could not get over, & he would tell him the plain truth at once. ‘These fellows (prisoners) must take off their hats to me & others; now you don’t, & I think it would be a breach of the established discipline, & have had a bad effect in the gang’. ‘I admitted (said GB) that it was true, we did not act in such ceremonies, as men generally

p.382 do, but it was well known, that it did not proceed from any want of respect, & I believed that even the prisoners, were not ignorant of our motives. Also, that altho I could not ask the men to take their hats off to me, I should not interfere, in their doing so to others. He replied, that it might be so, & he wished for the support of Christian men, to carry out his plans. If they acted on Gospel principles, he cared not what sect they belonged to, & if it were only in his own office, he cared nothing about it, but in the probation parties, he felt that it would be an evil, he could not get over. I then left him, with the understanding, that should he be brought to think differently, he would let me know’.

But Capt F never was brought to think differently, & as far as he was concerned, my dear husband’s journey to Town was useless; altho in some other

p.383 respects such was not the case. He remained in Hobart [sic], until the 31st & then set off to return to Bothwell, unsuccessful in all his attempts, to get a situation. As we could not live upon 30 pounds per annum, it was judged expedient, that GB should give up the post office, & remove with us all into Hobart Town, where he would be more at hand, should any thing offer for him. This at first was a heavy trial to me, but I prayed for grace, to be enabled to give up my will entirely & at length was favored [sic] to resign myself & all my concerns, into the hands of my dear Lord & master, when blessed be His holy name, all anxiety for the future left me. Could I have had my own will, I would rather have remained in the country at any risk, but it was not to be. I should have stated, that my dear George returned all safe, on the 1st of 10th mo. We were happy to meet again, but still it was mixed with sorrow.

[There are no pages 384‒88]

p.389 It may be supposed that the dear children were not a little pleased, to see their dear Father. I believe I have never mentioned dear little George, since his birth, but as I proceed, I find it will not do, to particularize so much, as I did at first, lest time should fail me, to accomplish what I have undertaken. I cannot say, that George was a very robust baby, but thro mercy he usually enjoyed good health, excepting occasional interruptions from teething. I felt that he in some measure, made up for the loss of my dear Anne, & I had a great fear of trusting him in the arms of any girl. So that excepting much assistance, as his Father could occasionally give me I nursed him chiefly myself; preferring to let him crawl about on the floor, or be drawn about at times in a little wooden box with wheels, by SJ & W to trusting him out of sight with any one. He was weaned when about 8 mos old, & immediately after we went to Sherwood. It may be asked, how came G Bell to

p.390 carry on the post office duties after leaving the school? To this I would reply, that the Post Master Gen having no fault to find with GB wrote to him, to know if he meant to give it up? It immediately occurred to dear George, that it might be worth his while, to try & perform its duties, & perhaps he might be able, to connect something close with it: but just at the time, a family arrived in Bothwell & commenced a new store so there was no opening for us. We had little doubt but that it was wisely ordered, as we had no friends to draw upon, & we should most likely, have been involved in many difficulties. After the post office affairs were settled, the business thereof was transferred to the school, under charge of T Wilkinson, as formerly. We then commenced packing, & making arrangements for our journey to Hobart Town. We were very kindly assisted, by James Garret[t] & his wife. What little leisure we could get, we employed in taking leave of persons & places, whom

p.391 perhaps we might never be permitted to see again on earth; or revisit those haunts with which we had become familiar. In a solitary place, the last first day, we were there, my dear George sat down, &, read a few extracts from Isaac Pennington [?], part of which my dear GB copied on his return.

IP thus writes. ‘That the discovery of our having erred from the right path, is a shewing forth of Power, but we must not expect assistance, at the very time, &, in the very manner, we would wish. Our duty is to look to the Lord, to wait on him, & to be thankful, for what little assistance, He may vouchsafe unto us, believing that He will not leave us to be overpowered. The language of, How can I overcome? &c, &c, does not proceed from the true seed. He that would feel strength beforehand, & act in the sense of that strength, from him the power withdraws; but he that is weak, & hath no strength, but as it freely drops into him, from moment, to moment, this is the

p.392 vessel, the power chooseth to manifest itself unto, & to be continually appearing.’

‘It was brought home to my mind, that if I were fighting, I must expect sometimes to be knocked down, &, sometimes severely wounded; but in such case, I must not allow my faith to fail, but arose with what portion of strength I have remaining & carry on the battle in the firm belief, that I shall surely obtain the victory in the end; if I be loyal & true hearted; through the great captain of our salvation. Heavenly Parent: So thou preserve this truth constantly in my mind, & make me humble before thee.’

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The Bells journey from Launceston to Bothwell, 1840

Sarah Bell, née Danby (1803–85), was born in London, England. After migrating to New South Wales, she married George Bell at Bullhill, near Liverpool, New South Wales, in 1834. The couple had three children—Sarah Jane (1836), Walter Stephen (1837) and Anne Danby (1839)—before relocating in Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land, in 1839 in order to operate a school. Anne Danby Bell died in Launceston in January 1840, being buried in a garden at Breadalbane. In the following month the Bell family travelled to Bothwell, where George Bell had been appointed postmaster and schoolteacher. The trip was eventful!

Books 8 and 9: Sarah Bell’s Life History 

4 February–21 May 1840 

p.343 My dear George endeavored [sic] to carry on school as usual but found himself more out of place than before. On the 4th of 2nd mo he then writes. ‘My dear Sarah continues so very sick, that I was obliged to give her some brandy. Doctor P says that nothing but time & rest will be of any real benefit to her’. With regard to himself he further remarks, ‘I feel dull & out of my place, which I believe I am, as this kind of life keeps me at the same dull chime, without any advancement. Some minds whose love of children is strong, may feel themselves … [?] … & delighted with the training of infant minds, but I feel to want to be among some beings, to whom I could com –

p.344 municate my thoughts as they arise in my own mind, without being under the necessity of bringing them down to the lowest standard’.

On the 9th he notices that he went out to shut the back gate, & that he fell down in a fit where he says ‘Sarah found me’. On the 10th he kept his bed all day that Dr Grant the partner of Dr Pugh came twice during that day to see him; & that the late Philip Oakden, Isaac Sherwin, J Lawson, & T Wellington, all called upon him, he was hurt by the fall, which made him very ill.

11th. He felt somewhat better, Isaac Sherwin called the next day & kindly offered to lend him a horse that he might take a ride out to Wellington’s & else where, & said that he was welcome to keep it until 7 day (Saturday) this being Wednesday morning. He started about noon, & was kindly welcomed, he felt much better after a nights rest & rose on the morning of the 13th much refreshed, had a comfortable breakfast

p.345 & then rode off thro a very level part of the county to vist a young man residing at Cressy, who kept the Government School there, & who had advised my dear George to apply for a similar situation; saying that the thought GB much better fitted for such a vocation than he was. He returned to T Wellington’s in safety late in the evening, feeling better for his day’s journey.

14. He remained with the Wellingtons, riding about with Thomas, & on the 15th he was permitted to return home all the better of the little excursion he had had.

It appears that GB went to see the School master at Cressy, in consequence of Dr Pugh, & Grant, giving it as their opinion, that G Bell was decidedly out of place among Infant children, & strongly recommending him to make a change as soon as he could; this led him to make enquiry relative to the position of a School master among older children, in one of the Government schools,

p.346  & which ultimately led him, to apply to the Secretary, of the Board of Education in Hobart Town, to enter our names as applicants to, the Committee of the infant school, at Launceston approving of the same, altho not without sorrow at the disappointment they had sustained on our account. On the 18th my dear George thus remarks. ‘I have now entered my 36th year, it appears as if I had a nearer sight of futurity than ever. My late affliction causes me to suppose it likely, that I shall not live much longer. I pray that the Holy Spirit ay sanctify this stroke [?] to me, so as to purify my heart, & make me ready for my final change.’

22. ‘Received a letter from W Ehairn [?] acquainting us, that our names have been placed on the list of candidates.’ But it was not until the 9th of the 5th mo that we were made acquainted with our appointment to the Bothwell School.

p.347 The Bothwell post Office was connected with it so that the School master would be Postmaster too. This arrangement had been made to improve the salary of the School master. It being a hundred a year with a free house, & the Post Master £36 per annum. When my dear George first thought of applying, he meant it only as a situation for himself, but upon enquiry, he found that, girls as well as boys were included in the Government schools & therefore the wife of the Master would be considered as Mistress & expected to teach, unless she could appoint any one else to do the duty for her. Now this became a source of anxiety for us both, for my dear George was quite aware of my physical incapacity as well as myself, & he also felt that if a wife did her duty in that station, & also as a mother to her children, no more ought to be required of her, even if she enjoyed the best of health. To meet the difficulty we con-

p.348 cluded to engage a young unmarried person to go with us, who we believed would be quite efficient to act under my direction, & who would also make herself generally useful, in this matter we were quite successful, indeed I may say even beyond our expectations. The next difficulty was respecting how we were to go? So after much consideration & consultation &c it was deemed best by those who knew that part of the country, for us to hire a Van to take us & our luggage & such goods & chattels as we could stow in. At length a Van was secured, & the driver came &, saw his passengers, made arrangements as to what luggage he could take & took an inventory thereof; promising to be all ready to start on the 18th this being the 16th for the sum of £12. Every thing was all settled by us by 11 AM on the 18th but still the Driver & his Van did not appear. My dear GB was running hither & thither & at last caught sight of him in the Inn where he usually put up, he said he would be at our house in a few minutes

p.349 but he did not make his appearance until nearly 3 oclock. This delay disarranged our plans so, that my husband concluded it would better to send the children &, myself on by the Launceston coach to Perth, where it was intended we should pass that night; thinking it possible, he might not be able to leave that night, the man appeared so drunken, under which circumstances my dear GB could get a bed at a neighbours house, & the young person who had engaged to accompany us, could also remain the night with her friends. Accordingly after taking Farewell of the many kind friends I had met with in Launceston, I took my seat in the coach with Walter on my lap, & SJ by my side about 5.30PM & arrived at Perth between 6 & 7. And it was well that we did so, for it was not until 7 oclock that the Driver managed to get his business with other people finished, & then he begged

p.350 to remain for the night, saying it would put him to a nights extra expence [sic] for the horses, if my husband insisted upon going then; so upon his faithfully promising to start by 5 the next morning, my dear George consented. On the 19th my dear husband remarks as follows. ‘Having gone to bed before ten, I awoke before 12 struck, & the heard one two, 3 & 4, when I arose, got a light & was reading, when my friend Thompson came in to the room, with some cold meat &, bread. He went with me to the Inn &, after some little noise, we awoke the driver by 5. I then went & roused Margaret, & took my farewell of poor Harriett Thompson, whom I am not at all likely to see again on earth, & then of her dear husband. Having seen Margaret & all the light luggage with the Van I started on foot along side of it. As we drew near to Lawsons, I saw them looking out for me, & they insisted upon my taking some breakfast with them. I then took leave of them all, & walked smartly on after the Van into Perth,

p.351 just as they reached the Inn when Sarah & the children were, who I was glad to hear arrived all safe, & that they had passed a comfortable night.

Here Margaret’s boxes were put inside the Van which was now so full, that when Sarah & the children got in they were so crammed that no room could be found for another. Margaret seeing how uncomfortable they would all be, preferred remaining behind, for some other conveyance.

Sarah & I felt grieved at this & endeavored [sic] to persuade the man to make a little alteration, but this he would not do: but he promised he would bring M up in about ten days or a fortnight.’

As Margaret knew a little of the Inn keeper’s wife, she said she would remain there until [sic] the Launceston coach passed, & then she would return to her friends,  & stay there until the carrier called for her. My dear George wished to pay her expences [sic] but this

p.352 she would not allow. So taking farewell of her we parted mutually sorrowful at this unexpected event. We had every reason to think that if the Driver had placed the luggage in a more compact manner there would have been sufficient room for us all, a fact which we proved beyond a doubt, ere half our journey was accomplished. The first night we stayed at Cleveland, nothing particular occurred during that day’s journey.

20th. We started early in the morning & arrived at Campbell Town about 11AM where we stopped for about an hour & partook of some refreshment; the driver being ready to start again, we went to resume our seats, &, found that the double dealing man had chosen to, altho the way in which he had first placed our luggage making room to receive some belonging to a Soldier’s Wife & she occupying my dear husband’s seat. On enquiring the meaning of such conduct the impudent fellow coolly said that

p.353 he had promised the last time, to take the woman to Oatlands &, therefore we must just put up with it. My dear George was much vexed, & charged him with being a double dealing rogue, in causing us to leave the young person behind. Whom he had previously engaged to take, she being one of our family to make room for a woman of his own choosing! Upon this much altercation ensued; GB ordering the woman to come out, which she refused to do. My dear George then appealed to the Inn keeper, telling him how he had hired the whole Van &c: the Inn keeper remonstrated, the Driver was insolent, the woman abusive calling my poor George a proud puppy, & using many other approbrious epithets. As much time had been lot during this uproar, &, no good effected, the driver began to intimidate us by saying that he would drive off without us; so as then

p.354 there was no justice to be had & no time for further delay we were obliged to submit. It was nearly 9 oclock at night when we arrived at our place of destination, I have unfortunately lost the memorando [sic] of the remainder of the journey, so I am entirely dependent upon my memory & I cannot recollect, either the name of the place, or the Inn keeper, but the facts that occurred there are still fresh in my remembrance. Our fellow traveller followed us into the parlor into which we were shown & endeavored [sic] to force her conversation upon us, tea & other refreshments were brought in; when my dear GB seeing that her ladyship intended to make one of our number, withdrew &, had a little private conversation with the landlord explaining to him as briefly as possible how matters stood between us, whereupon the landlord returned with GB & politely asked the woman to walk into another apartment, this at first she

p.355 refused to do. At last the landlord gave her to understand, that if she did not she should walk out altogether. This had the desired effect, she arose in a furious rage cursing us, &, vowing bitter revenge. After she had left the room we felt somewhat relieved, the two dear children seemed completely tired out, & after eating their supper I put them to bed, in a comfortable double bedded room. We two sat some time by the parlor fire talking over the grievances of our journey with our landlord, who appeared to be a sensible man. He said our case was by no means a solitary one &, he supposed it was one of those impositions, to which travellers in these colonies were frequently subjected to. The only thing he could advise my husband to do, would be to write an account to the Proprietor of the Van should we arrive in time & seek redress from him.

p.356 My dear husband felt very tired for he had walked nearly all the way; the only seat he could get, being on a kind of ledge by the driver. In the night he had a fit, brought on most likely by the excitement. I thought him unfit to proceed, but there was no alternative, we intended to have started by 6AM the next morning the 20th but were not ready until nearly 7 & then to our sorrow we found the wicked woman occupying the only seat my dear George could have the same as before. To remonstrate he knew would be utterly useless so he walked silently on by side. After a while we came up to a dirty looking hut by the road side here her ladyship alighted & went in followed by the driver, my husband seized the opportunity, &, took possession of his seat. Presently the man made his appearance, who began swearing at my husband who told the man he had better quiet or it would be the worse for him.

p.357 Shortly after there was a terrible din heard in the hut, which was followed by a forcible ejectment of the lady in question, by a miserable haggard looking creature of a woman, who loaded her with abuse, she hastened up to the Van vowing vengeance on her antagonist; but on seeing the seat she had presumed to claim occupied by my husband, her rage knew no bounds. There was nothing too bad for her to say, she attempted to pull him out, which set the poor children crying; at last having quite exhausted herself, she crawled in, over some of the luggage & rolled over to the back, but not until the driver threatened to leave her behind. A few miles further on, & my husband left the Van, & proceeded to the house of an individual with a recommendation from the Inn keeper, for that person to lend GB a horse, which was to be left for him at the Inn we were

p.358 to remain at for the night at Oatlands. Fortunately the person at home & immediately complied with his friend’s request. In this way my dear husband was enabled to pursue the remainder of the way in comparative ease, & arrived at Oatlands long before us, requesting the mistress of the Inn to make preparations for us. During the interval GB called on the Government School master, whose name was Fife, who received him very hospitably &, introduced him to his wife. My George briefly told them how matters stood, & they gave us all a cordial invitation to tea that evening regretting they could not offer accommodation for the night. As soon as my poor husband had vacated the seat the woman came forward, muttering abuse against GB declaring that she was almost suffocated, & saying she would take care to have the Colonel of the regiment to which her husband belonged informed of the treatment she had received &c. I begged of her not to say

[there is no p.359]

p.360 anything to me against my husband as I did not suppose she would like to hear her husband spoken against. After that she said no more. We arrived at Oatlands about 3PM as near as I can recollect & found my dear George had left a message for me, with the mistress of the Inn that we were not to wait for him. There was a nice dinner prepared for us, consisting of a boiled leg of mutton, soup & dumplings, which my dear SJ says she well remembers. I told our hostess of our adventure in travelling, she then made a few enquiries, & then told me that our travelling companion was a woman of very doubtful character, but that we need not fear being troubled with her company any further as her journey was at an end. Between 4 & 5 my dear husband came in, with the invitation from Fifes, & then he escorted us there, by each of whom we were kindly welcomed.

Book 9: Sarah Bell’s life history

p.361 The driver having given us to understand, that he would not proceed further, without knowing who his master would send to help him up the hills the last 9 miles of the journey; caused a serious discuss to take place, between GB & our friend Fife, (who was well acquainted with the road, as likewise the tricks that these Van drivers, too often practice upon inexperienced travellers; & as a friend of his happened to call just at the time, the man was forthwith summoned to appear before them. After a great deal of palaver it was at last settled, that we should leave the Van altogether; & proceed by some other conveyance: & the driver was made to sign a document, as the responsible person, for the safe delivery of the goods in Bothwell. There were several reasons for our not travelling any further in the way we had done, but the most important one was, the slow progress that we

p.362 made. Before we left Launceston my dear George was gazetted as Post Master for the district of Bothwell, & T Wilkinson the last Master, was detained beyond his time thro one more arrival; as soon as the man left, our new friends set about seeking some one, who could convey us to our journeys end the following day. After some difficulty, an individual known to be an upright dealing man, & thoroughly acquainted with that part of the country, engaged to take us in his own sociable for £1.10 [sic] declaring that he did it out of respect to Fife, & of compassion for us; not that he should gain anything by it. For this arrangement we felt very thankful, & it being now between 9 & 10 PM we felt it needful to return to the Inn where we were to pass the night: the dear little ones having already fallen asleep. SJ in her Father’s arms, & Walter in mine. So taking our final leave of our kind friends we

p.363 departed, we each lade with our precious burden. On searching the Inn, we were immediately conducted to the apartment we had previously selected; & then divesting the sleepers of their garments, as quietly as we could, & putting on their night gowns; we safely deposited one treasure in one bed, tucked the snugly in, & bending over them, breathed a silent prayer for the unconscious children, that their guileless spirits, might be preserved from all evil, & that in due time, they might show forth the fruits, of being children of the Most High: & then we petitioned for ourselves that we might be enabled to ‘Train them in the way they should go’. & that we also might be kept from all evil, & if consistent with the Divine will, that we might be permitted to arrive at our journeys and in safety, both for Time, & for Eternity, & then with grateful hearts we betook ourselves to rest intending if spared to get as early a break-

p.364 fast as possible, that we might be ready to start by 8 in the morning. But the morning turned out wet, still we were encouraged to hope that it might clear up. We waited about half an hour beyond the time, but finding it still kept on; we felt we must not delay any longer. Being well provided with cloaks & various other necessaries to keep out the rain, We started between 8 & 9 in the midst of it: this being the 21st of 5 mo 1840. We had an excellent driver & a good horse; we kept the children nicely sheltered, & endeavored [sic] to keep up our spirits as well as we could, the rain rather increased than abated, the wind driving it full in our faces. The roads began to get so bad that our progress was much retarded & a fear arose in our minds that we should not be able to proceed to the end. However much to our joy between 11 & 12 it abated a little, & by the time we reached Jericho it ceased altogether which was

p.365 about 11 AM. We were so thoroughly drenched with rain, & benumbed with cold, that when we attempted to alight at the Inn; we had to be assisted out, even the poor children, in spite of all our efforts to keep them dry & warm, cried bitterly with the cold. The kind Inn keepers soon ran off with them & handing them to two pleasing looking young lasses, their daughters, they were quickly seated in their laps by the side of a blazing wood fire; & the kind girls began rubbing their hands & feet, & filling their mouths with cakes & sweet meats. As soon as my dear George & I entered, we saw at once the impropriety, of suddenly taking them from the cold & placing them so near a roaring fire; but the goodnatured people only laughed at us, & bade us come up & get the benefit. Divesting ourselves of our wet garments, we made shift to keep for a time at a respectable distance; & then hot spirits & water were brought in

p.366 this we positively refused to touch, thanking our Host & Hostess at the same time but as we smelt something very savoury in the cooking way, we enquired if dinner would soon be ready, for that we were very hungry, & would just take what they had, they said it was already & should be brought in immediately. By this time were we joined by our kind driver, who we were pleased to see refused the spirits & water upon an empty stomach but he said he would take some after dinner. Our dinner consisted of soup boiled beef & vegetables to which we had ample justice, as to the children, they were quite at home seated beside their young friends, My dear George ordered some porter, but our driver would not partake with us because he said spirits & water agreed with him better, we were very pleased to see that he did not take much.

p.367 The dinner being over & the sun shining out, it was the opinion of all that the rain for the present was over; & that we might safely continue our journey: Our dried garments were then brought in as soon as the two children found they must leave their warm quarters they said they were very sorry, & wished much to remain a little longer. We paid our bill & taking leave of the kind family at the Inn, recommenced our journey. After crossing the Jordan their [sic] was one very steep & rather dangerous place to ascend, but which was accomplished at last without any accident, altho we were very nearly overturned once, down the fearful precipice. I also remember the children & myself getting out & scrambling along as well as we could, while my husband & the driver were doing their best to restrain the horse who had become rather unmanageable. After this, all the rest of the way was very well.

p.368 We proceeded on at a rapid pace, the wind blowing very cold, much colder than ever I had felt it since I left my native land. We passed some beautifully laid out grounds, but nothing particularly worthy of notice & arrived at our journey’s end between 5 & 6 PM & put up at Cockerills Inn Bothwell. Thankful to our heavenly Father, who had indeed been better unto us than our fears.

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The death of Anne Bell at Launceston, 1840

Sarah Bell, née Danby (1803–85), was born in London, England. After migrating to New South Wales, she married George Bell at Bullhill, near Liverpool, New South Wales, in 1834. The couple had three children—Sarah Jane (1836), Walter Stephen (1837) and Anne Danby (1839)—before relocating in Launceston, Van Diemen’s Land, in 1839 in order to operate a school. Anne Danby Bell died in Launceston in January 1840, being buried in a garden at Breadalbane.

Sarah Bell diary 15–26 January 1840

p.331 We have now arrived at the 15th of 1 mo 1840. When about ten AM I sent Emma (the girl I had to nurse the baby) with Sarah Jane, to the Sherwins, who kindly supplied me with a little new [?] milk every day for little Anne. Emma was to carry the baby, & SJ the milk in a little van. Now this girl Emma, was very careless & had given me a great deal of trouble, yet there was something good in her, & we hoped in time with care & attention, that she would improve. She had been recommended to us by our dear friends the Sherwins, as the child of a now pious mother, but who had previous to that happy change taking place in her parent, been much neglected, & ill treated; she had been out to service before; but not with persons who cared for her soul. Her other at the time we took her, was very anxious to place her with those, who would care for her immortal

p.332 part: for she had no home for her, & why? Her father was a drunkard. So we felt it was out duty to bear with her, & pray for her & with her, hoping that her Father in heaven would bless the seed sown & cause it some day to spring up & bring forth …[?]… abundantly.

I had endeavored [sic] to impress on her mind that in nursing an Infant she should hold its clothes in the front, for sprightly children, will sometimes nearly spring out of their nurses arms. Of this class was my little Anne. But it was difficult for Emma to remember this as likewise to keep her bootlaces fastened; the consequence was that in returning from Katherine Sherwin’s she trod on one of her laces & slipt down of course the dear little lamb came with considerable force to the ground, & upon Emma’s attempting to rise, without having a firm hold of the child, she let her fall over her arm upon the back of her head; thus the dear little creature had a double shock.

p.333 Astonished at the long time they were gone, I rose from the sofa, & slipped out unknown to my husband fearing something had happened; & met them about half way, Emma! I exclaimed observing the dear little one laying apparently lifeless in her arms what is the matter with the baby? & what has been the cause of you staying so long? Nothing ma’am only she has been crying so that I had to sit down with her, & the I left fall an egg Mrs Sherwin gave me, & it broke & we had to back again [sic] & tell Mrs Sherwin & ask her for another; for I did not like to come without’. Taking my precious babe out of my arms, & turning to SJ who was carrying the milk & crying, & upon whose truthfulness I knew I could rely, I said tell me my dear ‘Is what Emma has been saying the truth? ‘No mama said she it is only part of the truth’. ‘Then my dear I cried do you tell me the whole truth.’ ‘I will mama’, said

p.334 the dear child & then she told me that which I have written. Adding that it was true about the egg, & about Anne’s crying so, & that ‘Mrs Sherwin’ heard her crying, but that Emma did not tell her the cause, & that ‘Mrs S’ tried to see the dear lamb. Emma wept bitterly. By this time, we had reached home, I laid dear Anne down desiring Emma to go into the kitchen; I locked the door, lest she should run away as she had done more than once, when detected in lying; having been sadly beaten for so doing by her employers. Fetching my husband out of the School room, he sent for Dr Pugh, while I put the little sufferer into a warm bath. Dr P was out. Placing the dear child in some blankets on the sofa, I went into the kitchen to Emma, & told her, that she need not fear to speak the truth, for she knew we should not beat her; & therefore I hoped she would tell me the whole truth. Being thus encouraged she said that all SJ had told me was the truth: &, that she was

p.335 very, very sorry, that she knew it was all thro her carelessness, & that she felt she was a bad wicked girl &c. In about an hour the Doctor came; examined the child carefully, but could not find any bruises, only a slight swelling & redness on the back of the head; he tried to rouse her; & the child opened her eyes, & stared vacantly around her; he said he feared the shock had occasioned concussion of the brain, but he thought it possible she might rally & recover.  He then gave us directions how to act & took his leave for that time. After he was gone my dear George wrote a note to Emma’s mother & sent her home. But the next day her mother came & after a long talk we consented to take her back again.

The dear child by this time had rallied considerably, but there was something unnatural about her, as soon as she caught sight of Emma, she screamed violently, & clung tightly to me. She was restless & thirsty but when she drank, it would not

p.336 remain on her stomach. Oh then how I wished I had the breast to give her. In this way she continued for several days & nights, when, the same kind of stupor that she had at first, came on again. The Doctor said the dear child was evidently suffering from concussion of the brain. Everything that medical skill & a mother’s care could do was done, but in vain. On the 23rd I felt much alarmed at her appearance & roused my husband about 3 o’clock in the morning he rose & sat with me till daylight & the went to the Doctor’s, returned shortly after with two leeches & some liquid medicine to take in her drink. In about two hours; the Doctor all he could say was ‘That while there was life there was hope’. At 12 PM Dr Grant came: the warm baths were to be continued, liniment prescribed for the chest …[?]… poultices for the feet, &c. About 6 they both came. They did not think she could survive long. They thought her general state from teething would cause a fall

p.337 to take greater effect. A dear Christian friend whose name was Harriett Thompson & who was herself an invalid begged to sit up with me as she feared she would not live the night thro one or two other kind friends, also offered, whose services were declined, thank them for their goodness. Emma’s mother came entreating us to let her remain in the house, in case any one else might be wanted. A bed was made on the Sofa for me so that I could lay down & take my precious child to my bosom as I believed I should not have her another night. After praying with us, & for us, my dear George retired to his own bed; about ten, we having promised to call him, if any further change took place in the dear child. About 1 o’clock on the morning of the 24th Harriett Thompson made us a little tea, I raised myself up to take it, dear Anne was watching me, with her eyes seeming ready to start out of

p.338 her head, altho we thought she was into [sic] much agony to notice anything, & sezing [sic] a crust out of my hand she commenced gnawing it voraciously, shortly afterwards she fixed her eyes upon her little mug that stood upon the mantel piece & said mam, mam, mam [?], in a most unearthly tone. H Thompson moved the mug, but she still kept her eyes fixed on it, but when it was brought near to her she seemed not to see it; she breathed heavily & I could not keep her extremities warm. We felt her end was near. So placing her in HT’s lap by the fire I hastened up stairs to call my husband. Returning & taking the dear departing babe in my arms, I sat down by the fire, & was quickly followed by my dear George. We all 3 believed that her precious soul would soon be at liberty. We could not speak. The dear little sufferer gave one groan, & then breathing sweetly for a few minutes she quietly departed. About 2.30 the same hour

p.339 in which she was born: &, both nights were moonlight. That evening by 6PM she was laid in a little coffin. Isaac & Katherine Sherwin came, & mingled their tears with ours. The next day the 25th John Lawson & Thomas Wellington with their wives came from Cocked Hat Hill, about 8 or ten miles from Launceston, & we all returned with them, Emma & the two children & the body of dear little Anne were placed in a cart. My dear husband & the rest of the men folks alternately walking & riding. The corpse was on arriving at John Lawson’s residence placed upon a table, to be interred in his garden the next day, being the First day of the week, where a grave was already dug. We all sat down to tea but our hearts were too full of sorrow, to allow of our eating. Our two remaining children occupied a room with ourselves. The following morning the 26 of 1 mo my dear husband writes as follows

p.340. 26. ‘I moved the coffin after breakfast into room [sic], & placed it on the table. At 11 AM we All sat down around it, & were joined by T Wellington his wife, & several of their sons & daughters, also by young Watts. (The all [sic] here spoken of, means, not only our two selves our two children & Emma, but John Lawson & his wife, each of their aged mothers, &, their own numerous family of sons & daughters.) After sitting for about ½ [sic] Sarah spoke for a short time, calling upon old & young to work out their own salvation thro Christ &c. for that how, was the acceptable time. About noon Lawson carried the body to the grave dug in the corner of the garden where it was laid down. A solemn pause ensued. After which Lawson & Wellington lowered it into the grave, which was filled up by Wellington & the young man Watts. Sarah retired to her room &, shut herself in.’

When I took my last look at my little one, dear George &, I each kissed her cold brow

p.341 & he repeated in a low & tremulous voice the following beautiful lines

The deep repose

I shall never more be broke by pain;

Those lips are no more in sighs unclose,

Those eyes shall never weep again.

I joined the family at the dinner table but was thankful to retire to my own room again ere that meal was over. In the evening my dear George took a quiet stroll. It was a lovely summers evening, quite moonlight, & as we walked we wept. After breakfast the next morning, my dear husband bade Adieu to our kind friends at the Cocked Hat Hill &, walked into Launceston; leaving the children, & Emma & myself to follow by the coach; which we did about an hour after, & reached our home in safety. We took Emma with us by her own earnest entreaties to be allowed to see the last of the dear little one whose death she had been the cause of, in

p.342 which she was joined by her mother who hoped the impression on her mind would thereby be deepened, &, such was the case. She soon showed evidence of being a very altered girl; & so change did my feelings become towards her, that from scarcely being able to hear her I my sight; I now felt that I loved her, even as a mother loves a darling child, whose soul she had reason to believe was rescued from eternal perdition. But on leaving Launceston, which event took place about 4 mos after I had to part with her, & have never seen nor heard anything of her since altho many enquiries have been made about her. If she is still in being, I pray that the Lord may bless her & gird her in the good old way, & at last receive her into glory for the dear Redeemer’s sake.

How unsearchable are the ways of the Almighty! who by searching can find out God? Yet is He not far from us, for in

p.343 Him we live, & move, & have our being. And it may be, or may have been, (for anything that I know to the contrary) that the summoning of my dear little Anne from a world of sin & sorrow to everlasting happiness, was but the opening of the door for another soul to enter.