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The death of George Bell, 1852, and Sarah Bell diary, Hobart Town, 1853

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. Sarah’s husband, George Bell, died in Hobart Town in 1852. In her 1853 diary Sarah’s discusses her transcription of extracts from her late husband’s coded diaries and her writing of her own life story. At a time when she had no income of her own other than an annual remittance from her family in England, she hoped to sell the combined life stories to make some money.

The death of George Bell 29 November 1852

[Frederick Mackie diary 2 December 1852: ‘Attended this morning the funeral of George Bell. The burial ground is on the outskirts of town, and it having been very wet the day before the road was so muddy that it was with some difficulty that we could get there, as the mud was remarkably adhesive. It is this I suppose, which renders it so unfavourable for the growth of grass. A hearse could not be obtained, a neat light waggon, or break was therefore hired, but the road was so exceedingly bad that it set fast. The coffin was then taken out and laid across Hy Propsting’s open carriage, and although it arrived at the ground after the appointed time, the grave was not ready, and we had to stand about a whole hour before the grave was finished. One of our Friends had to take off his coat and set to work himself, or it would not have been accomplished at all. The soil is a tenacious clay, filled with large stones and boulders which indeed abound in every direction and some of the embryo streets are almost choked up with these boulders, large and small. About 20 or 30 individuals were present, a few of them were strangers, principally Geo Bell’s fellow clerks. It was very much to their credit, and speaks very much of the respect in which GB was held that they have offered gratuitously to do his work for three months that the family may have the benefit of his salary for that time. The burial ground is about ½ an acre of ground, nicely walled in about half a mile from the meeting house. We had a solemnizing time around the grave, and a few words were said. We then retired to the meeting house, and then after the meeting for worship, their monthly meeting was held.’[1]

[From minutes of Hobart Society of Friends meeting 7 April 1853: ‘A Burial note has been brought in for George Bell, a member of this meeting who died on the twenty ninth of the Eleventh month 1852 and was interred in Friends’ Burial ground at Hobart Town on the second of Twelfth month following.’ S1A1, Minutes of monthly meetings held at Hobart and Kelvedon, Van Diemen’s Land, 1833‒57, University of Tasmania Library, Rare & Special Collections, http://eprints.utas.edu.au/7033/, accessed 11 June 2016]

Sarah Bell 1853 diary

1st of 1st mo/1853

Gracious God my afflictions are known unto thee. Yet in Infinite mercy thou hast thou spared me to behold the beginning of another year. Also in Infinite mercy thou has removed my dear & precious husband from me, & taken to dwell with thee in Paradise. Oh Lord my God! be graciously pleased to prepare me to follow after him & if such is thy Holy will O Lord grant that we may meet together in thy kingdom in Glory for my dear Redeemer’s sake. & Oh be with me & comfort me in my low state & keep me from murmuring & repining, knowing that thou dost all things well, & grant that thy may indeed be a new year unto me.

3rd Rose this morning far from well endeavored to raise my thoughts in thanksgiving & praise unto the God of my life. The two dear friends Robert Lindsay & Frederick Macey [sic] took tea with us, in the afternoon we had a precious opportunity in the evening. R Lindsay delivered a most beautiful address to my dear S Jane & then had something to say by way of encouragement to me, Frederick Macey’s last words were ‘Trust in the Lord & do good, & verily thou shalt be fed’. After that RL concluded with prayer. Dear little Catherine Freeman was present, she wept nearly all the time.

[Frederick Mackie diary 4 January 1853: ‘Last evening took tea with Sarah Bell and her three children. By the death of her husband she is left nearly destitute. She contemplates keeping a school for her maintenance. Her own children have been tenderly brought up and their own hearts appear as well prepared soil, softened with the dews of divine grace in which the seed of the kingdom may spring up.’[2]]

4th Very poorly all day, look upon me O My God & heal my backsliding. I do not know what to do with Walter he is so impetuous that I can scarcely manage him at all. O Lord restrain him & lead him in the right path & be graciously pleased to bless him with meek and quiet spirit which in thy sight is of great price.

4th [sic] Rose very ill this morning from severe headache Lord look upon my affliction & y pain, & heal me for the Redeemer’s sake. Katherine F went home this afternoon to meet the two dear friends R SM FM who were invited to take tea at Thomas Freeman’s.

5. [In margin: ‘Squally’] George & Kate gathering currants. I made pudding stewed currants had a bad headache all day felt a little better towards evening. Kate went home to meet the two dear friends at her Father’s house.

6 [In margin: ‘Fair & mild’] Rose somewhat better this morning for which I desire to be truly thankful. Sent a letter to the monthly meeting of friends expressing my sense of their kindness in the concern manifested for our present & future welfare, showing them at the same time my desire to commit myself & all my sins [?] unreservedly to Him & Him only, who is too wise to err too good to be unkind & who only knows what is best for us.

7. [In margin: ‘Beautiful day’] Rose this morning renewed in body & soul, earnestly desiring to walk worthy [of] my high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Oh that I may be enabled as to walk even as He walked.

George went to OBriens bridge. Walter & George made up their quarrel, which indeed was all about nothing. I earnestly pray that they may be enabled to walk together in love for Jesus Christ’s sake.

8 [In margin: ‘Warm this day. Rain’] Laid awoke as usual, for a long time ere it was really daylight. I find it an excellent opportunity for meditation & prayer. Oh that my mind were more wholly given up to the Lord & that every thought were brought captive to the obedience of Christ, instead of which I am frequently betrayed into angry temper which distresses me sadly.

9. [In margin: ‘This day has been showery’] Meditated prayed & rose as usual the two boys & myself usually breakfast about ½ past 7 then we read & endeavor [?] in silence & stillness to worship God in spirit & in truth. Our dear Sarah Jane is generally awake before the reading which she can hear in her own room. George has been at home all day, Walter went to meeting alone, he said R Lindsay preached for some time. I was glad to find how much he could remember of his discourse. TF wept much. After the meeting was over RL & F [?] shook hands with W & said that it was not likely I should see them again but they would remember me.

10. [In margin: ‘Showery all day’] Rose this morning in rather [sic] spirits than sometimes, dear George is still very poorly & remained in bed to break fast. He rose about ten & went up the hill for Fern accompanied by Catherine it had been agreed that he should … [?]… & go to Dr Crooke at 2 o’clock & bring some oil with him, but when he was about starting he said he felt so much better that he did not think he needed to call on the Dr so wishing to encourage him to hope for the best, I assented to his not calling, but by the time he returned he felt much worse at which I was sorry, he was obliged to go to bed early & I had to put a bottle of hot water to his feet they were so cold. Charlotte Reynolds called & took tea with us, after which I walked a little way with her on her way home.

12 [In margin: ‘Cloudy with a few drops rain’] Had a better night last night. Walter came home complaining much of a pain in the chest & head went to bed early & felt better in the morning. I have this day commenced continuing copying my dear husband’s journal continued from page 45 in the year 32. Whether I shall be able ever to finish what he has begun I know not but feel I must endeavor.

13. Last evening T Freeman came up & took tea with us. He said his principal reason for coming was to tell me that Henry Elliot wanted a boy & perhaps I might think it worth while for George to make trial. I said I was much obliged to him but that a friend had offered to send G to school &, that I thought I ought to accept of such a liberal offer, more especially as George required much more education & instruction in everything, & that he was altogether too young, however I could think of it. & so I did think of it & went down to Dr Officer this morning who feels that George requires to go to school now more than at any period & so it was settled for him to go next week when the school opens. I received a letter from T Walton called on R Nutt & had a talk with him.

20th I fear that it will be impossible for me to keep a regular journal, much as I wish to do so, having numerous duties to perform. My dear SJ still laid by & likely to be so. The two boys out all day, so that I have no assistance, added to which, I have the melancholy task to perform, of perusing all my late dear husband [sic] journals, which is small [sic], & closely written, from the time of our first acquaintance & copying all that shd be copied [sic], leaving out that which might be useless; which indeed he began to do himself, but as not permitted to complete it. I also desire to write the history of my own life, which for some time past, may [?] I may say for years, I think has been required of me, however, God only knows what is best, my I be kept willing & obedient.

This day George is gone to school where I hope he may be able to continue.

30th of first mo [In margin: ‘this day has been windy, & the two previous days cold & wet’], went to meeting to day for the first time since my dear husband’s death, I felt much overcome, H Propsting drove me up to Thomas Freeman’s where I dined to Victoria [?] Parkers whom I found much distressed about her dear departed. Jane, took tea with her left at 6. called on Robert A Mather, rested awhile & proceeded on my way till I came to A Murdoch where I called & rested a little & the home, found all right. Feeling fatigued, I lay down on sofa.

31st. [In margin: ‘This day has been fine’] I cannot help being much distressed at times when thinking about my dear George, & as I am much engaged in going over his journal, copying that which may be useful to those left behind, I am necessarily led amongst the scenes of bye gone days & reflections both painful & pleasing brought much into action still it is my duty to do what I can, Time is short & eternity is at hand. O that I may be more watchful & more vigilant, lest the enemy should gain the advantage over me.

17th of 3rd mo. 53. This day has been one of toil & fatigue JG Francis the agent for Fallenstein is determined we shall leave our present dwelling & young Frederick Piguenit will not quit our old cottage on the Crescent, which would be decidedly the cheapest & best place we could remove to, & altho SJ knee may be quietly progressing, Yet at the same time, she is no better able to walk, than she was 2 years or 4 years ago. What is to be done with us, or where are we to go, I know not, I pray to be rightly directed. Oh heavenly Father look upon my affliction & my sorrow.

14th of 9 mo 53 In looking over this long neglected journal, I find that I commenced copying my late dear hus [sic] journal on the 12th of First mo 53, but finding that I could not go regularly forward, after the tenth of 12 mo 34 I think it should be called making extracts, separating between the precious, & the vile. Thro mercy I was enabled to continue the work, rising early & sometimes working late, until 10th of 12 mo 34 (which was our wedding day) & which I accomplished by the 4th of 3 mo 53 & then I commenced a brief account of my own life, & carried it on ‘till the period above alluded to, & then continued our duplicate history; sometimes in my own words, with references to my dear husband’s journals, & at others, making extracts from his, quoting his words. And now; how shall I express the thankfulness I feel, to find that I have brought the whole to a conclusion on the 13th of 9 mo 53 (my dear Walter’s birth day of 16). Introducing dear GB into his new situation, in the office of Josiah Spode, the then Superintendent of Convicts; & which situation he held until it pleased our heavenly Parent, to remove him from Time, into Eternity.

It is now nearly 10 mos since my dear husband departed this life, & it is wonderful how we have been provided for. If any one had told me that we would be fed & clothed in the manner we have been, I should have thought they were beside themselves. My dear husband’s prayer hath indeed been answered & his expectations fulfilled ‘My Jesus will bless you, my Jesus will provide for us; He hath tempered the wind to the shorn lamb. May He still continue his Fatherly care over us; for the means hitherto employed, will soon come to an end. May it please thee Oh my Father! to replenish our store, & to enable us to want in faith nothing doubting; for thy Fatherly care is the same, yesterday today, & forever. For Thou are of one mind & none can turn thee.

16 [In margin: ‘Showery all day’] My dear SJ’s leg improves very, very slowly the only perceptible improvement since our removal up here, being that she is able to bed the knee a little without pain, but the other leg is so weak, & at times painful, that she cannot support herself on her crutches & move about a little as she might otherwise do, but we are thankful that she can rise once a day & sit for about an hour by the fire without much fatigue. Hitherto I have heard nothing from home, that could throw any light on the future. I know that time present is all we have to do with; still I cannot help feeling anxious sometimes, because all is going out, & nothing coming in; Still I know the Lord! that thou art as able to provide as thou has been, & that the widow & the Fatherless are thy peculiar care. Grant that I may not be of a doubtful mind, but rather that I may remember Thy goodness of old for Jesus Christ’s sake.

17th This day week I wrote to Hugh McColl, having received a paper from Melbourne, which I suspect came from him; called the Banner; which bids fair to be an excellent periodical, & calculated to do much good. In my letter, I informed H McColl, how I had been engaged copying selections from my late dear husband’s journal, & of my views as to whether it might not be published for the benefit of the family, craving his advice; which I hope to receive ere long. My health is becoming every day more uncertain & I feel a poor feeble creature. Heavenly Father! do thou assist me with Thy counsel & advice, & enable me to follow the leadings, & guidings, of Thy Holy Spirit, & then I shall be sure not to go astray. & Oh! grant that I may experience, Thy ways to be ways of pleasantness, & all Thy paths, Peace.

19. Walter saw a garden chair for sale, which we thought might suit SJ to be drawn about in. The lowest price 8 pounds, a coach maker who examined it, said it was cheap, the springs & wheels alone being worth that; so we bought it knowing that it would fetch its value if it should not answer our expectations Dr Crookes met the boys as they were bringing it home, & he said the man had sold it to him for a lady with a bad ankle, for £7 10. He also feared any jarring which might arrive from the motion of the wheels might irritate the knee, & produce mischief, but we had better try it, & then we should be able to judge. This speech of the Dr does not seem to agree with the messages he has sent us by W lately, requiring her to walk when she is unable to stand, & he saying that the limb was free from disease.

26. The whole of the 24th I felt very ill, so much so; that I could not get up all day. In the evening Walter brought me word home, that Doctor Agnew’s dear little girl, aged 3½, died of scarlet fever on the 22nd. I pray that this affliction may be sanctified to the bereaved parents. This morning I sent a short sympathizing note to the afflicted mother.

About a fortnight ago, I sent the 4 first copies of my dear husband’s journal to Louisa Agnew; for her perusal, intending at the time to let her have the whole, & to give me her opinion of them. She proposed showing them to two pious friends of hers, to ascertain their views with respect to publishing them. I have since rather regretted this; as some parts are of too delicate & sacred a nature to come before the public eye. I have had a double motive, to do good, & to receive good, & I fear that I cannot have acted with a single eye to the glory of God. Oh my God! if I have erred, do thou in tender mercy shew me the error of my way, & enable me to retrace my steps; & grant that no evil may come of that which I have done.

Lord increase my faith, for it is the fear of want, that has induced me to think of getting money by them, as well as the belief, that there is much that is calculated to do good to others. Still I know Oh Lord! That thy ways are not as our ways, & nor thy thoughts, as our thoughts. Thou requirest not the use of any instrument to do good, Thou also requirest that we, the creation of a day; should not hide our candle under a bushel, & Thou hast bidden us to do good, & to communicate to others.

29 This day ten mos my dear husband breathed his last. Oh heavenly Father look upon my affliction & my sorrow; & purify me from all sin; strengthen me by thy mighty power in the man & grant that I may love thee more, so that I may at last dwell with thee in Glory & join my dear husband in singing praise unto Thee, & unto the Lamb forever & ever.

4th of tenth mo. On the 30th of last mo I received a return letter of my dear husband’s from the dead letter office which he had sent to Hugh McColl about this time last year, & to day I have received a second paper called the Banner from him at Melbourne. I also heard yesterday for the first time of the death of Rebecca Harbroe’s dear little boy; to whom I have written a sympathizing letter; & pray that it may be blest unto them. I have likewise written A Murdoch requesting her remarks about S Jane.

11th. On the 8 A Murray came to see us, she & I had a long talk. I thought some things she said were uncalled for in one so much younger than myself, & whose path in life has been so smooth to what mine has (altho I am sure she meant it for the best). Still I could not help weeping.

On the 9th which was First day Dr Crooke came up after long promising to do so. He seemed much grieved to see that SJ had made no further progress in walking; I felt distressed on his examining her legs to see how her calves had wasted away & how short & stunted they were, while the upper part of her body had grown so much; he says it all arises from her not using them as he directed, & if she went on in that way she would certainly be a cripple for life. He requested her to let him see how she walked, after she had done so, he assured her that, such kind of walking would never do. He wished to know why she had not exerted herself, & tried to use her legs more? She replied she could not. Why could she not? was the next question, because she felt no power, & sometimes pain, & she was afraid of inuring both her legs. Then it was fear that prevented her he found, & yet there was no cause for it. He seemed vexed, yet kind; & begged her not to think him harsh while he assured her that, the only way for her to receive power was in using them, in spite of all pain, & fears of every kind. He then recommended rubbing, & for her to walk a little 3 times a day, extending her walk each period, & he would see her again in about a week. Walter drew her out in the chair & she said she felt better.

On the 10th she commenced without any hesitation; & I trust she will continue. She has been a heavy burden to me, & trial to us all. Her power to endure, is surprising to every body, but her apathy & want of energy, is not generally known. She is retiring in her disposition, seldom expressing her feelings, so that it is difficult to know what passes within but to judge from the outward one would think that, she never reflected upon the necessity there is for her to be up, & doing; seeming how much our way is hedged up on her account, may the All mighty bless her, with an increase of faith; so that she may act, instead of reason about the consequences, & oh heavenly Father! So Thou be pleased to support me, & make all my way plain befor [sic] me, & grant that patience may have her perfect work.

13th. On the 11th my dear SJ came out as she had the day previous, but felt more pain in the knee (we call the well knee) than she did at first & in the night it became swollen & inflamed. This does not surprise me, but still it grieves me, & shakes my confidence. So that it appears doubtful to my mind as to whether she will recover the use of her limbs. Oh! Lord look upon my afflictions & my sorrow, & enable me more willingly, cheerfully & unreservedly to submit to thy holy will in all things.

On the 12th there was no improvement, & today she is much the same.

14th Dr Agnew has visited SJ to day, & seeing her knee in a swollen state, said it would be imprudent to increase the use of it while in that state, said it would be imprudent to increase the use of it while in that state. May we each be imbued with patience from on High.

17th. This day 3 years ago we left Lansdowne Crescent. The lease of the house we had lived in for 7 years previously was not out yet, we were obliged to leave on account of my dear husband’s inability to ascent the hill from his increased affection of the lungs. Dear sufferer! He is [g]one ‘Where the weary are at rest”. What a short time has passed since then, & yet how many changes have taken place! What may  be the next scene God only knows; yet is He too wise to err, too good to be unkind. Oh! dear God, be graciously pleased to bear & answer prayer; remember me in this my low state, make crooked places straight, & rough places plain before me; bless us dear Lord as a family before thee, & bless us individually & Oh! be graciously pleased to hear & answer the last prayer of my dear dying husband.

20th The whole of the night of the 17th & the next day I was suffering from severe headache. On the morning of the 19th Dr Crooke was up with his men on the hill & looked in upon us, SJ’s leg was not then swollen, as it had been the two days previous. He says she must just continue persevering & not mind it; & possibly it may not continue to trouble her as it has done.

On the 19th I felt so low & depressed both in body & mind, that I felt as if I could no longer endure the momentous [?] life I am now leading; so I was enabled to make a great effort, & set off to visit Rebecca Harbroe, the Piguenits, & our old house on the crescent: going by the creek & over the hill visiting at Poulteney’s by the way. The last few days have been unseasonally warm, which takes a great effect upon people after so much could & wet. I felt tired by the time I reached the creek, & was glad to avail myself of a seat upon a stone, enjoying the scenery round about, while listening to the roar of the waters. After a while I proceeded onwards, & upwards, & by the time I arrived at the top of the hill behind the house where Thomas & Jane Mason used to live, I was glad of another rest upon a large stone. The extensive view of the town harbour & shipping, beside Sandy Bay, & the opposite side of the country, seemed as fresh to me as if I had never seen them before, & had I not been weary, & warm, I should doubtless have felt invigorated; as it was I was pleased. Between 11 & 12 I reached Poulteney’s, & to my surprise found they had just received an addition to their family, a baby boy, which makes their tenth child, 9 of whom are living. After resting awhile & partaking of some refreshment, I proceeded on to Harbroe’s & there also to my no small astonishment, I found a new little stranger, a boy too, what a mercy! it seems as tho’ it were given to make up for the dear on they have lost. Poor Rebecca! she sadly fights against God, in not endeavoring to submit to His Divine will. Who is indeed too wise to err, too good to be unkind. I remained for nearly 3 hours & I hope the time was not unprofitably spent. After taking my leave of R & her dear children, I crossed over the crescent, & went to Piguenit’s. I was kindly received by them; they took me to our old house, & showed me over it, & the garden. What old associations were here recalled to view remembrances of bye gone days, of happiness & sorrow, every thing seemed to vividly portrayed before me that I would fair have lingered but it could not be, so taking one last look at a spot so much endeared to us all, I began to retrace my steps homewards, which I was favoured to reach between 6 & 7, & found all well. Altogether I felt better for my journey (tho weary;) it is nearly 3 years since I last saw the old places but I hope it will not be so long before I visit them again. I feel my back ache today, but yet I do not feel overdone nearly as much, as I have done with walking only into Town.

22nd. I saw Dr Crooke yesterday, & he said he would speak to the lady about taking the chair, as it will be better for SJ to walk outside &, rest on any common chair. Afterwards I went to Dr Agnews & had a long conversation with his dear wife. Then to Phyneas [Phineas] Moss’s, who were all pretty well. From thence to George Walkers & was kindly received by himself & wife I remained to dinner. I was better pleased with them than I have been for a long time, & altogether have reason to be thankful that I had courage to go. Taking farewell of them, I crossed over to Margaret McLaughton’s by whom I was heartily welcomed. As the afternoon turned out very warm, I staid till sun set & enjoyed a long & interesting conversation with her. It was quite dark by the time I reached home, the two boys had been long looking out for me, & were quite glad when I made my appearance. Walter brought me a welcome letter from Hugh McColl of Melbourne. He cannot give me any decide answer to my letter but hopes to be able to do ere long. I think I need not look forward to anything turning out to our advantage in that quarter. God only knows what is best for us, may we be enabled to wait in patience & hope.

27th. On the 24th I dined with Elizabeth Crooke, but the Dr did not come home to dinner. In the afternoon I went & called on Mrs Conolan, she behaved very kindly. Afterwards on T Freeman who informed me, that his wife would be under the necessity of going to Richmond without visiting SJ. I felt sorry, knowing that SJ counted so upon seeing her. I made arrangements to pay her a farewell visit the next day, which I was permitted to do; & had a sweet opportunity with her. Little Catherine returned with me, she was to pass one night with us, perhaps it may be the last we may be permitted to spend together. Yesterday afternoon she took leave of us all, & George escorted her home he staid to tea; & then he took his leave of his dear friend, & ours, Catherines mama [sic]. What changes have taken place lately!

29th. How times flies! It is 11 mos to day since my dear George departed this life, & here we are, near the spot in which he left us, hitherto we have been provided for, I may say almost miraculously. Here I raise my Ebenezer,

For hither by thy help I’m come,

And I hope by Thy good pleasure;

Safely to arrive at home.

The two boys started off early this morning, to the Retreat, 5 miles down Sandy Bay road, with the garden chair to Mrs Fenton’s, one of her daughters about the age of our Sarah Jane, having sprained her ankle, similar to SJ’s knee; the boys were very weary when they reached the end of their journey. They were invited to stop & breakfast, which indeed they much needed. It was 11 oclock when George returned home & Walter was equally late at his office, but B Conolan kindly excused him. I sincerely hope dear SJ will be favored to increase in strength, since it appears absolutely necessary that she should walk, so as to recover the use, of her at present almost powerless muscles.

2nd of 11th mo. Yesterday I went to town I called upon Tryphena Mather, who has a new little son about 11 days old. She is doing very well. I then went to Anne Mather’s & dined there, & had a long talk with her about our present, & future prospects. I long now to hear from my dear friends at home. If I could but hear from Hugh McColl of Melbourne, it would afford me some satisfaction. Oh Lord! I beseech thee direct my steps, make all my way plain before me, suffer me not to stray from thee, by following the advice so frequently offered to me, by those who while they mean well yet look too much to the outward appearance; but Thou Oh my God lookest on the heart. Thous hast been with me in 6 [?] troubles, he pleased not to forsake me in the 7th for Jesus’s sake. On First day the 30th I went to meeting for the first time for the last 4 mos. it always affects me to see my dear husband’s vacant seat. I hope I shall not be kept away so long any more. I felt very tired before I reached the meeting house, was much worse when I arrived at home. I dined with Esther & Robert Mather, & returned home by the creek, being obliged to rest several times by the way.

I have at last filled this book, & shall soon have been 12 mos a widow; the end of the year /53 will soon come to an end [sic]. Lord help me!

“What may be my future lot,

Well I know concerns me not;

This should set my heart at rest;

What the Lord ordains, is best.” yes. [sic]

Sarah Bell diary book 4

1853

4th of 11th month 1853. My dear Sarah Jane is progressing steadily tho slowly, I am encouraged to hope that the Almighty may bless the means used to her final recovery, if consistent with His holy will.

No news from home yet, I feel weary of waiting so long. Hobart Town is sadly neglected, the arrivals from Great Britain are few, & far between, this may account in some measure for the delay. I pray Oh Lord that thou mayst support me, & direct my wandering feet into the right path; I know not what is before me, but all things are known unto thee; be graciously pleased to prepare me for all that Thou hast prepared for me, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

6th First day. Passed a restless night. Found my throat sore towards morning, with a dry husky cough. Oh heavenly Father! Vouchsafe to keep me this day without sin; bless, Oh! bless my dear children with submission to Thy Divine will, & me also; & with conformity to the image of Thy dear Son. Grant Oh Lord! that the words of our mouths, & the meditations of our hearts, may be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord our strength & our Redeemer. Look especially upon poor Sarah Jane, & sanctify Thy afflictive dispensation to her.

9th. Dr Agnew paid us a visit, & vaccinated SJ he was pleased to find her improved, & begs of her to take courage, & hope on. I have one of my severe headaches.

11th My severe headache continued the whole of that day, & part of the next; but abated considerably towards night. I find that I have another attack of Influenza, my throat is sore, accompanied with fever. Poor Sarah Jane is affected in the same way, & each of the boys have had a slight attack. What a mysterious disease is this Influenza! Nothing can be more delightful than the weather is now.

Yesterday I received a very kind letter from Elizabeth Fenton, enclosing a check from her husband Capt Fenton, for the £8 for the garden chair. This day is the election day; & Walter having part of a holiday he & George have gone over to the Retreat, with a reply from me, to E Fenton. May they be happy.

13th. First day. At home as usual with SJ. The two boys have gone to meeting. Neither SJ nor myself have yet got over influenza. Walter & George have just returned after dining with Sarah Crouch. The meeting was tolerably full but silent. May it not have been a silent meeting in spirit. Oh Heavenly Father, look down upon us if it please thee & bless us as a family before thee, grant that we may hear thy in speaking voice in the secret recesses of our hearts, & that we may walk together in love & unity as a family before thou.

18th. On the 14th I went to S Crouches she kindly sending half way for me, & accompanying me home in the Phaeton, driven by poor Marston, who does not appear to me, to be long for this world. The result of my visit will appear by & bye, as nothing can be decided with respect to our future destination until I receive letters either from England or Melbourne. I trust my patience may not be much longer tried if it please God, for hope deferred, maketh the heart sick.

On 3rd day I had another of my severe headaches, & a renewed attack of Influenza. SJ W & G are also poorly. Robina Frazer, & W Murdoch are both ill with scarlet fever. Also two of Victoria Parkers children.

21st. Dear Anne Murray has now taken the fever, thro attending on her brother; how wonderful are the ways of Him who doeth all things well.

The weather is dry & fine, yet Influenza & scarlet fever are prevailing fearfully.

23. Had an interview with GW Walker, respecting where I had better pitch my tent, since I find I cannot do anything in the way of gaining a livelihood where we now dwell. As he wished to set my mind at rest upon that subject, he said that he might venture to inform me, that Friends had taken my case into consideration & that they had something in view to propose to me shortly, respecting teaching their children; if they could agree upon the matter, & then a dwelling would be provided for me. Thou knowest Oh Thou teacher of hearts! that I do earnestly desire to be directed & guided by Thy counsel & wisdom; be pleased to make me willing to accept what may be offered unto me, provided it be but right in thy sight. Oh forgive me for desiring this, or that, Thou knowest I have many fears, in entering again upon a path, in which I have more than once failed thro bodily infirmity. The assistance that my dear SJ may be able to render me, cannot be much. Thou, & Thou, only Oh Lord! knowest what is best for me; mould me according to Thy will, prepare me for whatever thou hast prepared for me; Oh give unto me the hearing ear, & understanding heart, that I may hear Thy small still voice, & when I hear obey. I know that I am wholly unworthy, the least of Thy mercies; but I cannot tell which way to go. May I but hear a voice behind me saying This is the way, walk ye in it.

25th. I should have noted down that on the 18th I received an affectionate letter from my dear brother Charles, in reply to the one I wrote to him announcing the death of my beloved husband. But not a word does he mentioned respecting Sarah Propsting, altho the vessel she sailed in, arrived in London more than two mos previous to his writing. I am quite at a loss to conjecture the reason. She is expected to return to Hobart by the same ship. My brother says, that “Others have written home”, but I have not received any, excepting the one I have elsewhere noticed from my dear sister Anne. In reference to our own returning, or rather I should say my returning to England with my children, he remarks that he cannot advise me either way, but enquires how far do I think it would be right, to risk the future prospects of my dear boys, by removing them from a land where there are greater facilities for their well being, to one in which, a livelihood is scarcely to be gained & from which thousands are flocking to our shores.

27th. First day the two dear boys are gone to meeting, & are to dine with the Walkers. After which they are to take a letter for me to Elizabeth Fenton’s. It is a delightful walk for them, their temporary residence being situated about 5 miles down Sandy Bay road, called the retreat; on account of poor Miss Fenton’s sad affliction which confines her to her couch the same as my poor dear girl.

28th Yesterday the boys returned from their visit about 9 o’clock, they were very kindly received by E Fenton who returned me a note in reply to the one I sent to her.

This afternoon our friend Jane Bailey paid us her long desired visit. She has not heard anything of her husband for the last two years.

29th It is 12 mos to day since my dear husband departed this life. May the anniversary of this mournful event be blest to my soul. Lord prepare me to follow him; & grant that I may be ready, when thou requirest my soul of me. This morning I was too ill to rise to breakfast having a severe headache accompanied with fever & a strong desire to vomit. Father look upon me & help me for the Redeemer’s sake.

30th. I have this day received the last [?] of money, kindly collected by our friend H Rodd. How little did my dear husband think in his life time, that Henry Rodd, would have proven the friend that he has done, to his bereaved widow & fatherless children! how true is it that our heavenly Parent, hath the hearts of all people at his command, inclining them to fulfil his holy will; when they donot [sic] resist Him.

I earnestly pray that some way open up for us, & that we may never be permitted to want the necessaries of life.

2nd This day 12 mos my dearest husband’s remains, were committed to the silent grave, from which there is no repentance.

Oh death! where is thy sting? Heavenly Parent! grant that I may be ready, when Thou shalt require my soul of me, that I may dwell with Thee in Paradise.

Then fragrant flowers immortal bloom

And joys supreme are given

Beyond the confines of the tomb

Appears the dawn of Heaven.

Oh glorious hour! Oh blest abode!

May I be with, & like my God;

And flesh, & sin, no more control,

The sacred pleasures of my soul.

3rd. This day is the commencement of the Yearly Meeting of Friends. I had hoped to have been present, but I am suffering so much from Influenza, as to render me quite unfit for the least exertion, either, mentally or bodily.

Heavenly Father look upon me, & help me for the dear Redeemer’s sake; & prepare e for whatever may be in the womb of Thy providence; so that I may not bring disgrace upon Thee.

The two dear expected Friends Robert Lindsey & Frederick Mackie have not arrived; which is a cause of sorrow to some, & I am among the number.

Be graciously pleased if consistent with Thy holy will Oh Lord, to bring them safely into Port.

5th. First day. The two dear Friends arrived safely yesterday morning, after having been exposed to much boisterous weather. Poor Robert Lindsey is so unwell that he has been obliged to keep his bed since, Frederick Mackie has stood it out better. Most earnestly do I hope that our dear RL, may not be sick unto death; but God only knows what is best for us. The two boys went to meeting, I had hoped to have gone myself this afternoon but the day has been so intensely hot, that I dared not venture. Gracious Father! my weaknesses are known unto thee, Oh grant that my soul may not suffer loss, for Jesus’ sake Amen.

9th. Second & Third days were stormy, 4th day was fine & warm & I was induced to try & go to the yearly meeting which had been put off on account of R Lindsay’s indisposition. It was an affecting time to me & I think I may add profitable also. After the meeting was over, I went by invitation & dined with Anne & Henry Propsting, stayed with her during the afternoon, & after tea walked home with Walter. I felt very tired, & for sometime could not sleep, but towards morning I slept & felt much refreshed. There being another meeting on fifth day, I was enabled to attend it also, to my soul’s benefit. I called on my dear friend Widow Parker & learned to my surprise that her youngest child Emma was no more. She had been removed just when they thot her recovering from the scarlet fever, by dropsy, it appears that she was quite aware that the end was near, & frequently said that she was not afraid to die; saying that Jesus had invited little children to come unto Him, & she felt assured that he would receive her. The last 4 hours she did nothing but scream, she said she was not in pain, but she could not help it & then sweetly departed, aged 11 yrs.

This morning I went early to GW Walker’s & breakfasted there. Had a long talk with him & the two friends RL & FM about birthright membership &c.

12th. A severe headache came on in the afternoon of the 7th day, so that I was obliged to go to bed by 5 oclock. I couldnot [sic] sleep thro’ the night, & was no better on first day morning; towards the afternoon I felt somewhat relieved & rose about 4 PM. The two boys both went to meeting in the afternoon. I slept better during the night & felt much relieved this morning, rose to breakfast, but was soon glad to lay down on the Sofa; still I have not had a return during the day.

22nd. I have been unable to write any thing in this book until to day.

On the 14th inst I felt not recovered from my headache, when at early dawn, I was roused by my neighbour entreating me to come in to a poor woman, who had given birth to an infant, & neither Dr nor nurse were within reach. I said I never undertook such a case in my life, but I would certainly be with her as quickly as possible, thro mercy I was enabled to do all that was required, & the Mother & the baby have done well; for which I desire to praise God seeing that their lives in a manner of speaking were entrusted to my charge. I have attended to them, both every day since. After the bustle of the morning was over, my head became very bad, in the afternoon the two dear Friends RL & FM came up to tea, I was grieved that I could not attend to them as I wished to do. We had a precious quiet opportunity in the evening, & RL spoke very encouragingly to us.

Continuing very poorly & having so much to do with the mother, & the baby, I scarcely know how the time has passed. On First day afternoon, I was favoured to go to meeting, & on 3rd day I had an interview with GWW Anne Mather, Anna Maria Mather, & Robert Andrew Mather, who all seem desirous that I should undertake the instruction of Friends children, & live I the Meeting house, which I am very willing to do; but there are some approving spirits, altho who they are I know not. We have this day had a visit from our kind friend Dr Agnew, who has vaccinated George & myself.

28. On First day the boys went to meeting & dined with the Propstings, it being Christmas day (as it is called [)]. In the afternoon our old neighbour James Livingstone paid us a visit for the first time since our removal. Walter had two days holiday, the 26th & 27th.

No letters nor papers have yet arrived altho many Vessels have come into the harbour.

29th It is 13 mos to day since my dearest George departed this life. How time flies! Oh Lord prepare me to depart & to be with thee which is far better; & yet at the same time bless me with resignation to thy Divine will, so that whether I live or die I may be thine.

Into thy hands Oh Lord, do I desire to commit my spirit, save me for thy mercies sake.

31st. The last day of the old year. Lord what is man that thou art mindful of him, & the son of man that Thou visitist him.

This day the boys received a letter from their two cousins, the sons of my dear sister Anne, Walter from Stephen William & George from James Bamber.

[1] Frederick Mackie, Traveller under concern: the Quaker journal of Frederick Mackie on his tour of the Australasian colonies 1852–1855 (ed. Mary Nicholls), 1973, p.50.

[2] Frederick Mackie, Traveller under concern, p.64.

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Sarah Bell’s school in the Friends’ Meeting House, 1854

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. Sarah’s husband, George Bell, died in Hobart Town in 1852. In 1854 the Society of Friends allowed Sarah and her three children to live in the Friends’ Meeting House while Sarah conducted a school there for Quaker children.

1854

The First month of the new year.

2d. Yesterday was the first of the mo. & First day of the week, & so ill was I, as to be quite incapacitated from doing anything. To day I am better tho’ still very poorly.

When I consider thy goodness Oh Lord, in thus sparing us to behold the beginning of another year, I feel that I am unworthy of the least of Thy mercies which are indeed boundless, heavenly Father forgive my numerous sins of the past year, & enable me to begin afresh, ‘Forgetting the things which are behind, may I be found reaching forth unto those which are before, looking unto Jesus the Author & furnisher of my faith, who was in all points tempted like unto us, that He might be enabled to succour those that are tempted.’ Gracious Father! unto thy hands do I commit my spirit my soul & my body, entreating thee to look upon me, in this my low estate, & to preserve me from evil & from the evil one, for the dear Redeemer’s sake amen.

5th Jan. I have this day sent in a letter to the monthly meeting of Friends requesting them to come to a conclusion as to whether we are to occupy the Meeting House & have the care & instruction of their children or not: assuring them that, the few pounds left will soon be exhausted, & therefore it is necessary that I should set about doing something immediately, whereby we may each earn something towards a maintenance.

This evening Walter brought me home a letter from our friend JB Mather written on behalf of the meeting, stating that a committee had been appointed to visit us, to take into consideration the subject of the letter.

[From minutes of Hobart Society of Friends meeting 5 January 1854: ‘Communication having been received at this time from Sarah Bell, George W Walker, Henry Propsting and Joseph B Mather, are appointed to visit her and report, to an adjournment of this meeting.’

Minutes of the adjourned meeting, 12 January 1854: ‘The Friends appointed last week have visited Sarah Bell, and are of the opinion that the object of this meeting will be best carried out by having the case in the hands of the committee to render her such assistance as may prove to be expedient.’ S1A1, Minutes of monthly meetings held at Hobart and Kelvedon, Van Diemen’s Land, 1833‒57, University of Tasmania Library, Rare & Special Collections, http://eprints.utas.edu.au/7033/, accessed 11 June 2016]

Yesterday I received a letter from John Sherwin stating that his poor wife had been nearly out of her mind, on account of the death of their 4 dear babes, he says great [sic] are about to take place in his family.

7th. Yesterday Walter & George informed me, that John Turnbull the woollen draper’s want of a boy, & George would like to go. Accordingly I went down & spoke to T who said he would have no objection to take him, provided he was strong enough, & if I would let him be altogether in the house, on arrangement which does not please so well, as if he came home to sleep; but as it is so difficult to get him a situation, he being so young & subject to stuttering, I felt that I must not make too many objections, I finally agreed to let him go a month upon trial.

10th. Yesterday the committee met pursuant to appointment, but nothing can be finally settled, until next 5th day, when the adjourned meeting will take place.

My dear son George has this morning entered upon his new situation, Oh Lord bless him. Oh Lord keep him from all evil, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

17. Nothing worthy of notice has occurred since my dear George left for his new employment, excepting that he did not commence to sleep there, until last evening, also that the 12th was a dreadfully hot wind day [sic] day, the bush all around was on fire, & in several parts much damage was done, particularly in the Huon district; accompanied with the loss of several lives. The thermometer in the shade was a hundred, & in the sun a hundred & twenty.

About 7 peals of thunder began to roll, attended with vivid flashes of lightening [sic], & shortly after (to our great joy) rain began to fall. While gazing at the burning bush close to the back of our house, the sky being of a deep red, towards which fresh flames were continually ascending, I was led to feel what an awful visitation it will be, when the fulfilment of that passage of scripture shall take place; wherein it says that ‘The elements shall melt it [?] with fervent heat; & the aspiration of my heart went for the unto Him, who resteth [?] the whirlwind & the storm, that He would protect us, & keep us from all evil, & whisper Peace into our souls, for Jesus’ sake.

On 7th day I had a very bad headache which obliged me to go to bed by sun set [sic]; on First day morning I felt better, the two boys went to meeting in the forenoon & brought me word home that the two Friends RL & FM intended leaving this colony for Melbourne by the Antelope which was expected to sail on 3rd day, this piece of information grieved us all, & in the afternoon Walter accompanied me to meeting. RL promised to come up & take leave of SJ if possible, but if not he begged that we would accept the will for the deed. To our great comfort & consolation about 5 PM yesterday afternoon they both made their appearance, after a little conversation we fell into a solemn silence, & after awhile [sic] RL spoke very searchingly to us, encouraging us still to hold on our way, without turning either to the right hand or to the left; saying that it seemed to him that there were trials in store for us of quite a different kind to those we had been called to pass through, he exhorted us to great watchfulness, & prayed that dear SJ might not be allowed into forbidden paths, & so forsake her dear Lord & Saviour, who had made Himself known to her upon the bed of affliction, from which He was now gently raising her; he prayed also in the language of Scripture that our plight might not be in the winter, nor on the Sabbath day. About half past 6 they took a kind farewell of us & departed. SJ & I accompanied them to the gate, & looked after them for a little while, & then returned slowly & sorrowfully to the house. They are without exception, two of the purest Spirits I ever met with, & my prayer is, that ‘God Almighty may bless them exceeding abundantly, above all I can either ask or think’, & at last receive them into Glory.

We saw the Antelope sail away splendidly from our sitting room window this afternoon, & doubtless these two dear Friends are gone, gone from us forever! Last year they left on the 15th of First mo, but then we had a hope of seeing them again, which hope thro’ Divine mercy we have all been permitted to realize, but now there is no such hope; Oh that we may meet again in Heaven, for then shall we meet, to part no more.

19th. On the 17th William Nicholson paid us a visit. Yesterday I was agreeably surprised by seeing Walter return home about two o’clock. Conolan gave him half a holiday it being the Sandy Bay regatta, but George did not get one.

25th. This is my dear Sarah Jane’s birth day of 18. Oh what changes have taken place since the memorable event of her birth. Then I was indeed a happy mother, but now alas, I am a sorrowful one, & a widow. Oh my God! so Thou look down upon me & help me for thy mercies sake. ‘I am oppressed so those undertake for me’, & sustain my soul, under the weight of accumulated afflictions, & enable me to bow beneath the rod of thy Fatherly chastisement, exclaiming ‘It is well’!

My dear George does not appear strong enough for the situation, he has been far from well for some time past, I regret letting him go to remain at night for he requires a mother’s care; the struggle to part with him was great but it seemed to be right, & I endeavoured to say ‘Father thy will be done’. On the morning of the 11th about two AM the alarm of fire was given in town, when it was discovered that fire was rapidly spreading among several houses in Liverpool & Elizabeth streets; great was the excitement that prevailed, & poor George stood much terrified [sic] by the side of John Turnbull’s wife, leaning out of an open window watching its progress, fearing it might reach their dwelling; her husband having gone to render what assistance he could to the sufferers. As may be supposed the night air & the fright together affected him seriously, & he came on 7th day evening very ill, with severe cough. He continued very ill all night, & on First day he appeared to be sickening for the measles [sic], which proved to be true as his face was out full on 2nd day morning, the 23rd since which he has kept his bed. His cough continued very bad. Walter began to complain on 2nd day afternoon & this morning he went to the Dr who said, the Measles were coming on, & recommended his returning home immediately, taking an emetic & going to bed, which he did, & now I have them both ill, & not a creature near me to lend me a helping hand, but my God can help me, & in Him will I put my trust.

27th. My dear Walter soon became very sick after taking the emetic on the 25th, & the next day the measles appeared, he has continued very ill with considerable fever, but not so bad as George, who was very delirious, also his cough was much worse. It is wonderful how I have been supported & enabled to go thro’ thus far, & here will I raise my Ebenezer, for ‘Hitherto the Lord hath healed me!’

When Walter returned home on the 25th he told me that he met our old friend William Petterd, & that he had just come on shore having arrived from England in the Antipodes that morning, & that our friend Sarah Propsting was on board of her. I cannot but feel sorry that I can neither get to see her, nor yet to send to enquire, what news she has for me?; however I must just wait on, in hopes that some good Samaritan may find his way up. Petterd also informed Walter, that they sailed from England in the vessel called the Santapore [?] & that they were wrecked, & afterwards the passengers were taken up by the Antipodes. No lives were lost.

31st The two boys are now (thro mercy) both getting better, altho Walter has not yet been out, it being only the 6th day with him since the measles appeared. Yesterday I went to town to see Bernard Conolan as he was anxious that Walter should return as soon as possible to his office duties; I took an opportunity of going to Henry Propstings to see Sarah, she informed me that she was very kindly received by my brother Charles & his wife & spent a night & two days with them at their residence near Richmond, my sister Sophia with her husband & two or three other friends were invited to meet her, & that altogether she spent a very pleasant time.

On leaving England she offered to be the bearer of any parcel or news they might have to send to their sister, but my brother excused himself thro’ the pressure of business saying that he had already written to me, & that he expected the letter would reach me before she did; however I have not received any communication but the one dated ‘July’ which was written previous to his seeing S Propsting, so that altogether I cannot but feel much disappointed, still I am pleased that they paid Sarah so much attention, after the trouble she took.

3rd of 2nd mo. Yesterday Walter went to his office for the first time he appears to have quite recovered from the measles. But it is not so with George he is still weak & feeble & his cough tho better still hangs on him.

Poor Marston Crouch was found dead in his bed the first of this mo. It seems sad that he should have died all alone, after such weary watching as his dear parents had kept over him both night & day; when they have thought his end approaching. But it is mostly so in diseases of the heart.

God grant that he may be safely landed on that peaceful shore,

Where there blows no storm, nor oceans roar.

He has been a sufferer all his life, but especially the last 7 years, his mind was not joyful, but calm & resigned. I have this day sent away two letters, one to my brother Charles, the other to Lydia A Barclay. [In?] Charles’s I was assisted by Walter, & in LAB’s by S Jane.

I also enclosed for my brothers a letter to James Wilson from my son George.

5th. Yesterday the measles appeared in my dear SJ she had been very poorly for several days previously, & was scarcely able to finish her letter writing; I pray that she may be brought safely through. To day they are out full, something like what I remember to have seen when in my native land, much finer than appeared on either of her brothers; her head is very bad, but there is no reason to fear but what she will do well. Walter went to meeting in the forenoon.

Dr Agnew made a post mortem examination of poor dear Marston’s remains, where it was put beyond all doubt that he died from disease of the heart. He was in such a sad state, that it was necessary to bury him as quickly as possible. The necessary arrangements were hastened, & his body was interred in Friends burying ground, on the 3rd inst; which was the 3rd day after his death. Not any of us were made aware of it until it was all over. I felt sorry on account of the boys; but then we live at such a distance, & everything had to be done in such haste, that I suppose we were not thought of. May a Gracious & All wise God bless this afflictive dispensation to the bereaved family; & grant that it may be incitement to us all, to watch & pray, that our lamps may be ready, & our lights burning, as we know not at what hour our souls may be required of us: whether in the spring time of youth or in the noon of middle age.

6th Sarah Jane has been very ill all night, sickness came on this morning, & she has continued vomiting very much during the day. Dr Agnew kindly came up this morning, & prescribed for her. May it please our heavenly Father to sanctify [?] this affliction to each of us, & to bring her safely thro’ for the Redeemer’s sake.

7th My dear girl has had a very restless night, & at times she has wandered, but upon the whole she has been better during the day, for which we all feel thankful to Him who doeth all things well.

8th SJ has had a better night, & appears to be altogether better to day. Oh that we may each be humbled under a deeper sense of our own unworthiness & many short comings; I have been very unwell myself, the last days, but feel somewhat better to day.

12th Yesterday I went to town & looked over the house, that it was intended we should occupy, & called on John Naughton [?].

This is First day, the boys went to meeting this morning, & this afternoon they are going to pay a visit to Elizabeth Fenton & daughters. My dear SJ is daily recovering from the measles, & I earnestly hope she will do well, & that this affliction may prove a blessing to her.

13th When the boys arrived at E Fenton’s, they found that they had left. The mother & Eugene to return home to Fenton Forest, & Georgiana was left at the Young Ladies Seminary.

14 I paid a visit to Jane Bowie [?] to day, & found her in much trouble, with her infant charge.

16th I have been out house hunting all the forenoon. Sarah Jane has a very bad cold & toothache.

19th First day. W & G are gone to meeting, nothing worthy of record has occurred during the week. May I be prepared for whatever my heavenly Parent has in store for me. Bless me, even me Oh my Father! & make me willing & obedient to thy requirings, both now & forever.

22nd. We were employed all day yesterday in looking over letters & papers of my dear husband’s; many I returned to cashers, & these were sorted & laid by, for it seems a pity to destroy all. Today I have been visiting Anne Mather, Louisa Agnew, & W Nicholson. A Murray is gone to the country to improve.

My dear Walter was taken very ill in the night with vomiting & purging. I think him quite unfit to attend his Office duties, & cannot but regret that I am obliged to let him go.

28. On the 24th Annie Mather & her sister Sarah came up & spent the day with me; my head which had been aching all day became worse towards the end, & as soon as they left, I went to bed; but could not rest. The next day which was 7th day I was very ill but passed a better night, altho I was not able to rise to breakfast on First day morning, which was my birth day of 51.

Lord grant that I may walk before thee; & bless me, even me, Oh my Father for Jesus’ sake.

There were three remarkable events took place on my birth day. On was, that we finished reading book of Nehemiah in the morning, another, that we finished reading the Revelations in the evening & the 3rd that we were visited with a most fearful storm of wind, thunder, & lightening [sic], that I remember to have witnessed. We had been suffering from an abnormally dry summer, the creeks were nearly all dried up, & water very scarce, the potatoes all blighted, & crops of every kind nearly all spoiled, when this fearful change took place. Several lives were lost, & much valuable property destroyed; there have been but few houses in Hobart town but, what have been injured. Our dear friend Anne Murray was at her house at Obriens Bridge, the whole place was soon flooded, & fears were entertained for the safety of the house. It had been raining steadily all day, but it was not until about 6AM that the storm with all its fury set in, which continued more or less the whole night. About 3 o’clock in the morning of the 27th William Murray & those who were staying there, fearing that his beloved wife must perish if she remained, wrapped her up in blankets & tied her to a horse, along with a female friend, & committed them to the care of a man to swim to a neighbours house for safety, distant about ½ a mile, which thro Divine mercy they were permitted to do [?], without accident, tho in a state of exhaustion, from cold, wet, & fright. Dear AM was very ill afterwards, &, for a time there was a return of her former attack, but she is again better tho very feeble. As our dwelling is situated on a hill, we were above the reach of floods but sadly exposed to the fury of the gale. Many times we feared we should be swept away house & all. The wind roared most fearfully & the rain found its way in in many places owing to every thing being previously so very dry; both Sarah J & I were afraid to go to sleep; but our God had mercy on us & preserved us from all evil. Towards day break the wind abated, the thunder & lightening [sic] having previously ceased, but the rain continued to fall in torrents all day.

7th of 3rd mo. Various causes have arisen preventing me from writing, but as I have had nothing particular to notice, it is not of much consequence. It has turned now, that we are not going to live in Henry Hurst’s house, as it will not be empty for some [time] yet, & so Friends have concluded that we shall occupy the Meeting House, as soon as the Dickensons leave, but when that will be there is no saying, as James Dickenson continues at the Huon, without ever sending for his family. So we must exercise a little patience. Lord grant that my faith fail not. Yesterday afternoon I was in town, & unexpectedly met William Cato, from Melbourne who told me that he had seen Hugh McColl, & that he was talking of sending for us over. I have written to him to day, telling him that he is too late, as I should be guilty of every great ingratitude if I were to disappoint my friends here, after they have exerted themselves so much on our behalf. I also saw Thomas Freeman, who finds his speculation in the coal mines a failure. He says his wife is very poorly.

13th. First day I went to meeting & afterwards dined with G & S Walker. After dinner I had a long conversation with SW about her children as also about the proceedings of Friends respecting ourselves.

20. The whole of the last week’s affairs have been nothing but one continuation of trials, afflictions & disappointments. I feel as if I had been part of the time partially deranged & quite unequal [?] to bear with so much contradiction & uncertainty as to the path in which I ought to go. Lord I am oppressed undertake for me! On the 15th I set out to go to Henry Propsting, but felt unable to proceed without resting, so I went in to Antonia Murdoch’s to recruit [?] where I was taken violently sick. My feelings had been previously so much excited that I wept the whole way; it grieved to give so much trouble in the house of my friend, but I could not help it. About 5PM she kindly accompanied [me] home as far as the foot of the hill. Poor SJ & George were quite distressed to see me so ill, I went to bed immediately where I continued all the next day & the greater part of every day since. I am better to day but still very far from well.

26. On the 21st it rained nearly all day rain fell all day too on the 19th which was First day. During the night of the 21st the wind rose violently & blew a hurricane, all the time accompanied with very heavy rain. About 6AM it seemed to come down in one vast sheet of water, it ran down the wall by SJ’s bed in streams, as likewise down all the chimneys, accompanied by the most terrific gale; we could not help feeling alarmed never having seen any thing like it before. Walter made an attempt about ten o’clock to go to his office, but found it quite impossible to get along, the streets being more like lakes. The creek along Macquarie St was dashing & roaring most furiously; many people in different parts of the town were washed out of their homes, & their dwellings were swept away by the current. Great was the alarm raised. ‘The flood!’ ‘The Flood!’ was echoed from mouth to mouth; cellars were filled, & much property destroyed. Prisoners were sent accompanied by their superintendents, to assist the sufferers, as also soldiers. Women were shrieking & children screaming, the winds driving the rain pelting the waters dashing roaring & foaming carrying away whatever obstructed their course, boats were sailing about releasing such as had no means left of escaping, altogether it must have been a most appalling scene. Murray St bridge broke down & Mole St, & Barrack street bridges, were entirely washed away. Great logs of timber Pigs & Poultry were washing along the stream, as also carts wheelbarrows & household furniture. One young man lost his footing & was precipitated into the stream; & before anyone could save him, he was hurried out of sight. The ground gave way under Dr Crooke, as he was assisting to remove some obstructions, & he fell into the creek at Wellington bridge, & had a narrow escape for his life, several other accidents of a similar nature occurred. The new market was likewise flooded. About 12 the wind & rain began to abate, & by 2PM the glorious sun broke thro the clouds, so that the face nature seemed entirely changed, & the swell of the waters quickly subsided. Watchmen with lanterns were stationed to guard all places of danger, lest any further accidents might happen. But at midnight the cry was again heard, ‘The flood!’ ‘The flood!’, the rain had recommenced & the waters had inundated several houses, while the inhabitants were asleep; women & children were again shrieking & screaming, & of the latter, some were running about almost naked, not knowing which way to go. But thro mercy the storm did not last long. The Governor had previously ordered the Emigration depot to be thrown open, for the reception of the houseless, & the Mechanics Institute was also used for the same purpose. God grant that this visitation may be made not only a lesson but a blessing to us all, for what is man, when the judgements of the Almighty are abroad in the earth? My heart sympathises with the poor women in distress, & the dear little helpless children, but I am so placed just now, that even the gratification of visiting the sufferers is denied me, so how can I comfort or assist them? but still I can pray for them, & the day appears not to be far distant, when I may have an opportunity of a larger sphere of usefulness.

The observatory Gentlemen prognosticated another flood & then an earthquake. But it is our privilege to know that God reigns, & He doeth all things well.

30th Joseph Mather sent me a message to day, That the Meeting House was at liberty at last, & that it was settled for us to remove there. As I had written to Hugh McColl of Melbourne telling him, that the trials contradictions &c respecting our residence was no nearer coming to a conclusion as far as I could see, then it was at first, & then in less than a fortnight after, & before receiving a reply the long pending affair is suddenly closed, it may be inferred that I should feel both, vexed & perplexed. However the proverb is, All is well that ends well I pray for grace to hear these apparent evils with becoming fortitude & resignation.

First of fourth month 1854. No reply from Hugh McColl. I cannot think the reason why! I also regret having informed the committee now, as it must vex them. Lord make me thankful for the residence thou hast provided, & strengthen me for the duties which thou requirest of me.

Dr Crooke says we are at liberty to leave as soon as we like, as he has let the house, & the parties wish to take possession.

2nd First day, a beautiful day it has been, the two boys went to meeting in the forenoon.

5. We have now left the Hermitage. We were employed in packing the whole of the 3rd finished yesterday & left the premises. And now here I am sitting in the Friends Meeting House writing. What a change! Lord prepare me for all that thou hast prepared for me & make me thy willing & obedient child. My dear SJ bore the journey remarkably well. Thomas James Crouch kindly fetched us in his Phaeton, & she does not appear any the worse for it, which I esteem as a great favor. For myself I am weary & long for rest.

9th. Sarah Jane went into the meeting on last 5th day for the first time since she met with her accident, which was on the 9th of 11th mo 1850. She sat with her legs raised up on the seat, & bore it very well altho she felt a little nervous at first, but God was very gracious to her & supported her.

This day being First day the two boys went in to meeting; SJ preferring the afternoon, there being usually fewer strangers present, I remained with her, as there must be somebody to mind the house.

As this is the first Sabbath I earnestly pray Oh Lord, that thou wouldest bless me, & in blessing me, bless my dear children also, may this residence of ours, in the private apartments of the Friends Meeting House, be greatly blest to us, make it like a little Bethel unto us, & may it prove to be a Sanctuary unto us, screening us from the temptations that are without; gathering us as it were into the Fold of Christ: particularly the dear children, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

16th. First day. I have never been able to sit down & write; since this day week owing to my having so much to do in the house with the workmen; & then there are the children to attend to. We have only the 3 at present but I expect more soon Elizabeth Anne Walker is a good child, & excepting in reading I do not think her backward for her age Anne Mather is two years younger, reads & works better than her cousin, she is decidedly clever but from want of restraining the evil passions, & cultivating the good, the dear child has been suffered to run sadly wild, & I find much both to do & undo in her. Her sister Sarah is only 7 years old, she appears an industrious gentle child most earnestly do I desire to be made useful to these precious children & I pray that their young & tender minds may be prepared to receive the good seed which I hope to be instrumental in sowing. Oh Lord hear my prayer for Jesus’ sake.

21st. Thus far have I been helped on my way with the dear children, & I have reason to praise my God for His goodness towards me. They all appear improving in their general behaviour & I think I may be able to rejoice by & bye. As regards the house, we are not yet in better order than we were there is no such thing as getting the men to keep on with there [sic] work,I have also to my great sorrow found bugs in the walls.

Fifth month 1854

14th. I have been very unwell for some time past & find that it is impossible for me to carry out the wishes of Friends with respect to teaching their children. I feel sorry but I cannot help it, I intimated the same to some of the Friends & have thereby given offence. My dear SJ is willing to do what she can but as she cannot exert any authority with them she will only be able to manage two or 3. However she will have the benefit of my experience. I have let George go to a situation at Hedburgs [Hedberg’s] the oil & colour man.

30th Since the 14th I have been more or less ill every day. It appears from the authority of Drs Agnew & Crooke that I must endeavour to take more outdoors exercise, as I am becoming very Rheumatic, my knees pain me exceedingly. Thro’ mercy I hope to be able to do so. SJ can manage the two dear girls she instructs very well, George likes his situation, & I think with a little assistance I receive from my friends in Great B we shall be able to do very well. Feeling my own unworthiness I desire to bless my God for all His mercies towards me for Jesus Christ’s sake amen.

11th of 6th mo. First day

I have never been able to get time to write by day light since the 30th ult until now. I have now to record the goodness of my heavenly Father, who hath been graciously pleased to incline the heart of my dear friend Lt [?] Barclay, to help us in this our time of need, by sending us a little money; Oh how shall I speak of His goodness? or how shall I thank Him? surely by following Him in the narrow way, by taking up my cross & denying myself. Lord help me! for I can persevere before thee, & I know that the way I take is not pleasing in thy sight. Oh my God be not far from me but I persist. I have also received my annual remittance from home with the addition of £5 subscribed by 6 of my dear brothers & sisters. What a mercy! How wonderfully are we clothed and fed! proving indeed that we are of more value than many sparrows. As I know not when I may be able to work again, I pray thee Oh Lord to forgive me my sins for Jesus Christ’s sake: & to strengthen me that I may go & sin no more.

17th. On last First day Anne Whital came during the time of worship in the Meeting House, to ask me to lend her 10 shillings stating that her husband was so very ill that his life was despaired of, I felt sorry to hear it, at the same time I said, if I could muster as much I would, but it was very awkward being the meeting time. She then stated that two Doctors had been called in, & that it was to pay for medicine; as her husband was too till to be disturbed, & I was the only person night at home. Accordingly I gave her the money never doubting the truth of her statement. On 2nd day finding that she did not come for the clothes to wash as usual, I feared she was unable to leave her husband, & that it would be but kind of me to go & see, I only doing I would be done by. On arriving there to my surprise I found him walking in the garden. I told him my errand, & then to my utter astonishment & dismay, he said it was all a lie! & that he had not seen his wife since ‘Saturday’, & that she was in the habit of getting ‘Beastly drunk’, he said also that I was not the first, nor the second, whom she had deceived in like manner, adding that he was very sorry I had lent her the money, as he had vowed that he never would pay any more of her debts.

Several days passed without any tidings of her, but at last I met her in the street, I told her I was much grieved with her for deceiving me so, & that as a matter of course I had told her husband. She replied that she was afraid to go home, for she feared he would half kill her. She said that she had been in the watchhouse & that altogether she must have spent more than £5. Towards the evening she came & asked me to go with her, which I did, & her husband promised me that he would not be severe with her. How she fared after I left her I do not know, not having seen her since. Oh what a melancholy thing is it that the natural taste should be so perverted, & that any one should presume to distribute so much alcoholic poison among the people. Lord help me; that I also fall away, & at last make shipwreck of faith. Oh quicken thou me according to thy word, & uphold me by thy free Spirit. If it please thee make me useful to this poor creature, Hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, & when thou hearest forgive.

Third of 6th mo. Since I last wrote in this book, I have again been ill for ten days, with Influenza, but am now better. Dr Crooke begs me not to give up, He reminded me of the Source from whom we all derive help in our time of need, adding that if I did not struggle on against my often infirmities, I should at length sink altogether.

May God help me.

On 7th day last my two sons went to Richmond to see my dear friends H Freeman & family & returned yesterday about 7 PM much pleased with their visit. They walked the whole way. Richmond is 16 miles distant.

I sigh for thee, I sigh for thee,

My precious Lord I sight for thee;

Truly I groan & fain would flee

From All below, to dwell with thee,

I sigh for thee, I sigh for thee;

My dearest Lord I sigh for thee.

 

Through thee, in thee, ever living,

Through thee, in thee, ever dying

Unto self, the world I flee—

To weep, lament, & sigh for thee,

I sigh for thee, I sigh for thee,

My only Love, I sigh for thee.

 

The fullness of thyself to prove,

The heights, & depths of humble love;

Oh come and richly dwell in me,

So I no more shall sigh for thee

But in thy peaceful bosom rest,

My aching heart by sorrows prest.

 

Oh my Love, my life, my All,

My joy, my glory & my crown,

My Father, husband, brother, friend,

My precious Pearl, my peaceful Home;

Giver of everything I have,

Yet still thyself my God I crave.

 

My sorrows Lord are known to thee,

And all that grieves my aching heart,

Fain would I leave myself, & flee

To hide me, in my long sought rest;

Blest hiding place my refuge Tower,

Oh save me in this trying hour.

 

Fain would I lay my aching head,

And bursting heart, beneath that soil;

Where reptiles gaping for the dead,

Ope their wide mouths, & then recoil

Back to their holes, poor creeping race,

Frightened in such a woeful place.

 

But yet with patience I would wait,

Nor wish to go, before thou please,

Yet Lord I weep & almost faint,

Beneath thy just, thy wise decrees;

Support I crave, that so I may

Be still, Thou wilt not long delay.

 

‘Tis night I’m grasping for the way,

Jesus my life, my All return!

Mark what my labouring soul would say

While inwardly for thee I mourn

Return my life, my joy my trust;

Remember that I am but dust.

These two pieces of poetry were written by me many years ago when young in some of my hours of sorrow evidently, how young I cannot say, but most likely when I was just emerging to womanhood. As I found them in an old ciphering book I thot I would not destroy them.

S Bell.

Book 5 

10th of 7th mo 1854

I have this day received a letter from my dear friend Lt Barclay. Young Mrs Livingstone called upon us this afternoon. Louisa Agnew has given birth to another child. My poor George has a very bad stiff neck.

14 I have this day to record the goodness & mercy of my God, who hath blessed me for above all I can either ask or think, how unworthy I feel myself to be, is known only unto thee Oh Lord, still do thou humble me more, & more, under thy mighty hand, & cause me to know of a truth that thou, & thou only, art worthy of all honour & praise.

16th. Another change is about to take place in our arrangements & thou only the Lord knowest with what result. If I have done wrong Oh Lord, Oh visit not my sins upon my dear children, & as for me, Oh my God, in the midst of thy judgements remember mercy, lest the spirit thou hast made should fail before thee. Bless me, even me, Oh my Father, & if thy presence go not with me carry me not up hence.

30th First day. This is the first time I have had an opportunity of writing since our removal to this home. It is a sweet spot, & commands a delightful view of the river Derwent. The first month I was very ill with Influenza, but through mercy, am now better. Oh heavenly Father, be pleased to grant that this change may be for our real benefit.

27th of Eighth month/54.

We have had nothing but sickness in our house since I last wrote. On the 6th of last mo. I was attacked with severe sore throat, on the 8th. I had to send to Dr Agnew who said I was suffering from the effects of Influenza & recommended me to keep my bed &c. On the evening of the same day, George came home affected apparently in the same way, but it ultimately proved to be the scarlet fever. On the 8th poor dear SJ was quite over done from endeavoring [sic] to wait a little on me & was obliged to take her to bed, then followed a similar attack of Influenza; George had the fever very favourably [?], & is doing well.

For myself I feel quite unequal to the task of nursing the two & poor W has much devolving on him; & there is reason to fear that both he & SJ will not escape the fever.

Second of ninth month 54. As soon as dear SJ began to mend a little, she was attacked with sore throat, in a day or two after followed Walter, yesterday morning the fever rash began to appear, & there is no doubt now that they will not escape, God grant that this affliction may be sanctified to them.

I have been brought very low thro a renewed attack of Influenza, & now what shall I do! Oh if I had not a God to go to, what would become of me? EA Walker has not been able to come to SJ for instruction for the last 4 weeks on account of our affliction, & it is doubtful now when she will be permitted to return, or if ever; so that altogether much of our means of support is cut off as George does not return to Hedberg’s again, not from any fault that they have to find but simply through the scarcity of oil, that they have not employment for him. They also think that nature has formed him for a superior situation to theirs, & that it would only be wasting his time & talents, were he to return. So I pray that our heavenly Father may look upon us, & help us, & provide a way for us where we see no way, & support us under all our trails, until time shall be no more.

3rd. First day.

Yesterday evening Dr Agnew came up, says that the two invalids have the fever very mildly, & that he has no doubt they will get thro it very well. Poor Walter seems to be restless & impatient, but poor SJ bears with her usual fortitude. Lord support her & strengthen her by thy mighty Spirit in the inner man, & Oh do Thou bless Walter with a broken & contrite Spirit—for a broken & contrite Spirit Oh Lord thou wilt not despise, & Oh do thou lift up the cloud that hangs so threateningly over us & enable us from this time, to turn unto thee with full purpose of heart; for Jesus Christ’s sake amen. This evening had a most interesting conversation with dear Walter concerning his spiritual state, clouds & darkness seems to round about them. Thro mercy I was enabled to pray with him. We endeavored [sic] to spend the evening profitably, we commenced with reading the scriptures & meditation prayer & praise to our indulgent Lord & Master.

4. The two invalids are doing well. The washing woman has been drunken all the week. I do not know what will become of her, Lord change her heart; all things are possible unto thee, I am driven to my wits end to know what to do with the clothes.

5 To day the fever will be at its height, with both of the sufferers. Oh Lord God Almighty the Hearer & answerer of prayer, if it please thee bring them safely thro’ for the dear Redeemer’s sake. Oh sanctify this afflictive dispensation to each of our souls. Lord show us the error of our way, & lead us in the way everlasting, be graciously pleased to make crooked places straight, & rough places plain before us, & to thy great & holy name be all the Glory.

6th. Walter had his first bath last night to day he has been up for the first time he is not nearly so much pulled down as George was not having had the fever so badly. SJ is to have her first bath this evening, Lord strengthen her for the occasion & support me also pardon my sins & blot out my transgressions for Jesu’s [sic] sake.

7th  SJ had her first bath last evening. We managed better than we expected, still she is not well to day, & I fear she has taken cold, with all the care I took; or else she has given herself cold by sitting up & brushing her hair this morning, after wearing her night cap for a week.

As for Walter he rose this forenoon & staid up for 5 hours, he seems (thro mercy) to be much better, & talks of going to his duties (should he be spared ‘till) next week.

12th. Thro mercy SJ & W have continued steadily improving. On First day W walked out on the crescent with George a little, for the first time, & yesterday he went to town to the office & saw his old master Dugard, who had arrived on the day, the fever starved itself. He was kind & begged him to take care he did not take cold.

13th. This day is the anniversary of dear Walter’s birth, he has now completed his 17th year [so born 1837], may he be preserved in the narrow path so that he may grow in grace & in the knowledge & wisdom of the Most High. Oh Lord be graciously pleased to keep him from all evil for Jesus Christ’s sake.

He has returned home to dinner these 3 days, not being able to remain all day. This afternoon he is gone to Hedbergs, it has turned out very wet, I hope he will not get cold.

16th. Thro Mercy Walter has not taken cold, & SJ is better. Yesterday afternoon I called in at Dr Crooks, & had a long & interesting conversation with Dr Kean, who surprised me by saying that ‘The scarlet fever was not infectious’, nor did he believe that any disease was. And as to using any of the variety of fluids recommended, as disinfecting, he believed they were no better than using water. Not but what he thot benefit might be derived in hospital, & other places sometimes from the combined influences of some Gasses, but not such as were sold &c &c. This morning I have been out shopping & bought a plain dress for myself & a piece of flannel. I left George at home hoeing a piece of ground to sow Barley. Met old Robert Mather, & afterwards his son Joseph. This has been a gusty day with hot sun. We think the Equinoctial gales have commenced.

17th. First day.

Very showery all day accompanied by strong winds so that the two boys were obliged to remain at home all day. We endeavored [sic] to improve the time, still youth is thoughtless & if deprived of their accustomed exercise, apt to break away from the restraints which their elders vainly try to impose on them.

18th. My dear little George has this day gone for the first time to his new situation, Oh Lord! Do be pleased to bless him, & prosper him & keep him from all evil & from the Evil one, & Oh if it please thee give him favour, not only in the sight of his employer, but also with any worthy persons with whom he may be brought in contact; & Oh Gracious Father! do remember his infirmity of speech, & if Thou see it to be good for him loosen his tongue & deliver him therefrom for the dear Redeemers [sic] sake, amen, & amen & Oh holy Father! bless me even me also, & strengthen me this once Oh Lord my strength & my Redeemer.

24th. First day

The whole week has passed away without my finding time to write anything. Dear George likes his situation very well; & altho I do not think it exactly suited to his mental part, yet I do hope he may be permitted to remain until his character is more developed, so that we may see what he is really fitted for.

First of 10th mo 1854. First day

Having had a bad thumb I have been prevented from doing anything with my right hand for a week. I feel almost ashamed of my writing but it cannot be helped. I sincerely hope it will get well soon as it is a great drawback to me.

This is the second of the month & also the second day of the week. Lizzie Walker has returned to her studies for the first time since our affliction. It has been an interuption [sic] unlooked for on our part, but I trust that it may prove to be a blessing in disguise. If Lizzie has lost in one way I earnestly hope, it will be made up in another. We ourselves have of course lost in a pecuniary point of view; & what can we say but the Lord’s will be done!

I have also had to undergo a trial in dismissing Juliana Doolan. She was too old in years, & I am sorry to say in evil, for my poor SJ had to control or to fathom I was quite deceived both in her & in her mother, had I not been I would never have received her as a pupil, & as I had long promised to take the two little Harbroe’s [sic] & their mother, refusing to send them while Juliana remained, there seemed to be no alternative but for me to refuse to receive her back after the fever had left us; which I did, & thereby I have raised myself up several enemies. I pray that the dear Lord may look upon me & pleasd my cause, & deliver me for the dear Redeemer’s sake. So the two dear little Harbroe’s [sic] have come for the first time to day, more tractable & affectionate children I think are not to be met with, I earnestly hope that our mode of teaching (so far as Infinite Wisdom sees) to be good, may be blest to them, & that they may grow in grace & in the knowledge & love of the Lord Jesus Christ, & that we may be a blessing to their dear parents, thro the children, as well as thro’ a more frequent intercourse with them & Oh dear Lord do thou be pleased to grant unto me a more simple & childlike spirit that I may be in example what I am in precept. Oh Lord here me, Oh Lord save me, Oh suffer me not to be a cast away for the dear Redeemer’s sake.

5th. The children appear to go on very nicely, & SJ feels thankful that she is released from JD. I hope she will be enabled to manage without my interference. Yesterday I called on Antonia Murdoch, but she was out. Mary Perigal kindly pressed me to take a cup of tea.

8. First day.

I have been very unwell for the last 3 days, suffering from increased irritation of the throat back of the nostrils, ears &c causing my head to ache severely. As it was attended with considerable nausea, I concluded it would be well for me to try an emetic, which I took yesterday morning & I think I may say I feel better to day. Yesterday I was unable to rise all day. This ‘day I rose by 11 AM. The boys were unable to go to Meeting this forenoon, but they went in the afternoon. We had a profitable time at home, in reading a short narrative of Joseph Pikes early days.

12. Dear SJ has been very ill with Dysentery for several days, so that we were obliged to fetch up Dr Agnew. He prescribed for her, & then I had to go down the town for the medicines, It being unusually warm & my having only just risen from a bed of sickness myself, brot on a fresh attack of vomiting, but thro mercy I am better to day, so also is poor SJ. She has not taken any food since 2nd day until to day, I hope she will be able to retain that which she has just now taken. I am a little cast down respecting our present position, it seems so discouraging not only to ourselves but likewise to the parents of the dear children, considering how much they have been put about thro the former long illness, & then, as soon as they commence a fresh quarter to be again frustrated, for it is impossible for me to teach, & attend upon SJ too, besides the many household duties which cannot be left undone so that altogether I can truly say I am almost at my wits end, not knowing what to do for the best; & were it not that I know, that the Judge of the whole earth cannot do wrong I should be ready to sink into despair. Lord show me the error of my way & lead me in the way everlasting for Jesu’s sake, enabling me to cast my care upon thee, for thou carest for me unworthy as I am.

15th. First day. The two boys went to meeting this forenoon, & this afternoon they have taken a walk over to Mt Nelson. I have been at home all day. SJ is better to day than she has been yet, I trust she will continue to improve.

23rd Yesterday was First day. Thro mercy I was enabled to go to meeting in the forenoon leaving Walter at home with his sister. After meeting George & I went with S Crouch to dinner a great storm of wind & dust arose just as we came out of the meeting, nearly blinding & suffocating us, however we encouraged to reach her home at last, & then we had to take of [sic] our things  & wash our faces &c before we could think of sitting down to dinner. After dinner George returned home to stay with SJ while Walter went to meeting, & I waited until the evening, by which time the wind & dust had abated, the boys came over by the lime kilns to meet me, I found all right on my return, & was very soon after glad to go to bed. Today I feel the effects [sic] both of the wind & the dust, the former in my throat & the latter in my eyes.

On the 15th we had a very hot day & on the evening of the 16 we were visited with a severe storm of thunder & lightening [sic], which of late years has been quite unusual so early in the season. On 7th day I received a welcome letter from my dear friend LA Barclay wherein she informs me that he has had to suffer much opposition from some Friends in Scotland, through her earnest endeavors [sic] to uphold the ancient principles of the Society of Friends which is a sore trial to her deeply exercised spirit. May God bless her, & support her, & give the poor wanderers to see the error of their way.

24th. As Lizzie Harbroe did not come yesterday, I went over to enquire the reason, just as I was to start Mrs Doolan came in, stating that she wished to let me see that she was not afraid personally to censure me for having the assurance after sending away Juliana to ask for payment of the 4 weeks, she continued talking ‘till I became quite weary of her, saying that it was unjust in me to send her daughter, to take those of her worst enemy &c. At last I begged of her to liberate me, as I was anxious to get away, & so after some difficulty I managed to get rid of her, telling her I did not mind about the money.

Afterwards I took little Kate home & then I encountered a storm from her mama for presuming to show Lizzie Harbroe her faults, & not allowing her to defend herself in an impertinent manner, as she commenced doing, so that altogether felt quite sick at heart, & on returning home I shortly after went to bed. I know Rebecca Harbroe at times to be very unreasonable, & as she does not understand how to regulate the mind of the dear children, so I find that she is incapable of apreciating [sic] the high moral principle by which truly conscientious persons are governed. However there is no other path for me but to do my duty towards the dear children when under our charge & leave the consequences with Him who judgeth righteously.

27th. I set out this morning to find Ni…y [?] Wicks, but went too far along the road, passing Antonia Murdochs. I went in & rested a while. During my stay her sister Anne Murray came in, she appeared much better than when I last saw her. I mentioned to them my having received a sweet communication from my dear friend H Freeman accompanied with a pressing invitation for my dear SJ to spent the Xmas holidays with her at Richmond. I feel very grateful to her for her kindness, & sincerely hope that a way may be made for the dear girl to go. In which earnest desire the two sisters united taking my leave of them, I pursued my search after NW whom I found at last. After transacting my business with her, & resting a little more, I took leave of her, & went on to Dr Agnew’s, to enquire if he thought there would be any objection to SJ going, he had just reached home as I arrived, & as it was nearly one o’clock his wife Louisa would have me stay to dinner. The kindness we have received from these amiable people is almost unparalleled; & earnestly do I pray that God may bless them & if consistent with His holy will, spare to them their dear infant, & make him a blessing to them. The Dr strongly recommends that SJ should go, he does not see her getting in, & out, of the boat with proper care; so I hope that we shall be able to make arrangements in due time.

Dinner being Mrs A thought [sic] that she & I might have a nice opportunity for a little quiet conversation, but in this she was mistaken as a visitor arrived & she was under the necessity of leaving me. She regrets that the numerous calls she has upon her time & attention occupies her so much that it is a rare thing for her to get a quiet ½ hour with any. So we were obliged to part, & I returned home & found all well, for which I desire to feel thankful to Him who thus careth for the meanest of his sheep.

29th. First day. Walter & George were neither of them well this morning, & having taken medicine they were unfit to go to meeting. I thought they would be the better of a walk, it being a delightful morning, accordingly they went, & had a pleasant walk to Obriens bridge, passing thro the Friends burying ground, they stayed a short time at their fathers grave, & planted a few slips of trees, they returned home to dinner with a keen appetite. Strange to say the fire morning has turned out a wet afternoon.

31st. Yesterday morning dear W rose unrefreshed, & complained of considerable acidity at the stomach, having nothing else to give him, I recommended his taking a little magnesia; he afterwards became sick. There is a great change going on in him just now, & a constant struggle kept up between youth & manhood. I earnestly hope he will be able to do the duties of his situation & yet maintain his health for myself I am very far from well. However the Lord only knows what is best for us.

1st. I perceive I have made a great mistake & turned over two leaves. Yesterday I called on Dr Crooke’s wife whom I have not seen for 12 mos. She received me kindly; I find that the Dr has quite deserted his Teetotal principles, his wife says it is not because he thinks alcoholic drinks necessary now any more than formerly, but because there was none of the faculty to support him, & he felt he could not stand alone.

What a poor excuse to make, as if that was not a greater reason for him to stand firm. The consequence is that his wife (always a practical Teetotaller) is now drinking ale & wine, & yet she is a strong healthy young woman. I cannot but feel grieved that a man like him should so entirely depart from those principles he once so strenuously maintained, as I know that he must be acting entirely contrary to his convictions. I also tremble for the consequences both to himself & family.

Oh Lord remember him, & grant that he may not prove a castaway.

I am thankful to find that dear Walter is better. As he has no regular dinner in the middle of the day, the Doctor thinks he should take meat with his tea, as well as at breakfast; He is certainly at a very important age, may the Lord be with him & direct him how to walk, & enable him to withstand temptation for the dear Redeemer’s sake.

As his employment is principally brain work, it may be too much for his body just now, but what else can he do?

First of eleventh month 1854. How rapid is the flight of time! solemn thought. This time two years my dear George was with me, & the day will soon arrive when it will be two years since he departed this life. How lonely & desolate I often feel, & why do I yet feel so? Oh that my heart were entirely given up to God; Then would my peace be as the rivers, & my righteousness as the noon day clear.

Heavenly Parent save me from myself, the worst of all enemies & Oh do strengthen me by thy mighty power in the inner man. Hear me Oh Lord & deliver for the sake of thy only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus pray the Father for me that I may be sanctified.

5th First day. The two boys went to meeting, they were caught in a hail storm. It was my intention to have gone this afternoon, but it is so stormy, that I have been obliged to give it up. Be thou with me dear Lord at home, & grant unto me to be an example to my dear children, & may we spend the remainder of this day as becometh those who desire to walk according to thy will, & Oh grant that thy power may be known & felt by us. I desire also to thank thee Oh Lord, for thy goodness in so far [sic] restraining me from entering into temptation continue Oh Holy Father to keep me by thy mighty power, so that I may no more grieve thee by committing again those things of the [sic] which I have once repented, for the dear Lord’s sake amen.

17th. Fifth day. Nothing have I been able to write since the 1st having been ill ever since & confined entirely to my bed with Bilious Diarrhoea. My head has also been much distressed, accompanied with considerable vomiting. Oh Lord I beseech thee deliver my soul.

21st. This is my dear son Georges birth day & I have not been able to make him a present of anything. He is now 14 years old. Oh Lord preserve & bless him & lead him in the way everlasting may he be enabled to walk before thee counting all things but loss that he may win Christ & be found in Him, for His dear sake.

Thro’ mercy I am much better than I was on the 17th & I pray if consistent with thy Holy will Oh God that I may continue so Preserve me Oh my God from entering into temptation & keep me from sin that it may not grieve me. Yesterday was a very hot day, & in the evening flashes of lightning were seen which was followed with thunder & rain about 10 PM.

On the 18th I received two letters, one from Elinor Clifton Swan River &, the other from my sister in law Jane Bell. It appears that she has been for a long time in very bad health & has at length become so feeble in body & weak in sight, that she has been obliged to give up taking in needle work, which was her only means of living. But her faith seems strong in the Lord, & she says she has no doubt of being provided for God grant unto her according to her faith.

22nd. These two last days have been very hot, & strange to say R Harbroe sent me word this morning that she did not think she could continue to send the children to school after this quarter, on account of her having to send them, & then to send for them. I can scarcely believe this to be the whole truth, however I must leave it with Him who knows all things.

26 First day. Cold & showery. The rain continued with but little intermission until yesterday afternoon, when it became very cold. I have felt a return of Influenza, yesterday afternoon my head was so bad that I was obliged to go to bed by 5 oclock, had a very bad night, & was unable to rise until nearly dinner time.

First of Twelfth mo 1854. Nothing but illness seems to be my portion now. On 4th day night I could not sleep, nor lay down even for a ¼ of an hour together from pain in my right side & spasms. I know not what to do for the best, nor what to take, as every thing is disagreeable to me, & seems to disagree with me. Oh Lord look upon & raise me up for the dear Redeemer’s sake.

5th. This afternoon we had visit from Esther Mather & Thomas Freeman, first her & then him. She says that poor old Robert is very ill, & that she begins to fear he will not last long. TF kindly brought us some peas all the way from Richmond. He says that R Shoobridge will take up SJ at our kind friend Sarah Crouch’s on the 19th at 8 oclock AM for which I feel truly grateful.

18th I attended the monthly meeting which this year was the day before the yearly meeting, dined with S Crouch & made arrangements concerning my dear Sarah Jane. She will have to pass two nights at S Crouche’s [sic] instead of one but then how kind of her to be troubled with her poor thing. But doubtless all will be for the best.

I was unable to attend the yearly meeting, (much as I desired it) through having severe ear ache & toothache. On the 14th I had to visit Prior (George’s master) & GW Walker, after that called on poor Robert Mather & took tea with him & his wife Esther, in company with W Hortin & George Propsting.

Yesterday was First day. The two boys went to meeting in the forenoon, dined with the Crouches, brought up the Phaeton in the afternoon with Mary Anne & took away my dear SJ so now she is gone & I am all alone. May God Almighty bless her both here & here after, Amen.

19th. My dear Sarah Jane is now at Richmond. R Shoobridge took her as agreed yesterday morning. I am sorry to say that it turned out a very stormy & unsuitable day for her, still I was happy to learn from Emily Freeman, (who returned by the same person [sic] in the forenoon) that she bore up well, altho much fatigued. Oh God do then bless her & keep her from all evil & from the Evil One for the dear Redeemer’s sake.

21st Yesterday forenoon I called on Dr Agnew & was only just in time to see his dear wife start for the country. He is sorry SJ had such a bad day for the country & does not think she ought to have travelled in such unseasonable weather.

My dear George has been very unwell the last two days; it appears to be some affection of the liver. This morning I paid a visit to Sarah Crouch had an interview with dear Emily Freeman who is looking very well, & who promises to pay me a visit.

23rd. Dear George is very ill. Yesterday I had to go to town All in the heat to fetch a blister & medicines for him, after taking off the blister the Dr recommended me to apply a bread poultice. Poroders [?] & tonic have to be administered every 4 hours. He passed a restless night, but about ½ an hour ago he dropt [sic] asleep.

2 o’clock Dr Agnew has just paid George a visit, says he is doing very well, & that the lungs are not affected. He strongly that G should wear flannel next the skin, & also to desist from bathing at least until he is a year older.

24th [December] Walter is just off for Richmond, where I hope he will spend a happy Christmas with his dear sister. I think it is very kind of our friends T & H Freeman, to take so much trouble with my poor children, & I pray that God may bless them for it. So poor George & I are left all by ourselves. He seems better, but is very weak. Does not like the idea of being obliged to put on flannel at all.

25th Xmas day, so called. The bells began to ring about 5 AM & a more delightful morning I think could not well be. Our heavenly Father has watched over us thro’ night & no evil hath been permitted to come near us. Both George & I have passed a better night than we expected, for which unmerited mercy I desire to be thankful to our All Wise God.

27th Dear Walter returned home yesterday evening. He had a cold several days before he left, it seems now to be worse. Still he says he enjoyed his visit very much, he brought me a note from dear SJ who (as may be expected,) was delighted to see him. George is better. They are both gone to their respective duties in town. I sincerely hope they may be better on their return.

31st of 12th The last day of the year which is likewise First day. Nothing but trials & disappointments seem to beset our path. Dear W has become worse every day with constant pain in the chest & stomach; accompanied with a short distressing cough. Mustard plasters have to be applied morning & evening. Then poor George has been disappointed in his journey to Richmond thro T Freeman not being able to have the horse. Still there is no doubt but all is ordered for the best, & will in the end work together for good. I went to meeting this morning, & I trust that it was not an unprofitable time. In looking back upon the events of the past year, I feel a good deal cast down, if spared to behold the new year, enable me Oh Lord to begin afresh, & do thou pardon my sins & blot out my transgressions, for the dear Redeemer’s sake.

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Sarah Bell visits Port Arthur, 1855

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. Sarah’s husband, George Bell, died in Hobart Town in 1852. In January 1855 her elder son, seventeen-year-old Walter, was sent to live at Port Arthur in hope of improving his health. Sarah visited him there in April of that year. 

11th of 4 mo. I have been ill for a week, chiefly occasioned by my going to Port Arthur to see my dear Walter; whom I found considerable improved certainly, but still not equal to the accounts I have received from time to time. The night previous to my departure it blew a strong gale until about 4 AM, when it lulled. At dawn the sky was resplendent in gorgeous beauty, such a sky as the sun advanced to the horizon I never remembered to have beheld; the splendid tints of blue, yellow, green, & red, with all their shades, as they cast their reflection upon our noble Mount Wellington; caused me to exclaim, ‘Who can doubt there is a God!’ but it soon passed away, & one large cloud encircled the whole heavens, by which the sun became obscured. About 6 AM I partook of a cup of chocolate, & at ½ past 6 I started for the Steamer Mimosa, accompanied by George. Shortly after 7 he left me, & the steamer set sail; All went on tolerably smooth, until we got outside the heads; when the sea appeared much disturbed by the gale the previous night. About 9 AM I began to be sick, I was soon joined by some ladies whom I had left on deck, & so we continued, until we came into smoother water. We landed in boats, but Walter did not come on board to meet me, as I expected. However it was not long before he made his appearance, & we were rejoiced to see each other once more. As a great number of the passengers went to James Boyd’s, W thought it best to take me to Dr Brownells, they received me very kindly, after dinner, W rowed the young ladies to the Mimosa, during which time I sat talking with Mrs Brownell, she spoke very much against her daughters [sic] behaviour to her; but it is generally understood that the fault is mostly on her own side. When W returned, he took me to T Brown[e]’s the [Deputy] Superintendent, in whose family he boards, he says they are kind people, & make him very comfortable. I then took my leave of the Brownells, & went on board accompanied by Walter. He certainly appears improved & has quite lost his cough, but still the alteration in his appearance, did not equal what I was led to expect. When all the passengers were assembled, I had to take farewell of poor Walter, & on his retiring to rest that night, he afterwards informed me, that he almost cried himself to sleep.

It was about 5 PM when we set sail, & the sea more rough than in the morning; the rocking of the vessel, the washing over of the waves, & the coldness of the evening made some of females, feel cold, & sick, so that we were forced to go below & stretch ourselves in the berths in the ladies cabin, from which we were unable to rise, ‘till the vessel entered the Harbour, being sick all the way. A large number of the so called gentlemen kept drinking brandy & water &c & were merry [?], & loose, in their conversation. However it came to an end at last, & they began to go up on deck. It was about ½ past ten PM when we arrived at our journeys end. I sat waiting expecting to see my little George, when a young lady informed me that Mr Hedbergh [sic] was waiting on deck for me, I of course hastened up, he told me that poor George had been waiting about until ten oclock when he called on them, saying he did not know what to do, as he could see nothing of the steamer, & his sister was at home all alone, & that he requested him to go home, saying that he would keep a look out & escort me home, which I considered as a very great kindness, & for which I hope I shall feel grateful.

The night was beautifully moonlight & I thought as I looked around me, how much I should have enjoyed it, had the sea been calm, & I not sick. But still God had been gracious to me, in bringing me safely thus far, & gratitude & thanksgiving took the place of sorrow & regret, for what was now past. As we crossed Bathurst St the town clock struck 11. I do not remember ever being out so late in Van D Land. I ascended the hills homeward very wearily, leaning on Hedbergs [sic] strong arm, but at last accomplished the difficulty. It was a ¼ past 11 when I reached my home, I found George running about in the moonlight, keeping a look out for me, & poor SJ tired of waiting was preparing to go to bed. Thanking my friend for his kindness I took leave of him at the door, & then went in. SJ & George had almost given me up for the night, so they were very glad to see me all safe at home again. I took some ginger tea to relieve my stomach but in vain; extreme nausea continued all night & the next day; when severe headache [sic].