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The death of Anne Bell at Launceston, 1840

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

Sarah Bell diary 15–26 January 1840

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The deep repose

I shall never more be broke by pain;

Those lips are no more in sighs unclose,

Those eyes shall never weep again.

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

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

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

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