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

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

Book 9: Sarah Bell’s Life History

22 May 1840–27 October 1841

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[There are no pages 384‒88]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Bells journey from Launceston to Bothwell, Van Diemen’s Land, 1840

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

Books 8 and 9: Sarah Bell’s Life History 

4 February–21 May 1840 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[there is no p.359]

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

Book 9: Sarah Bell’s life history

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The death of 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,, 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


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.