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Early writings from Southern Patagonia
Title: The Gold Diggings of Cape Horn
Sub-title: A study of life in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia
Author: John R. Spears
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1895



The reader who has at hand a good modern map of South America will find, on looking along the narrow channel that bounds the south side of Tierra del Fuego, a tiny settlement named Ushuaia. On some maps the settlement is located on Navarin Island, south of the channel, but the proper place for it is on a small bay that indents Tierra del Fuego, just east of the line between Chili and Argentine territory. The settlement is, in fact, an Argentine capital, the seat of the Government of the Argentine belongings lying south of the Straits of Magellan. Ushuaia, as a white man's capital, will be described at another time. In its earliest days the settlement was a missionary station, containing only a single log hut, the home of the first Christian who succeeded in gaining a foothold among the Indians of the Cape Horn region, and it is my purpose here to tell, as briefly as possible, the true story of this Cape Horn mission.

Something has already been told about the characteristics of the remarkable people, the Yahgans, who were indigenous to the region of their apparent squalid wretchedness when, in fact, they were actually comfortable and living in the enjoyment of some of the highest pleasures known to civilized peoples. It is, therefore, necessary for the reader to shut out from his mind about all the real facts concerning them, and think only of what they seemed to be if he would fully appreciate the spirit and intent of the founders of the mission to the Yahgans. It must be remembered that the region was supposed to be bleak and desolate, that frightful storms followed each other in swift succession, that the cold was often intense in midsummer, and that in the midst of these terrors of nature lived a tribe of savages so low in the human scale that they did not know enough to build houses to shelter them, or even to sew skins together into a decent blanket for a covering.

People who had read the journals of the explorers of the region shuddered at the thought of the life of misery which the natives there were said to endure. Indeed, so dark was the picture of human life there, that, although men had been found to brave death at the stake in the valley of the Mohawk, none so much as suggested in the early days a mission to the Yahgans, save only as Sarmiento's ill-fated colony hoped to convert the heathen as well as hold the Straits of Magellan for the crown of Spain. Nevertheless, a time came when the very terrors of nature and the apparent degradation of the people there were the magnets to draw one man to them. This man came from a race and a profession "to whom an appeal for volunteers for a forlorn hope was never made in vain." The first missionary to the Fuegian Indians came from the British Navy.

Captain Allen Francis Gardiner, R.N., was born on June 28, 1794, at Basildon, Berks, England. He entered the Royal Navy in June, 1810, and was rapidly promoted until he attained the rank of captain. He was from his youth an ardent Christian – so ardent indeed that he determined to devote his life to mission work and only remained in the navy because he wished to learn what people of the earth was most neglected and forlorn – most in need of the Christian religion. Having caught a few glimpses of the Yahgans and their people, and having read the stories about them which Captain Fitzroy and Naturalist Darwin with many others wrote, Captain Gardiner naturally concluded that the Cape Horn archipelago was his field. Accordingly, he began work by organizing, in 1814 [1844, Ed.], a mission society, after which he made an attempt to live in his chosen field.

"He and several devoted companions were landed on one of the small islands with a tent, materials for a wooden house, and stores and provisions to last six months," says the record. "But in a very few days the conduct of the natives showed the missionaries that to remain on land was impossible. Mercifully the vessel which had brought them was still within hail," and they were taken off and borne to England.

The trouble with the Indians, it appears, was that they looked with covetous eyes on the outfit of the missionaries. The record says they were robbers, but it now appears that this term is much too harsh. They did, indeed, strive to take valuables from the missionaries without making any return whatever for them, but it must not be forgotten that the Yahgans held practically all property in common. They naturally resented what seemed to them to be the selfishness of these white intruders just as they ostracized one of their own tribe who did anything contrary to Yahgan custom.

Finding, as he supposed, his life in danger when he tried to make a home among the Yahgans, Captain Gardiner returned home to try to raise money for a ship in which he could live in a Yahgan harbor. He believed he could repel any Yahgan boarders that might attack him, and eventually make friends with the repulsed. But he failed to get the money, because the English were skeptical as to the success of even a mission ship.

Thereat the determined captain bought instead two launches twenty-six feet long and decked them over. The sum of £1000 was deemed necessary for this enterprise, of which "a generous Christian lady of Cheltenham gave £700." Gardiner himself gave £300.

"Captain Gardiner, with three Cornish sailors, Christian men accustomed to stormy seas," "the ship carpenter who had gone with Captain Gardiner before," "two men as catechists, Mr. Maidment, and Mr. Richard Williams, the latter a surgeon in good practice," – these seven sailed from Liverpool on September 7, 1850, in the ship Ocean Queen, which was bound to the booming town of San Francisco, but agreed to land them and their outfit in Tierra del Fuego. They carried stores for six months, and arranged for more to come before these should be exhausted. On December 5th their ship anchored in a bay called Banner Cove, in the west end of Picton Island. The missionaries landed, and then natives came. Fearing violence the missionaries took refuge on the Ocean Queen for a few days, and then, on December 18th, landed again, built a wigwam near the beach, moored their boats handy by, and let the big ship sail away.

Then came what the record calls "a terrible discovery." In taking their outfit from the Ocean Queen the missionaries had left on board about all the powder and lead with which to kill the Indians. "They were now alike without the means of self-defence and of obtaining food," is the way the story of Captain Gardiner's life puts it, but the plain English of the matter is that they had come relying on guns to protect them. They meant to shoot the Indians under certain circumstances. Their motto was, so to speak: "Trust in God, but keep your powder dry." Now, however, they had no powder and "they were left almost wholly dependent on meal, rice, and such things."

Thereafter they "went beating about among the islands, alarmed by every indication of the people for whose sake all this misery was encountered." In a diary, written by one of the party, one may read that "I applied the golden key to heaven's treasury, and with it opened the storehouse of God's exceeding great and precious promises. What I saw and felt of Christ's love no tongue can tell," but their faith in Divine protection was not strong enough to make them risk a visit to the Indians, and so, at last, they actually died of starvation, although the region produced and produces a prodigious supply of mussels and limpets, wild celery and other edible vegetables, not to mention fish and mammals easily snared by one not afraid to venture away from his boat.

"It does seem remarkable that Gardiner should have apparently erred from timidity and over-caution," says the writer of the life of that missionary, and then he piously adds: "We must look to the will of God in the whole affair."

The death of Gardiner through his own cowardice, to put the matter bluntly, is only one – the first of a long list "of doings that seem remarkable" in this story.

The Gardiner party sailed from Liverpool on September 7, 1850. The last entry in the diary of Captain Gardiner is dated September 5, 1851, while a letter was found dated the day following. Gardiner, who was the last survivor, probably died one year from the time he sailed. In October came the relief ship to the port in Picton Island. An inscription on a rock which the traveller can still see there was found. It was as follows:

Dig Below.
Go to Spaniard Harbour

Spaniard Harbor is now called Aguirre Bay. A gale of wind prevented the relief ship going there, but Her Majesty's ship Dido was sent out, and she recovered the papers of the dead missionaries and buried the human bones. Her colors were lowered and three volleys were fired by the marines after the funeral, because Gardiner had been a naval captain; and all this, having been well told, together with the stories found in the diaries, made a sensation in England.

To one who knows the region, the appeals thereafter made by the missionary society to the English-speaking world seem very remarkable. Though I do not doubt the honest intentions of the society people, some of their words would seem to be deliberate attempts to deceive, if coming from any other kind of society. Thus in A Memoir of Richard Williams, by James Hamilton, D.D., is an appeal for funds for the society, which (p. 255) says:

This agency may soon stud with gardens and farms and industrious villages these inhospitable shores. The mariner may run his battered ship into Lennox Harbour and leave her to the care of Fuegian caulkers and carpenters; and after rambling through the streets of a thriving seaport town, he may turn aside to read the papers in the Gardiner Institution, or may step into the week-evening service in the Richard Williams chapel.

Following the advice contained in papers which Captain Gardiner left, and taking advantage of the emotions raised among church people by the story of the Captain's death, the society raised funds with which they built and manned a schooner fit for the stormiest sea, and sent it out to establish a station for the conversion of the Yahgans. She was commanded by Captain W. Parker Snow, and she carried Mr. Garland Phillips, as catechist, to Keppel Island, one of the Falklands then uninhabited. They arrived out on January 28, 1855, and found the island about eight miles long and four wide, with three fresh water lakes. It was "a barren, desolate place," Phillips thought, and according to the record he and his associates lived there for more than two years before they got a single Yahgan to come to live with them.

Eventually "a strong party" was sent out from England to re-enforce Phillips and "push the work vigorously." This party included "Tom Bridges, a goodlooking, affectionate boy of fourteen, who loved everybody, and whom everybody loved," and this is the earliest mention of one who has since made himself the most noted of all who have worked in the mission. Thereafter matters went on better, because the "strong party" made a right good sheep ranch of Keppel Island, and in 1857 got the Yahgan named Button, his wife, and his children to go to Keppel.

With Button as interpreter, Phillips and some others went over to Navarin Island in November, 1858, and built a log-house there, in which they remained a month with the natives about them, returning the first of 1859 with nine natives, whom they proposed instructing on the ranch at Keppel Island. These instructions continued until the following October, when Phillips took them back in his schooner, which was manned by a captain, a mate, four seamen, a carpenter, and a cook, all "decidedly good men." On the way over (it was a voyage of six days), Phillips missed some valuables, and after accusing the Yahgans of stealing, searched their bundles. Of course the Yahgans were highly offended, but their anger was apparently appeased later, and a landing was affected on Navarin Island in peace.

But on the following Sunday, when all hands except the cook went ashore to hold church services, the Yahgans arose and killed the entire party that came to them. The cook escaped to the brush when the natives came after him, and there remained until hunger drove him out. The natives then bound him, stripped off his clothes, but gave him their own favorite article of clothing instead – a coat of whale oil, and with no other dress than whale oil this cook lived in perfect health, until he was rescued some three months later by a ship that came from the Falklands in search of the schooner.

This deadly assault on the missionaries is frequently referred to in the missionary publications to show how fierce and degraded the Yahgans were before the missionaries got a foothold among them.

During the three years that followed only two Yahgans, a man and his wife, lived on Keppel Island, but the young English boy spoken of – Tom Bridges – proved a natural linguist, and so rapidly learned their language from the Yahgans, that at the end of three years he could talk freely with them.

Then came a new man into the field, the Rev. W. H. Stirling, who now lives in Buenos Ayres, and is the Bishop of the Church of England for South America. On the arrival of Stirling "the interrupted work was resumed with vigor," and "forty or fifty Fuegians were brought at intervals" to Keppel.

Of the life led by the Yahgans and the missionaries on Keppel Island, the records speak freely, and it is worth while considering what that life was, because Keppel was the preparatory school of the mission.

It appears by direct statement that the missionaries believed "our hope for the material improvement of these natives lies in their adopting and following farming and agricultural pursuits with fishing." We must believe that the first object that the missionaries had in view in taking the Yahgans to Keppel was to teach them the Christian religion, because the missionaries say so; but it is apparent that "material" matters were never lost sight of. The records give the length of time devoted to these "material" matters every day, as well as that given to mental and spiritual pursuits. Up to 1879 the natives had two hours per day for instructions, but in October of that year the school hours were increased to three per day. The rest of the day was devoted to work on the sheep ranch and to the garden where the missionaries raised vegetables. But not all of the Yahgans there received even two hours' instruction per day, for a missionary who sent two to Keppel from Wollaston Island wrote regarding them, that they "will, I have no doubt, make very good men on the farm, but I do not think they will do anything at school." And the farmer reports: "I could send more lads to the dayschool, but they are not the material Mr. Grubb requires." Mr. Grubb was the school teacher.

This teacher, W. Balbrooke Grubb, sums up his work in these words: "Moral training and example and the expounding of the Gospel, all who knew these natives will admit, has [sic] worked a great change upon them. Glorious conversions or wordy confessions I have not to report."

That Yahgan life was not all work and study on Keppel, however, appears from the report of the celebration of the birthday of one of Farmer Bartlett's children. "After tea we had several games, among which was the avenging the death of a murdered man by the Indians, and an Indian dance, which is a strange affair." Imagine the vendetta as an entertainment in the course of a revival in the United States!

But the worst is yet to be told about the treatment of these Yahgan boys on the Keppel Island farm, and lest some one think I am exaggerating, I give the words of the report of one of the missionaries:

"As I observed much carelessness and untidiness in the dress of the boys, I set aside a portion of one day in the week in which, under my supervision, they were encouraged to mend and repair their clothing." To this Mr. R. Whaits, the mission carpenter, adds that "they are badly clothed; boots they have none, nor blankets to cover them."

The unfortunate natives were not only made to toil at unaccustomed work the whole day through, but they had to do it unrewarded. They did not get even decent clothing in return.

I have given a good deal of space to this school, but it is because I suppose there are other mission schools in the world conducted in the same fashion, and the people who contribute money to missionary societies ought to know about these matters.

Having described the school in which sundry Yahgans were civilized, and "Tom Bridges, a good-looking, affectionate boy," was prepared for the missionary service, we come to the establishing of the missionary station in the Yahgan territory and the results of that work.

Until 1869 nothing was done beyond instructing the natives who could be induced to go to Keppel and learning from them their language. But in January of that year Mr. Stirling determined to take up his residence among the Yahgans. His reasons for this are important, and are as follows:

My motive for living ashore is to exercise a direct and constant influence over the natives; to show my confidence in them; to encourage a more general and regular disposition in them to adopt our ways and to listen to our instructions, and to get the children within the zone of Christian example and teaching.

Accordingly, he built on the shores of what is now called Ushuaia Bay, near the present capital of Argentine Tierra del Fuego, a log-hut that was 20 x 10 feet large and had walls seven feet high. Here he lived for seven months. One of four boys who had been in England, and was subsequently continued in his educational career by being enlisted as cabin-boy of the mission schooner Allen Gardiner, became the housekeeper of the log-house, and was assisted in the work by another Yahgan boy. How the days were passed and the natives instructed is told clearly in the missionary's diary;

Wednesday, 27th (January) – Our days are devoted to work. In the morning, before breakfast, prayer and catechising. In the evening, ditto; and what with putting the house and its surroundings in order, making and fencing gardens, superintending wood-cutting and charcoal-burning, I have passed a curious busy kind of time.

After seven months of the life thus briefly, but fully described, Mr. Stirling was called home to England for ordination as "Bishop of the Falkland Islands."

That he had lived unharmed among a tribe who ten years before had murdered a missionary, is counted among the marvels of the story of this mission; and it is quoted to show that the sort of training the Yahgan boys had received at Keppel had tended to civilize them so much that, on their return to their native haunts, they had in turn civilized their fellows.

Meantime the boy Tom Bridges had grown to be a man of twenty-five years, and had prepared himself, with the aid of those who had had charge at Keppel, to become a missionary himself. With Mr. Stirling's approval he went to England while Stirling was founding Ushuaia, and before Stirling reached England Bridges had been ordained a catechist, had married, and had sailed for Keppel Island. With the departure of the Rev. Mr. Stirling for ordination as Bishop, Ushuaia was left unoccupied temporarily, but the vacancy was filled in 1870 by Mr. Bridges and his wife, who have ever since made their home on the shores of Beagle Channel, and have until recently taken the lead in the mission work done there.

Ushuaia Bay is a rounded hollow on the north side of the narrow Beagle Channel. Lofty, glacier-covered mountains wall off the sun on the north, and on every other side the ranges are not very far away. To the west, however, there is an open table land level enough for farm purposes, and to this came the young missionary and his wife to make a home.

They were apparently displeased with the location afterward, for we read that "at Ushuaia our position is exposed, and being about ninety feet above the sea is not favorable for procuring the best results. Many spots might be chosen where, shelter and greater heat being secured, the fruits of tillage would be both larger and more certain. But it is vain for us now to regret our situation."

The log-hut erected by Stirling remained intact, and that was at first their home; and straightway the work bringing the Yahgan Indians to Mr. Bridges's standard of civilization and righteousness was begun.

What this standard was has been put in writing, together with a plain statement of the means employed in raising the standard of righteousness. He says:

"Our hopes for the material improvement of these natives lie in their adopting and following farming and agricultural pursuits together with fishing." And again: "Our daily endeavor is to bind them with the bonds of Christ's love. To this end we have been of late showing them the authority of Christ as far greater than that of Moses."

A tribe of Indians that lived naked in a climate where snow-storms raged in every month of the yearlived happily and comfortably, tooeven in perfect health on the spontaneous productions of the region, was to be transformed into a community of farmers there and then. A people who had in all their wonderful language of 40,000 words no term or idea of either God or a future existence; who never gave an order, and who had no such word or idea as to obey, were to be converted to Christianity by sermons "showing them the authority of Christ as far greater than that of Moses!"

That the missionaries entered upon this tremendous task with a calm assurance that they could not be in error as to what the Indians needed, is perfectly plain to all who peruse the record; and in that assurance they never faltered. They were as earnestly determined to create civilized villages and farming communitiesthat is to say on an English modelas they were to tell the story of the Christ.

The first "material improvement" work done was, naturally enough, the making of a comfortable home, with outbuildings and a big garden attached, for the use of the missionaries. Mr. Bridges reasoned that an object lesson in home comforts would impress on these wild people the advantages of civilization more forcibly than words could do; and the work to which Mr. Bridges devoted the most time was that of impressing on them the advantages of civilization i.e., making them like white men. He had little faith in the notions of those missionaries who at various times have believed they could best reach the heathen heart by living with the heathen, suffering their hardships, learning to understand their joys, and so on. Mr. Bridges would not do that. Besides, in making gardens, building fences and houses, and caring for cattle and sheep, Mr. Bridges, by employing the Indians, was enabled to teach them the white man's arts and to encourage what he called "habits of industry."

He assumed that when employed as laborers raising turnips on a Tierra del Fuego farm, or in the saw-pit splitting logs into boards with a hand-saw, they would be very much happier than they had ever been while roaming at will about those seas and inlets in search of seals, birds, and fish, or when sitting beside a roaring campfire inventing and telling stories. It was, therefore, with a merry heart that Mr. Bridges, and those, too, who were sent to aid him, saw the Indians take up the axe to chop, the spade to dig in the garden, the saw to split the logs for lumber.

But just how the natives were handled and the kind of life they led about the station can be most convincingly told by a few extracts from the record, which are in all cases verbatim, save that I have italicized many words in order, as the missionaries might say, to bring home the lesson of the hour more forcibly.

In a letter describing to the people of England the work at Ushuaia after it was well under way (five years after the station was founded), we get not only Mr. Bridges's ideas about handling workmen, but also his way of composing a delicate family difficulty and a definite statement of the price he paid one laborer for two weeks' work. He says:

We need in no way be ashamed of the earthly parts of our duties here, and I hesitate not to set it plainly before you. The society has now three and a half acres of garden land in crop, chiefly with turnips (Swedish), most of which will be used by the natives in meat stews, thickened with flour, beans, or other farinaceous food. Besides, much work has been done to the road in carrying down the embankment, and we hope to have it available for our cart in a few weeks by diligent labor. A large quantity of wood has also been cut and brought down to the beach ready for shipment. Mr. Whaits has commenced sawing out boards from native wood with great success. We have had for weeks over thirty men employed. The Natives have also considerably added to their own lands under crop this year, and have four acres in crop. Peace, with a few and unimportant breaks, has reigned. I must relate a few instances of its interruption: Some nine or ten men were at work on the road. Stephen Lucia was in charge, and a few were vexed that he was not silent when they were idle. Angry, vengeful words were spoken, and Stephen, in great turmoil of spirit, came to me and asked to be employed elsewhere, saying that he could no longer work with the men with the cart. I set him to other work, and I went down to the men and reproved the guilty ones for violent language and threatening intimidations. Stephen, knowing that I would speak to them, came down, and some angry altercation took place. Yet, after some talking over the matter, peace was restored, and those who were angry shook hands at my suggestion, and real good-will has existed among them since.

Another occasion was in connection with a young Eastern called Hidugalahgoon. He came here with a wife that had been the wife of a man who had been very violent to her. The young fellow seemed very fond of her and she of him. He had friends here whom he was diligent to move in his favor by descanting on the cruelties of the other man. He was for several weeks employed, and regularly came to our meetings for worship and instruction. As payment he received a sufficiency of food and a shirt.

As to the row that the real or original husband of the woman raised when he came on and found that she would stay with her lover, Mr. Bridges says:

Being consulted by Hidugalahgoon, I advised that he should, under the circumstances, give what he could to restore peace. No doubt he has been a very guilty party in the matter, and I told him to give up his shirt; he might soon earn another.

That is, instead of denouncing Hidugalahgoon as an adulterer, this missionary advised him to buy off the outraged husband. The effect of such teaching as this will appear further on.

We are not left wholly in darkness as to the kind and quantity of food served, for, in speaking of the day's routine, the record says:

The daily breakfast is a pound of navy bread per man. The dinner is cooked in our yard under the charge of Mr. Lawrence, who has one or two boys under him, and tea likewise. A break is made between the morning and afternoon working time, a space of four and three and a half hours, respectively, by a distribution of a refreshing drink of milk and water, slightly thickened with flour and sweetened.

Although not so stated here, the dinner was usually a meat stew with hard-tack. It was served in a quantity sufficient for the workmen only, as one may readily infer from a description written elsewhere of the milk-and-water "refreshing drink."

To encourage the men to work, besides the three meals daily, Mr. Lawrence used to bring us some milk and water, slightly sweetened, and a biscuit at 11 A. M. and 4 P. M. Then we would all throw ourselves down and enjoy ten or fifteen minutes' rest while we took this refreshment. The little children soon learned the course of things, and used generally to come for a bit from their fathers or brothers. They (the fathers or brothers) would have been glad to have eaten all, but invariably they shared.

Let the reader get this matter well in hand. The Yahgans were employed on road-making, chopping, pitsawing and other work of the hardest kind. The white man had sufficient influence over them to keep a good many so employed. In return he gave to the laborers what he calls "a sufficiency of food," but he here distinctly admits that they "would have been glad to have eaten all" ; in other words, it was a bare sufficiency. In addition, for "a few weeks' work," he gave a common shirt such as the farm laborers of England wear.

The rule to feed and clothe only those employed at labor was not rigorously enforced at all times. We read at Christmas time of a "distribution made to-day of the half-yearly gift of clothing to the employed and such natives as are more particularly under our charge, and to children supported by friends at home; also general distribution of old but most acceptable clothing sent by kind friends in Stanley which was very much needed." Then, "after the morning service, we all had a happy time with the natives, who were abundantly supplied with good stew and pudding." In a letter we read that "the half-yearly distribution of clothing to the baptized natives took place on the 28th of June." Of course, this favoring of the baptized natives could have but one effect. If clothing could be had by professing this new religion the hypocrites among the tribe were pretty sure to see the point and make the profession. As will appear further on, however, there were not very many hypocrites among the three thousand Yahgans.

But that the system of paying a "sufficiency of food" and a shirt, such as laborers wear, for two weeks of labor did not prove entirely satisfactory to the Indians, save in time of famine, may be inferred from what is written in the same record:

The men, when left much to themselves, become very idle, and rest a great deal more than they should. They say they are tired and sore, and you have to be constantly at them to do a fair day's work. The natives have been culpably idle at this and all other work they do, and yet they clamor for more pay, and even speak of ceasing to work unless their pay is increased.

In fact, the missionary was quite incensed when he found that the heathen were not willing to do the work of English farm laborers in return for a "sufficiency of food" and a "semi-annual distribution of clothing."

If Mr. Bridges had trouble in teaching the tribe habits of industry as farm laborers, he was also worried somewhat in his efforts to impress on them the advantage of the kindred virtue of thrift. As wandering mussel-eaters they had no need of thrift, because mussels were almost everywhere abundant, and they were lacking in food only when storms prevented their journeying from a place which had been eaten bare to one which had not been visited for a time. As farmers, if they were to be farmers, they would need to be thrifty, especially so in such a climate. But here is the record, which gives at some length not only a picture of life at the station, but also the missionary's argument for overcoming their ancient heathen habit of holding all things in common:

The natives, very much driven by hunger, were very importunate in coming to him (the Rev. Mr. Lawrence) in order to get something to eat. They brought logs of fuel by ones and twos, they brought baskets, spear heads, and spear shafts, others offered to work to earn some food, others came expressing their sad circumstances and sought to excite pity in order to get something to eat. Only three men were regularly employed, but four or five women were much employed in making shirts, so that these were envied by the rest, and certainly were much better off. During this time a party of natives arrived and brought a good supply of sprats. As the three above mentioned very properly kept their food supplies for themselves and families, to the great grievance of their neighbors, so now these sprat owners would not part with any of their sprats to them.

One of the three expressed himself thus about this matter: "We hungry folks now: all other people plenty fish, only we poor." In reply to these remarks he was answered, "You ought not to be sorry, but glad that these poor people have plenty. Besides, you ought not to be hungry, because you get food for your work every day, and your wife also gets food for her sewing, and your son can gather mussels."

I have quoted the record verbatim because it seems important that people in the United States should know just how the heathen were treated at this typical mission, and have the missionary's statement of the case. It is a fact, incredible as it may seem, that the missionary gave to the heathen, in return for a day's hard work, only so much food as that heathen himself needed. To the squaw only as much as she needed was given. Under that system of pay an able-bodied man and an able-bodied woman could not together earn even enough food above their own wants to supply one child. "Your son can gather mussels," said the missionary when they complained to him that, having divided with their son, they were hungry. It is worth while to compare the attitude of the missionary in this matter with that of the heathen father and mother, who were willing to go hungry in order that they might divide their stinted allowance of food with their child. But to continue the quotation:

I have striven very much to move the people against the prevalent habit of begging and giving, but as yet with but little seeming success. When a canoe arrives many make visits to the new-comers to get a share of any food they may have brought. They do not ask, but wait till they have received some. Each woman looks upon what supplies she gathers as her own. She gives to whom she will, so that to the same person a portion would be given by each of a man's two or three wives from their separate possessions. This habit is very hurtful.

Although it is aside from the object of this story, one cannot help noting here that among the Yahgans "they do not ask but wait," and that "each woman looks upon what supplies she gathers as her own." As a picture of savage customs that is interesting. It would be instructive and interesting, though not to say pleasant, to follow these extracts further. They picture accurately the life led by both missionary and Indian at this station a life encouraged and promoted by a society in England that had an income of from $50,000 to $60,000 a year, and complained because it did not get more. Enough, however, has been quoted to convey an accurate idea of what was done there in "material" matters, and something will now be told to portray the "spiritual" teachings and the results thereof. The record is full of such things as these:

Subject of this morning's teaching, "Justification by faith in Jesus."

Subjects of instruction: Faith in God and its proper fruits, obedience to His will, love and gratitude for all His goodness, and confidence and joy for all His perfections.

We endeavored to rouse the attention and lively interest in the free treasures of the boundless love of God, of their God, their Lord, their Saviour, their Judge, their heaven, their hell, their own offered mercy and good.

Experienced the helping grace of God in speaking to and reasoning with the people of the truth of God, especially of Jesus, our representative before God, who in our stead has borne our sins, and pleads His – now by faith our – merits, on account of which we can alone be loved by the Father. Spoke also of the necessity of denying self and sin, of the works of the flesh, and the blessed fruits of the Spirit.

These extracts accurately illustrate the character of the preaching. The following from the same pages of the record will, with equal accuracy, show what the results were:

We vary as far as we can in illustration by anecdote and application, and great effort is necessary to keep their attention.

We long to see earnest love, to hear the people inquiring for Christ. When asked whether they love and wish to serve Jesus, they answer affirmatively, but they never volunteer any remark or questions concerning spiritual things.

Visited Mecugaz twice. Spoke to him earnestly as to a dying man who as yet shows no real faith or special interest in Jesus Christ as his Saviour and Lord. The conduct of Jemmy Button, Admiral Fitzroy's protege, is ever being reacted here. He would not tell the people what he had seen, but made capital of their ignorance and his knowledge by keeping it to himself. He only became the greater impostor, and assumed a pompous conduct toward his fellows, and did not a whit of good.

A paragraph will serve for one other matter. There came a time when the missionaries wanted a steamer to replace their old sailing vessel, and an appeal for the money needed for a steamer was made on the ground that the new vessel would enable the missionaries to extend their teachings to the other tribes of the region. They got their steamer, but when it came their zeal to preach to the Ona and to the Alaculoof had disappeared. Instead of using their steamer to carry the gospel to these tribes, they used it to carry their cattle between the farm on Keppel Island and the station in Beagle Channel.

However, in spite of the fact that the bay produced no food supply worth mentioning for the natives, in spite of a sterile soil and wretched location for farming, in spite of every drawback, the settlement grew in numbers, until, after eleven years, in 1881, such progress had been made that they had a "Christian village, with cottages instead of wigwams, and an extemporized church in the midst," six frame cottages which the Indians had made for themselves out of whip-sawed lumber. These cottages were of the ordinary packing-case model. They were divided within into one large "living-room" in the middle with two smaller rooms on each side of it. Two families occupied each house, using the middle room in common.

Cattle and goats had been introduced, and the Indians had purchased some with labor. More than ten acres of ground were cultivated. An orphanage had been erected, and "twenty-five children are here clothed, fed, and educated at the expense of friends in England."

Meantime, every Yahgan at the settlement, and many of them elsewhere, had learned to dress in "civilized garments," which they had obtained in exchange for labor, or for the furs they caught when hunting, and a very large proportion of them had learned to "prefer bread food" to any other. Meantime the baptismal register had attained to a length of 137 names, including infants.

But the one point of success attained, on which the missionaries laid greatest stress, was the change wrought in the treatment wrecked seamen received at the hands of the Yahgans.

"The natives had formerly been set against white men by the cruel treatment which they had met with from sealing vessels. When vessels were seen the women and children were sent to the woods for safety," says the missionary record. In return the Yahgans had slaughtered every wrecked crew of seamen that fell into their power, saving one man in each crew, however, whom they compelled to witness the slaughter of the rest, and whom they then took to some steamer in the Strait of Magellan, that he might go home and warn his countrymen to keep away from that region.

"It was only by degrees that a better state of things was brought about," says the record but in eleven years it was done.

Naturally, this apparent success of the mission attracted the attention of the Argentine Government. Ushuaia, "the Christian settlement," stood in Argentine territory, but it was very close, indeed, to the Chili line...

Being jealous of Chilian encroachment, the Argentines decided to establish a station down on the south coast of Tierra del Fuego to defend their landed rights. They naturally chose this "Christian settlement" as the site for the station. That was a great event in the history of the mission, and the missionaries were all "greatly pleased" with the sub-prefect and his staff, and troops, and sailors, and especially with the fact that thereafter at least monthly communications would be had with the civilized world.

But a marvellous change had been developing even for years without the knowledge of those who had brought it about. Something was found to be wrong with the Fuegian converts. The record begins to show such entries as these:

In the orphanage we have one case of fatal disease. Excessive languor, without suffering, is his symptom. He is rapidly wasting away.

We had heard of two families who had been suffering very much and asked to see me. At the first house we found eleven people sick, and one old woman who had recovered. They told us three had died, and pointed out several others whom they said would die, among them a little boy, who held his arms out to me and said: "No, no, I am not going to die, Mr. Whaits."

At the next place we found three women, a little boy, and a man trying to get to a canoe to come to Ushuaia. The man told us he had buried four, but was so weak he could not bury the others who were in the house. We found one dear little fellow on his back, not quite dead. He asked me for water which I gave him. He died a few minutes after. In the same house we found a man who had been dead two days, and in his arms a poor little boy not dead. When I took him away he cried to go back to his father. We took him to Ushuaia, but he died on the way.

We have now lost forty-three persons in three weeks at Ushuaia.

How far it has spread I cannot say.

It has been a Pleasure to go among them, for in almost every house we have heard the voice of prayer and praise in the midst of all their sufferings [sic].

It is useless to continue these quotations or to tell in detail the pitiful stories of wretchedness, uncomplaining suffering, and death that had taken place in this settlement, when the missionaries once got the tribe well in hand. Let it, instead, be summed up :

The race had been "hardy and vigorous." They had actually increased in numbers while living naked and smeared with grease from head to foot. But when put to work as farm laborers, and washed and clothed like white folks, they complained of being "tired" and "sore," and had to be nagged into working steadily. They had slept naked in the freezing rain, but now, if they sat down in their shirt sleeves while at work, they caught a cold that developed into a fatal disease. Consumption and pneumonia appeared, and assumed frightful aspects. Little children that had been roundlimbed and bright-eyed when naked in a canoe were wasting rapidly away in "excessive languor," though dressed in woolens and living in a warm house.

They continued to waste away until everyone of the twenty-five children, "clothed, fed, and educated at the expense of friends in England," died, and so did every other child in that "Christian village," and from that day to this not one child in dozens born has survived its first year.

The frequent communications with the civilized world had been of advantage to the missionaries, but measles, grip, diphtheria what not? came on the steamers.

But that is not all, nor, for the tribe, the worst result of the establishing of this mission in the region. Keep in mind that "the very ferocity of the natives of Tierra del Fuego protected them." Those are the words of one of the members of the missionary society, and they were true words. The ferocity of the Yahgans in their native state protected them from the devilish evils left in the wake of sailors who visit aborigines in any part of the world. The sailors, even the sealing sailors, kept well clear of the Yahgans so long as this ferocity lasted.

But the missionaries fully, if "only by degrees," overcame this ferocity and made boast of it, saying it was of "the greatest advantage to commerce." They taught the Yahgans not to kill white men. It would have been better for the Yahgans had a man-o'-war been sent there to kill the half of them rather than that they should have learned that lesson. For, alas, the missionaries made very little, if any, progress in overcoming the Yahgan notion that women might be bought and sold. Indeed, as in the case of Hidugalahgoon already mentioned, where one man had carried off another's squaw, the offender was advised to settle the trouble by paying for the woman.

The forecastle brutes from the Yankee sealers or any other vessels were at last free to go among any Yahgans save the insignificant few at Ushuaia, and to trade liquor and tobacco for women.

To stem the tide of disaster a new station was established at Tekenika Bay, some fifty miles south. It was in charge of the Rev. Mr. Burleigh and his wife until he was overturned in a boat in the bay and drowned, when two of the grown children of the Rev. John Lawrence of Ushuaia, brother and sister, took hold. They have a small cottage, in a wretched climate, and sacrifice almost every comfort to do what they believe to be good for the Yahgans.

But because Yahgan bodies were fitted by nature for nakedness in a bleak desert, and because Yahgan stomachs digest mussels and whale's blubber better than turnip soup or mixed milk and water slightly sweetened, the sacrifices of these young people can only hasten the decay that has fastened on the tribe.

As was said, here was a tribe, 3000 strong, healthy, hearty, and happy in spite of apparent adverse circumstances. They for twenty years were under the lead of a most adroit teacher. They listened to and said they accepted his spiritual teachings; they reluctantly took up his farming and mechanic arts; they eagerly sought his kinds of food and clothing. The missionaries declare the result has been that the whole tribe is civilized. I saw a score of Yahgans, and all to whom I spoke told me they were Christians and that other Yahgans were Christians.

But the truth is that of that tribe of three thousand untrammelled souls less than three hundred can now be found. Their civilization or the evidences of their civilization, rather consists in the use of wretched and dangerous dugouts in place of graceful and safe bark canoes; the ragged cast off clothing of prospectors and seamen; wretched little shanties like those in the New York goat district, and a partial knowledge of English and Spanish.

Worse yet, in place of what the explorers were pleased to call the hideous markings of paint, are the really hideous evidences of diseases that have come since Yahgan "ferocity" ceased to be a "protection" to Yahgan women.

Where the blame lies let the reader judge for himself, but none can dispute that the naked savage, who in the old days stood erect man fashion, and with furious anger fought in defence of wife and daughter or even for plunder, was a nobler being in the sight of God and man than the ragged, cringing hypocrite that he has come to be in these last days.

[end of Chapter IV]