New Hebrides

New Hebrides

a group of volcanic islands situated in the South Pacific Ocean, to the north-east of New Caledonia, and to the west of the Fijis, extending in S. lat. between 140 and 200, and in E. long. between 166° and 170°, and having a total area estimated at 5700 square miles, are regarded as the most easterly point of the western division of Polynesia. The group, which was discovered by Quiros in 1606, but not fully known until explored by Cook in 1773, embraces Espiritu Santo (65 miles long by 20 broad), Mallicollo (60 miles long by 28 broad), Ambrim, Annatom or Aneityum, Erromango, Tanna, with an active volcano, and Aurora. Most of the group are hilly and well wooded, some even mountainous, and present a luxuriant vegetation. The only animal of consequence is a diminutive species of hog, which when full grown is no larger than a rabbit. The inhabitants, who are of the Papuan Negro race, number less than 100,000. They are less intelligent than the other South Sea Islanders, very fierce and excessively dirty. Erromango is a well-known name in missionary history, being the scene of the barbarous massacre of the Rev. John Williams — generally called the Martyr of Erromango (Nov. 20, 1839). Two years after the death of Williams the London Missionary Society sent native teachers from the eastern group of Polynesia, and they met a hearty welcome, especially in Annatom. In 1842 European missionaries attempted work at Tanna, but the hostility of the natives to all whites because of fear lest they should take them into slavery for Australia, as was so frequently done, prevented any successful issue. Several of the native teachers were murdered (at Futuna); others remained and labored but without any apparent result. But the London Society would not see the work abandoned, and frequently sent the mission-ship to the New Hebrides, and furnished teachers when there seemed to be an opening. A new aera dawned in 1848, when the Reformed Presbyterians established their mission. By 1852, when only two laborers occupied the field, Christianity gained its first real strong footing, and by 1860 all Annatom, then 3500 inhabitants strong, was free from the cruelties and extravagances of heathenism, and in close alliance with Christian morals and measures. "Instead of a number of naked savages on the beach, armed with clubs and spears, to disputte your landing, you see a number of quiet, peaceable men and womene, with children, in front of their houses, engaged in domestic occupations. The husband may he seen feeding a litter of pigs with cocoanuts, and the wife kindlling the fire to cook the meal for dinner or supper, while the children all have the look of happiness and contentment in their countenances. The most conspicuous among the houses and villages are the church and school-houses and mission premises. The church is itself a wonder of architecture, constructed by native workmen, under the missionary's superintendence. It is built of stone obtained on the island, and is beautifully plastered and whitewashed. Lime is obtained from the coral which abounds on the shore. This church is capable of accommodating a thousand natives, when seated closely together, and is pronounced by competent judges to be one of the finest places of worship in the South Seas. The teachers are expected to give instruction in reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic. The book used all over the island is the New Testament, or some Gospel in a separate form, such as Mark or Luke, which were printed in a detached form before the New Testament was printed in full. Almost all the natives can read, and some of them very fluently." (Boston Traveller, June, 1875.)

In 1876, the mission was transferred to the Free Church of Scotland, from whose report for 1893 we cite the following particulars:

ANEITUM ISLAND: ANELCUAHAT (south side), Unwej, Atnumej, Myathpoeg: ANAME (Fourth side), Itan, Uca. — Rev. James Lawrie, ordained missionary; 32 native teachers; 34 elders and deacons. FUTUNA ISLAND: Ipau, Isia. — Dr. William Green, medical missionary; 3 male native teachers, 1 deacon. The Presbyterian Churches of Canada, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, and Otago support 17 missionaries, besides the above. There are thus in all 19 European missionaries, and about 150 native teachers. The vernacular languages are the Aneytumese and the Futunese.

In Erromango missionary Gordon sought a foothold in 1856, but in 1861 he and his wife fell martyrs to their faith, while many natives who had embraced Christianity were persecuted. Yet Christian teachers and missionaries continue their work, among them a brother of Gordon, and of the population, which in 1867 amounted to upwards of 5000. 100 had accepted Christianity and 15 submitted to baptism. Tanna, with its 1500 inhabitants, has had missionaries since 1858, though native teachers advocated Christianity before that time. Much opposition was encountered there, too, and only recently the work opens more favorably. There are now two stations. Vati is now also subject to missionary labors, and very recently mission work has been attempted on the largest island of the group. This important mission work of the New Hebrides is now virtually under control of the Presbyterian denomination. A missionship, entitled the Dayspring, serves this field, and sustains connection with the Australian colonies. See Grundemann, Missions-Atlas, pt. 3, No. 4; Inglis,. New Hebrides (Lond. 1890, 8vo); Paton, Autobiography (N. Y. 1891,2 vols. 12mo).

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