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E-text prepared by the Canadian Institute for Historical
Microreproduction, Wallace McLean, David Garcia, and the Project Gutenberg
Online Distributed Proofreading Team

No. 556


With Some Interesting Particulars Respecting the Natives of that Country

Printed for the Religious Tract Society


[Price One Penny]


The Moravian Missionaries on the coast of Labrador (a part of North
America) for many years suffered much from the severity of the climate,
and the savage disposition of the natives. In the year 1782, the
brethren, Liebisch and Turner, experienced a remarkable preservation of
their lives; the particulars show the dangers the Missionaries underwent
in pursuing their labours. To this Narrative are added some further
particulars, which show their labours were not without success.

Early on March the 11th, they left Nain to go to Okkak, a journey of
150 miles. They travelled in a sledge drawn by dogs, and another sledge
with Esquimaux joined them, the whole party consisting of five men, one
woman, and a child. The weather was remarkably fine, and the track over
the frozen sea was in the best order, so that they travelled at the
rate of six or seven miles an hour. All therefore were in good spirits,
hoping to reach Okkak in two or three days. Having passed the islands
in the bay, they kept at a considerable distance from the shore, both
to gain the smoothest part of the ice, and to avoid the high and rocky
promontory of Kiglapeit. About eight o'clock they met a sledge with
Esquimaux driving towards the land, who intimated that it might be well
not to proceed; but as the missionaries saw no reason for it, they paid
no regard to these hints, and went on. In a while, however, their own
Esquimaux remarked, that there was a swell under the ice. It was then
hardly perceptible, except on applying the ear close to the ice, when a
hollow grating and roaring noise was heard. The weather remained clear,
and no sudden change was expected. But the motion of the sea under the
ice had grown so perceptible as rather to alarm our travellers, and they
began to think it prudent to keep closer to the shore. The ice in many
places had fissures and cracks, some of which formed chasms of one or
two feet wide; but as they are not uncommon, and the dogs easily leap
over them, the sledge following without danger, they are terrible only
to new comers.

As soon as the sun declined, the wind increased and rose to a storm.
The snow was driven about by whirl winds, both on the ice and from off
the peaks of the high mountains, and filled the air. At the same time
the swell had increased so much, that its effects upon the ice became
very extraordinary and alarming. The sledges, instead of gliding along
smoothly upon an even surface, sometimes ran with violence after the
dogs, and shortly after seemed with difficulty to ascend the rising
hill; for the elasticity of so vast a body of ice, of many leagues
square, supported by a troubled sea, though in some places three or four
yards in thickness, would, in some degree, occasion a motion not unlike
that of a sheet of paper upon the surface of a rippling stream. Noises
were now likewise heard in many directions, like the report of cannon,
owing to the bursting of the ice at some distance.

The Esquimaux drove with all haste towards the shore, as it plainly
appeared the ice would break and disperse in the open sea. When the
sledges approached the coast, the prospect before them was truly
terrific. The ice, having broken loose from the rocks, was forced up
and down, grinding and breaking into a thousand pieces against the
precipices, with a tremendous noise, which, added to the raging of
the wind, and the snow driving about in the air, nearly deprived the
travellers of the power of hearing and seeing any thing distinctly.

To make the land at any risk, was now the only hope left, but it was
with the utmost difficulty the frighted dogs could be forced forward,
the whole body of the ice sinking frequently below the rocks, then
rising above them. As the only moment to land was that when the ice
gained the level of the shore, the attempt was extremely nice and
hazardous. However, by God's mercy, it succeeded; both sledges gained
the shore, and were drawn up the beach, though with much difficulty.

The travellers had hardly time to reflect with gratitude to God for
their safety, when that part of the ice from which they had just now
made good their landing, burst asunder, and the water forcing itself
from below, covered and precipitated it into the sea. In an instant,
the whole mass of ice, extending for several miles from the coast, and
as far as the eye could reach, burst, and was overwhelmed by the rolling
waves. The sight was tremendous and awfully grand; the large fields of
ice raising themselves out of the water, striking against each other,
and plunging into the deep, with a violence not to be described, and a
noise like the discharge of innumerable batteries of heavy guns. The
darkness of the night; the roaring of the wind and the sea, and the
dashing of the waves and ice against the rocks, filled the travellers
with sensations of awe and horror, so as almost to deprive them of the
power of utterance. They stood overwhelmed with astonishment at their
miraculous escape, and even the heathen Esquimaux expressed gratitude
to God for their deliverance.

The Esquimaux now began to build a hut with snow, about thirty paces
from the beach, but before they had finished their work, the waves
reached the place where the sledges were secured, and they were with
difficulty saved from being washed into the sea. About nine o'clock
all of them crept into the snow-house, thanking God for this place
of refuge; for the wind was piercingly cold, and so violent, that it
required great strength to stand against it.

Before they entered this habitation, they could not help once more
turning their eyes to the sea, which was now free from ice. They beheld
with horror, mingled with gratitude for their safety, the enormous waves
driving furiously before the wind and approaching the shore, where with
dreadful noise they dashed against the rocks, foaming and filling the
air with spray. The whole company now got their supper, and having sung
an evening hymn in the Esquimaux language, lay down to rest about ten
o'clock. The Esquimaux were soon fast asleep, but brother Liebisch
could not get any rest, partly on account of the dreadful roaring of
the wind, and partly owing to a sore throat, which gave him much pain.
His wakefulness proved the deliverance of the whole party from sudden
destruction. About two o'clock in the morning, he perceived some salt
water dropping from the roof of the snow-house upon his lips. On a
sudden, a tremendous wave broke close to the house, discharging a
quantity of water into it; a second soon followed, and carried away
the slab of snow placed as a door before the entrance. The missionaries
having roused the sleeping Esquimaux, they instantly set to work, One of
them with a knife cut a passage through the house, and each seizing some
part of the baggage, threw it out on a higher part of the beach; brother
Turner assisting them. Brother Liebisch and the woman and child fled
to a neighbouring eminence. The latter were wrapt up by the Esquimaux
in a large skin, and the former took shelter behind a rock, for it was
impossible to stand against the wind, snow, and sleet. Scarcely had the
company retreated, when an enormous wave carried away the whole house.

They now found themselves a second time delivered from the most imminent
danger of death; but the remaining part of the night, before the
Esquimaux could seek and find another and safer place for a snow-house,
were hours of great distress and very painful reflections. Before the
day dawned, the Esquimaux cut a hole in a large drift of snow, to serve
as a shelter to the woman and child and the two missionaries. Brother
Liebisch, however, owing to the pain in his throat, could not bear the
closeness of the air, and was obliged to sit down at the entrance,
being covered with skins, to guard him against the cold. As soon as
it was light, they built another snow-house, and miserable as such an
accommodation must be, they were glad and thankful to creep into it.

The missionaries had taken but a small stock of provisions with them,
merely sufficient for the short journey to Okkak. Joel, his wife and
child, and Kassigiak, a heathen sorcerer, who was with them, had
nothing. They were obliged therefore to divide the small stock into
daily portions, especially as there appeared no hopes of soon quitting
this place and reaching any dwellings. They therefore resolved to serve
out no more than a biscuit and a half per day to each. The missionaries
remained in the snowhouse, and every day endeavoured to boil so much
water over their lamps, as might supply them with two cups of coffee
a-piece. Through mercy they were preserved in good health, and, quite
unexpectedly, brother Liebisch recovered on the first day of his sore
throat. The Esquimaux also kept up their spirits, and even Kassigiak,
though a wild heathen, declared; that it was proper to be thankful that
they were still alive; adding, that if they had remained a little longer
on the ice yesterday all their bones would have been broken in a short

Towards noon of the 13th, the weather cleared up, and the sea was seen
as far as the eye could reach, quite clear and free from ice; but the
weather being very stormy, the Esquimaux could not quit the snow-house,
which made them very low-spirited and melancholy. They, however, possess
one advantage, namely, the power of going to sleep when they please,
and, if need be, they will sleep for days and night together.

In the evening of the 15th, the sky became clear, and their hopes
revived. Mark and Joel went out to reconnoitre, and reported that the
ice had acquired a considerable degree of solidity, and might soon
afford a safe passage. The poor dogs had now nearly fasted four days,
but in the prospect of a speedy release, the missionaries allowed to
each a few morsels of food. The temperature of the air having been
rather mild, it occasioned new source of distress, for, from the warmth
of the inhabitants, the roof of the snow-house began to melt, which
occasioned a continual dropping, and by degrees made every thing soaking
wet. The missionaries considered this the greatest hardship they had to
endure, for they had not a dry thread about them, nor a dry place to
lie in.

On the 16th, early, the sky cleared, but the fine particles of snow were
driven about like clouds. Their present distress dictated the necessity
of venturing something to reach the habitations of men, and yet they
were rather afraid of passing over the newly frozen sea, and could not
determine what to do. Brother Turner went again with Mark to examine the
ice, and both seemed satisfied that it had acquired sufficient strength.
They therefore came to a final resolution to return to Nain, committing
themselves to the protection of the Lord.

Notwithstanding the wind had considerably increased, accompanied with
heavy showers of snow and sleet, they ventured to set off at half past
ten o'clock in the forenoon of the 19th. Mark ran all the way round
Kiglapeit before the sledge to find a good track, and about one o'clock,
through God's mercy, they were out of danger and reached the Bay.
Here they found a good track upon smooth ice, and made a meal upon the
remnant of their provisions. Thus refreshed, they resolved to proceed
without stopping till they reached Nain, where they arrived at twelve
o'clock at night.

It may easily be conceived with what gratitude to God the whole family
at Nain bade them welcome. During the storm, they had considered with
some dread, what might be the fate of their brethren, though its
violence was not felt so much there. Added to this, the hints of the
Esquimaux had considerably increased their apprehensions for their
safety, and their fears began to get the better of their hopes. All,
therefore, joined most fervently in praise and thanksgiving to God,
for this signal deliverance.

For many years the conversion of the heathen in Labrador, not only
proceeded very slowly, but was attended with many discouraging
circumstances. The missionaries had patiently persevered in preaching to
the natives, and watching every opportunity to make them attentive to
the best interests of their soils: but reaped little fruit from their
labours. Visits were frequent, and there was in general no want of
hearers to address, but they showed no disposition to be instructed.
If even a salutary impression was occasionally made on their minds, it
was not abiding. Some families were indeed collected in the different
settlements, but after staying there the winter, they mostly moved away
again in summer, and apparently forgot all they had heard.

Before the close of the year 1804, a new period commenced. A fire from
the Lord was kindled among the Esquimaux, accompanied with the clearest
evidence of being the effect of the operations of the divine Spirit on
their hearts. It commenced at Hopedale, the very place which presented
the most discouraging prospect.

When the Esquimaux of that place returned from their summer excursions,
the missionaries were delighted to find, that they not only had been
preserved from sinful practices, but had greatly increased in the
knowledge of divine truth. They had obtained an humbling insight into
the corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, and the wretched state
of a person void of faith in Christ. This constrained them to cry for
mercy, and gladly to accept salvation on the terms of the gospel: and
some afforded encouraging hopes, that they had found forgiveness of sins
in the blood of Christ, by which their souls were filled with peace
in believing. Out of the abundance of the heart their mouths spake of
the love and power of Jesus. Their artless but energetic declarations
impressed the rest of the inhabitants. They began to feel the necessity
of true conversion; and in a short time all the adults appeared
earnestly to seek peace with God. Even several of the children were
awakened. The missionaries were daily visited by people, who either
inquired "what they must do to be saved," or testified of the grace of
God manifested to their souls.

The progress of the mission, in the sequel, supplies sufficient proof,
that the effect of the gospel, just related, was not a wild fire, or the
mere consequence of a momentary impression, but a divine work wrought in
the hearts of the natives by the Spirit of God himself. The missionaries
frequently mention the attention and diligence shown in the schools,
both by adults, and children, and the delight and fervour with which
they engage in their family devotions, and in conversations with each
other respecting the influence of the gospel on their own souls. Their
behaviour at public worship likewise very strikingly differed from that
of former years, with regard to the eagerness with which they now
attended the house of God, and their deportment during the performance
of divine service. On one occasion the missionaries remark, "We no
longer see bold, undaunted heathen sitting before us, with defiance or
ridicule in their looks; but people expecting, a blessing, desirous to
experience the power of the word of life, shedding tears of repentance,
and their whole appearance evincing devotion and earnest inquiry."

Christians! does not this narrative present us with some useful subjects
for reflection?




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