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24 June 1848 - Father Jean Chatelut to Father Jean-Claude Colin, Anatom, Vanuatu

Translated by Mary Williamson, May 2017

Based on the document sent, APM ONC 208 Chatelut.

Sheet of paper forming four written pages, an annotation in an unknown hand is at the top of the first page, Poupinel’s annotation is on the fourth page.

[p.1 at the top of the page]
To the Very Reverend Father Colin, Superior General of the Society of Mary (Lyon)
[p.4] [in Poupinel’s handwriting]
Saint Joseph’s Bay, Annatom 24th June 1848 / Father Chatelut

Jesus Mary Joseph
Annatom, 24th June 1848

My Very Reverend Father,
In Tahiti we have received no direct news of our colleagues in New Caledonia, but two letters, where the unhappy events in Cristobal were related, were brought from Sydney by the Falcon when we were in harbour, and we noted the course that we needed to follow. Here are the two extracts:
Extract from the letter from Mr Baudry, agent of the Oceanic Society in Sydney, to Mr Touchard, agent of the same society in Tahiti, dated 20th January 1848:
The Reverend Fathers Rougeyron and Roudaire who represent the mission to New Caledonia, will probably take advantage of the opportunity that has been offered to them by the Anonyme to go and establish themselves on one of the small islands in port Saint Vincent. As yet the matter has not been finally decided and I do not present it as a certainty. Whatever might happen, the time of their departure is not far off and it seems certain that very little time will pass before they are established in this area.
Extract from a letter from Mr Faramond, French consul in Sydney, to the governor of Tahiti, dated 22nd January 1848.
The Reverend Fathers Rougeyron and Roudaire, of the mission to New Caledonia, seem inclined to profit from the presence of the Anonyme to go back there and rebuild their establishment, which would provisionally be situated on an islet, facing port Saint Vincent, on the West coast; and if this is impossible, they would go to Annatom, the last island in the New Hebrides, where an Englishman, who has lived there for several years, has offered them his house.
We got under way on the 3rd April to sail to the Samoan archipelago. The winds often failed us; we did not anchor in Apia (Upolu) until Good Friday. It was Easter Saturday on the island, so we conformed to the local calendar. [1] The following day we solemnly celebrated Easter in Father Padel’s large chapel.
A nun, Sister Vincent, nee Ville, in Châlons, whose family is originally from Upper Saint Martin, died in Apia on 30th April, after three days of illness.
Father Padel has a Brother [2] who is above praise; his courage and humility are remarkable. The natives sing his praises in Upolu and Savai’i. There, to work hard means to work in the way that Sacopo (Jacques) does. No letters yet from our Fathers in Samoa, but with the instructions that we have received, we will be able to establish ourselves with caution: We have asked the captain to take us to Annatom and, if we do not find our Fathers on this island, at port Saint Vincent, then we might be able to learn for certain whether they were established there. We were guided by the letter from Father Roudaire to a Father from Picpus in Valparaiso, of which I have sent you an extract, in which he tells us that we should go to Annatom, and we were guided also by two letters from Sydney previously mentioned and because of what Father Dubreul had told us of Annatom. We would have landed on this island if, having arrived there, we had received no news of our Fathers. The captain however, formally refused to undertake any plan to take us to Saint Vincent, saying that he had only undertaken to go to Ballade, where we are no longer able to go. I replied to him: You are playing with words; however do as you wish; but take us to Annatom and leave us there. He still refused, adding that the information that we had pertaining to this island was insufficient and that he was convinced of it; this conviction was based on what people who knew nothing about Annatom said and not on the written evidence that we had given him; these other people had, it seems, produced an absolutely contrary opinion to ours. The reason for his refusal, I believe, was that he wished to leave for China as soon as possible. I had a lively discussion with him, which did not, however, overstep the limits. He finished by saying that he would unload our goods. I told him, in an equally frank manner that if we gave in, it was only because of material pressure. He offered us a schooner from the Tahiti agency, the Léocadia, commanded by a captain from Normandy, Mr Fleury. He had given her the order to follow us and she anchored a few days after we arrived in Apia. We were determined to stay aboard the Stella. We had paid to stay in good surroundings; we had a right to refuse an inferior vessel, especially after the stresses of a long passage. Mr Descars agreed that we would be less comfortable on the schooner than on his ship, but he added that this consideration should not be important to us. We had other reasons as well, to not to wish to change our ship: a large ship impresses the islanders; our possessions and the equipment for the mission could only suffer from being unloaded and loaded again. For a fact, in Apia we had lost a considerable quantity of wine, following the piercing of the barrels by insects in the shop of the agent of the Society; and then on the schooner, which leaked water down the mast, we suffered further damage. In the end, we were nevertheless obliged to reach an amicable arrangement. We agreed that the schooner would take us to Annatom free of charge; and we conditionally chartered her for Saint Vincent and even for Sydney.

The Stella del Mare raised anchor on 4th May and set sail for China. We were all housed in Father Padel’s hut until our departure for our respective missions. Father Palazy and Brother Sauveur left on one of the schooners from the agency in Apia, the Clara; the ship went via Futuna, so as to pick up Bishop Bataillon and take him to Wallis. On its return to Apia, the schooner will take Fathers Trapenard and Ducrettet to Sydney. On 16th May we embarked on the Léocadia. She was not designed to take passengers; we were all huddled in a corner of the hold amidst an ants nest of cockroaches who passed to and fro over us during the night and infiltrated our provisions. Where would we find our Fathers? Such were our constant thoughts. We had our fears, but also our high hopes. We were longing to arrive at Annatom and we were making slow progress: the niggling thoughts that worried us seemed to kill the wind. Finally on 27th May, we approached the desired island. It was late. Captain Fleury who did not know where the anchorage was, gave the order to advance under the small sails. Soon there was a shout from the topmast: a three- master under sail was heading for the open sea; perhaps it was the Arch d’Alliance. Immediately the order was given to hoist all the sails and to steer alongside the ship. It was in vain; the night closed in quickly; recognition became impossible; we had to resolve to tack to and fro all night. The next day we entered the harbour before midday. As soon as we were anchored, we saw a missionary coming towards us, our Fathers, our Fathers. There was great joy. It was Father Rougeyron with two of our Brothers. He had left Sydney on the Arch d’Alliance on Good Friday for port Saint Vincent with Father Roudaire, four Brothers, a workman and the five young New Caledonians who had followed them. During the voyage they had made a novena with Mr Marceau, to ask God if he could let them know if it was his will that they establish themselves in this place. They had approached the islet where they wished to set up their tent. After having spent three days there, disgusted with their site, they had set sail for Annatom where they had been for a fortnight.
It was indeed the Arch d’Alliance that we had seen the night before. Mr Marceau was heading towards the island of Fudgioué, that we call Halgan (in the Loyalty archipelago). [3] He was taking Father Roudaire who wished to found a mission there. Father Rougeyron had decided that Father Gougon and I, with Brother Joseph would go to Halgan to join Father Roudaire. On 5th June we left on the Lèocardia. On 7th we were near to the island that we were going to evangelise. The Arche d’Alliance had just sailed; we managed to meet up with her before arriving at our anchorage. Mr Marceau came alongside the schooner and told us of the horrible trap that had been planned for him. The islanders of Halgan had planned to massacre him and his crew and take over his ship. Yet he was bringing back to them 18 of their compatriots who had been exiled in Sydney by the English sandalwood traders and in January he had brought back from Rotuma 30 of them who had escaped from the violence of some Englishmen who wanted to make slaves of them. From this behaviour, you will understand the savages. So we tacked about so as to return to Annatom. We arrived there on 14th June at 10 o’clock in the evening. The Arch d’Alliance only left us the following morning.
I will leave to Father Rougeyron the task of telling you about the fine situation we are in and of the devotion of an Englishman to our cause. (His name is Mr Paden). [4] We have felt the protection of Mary in a very desirable manner, as she led us straight to Annatom, benedicam Mariam in omni tempore. We hope to divide up soon to go and found another mission elsewhere. I will be part of that expedition. Wherever we go, we will regard ourselves as victims who should be prepared to sacrifice ourselves. Of all the islands, there are few where the missionaries do not have dangers to face. A few days before our arrival, 7 leagues away from Annatom, on the island of Tanna, the natives ate the crew of one of Mr Paden’s ships and these acts of cannibalism are not rare on the other islands. We beg you, my Very Reverend Father, to grant us the support of your very fervent prayers and to recommend us to the prayers of our Fathers and Brothers.
The day of Corpus Christi we sang a solemn mass within the walls of our house which is under construction. Father Prosper accompanied us on the organ. Mr Marceau with his officers and crew took part in the holy mass. I was greatly uplifted to see Mr Marceau. His face shines with holiness. His is an ardent soul who only longs for God’s reign.
My Very Reverend Father, I wrote to you twice from Valparaiso. Since then, our Fathers and Brothers have remained much the same. Only one thing has troubled us and that has been to see Father Trapenard, especially since Valparaiso, separate himself from us in a way, so that he seems opposed to us, and tags along behind a foreign missionary who misled him and who is nevertheless the only person whose advice he respected.
Mr Marceau was very surprised that Mr Descars had not taken us to Annatom. After reading two letters, of which I will send you an extract, he openly blamed his stubbornness.
We found it very tiring aboard the Léocadia; we were not used to the sudden movements of a small ship. For me, I was particularly troubled by seasickness throughout the whole passage. From Samoa to Annatom, from Annatom to Fadgioui [Fiji] and from Fadgioui to Annatom, God be praised, I suffered greatly for him.
The two ships will sail next week. Mr Marceau will leave for Tahiti; there as in Valparaiso, he will take long respites; he is sending the schooner to Sydney so she can take on cargo for Tahiti. Captain Fleury will take our letters to Sydney. Several of those that are not urgent will be entrusted to Mr Marceau.
I have the honour to be,
my Very Reverend Father,
your very obedient
and devoted child,
missionary apostolic.


  1. In 1848 Easter Saturday fell on 22nd April.
  2. Brother Jacques Peloux (cf. doc. 709, § 2 and 14 and n. 7).
  3. the island of Ouvéa (cf. doc. 694, § 1 ).
  4. James Paddon (cf. doc. 754, § 2, n. 1).

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