Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Venus in Tahiti: 19 January – 17 February 1916

Venus in Tahiti: 19 January – 17 February 1916

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 09, 2013

(Previous installment)

Wed. Jan 19.

Wash day.

Thurs. Jan 20.

Ironed and received our mail from America. The boys commenced painting the parlor walls changing it from a hideous blue to a light tan color.

Fri. Jan 21. 1916

The Maitai left for New Zealand, taking150 of the best young men of Tahiti to France to fight. Among them were several of our friends, so we went to the wharf to see them off. Mrs. Walker, Langmazeno, Droulett. In the afternoon we held priesthood meeting. Elders Burbidge & Touse were appointed to labor at Marokau.

Sat. Jan 22.

Helped with the Saturday cleaning,.In the evening called to see Terai and took her a stock of plantains.

Sun. Jan 23.

Taught the childrens class in Sunday School & attended Sacrament meeting after which Sister Compton and I called to see Tuco & his white wife who had moved across the street from us. We invited [them] to our evening gospel class and they both came and brought another friend with them.

Mon. Jan 24.

Sewed shirts and bags for the boys who were leaving. Later going with Bros Rossiter and Stephens to see Mauphu’s sister who was ill, and whose husband left Friday for the front. We later called to see Terai & Rua.

Tues. Jan 25.

Washed in the forenoon. The Mlle Leone Louise & Droulet daughter of one of the prominent families of Papeete called and we spent a very pleasant afternoon to-gether. At 7: pm we held a priesthood meeting and Bros Orton & Burton were appointed to remain in Tahiti, while bros. Stephens, Compton & wife, Rossiter and I were to leave the following day for Takaroa. (The parlor had been finished painting and the furniture rubbed with oil and the room has taken on an entirely different air. Such a change from the blue room that it was before the transfiguration.)

Wed. Jan 26, 1916.

We spent the day hurriedly preparing to leave and had our boxes all packed and sent down to the boat when we received word that the boat wouldn’t leave that day. Terai, our dear old Tahitian mother, who came up to see us off suggested that we have a social gathering in the evening, as so many of us were leaving for the islands. So Terai, Sister Compton and I went round to invite some of our friends and the saints to come. On the way home we called to say “good bye” to old Mrs. Henry, the Protestant ministers wife. At 7: pm they all gathered in the large parlor and we spent the evening in singing & short speeches.

Thurs. Jan 27.

We received word that Mahana’s mother was dead and had been buried the day before so Sister Compton and Immediately went down to see her. Several of her girlfriends were also there and she was preparing to go and live with some distant relatives who lived next door, and I was certainly glad of it, for part of her house was occupied by and [sic] wicked drunken women and while we were there and [sic] drunken American sailor came to see her. She understood and spoke a little English and the way he acted and talked to her was something shocking. I cant tell how I felt when I saw Mahana (whose mother & father were both dead now) living in the same house with such people. At first I was so stunned that I couldn’t speak and when I felt myself again I begged her to put the women out of the house, for she being a young girl and alone, would be open to criticism in having such people around, and not only that she might be dragged down to the same condition. At first she didn’t seem to like it, but before I was through she was in tears, and said she would have the women leave as quickly as possible and try to rent it to respectable people

Fri. Jan 28.

Waited all day, expecting the boat to leave at any time.

Sat. Jan 29.

The France Australe was finally ready so we sailed away from Papeete at 10: am. We ate breakfast at 11: am, but were soon after feeling pretty sea sick especially Sister Compton, who reached [wretched] so hard that her fingernails began to turn black. Elders Burbidge & Touse also left the same day for Marokau on the Tearia.

Sun. Jan 30.

Came in sight of Makaita in the early morning arriving there about noon. It is a very peculiarly constructed island rising abruptly on all sides to a height of probably 200 ft up out of the sea & the top of iti s a flat table land covered with green vegetation. The whole island is composed almost entirely of phosphate. We left the same afternoon, and were still in sight of it the following day on account of having no wind.

Mon. Jan 31.

Arrived at Tikehau at 11:am. That night Elder Compton & wife & Elder Rossiter and I went on shore to sleep with a very nice family of Josephites, but there were so many mosquitoes that we were glad to get back to the boat again.

Tues. Feb.1, 1916. to Mon. 7 1916.

We remained altogether at Tikihau eight days. The work of loading on copra was finished by Fri. the 4th. But we were unable to go through the pass until Sun on account of the high sea.

Sun Feb 6.

After our 11: o’clock breakfast we sailed out into the sea once more, and we were not at all sorry because we were $3. each per day – the longer we tarried the boat fare went up accordingly. Several hours out of Tikihau we met the Zelie, which was also owned by the Roule Co. They having a very strong machine towed us along for several hours in the attempt to get to Rairoa that night. Finding that we couldn’t do so they let us drop, and we practically drifted the rest of that night.

Mon. Feb. 7.

We came in sight of Rairoa at 7: am. Arriving at the pass we dare not enter on account of the strong outgoing current. At 11: am the Zelie which was inside the pass came out & towed us safely through. We anchored at a little village near the pass where the water was quite shallow & we were able to see the bottom of the sea which looked like a beautiful underground garden of all forms & colors of coral rock with myriads of bright colored fish swimming in & out among the rocks. The sailors had great sport fishing and we soon had a nice mess for supper. That night we all had a swim in the sea.

Tues Feb 8.

We sailed to the opposite side of the lagoon to load on several tons of copra.

Wed Feb. 9.

Wed evening we sailed back to the pass where we anchored for the night. The white captain & super cargo on board, together with most of the native sailors are a vile lot and at every stopping place they have a big drunken celebration (with the native girls) – they usually keep it up all night, singing & dancing & yelling up & down the shore on the white sand in the moonlight.

Thurs. Feb.10, 1916.

Was my 25th birthday and my husband bought a 5 lb. can of common candy for a birthday present. At 5. am we left Rairoa and had very pleasant sailing all day. We had become quite accustomed to the rocking of the boat and were not quite so ill as usual.

Fri. Feb. 11.

We arrived at Takarava at 3 pm. Just as we were about to enter the pass, the machine stopped on us, and we were in danger for some time of being washed on the rocks. However we lowered a small boat into the water, and several of the sailors rowed out to sea in it pulling our boat with ropes to keep it from d rifting ashore until the machine was in working order again.

Sat. Feb. 12.

I took a few clothes to shore to wash, which I did sitting on the ground native fashion. In the evening we all bathed in the governors cement bath house.

Sun Feb 13.

As we have two Mormon families at Takarava, we held Sunday Services with them. In Sunday school Elder Rossiter took the grown peoples class and I the childrens class. It had been so long since they had missionaries with them that they sat with their eyes wide open and drank in every word. After Sunday School Pres. Rossiter baptized [blank] a Kiau, a young native boy ten years old. We gathered by the side of the sea & sang a song & prayed before the baptism as is the custom here, and when it was over the young boy shook hands with every one present. At the afternoon Sacrament Meeting he was confirmed.

Mon. Feb 14.

The little boy who was baptized rowed out to the ship with a whole vaa full of pape paares & raw & cooked uto, a growth that forms in the sprouting cocoanuts. That night we intended to hymeneraa, but the sailors having finished their work had put our boxes into the hatch, and we didn’t have any song books out.

Tues. Feb 15.

We raised anchor at 5 am and by 7: am were sailing on our way to Takapoto. During the night it rained, but Sister and I preferred staying on deck and get wet rather than crowd down into the foul smelling hole (or in other words cabin) so we spread a canvas over us to keep out the rain. It rained ever so much harder than we expected and we were soon floating around, mattress and all, in a regular pool of water and the canvas let in the rain like a strainer so after we had a thorough soaking we were forced to go down below. We threw our wet quilt down between two natives & two Chinese and slept the rest of the night, now and again waking to push someones dirty rough foot out of our face, or pinch a greedy Chinaman who had us nearly crowded off of our quilt. The cabin on a rainy night certainly made a beautiful picture, with men women & children without regard as to color class or creed, all crowed together, sleeping under the table, on top of the table or any other available space, but once down there we all became so ill that no one seemed to care who was sleeping on the same pillow with them.

We had a little red faced huntch backed Catholic Priest on board who usually managed to get a place on top of the table whenever it rained. He spent all of his time while on board smoking, drinking, playing cards and reading the Bible in turns. One day while he sat smoking his pipe a young Josephite girl about ten years of age, asked him why he did so when he was a minister of the gospel & told him if he didnt stop it his office would be taken away from him, whereupon he took several cigars out of his pocket and told her to give them to those Mormon missionaries. That made her angry, and she said that they were real missionaries and wouldnt think of drinking and smoking the way he did. Elder Rossiter asked him several times about some principles of the Catholic faith and each time he turned the subje[c]t, finally telling him that while he was on board a vessel he didn’t care to discuss religion as that was his work only when he was on certain islands. The captain and other officers on the boat were Catholics too and they had a fine time making all sorts of unpleasant remarks and laughing about the Mormons. They and the other white passengers ate at the table in the cabin while we who were paying $3 each per day, ate that which they left off of the dirty floor, and sometimes there was only enough left to feed one & there were five of us. One time they sent up the head of a pig for us, after they had eaten the meat of a whole pig, and another time they sent up one can of sardines for our evening meal. We very often had only three plates one fork & one spoon for the five of us, so we ate with our fingers like the rest of the natives.

Wed. Feb 16.

We arrived at Takapoto, ten miles distant from Takaroa where we left elders Stephens & Compton, to remain until conference time when they were to join us at Takaroa. We left late in the afternoon and were not able to land at Takaroa that night so we drifted until day break between the two islands. During the night we got another good drenching, sleeping on deck in water about two inches deep.

Thurs. Feb 17, 1916.

One year ago to-day since we left home. It has certainly been the shortest year of my life. It seems but a few months since we were in our home in Utah, still it also seems to me that this land had always been my home. We landed at Takaroa at 7: am, and were taken straight to the home of Mapuhi a Mapuhi whose home has been kept open for the missionaries for years. Most of the people of the island were in the interior of the island planting cocoanut trees, but those who were in the village were as happy as children to see us & were struggling one with another to help carry our baggage for us. Mapuhi’s house which by the way is much the nicest house of any I have been in the Tuamotu Islands is a little distance from the rest of the houses, & the grounds which are enclosed by a neat fence are planted in straight rows of young cocoanut trees, and all around the house he has flowers and vines growing in soil that has been carried from Tahiti. The house is surrounded on three sides by a wide porch on which are large jardiniers of flowers. In the front room they have matting on the floor, curtains at the windows, pictures on the wall, tables, chairs, little stands, bead portiers in the doorway and everything that is needed to make a room comfortable & cheerful. In the dining room they have a large dining table, chairs, and a sideboard something I have never seen in a natives house before. Our bedrooms are clean and comfortable, with painted wall & floors, a neat bed, a large mirror and a little stand that serves for a dresser. Mapuhi is half English and his wife Ruita who is very pretty is half Spanish. They were both educated at the Catholic school in Papeete and seem more like white people than natives. Both speak French fluently.

At three pm we attended Relief Society meeting but there were only three sisters present, most of the women being in the interior. Both Elder Rossiter and I spoke to them for a few minutes. We retired very early after having a hymn & prayers with Maphuis family on account of being so weary after our twenty days trip on the sea.

(To be continued)



  1. A 5-lb. can of common candy, uto, drunken sailors, mosquitoes, what an experience!

    Someone put a link to a picture of the Rossiters a few weeks back. I was too busy to comment, but I have just gone back to see that again. What a lovely picture. Thank you, David R.

    Here’s his link again. (Rossiters and unknown missionaries.)

    Comment by Amy T — June 9, 2013 @ 9:30 am

  2. Amy, thanks for posting that link, I missed it first time round. Are the white suits what the Tahitian missionaries customarily wore? They look like naval officers or waiters!

    Comment by Alison — June 9, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

  3. The identification of the missionaries, according to writing on the back of an original in the CHL, is: Elders Steadman, Benson, McCullough, Orton, Monk, and the two Rossiters. I’ll fill in the first names sometime soon …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 18, 2013 @ 9:30 am