Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Venus in Tahiti: 28 August – 14 September 1917

Venus in Tahiti: 28 August – 14 September 1917

By: Ardis E. Parshall - December 15, 2013

(Previous installment)

Tues. Aug 28, 1917

Besides all the other sick to look after I was called in to Kuraingos, who gave birth to the dearest little baby girl, which was almost as white as a white baby. Attended gospel class at 7: pm.

Wed. Aug 29, 1917

Spent most of the day working with the sick. All day yesterday & to-day an old native woman has sat massaging the new baby’s nose, so that it would have a white man’s nose, she says she doesnt want it to have a “flat frying pan” for a nose like the rest of the Maoris.

Thurs. Aug. 30, 1917

With sick all day. Relief Society meet at 7: pm.

Takume Aug 31, 1917

Most of the sick children are much better to-day. Marie a Mapuhi however seems to be getting worse, so they had the elders administer to her.

Sat. Sept. 1, 1917

Marie is much better. Has four eye teeth coming through. Mapuna and Mahia made a nice new white poke hat for Pres. Elders Davis & Robertson sent us a nice dish of squash for supper. After evening prayer, which we hold under a grove of palm trees with the native evening, we Elders gathered together & sang for an hour or more, sitting on the white sand in the light of a full tropical moon.

Sun. Sept. 2, 1917

Attended meetings & visited the sick. We did not hold Sunday School, so that all of our people could attend a meeting that Governor Denio had called. We all walked over in a body. Pai a Mapuhi carrying the flag pole at the head of the procession, which he planted into the ground, after the Governor had personally led us to our place. When we all arranged we struck up the Marseilles (which we had been practising for a week) and we also sang it again at the finish of the Governors speech whereat the gov. made a deep bow & came over and shook hands with us, thanking us for our patriotic demonstration & our interest in teaching it to the native people. The chief subject of the Governor’s speech was economy & the preservation of food-stuff.

Just before night meeting I was called into Temanaia’s, who was having severe pains in her neck & breast. She was lying on the floor without any clothing on, and she looked so strange out of her eyes & refused to cover herself up that I began to think she was possessed. I covered her up and kept changing hot wet towels to the afflicted parts until the pain was gone & she began to act all right again. I called again to see her after meeting & she was quite well.

Mon. Sept. 3, 1917

Pres. went to the other side of the island with Mapuhi & some native boys to get some tin roofing with which to enlarge the shell house. I had quite a spell of dysentery & vomiting all day & night. Kuraingo & Faukura have named their new baby girl after me. Its name is “Venita Takanga a Faukura.”

Tues. Sept. 4, 1917

Felt better, so I resumed my daily visits among the sick. Mahia gave me three pearl carved fish hooks that her husband had made.

Wed. Sept 5

Kuraingo had a high fever all night & day & began to act as though she was going to have another spell of insanity, like she had at Takaroa 18 months ago, but towards night she was feeling alright again. No doubt giving birth to the baby was too much taxation on her nerves.

Thurs. Sept. 6, 1917

Pres. went out on the launch with Mapuhi to translate an article for one of the conference classes. Elder Monk came over & we had a long talk about the blessings of the Lord that we had enjoyed & how our prayers had been answered. Called to see the sick folks during the day.

Fri. Sept. 7, 1917

Wrote letters. Went over to Mapuhis at night with Pres. & while they were translating together, I had a long talk with Ruita & Punau. Kuraingo has been under the care of the Catholic priest the past few days & to-day she was taken over to the city where she could be near him. She has been steadily getting worse since she has been under his care.

Sat. Sept. 8, 1917

While I was cleaning my house in the morning Mapuna & her husband had a dispute over some money & in a very few minutes they were almost to blows, but Elder Monk & I ran over & separated them. Ashio killed his pig & brought us some nice pork chops for supper.

Takume, Sept. 9, 1917

Attended meetings all day. Had supper with Elders Monk, Bulkley & Hubbard at the Hikueru quarters. Word came form the city that Kuraingo was very low & the priest had held the last rites for her soul & was waiting for her to die.

Sept 10, 1917

The St. Francois arrived at day-break but it did not have the American mail. Three weeks ago all of the merchants & the native governors gathered here at Takume sent a petition to the Gov. at Tahiti to have the other end of the lagoon opened for diving, as there was very little shell in the end in which they were already diving. The word came on the steamer that they could commence diving and Gov. Denio was so angry about it that he set sail immediately to tender his resignation because the Gov. Gen. had passed on the petition without first consulting him. The little child of Tamariki was suddenly taken ill & they sent for me. I gave it some oil & prepared its food & told them I would return in 1/2 hour to see how it was, but I had just gotten home when Tamariki came running up & said that the baby was acting very strangely so I hurried back with him. The baby was turning & twisting all over on the floor as though it were in terrible pain, then it took a few short gasps & was dead. A few hours later we received word from the village that Josephite baby about the same age had also died. yesterday a Catholic child passed away, and just a few days previous still another one. Assisted Temoe & Hiriata make Tamariki’s childs burial clothes while the older Relief Society sisters prepared its body & coffin. In the evening we held a meeting at the bereaved families house as is the custom in these islands. The childs mother Terahi was overcome with grief & kept going off into sinking spells in which she would remain for fifteen minutes at a time until we were afraid she never would come out of them, for we could detect absolutely no heart beat nor breathing & her teeth were clenched & her body was as limp as a rag.

Tues. Sept 11, 1917

Held the funeral at 10: am. Pres. remained with Terahi as she wasnt able to attend the funeral on account of her sinking spells. Attended the Josephite childs funeral at 3: pm & returned just in time to see another of our children pass away with the same strange disease, and in the night we were called out to see Roberta, Mr. Mervins little grandchild.

Takume, Wed. Sept 12, 1917

Just before daylight we were called up to Terahi’s who had taken another spell & again about 10 o’clock she took still another in which she remained so long that the natives almost gave her up for dead when she finally came to again. We missionaries set the day apart for fasting & prayer for her & from then on she didnt take another spell & began to gradually improve. Up until this time one of the elders had had to stay with her night & day. We were called twice in the night to see Mr Mervins baby.

Thurs. Sept 13, 1917

Spent the day at Mervins. The baby commenced sinking in the morning & was apparently dead three different times while I had it in my arms. But we kept changing cold clothes on its head & stomach & it rallied some, but in the afternoon at 5: pm it also passed away. it went so quietly that we couldn’t discern just when it breathed last although it had put up a hard & courageous fight for life all day. As near as I could tell it kept having convulsions for it would scramble around grit its teeth, groan, foam at the mouth & rolls its eyes back. With so many deaths occurring during the week a deep gloom has been cast over us all, but we trust that this will be the last one that is called to leave us. At night we held a short meeting at their house after which we went to Mapuhis & the Elders administered to his little grandchild Marie who has been sick off and on ever since we came to this island.

Fri. Sept 14, 1917

I helped trim the home made coffin which was covered with white silk and beautiful silk lace, with bands & large bows of wide white satin ribbon on the top of it. The baby’s dress was also made of soft silk & silk lace & the pillows were made entirely of cluny lace & insertion. (The other two children were buried in cedar chests that had been covered with muslin & trimmed with embroidery & white satin ribbon.) At 4: pm we conducted the funeral at the Mervin house. Mr Mervin is a Protestant but he is very friendly with the Mormons, so he asked us to take charge. The grandparents on the childs mothers side however are two of our diligent native missionaries. A peculiar incident about the death of this child is that exactly four years ago to the day & the very hour its sister Ellen died & was buried here at Tahume. The two little graves were dug side by side.

(To be continued)



  1. Oh goodness, what could it have been? Diphtheria? The time frame is right, but the Rossiters would recognize diphtheria. I can’t find any clues on a list of tropical diseases in the Western Pacific; they all seem to be chronic and not immediately fatal. Were they poisoned? At least the first two babies and the mother who kept going into “sinking spells”?

    “With so many deaths occurring during the week a deep gloom has been cast over us all”


    Comment by Amy T — December 15, 2013 @ 4:44 pm

  2. Is she saying on September 1 “we Elders”? I guess she is using Elders to mean missionaries. I had noticed that she goes to the priesthood meetings.

    Comment by Jeffery Johnson — December 15, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

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