Jamaican Family Search Genealogy Research Library


by Daniel L. Ogilvie



This record is in response to frequent requests that I who possess information on matters historical, should publish the knowledge that I have of Trelawny the Parish of my birth. I may have been a victim of opportunities by having access to the old Vestry records of the Parish coupled with 43 years' Parochial service to know so much of it. I attempt to publish these notes with no other outstanding qualification. My education has been of a very elementary type, but my loyalty to the Parish is second to none and I set forth this history with humility. People would like to know their origin, their past compared with the present, and on that thesis I am inspired.

Wisdom is won by experience and history larges out experience of man. The lives lived by our ancestors offer inspiration to future generations. I have compressed much historical facts to warrant circumstances, and for which I desire your sympathy. The response to my history of the Falmouth Court House, published in 1939 was very encouraging, and I trust to receive for this service some little appreciation, for the time and labour I have devoted. This history may be devoid of elegance in style and artistic presentation, but my recording of facts appear to me more essential.

Dan. L. Ogilvie,
Trelawny 27/9/1954


The Parish of St. James was founded in about the year 1686 and named after the British ruling Sovereign James II. Its area was 566 square miles, bounded on the East by the Parish of St. Ann, and South by the Parishes of Manchester and St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland on the West, and on the North by the sea. Hanover was then a part Westmoreland.

The town of Montego Bay or as it was first called "Manteca", the Capital of this Parish, was nearly 60 miles from its eastern border. The eastern section from we say Long Bay on the coast road had 88 Sugar estates while the Western section possessed just about half that number. The prevailing price for sugar was around £50 per ton. This was the raw variety put up in hogsheads each weighing approximately one ton. It was then obvious that greater wealth was centred in the eastern section of the parish.

In those primitive days it was impossible to move about with any degree of expedition. Only horsedrawn vehicles were known. Added to this drawback were the lack of roads and those available were of the crudest form. These were constructed by the Sugar estate at their cost, and intended for the use of cattle wagons and other such prevailing means of locomotion. Notwithstanding all these disabilities, the inhabitants were compelled to journey to Montego Bay from the hinterlands and from other varying distances in the discharge of legal obligations and the transacting of other civil and Parochial duties. These journeyings often taking days and nights to accomplish. Ships landing and taking in cargoes had to be entered at Montego Bay and also obtain a clearance at that port. It was in consequence of these and sundry contingent disabilities under which the inhabitants laboured in the eastern section of this parish which led to an agitation to have the parish divided.

The desire for this division was well supported by those having interest in this section of the Parish. The news however, reached the western section. Meetings after meetings were held in Montego Bay to protest against the move.

The supporters of this protest were men of some influence. Nonetheless the Bill was prepared and submitted to the House of Assembly in the year 1733. Major General Hunter was then Governor. The debate occupied one full day. The Governor was of opinion that a good case had been made but on its third reading on division the Bill was thrown out. The inhabitants were downcast for a season but despair was foreign to our people. The division of the parish was taken as an assured fact, insomuch that it was prematurely given the name "New Brunswick" in honour of "Queen Sophia of Brunswick," the wife of George the First.

It was then the custom in those days to have relationship with royalty or the Royal house. For 37 years longer the inhabitants whose spirits were crushed but not destroyed continued cheerfully under much human disabilities, but never forgetting the object of their aspirations. The mantle was handed down to the younger generation and the experiences gained from the first failure, was but brief tunnels of darkness, carved with a mountain of light on the other side. Silently and with assidity they did their work in this matter. Nothing was left undone. The financial costs in interviews with members of the House of Assembly for other parishes and the mobilization of political tactics were heartily contributed when compared with the purpose to be achieved. All contributed from their store house of skill and real ability to attain the object of their ambition.

A new petition from the inhabitants for a division of the parish was again formally presented to the House of Assembly in November, 1770, and by a majority of votes the Assembly made it Law for a division of the Parish. The enactment read "Whereas the Parish of Saint James is of such large extent and the inhabitants without long time of warning extraordinary fatigue, loss of time and great expense cannot conveniently appear on public occasions either at Church, elections of members to serve as Representatives in Assemblies, choosing Churchwardens or Vestrymen, laying on Taxes, appointing Surveyors of the Highways and many other privileges as subjects of Great Britain are hereby lost"

WHEREAS the quantity of land, number of settlements and inhabitants contained in the said parish are sufficient for Two separate and distinct parishes, BE IT THEREFORE enacted and ordained by the Governor in Council and Assembly of Jamaica and it is hereby enacted and ordained by the authority of the same, that the said Parish of Saint lames be divided into two separate and distinct parishes in manner following "by a line from the house at Long Bay where a Tavern was formerly kept running due south until it meets with the North boundary of the Parish of St. Elizabeth and by a line from the centre of the said house and that all the lands to the westward of the said line shall be a distinct and separate parish and continue to be called and known by the name of the parish of St. James and all the lands to the eastward of the said line, shall be a distinct and separate parish and is hereby called by the name of the Parish of Trelawny and in the County of Cornwall etc., etc."

This was an event which created intense exhilaration and a variety of joyous and predictable display. It was a manifestation of extraordinary public rejoicing. A real holiday was proclaimed. Places of business were closed and even the slaves who had but a vague appreciation of the import of the enactment were allowed to enter, unconsciously, or otherwise into the patriotic celebrations. The then chief town, Martha Brae, was a scene of revelry.

For two whole nights the bonfire on "Gun Hill" and at other places nearby, reflected for miles around, an unprecedented display of satisfaction of a persistent and determined people. Drunkenness and debauchery were taken for granted. In fact, were you not in the group, you would be considered a foreigner. The spirit was unquenchable in both places. It was a real fifth of November display in appearance. It was not however received in Montego Bay with the same glamour.

In January, 1771, the formal Writ, Declaring the division of the Parish of St. James and declaring the name of the new parish as Trelawny was published. The following is the gist of what we have been able to decipher from the first page of the old Vestry records: Jamaica S.S. I Sir William Trelawny, Baronet, Captain, Governor-in-Chief in and over this His Majesty's Island of Jamaica and the territories therein Depending in America, Chancellor and of the same etc., Do hereby Certify and make known xxxxx to whom these presents shall come or may concern xxxx Esquire whose attestation hereunto annexed is Public of this His Majesty's Island of Jamaica xxx sworn and that in all Acts and instruments by him xxx full faith and credit is and ought to be given in xxx without.

In testimony and confirmation whereof I have hereunto set my hand and xxx caused the broad seal of this island to be appended at Saint Jago de la Vega the 29th day of December in the eleventh year of the reign of our Soverign George the third etc. and in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy.

....(Sgd.) William Trelawny, Governor.

Pending the receival of the Royal Assent to the Law dividing the Parish and establishing the Parish of Trelawnv the Governor appointed Messrs. Edward Clarke and Richard Brissett as Commissioners to conduct the affairs of the new Parish and we believe the above mentioned writ referred to their appointment. The former gentleman was the proprietor of Hyde Estate contiguous to the Township of Clark's Town from whom its name was derived [see Map of Trelawny]. Of Mr. Brissett, we are unable to trace his connection. Be that as it may, it is on record that this latter gentleman performed the duties entrusted to him vigour and assiduity singlehanded. Mr. Clarke immediately after his appointment obtained leave and proceeded to the Americas on personal business. Trelawny thus became the fifth largest parish in the Island.

For a moment it appears befitting that some genealogical reference ought to made of Sir William Trelawny. He was the 6th Baronet of his line. Born we learn in Falmouth, in the County, of Cornwall, England. A grand nephew of Bishop Trelawny who in the reign of James the Second and in the year 1688, was imprisoned in the Tower of London on a charge of sedition with six others for their refusal to read in their Churches the "Bill of Indulgence" which was favorable to the Romish Church.

They were tried by four judges in the Court of the King's Bench with a Jury on the 29th June, 1688. Two of the Jurymen found in favour of the charge and two were against. The Jury was locked up for the night and at 10 o'clock in the morning in the midst of a deep yet anxious silence, the Verdict of "Not Guilty" was announced. History tells us that cheer after cheer went up, which echoed through the Hall and was taken up by those outside. Many wept for joy. King James was ridiculed even by the soldiers. It was during the Bishop Trelawny's imprisonment that the people of Cornwall in their loyalty to the Bishop (whose family was persona gratia) composed and sung that well known song: A good sword and a trusty hand, A merry heart and true King James' men shall understand what Cornish lads can do. And have they fixed the where and when, And shall Trelawny die, Here's twenty thousand Cornish men, Will know the reason why etc.

Gardner in his history of Jamaica, had this to say of Sir William Trelawny: He was possessed of an ample fortune, which enabled him to exercise profuse hospitality, and when he died, after a lingering illness on the 11th December, 1772, the House of Assembly, to testify its respect to his memory, voted One thousand Guineas to defray the cost of a public funeral. His remains were interred at the Cathedral in St. Jago de la Vega (Spanish Town). He served the Island for 4 years. Sir William must have been known to the Bishop the 3rd Baronet as the Prelate survived until the year 1721. Lady Trelawny had more Trelawny blood in her veins than did Sir William. Her father, Harry Trelawny, the 5th Baronet was a direct Nephew of the Bishop whilst her mother was a daughter of the Bishop and a sister of the 4th Baronet. The seat of the Trelawnys was "Trelawny Castle" in the vicinity of West Lorne, Cornwall, England, about 20 miles from Falmouth, England. On his appointment as Governor of Jamaica Sir William took his leave at the Court of St. James and the amiable and accomplished Sovereign George the third desired him not to stay any longer in Jamaica and with its government than was quite agreeable to himself and consistent with his health.

The chief town for the new parish was at Martha Brae. The name is traditionally associated with "Mart", a centre for the sale of goods and "Brae", the Scottish name for "Hillside bank". In process of time it became Martha Brae as more colloquial to the ordinary people. This township of not more than 50 acres, has the never failing river running to the North and hemmed in by Hague, Holland and Irving Tower pens, formerly Sugar estates. [see Map of Trelawny] It is on the crest of a hill with a gentle slope and situate one mile from the sea coast. This township was the first seat of the parish's government. Its size and location, however, made it unsuited as the capital of an ambitious Parish. We hope in later pages to record further details concerning the first capital of Trelawny.

It is apparent that the Commissioners carried on as a "Justices Vestry" for we find the following notes: On the 7th day of March, 1771, a special meeting of the Vestry was held at the Court House, at Little River (St. James) for the purpose of adjusting accounts. Mr. Francis Mirez being Clerk of the Vestry for St. James, and Mr. Martin Redwar for Trelawny, We the Committee of both Vestries of St. James and Trelawny went through and examined the accounts of debts against the parishes as made out and rendered us, by the Clerk of the Vestry of St. James, and found that the several charges therein exhibited agreed with the several vouchers then laid before the said Committee and also do agree that the demand amounting to £2,727.6.2 are due against the parishes of St. James and Trelawny out of which the sum of £1,303.12.7d half-penny now appearing due on the Parish Roll of St. James in 1770 is to be deducted when recovered and that the Parish of Trelawny is subject to the payment of their proportion of the balance that then may remain due to the two parishes aforesaid respectively. (Signed) Francis Blower Gibbs, Charles Bernard, Robert Gray, and Ralph Montague. This new parish made a start with over a thousand pounds in revenue and with great expectations of new opportunities.

The Parish contains 333 square miles, 111 sq. m. of which is about 1,000 feet above sea level 135 square miles between 1,000 and 2,000 feet and 32 square miles between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above sea level. Like other parts of Jamaica, it is undulating. It is well watered by rivers, streams, and springs. In some areas of the parish the rainfall is abundant. The Martha Brae river with its numerous tributaries is over 20 miles in length. One section rises at Spring Vale in St. James through Deeside, Dromilly, Bunker's Hill, Unity, and meets with others from Pantrepant, Windsor, Friendship and Good Hope etc. to the sea. There is also the Dornock river rising at Dornock near Stewart Town winding on to Bengal near Rio Bueno. Ulster Spring in the township of the same name is of great potential value which spring rises on the hills and empties itself in the valley below and sinks.

There are numerous springs in this hinterland area primarily used for domestic purposes. Under their appropriate heads will be found how they have been harnessed to serve the public by the local government. We have no doubt as time rolls on, greater vision will be applied in practical forms enabling a greater distribution of this vital element. Irrigation is not an impractical feature. By law the original seacoast boundary between Trelawny and St. James was stated to be at Long Bay at a Tavern now extinct but by some unpredictable reason on a Survey made by Mr. Robertson, in 1804 the boundary was constricted to Wiltshire [see Map]. Within living memory, another attempt was made to repeat the shrinkage, by fixing the boundary at "Manatee", about half a mile from the present boundary to the east of the "pillars." The pillars was the work and forethought of Mr. Thomas Kidd, the then Superintendent of the Falmouth District Prison. The Staff of the Parochial Board of which Mr. W. Fitz Ritson was its head, would have none of it.

In matters political, it appears that the Commissioners, appointed by the Governor, discharged the government of the Parish until the year 1772. The local Government in those days, was called the "Justices and Vestry." It comprised the Custos Rotulorum (Chairman), four senior Magistrates, the Rector of the Anglican Church and the two Church Wardens with ten Freeholders who were to be elected annually as Vestrymen.

On the 12th March, 1782, at an election a curious situation arose, which to us appears so unique, that it is given as copied from the original Minutes: 18 candidates were nominated as Vestrymen. Ten only were required. Nine were elected but there was a tie between William Atherton and Robert Minto, each received 66 votes. The Presiding Officer appeared to have had no knowledge of his prerogative to give his Casting Vote. This led to an empasse. The Custos would not allow the nine elected men to sit without the complement of ten. The Magistrates apprehended that they had to right to issue another warrant as the Law directs that 10 Vestrymen shall be chosen on that and on which account the following "quere" was sent up with a copy of the above proceedings to the Attorney General and Henry Brown Esquire for their opinion thereon, viz: "If no Vestry is to be held this year, or if the Magistrates have any right under the Laws of the Island to issue another Warrant for a General Election, or only for one to full up the vacancy or in what manner the business of the Parish is to be carried on. Whether in the manner of a Vestry or in the Quarter Sessions as the Law directs the Justices to lay the Tax and do the business in case there is no Vestry". In the light of present-day custom we are amazed at the following: The Attorney General and Henry Brown Esquire gave their opinion in writing (with a copy of the clauses of the several Acts referred to respecting Justices and Vestrymen etc. We are of opinion that No Vestry can be held in the Parish this year. The Law not having been complied with and the Magistrates having no authority to issue another warrant either for a second General Election or for chosing a tenth Vestryman. An therefore we are of opinion and think the business of the Parish must be done by two or more Magistrates out of Sessions.

Signed) Robert Sewell
Henry Brown, 16.3.1782

The Honourable Henry Corniffe was Custos of the Parish. The 9 Vestrymen who were elected were dissatisfied with the above opinion and so sent the matter to the Grand Court at St. Jago de la Vega and in response the following Mandamus was received by the Custos: The Custos and Justices of the Parish of Trelawny: Jamaica S.S. GEORGE the THIRD by the GRACE of GOD of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King and of Jamaica, Lord Defender of the Faith etc. To the Honourables Our Custos Rotulorum and others our Justices assigned for keeping our peace in and for our Parish Trelawny in our said Island and to every one of them GREETING: WHEREAS John Jarrett, George Hyde Clarke, Crossley Hall, Thomas Steele, John Simpson, Samuel Barrett, Thomas Reid, Adrian Reid and James Scarlett were on the 12th, being the second Tuesday in March in the present year of our Lord 1782 duly chosen Vestrymen for our said Parish of Trelawny and Whereas by the Laws of our said Island the said Vestrymen ought not to be refused their respective seats at the usual place of doing the Parochial business, and ought not to be prevented from doing and carrying on the same, nevertheless you our said Custos not ignorant of the said choice but your duty in this behalf not fulfilling, have refused the said Vestrymen or some of them their respected seats aforesaid and have prevented them from doing and carrying on the Parochial business of our said parish Trelawny in contempt of us and the great damage of the Free electors of the same as by the complaint of the said John Simpson, Samuel Barrett, Thomas Reid and Adrian Reid as well on behalf of themselves as the others we have understood. We therefore willing that due and speedy justice be done on this behalf according to right DO command and strictly enjoin ye that immediately after the receipt of our Write we Do permit the said John Jarrett, George Hyde Clarke, Crossley Hall, Thomas Steele, John Simpson, Samuel Barrett, Thomas Reid, Adrian Reid, and James Scarlett to take their respective seats as Vestrymen for the said Parish of Trelawny and to suffer them to do and carry on the Parochial business of the said Parish of Trelawny and how ye shall have executed this Our Writ make known to us at our next Supreme Court of Judicature the last Tuesday of August next when remitting unto us this our Writ and this in no wise omit at your peril. Witness the Honourable Thomas French Esq., Chief Justice of our said Island, and Chief Judge of our Supreme Court of Judicature at St. Jago de la Vega the last Tuesday in May in the 22nd year of the reign.

William Signor, F. French,
Clerk of Crown

On the 3rd July, 1782, all the Vestrymen were present and it was moved and Resolved "That all the proceedings of the Justices of the 26th March, and on the 2nd, 16th and 30th April, 1782, be null and void and we do hereby disannul, make void and expunge the same as being contrary to law and to the ancient customs of this Island as appears by the foregoing Peremptory Mandamus issued by the Honourable Thomas French Esq., Chief Justice and Chief Judge of the Judicature of this Island bearing date the 28th May, 1782. It was ordered that the expenses incurred on account of the above be paid as well as the costs incurred by the Custos amounting to £69.5/-

Mr. Robert Minto was subsequently declared elected as Mr. Atherton magnanimously withdrew his candidature.

CONTINUED at History of Trelawny 2

Used by kind permission of Donovan Ogilvie (the author's grandson) and the late Pearl Ogilvie (the author's daughter-in-law.)

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